updated 9/13/2007 1:39:07 PM ET 2007-09-13T17:39:07

Guest: Samantha Power, Richard Wolffe, Peter Fenn, Victoria Toensing

TUCKER CARLSON, HOST:  David Petraeus and Ryan Crocker came to Washington this week with their report on the Iraq war, though in the end the biggest effect of their testimony may be on the 2008 election, not on the war itself.  President Bush will address the nation tomorrow night.  He’s expected to outline the very course recommended by his top Iraq general and diplomat—that is draw down the surge by next summer and maintain the bulk of U.S. forces currently on the ground in Iraq. 

Democrats in Congress are upset, but at this point, they lack the political power to do anything about it. 

But that didn’t stop them from complaining yesterday.  A number of senators running for president got the chance to confront the general and the ambassador.  Like Barack Obama, who, like most of his colleagues spent the vast majority of his time lecturing rather than asking questions.  But today, Obama delivered an actual foreign policy speech.  We will be joined by one of his key foreign policy advisers in just a minute to explain what he said. 

Also today, the Fred Thompson effect shows up in the polls.  After Mitt Romney’s efforts to unseat frontrunning Rudy Giuliani, Fred Thompson appears to have had that effect simply by saying, “I’m in.”  We’ve got the latest numbers; we’ll bring them to you.

And off the political path—Mary Winkler, the Tennessee woman who shot her husband in the back with a shotgun, took their kids and left him dead.  She is not only free, she was on “Oprah” today, and now she wants custody of their kids.  Which part of that is right?  We’ll talk to a legal expert to find out.

But first, we begin with the war.  The Petraeus hearings and Barack Obama.  What exactly is the Obama foreign policy?  Well, here to tell us Samantha Power, senior foreign policy adviser to the Illinois senator.

Samantha Power, thanks for coming on. 

SAMANTHA POWER, FOREIGN POLICY ADVISER TO SENATOR BARACK OBAMA:  Thank

you. 

CARLSON:  So I’m reading Senator Obama’s speech about the need to get our troops out of Iraq immediately.  And I get down quite a way into the speech, and I read this: “We will need to retain some forces in Iraq and in the region.  We’ll continue to strike at al Qaeda in Iraq.” 

How many forces are we going to keep in Iraq under the Obama plan? 

POWER:  Well, I don’t think any responsible leader, or, for that matter, any responsible candidate starts throwing numbers around.  I think that would—you know, you decide on those numbers when you consult with your generals, when you are in fact commander in chief. 

What he would like to do, of course, is to see the president having those conversations, and instead of sort of deferring the day of reckoning again and again and again with these ever-sliding downward benchmarks, to actually focus on responsible withdrawal. 

CARLSON:  But wait a second.  I mean, I don’t know why that would be irresponsible, when the senator has outlined his plan to withdraw combat troops from Iraq.  It’s not like we’d be telegraphing something important.  He’s already saying what he is going to do.  And my question is not specifically to the number, but is he talking Marine guards at the embassy, or is he talking some larger force? 

POWER:  You did ask actually what number was, just to be clear. 

CARLSON:  Right. 

POWER:  So what Obama has said is that he would start withdrawing immediately.  The generals with whom he’s consulted have told him that you can basically get responsibly out about a brigade or two a month, and he wants to keep a residual force to do counterterrorism, as distinct from counter-insurgency.  It’s unclear yet whether that would be in Kurdistan or where you would put a kind of quick reaction force.  But also, as you suggest, to maintain diplomatic installations and so forth.  You don’t want to leave our civilians in Iraq without the protection that they need to do their work, which is in fact where the future of Iraq is going to rest, is with diplomacy and with the politics of the place. 

CARLSON:  So Senator Obama says that we should not continue to train Iraqi security forces if they main their sectarian cast.  Will stopping the training of those forces make them less sectarian?  Wouldn’t it make them more sectarian if we pull out and stop training them? 

POWER:  Well, I mean, the fact of the matter is, we’ve been arming the Badr militia to do things to Sunni that I don’t think the American taxpayer feels hugely comfortable with our tax dollars going to that cause.  I think we have to be very careful about just hemorrhaging more money, more arms into the sinkhole that is the central government that is ultimately the very Iranian-dominated government that President Bush warns will come with a withdrawal.

CARLSON:  I think a lot of Obama’s analysis of what went wrong strikes me as right.  So I’m not writing off his speech as ridiculous.  It’s not ridiculous at all. 

But I was troubled and kind of amazed by the lack of specifics about what he thinks is going to happen when we leave.  Toward the end of the speech, he kind of hints at what he thinks, and he appears to believe that there is going to be more refugees, greater displacement, more sectarian violence.  And then he says this: “We have a strategic interest and a moral obligation to act to prevent those things.” 

But won’t our pulling out increase those things?  Increase the displacement of refugees and increase the sectarian violence?

POWER:  Well, I really—I couldn’t disagree more with your characterization of the speech, and I urge your viewers to actually go online and read the speech, because I think actually what this does is it moves us away from the denialism on the part of the Bush administration, again, that there is again a humanitarian catastrophe under way in Iraq, and then the flippancy of some on the left who suggest that we can just withdraw and everything will be fine, because we’re the source of all the violence. 

I think what Obama actually does is finally lays out a constructive, responsible program for how we try to protect civilians.  We’ve been—there is a lot of rhetoric on both sides of the aisle about how this is all about the—you know, we have got to protect the Iraqis, the Iraqis, the Iraqis, and very little in the way of policy has actually been oriented toward deterring atrocities, enhancing civilian protection, actually assisting neighboring countries who are dealing with these 2 million who float into those neighboring countries. 

