updated 9/5/2007 1:41:00 PM ET 2007-09-05T17:41:00

Guests: Brett McGurk, Richard Shelby, Bill Press, A.B. Stoddard, Stuart Taylor

TUCKER CARLSON, HOST: Welcome to the show.

The American military mission in Iraq leads the news as Congress returns from its August recess.

Yesterday, President Bush surprised the world with a surprise visit to al-Anbar Province in Iraq, where his upbeat speech on the progress of the war included the possibility of troop reduction.


GEORGE BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker tell me if the kind of success we are now seeing continues, it will be possible to maintain the same level of security with fewer American forces.


TUCKER: A day later, the GAO submitted its progress report on the war to Congress. Another report gives unsatisfactory scores on 11 of 18 and military and political benchmarks.

Today‘s version is more optimistic than the version leaked to “The Washington Post” last week. That version gave only three satisfactory marks.

Also today, Republican Senator Norm Coleman aligned himself with Senator John Warner‘s view that a troop reduction is necessary, and soon, to send the Iraqi government the message that the United States has not written a blank check in blood and treasure.

Also, a look at the ‘08 for president/talk show host will include

Hillary Clinton‘s visit to “Ellen,” Bill Clinton‘s visit to “Oprah” and

Fred Thompson‘s impending visit to “Jay Leno”. And we‘ll examine the John

Edwards health care plan, which would mandate doctor visits. That‘s right -

you have to go to the doctor or else.

Up next, mandatory Brussels sprouts and calls to your mom.

But we begin with Iraq, with the president‘s trip and his apparent suggestion of a change in course in American strategy have made news.

Joining me now from the White House is Brett McGurk.

He‘s the director for Iraq on the National Security Council.

He traveled to Iraq with President Bush this weekend.

Mr. McGurk, thanks for coming on.


TUCKER: So what does this mean, that we‘ll be able to draw down troops if the security situation remains where it is now?

I mean how soon, how many?

Can you put meat on those bones?

MCGURK: Well, that‘s what everybody is asking. And I would—again, I would defer the president‘s words and let‘s listen and wait to hear from General Petraeus. His recommendations will come next week.

What the president wanted to give yesterday, particularly to the brave Marines out there, was that decisions made on troops will be made by assessments of the conditions on the ground. They will be made based on the success we‘re seeing in the sands of Anbar Province and within Iraq.  They‘re not going to be based on political calendars and time lines here.

TUCKER: Right. Right. Got that.

What—what exactly are the conditions on the ground he is referring to?

I mean, are there benchmarks the rest of us following along at home can look for?

MCGURK: Well, you look at, again, what‘s happening in the Anbar Province is something that is truly remarkable. And, again, it‘s tenuous.  It‘s going to take time to develop. It‘s going to take particular time to codify at the national level.

There was a lot of time in your prior segment about benchmarks. And let‘s just—step back for a minute, Tucker, and think about why do we care about these benchmarks?

And take one—for example, de-Baathification reform.

Why do we care about de-Baathification reform?

Is it in our national interests to bring Baathists back into the government, to bring Baathists back into the security services?


We care about de-Baathification reform because we always saw it as a key grievance to the Sunni community and we saw—we thought the from the top down, if you have a de-Baathification law passed from the parliament it would be a sign to the nationalist elements of the insurgency, which some call them, to turn against Al Qaeda.

Now, what‘s happened over the last year which is so interesting is that from the bottom up, the effect we wanted from the top down piece of legislation we are getting. Sunni elements of the insurgency are turning to work with us against Al Qaeda. They have driven Al Qaeda out of its havens.  Violence has come down dramatically in these areas, even without that top down legislation.

So think about the effect we want. And in a lot of ways, the actions which are taking place in Iraq are outpacing a lot of the benchmarks that people are looking for.

TUCKER: Sure. I know—well, I understand that. Of course, I do. And I realize this is more nuanced, maybe, than the metrics Congress has provided are able to measure.

On the other hand, I—you know, I covered the current president when he was governor and when he was formulating, at least rhetorically, the No Child Left Behind legislation. And that was his whole pitch, was that we need measurements, concrete measurements of success, of progress in schools. And without those measurements, then it‘s all a bunch of gobbeldy-gook. It doesn‘t mean anything.

So it is fair, don‘t you think, to ask, you know, what exactly can we at home look for to know that we‘ve succeeded sufficient to bring troops home?

MCGURK: Well, there—again, there are 18 benchmarks. What a lot of people are focusing on now are the five most difficult ones, which are laws passed from a parliament from the top. And they‘re laws passed in a unanimous way—Sunni, Shia, Kurds. That‘s going to take some time.


MCGURK: Other metrics, though—remember back in January when the president gave his speech?

And I remember a lot of time up at the Hill.

What were people saying?

Iraqi Army brigades are not going to show up to Baghdad. Prime Minister Maliki is not going to allow even-handed enforcement of the law, things like that, which are clearly measurable and which have—we‘re seeing real success in those areas.

Again, this is a long-term process here. There will not be national reconciliation in a period of months. It‘s going to take a period of years.

TUCKER: Well...

MCGURK: There are certain measures you can look at to see where the trajectories are going. And, overall—overall, those trajectories are going in the right direction.

And when you‘re...

TUCKER: Well...

MCGURK: Go ahead.

TUCKER: Well, I just want—I just, you know, in the remaining time, it seems like everybody agrees—or many people agree that the disbanding of the Iraqi Army probably was a bad idea, in retrospect. I‘m amazed by this new book out that quotes the president saying he “can‘t remember” why he allowed the Iraqi Army to be disbanded.

