updated 9/19/2007 1:58:36 PM ET 2007-09-19T17:58:36

Guest: Wesley Clark, A.B. Stoddard, Anne Kornblut

TUCKER CARLSON, HOST:  Senator Hillary Clinton may not have clinched the Democratic nomination in the past 24 hours, but the events of the last day probably showed us how she will.  A masterfully orchestrated campaign that meets only tepid resistance from her hapless challengers. 

This morning saw Mrs. Clinton on just about every morning talk show deftly defending his health care proposal, despite her impossible claim that a total reform of a trillion-dollar sector of the economy will not require any more federal government interference. 

In “The New York Times” this morning’s, columnist David Brooks wrote a complementary piece about the candidate and her health care plan.  Mr.  Brooks and Mrs. Clinton went over the details in a one-on-one phone conversation before he wrote the piece.  The Clinton campaign is fiercely methodical. 

And then there’s Mrs. Clinton’s would-be opposition, Barack Obama.  Yesterday, Mr. Obama gave a one-on-one interview with NBC “Nightly News” anchor Brian Williams.  As always, Mr. Obama offered sweeping allure, but as always, he was unwilling to fight for the top spot.  If Rudy Giuliani continues to run a better campaign against Hillary Clinton than Barack Obama will, the Illinois senator might as well call it a day.  We’ll review and look forward.  

And if you’re a little bit paranoid about the armed authorities, stay tuned for another examination and serious discussion of the tasering of that University of Florida student Andrew Meyer, whose threat to the public was his self-involved, verbose, accusatory question to John Kerry at a campus event yesterday.  Are we all safer for his tasering? 

Plus, John McCain may have converted from Episcopalianism, but he is still picking up significant Episcopal political praise.  John the Baptist receives a de facto endorsement from a White House past.  Details on that in a minute.   

But we begin with Hillary Clinton, the war in Iraq, and the lessons our leaders should have learned from that war and the lessons Mrs. Clinton has or has not learned. 

Here to discuss all of that—Iraq, Mrs. Clinton and the future of both—is a man who recently endorsed Clinton for president, the author of “A Time to Lead for Duty, Honor and Courage,” retired U.S. Army General Wesley Clark.  General, thanks for coming on. 

GEN. WESLEY CLARK, RET., U.S. ARMY:  Thank you.  Good to be with you, Tucker.

CARLSON:  What do you make of David Petraeus?  Did he tell the truth when he came before Congress? 

CLARK:  Well, he certainly told the truth, as he sees it.  I mean, he’s the commander.  He’s in there.  He’s in the fight.  It’s his mission to win the war, and it’s also his mission to explain it and gain support. 

CARLSON:  Is he up to it?  I mean, you know, you’re a general.  You look at him.

CLARK:  Sure. 

CARLSON:  Is he—on both sides, people are investing a lot of hope in this man.

CLARK:  He’s a terrific guy.  But he doesn’t have the cards.  The cards are diplomatic cards. 

This is about Iran.  So you can’t win the war in Iraq without dealing with Iran.  You can’t deal with Iran by having a once-a-month, two-hour sit-down session with them where you accuse them of intervening.  No kidding, intervening?  That’s their neighbor.  They have got a 1,000-mile border, they were invaded, they lost a million people, and we just destroyed their greatest enemy in Saddam Hussein.  You better believe they are intervening.  They have got an integrated, political, military, economic strategy to take Iraq out and off the table as a potential opponent. 

And there we are with the veneer of military force going around knocking people off and arresting people and putting them in detention camps and so forth. 

I mean, he’s doing everything he can do that he’s been authorized by the president, but he doesn’t have the right support.  This is a diplomatic, a regional diplomatic issue that needs to be addressed by the White House in a way. 

CARLSON:  Well, what you just said is scary, it has a ring of truth, and it’s also essentially the case that the Bush administration has been making, that Iran, we are fighting this kind of a proxy war against Iran in Iraq, and if we leave, it will give them the upper hand.  Is that kind of what you just said?

CLARK:  Sure, but you’ve got to ask yourself, is it a proxy war or what is it?  This is a struggle for regional dominance. 

CARLSON:  Right. 

CLARK:  And what we have to do is, we have to engage Iran.  We are fighting the proxy war in Iraq. 

CARLSON:  Right. 

CLARK:  Rather than talk to Iran.  Even during the worst of the Cold War, we basically talked to the Soviet Union.  There’s no reason why we can’t talk to Iran.  You have got to bring our allies into it in the region.  They’ve got to know that we’re not going behind their backs.  That can be done.  That can be handled.  But this administration seems more willing to risk people—young men and women’s lives by sending them into combat than willing to risk its own reputation by talking to our adversaries. 

CARLSON:  That may be true, but the Democratic candidates, almost to a person—maybe Joe Biden not included—are saying we have got to get combat troops out now.  I mean, sooner rather than later, yesterday. 

CLARK:  Well, Hillary is not saying that. 

CARLSON:  It depends who she is speaking before. 

CLARK:  No. 

CARLSON:  She says time and again...

(CROSSTALK)

CLARK:  We have talked about it.  Yes, we need to begin a withdrawal. 

CARLSON:  He won’t end the war, I will.  That’s what she says.

CLARK:  Let me tell you something.  I’d pull two brigades out right now.  You know why?  Because the Iraqi politicians are using our troops there. 

CARLSON:  Right. 

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON:  But if we were to bring all of our combat troops out within the next year and a half, which is what I hear her saying, at least in some contexts, what would that mean for Iran? 

