updated 10/2/2007 2:10:10 PM ET 2007-10-02T18:10:10

Guests: David Kuo, Eugene Robinson, Peter Fenn, George Zafiris

DAVID SHUSTER, HOST:  Social conservatives pledge to abandon Rudy Giuliani.

Hello everybody.  I‘m David Shuster, in for Tucker Carlson.

Tonight, just three months before the voting begins in the 2008 presidential election, Republican frontrunner Rudy Giuliani is facing a major setback.  Several powerful Christian conservatives whose support is crucial to the GOP in the general election are pledging to back a third party candidate if the pro-choice Giuliani gets the Republican nomination.  It‘s a dramatic developing political story and we will have the latest.

Also tonight, campaign politics on the Democratic side.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Good evening, my fellow Americans.

A little more than a year from now you, the American people, will go to the polls and elect me president of the United States. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHUSTER:  As the media begins to mock the idea of Hillary Clinton‘s inevitability, a new poll from Iowa mocks it as well. 

Also tonight, 16 years after the most brutal Supreme Court confirmation battle in modern American history, Clarence Thomas is speaking out, and his appearance last night on “60 Minutes” was spellbinding. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JUSTICE CLARENCE THOMAS, SUPREME COURT:  Won what?  What was I—what was the game?  There was no game, Steve. 

This wasn‘t about winning anything.  This wasn‘t a football game. 

This was about our country.  This was about a process.  This was about our courts.  This was about our Constitution. 

Who won? 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHUSTER:  Well, at least Clarence Thomas didn‘t choke like the New York Mets.  The team had a meltdown of historic proportions, and today Americans woke up to this photograph on the front page of “The New York Times”. 

Tonight, we will talk with this man, George Zafiris, about the agony of defeat and how to deal with a broken heart when your heart is broken by a baseball team or by a losing presidential candidate. 

But we begin tonight with a major political story that is developing.  It involves the candidacy of Republican frontrunner Rudy Giuliani. 

This weekend, prominent Christian conservatives met at conference in Utah.  The leaders, including Richard Viguerie, Tony Perkins and James Dobson, voted on and passed a resolution that declares, “If the Republican Party nominates a pro-abortion candidate, we will consider running a third party candidate.”

Christian conservatives are a huge force in the Republican Party, at least when it comes to presidential elections. 

Our guest tonight, David Kuo, served in the Bush White House Office of Faith-Based Initiatives and he is now the Washington editor of beliefnet.rom. 

David, thanks for joining us.

DAVID KUO, BELIEFNET.COM:  I‘m glad to be here.

SHUSTER:  What‘s your reaction to what happened in Utah and this initiative, this sort of resolution to support a third party? 

KUO:  You know, on one hand, there‘s part of me that is excited that social conservatives stood up and declared their independence from the Republican Party.  It‘s important.  If you‘re an interest group you do not want to be captive to a single party. 

On the other hand, I think it really was a stupid move because, I mean, if you start a third party and no one follows you, it‘s not really good move.  And I think the problem that they‘re going to face is that the vast majority of social conservatives are either staying home from the polls because of their disillusionment with President Bush, or they‘re going to go with someone like Rudy Giuliani because they think, hey, he‘s better than Hillary Clinton. 

SHUSTER:  This does seem to sort of underscore the idea that the pro-life position for a lot of social conservatives is more important than even having a Republican in the White House who might support conservative positions on other issues.

Is that really the case? 

KUO:  You know, I think that‘s true for a certain segment of the social conservative population.  It‘s also important to note all the people who did not sign on to what Dr. Dobson and others have said. 

You didn‘t see Rick Warren out there.  You didn‘t‘ see T.D. Jakes out there.  You didn‘t see Chuck Colson out there. 

SHUSTER:  These are all prominent pastors and political leaders.

KUO:  Hugely prominent, significant religious leaders, political leaders, who are saying we don‘t want any part of this.  And, you know, and I also think that these men reflect sort of an old and passing phase of the religious conservative movement. 

There is a new phase that‘s moving forward that is far more progressive, that does—that is pro-life, but that‘s also pro-poor, that‘s also pro-family, that also takes into account the environment and other issues.  And they‘re going to be looking at all the different candidates. 

SHUSTER:  You left the White House, the White House Office of Faith-Based Initiatives, because you said, you were “frustrated” with White House and congressional approaches to faith-based issues. 