What do you make of that?

What do you mean he can‘t remember?

MCGURK: Well, Tucker, the question about the Iraqi Army being disbanded, we can talk about counter-factuals. And everybody wants to look back four years ago.

Another counter-factual is that if we didn‘t disband the Army and call the Army back, how would the Shia have reacted to that?

TUCKER: Right. Now, that‘s (INAUDIBLE)...

MCGURK: The Shia would have been (INAUDIBLE)...

TUCKER: But I want to get to...


TUCKER: Excuse me.

I just want to get to the president‘s response.

I mean is that—is—I mean do you want to stick with that, that he can‘t remember?

Or is that a misprint?

I mean what is that—I mean do you think that he really can‘t remember why the Army was disbanded?

It‘s kind of a big decision.

MCGURK: What the president was saying was that going in, we thought the Army would stay intact, we wanted to be able to work with that institution. What we ended up fighting—and Ambassador Bremer has talked about this—was the Army had kind of self-demobilized and we had to adjust and adapt.

More important, let‘s look at where the Army is now. General Jones this week—in an independent panel—will come and testify before the Congress. He‘ll testify to where the Iraqi Army is. He‘ll testify to the challenges we still have with the police.

But I think overall there, you‘ll see, also, you have to look at where is the trajectory?

Look at our fundamental national interests here, also.

Where do we want to go?

And let‘s try to come together on a vision.

Iraq is too important to our national security, to the region and to our friends and allies in Iraq. And the president wanted to convey that message on the important trip we had yesterday in Anbar, to the brave Iraqi tribal sheikhs who have turned against Al Qaeda and to the leadership, that we‘re going to stand with you until we get this job done.

TUCKER: Fred McGurk from the White House.

Thanks a lot.

I appreciate it.

MCGURK: Thank you.

TUCKER: Well, last week, a Congressional delegation toured Iraq and the plane on which they were leaving the country was attacked, thankfully unsuccessfully, as it took off.

Among those on that plane was the Republican senator from Alabama, Richard Shelby.

Senator Shelby joins us now with his view of the war and Mr. Bush‘s policy.

Senator, thanks for coming on.


COMMITTEE: Thank you, Tucker.

TUCKER: What happened exactly?

SHELBY: Well, we don‘t know exactly what happened. We were flying back after spending all day in Iraq with, among others, General Petraeus. And it was dark. We were outside of Baghdad on our way to Amman. And I was looking out the window and I saw the first missile go up—a rocket. And it was too close to the plane for my comfort. And then I saw another one. Others said there were three.

But I can say this, our pilots and our navigators and the people on board did a tremendous job. They got us safely to Amman. We were grateful.  But, you know, we‘re civilians. The soldiers are going through this every day. And I was just grateful to be with the soldiers in a time like that because I couldn‘t have done it myself.

TUCKER: Well, so what did they do, Senator?

So you saw the rocket go up. You said that thanks to the pilot it didn‘t hit you.

What did the pilot do?

SHELBY: Well, first of all, they started, I guess, rocking the plane, you know, probably changing directions in a rather abrupt way, which will make you a little queasy.

And, secondly, they were flying—putting out flares everywhere to probably fool what they thought would be coming. That would be heat-seeking missiles.

So I thought they did a good job. They‘re trained to do this. I was proud of what they were doing. I was proud to be on the plane with professional soldiers like—that reacted like that.

TUCKER: It sounds like you were lucky that they knew what they were doing.

SHELBY: Well, we probably are lucky.


SHELBY: But, you know, Tucker, they go through it every day over there.


SHELBY: And we go and visit and catch a little of it.

And it really...

TUCKER: So how does...

SHELBY: ...it brings you to reality.

TUCKER: What reality did it bring you to?

I mean did that change your view of Iraq or inform your view of Iraq?

SHELBY: No, no. No, not like that. My view of Iraq is one that‘s guarded. I‘ve supported the troops. I‘ve supported the going into Iraq. I had a good meeting all day with some other senators. My view is this—and I (INAUDIBLE) -- metrics do count. We measure everything.

The president will have to measure things.

In other words, where are we?

And General Petraeus is certainly going to do this. I‘m not steal his thunder and I couldn‘t if I wanted to.

But I think that he will say, basically, that we‘ve made a lot of

progress, maybe more than marginal progress, but we‘ve bought a long way to

go. And we are now beginning to break through on a local level. We‘ve had -

the central government certainly hasn‘t stepped up. But a lot of the tribes are beginning to step up and fight Al Qaeda and others. And that is a good sign.

TUCKER: Senator Shelby, I‘m glad you‘re back. Congratulations on making it.

SHELBY: Thank you, Tucker.

SHELBY: Thanks very much.

John Edwards says he has the cure to fix America‘s health care system.  He doesn‘t want just want to make it affordable, he also wants to make seeing your doctor mandatory.

Plus, Hillary Clinton hits the talk show circuit. Today it was daytime, Ellen DeGeneres.

With all this TV face time, will it help her hook voters?

That‘s the hope.

You‘re watching MSNBC, the place for politics.


TUCKER: Bill Clinton has got a new book out. It‘s about giving. Bill Clinton is a giver, says Bill Clinton.

Will it help his wife‘s presidential campaign?

That‘s next.


TUCKER: What to make of the John Edwards presidential campaign?