CLARK:  It depends on what we do diplomatically.  This administration won’t do anything diplomatically.  It can’t.  Partly because it doesn’t want to.  Partly because it has no credibility in the region. 

You know, before they went into Iraq, the big talk was, we are going to go into Iraq, then we are going to take down Syria, we are going to clear up Lebanon, we will be back to deal with Iran.  Seven countries, five years.  That was the talk all over this town, and the Iranians knew it, and they made sure that we weren’t going to succeed. 

So the explosively formed penetrators, the EFPs that are there, and the improvised explosive devices, that’s the tip of the iceberg.  What’s far more significant is the maybe one million Iraqis who fled to Iran, who lived there, who were given shelter there, who have some conversational sympathy for Iran.  It’s Sistani, it’s the whole orientation of the south.  Now, the south in Iran—Iraq right now is struggling.  They are fighting it out, militia against militia.  But Iran is on all ides of that.  They are arming everybody.  They are looking to see who is going to stand up to win...

CARLSON:  See, I never hear—I’m listening with rapt attention, because what you’re saying sounds right and it’s frightening.

CLARK:  It is right.

CARLSON:  Sounds right.  But I never hear Democrats say that.  I mean, the implication...

CLARK:  I have been arguing now for four years...

CARLSON:  Then why don’t the candidates say that?  Their implication is...

CLARK:  ... for a dialogue with Iran. 

CARLSON:  OK, but they leave the impression—I listen very—for a living I listen.  They leave the impression, we pull out all of our combat troops, somehow the countries in the region—that’s as specific as they get—will somehow reach some accord and bring stability. 

CLARK:  I heard a lot of people say things like six months’ withdrawal and so forth.  That’s not possible.  What we’ve got to do is start the withdrawal.  We have got to have a diplomatic offensive in the region.  We have got to try to structure what comes next.  You have got to have some blandishments, you’ve got to have some threats.  You have got to deal with the Iranian nuclear challenge that’s coming up on us.  And then we will see what the withdrawal timetable looks like. 

CARLSON:  What do you make of the attacks by some on the left on General Petraeus? 

CLARK:  I think it’s really unfortunate.  I really...

CARLSON:  Hillary Clinton said that she had to use willing suspension of disbelief as she listened to him. 

CLARK:  Yes, but I don’t consider that—that’s not an attack on his character.  She just sees a different set of facts. 

But the MoveOn ad, I think it was a big mistake, because we shouldn’t be talking about the general.  What we should be talking about is the situation and the strategy. 

What I have been advocating to Democrats for the last three years is don’t talk troops and tactics.  The problem in Iraq is not about troops, it’s not going to be resolved by whether there’s another 5,000 or 10,000 troops there or not.  And it’s not about what tactics they use.  Not a surge, not outpost, not patrols.  That’s not what it’s about. 

It’s about the region.  It’s about Iran’s struggle for dominance. 

You must critique this administration on its failure to have real strategy and policies in the region that work. 

I have been through the region a number of times.  I talked to the leaders in all of the friendly states in the region, and I say, well, so how is the dialogue going with the Americans?  They say, dialogue?  Sometimes they go months, they don’t hear from the United States.  When they hear, the United States says, we want you to do this.  The United States does not listen.  The United States does not build a team.  The Saudis and other states in the region are very concerned about what might happen next. 

CARLSON:  I bet they are. 

CLARK:  The progress in Al Anbar province that President Bush is so proud of...

CARLSON:  Right. 

CLARK:  You know, that’s not progress as a result of the surge.  That’s the Sunni states in the region putting money in to the Sunni sheiks...

(CROSSTALK)

CLARK:  ... and tell them, get ready.  Because when the Americans leave, the Iranian-backed Shia force is coming your way.  You have got to hold (inaudible) Iran.  

CARLSON:  And I think you’re totally right.  General Wesley Clark, thanks for joining us.  That was interesting as hell. 

CLARK:  Thank you.

CARLSON:  Thank you.

CLARK:  Read my book. 

CARLSON:  I shall read your book.  Now you have totally convinced me to read your book.  Thank you. 

Barack Obama appears to be taking the high ground and not taking direct hits on his main competitor, Hillary Clinton.  Why isn’t he engaging her?  Will he lose as a result? 

Plus, a college student gets tasered by campus cops during a Q&A with Senator Kerry.  Why didn’t Kerry intervene?  You’re watching MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  Barack Obama says he wants to bring a new kind of politics to the White House—hope, optimism, reaching out to your adversaries.  The question is, is Obama playing too nice in the race for the nomination?  His subtle shot at Hillary Clinton over her vote to authorize the war in Iraq, her failure on national health care have been far from crushing.  In fact, some people didn’t even perceive he made them.  Does Obama need to fight to win? 

Here to discuss it, the associate editor of “The Hill,” A.B. Stoddard and “Washington Post’s” Anne Kornblut.  Welcome to you both. 

So here’s what in an interview with Brian Williams of NBC Barack Obama said when asked, are you going to engage Hillary Clinton?  Here’s his response.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), ILLINOIS:  We are not going to spend too much time in this campaign focused on her.  We want to focus on the future and we want to focus on my message of change, and what we can do to provide universal health care for all Americans in a sensible, cost-effective way, what we can do to provide a world-class education system that involves both more money and reform of the system, what we can do to deal with global warming and energy independence. 