Do you believe that Rudy Giuliani would be exactly the same as President Bush in terms of handling not just sort of these issues that you were concerned about, but do you believe his campaign when they say, look, we‘ll appoint justices like Samuel Alito? 

KUO:  You know, I don‘t know enough about what Rudy Giuliani is going to do in terms of his judicial appointments.  I think that for those social conservatives who are out there saying, listen, he‘s better than Hillary, at least we‘re going to get conservative justices, I think they‘re taking a huge gamble. 

I don‘t know that you can really sort of—that you‘re going to trust somebody who says, listen, I am pro-gay marriage, I‘m pro-abortion rights, but it‘s OK, I‘m going to appoint justices who rule against those things.  I mean, it seems to me that there is a cognitive and moral dissonance there that is at least—that should be concerning. 

SHUSTER:  Explain for us, David, how much sway, how much power does a leader like James Dobson have over social conservatives?  And I‘m thinking back to an e-mail that he sent out the other week where he described Fred Thompson and he said that Fred Thompson couldn‘t talk his way out of a paper bag.  When a guy like James Dobson says that about a candidate, does that have a strong ripple effect? 

KUO:  I think James Dobson is the most powerful religious right leader in the media‘s eyes. 

SHUSTER:  It probably means he isn‘t.

KUO:  No, listen, he‘s a very powerful man, but he has also done extraordinary damage to his ministry, Focus on the Family, so much so that they have pushed him out of the way so that they can focus on their ministry.  You know, the more James Dobson focuses on politics, the more the ministry tries to sort of distance themselves from him. 

And so he‘s a powerful person.  There are a lot of people who admire and respect him.  But is he a great political force?  No.  Has he made these sorts of threats before?  Absolutely. 

SHUSTER:  And you were just talking just before we went on that the candidate you are really intrigued by is Mike Huckabee, not just because of his position as far as being pro-life, but also because of the way he talks about the poor, the way he links that to his religious viewpoint.

Explain. 

KUO:  Yes.  No, I have a lot of admiration for Governor Huckabee, because, you know, he‘s not only somebody who has sort of exerted self-discipline in his own life in terms of losing weight, but when he talks about what it means to lead this country, what it means to be a compassionate conservative, he talks about being pro-life but he also says, listen, I‘ve got to be pro-poor.  We‘ve got to take care of hunger, we‘ve got to take care of poverty, we‘ve got to deal with issues of HIV-AIDS, we‘ve got to deal with an education crisis. 

You know, that‘s what it means to him to be a compassionate conservative.  And it‘s really sad to me that people like James Dobson aren‘t giving him a lot more credit. 

SHUSTER:  And why is that?  Why do you think a guy like Mike Huckabee is not getting credit from these powerful Christian conservatives? 

KUO:  You know, it‘s a mystery to me, because if what they really want is to pursue a specific agenda, you know, that reflects Christ, I don‘t know why they wouldn‘t look at someone like Mike Huckabee, because from their particular agenda, from their particular perspective, he‘s probably the closest one out there. 

SHUSTER:  Could it be that they‘re playing politics just like everyone else and calculating that Mike Huckabee, because of fund-raising and organization, doesn‘t have as much of a chance to win? 

KUO:  Could it also be that they are invested in not having a Republican win this time around, in having Hillary Clinton run—win this time around so that for the next four years they can beat the drums and beat their chests and say, listen, we‘re really important, you‘ve got to listen to us this time around? 

SHUSTER:  That is a great point.  And I think an intriguing one as well. 

David Kuo, I can‘t let you go without saying that I know that your heart aches also because of the New York Mets, and you have our deepest condolences.  We‘ll be talking with a guest, of course.  We‘ll be talking with perhaps the most famous New York Mets fan later in the show.

But David Kuo, Washington editor of beliefnet.com, thank you very much. 

And coming up, what‘s the political fallout for Rudy Giuliani and how should he deal with separate criticism from a prominent columnist who wrote about Giuliani and declared, “9/11 has made us stupid”? 

Also, Hillary Clinton is starting to catch flack from anti-war activists over a vote last week on Iran.

We‘ll explain that. 

You‘re watching MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHUSTER:  Will Rudy Guiliani‘s record on abortion prompt a third party challenge in the general election?  According to leading Christian conservatives, that is now under consideration. 

Joining us from “The Washington Post,” Eugene Robinson, and Democratic strategist Peter Fenn. 

Now, Eugene, what‘s your reaction to these Christian conservative leaders essentially saying if it‘s Rudy Giuliani, we‘re going to abandon the party? 