He‘s trailing badly in national polls, even though he was on the Democratic ticket just in 2004. Yet, he is leading a recent poll of likely Iowa caucus voters.

And then he takes his health care plan where most of us didn‘t think it could ever go. The former North Carolina senator wants to make doctor‘s visits compulsory—mandatory. That‘s right.

Edwards says preventive care is the key to good health and keeping costs down in the long run.

But is the federal government‘s business really to find out whether or not you‘ve gone to the doctor?

Joining me now to discuss it, associate editor of “The Hill,” A.B.

Stoddard, and nationally syndicated radio talk show host Bill Press.


TUCKER: Bill, let‘s just get at it. I mean there‘s nothing liberal about forcing people to go to the doctor. That‘s authoritarian.

But can he—I mean I was sort of amazed, in doing research on this story, this is not just something Matt Drudge created.

I actually want to play—we have a clip of John Edwards saying this...


TUCKER: ...just—so there‘s no doubt this is his point.

PRESS: All right.

TUCKER: Here‘s John Edwards.



JOHN EDWARDS, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It requires for everybody be covered. But it requires that everybody get preventive care. I mean if you‘re going to be in this system, you can‘t choose not to go to the doctor for 20 years. I mean you have to go in and be checked to make sure you‘re OK.


TUCKER: Now, if you‘re in the system, he has said everybody is in the system. So this is going to be a federal law requiring you to get checkups at the doctors.

Are you for this?

PRESS: Well, first of all, I‘ve got to say, Tucker, I think Edwards is right that preventive care is the most important. You know, once you have universal health care, preventive care has to be covered and everybody ought to get their checkup.

But I don‘t see how, frankly, you can enforce a requirement that everybody see a doctor every three months, every six months or whatever.  And I don‘t think it‘s a good idea. I mean I hate to say it, but I—maybe I‘m too much of a libertarian and not so much of a liberal. But I think if you kind of—if you want to smoke, you ought to be allowed to smoke. If you want to drink, you ought to be allowed to drink. And if you want to let your body run down, you probably ought to be allowed to do that, too.

I think, again, we should help people—too many people who don‘t have coverage today, they ought to all be covered. But then it‘s up to you whether or not you take care of yourself.

TUCKER: Well, that‘s right.

And you can see, A.B., how he arrived at this. I mean it‘s not such a far jump from the idea that we‘re all in this together. Your health care makes a big difference to me, mine to you. And so if we‘re all in this together, then I have an interest in forcing you to remain healthy, because otherwise you‘re going to cost me a lot of money.

I mean it‘s kind of logical once you start down that road, isn‘t it?

A.B. STODDARD, “THE HILL”: No, but he is—he is correct. It keeps costs down in the long run.

PRESS: Right.

STODDARD: It‘s really hard to let people smoke and eat Twinkies all day and pay for their health care. So it is—Bill is right. You are right. We have no idea how he would enforce it.

But I mean, if you think about it, it‘s rational that it keeps costs down and that it would be a way to make the system last longer and cover more people.

TUCKER: Right.

So, in other words...

STODDARD: It‘s just hard to imagine pulling it off.

TUCKER: Well, that‘s right. Another—it‘s another way of saying that socialized medicine—which I believe Americans want—they say they want. A “New York Times” poll a couple months ago, they want it. They‘re willing to pay for it.

I‘m not sure they understand the abridgements to their freedoms they‘re going to have to face if they get it. In other...

PRESS: No, but Tucker...


Right, but—go ahead, Bill.

TUCKER: Go ahead, Bill.

PRESS: Yes, I was just going to say, it doesn‘t necessarily come with the territory. I mean in France, they don‘t put a gun to your head and say you‘ve got to go to the doctor. They don‘t do it in the U.K. They don‘t do it in Canada.

I follow the logic, but I just don‘t think it‘s enforceable.

TUCKER: Well, what...

PRESS: I don‘t think it‘s workable.

TUCKER: But hold on. In the United Kingdom, actually, there is legislation currently being considered, as we speak, that would prevent people who smoke or who eat badly, who are fat, from getting certain kinds of care. I mean that‘s just, you know, one goes with the other. You want socialized medicine—and I think we‘re going to get it—you have a lot less freedom.

Mitt Romney—is it true, Amy?, back me up here—that Mitt Romney‘s health care plan in Massachusetts required people to buy—it does currently require them to buy health insurance.

STODDARD: You had to have insurance.

TUCKER: It‘s not optional.

STODDARD: You had to have insurance.

TUCKER: No, you have to have it.



PRESS: But it doesn‘t say you have to use it. It doesn‘t say you have to go to the doctor every three months. It doesn‘t say if, you know, if you‘ve a headache or something, you‘ve got to run to the doctor. That‘s still your choice.

TUCKER: No. But it‘s not your choice to participate in the system. You have to pay for it. If I‘m—if I‘m 19 years old and don‘t smoke and don‘t drink and I‘m healthy, it doesn‘t rationally make sense for me to buy health insurance. That money...

PRESS: Yes, it does.

TUCKER: No, it doesn‘t.

That money is just going...

PRESS: Oh, yes it does.

TUCKER: ...to subsidize older people. It doesn‘t.

PRESS: What makes you‘re going to not have an accident?

What makes you think you‘re not going to get hurt?

TUCKER: Well, you might.

PRESS: What makes you think you‘re not going to get sick, Tucker?

TUCKER: No, but I...

PRESS: That‘s the whole point.

TUCKER: It‘s possible. But statistically, it‘s very unlikely. And it ought to be up to the person to make those—to the adult to make those choices himself.