If we are focusing on those issues, as well as a fundamental shift in foreign policy, then we think we are going to give a very strong alternative to any of the other candidates in the field. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARLSON:  I don’t know.  I just hear Bill Bradley, I guess, when he talks like that.  And I say that as someone who kind of likes Obama. 

ANNE KORNBLUT, WASHINGTON POST:  Look, I mean, this has been his schtick from the beginning. 

CARLSON:  Yes, I know.

KORNBLUT:  All of the candidates say this.  They all say, oh, this is not about my opponents, this is about me.  And you can even get John Edwards, who has been on the attack, to say this. 

CARLSON:  Yes, he has.

KORNBLUT:  No, this is really about my ideas.  The problem with the Obama campaign so far is that they haven’t had any surrogates doing it.  And they’ve done it, as you suggested, so subtly that it’s hard to even detect that it’s there, and it becomes hard to even draw distinctions between where he is and where Senator Clinton is. 

CARLSON:  You have got to have a master’s degree in rhetoric to even unpack this.  I think journalists like this.  I like it, because the guy’s facility with words is so impressive.  He loves language, and we are all in the language business, so we appreciate that.  But the average person is kind of, you know, mouth open, huh? 

A.B. STODDARD, THE HILL:  Well, that’s separate from the Hillary question. 

CARLSON:  Right.  It is.

STODDARD:  The fact that he was kind of Bob Doling around in that interview and he doesn’t take a broad stroke when he talks about these issues and he gets bogged down in the details is actually a hindrance to him.  I know he sounds professorial, but it’s really dull, and people don’t want to listen to it. 

They want him to be energized, they want him to inspire, and they want him to talk about big themes, and not get into these long descriptions about—get into the details. 

But onto the Hillary Clinton question...

CARLSON:  He’s so cool...

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON:  ... wear sunglasses.

STODDARD:  Why did we not trust him when he said he wasn’t going to do that?  I mean, obviously being noble is not going to buy him the votes.  But he said he wasn’t going to do it, and he’s not doing it.  It is going to obviously cost him. 

CARLSON:  Because you can’t not do it.  That’s why—you know, their explanation, the Obama people are not stupid and they have a huge amount of money, and there are some smart people working on the campaign.  And their explanation is, look, it’s all about Iowa.  It comes down to Iowa.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON:  That’s right.  And they are in a three-way race there, and Iowa voters, we know from experience, don’t like it when politics gets into their politics, and candidates start being mean to each other. 

KORNBLUT:  Yes, Iowans are nice people fundamentally themselves, but they are not naive.

CARLSON:  I have my suspicions about Iowans, but do you think, I mean, is this—is this working with Iowans?

KORNBLUT:  Look, there’s basically a three-way tie at this point.

CARLSON:  Right.

KORNBLUT:  John Edwards, Hillary Clinton and Obama are basically in a three-way tie there.  What we have seen is the new, improved Edwards 2.0, who actually has gotten angry, as you were saying before.  He slipped a little, and but not a lot.  It’s still essentially a three-way tie.  But we’ve seen that that kind of approach does not work as well as the old Edwards, who was very happy and smiley.  There’s still—I mean, in the last campaign, everyone thought if he had another week, he could have actually won Iowa. 

So I think there’s merit to that argument.  The problem is that at the national level, Obama has not moved, and that has become now a storyline onto itself for the campaign.  So we are sitting here talking about it.  They are having to answer questions about why he’s not on the attack.  We have to wait and see if voters (inaudible). 

CARLSON:  It’s very frustrating.  So it’s left to, for those of us playing along at home on the board game, it’s a little bit upsetting to see Rudy Giuliani come out there with these ads of Hillary Clinton, claiming that there’s al Qaeda in Iraq—I don’t even know where she got that.  That wasn’t in any of the intelligence.  That’s a ready-made ad there.  Why doesn’t Obama put that up on the air? 

STODDARD:  He said he wasn’t going to take cheap shots.  And...

CARLSON:  That’s not a cheap shot, though.  That’s legitimate. 

STODDARD:  He’s afraid to start—he’s afraid of the enemy.  He’s afraid to start a fight (ph).  And I think that if you talk about Rudy Giuliani and Hillary Clinton—I mean, Hillary Clinton—it’s actually true now when she says she’s ready.  She’s ready because she’s more confident.  She’s taken her lumps and she’s really been burned.  So has Rudy Giuliani.  And she’s much more confident than Barack Obama. 

CARLSON:  Isn’t somebody going to stop her?  You know, this is like watching the Iraq war...

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON:  This is like watching the Iraq war happen in 2003.  You’re sitting back thinking, wait, somebody normal is going to say, stop, right?  And then nobody did.  And that’s what’s happening now.  It’s very upsetting.  Excuse me.

All right.  We’ll be back in a second.  A college student gets tasered by cops after asking John Kerry a question during a campus forum, and Kerry just stands there like it’s not happening.  What gives? 

Plus, John McCain gets a big endorsement for his struggling presidential campaign from George H.W. Bush.  Why isn’t the McCain campaign calling it an endorsement?  We will tell you.  We’ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  Investigation is under way tonight after police tasered a University of Florida student yesterday.  The confrontation occurred during a recent appearance by Senator John Kerry.  Two officers involved in the incident have been placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of that investigation. 

But what about Kerry’s role in all of this, or lack of one?  Joining us now, associate editor of “The Hill,” A.B. Stoddard, and also, the “Washington Post’s” own Anne Kornblut.  Welcome to you both. 