EUGENE ROBINSON, “THE WASHINGTON POST”:  Well, we‘ve kind of been waiting to hear from the Christian conservatives on Giuliani and the fact that the guy leading in the national polls doesn‘t share their views on issues that are really important to them.  Especially, you know, abortion, and then you can go down the litany of other issues, too, but abortion I guess is the big one. 

I don‘t know that in the end they would actively work against Giuliani if he got the nomination.  Would they sit out the election, you know?  Maybe. 

SHUSTER:  And if they sit out, Peter, that is the difference as far as a Democratic president being in the White House. 

PETER FENN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST:  Oh, I think—I think whether they sit on their hands or have a third party candidate, it‘s devastating for the Republicans. 

The other thing that‘s devastating, David, on this, I think, especially now coming up to the elections in January—Iowa, New Hampshire, the rest of the primary and caucuses—is the more you‘re talking about the social issues for Giuliani, the more he has to deal with abortion, with gay rights, with gun control, the more trouble Giuliani is in.  And I think this is a pressure push from the Evangelicals to say, hey, you‘re not acceptable to us, we want people to pay attention to who you are.  You‘re trying to campaign on 9/11, 9/11, 9/11.  It‘s a lot more than 9/11. 

SHUSTER:  And speaking of 9/11, there was Rudy Giuliani at the NRA convention the other week, and his phone starts ringing.  And I want to play for you this clip and get your reaction.

Watch this. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUDY GIULIANI ®, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  The language of it is the people shall be secure—let‘s see now.  This is my wife calling, I think. 

Hello, Dear.  I‘m talking—I‘m talking to the members of the NRA right now.  Would you like to say hello? 

I love you.  And I‘ll give you a call as soon as I‘m finished.  OK?  OK. 

Have a safe trip.

Bye-bye.  Talk to you later, Dear.  I love you. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHUSTER:  Now, later, when Giuliani was asked about that, he says, oh, well, because of 9/11, I always talk to my wife when she‘s traveling or whenever—I always take her calls. 

Does that make any—I mean, that just seems crazy. 

ROBINSON:  The whole episode makes no sense at all.  And you just have to call it weird. 

Taking the cell phone call in the first place seemed contrived, staged and bizarre.  And the explanation doesn‘t seem to hold water. 

I mean, could she not have called an aide back stage, for example, said, “Please tell Rudy after he finishes delivering his speech that I‘m fine and I‘ll call”?  I mean, it‘s just ridiculous.

FENN:  I‘m even worse on this.  I‘d love to see the aide‘s phone call records, because my guess is he called Judy and said, hey, give—I mean, what‘s her name?  Yes, Judy.  Give Rudy a call because he‘s up there, we‘re all set.  This is the third time he‘s done this. 

(CROSSTALK)

SHUSTER:  Well, but about this whole issue of 9/11, 9/11?  Tom Friedman wrote a devastating column this weekend in “The New York Times” and he said, “We need a president who will unite us around a common purpose, not a common enemy.  Al Qaeda is about 9/11.  We are about 9/12... which is why I hope that anyone who runs on the 9/11 platform gets trounced.”

ROBINSON:  Well, this is Rudy Guiliani‘s campaign so far, is 9/11.  I‘m Mr.

9/11.  You remember me from that day.

You know, and it‘s his way of diverting attention from the fact that his views on social issues are inimical to the Republican base.  But you know, again, as Peter said, this can‘t last forever.  People do get—do see beyond 9/11. 

So it‘s brought him pretty far to this point.  But I don‘t think it can last forever.  He‘s going to have to come up with something else to say. 

SHUSTER:  You know, when we were talking with David Kuo, who was on earlier, he was saying that there‘s still some people—he was talking with a lot of Christian conservatives today trying to get the reaction to what we were talking about at the top of the show, and that is Christian conservatives saying they‘re going to abandon Rudy.  And some of them were saying that, you know what?  Just because of 9/11, I support Rudy Giuliani no matter what.  I want somebody in the White House who has been through that experience, who‘s tough on foreign policy, and that‘s the most important thing to me. 

But I don‘t get the sense that 9/11 is—with each passing week I get the sense it‘s becoming less and less of an issue for a lot of social conservatives. 

FENN:  I think that‘s right.  I mean, I think he has overplayed this.

