updated 8/30/2007 11:26:29 AM ET 2007-08-30T15:26:29

Guests: Kelly McBride, Al Sharpton, Richard Wolffe, Peter Fenn

TUCKER CARLSON, HOST:  Welcome to the show.  Senator Larry Craig says he did not solicit sex in a men‘s room.  And furthermore, he‘s not gay, not even a little bit.  But it has not helped so far.  Today, the senior senator from Idaho agreed to step down—temporarily at least—from his leadership position on the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, as well as two other subcommittees.  Meanwhile, Republican Senator Norm Coleman of Minnesota announced that he believes Craig ought to resign from the Senate completely.  We‘ll have the latest details on that scandal, plus discuss Senator Craig‘s right to privacy—and yes, he has one—in just a minute. 

And then, today is the second anniversary of Hurricane Katrina‘s landfall on the Gulf Coast and in New Orleans.  President Bush visited that region today and praised not only the people, but the progress of the recovery. 

Katrina‘s anniversary reminds the country of the ongoing struggle to rebuild one of its great cities, and of the dysfunctional response of the city, state and federal governments before, during and since that storm hit.  Reverend Al Sharpton, with whom we discussed these very issues on the ground two years ago, joins us to refresh that conversation. 

And the ‘08 campaign trail has once again today produced notable positions and track records.  A sample, well, according to the candidate himself, John Edwards believes Americans should not drive SUVs.  And according to the Associated Press, Mitt Romney‘s Massachusetts method for budget balancing including fees on, quote, “the blind, mentally retarded and gun owners, to be paid by those horseback riding instructors, prisoners, those seeking combat training for domestic violence, and used car shoppers,” end quote. 

Wow.  We will bring you an update in a few minutes.

But we begin with Senator Larry Craig of Idaho.  Among the attention the senator surely didn‘t want was the “Idaho Statesman” piece yesterday that alleged repeated homosexual experiences over many years, involving Craig in a series of locales and circumstances.  Well, Craig attacked that report at his press conference yesterday, and questions do remain, whose story is accurate, the paper‘s or the senator‘s?  And did that paper have the right to dig into the senator‘s personal life in any case?

Well, here to discuss it is Kelly McBride, the ethics group leader at the Poynter Institute.  Kelly, thanks for coming on.

KELLY MCBRIDE, POYNTER INST.:  Thanks for having me. 

CARLSON:  I‘m not in any way even taking a position on what Senator Craig did in the men‘s room—well, I‘ll take a position.  I think it was wrong and I think it‘s newsworthy.  But “The Idaho Statesman” piece that appeared yesterday was not primarily about what he did or didn‘t do in the Minneapolis airport; it was about his life as a gay man.  They were trying to make the case that he is gay.  Why is that the public‘s business? 

MCBRIDE:  Well, I think it‘s interesting to note that last October, when these allegations surfaced, the “Idaho Statesman” was the newspaper that didn‘t print them.  And they said they didn‘t have it verified, they didn‘t have it on their own sources, but they knew this wasn‘t the end of it.  And so they sent a reporter out to find out what he could about Senator Craig‘s private sexual life. 

They chose not to print that information repeatedly, it‘s my understanding, until the news of his arrest surfaced earlier this week.  And then, they felt like they had an obligation to share with their readers, which is the entire state of Idaho, his entire constituency, the whole story that they knew, not just the news of the arrest, but the reporting that they had done to verify or discredit the rumors that surfaced last October. 

CARLSON:  And in the end, they did neither one.  They didn‘t nail the story.  They didn‘t get anybody by name on the record with absolute verification that Larry Craig had a homosexual experience at any point in his life. 

But that‘s beside the point.  I am interested in the principle here.  Why is it in the public‘s interest to know whether or not Larry Craig is attracted to men? 

MCBRIDE:  Well, I think there‘s a couple of journalistic defenses.  One is an honesty defense.  He‘s married.  He‘s made a vow of marriage.  He represents a very conservative state, where most of the voters are concerned about that. 

In addition to that, I think the hypocrisy defense for journalists is a substantial one.  He has a voting record that goes against policies that would—that many gays and lesbians would feel are beneficial to them.  If he is—if he is one of them, I think many journalists suggest that that is—that that‘s a justification. 

CARLSON:  I‘m completely confused, and I think if you read your comments on a piece of paper, I think you would be confused by even what you just said.  Are you suggesting that if you‘re gay, you are not allowed to be against gay marriage? 

MCBRIDE:  No.  I actually think that the honesty defense is a journalistic justification for covering the story.  And...

CARLSON:  So he voted against—what you‘re saying, so he voted against gay marriage, he opposes gay marriage—just like Hillary Clinton, just like Barack Obama, just like almost everybody in public life—he opposes gay marriage.  Because he opposes gay marriage, you get to look in to see if he‘s ever had a gay experience, going back to college in 1967, 40 years ago?  I mean, that‘s a little slim.

MCBRIDE:  No, no.  That‘s not what I‘m saying.  What I‘m saying is, I think that his statements to the public about whether he‘s gay, his statements about whether he has been faithful to his spouse, and the fact that Idaho voters are concerned with that issue, editors in Idaho throughout the state have said that, and the rumors surfaced, I think that the voters deserve to know the truth. 

CARLSON:  Geez, about whether he‘s gay?  I just—I must say—I am probably not going to make any headway convincing you.  It just seems to me there ought to be some part of a person‘s life that‘s off-limits without cause from journalistic (inaudible)...

