updated 8/31/2007 10:47:15 AM ET 2007-08-31T14:47:15

Guests: Kate O‘Beirne, Rand Beers, Robert Kaplan

CARLSON TUCKER, MSNBC ANCHOR:  Republican from senator from Idaho, Larry Craig hoped his current troubles would simply die down.  He would be gravely disappointed tonight.  Like that afternoon, MSNBC obtained a copy of the audio recording of Craig‘s interview with his arresting officer at the Minneapolis airport June 11.  With his republican colleagues scrambling away from him as far as they can, the senator‘s resignation hinges on one issue, trust is the issue.  In a moment you will hear the tape and you will decide whose story do you believe?

Also today, bad news from the Bush administration, from the general accounting office, the GAO which is the investigative arm of congress, leaked a draft of its Iraq assessment to the “Washington Post.”  Of the 18 military and political benchmarks that Congress has set for the American mission in Iraq, the GAO gives only three satisfactory remarks.  The statement was leaked by a government official who feared that its bleak judgments would be watered down in their final forms so he put it in the press early. 

And former senator Fred Thompson is significantly closer to entering into the 2008 republican field for president.  In fact, he‘s a week away.  The unofficial announcement of the pending announcement came this afternoon.  We‘ll discuss this implication in a moment. 

We begin with Larry Craig‘s police interview after his arrest June 11th.  The inquisitor is investigative Sergeant Dave Karsnia.  Here it is. 

KARSNIA:  How long do you think you stood outside the stalls?

CRAIG:  Oh a minute or two at the most.

KARSNIA:  OK. And when you went in the stalls, then what?

CRAIG:  Sat down.

KARSNIA:  OK. Did you do anything with your feet?

CRAIG:  Positioned them, I don‘t know. I don‘t know at the time. I‘m a fairly wide guy.

KARSNIA:  I understand.

CRAIG:  I had to spread my legs.

KARSNIA:  OK.

CRAIG:  When I lower my pants so they won‘t slide.

KARSNIA:  OK.

CRAIG:  Did I slide them too close to yours? Did I, I looked down once, your foot was close to mine.

KARSNIA:  Yes.

CRAIG:  Did we bump? Ah, you said so, I don‘t recall that, but apparently we were close.

KARSNIA: Yes, well your foot did touch mine, on my side of the stall.

CRAIG:  All right.

KARSNIA:  OK. And then with the hand.  How many times did you put your hand under the stall?

CRAIG:  I don‘t recall. I remember reaching down once. There was a piece of toilet paper back behind me and picking it up.

KARSNIA:  OK. Was your was your palm down or up when you were doing that?

CRAIG:  I don‘t recall.

KARSNIA:  OK. I recall your palm being up. OK.

CRAIG:  All right.

KARSNIA:  When you pick up a piece of paper off the ground, your palm would be down, when you pick something up.

CRAIG:  Yeah, probably would be. I recall picking the paper up.

KARSNIA:  And I know it‘s hard to describe here on tape but actually what I saw was your fingers come underneath the stalls, you‘re actually touching the bottom of the stall divider.

CRAIG:  I don‘t recall that.

KARSNIA:  You don‘t recall

CRAIG:  I don‘t believe I did that. I don‘t.

KARSNIA:  I saw, I saw

CRAIG:  I don‘t do those things.

KARSNIA:  I saw your left hand and I could see the gold wedding ring when it when it went across. I could see that. On your left hand, I could see that.

CRAIG:  Wait a moment, my left hand was over here.

KARSNIA:  I saw there‘s a...

CRAIG:  My right hand was next to you.

KARSNIA:  I could tell it with my, I could tell it was your left hand because your thumb was positioned in a faceward motion. Your thumb was on this side, not on this side.

CRAIG:  Well, we can dispute that. I‘m not going to fight you in court and I, I reached down with my right hand to pick up the paper.

KARSNIA:  But I‘m telling you that I could see that so I know that‘s your left hand. Also I could see a gold ring on this finger, so that‘s obvious it was the left hand.

CRAIG:  Yeah, OK. My left hand was in the direct opposite of the stall from you.

KARSNIA:  OK. You, you travel through here frequently correct?

CRAIG:   I do.

KARSNIA:  Um .

CRAIG:  Almost weekly.

KARSNIA:  Have you been successful in these bathrooms here before?

CRAIG:  I go to that bathroom regularly

KARSNIA:  I mean for any type of other activities.

CRAIG:  No. Absolutely not. I don‘t seek activity in bathrooms.

KARSNIA:  It‘s embarrassing.

CRAIG:  Well it‘s embarrassing for both.  I‘m not going to fight you.

KARSNIA:  I know you‘re not going to fight me. But that‘s not the point. I would respect you and I still respect you. I don‘t disrespect you but I‘m disrespected right now and I‘m not tying to act like I have all kinds of power or anything, but you‘re sitting here lying to a police officer.

KARSNIA:  It‘s not a (inaudible) I‘m getting from somebody else. I‘m (inaudible)

(CROSSTALK)

KARSNIA:  I am trained in this and I know what I am doing. And I say you put your hand under there and you‘re going to sit there and...

CRAIG:  I admit I put my hand down.

KARSNIA:  You put your hand and rubbed it on the bottom of the stall with your left hand.

CRAIG:  No. Wait a moment.

KARSNIA:  And I, I‘m not dumb, you can say I don‘t recall...

CRAIG:  If I had turned sideways, that was the only way I could get my left hand over there.

KARSNIA:  It‘s not that hard for me to reach. (inaudible) it‘s not that hard. I see it happen everyday out here now.