And what I fear, if I were a Giuliani adviser, is that he‘s going to continue to overplay it right up to January.  And that‘s going to be a problem for him. 

I think that there is a sense of strength that he‘s conveying.  And that‘s holding.  But you know, there also is a bit of hubris with this.  He‘s over in London collecting checks, and he says, I‘m one of the three or four most famous people in America. 

OK, pal.  Well, aside from Oprah and over other movie star—Paris Hilton

I don‘t think you hold a candle.  But, you know, there is something about these guys.  They start to believe and believe in themselves and drink their own Kool-Aid.  And I think there‘s a little of this with Rudy. 

ROBINSON:  When he said he was number four, I had Britney, Lindsey, Paris and then Rudy. 

(CROSSTALK)

SHUSTER:  Peter and Eugene, stay with us.

And coming up, Hillary Clinton is getting slammed by Democrats for her vote last week on Iran.  And a new poll from Iowa suggests that voters aren‘t playing along with the “Clinton is inevitable” narrative. 

Also tonight, the most mysterious member of the Supreme Court speaks out in a dramatic fashion.  You will hear the highlights just ahead. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MIKE GRAVEL (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  And I want congratulate Biden for voting against it, Dodd for voting against it.  And I‘m ashamed of you, Hillary, for voting for it.  You‘re not going to get another shot at this. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHUSTER:  That was Democrat Mike Gravel slamming Hillary Clinton for a vote last week that gives President Bush authority, more authority to punish Iran. 

Meanwhile, there‘s new information today on what the Bush administration may be planning.  The New Yorker‘s Seymour Hersh is reporting a significant increase in the tempo of preparations for military strikes on Iran, with plans shifting away from a broad bombing attack against nuclear facilities and towards surgical strikes against Iranian military forces. 

Back again are The Washington Post‘s Eugene Robinson and Democratic strategist Peter Fenn. 

And Pete, why is politics for Hillary Clinton, who is looking at a general election, to say, you no know what I‘m going to vote with Republicans on this, I‘m going to give the president the authority he wants? 

FENN:  You know, I think for her they‘re looking at not getting caught in these political votes.  Three-quarters of the Senate voted on this resolution in support of it.  And I think there was a concern about that. 

I‘ll—I tell you what I would have liked to have seen on this, though—

Hillary or somebody else offering resolution that said, OK, you want to go into Iran, though, with any kind of military activity, you have to come back to us for a vote.  Don‘t think for a minute that you‘re going to use this resolution as a means for an attack on Iran. 

SHUSTER:  I don‘t want to minimize the opposition from Mike Gravel, but, I mean, there have been a lot of Democrats from Mario Cuomo, other Democrats, Joe Biden, Chris Dodd, who said, look, the Congress should not be abdicating the responsibility for this.  If the Congress believes that the president should be able to ratchet up the pressure, fine.  But as Peter said, this should not be taken as saying to the president, hey, go ahead and launch some military strikes. 

ROBINSON:  Right.  I mean, I think Biden and Dodd had a great point, which is given what‘s happened the last few years, why on earth would you give this president, you know, a tiny foothold that he can use potentially to launch more military action? 

I think there‘s a larger issue here, too, for Hillary Clinton and for the Democratic candidates.  And I would—I‘m waiting for any of the Democratic candidates really to come out with a coherent vision of the Middle East, of oil, of politics in that part of the world, America‘s role in that part of the world, an alternative vision to the coherent—I would maintain rather insane, but nonetheless coherent—vision that the Republican candidates have of more or less permanent U.S. presence in Iraq. 

SHUSTER:  And yet there‘s nothing but silence.  Even with this Seymour Hersh article coming out suggesting that they‘re stepping up the plans at the Pentagon, they‘re not going to target the nuclear facilities but they‘re going to go after Iranian military forces and hope that there will be some internal movement around with the Iranian regime, I mean, you can‘t hear a peep from some of these Democrats. 

FENN:  I think it‘s very important.  I totally agree with Eugene on this. 

I think that Democrats ought to step up to the plate on this and they ought to say, look, this is part of a larger problem but let‘s get one thing clear here.  You know, an attack on Iran is not good policy. 

This vice president, Dick Cheney, is chaffing at the bit to go in.  I mean, he has been all along.  They have a plan evidently, according to sources within the Pentagon, they have bombing sites, they have got to prioritize, they‘re readily to rock and roll if they want to. 

And I don‘t think we ought to give them any wink or nod that we‘re ready to do that.  And fundamentally, this is about Middle East politics, and you have got to solve that problem. 