MCBRIDE:  Well, I think “The Idaho Statesman” had made the decision that they didn‘t have enough information to publish until the arrest became public.  They had never, ever published any of the rumors until that point.  And every time...

CARLSON:  Yes, but at a time when newspapers are dying and people are being—I don‘t need to tell you, you‘re in the business—people are getting laid off en masse from newspapers.  They spend five months and 300 interviews investigating whether this guy is attracted to men?  I mean, you know, when America is under attack and New Orleans is being rebuilt?  I mean, that‘s a really good use of resources?  I don‘t know.

MCBRIDE:  Well, I think it‘s a noble pursuit to say we want to tell you the truth.  We don‘t just want to report somebody else‘s rumors.  We want to nail it down for you. 

CARLSON:  Boy, I think it‘s why people hate the press.  But I sure appreciate you coming on anyway with that explanation.  Thanks a lot.

MCBRIDE:  You have a good day. 

CARLSON:  Thanks. 

New Orleans is still rebuilding from Hurricane Katrina.  It hit two years ago today, and there are still areas of New Orleans that look untouched.  Is the Bush administration to blame for that? 

Plus, residents of the Lower Ninth Ward protested on the second anniversary of the storm.  They say it‘s the government‘s fault that most of their neighbors still cannot return home.  Is race playing a role in those rebuilding efforts?  We‘re going to ask the Reverend Al Sharpton next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  Today marks a grim anniversary along the Gulf Coast, as residents and businesses continue the recovery effort after Hurricane Katrina left over 1,600 people dead and many thousands homeless.  Had the storm hit West Palm Beach or the Hamptons, would local, state and federal responses have been different?  Well, joining me in the immediate aftermath of the storm, the Reverend Al Sharpton was quick to claim that.  He joins us now to mark the anniversary of Katrina.  He‘s in New Orleans. 

Rev, thanks for coming on. 

REV. AL SHARPTON, CIVIL RIGHTS LEADER:  Thank you. 

CARLSON:  I was in New Orleans pretty recently, and I saw what I‘m sure you are seeing—parts of the city, particularly in the Lower Ninth Ward, still devastated.  I mean, just, you know, ground zero, basically.  It looks like Nagasaki, 1946, unbuilt. 

Why do you think that is? 

SHARPTON:  Well, I mean, when you look at the fact that in the first place, the government at the federal level ignored the fact that they had information that these levees would not withstand a storm. 

Let‘s not forget now, Tucker, two years ago, the hurricane did not do the devastation here.  The hurricane missed New Orleans.  It was the levees breaking that did the devastation, which was clearly the responsibility of the federal government. 

So I think the same indifference to the people of this city that the federal government demonstrated before Katrina, they‘re demonstrating after. 

President Bush was here this morning.  He was here last year.  Not much has changed from the first year to last year, or from last year to this year.  And there‘s no way in my mind that if this was in West Palm Beach or the Hamptons, that we would be sitting up here discussing when and whether the government was going to respond to taxpayers who paid for levees that they did not keep up. 

CARLSON:  But wait a second.  I don‘t think it‘s quite so simple as that, and I think you know that it‘s not quite so simple.  This is the rebuilding of New Orleans, the single largest reconstruction project in the history of the United States.  Billions upon billions upon billions of dollars.  It has the undivided attention of many, many smart people.  It‘s more complicated than just President Bush doesn‘t like the people of New Orleans.  I mean, clearly, what‘s really going on here? 

SHARPTON:  What‘s really going on is that if you‘re spending billions of dollars and the Lower Ninth Ward is not rebuilt, that‘s like saying you‘re having one of the most expensive and thorough surgeries known to medicine, but the patient died. 

I mean, it doesn‘t matter if they‘re spending the money.  If you and I and the naked eye can see the money is not uplifting the people—the houses are not back, you still have cars on top of rooftops, businesses are not back.  And the levees today, right now, couldn‘t take a level three hurricane. 

So are we going to talk about money spent or misspent, or are we going to talk about whether the job is being done?  If we are saying we are not going to as a country, this government, this administration says don‘t cut and run, we have got to rebuild Baghdad, but in two years can‘t run into New Orleans, there‘s something wrong. 

CARLSON:  I wonder—I was down there, of course, as you were two years ago.  And the first thing I noticed was not just the fact that the city was underwater, parts of it were, but that there was no law enforcement.  Many of the cowardly policemen in that city had ran away.  Some looted Wal-Mart.  In any case, they were not protecting the citizens of the city.  And so people were getting raped and they were getting killed in some instances.  And I wonder if this doesn‘t change your view of gun control?  If you were not armed in that city right after Katrina hit and there were no cops around at all, you were likely to get killed or robbed or raped.  Why should citizens have to fend for themselves?  Why shouldn‘t they be allowed to protect themselves when the cops won‘t or can‘t? 

SHARPTON:  Well, first of all, there is no evidence that anyone that had an arm was able to defend themselves.  Second of all, the answer to having no law enforcement is not to have vigilante justice; the answer is to have law enforcement.  And...

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON:  Well, wait a second.  I‘m not calling for vigilante justice.  I‘m saying that people have an innate right, under natural (ph) law, to defend themselves.  And yet a lot of their guns were confiscated.  They weren‘t allowed to, and so women got raped.  That doesn‘t bother you? 