CRAIG: (inaudible) you do. All right.

KARSNIA:  I just, I just, I guess, I guess I‘m going to say I‘m just disappointed in you sir. I‘m just really am. I expect this from the guy that we get out of the hood. I mean, people vote for you.

CRAIG:  Yes, they do. (inaudible)

KARSNIA:  Unbelievable, unbelievable.

CRAIG:  I‘m a respectable person and I don‘t do these kinds of...

KARSNIA:  And (inaudible) respect right now though

CRAIG:  But I didn‘t use my left hand.

KARSNIA:  I thought that you...

CRAIG:  I reached down with my right hand like this to pick up a piece of paper.

KARSNIA:  Was your gold ring on your right hand at anytime today.

CRAIG:  Of course not, try to get it off, look at it.

KARSNIA:  OK. Then it was your left hand, I saw it with my own eyes.

CRAIG:  All right, you saw something that didn‘t happen. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARLSON:  Well, joining me to discuss what we just heard, Democratic Strategist and MSNBC Political Analyst Hilary Rosen and the National Review‘s Kate O‘Beirne. 

I feel filthy having listened to that.  I do feel like we just intruded into something too private maybe for public consumption.  Based on what you just heard, however, how do you feel about what the senator said earlier this week?

HILARY ROSEN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Well, I have just thought from the beginning that the senator keeps walking into this trap.  This is not about whether or not he‘s gay.  Frankly, who would care if he is gay.  This is about whether he has engaged in illegal behavior in a public restroom, which, by the way, Tucker, violence is not a good reaction to—

CARLSON:  Grabbing someone in a men‘s room, grabbing someone in a men‘s room is a—that person is assaulted. 

ROSEN:  Grab.  Different than a come on. 

CARLSON:  The issue I think Craig faces now is he got up there, extremely defiantly, kind of self righteously and talked about how everybody else was wrong and he was a victim.  I think he kind of invited this second, third, fourth round of scrutiny. 

CARLSON:  What do you think about his claim that he didn‘t do this?  I mean, he‘s not—

ROSEN:  It‘s preposterous. 

CARLSON:  Is it?  I‘m not defending him.  I believe he probably did try to solicit sex, but I‘m trying to keep on open mind.  He says he didn‘t.  Kate, what do you think?

KATE O‘BEIRNE, NATIONAL REVIEW:  Even before these tapes—and I think he was treated extremely decently and professionally by the authorities in Minneapolis.  This did not leak out for two months.  It‘s not that often that they would have caught some senator, and you‘d think you would have it be held by extremely professional people that they didn‘t run to the media back then.  Even before this tape, Tucker, I haven‘t spoken to anyone, even people who want to give Larry Craig, who has a lot of friends in this town, every benefit of the doubt, that didn‘t think he was accused of doing that in the member‘s room. 

ROSEN:  Everyone should listen to tape.  Because the police officer is the most decent guy in the process.  He said, I don‘t care what your sexual preference is, although they call it sexual orientation. 

CARLSON:  No wonder we‘re going down the tubes. 

ROSEN:  He just wanted the truth out of him, and he felt he was being lied to.  A professional police officer has an instinct about being lied to. 

O‘BEIRNE:  I think a lawyer could have made this look more ambiguous. 

He may not have been able to be convicted. 

CARLSON:  If you hired anybody, they could get you off of the shoe tapping. 

ROSEN:  He had no interest in doing with it. 

CARLSON:  Should Larry Craig resign from the senate.  If he doesn‘t resign, what‘s ahead for the Idaho senator?  Could he hurt the Republican Party as that party looks toward the next year‘s critical election?  Plus Congress approved the troop surge for Iraq but with a few conditions.  Now a new report says most of the conditions in Iraq haven‘t been met.  What now?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  Welcome back. 

The smallest gathering in the city of Washington this week was the meeting of friends of Larry Craig.  It‘s not clear that anybody showed up.  Even before this afternoon‘s release of the embarrassing audio tape you just heard, Republican Senator John Ensign of Nevada had joined the chorus of Craig‘s Republican colleagues in suggesting that Craig ought to resign. 

Does the tape increase the chances that he will do that?

Back with us, Democratic strategist and MSNBC political analyst, Hillary Rosen, and the “National Review‘s” Kate O‘Beirne.

Hillary, I have to say I‘m not defending what Craig did.  I‘m certainly not defending his appalling press conference where he humiliated his wife and himself, by lying, in my view, about this, but I do think—I hate the fact that everyone‘s piling on the guy. 

And everyone‘s getting so self-righteous: “It‘s unbelievable.”  These guys with creepy sex lives are pointing their fingers at Larry Craig.  It bugs me.

ROSEN:  Well, there‘s probably so much more to say about Craig‘s behavior, but the political story that‘s interesting to me today is that Senator David Vitter actually admitted hiring a prostitute, which is illegal in the state of Louisiana and in Washington, D.C.

CARLSON:  Right.

ROSEN:  He admitted to committing a crime, and none of his colleagues have asked for his resignation.  So some have said, well, maybe people are a little homophobic.  It‘s ickier because it was a bathroom thing.

CARLSON:  Definitely.  That‘s definitely a part of the reason.

ROSEN:  On the other hand, we shouldn‘t forget that, if David Vitter were to resign, a Democratic governor would be naming his replacement, and if Larry Craig were to resign, a Republican governor would be naming his. 

CARLSON:  I think you‘re absolutely right on both counts.