In case you have not seen this enough in the past 24 hours, here’s the actual tasering. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANDY MEYER, STUDENT:  Don’t tase me, bro!  Don’t tase me!  Ow, ow, ow, ow!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARLSON:  That is just—six cops on this kid.  I don’t see what the excuse for that kind of behavior would be. 

Here’s my point.  This is how John Kerry responded.  John Kerry, of course, was feet away at the lectern watching this.  I don’t believe he couldn’t hear that, the kid being tasered.

Here’s his response.  “In 37 years of public appearances, through wars, protests and highly emotional events, I have never had a dialogue end this way.  I believe I could have handled the situation without interruption.  But again, I do not know what warnings or other exchanges transpired between the young man and the police prior to his barging to the front of the line and their intervention.  I asked the police to allow me to answer the question and was in the process of answering him when he was taken into custody.  I was not aware that a taser was used until after I left.  I hope that neither the student nor any of the police were injured.  I regret enormously that a good, healthy discussion was interrupted.”

What a wuss this guy is.  I regret enormously that a good, healthy conference was interrupted?  What about this kid got tasered for asking a question?  What, he can’t say that?  Is that like against the rules for...

KORNBLUT:  I don’t think you can hold John Kerry responsible for in the moment not knowing what was happening. 

CARLSON:  No, this is his response today. 

KORNBLUT:  But I will say—I mean, we have all seen candidates on the stump watch people faint or things happen spontaneously that they don’t know how to respond to.  So in the moment—but yes, in this kind of a response, you would think that Kerry is unshackled from the campaign as he is, be able to give a little more of (inaudible)... 

CARLSON:  Let’s put it this way.  If you were at the lectern giving a speech and some obnoxious jerk—this kid looked like an obnoxious jerk—tried to, you know, shout you down or whatever, then the cops came, wrestled him to the ground and zapped him with a taser gun as he’s screaming “don’t tase me,” wouldn’t you say, hey, knock it off?  I would.  I would tell the cops to stop that.

STODDARD:  You probably would.  He said he didn’t know that he was tasered until afterwards.  But now, he’s not condemning it, now that he knows it.  Right?

CARLSON:  Yes.  I mean, that’s my question.  So is it—are we to the point where...

STODDARD:  Good thing he’s not president, because he’d be pummelled for that. 

CARLSON:  You’re not ever allowed to criticize the police?  I mean, I know we’re all for law and order and I’m for law and order and all that, but under no circumstances are you allowed to second-guess the cops?

STODDARD:  I don’t know how you even defend it, this, what happened.

CARLSON:  It’s totally indefensible.  Six cops on one, you know, college student.  I mean, I don’t know. 

KORNBLUT:  Look, I will say, it got John Kerry some coverage of the event that we would not have otherwise have given it.  So no one knew he was there. 

CARLSON:  I think Kerry comes off as such a weakling.  I mean, if he can’t even stand up and add his voice to the chorus of people—I would say all 300 million American looks at the tape and say, that’s too much, you didn’t need to do that.  If Kerry can’t even say that, how is he going to protect America, exactly, do you think? 

KORNBLUT:  Well, really, are we tasking him with this? 

(CROSSTALK)

KORNBLUT:  I would say, you know, look, he could have come out and said something more strongly.  I think it’s probably shocking for him.  I mean, we’re watching this video.  It’s shocking for us to see it.  I can’t imagine what it had to look like in real-time.  It’s hard to explain. 

I wonder if the other candidates—are you going to ask the other candidates, other campaigns to come out and comment on it? 

(CROSSTALK)  

CARLSON:  As someone who gives speeches occasionally, I just—and often deals with people asking questions like that, you know, people who have been reading Noam Chomsky online too much late at night, I know what that’s like.  And I have no sympathy for those people and I think they are obnoxious and stupid. 

On the other hand, I hate the kid’s politics, but the idea that he was abused like that infuriates me. 

This is a measure, don’t you think, of just how left college campuses have gotten in 2007.  I mean, John Kerry is considered a complete quisling, a sellout, a traitor, a right-winger even. 

STODDARD:  Maybe.  But it depends on the campus.  I don’t think that you can make a sweeping generalization.

CARLSON:  You can’t?  

STODDARD:  I don’t—I mean, there were probably Republicans there, asking him other questions.  I mean, that was just—we’re just taking the questions of this one guy who got tasered.

CARLSON:  I don’t know.  In my experience, all the energy...

STODDARD:  But you speak to college campuses more than I do.

CARLSON:  All the energy, all the activism, all the intensity, the people who are really like wild-eyed, they used to be on the right.  I mean, I was there.  They are all on the left now.  They are all on the left.  All the conservatives, I don’t know, they are hiding in their rooms, all eight of them, probably, you know what I mean, drinking Zima and not going outside.  And the people who are outside like chanting, all left. 

STODDARD:  Maybe they are just as disheartened as the Republicans in the (inaudible)...

CARLSON:  I think they probably are. 

All right, John Kerry, that’s over. 

On to Larry Craig.  Hew as back at work on Capitol Hill today.  Many were shocked to see the embattled senator in the flesh—emphasis on flesh.  But that’s not the only shocking development in the Craig saga.  He has got a show of support now.  We will tell you from whom. 

Plus, Hillary Clinton unveils her plan to give you health care coverage, whether you want it or not.  Yesterday she explained the concept.  Today, she tells us how she will enforce it.  Stay tuned to find out if tasers are involved.  You’re watching MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  Still to come, it’s good news/bad news for Senator John McCain.  He picks up a big endorsement amid rumors that his campaign is crumbling in a key primary state.  We will tell you more in just a minute.  First, though, here’s a look at your headlines. 