SHARPTON:  Well, it bothers me that right now, that you are—have crime at a high level, that you have murder at a high level, and you don‘t have that same situation, because policing and taking care of the citizens here becomes difficult when the police, A, are saying that the money is not coming to the local community.  The federal government has taken over a lot of policing.  And we don‘t see a lot of the federal law enforcement down where the rubber meets the road.  I don‘t think you can confuse gun control with effective policing. 

CARLSON:  OK.  I understand that you‘re probably politically allied with the mayor, the failed mayor of that city, and possibly the governor of the state.  But wouldn‘t you concede that if you are the mayor of the city, it‘s your city.  The feds have a role, the state has a role.  But if your police department, paid for by local tax dollars, runs away or starts looting the stores, you share a good part of the blame.  Why haven‘t you pointed that out? 

SHARPTON:  There is no question that Mayor Nagin could have done other things.  And no one is saying that he could not have. 

CARLSON:  What does that mean, could have done other things?  You mean he failed? 

SHARPTON:  Well, he could have—he could have uniformly fired the police department.  He could have done a lot of things.  The people of this city reelected him, though, and so they did with Governor Blanco.

No one is saying that state and city officials could not have had better judgment.  You actually at the top—what was the cause and why it had not been revised.  The cause was the levees breaking.  The mayor and the governor have absolutely nothing to do with the levees.  If the levees hadn‘t broke, you wouldn‘t have had the crisis.  So let‘s not go halfway through the crisis. 

CARLSON:  Well, wait a second.  I mean, the levees (inaudible) -- they‘re levees in their city.  And so you think they would have an interest in whether or not they were strong enough to withstand the storm. 

SHARPTON:  But they have no control over the levees.  The levees, they have no control over.  It‘s all federal government.

CARLSON:  Let me ask you a question—let me ask you a question about the levees very quickly.  A lot of people believe, spurred on by demagogues like Spike Lee, in New Orleans, that the government of the United States blew up those levees in an effort to kill or displace black people from the city of New Orleans.  That‘s a lie.  It‘s a pernicious lie.  It makes people afraid, paranoid, hateful, unhappy, as it would. 

What have you done to tell people, to reassure them that‘s not what happened, that those levees broke naturally, that it was not a plot on the part of the government? 

SHARPTON:  Well, first of all, I know the great filmmaker Spike Lee.  I don‘t know the demagogue Spike Lee.  And the filmmaker Spike Lee, who I was in his film, “When the Levee Broke,” I don‘t think said that at all.  I think...

CARLSON:  He said it to me on television.  Yes, he did say that.

SHARPTON:  Well, I didn‘t see that.  But I‘m not out to convince anybody other than if they pay their taxes, they should get what everybody else gets, and that‘s service.  They paid for the levees.  So we don‘t have to spin off into quotes of different conspiracy theories.  Let‘s deal with the fact that the people of New Orleans, many of them homeowners, all of them taxpayers, paid for something that they didn‘t get.  That happened.  You don‘t need a conspiracy theory for that.  That happened.  And it‘s still happening two years later.  That‘s a fact. 

CARLSON:  You‘re right.  That‘s absolutely a fact.  And the real fact is, the rest of us paid for them too.  Because as you pointed out, it was a federal process. 

SHARPTON:  Well, then the rest of us ought to be—the rest of us should be as outraged as I am. 

CARLSON:  And I am outraged, watching what happened to that city. 

SHARPTON:  (inaudible) trying to blame people—well, we can blame people for statements that we don‘t agree with or agree with, or we can say to the government that we pay taxes to, how do you justify this, and two years later, it remains the same? 

CARLSON:  I agree.  I just don‘t want to whip anybody into a frenzy of race hatred along the way, and I know you agree with that.  Rev, thanks a lot for joining us.

SHARPTON:  I think the frenzy was when the levees broke.  But thank you, Tucker.  

CARLSON:  Thanks, Rev. 

Well, the Bush administration took a lot of the blame for the poor response after Hurricane Katrina hit.  Was it all their fault?  Were local officials to blame as well? 

Plus, if John Edwards wants to become the president of the United States, making SUV drivers mad is not necessarily the way to get there. 

You‘re watching MSNBC, the place for politics. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  Well, there‘s more than enough blame to go around for the poor response to Hurricane Katrina two years ago today.  But is President Bush taking too much of it?  Has it become too easy to bash Bush for his administration‘s incompetence—and they were incompetent—in the face of that disaster?  Or has he earned all of the abuse? 

“Newsweek” senior White House correspondent Richard Wolffe joins us, as does legendary Democratic strategist Peter Fenn.  Welcome to you both. 

Peter, the president deserves I think a lot of blame for a lot of different things, and some for Katrina, and I think it exposed his administration as incompetent in important ways.  Not a blanket defense of Bush.  But in the end, the storm created by God hit a region, none of which was under the control of even the mighty federal government.  Shouldn‘t we kind of keep that in our minds as we talk about this? 

PETER FENN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST:  Well, we have had a history of hurricanes in America, that‘s true.  But I will tell you, I think the emergency plan, the preparation was obviously a disaster.  You know, the personnel put in place was a disaster.  The communication was a disaster.  His flyover was a disaster. 

CARLSON:  Are you talking about the local, state or federal level? 

FENN:  I‘m talking about everybody.  I mean, I‘m talking about everybody.  But you know, on a crisis like this, you expect that you are going to have the full force of the federal government to help out, and clearly these guys were the Keystone Kops there.