ROSEN:  There‘s every amount of reason to have the cynicism in that there‘s a double standard going on that‘s part of it.  Not necessarily about the...

CARLSON:  I agree—I agree with you.  I will say, though, that having—taking a prostitute to your room, there‘s no chance anyone is going to be affected except the two of you. 

Having sex in a men‘s room effects everybody who‘s bringing his kids in there.  It‘s just—you shouldn‘t do that.  I think there is a distinction.  But I agree with you there. 

I just wonder why someone doesn‘t stand up for Larry Craig.  I mean, I know it‘s appalling what he did, blah, blah, blah, but why doesn‘t someone have the courage to say, I like Larry Craig?  Why doesn‘t anybody say that?

O‘BEIRNE:  Tucker, I think a meeting of the friends of Larry Craig, and he has friends in this town, including some of his colleagues.  I think a meeting of his friends would decide for his own sake and the sake of his family, and then the Senate, he ought to resign. 

CARLSON:  Well, that‘s...

O‘BEIRNE:  I think that‘s what his friends would be—are advising. 

ROSEN:  This is a guy who has, in essence, has become a tortured victim of his own public policy.  You know, that many people have said, and I agree with them, if you‘re going to have discrimination, if you‘re going to have, double standards for how gay people should be treated in this country and—stop smirking—and how straight people should be treated in this country, then you have no choice if you‘re afraid to be open about who you are, to engage in this. 

CARLSON:  Wait a second.  Wait a second.

O‘BEIRNE:  Whether or not we have gay marriage, presumably, anonymous gay sex is not going to be permitted in public restrooms.  And his position on gay issues is darn close to Hillary Clinton‘s.

CARLSON:  But it‘s a lot more...

O‘BEIRNE:  They both—they both oppose gay marriage, and they both support...

ROSEN:  That‘s ridiculous.  But by the way, I don‘t think there‘s justification for voting against and hurting people under any circumstance. 

CARLSON:  OK, but hold on.  Wait.

ROSEN:  The point I‘m making has nothing to do with laws.  It has to do with reflection and society acceptance. 

CARLSON:  OK.  But talk about double standards. 

ROSEN:  And that‘s more related to his relationship with...

CARLSON:  He‘s against gay marriage and the justification for getting into this repulsive media spectacle, and I mean repulsive, about which these reporters, especially in Idaho, really ought to be ashamed, interviewing his fraternity brothers from 40 years ago about whether, you know, he was attracted to men.  Get a life. 

The justification is he‘s against gay marriage.  Hillary Clinton is against gay marriage.  So is Obama.

ROSEN:  It has nothing to do with gay marriage.  It really doesn‘t. 

CARLSON:  Why don‘t you hold the Democrats—OK, I‘m a conservative for gay marriage. 

ROSEN:  No, no, no.

CARLSON:  Why are they against it?

ROSEN:  I don‘t—I don‘t think there‘s any rationalization that says the reason to get into this is because Larry Craig has voted, has an anti-gay voting record.  I think...

CARLSON:  That‘s the justification I keep hearing.  That‘s exactly the justification.

ROSEN:  I think no matter what your sexual orientation is, you have no right to have an anti-gay voting record. 

The rationalization here is that he actually committed a crime and then went out and denied it.  And his—his rationalization...

CARLSON:  OK.

ROSEN:  ... for denying it is, “Well, of course, I didn‘t commit a crime, because I‘m not gay.” 

CARLSON:  But the “Idaho Statesman”...

ROSEN:  When being gay has nothing to do with committing a crime. 

CARLSON:  Why did the “Idaho Statesman”, presumably a pretty liberal newspaper, spend all this time, eight months or so, interviewing 300 people to answer the question, is he a homosexual?  What the hell could their justification be?  And all those liberals get up and justify that.

ROSEN:  They never proved it.

CARLSON:  They should be ashamed of themselves.

ROSEN:  They never proved it, and they wouldn‘t have.  They said that...

CARLSON:  At a time the newspaper—they spent all this money reporting it. 

O‘BEIRNE:  They talked to 300 people and spent five months.  In part, his accuser from the Union Station episode is quite frank about why he was contacting people in order to out Larry Craig, which you might notice, only the left outs closeted homosexuals for their own agendas. 

But he was quite frank.  Because he resents the fact that, as a Republican, his party is not in favor of a gay rights agenda.  That‘s exactly the justification that the Idaho newspaper bought into. 

ROSEN:  There is every rationalization to hold an elected official, who has public policy power, responsible...

CARLSON:  For being gay?  That‘s a crime now?  What is this?

ROSEN:  They‘re expecting other people to...

CARLSON:  You‘re not allowed to be gay if you‘re voting against gay marriage?  I mean, this is crazy. 

ROSEN:  First of all, it has nothing to do with gay marriage.  It has to do with an entire history of an anti-gay voting record.  Gay marriage is only one of them.

CARLSON:  Leave people‘s personal lives alone.  Let‘s just—let‘s just agree on that.  Let‘s—you don‘t get in people‘s personal lives.

ROSEN:  Larry Craig has been in people‘s personal lives...

CARLSON:  OK.

ROSEN:  ... with his votes for the last 20 years. 

CARLSON:  That is—that is not...

ROSEN:  That is not an irrational reaction. 

CARLSON:  You‘re justifying behavior that you don‘t like, it seems to me.  You don‘t like when people get in other people‘s personal lives, but you‘re justifying it.  And I think that‘s a mistake. 

ROSEN:  NO, I‘m explaining it. 

CARLSON:  OK.  I think I see.  I get it.