As you know, Tucker, we’ve only let in 190 Iraqis into this country this year, whereas Syria, one of our great nemesis, has let in a million.  So we have actually got to create—you know, be sure and—in announcing that we’re going to withdraw, giving people fair notice, facilitating their movement if that’s what they want.  I think that’s about a responsible withdraw. 

CARLSON:  OK, but if again, he says clearly we have a moral obligation to help prevent sectarian violence, maybe even genocide.  Won’t our withdraw of most U.S. combat troops increase the level of sectarian violence?  It seems like a central contradiction, kind of. 

POWER:  It’s certainly—I mean, there is a lot of imperfect information that all of us are operating with. 

What we do know is that, of course, the United States troops were a magnet for al Qaeda and a magnet for a whole number of other foreign fighters.  We do know that the Iraqi people, who showed themselves—if poll data is to be trusted—have themselves the best sense of what will amplify the violence and what will tone it down.  They have consistently asked over the last year and a half for a U.S. withdrawal.  That’s not to say all of them have.  Obviously, Sunni are feeling very, very vulnerable in the Sunni triangle. 

But the fact of the matter is, the American people have spoken.  The global public opinion has spoken.  It’s incredibly important so that we can move on and actually deal with the al Qaeda challenge that we face worldwide, so that we can begin the challenge of restoring our leadership in the world, to get out of Iraq. 

I mean, that signal has been sent again and again. 

What’s important about Obama’s speech today is he’s not saying willy-

nilly, let’s get out of Iraq tomorrow and consequences be damned.  He’s

actually trying to manage those consequences by focusing on regional

diplomacy, by assisting the countries that are going to be most affected by

any sectarian violence, and he basically recognizes that if there is a

short-term spike in violence with the U.S. departure, that it’s basically -

in the long term, what he’s looking to is the overall stability of Iraq, and that’s going to come about not because of military action or the U.S.  troop presence, but because of politics.  And that’s what the Anbar results, which everybody are vaunting—as they should be—that’s all about local politics and local diplomacy, micro diplomacy.  It’s not about a military surge. 

CARLSON:  Samantha Power. 

POWER:  Thank you, Tucker. 

CARLSON:  Foreign policy adviser to Barack Obama.  Thanks a lot.  I appreciate you coming on. 

POWER:  Thank you.

CARLSON:  Well, Barack Obama asked General Petraeus a 260-word question in yesterday’s hearing on Iraq.  He didn’t leave time for an answer.  Had Democrats already made up their minds before the general spoke? 

Plus, president Bush is close to finding a replacement for his attorney general, but Democrats are already warning of a tough confirmation battle.  You’re watching MSNBC, the place for politics. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  Barack Obama today laid out his recipe for ending the war in Iraq.  He talked troop withdrawal, which a lot of voters and most Democrats want to hear.  But if you listened carefully, you also heard Obama call for the removal of all combat troops by the end of 2008.  Others troops would in fact remain in Iraq or nearby, according to the Obama plan.  Will voters hear this distinction? 

The Illinois senator also offered a prescription for dealing with Iraq after a U.S. withdrawal, even mentioned potential genocide in Iraq and bringing war criminals to justice.  Does his plan make sense? 

Joining us now, “Newsweek” senior White House correspondent Richard Wolffe, and Democratic strategist Peter Fenn.  Welcome to you both. 

In his speech, Peter, my favorite line, among many possible contenders for that title, was this.  The National Intelligence Estimate.  Before the war in Iraq, was authorized by the Congress, this came out, the classified version, and Bob Graham, then senator from Florida, decided to read it.  On the basis of what he read, he changed his vote.  A clear jab at Hillary Clinton. 

Here’s my question to you.  Has everybody in America, apart from Richard Wolffe and you, forgotten that Hillary Clinton didn’t bother to read the intelligence? 

PETER FENN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST:  You keep bringing it up, so...

(CROSSTALK)

FENN:  As you know, the argument that the Clinton people make is only six out of 100 senators did read that.  They were briefed on it.  They had the information.  They got it. 

But you know, look, it’s a legitimate question, legitimate point, and clearly Barack Obama put it right in the front of his speech.  So...

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON:  (inaudible).  This is why Obama—and I say this with real sadness—I don’t think is going to get the Democratic nomination.  If he were to come out and say, the first line, Hillary Clinton, she’s the front-runner.  All you Democrats, all you sheep out there, are going to vote for her.  Maybe you should know, she didn’t bother to read the intelligence.  Why doesn’t he just say that?

FENN:  The fundamental argument—what he did in the first part of the speech, the fundamental argument he’s made and made from the beginning is, look, I was against this thing.  I spoke out against this thing.  I spoke out before I got to the United States Senate on it.  And I’ve spoken out continuously the whole time and I’ve been consistent. 

CARLSON:  Yes, he said that, but that doesn’t point out that Hillary Clinton has these real serious problems in explaining her record on Iraq.

FENN:  People like you would, Tucker. 

CARLSON:  Well, not enough are. 

(CROSSTALK)

RICHARD WOLFFE, NEWSWEEK:  He did give the speech in a town called Clinton. 

CARLSON:  Yes, he did.  I love that. 

WOLFFE:  You can draw your own conclusions.

CARLSON:  Here’s the central contradiction I asked Samantha Power, who I thought was a pretty good spokesman for Obama, about this.  How can you say we have a moral obligation to prevent violence in Iraq, and in the same sentence essentially say we need to withdraw our troops from Iraq, which will inevitably, everyone agrees, lead to more violence in Iraq?  How can you say that?

WOLFFE:  Well, let’s be clear -- 160,000 American troops are not going to be able to stop the bloodshed. 