(NEWSBREAK)

CARLSON:  Welcome back.  Senator John McCain has left the Episcopal Church to become a Baptist.  This change of heart is unlikely to affect his run for president.  Still John the Baptist, a voice in the wilderness, and his unflagging faith in the Iraq war, badly needs a boost.  He may have gotten it yesterday from President Bush, the original.  Appearing by video at a stop on McCain’s No Surrender tour, George H.W. Bush said, among other things, quote, the bottom line is we must persevere.  We must not surrender.  We must not quit and run away.  God bless our troops and everyone involved at the no surrender rally there in Charleston.  I salute Senators McCain and Graham for their sponsorship and for standing tall.  I am proud to be with you at the no surrender rally.

It sounds like an endorsement of McCain for president.  Is it?  Here to talk about it, associate editor of “The Hill” A.B. Stoddard and the “Washington Post’s” own Anne Kornblut.  So interesting on so many levels.  Here’s the father of the longtime arch nemesis of Senator McCain coming out, if not endorsing him, doing something pretty close to it.  Why? 

KORNBLUT:  Standing there, I would argue, is an endorsement. 

CARLSON:  Yes, by video. 

KORNBLUT:  Right, being shown as part of it, using the words no surrender tour, which is what he’s calling this tour.  This is really an endorsement.  It reminds me of what Jimmy Carter didn’t do with Howard Dean in the last campaign.  He showed up with him. 

CARLSON:  Right. 

KORNBLUT:  Look, the president can’t endorse in the Republican primary.  By virtue of that, neither can his father technically.  But this president owes a lot to John McCain, who has stood by him both on the war and on immigration, even though there is no love lost between them.  And I think not only that, he and the former president are quite sympatico.  And it’s very natural for him to come and try to help at a very critical time.  This campaign is not going well for John McCain.   

CARLSON:  They are similar people too, I guess I would argue, in their personal style—

KORNBLUT:  Military background. 

CARLSON:  Both war heroes.  They have the same kind of old-fashioned reserve that many people still find appealing, except me.  I like it.  No one else seems to.  Anyway, do you think—do you agree that this is a reflection of the sitting president’s gratitude towards Senator McCain? 

STODDARD:  I’m not sure.  I think it’s a statement about how the former President Bush feels about John McCain.  I think it’s a huge deal.  It’s really significant.  I was very surprised by it, that he would be willing to do something that could be perceived as an endorsement, to appear in a video like that.  I think it’s interesting because one of his grand children, George P., son of Jeb, is Fred Thompson person. 

There are a lot of Fred Thompson people in the Cheney universe.  It’s very interesting—

CARLSON:  Including Cheney’s own daughter. 

STODDARD:  Exactly.  That President Bush Sr. would be willing to do this for John McCain, totally bizarre that John McCain—that his people would go out of there way to say it’s not an endorsement.  To interrupt the Phoenix rising from the ashes theme that he needs to keep going right now is just bizarre they would try—

CARLSON:  I don’t think it’s bizarre.  Screwing their own campaign has kind of been a hobby for the McCain people.  I think it’s admirable that at a time when everybody is kicking McCain while he’s down—because that’s what we do to people who are down in this country.  We kick them more and more and more—that the former president is willing to stand up and being counted as a fan of John McCain’s.

There is a pretty devastating piece in the “Washington Times” today about the condition of the McCain campaign in the state of Michigan.  Here’s how on Republican activist in that state describes the campaign, quote, “The Michigan McCain campaign has a confused and disorganized structure that doesn’t follow up and simply refuses to make phone calls.”  If you’re campaign in a key primary state doesn’t make phone calls, bad. 

KORNBLUT:  This reflects what we heard out of McCain headquarters before the great redoing of McCain a few months, before they shed all of the senior staff, and started McCain—what are we on, 3.0 now.  There were a lot of complaints about no follow-up phone calls, normal campaign structure not being followed.  It reflects that.  It may be the case that Michigan is just not where they are focused right now.  He really only has only has enough resources to think about Iowa—not really. 

It’s really all about New Hampshire at this point, where he has had so much support.  Michigan is further down the road for him.  I don’t find that surprising in the least. 

CARLSON:  Yes, I can say with total confidence, this is the only political show on television that ever utters the words John McCain.  Everybody else believes McCain is a footnote in history.  You are my John McCain bell weather, A.B. Stoddard. 

STODDARD:  I’m not willing to bury John McCain. 

CARLSON:  Still?  I’m checking in with you now.

STODDARD:  I think at this point he doesn’t have the time for care and feeding of staff in states across the country.  I think he’s just driving himself to events and hoping not to be heckled and trying to get videos from former presidents and stuff like that.  The fact he’s even still standing is amazing.  He had, I thought, beyond impressive debate performance at the Fox News debate. 

I was totally surprised by how well he did and handled some awkward moments.  Usually he gets grumpy and really tense.  But he was really loosened up and ready and confident.  He really seemed like the grown-up on stage.  I think that he’s—it doesn’t surprise me that he’s raising no money and that staff continue to quit.  That doesn’t surprise me at all.  But I think that you look at that field and you look at Fred Thompson and where he is and Mitt Romney and Giuliani, and I will not bury John McCain. 

CARLSON:  I tend to agree with that.  Giuliani is going to be the nominee?  Mitt Romney is going to be the nominee?  Fred Thompson?  You look at these people and you’re like, why not John McCain? 