But socialized medicine takes away your freedom in ways I think only John Edwards is being honest about.

STODDARD: Well, and it really is true insurance companies now are doing things to incentivize people to lose weight, to go to the gym, just to exercise, etc.

I mean the question is—the bigger question is are voters even going to listen to something like this?

I think Tucker is right. They may not realize if they‘re going to lose their freedom.

But the thirst for health care, for continued coverage that will be—that will not be taken away from you, is—is so—it‘s such a potent issue and it is such a number one issue for voters across the country, not just in Iowa, that John Edwards is trying to be the person who is presenting the most specifics, who has the most thought out plan and a plan to pay for it.

TUCKER: Right.


TUCKER: Right. And he‘s going to...

PRESS: You know, the other thing is, Tucker...

TUCKER: I‘m sorry.

We‘re taking a quick break.


TUCKER: And we will be back.

PRESS: All right.

TUCKER: I would say kudos for John Edwards, though, for revealing who you really are, scary as that may be.


TUCKER: After months of speculation, Fred Thompson is about to finally enter the presidential race. An official announcement just days away.

Is it too little too late?

Plus, from the campaign trail to daytime television—Bill and Hillary Clinton team up with Oprah and Ellen.

What‘s the strategy there?

This is MSNBC, the place for politics.


TUCKER: Fred Thompson says he‘s going to officially jump into the race for president on Thursday.

He has—he has waited too long, has he?

Or is he “lazy like a fox,” as the latest cover of “ Newsweek” suggests?

Back with me, associate editor of “The Hill,” A.B. Stoddard, and nationally syndicated radio talk show host, Bill Press.

A.B., this is the most obvious question, but I‘m not even sure I know the answer.


TUCKER: Is it—is it too late for Fred Thompson?

STODDARD: No, it is not too late. There is an argument that money has been donated to the candidates throughout the field all year by these dispirited, disheartened, depressed Republicans. They‘re not going to give any more. Fred Thompson hasn‘t raised enough already. You can make that argument.

But I think that if he does come out with some kind of an innovative message for his candidacy—which we have not seen yet—if he does dazzle in this—in this window that we‘ve all given him of a couple of weeks, he can build the momentum. He can raise, I think, the necessary funds. He is well known enough. He can shake up the race.

I‘m not telling you that I‘m betting on it, but it is definitely possible.

TUCKER: Well, here‘s the message, Bill, as far—this is all I know so far. The message is security, unity, prosperity. I believe that is the campaign slogan.

PRESS: I‘m so excited I won‘t be able to get to sleep tonight.

TUCKER: So, so...

PRESS: I mean it‘s just...


TUCKER: ...what part of that do you disagree with?

PRESS: ...fireworks, you know?

Let me just say...

TUCKER: Which one of those are you against?

PRESS: All three. Right. No.

You know what?

This has been the longest tease in political history. Get it over with, as far as I‘m concerned. I think A.B. is absolutely right, it‘s not too late. But I‘ll give Fred Thompson—I‘ll be generous. I‘ll give him 30 days.

He‘s either going to have to knock our socks off, razzle dazzle the whole field in 30 days or go back to be ago movie star. Because right now he‘s running on his movie star credentials, basically, to see—that‘s why people come out to see him. We don‘t know what stands for. We don‘t know what he says. We don‘t know what he would do. We don‘t know how he‘ll do as a candidate.

Finally, we‘re going to find out.

TUCKER: Well, this whole thing...

STODDARD: You know, I think...

TUCKER: ...A.B., just seems designed to sort of get—not sort of—really to give the middle finger to the Washington establishment. He‘s not going to be in the debate, the Republican debate. He is, instead, going on “Jay Leno” at NBC...


TUCKER: ...which is, I think, a great—and I say this as a—as someone who works for the company. It‘s a great decision.


TUCKER: And then he‘s announcing on the Internet. I mean these are pretty unconventional—the Internet, particularly, unconventional ways to announce.


PRESS: Hillary did it. Hillary did it that way.

STODDARD: No, you can do it your own way. I don‘t ar—I don‘t argue with that. I think he‘s going to—I don‘t—I think he‘s spent his goodwill by waiting too long. You know, his own supporters have wanted him to jump in sooner. And, of course, I think that by skipping the debate, you know—and announcing the next day—you are sort of—I mean he‘s not going to be a popular guy across the field, as far as the establishment, if he wants to run against the establishment, you know, I think that that‘s just fine.

He has, of course, built expectations and it‘s hard to satisfy when you have raised the expectations. It‘s easier to satisfy when you have lowered the expectations.

So he‘s kind of hindered himself to that extent. Whether he‘s running against the Washington establishment, I don‘t—I think that‘s probably fine. It‘s whether or not he can deliver a message that‘s different than we‘ve been hearing from all of these people all these months and satisfy these Fred heads that are hoping for a savior.

PRESS: Yes, I‘ve got to tell you...

TUCKER: I mean, Bill, he‘s not washed up.

PRESS: Right.

TUCKER: He‘s not like John McCain is often accused of being. He‘s not liberal, as Rudy Giuliani is. And he may be more consistent than Mitt Romney.

I don‘t know, why isn‘t he the national nominee?

PRESS: Well, he may be. But what—again, we haven‘t seen him as a candidate. I have to say one thing, Tucker. I agree with you. I think the smartest decision that he‘s made so far is go on “Jay Leno” Wednesday night instead of standing on the stage with 10 other, you know, wannabe presidents. I mean that‘s—I think that shows a lot of smarts.