CARLSON:  That’s right. 

WOLFFE:  They may be doing some blocking of militias right now.  In fact, as Petraeus said in his hearings, they are already separating population, sometimes with walls.  I mean, there is a concrete block, stopping movement around Baghdad.  And so there is a focus on that right now. 

But yes, there is a contradiction.  In the end, the judgment is national security—America’s national security—for Obama is to leave.  And it trumps the humanitarian issues. 

CARLSON:  That would—what you just articulated is a consistent, and I think, an argument that makes sense.  And Ron Paul is making that argument.  A lot of people are making that argument.  But I don’t hear him saying that.  He says, we’re not only going to leave, leave them in the lurch, but we are also going to continue to be the world’s shining example of interventionism. 

WOLFFE:  You know, he pays lip service to the humanitarian issue, but you can make a very good case to say it’s the Pottery Barn rule, that America broke Iraq and has therefore an even greater obligation to protect the civilians now jeopardized. 

CARLSON:  That’s the Bush position.  That doesn’t appear to be...

WOLFFE:  It is not Obama’s position. 

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON:  I wonder...

FENN:  Another argument, though, the other argument on this is that in order to get to the political solution, you have to do several other kinds of things, which Obama outlined in his speech.  You ought to have a constitutional convention there.  You ought to put pressure on this administration. 

CARLSON:  So stupid. 

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON:  They’re not capable of it!  So why is he, you know, a constitutional convention...

(CROSSTALK)

FENN:  Are they going to—how are they going to become capable, though, so that we stay there forever?  We stay there for eight, nine years?  What happens to the violence?  I mean, it continues and continues and continues. 

CARLSON:  But that’s the other part of the speech.  He goes over there and says, well, you know, we shouldn’t intervene in their domestic political affairs, like they have this right to self-government.  They have absolutely no such thing.  They have no right to self-government.  We took over that country.  We foolishly attempted to create a system of representative government.  It hasn’t worked.  They don’t have a moral right to have an elected president. 

(CROSSTALK)

WOLFFE:  ... handed back sovereignty.  So...

CARLSON:  Yes, I know.

WOLFFE:  ... yes, they do.  And it’s a democracy...

CARLSON:  And it hasn’t worked.

WOLFFE:  ... which has been the principle of American foreign policy for generations. 

CARLSON:  Yes, but it’s not working.  

WOLFFE:  No, and the point then becomes, what does Iraq look like?  If you are having to separate the populations to reduce the violence, then really you’re saying this country doesn’t hold together. 

CARLSON:  Exactly. 

WOLFFE:  The only body that is really going to manage a process by which these communities ought to live together or separate is the United Nations.  It has legitimacy.  It’s got to be involved. 

CARLSON:  But Obama is saying that we shouldn’t step in and partition the country.  How can you say that?

FENN:  No, no, Obama is saying that you need countries, including the United Nations, to interject itself to help this country.  That we aren’t going to do it alone.  

CARLSON:  And the United Nations has Santa, right, they did such a great job in other partitions, say Pakistan and India...

FENN:  If other countries don’t...

CARLSON:  ... or, you know, the occupied territories and Israel.  They have helped a lot. 

WOLFFE:  Yugoslavia is a model and... 

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON:  ... I mean, Syria controlled Lebanon for two decades.  What did they do?  Nothing. 

WOLFFE:  They stabilized it.  They stabilized it.  Violence was reduced enormously.  Now, it didn’t lead to democracy and—as we would understand it, but Lebanon was stabilized because of Syrian involvement.  It’s true. 

CARLSON:  Because of Syrian involvement.  I said, what did the U.N.  do? 

WOLFFE:  Yes, well...

CARLSON:  Nothing, nothing. 

WOLFFE:  ... that would be nothing.  Well...

CARLSON:  Right.  Now that you have endorsed the Syrian invasion of Lebanon—very good!

(CROSSTALK)

WOLFFE:  They had enough people to secure it. 

CARLSON:  Nice. 

The Bush administration is considering former Solicitor General Ted Olson for attorney general of the U.S., but Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says no way.  He’s already vowing to block that nomination.  Has the Olson trial balloon popped already?

Plus, Rudy Giuliani leads in the national polls, but he’s not leading in key primary states like Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, the states that matter.  Is he actually the front-runner?  This is MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  President Bush reportedly is close to naming the person he wants to succeed Alberto Gonzales as the attorney general of the United States.  The White House says that announcement is unlikely this week, and the president hasn’t made his choice as of yesterday.  But “The New York Times” reports that former Solicitor General Theodore Olson is among the leading candidates.  The paper also quotes Democrats, who promised a fight if they think the president’s nominee is too partisan. 

But do the Democrats have the political capital or leverage to block a nominee after spending most of the last year forcing Gonzales to resign?  Here to discuss the upcoming nomination and confirmation talks, Victoria Toensing, former deputy assistant attorney general. 

Victoria, thanks for coming on. 

VICTORIA TOENSING, FORMER DEPUTY ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL:  Sure. 

CARLSON:  So of all the people—and I don’t mean this against Ted Olson, who I think seems like a very smart, decent person—but of all the nominees whose names you could float, potential nominees whose names you could float out there, his has got to be close to the top on the polarizing list among Democrats.  Democrats don’t like him. 

Why would the White House say this, that he’s under consideration? 

TOENSING:  Well, maybe the White House is getting really smart about who they would consider for attorney general. 

Look, the next attorney general cannot have—cannot afford to have to spend time with legal training wheels.  You can have one second where you have to learn who does what in which department at the Justice Department.  And by good fortune, Ted Olson has that criteria, and in addition to being one of the best legal experts in our country. 