STODDARD:  If one of them drops out and throws their support to McCain, everything changes. 

KORNBLUT:  I think we have a unanimous panel here. 

CARLSON:  I agree with that.   

KORNBLUT:  I know people in the White House have told me they also think, having been up against John McCain, given how fluid the field is, given that if you look at the last—what was it, the last NBC journal poll showed most Democrats feel comfortable with McCain over any other Republican.  There’s a lot that can still happen. 

CARLSON:  That’s the problem there. 

KORNBLUT:  When people get down to looking at who could win a general, who could beat Hillary Clinton, as you were suggesting earlier, if McCain looks like he can do it, I wouldn’t count him out. 

STODDARD:  This is the year that the primary voters may not be able to have what they want. 

CARLSON:  The first person who can explain the state that John McCain wins in gets dinner on me.  The only thing that’s lacking in the John McCain wins the primary scenario is where he actually wins the primary. 

KORNBLUT:  He has a problem in New Hampshire, where independents can, of course, do whatever they want and can vote in a Democratic primary and Obama has shown so far that he’s really—

CARLSON:  McCain won by 19 points in 2000 not—he lost Republicans to George W. Bush.  He won because independents and Democrats voted for him.  I would not count him out. 

Someone who I don’t think is going to get the nomination, just on a limb, is Larry Craig.  Not even in the running.  You heard it here first.  His only defender, apart from me, sort of, and maybe you, is the ACLU, which has come out on Larry Craig’s behalf, to some extent.  They wouldn’t come on the show and actually talk about it.  They may be a little embarrassed about their defense of Larry Craig.  But their point is look—

STODDARD:  Arlen Specter.  He’s the other defender of Larry Craig.  He said he was railroaded. 

CARLSON:  Is the conventional wisdom going to change on Larry Craig? 

KORNBLUT:  I don’t know.  It will be interesting to see the coverage upon his return here in Washington today.  I tend to doubt it, primarily because the Republican party has run away from him so fast.  But watching the departure from him, watching them flee his side, you really had to kind of feel for the guy, who has been a stalwart member of the party all of this time, didn’t waste 48 hours before they all turned their back on him. 

I would not call it a ground swell of sympathy.  But I think you can understand it if you look at him, as we have covered him, as a human being on the Hill for some time.  You wonder about the party turning on him so quickly. 

CARLSON:  Did he have no friends?  I mean, Mitt Romney getting up

there, what he did was disgusting.  It was disgusting.  What was disgusting

--

(CROSS TALK)

CARLSON:  I’m not defending pandering in a men’s room, which is repulsive.  I think he’s obviously a weird guy.  But I think disloyalty is more disgusting actually. 

STODDARD:  Well, they really opened themselves up.  If they left any room for question, he pled guilty.  You listen to that audiotape of him after he was caught, and this was not a man who sounds like he was accused of doing something crazy in a men’s room when he was trying to use the bathroom.  If you’re Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader in the Senate, or any of his colleagues, it is very hard to do anything but throw him under the bus. 

It’s painful and everything.  But in the precarious situation they are in, it was black or white. 

CARLSON:  Of course he did.  Jonah Goldberg said this, and I thought it was the smartest thing I read on the whole saga, if John McCain or Jim Webb had been arrested in that men’s room falsely, how do you think their conversation with the cop would have gone? 

KORNBLUT:  It would have been quite different. 

CARLSON:  You know what I mean? 

(CROSS TALK)

KORNBLUT:  With the Republican convention set to be in Minneapolis, we are all going to have to fly into the Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport for the convention next year.  Already it’s a tourist attraction that bathroom stall.  So I can’t wait to see if there’s a memorial plaque over it, whether they will open it up to the public. 

CARLSON:  I’m waiting until it gets to the parking lot.  A.B.  Stoddard, the government of Iraq has expelled or is attempting to expel Blackwater, one of three big defense security contractors in Iraq.  They are saying that in an incident earlier this week, a number of people were killed, civilians, I believe 13, apparently by Blackwater security contractors.  They are saying this was outrageous, an atrocity and they are trying to boot Blackwater out of the country. 

Do they have the power to do that?  And will the U.S. government—we need Blackwater.  We need all of these security contractors to go about our daily business in Iraq.  Are we going to listen to the government of Iraq? 

STODDARD:  Well, to start with, it shows that the Iraqi government can get something accomplished when it wants to.  But I think, given the situation we are in, with hoping for any sign of progress on the front of political reconciliation there, it’s—I imagine it would be very awkward for our government to handle the situation. 

But these reports that there are some estimate between 20,000, up to 50,000, of armed private agents roaming around Iraq, one could argue that we need to be protecting our own diplomats and officials with our own Army. 

We are really

CARLSON:  This is our army.  It is our army.  In effect, it is our own Army.

STODDARD:  How much is it helping the bad situation? 

CARLSON:  It is actually helping a lot.  I went to Iraq with these guys, did a story on them for Esquire and came away—I understand the concerns that people have.  Without them, you cannot administer Iraq, not that we’re doing a great job anyway.  You couldn’t do it at all. 

STODDARD:  That might be the case.  But how is it going to help us with training Iraqis, arming Iraqis, getting them to join the police and trying to stabilize the country?  I don’t know how it has anything to help that. 

CARLSON:  It seems to me that now that we are playing along with the charade that the Iraqis are in charge of their own destiny, we have to listen to their complaints, unfortunately. 

We’ll be right back.  Doctor Hillary Clinton has made her diagnosis. 