CARLSON:  Well, they were the Keystone—I mean, they were very late.  I remember being on the phone with someone at the White House from down there, saying, well, this is a disaster.  And he said, really?  I mean, they were late to recognize this. 

However, do you know, Richard, as someone who has come to our great land, a permanent resident alien...

(CROSSTALK)

RICHARD WOLFFE, NEWSWEEK:  I came for the weather. 

(LAUGHTER)

CARLSON:  Americans expect—no matter what happens—the federal government to come in and make everything right.  And is that too big an expectation? 

WOLFFE:  Well, I think in this case, a couple of problems came out.  First of all, the president was—this encapsulated his bubble moment, his lack of ground reality, his failure to watch the nightly news and get a sense of what was going on, was deeply damaging to him. 

But most of all, this was a situation that only the federal government in the end could have the resources to reestablish communications.  Remember, the president could not talk to the mayor of New Orleans.  And there was no way the mayor of New Orleans could find out anything or do anything.

CARLSON:  The mayor of New Orleans was hiding under the bed in a hotel room at that point. 

WOLFFE:  Right, completely—you know, at some point, you have got to recognize where the system has failed and where government has collapsed.  And I think it was pretty obvious to most people watching TV that government, law and order had collapsed there. 

It required a federal response, and for several days—and I think even to this day—the White House is still stuck in a very legalistic debate about state rights, about who‘s responsible, about local decision-making, which are all laudable in one sense, the right legal route is...

CARLSON:  Right.

WOLFFE:  ... always worth respecting.  But you have got some very pressing things. 

CARLSON:  Right. 

WOLFFE:  People to rescue...

(CROSSTALK) 

CARLSON:  You need Rudy Giuliani to come in.  No, I‘m serious, you need someone who doesn‘t really care about the details in that moment.  I agree with that. 

But what about the recovery, Peter?  This is, as I said a minute ago, the largest recovery effort in the history of our country.  We are spending billions upon billions upon billions of dollars on this one—I think beautiful and worth saving city, but still a very small place.  I mean, could it be overkill? 

FENN:  You know, the trouble is they are not spending it very well.  I mean, if you look at what happened with the trailers and the renting of the trailers and the cost of trailers.  I mean, this has been mishandled from the beginning. 

CARLSON:  Well, what does that tell you about government?  It‘s always that way.  It‘s always the DMV. 

(CROSSTALK)

FENN:  I‘ll tell you, it sure as heck tells me, when you put the head of your emergency preparedness operation runs an Arabian horse farm and you expect them to deal with a crisis like that, you‘re doing a good job... 

CARLSON:  OK, that was FEMA.  That was short term.  I‘m talking long term. 

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON:  Congress appropriates all this money...

FENN:  Let me make this point...

CARLSON:  ... and they don‘t have anything to show for it.

FENN:  There were 75,000 students in public schools in New Orleans two years ago.  There are now 30,000 kids only back in those schools.  That‘s a sort of scary thought.  The longer that you don‘t get people back and rebuild, the tougher it is to have a new New Orleans, as the president talked about.  And I think—he pays attention to this in a PR way.  He pays attention to this—no, honestly.  I...

CARLSON:  What else could they do?  I mean, they‘re spending like hundreds of dollars per person practically in this country. 

(CROSSTALK)

WOLFFE:  I‘ll tell you what else they can do.  They can be honest and say, New Orleans will not be rebuilt in the same way. 

CARLSON:  They can‘t say that.

WOLFFE:  This whole rhetoric—yes, well, that‘s what they should say.

(CROSSTALK)

WOLFFE:  ... everybody knows that it‘s too expensive.  They cannot really defend whole tracks of this city in a way that‘s going to protect them properly. 

CARLSON:  Have you been to the Lower Ninth Ward? 

WOLFFE:  I have been. 

CARLSON:  OK, then you know that the levee is—the industrial levee is right there.  I mean, it is—that‘s your backyard, man.  I mean, why would you want to rebuild there? 

WOLFFE:  The truth is, you know, you need someone to take control and take the heat and say, listen, folks, it‘s not going to be the same.  Everybody knows that anyway, because the families who used to live there have moved on and rebuilt their lives and gone somewhere else. 

CARLSON:  And no one, because of people—demagogues like Ray Nagin playing—who really is like an out-and-out racist running that city, is playing to his base, and you just can‘t tell the truth about it.  It‘s a shame.  And I think it impedes progress, unfortunately.

Mitt Romney claims to be a lifelong member—or a life member anyway of the NRA—speaking of progress—why would he up the fee for gun owners in Massachusetts?  Just another flip-flop for a man critics call Fee Fee?  We‘ll tell you. 

Plus, Senator Larry Craig‘s Republican colleagues start calling on him to resign from the Senate.  Could this sex scandal help Democrats gain ground with conservative voters?  Hmm. 

You‘re watching MSNBC, the place for politics. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(MARKET REPORT)

CARLSON:  Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney wants Republican primary voters to look past his wide range of evolving policy stances on abortion, gun control and other issues.  Failing that, Mr. Romney has cast himself as a CEO type with an eye on lower taxes and balanced budgets.  Well, the Associated Press took a close look at Romney‘s revenue raising record as governor and found that among the fees raised by the Commonwealth under his stewardship were those paid by blind people—he attempted to raise those fees anyway—gun owners, horseback riding instructors, prisoners and used car shoppers. 