I mean, I don’t know, if you remember it, but Ted was back in the Reagan Justice Department...

CARLSON:  Yes.

TOENSING:  ... and then he was solicitor general on 9/11, and had to deal with all the issues as solicitor general that the new attorney general is going to have to deal with. 

CARLSON:  I think he’s a superior guy and I think he would be far better than Alberto Gonzales.  Not that that’s saying much. 

TOENSING:  Yes. 

CARLSON:  My only point is a political one.  His name, because he was involved or perceived to be involved in anti-Hillary and Bill Clinton activities during the ‘90s, his name is one that resonates with almost all Democrats. 

TOENSING:  But, Tucker, we have gotten past that. 

CARLSON:  OK. 

TOENSING:  I mean, that was an issue—because I was working on his nomination for solicitor general—that was an issue then.  But I think by now, there has to be some honest Democrats in the Senate who know that when Ted was solicitor general, he was a superb lawyer and he was not partisan.  As a matter of fact, Senator Feingold praised Ted for his argument in McCain-Feingold—and oh by the way, Ted won the case, too, before the Supreme Court.  So that makes—that may not endear him to many conservatives, but Feingold is one of the most liberal senators... 

CARLSON:  He certainly is.  But Feingold is also I think, in contrast to a lot of the people on the Hill, a man of principle.  Feingold goes against his own party when he disagrees with them...

(CROSSTALK)

TOENSING:  You just need a few of those, you know.

CARLSON:  So here is—I don’t know—here’s what some senators are saying.  Harry Reid, the leader of Senate Democrats.  “Ted Olson will not be confirmed,” he says.  “He’s a partisan.  The last thing we need is a partisan.” 

Then you go over to the Republican side.  Orrin Hatch.  “I have been warned by a number of Democrats, they are not going to let that happen.  The White House, if they put forward Olson’s nomination, don’t understand the people up here.”  They’re rolling over already.  I mean, if Orrin Hatch says, don’t do it... 

TOENSING:  Well, I mean, I’m not sure what Orrin Hatch could have said right after that, but you know, I’m going to be here to support Teddy, because I know how strongly Orrin backed Ted for solicitor general back in the 2000, 2001. 

CARLSON:  Does the White House want to fight on this, do you think? 

TOENSING:  I don’t know, you know.  They’re not telling me whether they want to fight or not. 

But here is one of the most important factors for Ted Olson, and that is, he really cares about the Justice Department, and the people who work there know that. 

I mean, why else—why else would he even consider taking the position? 

CARLSON:  Right. 

TOENSING:  He’s just—he’s just gotten his life back in order.  His wife was killed on 9/11, and he just married a wonderful woman, Lady Booth.  He’s making more money than he would be making as attorney general in his private law practice.  He doesn’t need his resume ticket punched, for goodness sakes. 

The only reason he would consider taking this job is because he cares so much about the department and about the morale and about the reputation.  Isn’t this what the Democrats want? 

CARLSON:  Then, why is the White House—I think you make a really strong argument.  I just have seen this White House again and again kind of hang out its allies to dry here a little bit.  Why would they float his name? 

TOENSING:  Well, they finally have an A-team—they have an A-team all put together there. 

CARLSON:  Yes. 

TOENSING:  I mean, at the White House.  With Ed Gillespie... 

CARLSON:  Right... 

TOENSING:  So finally, maybe they have people who are there who know that it’s important to get a good attorney general. 

CARLSON:  But just as a procedural matter, just quickly, they know—they have to know that you float Ted Olson’s name out there and people like Harry Reid are going to go bonkers, right? 

TOENSING:  Harry Reid is going to go bonkers over any Republican who is strong enough to be attorney general. 

CARLSON:  But why doesn’t someone from the White House go over to Harry Reid’s office, and in private say, here is the guy we’re thinking about, here is the case for him.  You know, why float this on the AP wire, where Ted Olson is likely to get—certain to be criticized? 

TOENSING:  You have got to bring somebody—you bring Gillespie here to ask him that, but I’m just telling you, you couldn’t find a better candidate than Ted Olson.  Who meets the criteria that I just talked about? 

CARLSON:  I don’t know. 

TOENSING:  No training wheels...

CARLSON:  I put my own name forward, but it’s not taken seriously at this point, unfortunately.

TOENSING:  Well, hang around. 

CARLSON:  I will.  That’s my plan.  You have summed up my career plan in one sentence—hang around.  Victoria Toensing, thank you very much. 

Fred Thompson entered the presidential race just last week, and already he’s embroiled in a battle with challenger Mitt Romney.  It’s a bitter one, too.  Thompson blames Romney for setting up the Web site phonyfred.com.  The Romney campaign denies any connection.  Right.  Who is behind that site? 

Plus, John McCain launches his “No Surrender” tour.  Not all of his staff feels the same way.  A few more are surrendering from the campaign.  Can he survive?  You are watching MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  Still to come, Rudy Giuliani holds a strong lead over his Republican rivals in national polls, but in the key early states, that is no longer the case.  Is Rudy’s support slipping?  We’ll tell you in just a minute.

But first, here is a look at your headlines. 

(NEWSBREAK)

(MARKET REPORT)

CARLSON:  Rudy Giuliani was the subject of the most political attention on the sixth anniversary of 9/11 and on the news and this September 12th is less than ideal.  Two polls, one from the “LA Times” and Bloomberg, the other from NBC and the “Wall Street Journal,” show both erosion in Giuliani’s numbers and a bump in numbers for Fred Thompson. 

According to the Times/Bloomberg numbers, Giuliani now runs behind in Iowa to Mitt Romney and in South Carolina to Fred Thompson.  The national media have long assumed that Giuliani’s polling dominance eventually would subside.  Are today’s poll numbers an indication that we have been right? 