ROSEN:  I‘m not justifying it.  I think what he did is illegal and wrong regardless. 

CARLSON:  OK.

ROSEN:  I think the fact that he has an anti-gay voting record...

CARLSON:  All right.

ROSEN:  ... is as bad as everybody‘s else anti-gay voting record. 

CARLSON:  OK.  Three of the 18.  Not a really very good grade.  That‘s how many of the bench marks set by Congress after the troop surge have been met so far in Iraq.  What does that mean for the future of the war there?  We‘ll tell you in a minute. 

Plus, Hillary has the high dollar donations on the Democratic side of the ballot—that‘s Hillary Clinton, not Hillary Rosen—but now, after one of her top money man turns out to be on the lam, she shuffled $23 grand off to a group of do-gooders.  Is that enough?  We‘ll tell you.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  The General Accounting Office, the investigative arm of the U.S. Congress, leaked a draft of its Iraq assessment to the “Washington Post” this morning, fully two weeks before General David Petraeus is expected to deliver his progress report to the president and to the Congress. 

The GAO report gives passing grades to only three out of 18 benchmarks for political and military progress there.  That‘s a grave picture of the U.S. mission in Iraq. 

Almost as damning as the progress assessment itself is the “Washington Post” statement that the report was leaked by a government official who feared that its bleak judgments would be, quote, “watered down” in their final form.  That form will be submitted to Congress next Tuesday. 

Joining me to assess the assessment is a man who served on the National Security Council under four different presidents and was the current President Bush‘s special assistant for combating terrorism before he resigned in 2003 to work for the Kerry campaign. 

Rand Beers joins me.  He‘s now the president of the National Security Network.

Mr. Beers, thanks for coming on. 

RAND BEERS, PRESIDENT, NATIONAL SECURITY NETWORK:  Thank you.

CARLSON:  So the White House response to this, at least today at the briefing, was the congressional benchmarks are much stricter than benchmarks that you and I would come up with if we were charged with coming up with benchmarks, maybe even unmeetable, unrealistic.  And so that‘s why so few were met. 

Is that a fair response?

BEERS:  Well, let‘s remember that the benchmarks were negotiated with the White House and the White House did agree with them.  When John Warner put them on the table, they were benchmarks that the White House had agreed to.  So they got to what they had already asked for.

Secondly, yes, they‘re tough benchmarks, but that‘s what, I think, the American people wanted. 

And thirdly, there‘s a grade, but there‘s also a writing that goes along with it, just as there was with the administration when they said satisfactory on eight of the benchmarks when they made their interim report in July. 

CARLSON:  Right.  So it‘s not—because that‘s the other defense, that these actually give a stilted view of the reality on the ground, because they are essentially pass/fail, and there‘s no room for nuance or gray area.  But that is contained in the report. 

BEERS:  That‘s contained in the report.  And the shorthand that we saw in the—in the chart that was in the “Washington Post” article is nothing more than a shorthand for what the overall report says. 

CARLSON:  This report, the draft of the report appears to say that, yes, attacks against U.S. military are down in Iraq, something we‘ve heard a lot.  But attacks between Iraqis, Iraqis on Iraqis, have remained essentially the same. 

That‘s—that‘s not progress?  I mean, don‘t we—isn‘t the measure we that care about attacks on U.S. forces?

BEERS:  Well, we care—certainly.  Of course, we care about attacks on U.S. forces, but overall what we‘re trying to achieve here is political reconciliation.  If we can‘t stop attacks on Iraqis, then there‘s not going to be enough of a sense of security in order for the political reconciliation to take place.  So we have to stop both. 

CARLSON:  The White House response appears to be—or the justification for continuing the surge, staying the course, et cetera, appears to be not simply that things are getting incrementally better, and that appears to be challenged by this, but that, were we to pull out, disaster would ensue. 

Who‘s studying what would happen if we were to pull out?

BEERS:  Well, that‘s a good question.  And I‘ve asked that very question of contacts within the administration.  It‘s not clear to me that we have much going on in that regard. 

There are groups that are outside, think tanks that are making efforts to look at that and to come up with formula that might indicate how we could reduce the likelihood of the dire consequences that are being predicted by the administration. 

But it ought to be done within the administration.  There ought to be some gaming.  And it ought to be something that‘s...

CARLSON:  You don‘t think there‘s any going on right now?

BEERS:  I have asked if there is, and I am unable to determine that there is.  That‘s all I can say.

CARLSON:  Because it seems to me, just from my point of view, that‘s the most compelling argument.  I mean, that‘s the thing that makes the most sense.  That gee, it‘s bad.  You think it‘s bad now.  It could be awful.  You know, it would be much, much worse if we pulled out. 

And the responses I get, at least on this show, are pretty lame from Democrats.  “Oh, everything is going to be OK.  The Sunnis and the Shia will sort of come together once their common enemy, us, is pulled out of the picture.” 

Do you believe that?

BEERS:  I am not prepared to say that, but what I am prepared to say is the administration can‘t make the argument that withdrawal is the only aspect of policy that ought to be looked at when you‘re deciding what your policy in the future ought to be there. 

There‘s a much larger, strategic framework that has to be looked at.  We have to look at what we would do differently about al Qaeda.  We have to look at what we would do differently about Iran and Syria.  We have to look at what we would do differently about gulf security.  And we have to look at what we would do differently about the Middle East peace process. 

And if we put all of those together and not have this myopic view of Iraq, then I think we can move things around on that chess board and come up with some solutions that don‘t yield necessarily as dire a prediction as the administration makes. 