And if he follows that up with some really good, exciting speeches, getting people excited and lay out some good ideas there, he could walk into this.

But there‘s also the—and I read that “ Newsweek” piece—there‘s the fear that Fred wants to phone it in, which he did when he was a United States senator. And, by the way, let‘s all agree, Fred Thompson is part of the Washington establishment...

TUCKER: Oh, of course.

PRESS: ...from the Watergate and from his Senate days.


PRESS: So who is he kidding?

TUCKER: Well, you—you cannot...

STODDARD: Oh, but, Bill...

TUCKER: ...phone in a presidential campaign. And I wish I could put it up on the screen, but we have his schedule for the first week of actual campaigning. And he‘s not phoning it in. He‘s doing at least three events a day in Iowa and New Hampshire. So, you know, if he keeps that up, he‘ll be a real candidate.

We‘ll be right back.

Mitt Romney appears to break with Republican orthodoxy on the Iraq War. Now he says the war is a mess.

What does that mean?

Does he mean it, in any case?

And what does he intend to do about it?

Well, Dennis Kucinich may not get elected president, but that doesn‘t mean he can‘t impersonate the secretary of state—shuttle diplomacy Kucinich style. We‘ve got details next.



CARLSON:  The hills are alive with the sound of Clintons.  Both Bill and Hillary taking their charms to network television.  You just saw Mrs.  Clinton‘s appearance on Ellen this morning.  Her husband joined Oprah later in the day.  At this stage, the Clinton campaign‘s biggest problem is that Hillary Clinton is perceived as unlikable.  Will the current blitz of warmth and self-deprecation cure what ails them? 

joining me again, associate editor of “The Hill,” A.B. Stoddard, and nationally syndicated radio talk show host Bill Press.  A.b., I mean, “Ellen,” that‘s a genius stroke, I have to admit.  Mrs. Clinton, the bar for her is so low, people think that—even if they agree with her, think she‘s chilly, icy, unpleasant.  She goes on “Ellen.”  Whoever thought that up ought to get a raise.  I think it works. 

STODDARD:  Listen, I don‘t think she can lose.  She‘s not going to go on “Ellen” and mess up.  She‘s either going to get someone to giggle or she‘s just going to be the same candidate that she was yesterday.  But I think the problem, of course, in these match ups, when her husband is going on “Oprah” on the same day, the problem—the challenge for the Clinton campaign remains, no matter what they do, if they bring out Bill, which is very effective strategy—and she‘s obviously utilizing it—is that he outshines her and he‘s funnier and easier on TV and charms the host and has better chemistry, makes better jokes.  That‘s the worry for her. 

She should probably be touring all these shows by herself. 

CARLSON:  No, that‘s right.  Bill, my favorite political analyst, 50 Cent, Fifty, as we call him, said something really revealing the other day.  He said it‘s great that Mrs. Clinton is running, because voting for her is essentially voting for her husband.  Here is her husband on “Oprah.”  Here‘s a clip from his appearance on his appearance today on the show. 


WILLIAM JEFFERSON CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  My Scottish friends say I should be called first laddie.  Because it‘s the closest thing to first lady out there.  I don‘t really know.  I don‘t know.  There‘s no precedent for it.  I‘m not so worried about what I‘m called as what I‘m called upon to do. 


CARLSON:  My Scottish friends.  I would say name four of your Scottish friends.

STODDARD:  It‘s the perfect delivery.

CARLSON:  What does that mean?  The point is—and I think 50 Cent‘s point is this, to some larger extent, is about Bill Clinton and his redemption, his third term.  When voters wake up to that reality, are they going to like that or not? 

PRESS:  Listen, I still say, we talked about this before, Bill Clinton is the greatest asset Hillary Clinton has today.  And I think she‘s using him very wisely.  We have seen all this video of them out on the campaign trail.  He gives a very good, kind of a brief, but a very pointed and very upbeat introduction.  She follows with her message.  I think it‘s a very, very successful one/two punch.  And I think she‘s using him right now just right. 

He goes on “Oprah.”  She goes on “Ellen.”  And Fred Thompson goes on “Jay Leno.”  Hey, they are all scoring today, Tucker. 

CARLSON:  I don‘t know.  I think voters are going to realize that legacies are great in Nascar, but in politics, they don‘t work as well. 

PRESS:  Let me say, Tucker, Bill Clinton could get reelected today. 

You know it as well as I.  He‘s not going to hurt Hillary.

CARLSON:  Yes.  Mitt Romney, A.B., said something so interesting, I thought, given the context about Iraq.  Here‘s Mitt Romney asked about the state of the war. 


MITT ROMNEY ®, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  First of all, it is a mess.  So when you got a mess, there is no easy, good answer.  The easy, good answer is turn the clock back and do some things differently a long time ago.  And I will acknowledge that and admit that and won‘t try to stand up sane and say, hey, everything that has been done in Washington has been done perfectly. 


CARLSON:  Wow.  So here is the leading conservative, at this stage, running for president, basically attacking President Bush.  Why? 

STODDARD:  Well, you know, actually, John McCain, who supports the president‘s military strategy in Iraq full throttle, has just in recent days called it a wretched situation or a mess, or something very similar as well.  It‘s time for the Republicans running for president to get some distance from the president‘s execution of the war, from the results of his strategy of the war, et cetera. 