Here with answers, “Newsweek’s” senior White House correspondent Richard Wolffe, as well as Democratic strategist Peter Fenn.  Richard, people have, I think—I mean people who cover Giuliani, people who pay attention closely have, I think, expected for a long time, in the words of one, for the Giuliani toast to pop, you know?  To see the inevitable decline in his numbers. 

I want to put a couple of these up on the screen just to give our audience some sense.  This is “L.A. Times”/Bloomberg in Iowa.  Romney is at 28, Giuliani 16, Thompson 16, Huckabee eight.  Here’s “LA Times”/Bloomberg in New Hampshire, Romney 28, Giuliani 23, McCain 12.  And in South Carolina, Fred Thompson at 26, Giuliani 23, McCain and Romney following. 

All but the last one are outside of the margin of error.  He’s not leading. 

WOLFE:  No, and the problem for someone of his position is that if you go into these early races with the perception of being a front-runner and you disappoint, because no one’s really been paying attention to the state polls, then people say, well what happened?  How come you are not the front runner anymore?  Contrast that with Hillary Clinton, who has this big lead in national polls, and she has widened her lead in New Hampshire and in Iowa.  And there you see a much stronger position. 

So yes, he’s got a problem.  On the other hand, he’s still in the fight in New Hampshire.  And these polls can easily and probably will move around by double digits between now and December. 

CARLSON:  Peter, you have been doing this for a long time. 

FENN:  Too long, probably. 

CARLSON:  You are still spending your residuals from the Warren Harding campaign.  It does seem the roles have reversed.  On the Democratic side there’s this sense of inevitably about who the nominees is going to be, Hillary Clinton.  And on the Republicans’ side, where you always kind of know who in end is going to get the nomination, I don’t know anyone who has any real idea. 

FENN:  You know—First of all, I think nothing is settled on the Democratic side either.  I wouldn’t—I wouldn’t—I mean, I think Hillary’s done very well.  The debates have been good for her.  But she’s taken a hit this week, no question, in giving back 850,000 dollars.  But I think on the Republicans’ side, and I think I said this on this show last spring, Tucker, I felt that Rudy Giuliani peeked the day he announced.  And I thought he was he’s going to go down. 

And I may be wrong, he may still get this nomination.  But more and more of the focus now is not just on 9/11.  And it’s kind of ironic that his number are tanking in national polls even and in these states around 9/11.  So I think people are looking at him with the microscopes being turned up.  I think he’s in trouble.  And Romney’s taken off after him on immigration.  They’re fighting on choice.  And he’s having trouble explaining himself.

And he has not done as well in the debates as I think people expected.  He hasn’t been terrible.  But, you know, I think if you look at it, Romney has done a lot better in these debates. 

CARLSON:  Well, because I think Giuliani’s most effective when he is fully himself, which is to say, nasty.  I’m not attacking him.  He’s a New Yorker.  He’s a sharp person.  And he doesn’t dare do that before Iowa voters.  They famously don’t care for that. 

What do you make of this, Richard, speaking of nasty, incredibly nasty response from the Thompson campaign?  My old friend, Todd Harris, great guy, now the communication’s director—I want to put it up on the screen just to set the stage.  The Thompson people are accusing the Romney people of being behind a website that goes after Fred Thompson’s record.  It is called PhonyFred.com.  It is no longer up. 

Here is what they say; “There is no room in our party for this kind of smut.  As the top executive of his own campaign, Romney should take full responsibility for this type of high tech gutter politics and issue an immediate apology.  In addition, Romney should exercise some of his much touted executive acumen, take control of his flailing campaign, and immediately terminate anyone related to this outrage.  This only serves to prove what many voters are figuring out, Romney will do anything, say anything, smear any opponent and flip flop on any position in order to win.  The Republican party and the American people deserve better than this.”

Wow, my goodness. 

WOLFFE:  That’s Haiku. 

CARLSON:  It is Haiku.

WOLFFE:  It puts the whole campaign in one statement. 

CARLSON:  But you don’t see those kind of intra-party attacks typically this early in a primary season do you. 

WOLFFE:  No you don’t.  It shows this race is wide open.  To come Coming back to we were talking about, this feels so much like the Democrats in 2003, 2004.  This is going to be a race that boils down to the lesser of two evils.  So you paint the other guy as the big evil.  And, as the Thompson people are not shy about pointing out, look back at that power point presentation that was leaked about Romney earlier in the year.  It said land you punch but don’t leave any trace.  Make sure it’s not too direct. 

That’s what we’re seeing here.  PhonyFred, MoronFred, as some of the other things.  You know this is not subtle stuff, nor is the response to it.  But whatever works in this position. 

CARLSON:  Who does it win over though?  I mean, who is going to be trolling the Internet, find the PhonyFred.com.  Click on Pimp Fred and—you know what I mean—and have his opinion changed? 

FENN:  This is so stupid.  This group is being paid hundreds of thousands of dollars by the Romney campaign.  They put up on their own server for crying out loud. 

CARLSON:  Wait, wait, wait.  I’m not sure that we know.  Do we know? 

They’ve got hundreds of thousands from the Romney campaign? 

FENN:  Absolutely.  They designed—this guy Lauren Thompkins (ph) and Wesley Donahue (ph) were designing his website. 

CARLSON:  If you could find me a check. 

FENN:  No, there is one for 126,000 bucks.  Maybe we should check it.  But whole point here is, look, Romney moved within minutes, dropped Larry Craig like a hot stone.  He should have done the same thing to these guys.  I mean he should have distanced himself, and then these guys are supposed to be the same guys that George W. Bush hired in South Carolina to dump on McCain.   