SHUSTER:  But on the other hand, I mean, the Clinton campaign would argue that you have to pressure Iran in some fashion to stop doing these activities as far as providing equipment and material into Iraq.  So why not say, OK, Iran, you‘re going to keep doing this, we‘re going to give this administration that you hate a little more authority as a way simply of ratcheting up the pressure on Iran? 

Is there anything wrong with that? 

FENN:  I think there‘s nothing wrong with it.  I think the U.N. is the best place to do that. 

There are talks going on.  They weren‘t ready for this next bit of sanctions.  Hopefully they will be ready.  I think this is one of those things that may carry that big stick.  But heaven forbid, I hope we don‘t have to use it. 

ROBINSON:  Right.  And the question is, is this the best way to pressure Iran? 

I mean, the Democratic position has been that you need some sort of engagement with Iran.  This is the stick without engagement. 

SHUSTER:  Right.

ROBINSON:  And, you know—plus, think, if you were a Democratic candidate for president and you thought there was a realistic chance you might become president, imagine how it would complicate your job and your entire administration if this administration were to launch an attack on Iran before you took office.  Think of self-defense. 

SHUSTER:  And I think that is the problem with Hillary Clinton, and that is that she is probably convinced that a in her mind, yes, this is an effort to sort of ratchet up the pressure to get Iran to knock this off.  But the Bush administration doesn‘t see it that way.  They see it as Congress giving them essentially a blank check to take whatever steps they want to take.

ROBINSON:  There‘s a struggle—and, you know, we all know there‘s a struggle inside the Bush administration on how to handle Iran.  And Vice President Cheney and others believe that it is imperative to launch some sort of strike against Iran before the Bush administration leaves office. 

SHUSTER:  Eugene Robinson and Peter Fenn are staying with us.

And coming up, Clarence Thomas was spellbinding last night on “60 Minutes”. 

We‘ll show you the highlights and dissect them with our panel. 

And later, the agony of defeat.  The most famous Mets fan in America today will join us live to talk about the agony of defeat whether it‘s produced by a team that you love or by a losing presidential candidate. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHUSTER:  Still to come, Barack Obama raises $18 million this fund-raising quarter.  Mitt Romney raises about $10 million, but did he really raise that much? 

We‘ll get to that in just a moment.  But first, here‘s a look at your headlines.

(MARKET REPORT)

SHUSTER:  Clarence Thomas has served as associate justice on the U.S.  Supreme Court for 16 years now.  But for most Americans his name instantly conjures up memories of the brutal confirmation hearing he faced upon his nomination in 1991.  Accusations that Justice Thomas had sexually harassed his one time subordinate Anita Hill made Miss Hill a house hold name in America, and famously prompted Mr. Thomas to describe the proceedings as a hi-tech lynching. 

With his new book out this week, Thomas appeared on “60 Minutes” last night.  Here to discuss the remarkable interview with the reclusive justice are the “Washington Post‘s” Eugene Robinson and Democratic strategist Peter Fenn. 

I want to play two quick clips from last night.  First, here is Thomas talking about whether he won by getting confirmed to the court. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLARENCE THOMAS, SUPREME COURT JUSTICE:  What was the game?  There was no game, Steve.  This wasn‘t about winning anything.  This wasn‘t a football game.  This was about our country.  This was about a process.  This was about our courts.  This was about our Constitution.  Who won? 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHUSTER:  Thomas then went on to say the whole fight was really about abortion, not about Anita Hill‘s claims.  Watch. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Your opponents were afraid that you might at some point rule against or help overturn Roe v. Wade. 

THOMAS:  I have no idea what they thought.  They knew one thing, they weren‘t in charge of me.  So I wasn‘t going to do their bidding. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHUSTER:  It was gripping television.  Peter Fenn, your reaction to Clarence Thomas and his interview last night. 

FENN:  I think this is one angry guy who has been angry for a long time and couldn‘t wait to get it out.  He waited a long time.  I tell you, I‘m kind of appalled by it, what he said in his book.  I think one of the things that absolutely amazed me he was talking about when the final vote came and he was going in to take a bath, and his wife came in told him he won 52-48 and he said, you know, whoopty damn do, as if he didn‘t care.

He acts almost like he still doesn‘t care.  He has a big chip on his shoulder, this guy. 

SHUSTER:  Eugene, does that hurt the institution of the Supreme Court to have a guy with a chip on his shoulder, whether it was fair or unfair what happened to him. 