It may sting a little bit.  But don’t worry.  It’s for your own good.  We’ve got details about how she plans to make you obey her will.  So sit up straight and listen. 

Then, new details in the latest O.J. Simpson saga.  He’s now been charged with kidnapping.  He can end up in jail for a long time.  We have got the latest next. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  Hillary care is back.  The New York senator is talking about the uninsured once again, almost 15 years after her last health insurance push failed.  She’s been pushing her plans on all the networks, the news show.  What is different this time around?  Is she older and wiser?  More important, will voters swallow the pill? 

We welcome back with answers to those questions, A.B. Stoddard and Anne Kornblut.  Welcome to you both.  Anne, we learned that the Hillary plan, in contrast to Senator Obama’s plan, is mandatory. 

KORNBLUT:  Mandatory. 

CARLSON:  You have to sign up for health insurance.  Which raises the obvious question, what if I don’t?  She answered that question in an interview with the Associated Press.  She said this, quote, you have to show proof to your employer that you’re insured as part of the job interview.  Like when your kid goes to school and has to show proof of vaccination.

Will you be required to show proof before you go on airplanes, out to dinner?  I mean, does she mean this? 

KORNBLUT:  It’s interesting, because she was very careful.  I was there yesterday and I listened to the speech.  And she was very careful both in the speech and in her advisor’s briefing afterwards to say we are not going to prescribe the details here.  One of the lessons we learned in ‘93, ‘94 is you can’t not spell it all out.  You have to leave it to the Congressional committees. 

This was not in the original plan.  This came when she was asked about it in an interview.  This is what she envisions when she had originally said—

CARLSON:  Drunk with power, she’s imaging her reign already. 

KORNBLUT:  I think this is an issue she has held on to for decades.  She does have a pretty well-formed idea of what it would look like and frankly couldn’t resist.  Asked a detail question about the policy, she’s a policy wonk.  This is her policy.  So the comparison she made in the original speech was, it’s like having car insurance.  Most states—I think all states mandate if you’re going to drive, you will have car insurance. 

CARLSON:  I think it’s 43 states. 

KORNBLUT:  That’s the original comparison.  But, of course, there’s a reason there was a cry when this story broke.  This is big government talking.  This is not leaving it up to the states.  This is all of the worst that everybody imagined of Hillary Care in 1993. 

CARLSON:  The two talking points I took from yesterday that they seemed to be pushing, one, this is not big government at all.  Two, this preserves your choice.  It’s all the about choices.  Here’s Hillary Clinton explaining why this is not big government.  Listen.  Here she is. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D), NEW YORK:  Now, I know my Republican opponents will try to equate health care for all Americans with government-run health care.  Well, don’t let them fool us again.  This is not government run.  There will be no new bureaucracies.  You can keep the doctors you know and trust.  You keep the insurance you have, if you like it.  But this plan expands personal choice and increases competition to keep costs down. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARLSON:  Now, this may be a good plan.  It may be a bad plan.  But the idea is a plan to organize 1/7th of the U.S. economy and force people to get health insurance, upon pain of not getting a job, will entail no new bureaucracy is a lie.  That’s a lie.  That can’t be true, can it? 

STODDARD:  I wonder if she retreats on that in the weeks to come and tries to leave it kind of opaque.  I’m not saying she will.  But I guess if she didn’t, I wouldn’t be surprised.  Mitt Romney’s plan, as we all know, made people get health insurance. 

CARLSON:  And does to this day in the state of Massachusetts. 

STODDARD:  I think, look, what I was really struck by in the last 24 hours was this; A, she got great reviews.  B, she’s winning in all of the polls and looks like she’s poised to become the nominee.  Finally, the Republicans are going—they can call this socialized medicine all they want.  But they have—those Republicans running for president are going to have to come up with something. 

This is the number two issue after the Iraq war.  They cannot just talk about controlling the border and fighting terrorism.  They can’t talk their way past this issue. 

CARLSON:  And they are not going to. 

STODDARD:  And if she is the nominee, they can scream all they want about socialized medicine. 

CARLSON:  There’s no doubt.  That’s why you heard President Bush, who really is so much more liberal than anybody ever noticed, come out and say, I want universal health care too.  And then Mitt Romney—this may be the boldest thing anybody has ever said in the history of the republic—he attacks Hillary’s plan.  He says she takes her inspiration from European bureaucracies, a plan whose salient feature mirrors his. 

KORNBLUT:  And then he said she doesn’t respect the states, which is his defense of that.  Look, the Clinton campaign—I agree, the Clinton campaign knows this is the number two issue.  They are willing to risk being called Hillary Care, having it called socialized medicine—to come out, by the way, I would say in that speech, she used the word choice or choose almost a dozen times in 45 minutes.  It was almost a drinking game by the end of it. 

And her idea was to convince people this is not—by my words, I’m telling you this is not a government program, but to ensure people they will actually wind up with health care.  For them it was a no-lose proposition.  Even if they do get accused of that, because it’s so important to everyone, especially in the Democratic party. 

CARLSON:  And nobody cares in the end.  Nobody cares that it’s mandatory.  I’m the only one who cares.  Thank you both.  I appreciate it. 

Coming up next, when Disney theme park characters attack.  Pluto goes nuts on a little kid at Disneyland and the cameras are rolling, thank goodness.  What lit Pluto’s fuse?  Willie Geist has the answer when we come back. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  Welcome back.  For the last hour we have been hinting at new developments in the O.J. Simpson case, known in this business as the tease.  Well, tease no more.  Our O.J. correspondent Willie Geist joins us. 