CARLSON:  It’s a little bit different—and I don’t know if you know this, Peter, but even though they were very close friends before it happened, according to Mitt Romney, what Larry Craig, quote, did was disgusting.  It was disgusting.  I have never wanted—I have never wanted to defend gay bathroom sex in my life before I heard that.  And then I thought, you know, if Mitt Romney, who took this guy’s support 20 minutes ago is now calling it disgusting without even mentioning the fact they were supposedly friends.  This guy was a supporter.  Not even saying a nice word about his family.

WOLFFE:  You defending gay bathroom sex is like me defending the Syrians. 

CARLSON:  No, I’m not defending—I just think there should be some loyalty.  And this guy comes out for you and, of course, he’s got some creepy personally issues, obviously, and he may be a liar, OK.  But he still supported you.  He was your friend. 

FENN:  Within two hours, he pulled the Larry Craig bite from his website, which is interesting.  He probably called Lauren Thompkins and had him pull it.

CARLSON:  I don’t care for that at all.  Now CBS, a rival network, but is doing something I haven’t seen in a long time.  CBS is fighting back against MoveOn.org, which has taken the place of the trilateral commission as the group that in fact who runs the world.  They’re going after Katie Couric for supposedly being a lap dog for the Bush administration.  You really have to be MoveOn.org to think Katie Couric was a right winger.  But that’s what they’re claiming and CBS is going right back after MoveOn.org. 

WOLFFE:  This is interesting.  Listen, we’re all trying to figure out the relationship with the folks on the Internet, the activists caucus out there.  And it’s interesting that a network would try to throw it back in this way.  They’re obviously proud of what Katie Couric did in Iraq.  But was her questioning as tough as it could be, I don’t think so. 

CARLSON:  She takes a lot of stones to go—Iraq is a scary place and I salute Katie Couric, whatever her issues may be, for going there.  But to think that Katie Couric is some kind of right winger in the pocket of the Bush administration—Like how deranged would you have to be honestly to say something like that in public. 

FENN:  Listen, I think that’s a little hard to believe.  I watched Katie Couric absolutely take apart Bob Dole. 

CARLSON:  Katie Couric is a liberal. 

FENN:  She can be tough.  She could have been tougher. 

CARLSON:  Come on. 

FENN:  But the fact is, look, MoveOn.org, I hate to say it, they probably love this.  You know, they’re probably raising more freaking money off of this and their Petraeus’ ad, and I just hope they don’t spend it on any more ads like that. 

WOLFFE:  They are trying to get attention and they’re very successful. 

CARLSON:  At some point it hurts.  I mean, I watched this first hand on the right during the 1990s.  There were all these groups who hated Clinton.  And the Republicans found them useful for a long time, until they started to become clinically insane, and accusing Clinton of murdering people, killing Vince Foster, all of this crazy nonsense, which ended up hurting Republicans in the end. 

Will Democrats make the same mistake?  I think they are. 

WOLFFE:  I don’t think it is clinically to question Katie Couric’s interrogation tactics.  But --  

CARLSON:  To attack General Petraeus as someone who is betraying our country. 

CARLSON:  With a bad pun, absolutely, I think that was dumb.  But the bigger issue here is how Democrats deal with this very vocal base that they now have.  And in that sense there is a relationship there, an echo of what Republicans had to do with Christian Conservatives.  And that relationship took a long time to develop.  This one has come up very quick and very fast. 

CARLSON:  Here’s what they don’t understand—again I watched this.  I was in the newspaper in Arkansas.  I saw all of these people.  You can’t control them in the end.  The party benefits from their activism, from their energy, from their money.  But in the end, they’re not yours to control. 

WOLFFE:  True. 

CARLSON:  One of these people is going to accuse the Bush administration of orchestrating 9/11.  That’s my prediction.  And it is going to be some friend of Harry Reid’s and it’s going to embarrass the Democrats. 

FENN:  I totally agree with that, Tucker.  One of the problems I have is that you have to go on the defensive then.  Look, when that ad hit, think of what John Warner did when he looked at that in his morning paper.  Think what Susan Collins did when she looked at that, or Norm Coleman or Gordon Smith. 

CARLSON:  Right. 

FENN:  Sure, they look at that and go, yuch.  And the trouble with it is that you go over the top and then you pay.  And I think the Democrats are paying for MoveOn going over the top. 

CARLSON:  But you’re saying that as a corrupt Washington insider. 

You’re in the pocket of the special interest.  That must be you. 

FENN:  That must be me.  Look, I call it like I see it on this stuff.  And you know I’m as against the war as any of the folks on MoveOn.org.  But they ought to have someone with some common political sense who is screening that stuff and would look at that.  If someone brought that to me and said, we’re going to put this ad up, I would tell them you guys are stark raving crazy.  That is going to have just the opposite effect. 

It will raise you more money, if that’s your thing. 

CARLSON:  Think about it this way, your job is to argue against the Iraq war.  How hard is that?  Not very.  How much evidence do you have?  Quite a bit.  Do you have to go after the general?  I don’t think so. 

WOLFFE:  Actually, no, on the substance of that ad, there is plenty in that ad, where they could raise questions about his credibility.  Because, remember, he’s been put out there as the ultimately credible communicator for the administration’s policy.  And his 2004 op-ed saying everything would be hunky dory and rosy was a classic case.  That’s in the ad.  But the headline of the ad backfires horribly for them as a political strategy. 

CARLSON:  I agree.  Go after bush.  Not the guy with the bronze star with the v For Valor on it.  What do you get out of that? 