ROBINSON:  It‘s just weird.  It‘s bizarre.  I don‘t know if it hurts the institution.  I mean, he has hot been a tower of jurisprudence in his years on the Supreme Court.  He seems to have been an OK justice.  He hasn‘t written a lot of landmark opinions or made new law.  But he would say, well, you know, he just follows the Constitution as it‘s written.  But I watched that “60 Minutes” interview, and I couldn‘t not watch it.  It was compelling. 

This is a man with a lot of issues.  And it‘s hard to know where to

begin, among the—he said, for example, that his Yale degree—his Yale

Law School degree he keeps in the basement with a sticker on it that says,

15 cents.  He feels it was tainted and devalued because Yale kept a number

of slots open for black students and because he couldn‘t get a job as

readily when he graduated as his white classmates did.  And thus, he seems

he‘s mad about that. 

Well, I can see being mad that—if people wouldn‘t hire him.  But why does he devalue his own hard work and initiative in getting the degree.  All Yale did was give him the opportunity.  He earned the degree.  Yet he finds it tainted.  I just wish he would work out these issues privately and not saddle the rest of us with them. 

SHUSTER:  I just wish that the Supreme Court justices would do these interviews more often.  You never hear from these people.  It‘s the first time in 16 years.  It was great television.  More, we want more. 

ROBINSON:  There was a reason they don‘t do the interviews. 

SHUSTER:  Let‘s talk about the third quarter fund raising.  The quarter just ended.  Hillary Clinton, Barak Obama both came in slightly—at least Barak Obama, we knew, came in under 20 million dollars.  Hillary Clinton we think is going to be about the same.  The reason this is significant, I think, is that Barak Obama‘s been sort of taking a beating in the polls.  And if there‘s now seeing a parody in fund raising of this last quarter between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, I think that hurts Obama a great deal. 

Am I wrong, Peter? 

FENN:  I‘m not sure I agree with you.  I think couple of things.  He raised money from 94,000 donors quarter, which is a lot of donors.  He‘s able to go back to these donors again and again, because there‘s, by and large, smaller donors.  Look, the fact is they both have enough money to do what they need to do.  That‘s the bottom line of this.  I think the real crucial question now, and maybe we‘re going to talk about this, is where is it going in these primary states.  Hillary has done very well on the debates, very well national polls.

But there are now some polls out of Iowa that indicate that Obama has just slipped passed her, which is very interesting.  And Edwards, who was first, has gone down to third place. 

SHUSTER:  Let‘s talk about that poll you mentioned.  It‘s a “Newsweek” poll.  “Newsweek” was asking likely caucus goers, not just Democrats together, likely caucus goers; Obama 28, Clinton 24, John Edwards 22.  To me, that is not horrible news for John Edwards, because if he pulls this out, Eugene, that means his victory is even more dramatic and propels him even more to New Hampshire. 

ROBINSON:  Well, it‘s not disastrous news for John Edwards.  But look, he really needs to do well in Iowa.  He‘s invested so much time and effort in Iowa.  He‘s a clear third to the big two.  I think if he doesn‘t make a big splash in Iowa, Edwards‘ candidacy is in real trouble.  I think that poll, the numbers in that poll for Obama must be really encouraging, because if you can envision him winning Iowa, there could be, you know, a little slingshot out of Iowa for him. 

And I think the Clinton campaign has to be a little concerned about that. 

SHUSTER:  On the Republican side, the Republican that‘s doing the best right now in Iowa is Mitt Romney.  He has poured a ton of money into Iowa, television ads before anybody else.  It appears that—we haven‘t gotten his third quarter fund raising.  But out of the 44 million that he raised in the first two quarters, we now have learned that nine million dollars was his own money, one out of every four dollars.  What does that tell us about Mitt Romney, other than the fact that he‘s a very wealthy man? 

FENN:  That‘s interest on his fortune I think.  I think Romney has said now, he‘s going to spend what it takes.  He‘s going to continue to write these checks.  One of the reasons he‘s doing so well in Iowa and New Hampshire is because he spent 11 million dollars on television in those two states.  One of the things that Romney clearly has to do—President Clinton alluded to this over the weekend—he has got to make some moves nationally, as well as in these states, because everybody is figuring out pretty quick why he‘s doing so well in these states. 