But I certainly wouldn‘t go so far as to say that any of these better scenarios are slam dunks, just like I wouldn‘t go and say that the administration‘s view is a slam dunk either. 

CARLSON:  Right.  Good for you.  Thank you very much, Rand Beers.  I appreciate it. 

After months of dipping his toes in the water, Fred Thompson finally gets ready to take the dive.  What will it mean for the Republican field for president? 

Plus, he spent a lot of time on Iowa.  Now the latest polls show John Edwards is taking the top spot in that state, ahead of both Clinton and Barack Obama.  Can he hold that position?  We‘ll tell you ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  Fred Thompson is about to make news in the way that leaves make news when they turn in the fall.  We have been waiting for a while.  We have known it was coming.  Some still find it exciting anyway.  On a conference call late this afternoon, Thompson told supporters that he will officially join the race a week from today.  That‘s September 6th.  Mark your calendars.  He will do it via an Internet announcement.  Whatever that is.

So he‘s still not in, but he really is in.  For reaction to and evaluation of Fred Thompson‘s chances and potential impact on the Republican field, we turn again to two wise women, Democratic strategist and MSNBC political analyst Hillary Rosen, the “National Review‘s” Kate O‘Beirne, who, I believe, like me is hoping that Fred Thompson will turn out to be real and not just a guy in the midst of a fairly complex midlife crisis.  Which is true? 

O‘BEIRNE:  Yes, I think there‘s some real talent there.  he certainly holds positions that I think will be appealing to conservatives, for sure.  I love the leaves thing.  That was very good.  That was very good.

CARLSON:  That was really the fruit of a man named Bill Wolff, who will be coming on later in the show. 

O‘BEIRNE:  We will know soon enough.  I do think there is a Republican debate in New Hampshire of the candidates on September 5th.  I think he should be there.  He‘s clearly not going to be.  He is announcing the next day.  But because so much time has gone by, because the others have such a jump start, I think it would have been very helpful for him to immediately be on the stage, hold the stage, let people make that comparison, clearly dominate the coverage from the debate.  But that‘s not a call his campaign made. 

ROSEN:  I think it‘s embarrassing for him that he has decided to do it the day after the debate.  It just looks like he is afraid to step out there, just like it has kind of looked that way for the last two months.  I think the reason he is now doing it so gingerly, instead of with a big bang, is because he got heat over the last several weeks on whether his FEC reports are really appropriate, whether he has been raising money as a presidential candidate, when he hasn‘t been, as to some of his background. 

I think this guy has got to get out there and prove that he really wants to run, because it sure doesn‘t look like it. 

CARLSON:  I know Democrats are confident.  They obviously have every reason to be confident, but as asses the Republican field, honestly, who do they think would be the toughest person to run against? 

ROSEN:  You know, I think there are holes all around on the Republican side. 

CARLSON:  Certainly are. 

ROSEN:  I think as a practical matter, Mitt Romney and Fred Thompson are probably as presidential looking as you can get, and Democrats would probably least like to run against them. 

CARLSON:  If you were to boil down—

O‘BEIRNE:  Meaning they would rather have Rudy Giuliani. 

ROSEN:  Rudy Giuliani is going to be a house of cards.  Even in New York his support—even the rescue workers at the World Trade Center, his nome de plume, won‘t support him.  So I don‘t think that‘s going to be as tough as people think. 

CARLSON:  It seems like the rest of the field is lame is not enough of a rational to sustain a presidential campaign.  What is his rational?  Do you know? 

O‘BEIRNE:  The potential there, I think we have seen some of it.  The potential is there, because it‘s what appealed initially to conservatives and many Republicans, that at some point, as you well know, Tucker, had him tied in the national polls with Rudy Giuliani.  Yes, he‘ll run as an outside Washington guy.  You know, I spent eight years in the Senate.  I got frustrated.  I‘m more of an executive personality. 

He is shy on the executive experience front.  And we do like electing people with—

CARLSON:  They all are.  I can‘t think of a candidate who—

O‘BEIRNE:  Former governors, like Mitt Romney has more of a claim to it. 

CARLSON:  Obama and Hillary—

O‘BEIRNE:  The Democrat side is very weak because they are all legislators.  He‘ll—as I said, he‘s holding these very conservative positions on things.  He has spent time in the last couple of years on national security issues.  He is a talented politician, with respect to being plain spoken.  I think people like that.  He is articulate in a way that the current president hasn‘t been. 

I think there are assets he brings. 

CARLSON:  Just to boil it down, he can talk better than Bush. 

O‘BEIRNE:  Yes.  That‘s one comparison. 

CARLSON:  That‘s true. 

ROSEN:  You can‘t underestimate that likability factor, which has been a problem in the Republican primary to date. 

CARLSON:  It has.  It was one of the things that carried Bush in 2000.  He was an appealing guy.  Hillary Clinton is not someone who benefits from that perception. 

ROSEN:  I think that‘s true. 

CARLSON:  Also, Democrats running against her haven‘t talked about the Clinton years and the dark side, and there was one of the Clinton years, because they are cowards in my view.  But we‘re being reminded of that because of this fund raising story.  Mr. Hsu, one of Mrs. Clinton‘s top fund raisers, who was defended by the Clinton campaign two days ago, you remember, the campaign email they sent out saying he‘s a great guy.  It now turns out he‘s a fugitive.  He‘s a fugitive.  Too great. 