FENN:  -- came out with this craziness during Clinton.  We all said, thank god, please, bring it on.  You know, this guy was the one who—

CARLSON:  It helped Clinton.  And that was the ultimate tragedy.  Arrogant person.  Thank you very much, I appreciate it.  Richard Wolffe, endorsing the Syrian invasion of Lebanon, Peter Fenn, the Washington insider.  Thank you. 

She killed her husband, only spent five months in jail for that crime. 

Mary Winkler says she wants custody of her three children?  Is that fair? 

And why is this convicted killer getting so much public sympathy? 

Plus, return to sender, Barack Obama sends back a chunk of campaign cash.  You won’t believe who the shady donations came from.  You’re watching MSNBC, the place for politics. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  On March 22nd, 2006, Mary Winkler shot and killed her husband, a minister, with a shotgun blast.  Then she fled their Tennessee home with their three small daughters.  In her defense, Winkler claimed her husband had been mean to her.  After a conviction on voluntary manslaughter chargers, she served just five months in prison and two months in a mental health treatment facility, then she walked free.  Today she was on Oprah and next week her case for custody of her children will be heard in a Tennessee court. 

The kids currently are in the custody of her former in-laws, the parents of the man she murdered.  Does Mary Winkler have a legitimate shot at custody of those kids?  Here to help us understand this bizarre case is MSNBC senior legal analyst Susan Filan.  Susan, thanks for coming on. 

SUSAN FILAN, MSNBC SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST:  Hey, Tucker. 

CARLSON:  I’ve been confused by this case from the beginning.  She murdered her husband—

FILAN:  No, she didn’t murder him.  Manslaughter isn’t murder. 

CARLSON:  OK, she took a gun and killed him. 

FILAN:  She killed him.  She didn’t murder him.

CARLSON:  Right, she didn’t murder him.  It looks like murder to me.  But from a laymen’s point of view, she killed the guy with a gun.  He was unarmed.  Why did she only get five months in jail? 

FILAN:  Well, you know, that’s what the judge decided to sentence her to.  Actually he sentenced her to three years.  She got credit for time served for those five months.  She spent, I think, two days in the county jail.  She was then transferred to a mental facility.  She spent two months, and then she was rendered cured of the disease that caused her to kill, which was post-traumatic stress disorder. 

It’s the quickest cure I have ever heard of. 

CARLSON:  So her—I remember watching some of this on television during her trial.  She said that he’d been mean to her, and, among other things, had made her wear high-heel shoes because he found that erotic.  There was—I mean, essentially, we don’t know if that is true or not because he was dead, of course, and not there to defend himself.  Here is I guess the point I am making; reverse the sexes here.  If a guy had killed his wife and then claimed in court he did it because she deserved it because she was annoying or made him do weird things during sex or carped at him, he’d be laughed off of the stage and sent to hard time, wouldn’t he? 

FILAN:  Not necessarily, because you are kind of mischaracterizing the testimony.  The testimony was that it was abuse.  Now, whether those kinds of insults to you rise to the level of abuse is a little bit subjective.  To her, it was abuse and she was able to persuade a jury of her peers that it was in fact abuse and this sentence that she got -- 

CARLSON:  But my point is—

FILAN:  But a man can be abusive. 

CARLSON:  But this was emotional abuse.  She did not say, he broke my arms. 

FILAN:  There was some physical abuse also.  As far as I know, there were no hospital records that said he had broken her nose.

FILAN:  But not everybody who gets beaten reports it. 

CARLSON:  OK, I get that. 

FILAN:  You can’t prove an absence of something by an absence of something.

CARLSON:  But there was no evidence of it, is my only point.  And so flip it over, if a man had said, it was abuse.  She abuse me.  She belittled me all of the time.  She mocked the size of my genitalia.  She said I was a terrible father.  So I offed her.  People would say, get the hell out of here buddy, you’re going to prison. 

FILAN:  Well, maybe, maybe not. 

CARLSON:  Yes. 

FILAN:  I think that if a guy got on the witness stand and said I was abused because I was insulted, he would—I would agree with you—Oh god, did I just agree with you—He would have a harder time than a woman saying that abuse was just emotional or just verbal.  OK, you got that out of me, Tucker. 

CARLSON:  OK, here’s a clip of her on Oprah today.  Listen for yourself. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OPRAH WINFREY, “OPRAH”:  You wanted to talk to him holding the gun? 

MARY WINKLER, KILLED HER HUSBAND:  I was so afraid. 

WINFREY:  Because you thought he would do what? 

WINKLER:  At that point it was—I—I didn’t think—at that point, I felt like my life was in danger. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARLSON:  Uh-huh, we could go on.  It’s nauseating.  Here is my bottom-line question for you, Susan.  Can this woman actually get custody of her three kids after killing their dad? 

FILAN:  Yes she can, because the standard in Tennessee and most states in the country is what’s in the best interest of the child?  And unless a parent is so unfit—and that’s usually dependent on drugs or alcohol—that they can’t care for the child, then they would not get the child.  Although there is an exception in this statue in Tennessee.  It says unless you are responsible for the death of the other parent.  But that’s not a bottom line, end of story.  It just says that can be grounds for not getting your kids, but it doesn’t mean that you’re definitely not going to get them. 

The bottom line is the judge is going to listen to both sides.  On the grand parents’ side, they’re going to say, she’s not a fit mom.  Because when she gets mad, she snaps and kills.  Mary Winkler is going to say, I killed when I am in fear or I am in danger.  Danger is gone because, well, I killed him.  She may get them, Tucker.  She just may. 

CARLSON:  It’s unbelievable.  Susan, thanks a lot for explaining that. 

I appreciate it. 