It‘s time—they can see from the crowds that they are greeted by and the responses that they are getting, that the war is not popular no matter what party you‘re in.  And it‘s time for them to find some space between them and the president, and to be able to talk about it in terms that seemed honest, while they continue to support the surge.  They know that the days of the sort of the robotic support of the president‘s strategy in Iraq are over.  That‘s not going to help them politically. 

CARLSON:  Boy, I just think, it seems to me, Bill, when you‘re running to get elected among Republicans, you know, you‘re trying to convince the hard-core Republicans in this country, the base of the party, to vote for you, your best tact is attack the Democrats as people who are willing to lose the war, who are running away from a fight, who don‘t care about fighting al Qaeda. 

Attacking Bush to people who love Bush gets you what exactly? 

PRESS:  Usually that‘s true, Tucker.  But A.B. is right.  These guys have been out on the campaign trail.  Mitt Romney has been all through New Hampshire and Iowa and South Carolina, and all of these other states.  What he‘s hearing—he would not be saying this if he were not hearing from Republicans a deep dissatisfaction with the war in Iraq. 

Now I‘ve got to say, saying it‘s a mess does not take a lot of courage.  And then saying that the answers is to turn the clock back and do everything right again is just crazy.  What is Mitt Romney planning to do about it or proposing to do about it?  he didn‘t put anything on the table.  So the first step is to recognize it‘s a mess.  But the second step is, unless you‘re just going to wait and endorse whatever George Bush proposes, Mitt Romney ought to come forward with ideas about a change of direction. 

CARLSON:  Divine intervention is the obvious answer.  That‘s something that Bill Richardson, the governor of New Mexico, alluded to when asked about Iowa.  He turned, as many Democrats are now doing, to the lord in his answer.  Here is Bill Richardson explaining Iowa.  We don‘t have that, apparently. 

Here‘s what he said; “Iowa, for good reasons, for reasons related to the lord, should be the first caucus in primary.”  I guess the lord has told Bill Richardson that.  What does that mean, A.B.? 

STODDARD:  I covered Bill Richardson for years.  He‘s an honest man and he call a slip up when he sees it.  He was on your network today explaining this away as one of those, you know, off-the-cuff moments on the campaign trail, that he was in Iowa playing to the crowd.  I don‘t think it was anything like the day he had a month or so ago when he was before a bisexual, gay and lesbian crowd and said homosexuality is a choice. 

OK, I think Bill Richardson has had worse days and will recover from this. 

CARLSON:  That was the greatest moment ever, when he got his talking points messed up, he though they were talking about abortion.  Oh, it‘s a choice.  And they scowled at him. 

PRESS:  Tucker, this is a joke. 

CARLSON:  I know.  You‘re right.

PRESS:  He‘s having fun.  He has a great sense of humor.  By the way, it is true.  God did decide that the first caucus would be in Iowa.  Otherwise, why the hell would we have it? 

CARLSON:  No, it is absolutely true.  He never should apologize for it.  The same could not be said, however, for Dennis Kucinich, sitting Congressman from Ohio‘s, trip to Syria to meet with President Assad.  A.B., who is in favor of this?  Dennis Kucinich, Vegan presidential candidate, friend of the show, in Syria talking to the strong man of the country? 

STODDARD:  Dennis Kucinich learned from Nancy Pelosi that if you want to get attention and create buzz, you go meet with President Assad.  That‘s your one-way ticket.  I‘m not sure how much notice it will get him, but he certainly was trying his hardest. 

CARLSON:  Bill, you will notice—I say this with real sadness—on the Republican side this year, there is no Mike Gravel.  There‘s no Dennis Kucinich.  There‘s no Pat Buchanan, who I wish was running again.  They are all bland, institutional, Republican types, no bomb-throwers.  There‘s no soul of the no party guys. 

PRESS:  Tucker, you forget all about Ron Paul. 

CARLSON:  Ron Paul is not a Republican. 


PRESS:  He‘s running as Republican.  He‘s the best candidate on the Republican side. 

CARLSON:  I voted for him.

PRESS:  Good for Dennis Kucinich.  Dennis Kucinich found a way to get his name in the headlines.  I agree with A.B.  Colin Powell went and met with President Assad.  So why can‘t Dennis Kucinich? 

CARLSON:  Since you asked that question, let me answer it.  Colin Powell was the secretary of state. 

PRESS:  OK.    And Dennis Kucinich is a Congressman from Ohio.  Yes, so great, which is nothing.  

CARLSON:  I‘m not attacking Dennis Kucinich.  He‘s going to come on this show and tell us about his trips.  That‘s my prediction.  He‘s certainly invited. 

Thank you both very much, Bill Press, A.B. Stoddard.  Coming up, the district attorney in the Duke case gets a lesson in the law and he will have a day behind bars to think about it. 

Plus, Michael Vick has a new defender.  If you guessed Rosie O‘Donnell, you‘re wrong.  But not by much.  Stick around for the confusing details on that.  This is MSNBC.


CARLSON:  He tried his best to convict three Duke lacrosse players of rape, a rape that never happened.  In the process, he put political ambition ahead of his sworn duty to uphold the law.  Now former Durham, North Carolina District Attorney Mike Nifong has felt the sting of that law hitting back. 

These are the words that a lot of us have been looking forward to hearing for a long time. 


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The court finds Mr. Nifong to be guilty of criminal contempt of court.  It is so ordered and Michael B. Nifong is hereby adjudicated to be guilty of criminal contempt of court. 