ROSEN:  I like what Elliot Spitzer said today, you know, Mr. Clean.  He said, look, if the entire—all of the authorities in the state of California couldn‘t find this guy or know there was an arrest warrant for it, how is the Clinton campaign supposed to know it.  I think that is a non-story.  You can‘t know everything about a fund raiser that you‘re supposed to know. 

CARLSON:  If it‘s not a big deal, why did they return the money?

ROSEN:  To be appropriate.  Once they found out, they did what they could do.  I want to go back to another issue on this likability.  I think that Hillary Clinton is becoming more and more appealing to the general public, and the polls are showing that. 

CARLSON:  There‘s no doubt. 

ROSEN:  People are starting to understand her better and like her more. 

CARLSON:  They are being beaten into submission.  There‘s no doubt. 

ROSEN:  -- hugged into submission. 

CARLSON:  She was always more appealing than the caricature, so actually that works in her favor. 

O‘BEIRNE:  She clearly has to get people to give her a second look, which isn‘t easy for a politician.  Because if they don‘t, she is going to have a tough time.  I agree that any politician is vulnerable to some fund raiser having some problems in their background, Democrat or Republican.  I don‘t think anybody is going to want to hold each other responsible for that sort of thing. 

The added story here though is the donor also may have—there‘s some evidence—of him having phony donors, of him bundling money from people, which is a real flash back to the Clinton years in the 1990‘s, elicit, illegal campaign donations.  That would be a big problem. 

CARLSON:  The one guy who will make hay out of this—

(CROSS TALK)

O‘BEIRNE:  People pled guilty to doing it as Clinton donors.  Some are in jail. 

CARLSON:  I was here.  I remember.  The one person who can benefit from this is the guy who has been hitting Mrs. Clinton on this all long, as being a creature of Washington, John Edwards.  He is the insurgent candidate on the Democratic side.  It appears to be working in Iowa.  Here are the latest numbers from that state, the latest poll numbers, John Edwards 32 percent, Hillary Clinton 24 percent, Barack Obama 22, Bill Richardson 13. 

John Edwards is written off as dead by the national media, of course, has been for a long time.  These are not the numbers of a dead guy. 

ROSEN:  I don‘t think John Edwards is dead by any means.  I think the fact he is doing well in Iowa is extremely significant.  Of course, we can‘t forget that he has to now do well in Iowa to have his campaign go any further.  But he is feeling their pain.  His wife is feeling their pain, and unfortunately, some of her own on issues that are really important to the voters in that state. 

He‘s talking about health care.  He‘s talking about jobs.  He is hammering home those issues.  People in Iowa are loving how much attention he is getting.  It doesn‘t surprise me he is being taken seriously. 

CARLSON:  He stopped talking.  It seems his wife speaks almost for him exclusively now.  Not a day passes.

(CROSS TALK)

CARLSON:  I‘m not sure if she‘s the devil or the angel.  She is one.  Not a day passes when she doesn‘t issue statement about one thing or another.  Here is the latest from Elizabeth Edwards.  She‘s talking about people who hate Mrs. Clinton, “I want to be perfectly clear, I do not think the hatred against Hillary Clinton is justified.  I don‘t know where it comes from.  I don‘t begin to understand it.  But you can‘t pretend it doesn‘t exist, and it will energize the Republican base. 

“Their nominee won‘t energize them.  Bush won‘t energize them.  But Hillary as the nominee will energize them.  It‘s for John to talk about.  But it‘s the reality.”

O‘BEIRNE:  She is clearly on it‘s hard for John to talk about duty. 

CARLSON:  Right. 

O‘BEIRNE:  That‘s her job now. 

CARLSON:  She said his problem was that he was a white man and not a woman or a black guy. 

O‘BEIRNE:  What she is talking about is the fond hope of Republicans, that even if they don‘t have a candidate at the end of the process who can really enthuse their base, Hillary Clinton, running against Hillary Clinton will do that job for them.  She is reflecting the feeling out there. 

Having said that, not withstanding the enthuse affect Hillary Clinton would have on Republican turnout, I think they still see her as the most formidable opponent.  They would much rather run against John Edwards than Hillary Clinton next November. 

CARLSON:  I think the smart ones understand Hillary Clinton could win. 

ROSEN:  I think the polls are showing that people are liking Hillary more.  So, talking about that hating Hillary factor isn‘t going to work.  Edwards is doing well in Iowa.  John Edwards doesn‘t need Elizabeth to sound desperate this way. 

CARLSON:  No, but she keeps going.  Before I ask you, finally, a John McCain question, I want to say that yesterday we talked about John McCain and I implied that the McCain campaign was planning to accept matching funds.  I believe they qualified for those funds.  It‘s not clear they are going on accepting them.  That was my mistake and that was called to my attention by the campaign and I apologize for saying that. 

Here are new numbers from the state of Arizona on John McCain, very, very interesting.  John McCain in August, he‘s a 24; Mitt Romney 19, Rudy Giuliani 18, Fred Thompson 17.  He is down 8 points from April.  Mitt Romney‘s basically within striking distance, just outside the margin of error.  How much worse can it get for John McCain at this point? 

O‘BEIRNE:  It‘s hard to see, Tucker, how he comes back up, given he was all but the presumptive nominee a year ago, certainly widely considered the front-runner, you know, had run before and all that.  Hard to see how he does it and where he does it. 

CARLSON:  That is the question.  It‘s not likely to be in Iowa, not likely to be in New Hampshire.  I frankly hope it happens.  What a come back story. 

ROSEN:  Rudy Giuliani has Kate and her friends to thank for John McCain not doing well. 