FILAN:  You bet.

CARLSON:  Coming up, the consensus of Britney Spears performance at the MTV Music Video Awards seems to be it was awful, but the only opinion that matters is the one that belongs to Simon Cowell.  Willie Geist, in Los Angeles for us today, has that blistering review when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  Welcome back.  If you are like most people, you probably heard that Britney Spears did something embarrassing at the MTV Music Awards.  But if you’re Willie Geist, that’s not enough for you.  You go right to the scene of the crime, Los Angeles, where he joins us now. 

WILLIE GEIST, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT:  Yes, Tucker, I flew out here as soon as I heard the news.  You should know that Britney is doing well.  She’s resting comfortably.  We’re just talking and working through this whole thing.  I had to be here.  I came as soon as I heard.

CARLSON:  That is nice.  Thank you, Willie.

GEIST:  That’s what I do.  In case you don’t know what we are talking about, Tucker, as the rest of us amateur critics ripped Britney Spears for her uninspired, distracted, lip-synch performance at the MTV Video Music Awards the other night, we awaited anxiously for the official review from the only man whose opinion matters.  And finally today, Simon Cowell’s opinion on the matter was delivered onto us. 

He told a British newspaper that he would have pulled Britney from the show after rehearsal.  Cowell said, quote, “it would have been worth pulling her off the bill, no matter what the cost, to save any chance she had of resurrecting her career.”  He went on, “the problem she has now is that she could have killed her career.  It’s going to be difficult to come back from that performance.” 

The word of Simon Cowell, Tucker.  He also said, if he’d seen that performance on his show, he wouldn’t have let Britney pass the first round.  When Simon Cowell speaks, we listen. 

CARLSON:  Well, see, I didn’t actually see the performance.  So I’m not burdened by actual knowledge.  But I feel about her the way I feel about Larry Craig.  Everybody’s criticizing her.  I don’t know, I feel like sticking up for her.  How bad was it really? 

GEIST:  It was pretty bad.  The critics were kind of ruthless.  They even took shots at her weight, which—you know, she just had two kids.  That seemed a little unfair.  But I’m with you on that.  That’s why I have always defended Paris Hilton.  Everyone else hates her, I figure why not, I will stick up for her. 

CARLSON:  Good for you, Willie.  It’s an admirable instinct, I think. 

GEIST:  Thank you, And I will certainly keep you posted as developments become clear.  I am going to rush back to her place in Malibu and we’re going to do some holistic healing here. 

CARLSON:  Good man. 

GEIST:  Tucker, a few weeks ago we reported here on this show that a town in Russia had created a holiday today, September 12th, so that couples could spend the day procreating.  The holiday was invented as part of an effort to help Russia’s shrinking population.  They’re calling it family contact day.  Doesn’t that just put you in the mood? 

The idea is to get a litter of Russian babies nine months to the day from now.  That’s June 12th, which is a national holiday.  Couples that have babies on June 12th, get this, will be rewarded with prizes that include refrigerators, TVs and washer/dryers sets. 

Couple of things here, Tucker, first of all, family contact day is a little too close to domestic abuse day.  They may want to rethink that one.  And also, I said this before, but if you really need to offer incentives of refrigerate to get people in bad, your society may just be beyond help. 

CARLSON:  Let’s be honest, there’s nothing sexier than a Russian washer/dryer set.  It’s like an aphrodisiac just hearing about it. 

GEIST:  Yes, and the Russian spice is that it doesn’t work.  But I don’t think you have that problem in America. 

CARLSON:  It sets your clothes on fire. 

GEIST:  Exactly.  Tucker, as you know, there are certain people in this world you just don’t steal from.  You don’t take from the collection plate of church and you most certainly do not steal from Ben & Jerry’s.  This monster seen here caught on tape stealing 160 dollars from a tip jar at the Ben & Jerry’s in Melbourne, Florida.  That’s a serious tip jar, by the way. 

Ben & Jerry’s has now offered a reward of five years of free ice cream to anyone who can identify the man in these pictures.  I might go look for the guy myself with that offer, Tucker.  I have to say, the United States government keeps putting up these rewards for bin Laden, 25 million—now it’s up to 50 million.  The answer is right there.  If you offered five years of Ben & Jerry’s, those guys up in the hills of Tora Bora, on the border of Pakistan, they couldn’t resist, we would have our man. 

CARLSON:  That’s—they have the Internet in Waziristan, but they don’t have Chunky Monkey, good point. 

GEIST:  They need it.  They need it bad.  The world would be a better place.  Finally, Tucker, this week, Hillary Clinton had returned a chunk of money that she got from a shady campaign donor.  But she’s not the only one dealing with seedy characters it seems.  Barack Obama has now returned two 4,600 dollar donations she—he received from an eight-year-old and from a seven-year-old. 

Donors sometimes use their kids to funnel extra money to candidates.  Federal rules say that minors can make donations, as long as they use their own money and it’s their decision.  So the parents of these two kids say the money came from the children’s trust funds and that the decisions were made by executors.  “USA Today” brought this story to life this week and Obama quickly sent the money back. 

Tucker, you’ve got four kids.  Just how much have they given to Ron Paul. 

CARLSON:  Huge, the max, all of them.  As my five-year-old said to me today, I just agree with his program.   

GEIST:  Yes, my three month old daughter has given serious cash too. 

CARLSON:  She’s a Kucinich fan.  Willie Geist from L.A.  Thanks, Willie. 

GEIST:  All right, Tucker.  We’ll see you tomorrow. 

CARLSON:  And thank you for watching.  We’ll be back tomorrow night.

Chris Matthews is next with HARDBALL.  Have a good night.

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

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