How will this information affect Romney‘s run for the nomination of the Republican party?  Welcoming back “Newsweek” senior White House correspondent Richard Wolffe and Democratic strategist Peter Fenn.  Richard, I‘m sorry for my stuttering there. 

WOLFFE:  That‘s OK. 

FENN:  That would make anybody stutter. 

CARLSON:  It‘s an amazing piece.  He attempts to raise fees on blind people and he does succeed in raising fees on gun owners.  Basically you alienate everybody in that. 

WOLFFE:  Well, of course, losing the horseback riding instructor vote is going to be a real problem for him. 

CARLSON:  It‘s key in parts of south Florida. 

WOLFFE:  Absolutely.  There is a serious part to this.  If he‘s the balanced budget guy, as the president has finally discovered, you at some point have to raise revenues.  It‘s not just enough to cut spending.  He‘s got to -- 

CARLSON:  Well, it is enough to cut spending if you‘re willing to cut spending, but most people aren‘t.  In fact, no one is.  Even Reagan wasn‘t.

WOLFFE:  So then the question is—is this the most regressive way to raise money, fees, regardless of income, or should taxes actually be the way to do it?  And he‘s caught himself in this no new taxes situation.  I think it‘s a serious question for his presidential campaign, where he comes out on this kind of revenue raising.  But a it‘s a dodge.  Are we going to have an honest campaign or not? 

CARLSON:  It‘s also a way to expand the power of the nanny state.  That‘s the problem with fees like this.  It‘s a way to influence people‘s behaviors.  Massachusetts doesn‘t think you should have a gun, even though you are guaranteed to it by the Constitution, the right to do that.  They have raised the fee to 100 dollars to register your gun.  As if you‘re supposed to register—the whole thing is insane.  But it is a way to expand the power of government.  What does Romney say about that? 

FENN:  I tell you, I‘m sure he has some weird answer for it.  Tucker, he has led the nation with this.  He raised these fees by 500 million.  The next closest state was New York with 367 million.  He put in 33 new fees and increased 57.  

CARLSON:  Are you complimenting him or attacking him? 

FENN:  No, I‘m totally attacking him. 

CARLSON:  Because you‘re against higher taxes as a liberal Democrat?

FENN:  I‘m going to tell you—I‘m going to put a Democratic hat on and tell you this is typical Republican craziness, because they go out and say, we‘re against tax increases, and say I have never raised taxes.  That‘s crap.  He did raise taxes on the wrong kinds of people and raised them substantially.

CARLSON:  I‘m glad to see you stand up for the principles of limited government.  I am glad. 

FENN:  Listen, you know me, I love government. 

CARLSON:  You do? 

FENN:  Sure I do. 

CARLSON:  Because it works so well, as in New Orleans. 

FENN:  That‘s—yes, good.  That‘s the Bush government.  But here‘s the problem with this.  It‘s duplicitous.  It‘s so when he runs for president he can say, I didn‘t raise taxes. 

CARLSON:  If you‘re going to raise taxes—

FENN:  The poor Democrats, if we let him get away with that—

CARLSON:  The reasoning is so circular that I must say, I feel like I‘m swirling down the reason drain here. 

FENN:  What‘s circular about this?  He‘s a hypocrite. 

CARLSON:  Here‘s a man who is actually, I don‘t think, on this one question, anything but a hypocrite; and that‘s John Edwards.  He has said - - and we have the exact quote here.  I want to put it up on the screen.  This is John Edwards; driving more efficient vehicles, “I think Americans are actually willing to sacrifice.  One of the things they should be asked to do is drive more fuel efficient vehicles.”

And he was asked, do you mean not drive SUV‘s.  He said, yes.  How can

first of all, is this a smart political thing to say, because a lot of families needs SUV‘s because they have kids and dogs.  Two, this is a guy that flies in a private plane everywhere.  Can he really ask us to not drive in a SUV when he‘s flying in a private plane? 

WOLFFE:  Well, Ken Mehlman in 2004 used to identify voters based on the car they drive.  And the problem with attacking the SUV driver is that it dismisses a whole chunk of suburban area, where the key battleground is normally fought.  The other problem is that SUV‘s are basically pickup trucks.  It will be interesting to see if rural Democrat John Edwards wants people to stop driving pickup trucks. 

They are the same car, basically. 

CARLSON:  By way, that‘s a smart point, Richard.  I‘m inscribing that-

I‘m going to keep it in my wallet next time I‘m in a bar. 

WOLFFE:  The point is you can have fuel efficient SUV‘s.  It‘s not SUV‘s as such, and why he fell into the slogan just wasn‘t smart.  I mean, come up with a fuel efficient SUV; that‘s the way to go. 

CARLSON:  But it‘s such a syndrome, cars as moral statements.  Well, I drive a Prius, Peter, and I don‘t know if you noticed, but I am a better person than you are, morally.  You drive a Suburban, therefore you‘re right next to Dick Cheney on the moral scale.  What is this obsession as cars as markers of moral purity?

FENN:  He‘s going down the right track, which is let‘s have more fuel efficient vehicles, let‘s put in E-85.  Let‘s go to electric plug-ins,  Let‘s go to hydrogen fuel cells.  Let‘s go to trucks, where instead on running on six cylinders, will run on four when you‘re on the highway.  There are all kinds of ways to improve fuel efficiency in this country and hopefully we‘re moving that way. 