So he has to move a little bit.  But, boy, I tell you, it‘s real tough for the other ones, because when you got a guy that has open checkbook like that and can control the dialogue in the debate, as Romney has been doing in these early states, you got to worry. 

SHUSTER:  Other thing I think on the Republican side, Eugene, is that if Romney does well in Iowa, then does well in New Hampshire, some of the other guys who are still raising some pretty decent money, like Giuliani, the oxygen starts to suck out of the system, if all anybody is talking about in the media is Mitt Romney wins Iowa, Mitt Romney wins New Hampshire, Mitt Romney heads to South Carolina. 

ROBINSON:  I think that‘s what he‘s counting on.  I think he‘s counting on doing very well in those states and then seeing where things stand after that.  And he‘s counting on sucking some of the oxygen out of the air and getting this momentum that propels him into the rest of the primary season.  I wonder if people will start making an issue of the question, does quarter of your money come from your own pocket, are you buying the Republican nomination?  Maybe some of his opponents will pick up on that. 

SHUSTER:  It does seem, Peter, -- like I can credit many of my colleagues for this, but Romney sometimes does come across as sort of typical smooth country club Republican.  When you find out that the guy is worth 250 million dollars, is pouring a buck for every four dollars that is raised—

FENN:  I hate to say it, but I think he did a very smart thing.  That is that he started off with a big bang with his fund raising.  He had that group go up to Boston.  They dialed for dollars for a day.  They raised six million dollars just, boom, right off the bat.  And he now is in the position of writing the checks.  People, the polls show, they don‘t care that much about it. 

And he‘s not a Ross Perot type figure.  He‘s raised a serious amount of money.  And this has been a tradition in American politics I think and people, as long as it doesn‘t appear that they‘re totally trying to buy it themselves, but this is just part of the mix, they get away with it.  I hate to say it, but I think he‘s getting away with it. 

SHUSTER:  Speaking of getting away with things, the media, of course, loves John McCain because it seems like he‘s back to the old John McCain. 

He‘ll just say whatever sort of is on his mind, sometimes no filter.  It

seems like he‘s having fun.  His poll numbers are going up.  This weekend -

I believe it was this weekend or the end of last week, he was quoted as saying that since this nation was founded primarily on Christian values, personally, I prefer somebody who has a solid grounding in my faith to be president. 

He quickly had to backtrack say, well, if it‘s a Muslim and they‘re qualified and can protect this country, sure, that‘s fine. 

ROBINSON:  As you said, he quickly backtracked.  It was kind of unvarnished McCain.  I‘m not sure that‘s going to hurt him among Republican primary voters a whole lot.  He has plenty of time to moon walk in case he gets the nomination.  And can come back and be more ecumenical. 

FENN:  Of course, he had other problem, which was that he‘s been an Episcopalian all his life, went to an Episcopal high school right across the river here in Virginia, and then he was telling people that he was a Baptist.  All the folks in South Carolina might have liked that, a lot of Baptists down there.  But folks are saying, wait a minute, I don‘t get this.  Are you Episcopalian?  Are you a Baptist.  I‘m a Christian now.  I guess that works. 

I think John McCain probably wishes he hadn‘t said it the way he said it.  That‘s why he‘s going to do his moon walk. 

SHUSTER:  One other person who probably regrets saying something the way he did was Newt Gingrich, who said that if he raised enough money, 30 million dollars, we get in the presidential race.  And we just found out he‘s not going to run.  He either had money problems or he realized he‘s not as popular as he thinks he is.  Newt Gingrich is gone.  That‘s the end. 

ROBINSON:  I think it‘s a loss for journalism.  I don‘t know that it‘s a loss for the country.  Certainly for columnists. 

FENN:  Makes great column. 

ROBINSON:  The man is a quote machine.  So we will miss him for that.  But then again, he‘ll still be making quotes, I think.  He‘ll still be manufacturing quotes, just not as candidate. 

FENN:  I think that is absolutely right.  He will be out there.  But I always thought when I heard that, the 30 million dollars in 21 days, boy, that would set some serious fund raising record. 

ROBINSON:  I never thought he was going to be a candidate. 

SHUSTER:  Well, whether the politician is a Democrat or the politician is a Republican, whenever they set a goal for themselves and they don‘t make it, great for us. 

ROBINSON:  That‘s right. 

SHUSTER:  In any case, Eugene Robinson, columnist at “The Washington Post,” and Peter Fenn, Democratic strategist, thank you both  very much.  We appreciate you coming in. 