WILLIE GEIST, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT:  Joined by legal expert Willie Geist. 

CARLSON:  I love that. 

GEIST:  Here’s the story, Tucker.  O.J. Simpson’s predicament got a little more serious a short time ago, when prosecutors in Clark County, Nevada announced they had filed eight felony charges against Simpson, including first degree kidnapping with a deadly weapon and assault with a deadly weapon.  That perp walk smile you saw before, probably gone about now. 

One legal expert tells NBC News the kidnapping charge should put O.J.’s bail in the millions of dollars, making it very difficult for him to get himself out of jail.  One of the other men named with Simpson on the complaint said today he believes the whole incident in the Las Vegas hotel room was a setup against O.J.  Walter Alexander said the memorabilia dealer who arranged the meeting and then recorded it was out to get O.J. into trouble. 

Meanwhile, Fred Goldman said he plans to take all of the memorabilia O.J. took in the alleged armed robbery.  A California judge today gave Goldman a week to come up with a list of the memorabilia he wants from Simpson. 

Tucker, that was actually seven felonies, eight total charges.  One of them was a misdemeanor.  But kidnapping with a deadly weapon is no joke.  And he could go to jail—take all of these charges together, he could go to jail for life.  So it became sort of a funny story.  It started that way about O.J. kicking in a door and now he could go to jail for life, Tucker. 

CARLSON:  Couldn’t happen to a better guy.  Last time he was in jail, he wrote a book, as I remember. 

GEIST:  Yes, he did, some diaries.  His attorney, by the way, said that O.J., of course, not armed.  Some witnesses say he wasn’t armed in that room.  So there’s no way any of this could be armed kidnapping or anything else.  All of the charges will be dismissed.  But we will wait and see.  Things are heating up for Mr. Simpson. 

CARLSON:  Can we agree, Willie, that if you’re a television lawyer who volunteers to take O.J. on as a client, pro bono, that you ought to be disbarred just for thinking that thought? 

GEIST:  Yes, I think so.  There’s something else at work there.  Well, Tucker, O.J. might be a bad guy.  In fact, he probably is.  But at least he doesn’t dress up as a lovable Disney character and terrorize kids at theme parks.  Some kid tugged Pluto’s tail one too many times at Disneyland, and the sweaty guy in the dog suit snapped. 

Look at this, the mom stops the guy.  And he starts looking around.  She pushes him down on the ground.  Pluto gets to his feet, hands up.  I’m Pluto.  I don’t need this.  I’m walking way.  Look, you saw that.  I have witnesses.  You saw that.  I mean, that is just amazing.  We cannot date that exactly.  It was recently.  Pluto just going absolutely nuts. 

Now, it’s a little bit indefensible.  But I’m just going to take the other side of it.  Here’s a guy, Tucker, who moved out to Hollywood to be an actor, right.  His agent gets in a gig as Pluto at Disneyland.  He stands in that suit.  It’s 150 degrees in there.  He’s sweating all day.  Kids are pulling his tail and kicking him in the legs all day.  And he snaps a little bit.  I’m willing to give him a break. 

CARLSON:  The sweaty guy in the dog suit.  Best description I heard all week. 

GEIST:  Now, there is some other news on this story, Tucker, that I want to bring to light.  Our director, terrific director named Gina, worked at Chuck E Cheese some years ago in the Philadelphia area, dressed as Chuck E Cheese himself, and says kids would come by and tug on her hair, punch all the time.  She said she never took this kind of course of action, but she was tempted to from time to time. 

CARLSON:  Interesting.  So she went into the only other line of work where you get more abuse, cable news. 

GEIST:  It’s a smooth transition from Chuck E Cheese to NBC.  Right in there.  Well, Tucker, the demand for the nation of Belgium, a little bit higher than you might have expected.  The entire country was put up for sale on eBay the other day and the bidding reached 14 million dollars before the auction website caught on and pulled the item. 

The seller was a Belgian journalist who wanted to bring attention to his country and to remind his fellow countrymen that their homeland is place that is valued around the world.  Experts say the bidding would have gone even higher if the package had included Belgium’s greatest athlete, action hero Jean Claude Van Damme, seen there in “Lion Heart.”  A great asset for the nation is Van Damme.  That’s about all they got. 

CARLSON:  Got some self-esteem issues in Belgium.  They’ve also got a great deal of chocolate. 

GEIST:  Yes, they do.  That’s right.  They have chocolate.  Worth the 14 million.  Finally, Tucker, it’s official.  No one is safe from lawsuits in this country, no man, woman, child or deity, as it turns out.  God himself has been served with legal papers by Nebraska state senator Ernie Chambers.  Senator Chambers charges the almighty with causing, quote, widespread death, destruction and terrorization of millions upon millions of the Earth’s inhabitants.

He says god has caused fearsome floods, horrendous hurricanes and terrifying tornadoes.  Chambers ought to be charged with aggravated alliteration.  When reached by this reporter, God declined to comment on an ongoing legal matter, Tucker.  I couldn’t get a comment from him.  Suing god; what’s worse?  That or suing McDonald’s when you spill a cup of coffee on yourself? 

CARLSON:  Memo to our staff, please book Ernie Chambers as soon as possible. 

GEIST:  We will find him. 

CARLSON:  Thank you, Willie.  That’s it for us today.  I hope you tune in tomorrow.  In the meantime, have a great night.

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

END   

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.

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,