But to say to folks you shouldn‘t drive an SUV—and Richard is absolutely right, an SUV and a truck is the same thing.  He‘s in deep trouble.  If a reporter like you says to John Edwards, do you mean trucks also?  Well, the number one selling vehicle in the United States is a truck.  The number two selling vehicle in the United States is a truck. 

CARLSON:  We also have a candidate who is calling for the re-industrialization of the United States.  He‘s calling on Americans to make more of the things they use.  I believe the biggest profit makers in the American auto industry are light trucks, SUV‘s.  I mean, I think that‘s right.  They are certainly up there. 

FENN:  Ford and Chevy are the top two vehicles. 

CARLSON:  You‘re attacking an American industry.  Barack Obama has a new plan—this sounds boring.  But I think it gets to something very important. 

WOLFFE:  That‘s a good lead-in. 

CARLSON:  That will keep your attention.  Don‘t go to “Wheel-Of-Fortune.”  We‘ll be right back.  He has a new plan for how to deal with so called predatory lending.  And it would—It‘s quite complicated.  But as I understand it, it would fine lenders who are making what the Obama campaign believes are predatory loans.  Should the federal government be involved in deciding which loans are predatory?  And won‘t this, in the end, in its effect, shut out poor people from getting mortgages? 

WOLFFE:  Well, for a start, this is a hugely important issue.  This is one that‘s going to grow because of the whole sub prime mortgage crisis and the collapse of the housing market.  I think it‘s going to be a long, slow burn throughout the presidential campaign.  The federal government is already deeply involved.  It has a vast amount of regulation when it comes to banks. 

CARLSON:  Yes, it does. 

WOLFFE:  -- lending.  And the question here is, how come—and this is the thing that Obama raises in this op-ed.  How come the regulatory process failed so badly here?  He says it‘s because of the lobbying of the mortgage industry.  It‘s kind of more complicated than that, because you have people who originated these loans, who approved these loans, who are not the same people who sold on the loans, not the same people who rated the loans, and then packaged them up to these other investors and hedge funds, who have ultimately found so much trouble. 

So at which point are you going to fine?  Who are you going to regulate?  Are you going to regulate the hedge funds, who are now collapsing?  What about the people who sold those loans? 

CARLSON:  What about the borrowers, because in the end—this is the ultimate pander.  I think a lot of people were hood winked.  I feel so sorry for people who lose their homes.  I am not attacking anyone.  On the hand, the bottom line is you borrowed money and you haven‘t paid it back.  Some of that is your responsibility, is it not? 

FENN:  It absolutely is.  But you have a situation here where it was like the Wild West out there with these loans.  You have folks who did not read the fine print, who didn‘t understand—

CARLSON:  Are they children?  They‘re not adults?

FENN:  Let me tell you, the average person comes in and they tell you one thing.  It‘s not really quite accurate.  The point is that this is an industry regulated.  And right now what the—the mortgage folks want more discussion of this.  They want to see this fixed, because they‘re fearful.  They‘re trying to make loans right now and they‘re having trouble.  People, they require very little sometimes.  You—one sheet about your asset. 

CARLSON:  But wait.  OK, I get that.  And I think there are a lot of really sleazy people in the check cashing business and the sub prime loan industry and in pawnshops, for that matter.  There are a lot of bottom feeders out there.  On the other hand, they lose money when people default on loans.  They have an innate incentive not to write bad loans. 

FENN:  Exactly, but they sell the loans.  You know—Let me just say.  The best thing that could happen here is if there were a way, which there isn‘t right now, for these folks who were having trouble to renegotiate and fix those loans, so there‘s not a repossession of housing.  This is a disaster. 

CARLSON:  We are moving towards socialism at a pretty speedy clip here. 

FENN:  No. 

CARLSON:  Yes, we are. 

WOLFFE:  Do you know what socialism looks like?

CARLSON:  I know because I‘ve been to your native land and I know how grim and gray it can be.  Let me ask you this question—speaking of grim and gray—

WOLFFE:  Thank you. 

CARLSON:  I love Great Britain. 

WOLFFE:  I do too.

CARLSON:  John McCain is apparently going to take federal matching funds, which has been seen by almost everybody who pays attention as a sign of the desperation of his campaign right now, because he can‘t raise enough money.  But shouldn‘t he be taking federal matching funds in the first plains considering he‘s one of the architects of our campaign finance system and he‘s against big money in politics?  And why shouldn‘t he be taking federal matching funds, anyway? 

WOLFFE:  He should be.  But of course how the mighty have fallen is what everyone is thinking.  This is a guy who was going to blow everyone apart and run a copy of the Bush campaign in 2004.  Look, he‘s desperate for cash.  He‘s like one of those sub prime homeowners.  He‘ll take it from anyone.

FENN:  He‘s not mortgaging his house. 

WOLFFE:  Look, he‘s not—don‘t entirely write him off.  I‘ve been guilty of this before, as well.  Look how he‘s come out on Larry Craig, for instance.  This is a smart politician. 

CARLSON:  He is. 

WOLFFE:  He can bounce. 

CARLSON:  He has attacked Larry Craig.  We‘re going to get to Larry Craig in just a minute. 

FENN:  Quick point here though; he now has to abide by the limits. 

That‘s 1.5 million dollars in Iowa and 850,000 dollars in New Hampshire. 

That‘s a big problem. 

CARLSON:  They should change the limits.  This whole campaign finance reform system is joke and he‘s partly responsible for it. 