CARLSON:  Joining me is Stuart Taylor.  He is the author of “Until Proven Innocent, Political Correctness and the Shameful Injustices of the Duke Lacrosse Case,” an excellent book.  Stuart, thanks for coming on. 


CARLSON:  This is such a vindication.  I just want to wallow in the moment for a minute.  But your book is not simply about Nifong and his excesses, but about the climate that allowed those to occur and the many people who defended his witch-hunt from day one.  Who, apart from Nifong, do you think is most guilty for this tragedy? 

TAYLOR:  His immediate accomplices were police officers and some other city officials perhaps in Durham.  But his enablers included a very large portion of the nation‘s media and dozens of Duke faculty members and, to some extent, the Duke administration, including Duke President Richard Broadhead.  All of them joined a mob, basically, to one degree or another, that accused these young men of being rapists, in some cases, of being racists, of being thugs, of being bad characters. 

I should say Mr.  Broadhead didn‘t say all of those things, but he disparaged their characters.  Even in the face of overwhelming evidence, as it built up over time, that this crime had never happened, that they were innocent, a lot of this continued.  People were so eager to grind their ideological axes or, in some cases, to avoid the wrath of the extreme left on the faculty, that they went along. 

CARLSON:  What I was really surprised by in your book, these guys weren‘t just innocent.  They were really above average guys.  They weren‘t racist and they weren‘t pigs.  They were actually pretty impressive kids.  How did people just assume they were bad?  I never got that part. 

TAYLOR:  I would be proud to have any of these falsely accused defendants as sons.  So that‘s a quick agreement.  The team had a reputation of being hard partiers and somewhat raucous, and that may be true, just like a lot of fraternities.  And somehow that morphed into this monstrous picture. 

There were allegations of rampant racial slurs at the party by the false rape accuser.  Those were lies.  There were—there was an exchange of racial taunts at the very end of the party initiated by the other stripper, in which two of the lacrosse players responded in kind.  But, by and large—and they were investigated by James Coleman, one of the heroes of the case, a Duke law professor.  And he found that although they did their share of drinking and partying and making a lot of noise and getting in a little trouble for that, they were generally an admiral group of young men, good students, no evidence of racism, no evidence of sexism. 

They treated the people who served the team well.  It was a stunning vindication and it was almost entirely ignored when it happened by the nation‘s media, which were too attached to their mythical storyline about the privileged white males oppressing the poor black woman to look at the facts. 

CARLSON:  It was disgusting.  The other thing that the press did that I never understand was broadcast far and wide the names and pictures of the accused, but kept secret, upon pain of firing in many news organizations, the name of the accuser.  Taking aside, implicitly, why is that policy in place and will it be changed after this? 

TAYLOR:  It‘s in place everywhere, of course.  This is the norm, not the exception, to protect the name of rape accusers.  I had some sympathy for protecting the anonymity of rape accusers.  There is an argument with some validity that they might be deterred from coming forward. 

CARLSON:  Why not protect the name of the accused and keep it even? 

TAYLOR:  That‘s where I was going.  I think it‘s outrageous to protect the name of the accusers without protecting the name of the accused.  It inverts the presumption of innocence.  It‘s a statement, well, we are protecting her anonymity, because we believe her, and we are going to throw his name out there because we think he‘s a rapist.  That‘s the kind of statement that the media makes every time they go through this exercise. 

CARLSON:  That‘s absolutely right.  Finally, what about Crystal Gail Mangum, I think is the name of the accuser.  She tried to wreck these guys‘ lives.  She caused this terrible mess.  She lied.  Yet she‘s facing no punishment.  How does that work? 

TAYLOR:  I think she should be punished.  She‘s very emotionally and mentally unstable.  The state attorney general, who decided not to punish her, said he thought that she actually believed—and he, by the way, exonerated the young men.  He did a great thing.  Roy Cooper is his name. 

He was asked, are you going to prosecute this young woman?  He said, well, we think she actually believed her wild and crazy story.  She‘s that mentally unstable.  I think that he was giving her a huge benefit of the doubt and that she probably should have been criminally punished, as Nifong should be.  By the way, it‘s not necessarily over yet for Nifong. 

CARLSON:  I hope it‘s not.  Stuart Taylor is the author of “Until Proven Innocence,” an excellent book and a real public service.  Thanks, Stuart. 

TAYLOR:  Thanks for having me, Tucker. 

CARLSON:  Has George Bush‘s obsession with bike riding really been a threat to the security of our country?  That‘s the claim in a new book about the president.  Willie Geist makes the strange connection when we come back.  You‘re watching MSNBC.


CARLSON:  Welcome back.  If you‘re like most Americans, you spent the last week wondering where the hell is Willie Geist?  He‘s back, thank heavens.  Here he is. 

WILLIE GEIST, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT:  Tucker, I was on my annual listening tour.  I was out there taking the pulse of the country and didn‘t learn a damn thing. 

CARLSON:  Good for you, Willie. 

GEIST:  I like to be out with the people every once in a while.  The Whoopi Goldberg era, as it will be known to future generations, began on “The View” this morning.  Whoopi was supposed to be a slightly toned-down version of Rosie O‘Donnell, you know, without the 9/11 conspiracy theories and all.  But she came out swinging this morning. 

Whoopi offered a cultural explanation of Michael Vick‘s actions in the dog fighting charges, to which he pleaded guilty. 


WHOOPI GOLDBERG, “THE VIEW”:  From his background, this is not an unusual thing for where he comes from.  It‘s like cock fighting—yes, it‘s like cock fighting in Puerto Rico.  There are certain things that are indicative to parts of our country. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  What part of the country is this? 