CARLSON:  That‘s partially true.  The conservatives hammered the hell out of him. 

ROSEN:  Hammered the hell out of him.  The greatest beneficiary of that may end up being Fred Dalton Thompson, because the true conservative has been shunted aside. 

CARLSON:  I don‘t know if he is.  That‘s a whole different show. 

We‘re out of time, sadly.  Thank you. 

Right now U.S. troops are hunting down al Qaeda in the Iraq, but that‘s not the only place we are chasing terrorists.  An inside look ahead.  And later, you will never believe what some people will do for a quick beer fix.  Here‘s a hint, you must be naked.  You‘re watching MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  It‘s Iraq and Afghanistan that make all the headlines.  But quietly, under the media radar, the American military is also undertaking scores of small footprint missions, in places like Georgia, Mali, Columbia, and the Philippines, where the goal is to protect America‘s interests. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARLSON:  That‘s exactly right.  You just heard it, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan do get all the attention, and most of the U.S. military‘s resources, but what many Americans don‘t realize is that forces bearing the American flag are involved in much smaller missions to protect our interests and fight the war on terror all over the globe. 

Robert Kaplan is one of the most experienced foreign correspondents in the world.  He has spent years tracking these missions.  What he has found is the focus of a new PBS special “Inside America‘s Empire.”  You can see that next month on PBS.  Meanwhile, his latest book, “Hog Pilots, Blue Water Grunts,” will be released next by Random House.  Robert Kaplan joins us in the studio.  Thanks for joining us.

ROBERT KAPLAN, “INSIDE AMERICA‘S EMPIRE”:  Pleasure to be here, Tucker. 

CARLSON:  We‘re fighting al Qaeda all over the world? 

KAPLAN:  We‘re involved in dozens upon dozens of countries on any given week, training host country armies to better defend their borders.  Al Qaeda depends upon week governance and an Islamic setting in which to embed in.  I have just described countries like Mali, Mauritania, Niger, all Islamic countries with weak borders, with terrorist rat lines, where people cross-borders, get smuggled into Europe.  And what the United States is doing the is the military side of crisis prevention. 

We‘re not fighting them, but we‘re trying to bring select companies of these host country militaries up to a professional standard to both buttress these new democracies in Africa and also help them to parole their own borders better.  We are doing something analogous in the Philippines and Columbia and other places as well. 

CARLSON:  When you say we, we have uniformed soldiers in those countries? 

KAPLAN:  Absolutely.  In fact, I‘ll tell you a story.  In the southern Philippines, in Muslim villages, you can see U.S. troops in the new pixilated camouflage uniforms with American flags on their sleeves, being greeted, welcomed, by all the Muslim inhabitants, because the context is so different than it is in Iraq and Afghanistan.  The context is American troops not doing any fighting or killing, but training the local Filipino military and providing medical civil action programs, veterinary civil action programs. 

You can be in a poor Muslim country, but if you are vaccinating the cattle and inoculating the children you‘re going to be welcomed. 

CARLSON:  It sounds like the Peace Corps with guns. 

KAPLAN:  In a certain sense, that side of it is.  But it‘s a combination of make yourself welcome by doing humanitarian activities and train the host country forces.  Keep coming back month after month, year after year, get them to do the killing or the apprehending of the terrorists while you supply the training and a lot of the technical intelligence as well.  This is—

CARLSON:  It sounds like the British empire? 

KAPLAN:  This is—the global war on television is prescriptive, rather than—is preventative, rather than prescriptive.  I say that one day we‘re going to leave Iraq.  One day we‘re going to have a lot less troops than we have now.  That is only going to free up American forces to do more of these things.  One thing I have learned is that the smaller the mission, the lighter the footprint, the more further removed it is from the media radar screen, the more chance of success it is likely to have. 

CARLSON:  Give me the bottom line, since you are one person I would trust to answer this question, since you have been everywhere, and are often embedded with U.S. military, are we overextended right now? 

KAPLAN:  One big deployment can overextend you.  Iraq makes us overextended.  But all these little deployments, absolutely not.  What I‘m talking about is a maximum of 600 troops in Columbia, a minimum of maybe one special forces A team of 12 people in a country like Mali or Niger.  So we‘re dealing in dozens or hundreds.  That doesn‘t overload the system.  Even if you‘re all over the world. 

What overloads is when you have 150,000 in one country. 

CARLSON:  When that—if we were to have, very quickly, another sort of flair up somewhere else in the Gulf, would we be unable to fight a new war? 

KAPLAN:  No, I think we would fight it, because any flair up in the

Gulf is liable to be Air Force or Navy oriented, rather than ground troops

rather than boots on the ground, it would be holes in the water, so to speak. 

CARLSON:  Robert Kaplan, his new book “Hog Pilots, Blue Water Grunts,” next week from Random House.  Thanks very much. 

KAPLAN:  My pleasure.

CARLSON:  A man you can trust.  Oops, Britney Spears is at it again.  The train wreck mother or two was caught showing too much skin, and we‘re not talking about her bald head.  You‘re watching, needless to say, MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  Welcome back.  St Louis, Missouri is famous for dog food factories and Vincent Price.  Joining us now, a man who will make that city even more famous by his own achievements, St. Louis native Bill Wolff. 

BILL WOLFF, MSNBC VICE PRESIDENT:  You forgot about Phyllis Diller, but I‘m going to let it slide, Tucker.  It turns out St. Louis, Missouri is also the home of the world‘s largest brewery.  And some really like beer.  To some, its consumption is civic duty and folks will go to great lengths, not all of them tasteful or legal, to acquire their favorite brew. 