Can Republicans survive yet one more high-profile sex scandal?  Or could the party that touts family values lose its conservative voter base to Democrats?  We‘ll see. 

And they don‘t call her the queen of mean for nothing.  Even in the afterlife, details of late hotel billionaire Leona Helmsley; you won‘t believe who is pawing her fortune.  Details next. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  Well, it‘s been a while since the Republicans last trotted out the family values banner.  How times change.  Republicans have been tied to three major sex scandals in just the last year and the spate of moral missteps, real crimes or not, could turn off some social conservatives.  It was this voting block, of course, that helped propel George Bush to victory twice. 

Next year though, these voters may stay home on election day.  Could they turn their allegiance to Democrats?  An idea didn‘t even seem plausible just a couple weeks ago.  We welcome back “Newsweek‘s” senior White House correspondent Richard Wolffe and Democratic strategist Peter Fenn. 

Peter, I have noticed—I‘m not sure this is going to happen, because I think those voters really care about abortion and Democrats are fervently in favor of abortion.  However, I have noticed a lot of Democrats talking about Jesus and their families and I haven‘t been divorced.  They‘re making the family values pitch.  They think they can get those voters. 

FENN:  I think they definitely think they can get family values voters. 

CARLSON:  Really? 

FENN:  Look, if you get patriotic voters, why shouldn‘t we get family values voters?  I think one of the problem that Republicans face right now is that, of course, you talk the talk.  Do you walk the walk?  And this last year has been pretty devastating for Republicans.  Aside from Jefferson‘s problem, most of the folks, everybody else has been Republicans.  You have folks retiring now who are under a cloud. 

CARLSON:  It‘s been a bad year. 

FENN:  Yes.  I think—I think that the other problem that you‘re seeing right now with the Idaho situation is folks want it over.  I mean, this is the kind of thing that the longer these things go on—

CARLSON:  I don‘t know.  Maybe in some places.  I think in cable television they‘re praying for it—we are praying for it to go on and on and on.  Thank you.  They will know we are Christians by our love, by our love. 

Let me just say, I‘ve reached the point where I‘m starting to feel sorry for Larry Craig.  I disapprove of obviously soliciting—I‘m actually a compassionate right winger.  Yes, I am.  Everybody is pounding on this guy.  Butch Otter, the governor of Idaho, has kind of stood up for him.  There‘s not been one person I‘ve seen in public defend him from the United States Senate, where he‘s been these many years.  Kind of cowardly, don‘t you think? 

WOLFFE:  No.  He plead guilty.  It could not be more clear cut.

CARLSON:  He did it and he lied about it yesterday.  On the other hand, doesn‘t he have any friends? 

WOLFFE:  No, not in this situation. 

CARLSON:  Oh, come on. 

WOLFFE:  Not politically.  No, of course not.  They‘re not crazy.  The problem here for all of them is to defend the guy, no matter what their personal feelings about him—maybe they like him.  But the family values question is very, very tough for all Republicans.  You know, does anyone really want to go out there and defend their position on their own family values because of his conduct and who knows what else is out there? 

I mean, the guy is still saying that his guilty plea was some sort of mistake and trying to cover things up.  What else—if you are a politician, and you look at Larry Craig, you think—

CARLSON:  I have the feeling we are about to find out what else is out there.  And I have the feeling that after Labor Day we‘re going to hear maybe from some more people in other airports.  One never knows.  You think any—why doesn‘t anybody ever stand up and say, you know what, he did a bad thing, but he‘s my friend and he‘s a good man and he‘s done these 11 things for our country, why can‘t they do that? 

WOLFFE:  Can you name me 11 pieces of legislation, or one piece of legislation—

CARLSON:  I can‘t, but I don‘t serve in the United States Senate.  Again, I‘m appalled by what Larry Craig did.  But the dog pile mentality in Washington does get me after a while.  I don‘t care who it is, I felt sorry for Ted Kennedy last time he got in trouble down in Palm Beach.  Everybody was jumping on him.  It‘s like OK, fine, lay off after a while. 

CARLSON: 

FENN:  I don‘t disagree with that.  This town, as Harry Truman said, if you need a friend, get a dog. 

CARLSON:  But there‘s not one person, not one of the other 99 senators can stand up and have the juevos (ph) to say I like this guy or we‘ve been friends or he‘s decent.   

FENN:  Everybody‘s looking after themselves in these kind of situations.  Look, Bill Clinton got the same treatment right off the bat. 

CARLSON:  That‘s not true.  The Congressional Black Caucus, whatever you think of their politics, and I don‘t think much, they stood up for Clinton.  It didn‘t matter.  The day he admitted, they were out there—a lot of their members—saying we still support him.  He had friends.  This guy has no friends. 

FENN:  And a lot of people were objecting to the way people went after him.  But I think it is very tough in this town.  You make a mistake, especially if you‘re not truthful about it or you do something like plead guilty and then try to back track, they don‘t cut you any slack. 

CARLSON:  I know.  It‘s just a shame.  I don‘t expect this to happen to me, but we all undergo trials and you would like to think that people are a little more forgiving. 

WOLFFE:  Well, if you are out campaigning on this, you‘ve got to expect it some.  

CARLSON:  It would be a tough crowd.  Thank you both very much.  Karl Rove lands on the receiving end of a practical joke.  He‘s on his way out of Washington, but by the looks of this, he may need to find another ride.  You‘re watching MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  Welcome back.  It‘s time for a shot of Bill Wolff, a little Vitamin B.  Here he is from headquarters. 