GOLDBERG:  He‘s from the south.  He‘s from the deep south.  And dog fighting—

JOY BEHAR, “THE VIEW”:  There‘s a lot of torturing and dog murdering though. 

GOLDBERG:  Unfortunately, that‘s part of the same. 


GEIST:  Why didn‘t you just say so, Tucker?  Get that guy a helmet and a jersey.  Let‘s get him on the field Sunday.  There‘s a reason for this whole thing. 

CARLSON:  I thought he was from Virginia. 

GEIST:  He is. 

CARLSON:  Is Virginia the deep south now? 

GEIST:  It depends on what type of map you‘re looking at, Tucker. 

Almost makes you long for Rosie O‘Donnell, doesn‘t it? 

CARLSON:  No, nothing makes me long for Rosie O‘Donnell. 

GEIST:  Mixing it up with Joy Behar early.  Watch for that rivalry.  That will be exciting every day around America‘s breakfast table.  Well, Tucker, some men are so charming or handsome that they are said to have women throwing themselves at them.  That‘s just an expression, unless you‘re Brad Pitt.  Then women literally throw their bodies at you. 

Watch the left side of your screen.  Right there.  Pitt signing autographs at the Venice Film Festival.  A woman flies out of the crowd and desperately throws her arms around him before security guards tear him away.  Pitt was rattled only momentarily before he went back to working the crowd like only he can. 

That guy has a pretty decent life, don‘t thank you think? 

CARLSON:  She was cute, too, from what I can tell. 

GEIST:  There was an after picture of her.  It was supposed to be a mug shot, where she was smiling and looked good.  She made no apologies.  She said she would do it again tomorrow.  Apparently no respect for Angelina Jolie.  That looks like me walking down the streets of New York, by the way. 

CARLSON:  Is that what happened? 

GEIST:  Occasionally. 

Tucker, our old friend, the black widow, she‘s at it again.  Speed eating queen Sonya Thomas dominated a field of the country‘s best chicken wing eaters in Buffalo, New York over the weekend.  The 105-pound woman—yes, 105 pounds—ate 173 wings in 12 minutes.  That‘s a new world record.  Notice she‘s literally one-third the size of some of her competitors. 

Thomas adds yet another trophy to her crowded mantel.  She already owns the world records for lobster eating, 44 lobsters in 12 minutes, and cheese cake eating.  She ate 11 pounds of that, nine minutes.  And she‘s 105 pounds. 

CARLSON:  She‘s an amazing woman. 

GEIST:  She is.  You talk about great athletes, I don‘t know.  That is kind of a great feat, isn‘t it? 

CARLSON:  I know you may be joking, but I look upon her with awe.  And we both talked to her personally.  I‘m not bragging, but we are kind of friends with Sonya Thomas.  And she worked at Wendy‘s the last time I checked. 

GEIST:  She did. 

CARLSON:  She‘s a completely down to earth person, unlike most professional athletes.  You can actually chat with her. 

GEIST:  Is she professional?  I think she is.  Funny you bring that up.  I want to take you back to August 11th, 2005.  The situation with Tucker Carlson.  This is Sonya Thomas.  Yes, Tucker giving the play by play on the left of the screen in his bow tie days.  We were on at 11:00 at night, so we did things like have woman eating bratwurst at high speeds.  And Tucker, you were like Howard Cosell that night.  I will never forge it, saying look at her go.  Look at her go. 

Two short years ago.  We had her.  We kind of were on  -- I don‘t know

as you say, not to brag, on the front end of the curve, the Sonya Thomas curve. 

CARLSON:  Notice she‘s sponsored by Johnsonville Brats. 

GEIST:  Yes, she is.  All big athletes have endorsements, don‘t they?  Look at her.  We had to stop her.  She would have sucked that whole thing down.  That‘s enough, that‘s enough.  My favorite part of that—I will never forget it.  Right about at that moment you said, what is it like to be a champion? 

And she was just—I think she had 12 sausages in her mouth and you continued the interview. 

CARLSON:  She‘s a good girl.  I like her. 

GEIST:  She‘s great.  Good sport.  Finally, Tucker, while you were out in L.A. having lunch at the Ivy with Nickie Hilton and generally being morally bankrupt, folk back here in Washington on the East Coast all talking about the new book “Dead Certain.”  It gives an inside look at the Bush White House.  Among the revelations are that President Bush is already looking to the pros-presidency speaking circuit. 

The president tells author Robert Draper, quote, I will give some speeches just to replenish the old coffer.  I don‘t know what my dad gets, more than 50 to 75 thousand.  Clinton is making a lot of money, end quote.

The book also describes the president‘s obsession with bicycle riding.  Apparently, according to the book, Draper says Bush was so, quote, gassed on a long bike ride the day before Hurricane Katrina hit, he was nearly silent during a FEMA briefing about planning for the storm.  The book also claims that the Secret Services spends an inordinate amount of advance time scouting bike trails—challenging bike trails for the president when he travels. 

So it‘s all the bike‘s fault, Tucker. 

CARLSON:  It‘s unbelievable he would talk about speech fees.  That‘s just nauseating. 

GEIST:  I know. 

CARLSON:  Willie, great to have you back.  Welcome back, Willie.  That does it for us today.  Thank you for watching.  Up next, “HARDBALL” with Chris.  We‘ll see you tomorrow.  Have a great night.



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