Watch carefully at this blurred out surveillance footage.  That blurred out guy is dancing naked in a liquor store just outside the Gateway City.  He‘s shaking what he‘s got in order to distract the clerk, in order that his colleague can swipe some icy cold goodness from the shelf, probably in 12 ounce cans.  They both ran away, as you can see, one of them still naked.  But the bi state area, as it is known, is a law and order region.  These beer thieves were caught, made to put on pants and charged. 

CARLSON:  I‘m a little disappointed, Bill.  I would think that in a city that has hosted Anheuser-Busch for all these years, that there would be a beer ration for people who live there, you‘d get it free.  But you have pay for it even there. 

WOLFF:  Unless you work for Anheuser-Busch.  You know what, I can only speak for myself.  This is not an endorsement of that company or its fine products—I would never say fine, because that‘s a commercial endorsement.  But I always thought it was worth it.  What the heck?  You saw it at the ball club too.  You felt like you were paying for Ozzie Smith. 

Anyway, Tucker, you know how we feel about baby animals in this segment.  We love them because they‘re cute.  But what about baby alligators?  We take to you beautiful Orlando, Florida and Gatorland Animal Park for the birth of this future man eater.  Isn‘t he or she cute?  It has been 65 days since gator breeding season ended.  And look here, a slithering toothy bundle of joy. 

Most baby gators are about eight inches in length when they crack into the world to begin preying on anything that moves, including people, and they grow a foot a year until they‘re seven feet long.  And then they live a really, really long time and terrorize the residents of newly built suburbs.  Happy hunting, baby alligator.  Please, don‘t come anywhere near me. 

I hate alligators, Tucker.  There, I said it. 

CARLSON:  Good for you for showing an extended tape of the birth of one. 

WOLFF:  It is a baby animal, so I figure it is a crass ratings, because baby animals and everything.  But you can‘t reason with an alligator.  You see a bear in the woods, maybe you look it in the eye and say, please bear, don‘t hurt me.  And it has a heart and says, you know, I‘m going to leave this human alone.  But an alligator, there is no negotiating with an alligator.  They‘re prehistoric.  They‘ve been eating us since before there was time, Tucker.

CARLSON:  You‘ve thought this through, Bill.  I‘m impressed. 

WOLFF:  Late at night over and over and over again, despite the years of therapy.  Anyway, Tucker, I know you give the same advice I do to young people.  Find out what you‘re good at and stick to it.  Dateline Kuala Lumpur, case in point, Rasha Krishnon Vellow (ph).  He is from Malaysia and he calls himself King Tooth. 

He is the world record holder for pulling the heaviest thing with his teeth and he is back at it, doing what he presumably does best.  Though I have not confirmed that.  That‘s a 327-ton, seven-car train.  Those are his teeth around a rope pulling set train nine feet.  The folks who organized this spectacle—and what a spectacle it is—expect that the performance will soon be recognized as the heaviest tooth pull in history, eclipsing Vellow‘s previous mark of pulling a 287-ton train 13 feet back in 2003. 

It‘s inspiring stuff.  Tucker, when does one realize that one‘s great skill is to pull a train with one‘s teeth? 

CARLSON:  You know, at that level of tooth pulling, when you get to that kind of thin air level of the sport, you‘re really competing against yourself. 

WOLFF:  Well said, my friend.  It‘s you and train and nobody else, quite frankly.  I‘m inspired by that guy.  I‘m thinking about getting into it myself.  I have some strong teeth, Tucker, from all that good home brew in St. Louis. 

Next up, we‘ve got more photographic misfortune for your favorite, Miss Britney Spears.  Miss Spears was photographed recently in a dress so short, it is barely a shirt.  The problem with that is, it doesn‘t cover all of her rear quarter panel.  Look at that.  The problem with that is she doesn‘t appear to have any underpants on.  If she does, they are so inconsequential so as to provide an image no one requested.  The problem with that is, well, among other thing, she‘s got her kids with her. 

There they are in the back of the car.  And no kid ever wanted to see his mom‘s butt.  No offense to any mom, of course, but come on, Britney, put some underpants, for Pete‘s sake.  If you want to show your bum to the world, there are less embarrassing and more socially acceptable ways to do it. 

CARLSON:  I‘m not going to call that wrong. 

WOLFF:  She‘s a dear girl.  She‘s misunderstood.  I got one more for you.  Finally, some relevantly good news for America‘s most mocked astronaut Lisa Nowak.  You‘ll recall she asked the judge if she can remove the electronic ankle bracelet she has been wearing while she awaits trial for allegedly stalking a romantic rival astronaut.  That whole drive all night from Houston to Florida allegation. 

Well, Miss Nowak complained last week in court that the bracelet chaffed, and kept her from exercises and didn‘t go well with her Navy uniform.  Anyway, a Florida judge ruled today that she doesn‘t have to wear the pesky bracelet, as long as she doesn‘t go to her rival‘s home county, to Maryland, Delaware, Virginia or D.C.  I guess she is not much of a flight risk. 

CARLSON:  Oh, I get it.  She‘s an astronaut.  Flight risk, astronaut. 

Very good!

WOLFF:  I‘m the worst ever, Tucker. 

CARLSON:  From St. Louis, the great Bill Wolff.  Thanks a lot Bill.  That does it for us.  Thanks for watching.  Up next, “HARDBALL” with Chris Matthews.  We‘ll be back tomorrow.  Hope you will be too.  Have a good night.

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

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