BILL WOLFF, MSNBC VICE PRESIDENT:  Can be hazardous to your health, especially in large doses, Tucker.  That‘s why we keep it brief.  We begin tonight with recently deceased hotel zillionairess (ph) Leona Helmsley, rest in peace.  She and recently confessed dog abuser Michael Vick had one thing in common; everything thinks they stink. 

After that, the similarities are fewer and farther between.  Whereas Vick made everybody mad by conspiring to stage dog fights and executions, Mrs. Helmsley is today freshly reviled for leaving her dog named Trouble 12 million bones in her will.  Not dog bones, mind you, but bones, donuts, green backs, Tucker, American dollars. 

Couple that with the fact that Helmsley will leave nothing to two of her grandchildren, the so-called Queen of Mean is freshly reviled from beyond the grave.  I think we ought to reconsider this.  We are mad at Michael Vick because he hurt a dog.  Leona Helmsley left 12 million bucks to her dog.  I say she is super. 

CARLSON:  I‘m about as pro dog as you can be, within the bounds of the law. 

WOLFF:  It‘s unbelievable how pro-dog you are.

CARLSON:  Yes, I am strongly pro-dog.  But 12 million to one dog seems a little eccentric, even by my standards. 

WOLFF:  Dog has to pay for private school, Tucker, makes perfect sense to me.  You can‘t send your kid to public school in New York, or your dog. 

You know about jumping the shark, right?  Fonzy jumped the shark.  No offense to anyone involved or any other giant multi-national media company, but they announced the “Dancing With the Stars” lineup this morning and if I may say, there ain‘t a Tucker Carlson in the bunch.  I mean that in the best sense to you my friend. 

Among the hopeful loose hipped, finger snapping shimmiers are “Beverly Hills 90210” Jenny Garth, the middle weight champion of the world, Pretty Boy Floyd Mayweather, and the wrinkle-free and ever tan, Wayne Newton.  Not sure when the contest begins or ends, but I ain‘t watching.  That show peaked in episode two, season two and I think you know what I‘m talking about.  Any reaction from you? 

CARLSON:  Let me just say, I know Wayne Newton.  I am no Wayne Newton.  I mean that as a compliment to Wayne Newton, who actually is a really good guy, and I bet is going to win. 

WOLFF:  He was tremendous in Vegas Vacation seducing Beverly D‘Angelo.  I must say, the Internet pictures—of course the Internet is never wrong and the pictures are all accurate.  He looks amazing. 

CARLSON:  Oh, yes.  It‘s Wayne Newton.  He is older than he looks. 

CARLSON:  Really?  His surgery is older than I am and I‘m old, Tucker. 

I am a Wayne-iac.  I‘m asked by a producer, am I a Wayne-iac.  Answer, yes.  Dateline foreign countries and the reassuring reality that Rocky Mountain Oysters and the Red Neck Games don‘t make America any weirder than the rest of the world.  If it is the third Wednesday in August and it, this must be the Spanish village of Buno (ph), near Valencia, and the annual Tomatino day, when tens of thousands of locals and tourists pack the street and chuck tomatoes at each other, Tucker.   This year, 30,000 people threw more than 240,000 pounds of tomato all to commemorate a 1945 fight that broke out at a carnival. 

The weirdness extends to Russia and the tiny village of Sovkra (ph), unofficial home of tight rope walking.  Yes, they still wear the goofy Russian gear you see here and everyone in town is encouraged to walk on tight hopes.  It appears that the golden age of tight rope walking ended when the Soviet Union dissolved and also because there is not all that much demand for such entertainment these days. 

These villagers however want to bring the tradition back.  No words on plans to revive chain saw juggling or catching bullets with their teeth. 

CARLSON:  I love Europe.  Now that it‘s no longer a military threat to us, it‘s just a giant theme park.  It‘s good times. 

WOLFF:  Here‘s the good news, it is a military threat to us.  Everything is great.  Coming up roses, buddy.  Finally, some zany antics, some mad cap hijinx from the noted pranksters in the White House.  The vehicle you see is sealed by plastic wrap, adorned with two bald eagles on the trunk, and slapped with Obama for president bumper stickers.  It belongs to Karl Rove, who is graduating on Friday. 

The car is a jaguar, very nice.  The wacky kids responsible have been called to the principal‘s office.  And they should be, because this is a non-partisan shot.  It is a weak prank.  If those silly kids would just watch this show, they would know that this is how you do a prank.  Go to Costco or Sam‘s Club and wherever the find toilet paper is sold and go bananas. 

This was the work of a senior class at an Indianapolis area earlier this summer, and the executive branch was trying to be dedicated to education, ought to get learned up on how you do these things.  Look at all that toilet paper, Tucker.  Come on.  I‘m disappointed. 

CARLSON:  That is a prank.  That‘s a hall of famer. 

Bill Wolff from headquarters.  Thanks Bill.  That does it for us.  Thanks for watching.  Up next, “HARDBALL” with Chris.  We are back tomorrow.  Have a great night.

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

END   

Copy: Content and programming copyright 2007 NBC.  ALL RIGHTS  RESERVED. Transcription Copyright 2007 Voxant, Inc.  ALL RIGHTS  RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material other than for research. User may not reproduce or redistribute the material except for user‘s personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon NBC and Voxant, Inc.‘s copyright or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.

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