The New York Mets fans know all about the agony of defeat, especially after losing yesterday‘s baseball game and their shot in the playoffs.  We‘ll talk with this very disappointed fan coming up. 

Plus, breaking news about pop star Britney Spears, this time involving her two young children.  What happened this time? 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHUSTER:  Politics make for a great spectator sport, but not since 1948, when Thomas Dewey snatched defeat from the jaws of victory to lose to Harry Truman, has politics seen the kind of melt down that the New York Mets and their fans experienced in the last two and a half weeks.  Having seen his team blow a seven game lead to Philadelphia, Mets fan George Zafiris made the “New York Times” the hard way, as the picture of grief and disbelief.

For every candidate but one currently running for the presidency, there will be a similar empty feeling in 2008.  So how can the also rans and their die hard supporters prepare for their own disappointment?  To share his pain and offer some preemptive council to all but one presidential hopeful, New York Mets fan George Zafiris joins us now.

GEORGE ZAFIRIS, METS FAN:  It‘s the morning after and it hurts even more.

SHUSTER:  They were seven games ahead of the Phillies with 17 games to play.  You were there yesterday when they lost the last game to Florida, which essentially gave it to the Phillies.  When the picture was taken of you, describe what you were thinking when the final out was recorded.

ZAFIRIS:  First thing I thought to my head was, what am I doing tomorrow?  I‘m not going to Phillie.  This is over.  I need to re-plan my life.  I had taken some vacation time in hopes that we were going to make the playoffs, and I was looking up to the heavens and hoping that there would be some kind of intervention and tell me this was all a dream.

SHUSTER:  When you realized it was not a dream, that it was just a photographer from the “New York Times?”

ZAFIRIS:  That‘s when it became more painful.

SHUSTER:  We‘re going to be talking about a lot of pain for presidential candidates in the months ahead, a lot of supporters who have essentially poured their heart into a presidential campaign.  What‘s your advice for somebody who puts their dreams in a team and sees them choke the way the Mets did? 

ZAFIRIS:  Well, you know, there‘s always a plan out there.  And if they maintain their plan and make it nice and steady and follow what their thoughts are and play out their hearts and speak the truth, then they will be on the right path.  But always with that type of advice, there‘s always a cliff fall.  And it happened with the Mets and it‘s pretty rough and tough. 

SHUSTER:  George, the—Willie Randolph is the manager.  He said the bottom line is we spit away an opportunity to win the division.  It‘s going to be a tough winter living with that.  Tough for you? 

ZAFIRIS:  It‘s going to be tremendously tough being an avid Mets fan, and Mets fan for years.  I‘m going to have to do some soul searching and figure out what kind of advice I can give to Willie to make it a little bit better for 2008. 

SHUSTER:  Would you give up all this attention that you‘ve gotten for being the face of the losing fans, would you give it all up for a victory yesterday, even if there was no guarantee of how they would do after that? 

ZAFIRIS:  Without question.  There‘s no doubt in my mind. 

SHUSTER:  What are you going to do with the attention now that you do have it, now that you‘re the face of the New York Mets losing in 2007. 

ZAFIRIS:  The agony of defeat, George Zafiris; I see it coming. 

SHUSTER:  George, does it make it worse that the Yankees won the wild card and the other team from New York is still alive? 

ZAFIRIS:  Well, I‘m a New Yorker, although I‘m getting a lot of ribbing from the Yankee fans, I‘m going to have to support them. 

SHUSTER:  George, have you ever considered switching teams? 

ZAFIRIS:  Never!

SHUSTER:  George, I don‘t want to embarrass you or put you on the spot, but I wonder if you would take this opportunity to publicly apologize on behalf of the New York Mets for breaking so many hearts over the last two and a half weeks, would you like to do that? 

ZAFIRIS:  I‘ll tell you what I can say.  It‘s what Tug McGraw said a long time ago; you got to believe and I‘m going to believe. 

SHUSTER:  Now we‘re hearing the music “Meet The Mets.”  Do you want to take this opportunity to sing along?  How does it go, George?  National television, you can sing along? 

ZAFIRIS:  I‘ll pass on that one. 

SHUSTER:  All right.  George Zafiris, you‘re a great sport.  You are the most famous New York Mets fan today.  Unfortunately, of course, they lost and choked in a very big way.  But George, thanks for coming in.  We appreciate it. 

ZAFIRIS:  Thank you very much, I appreciate it. 

SHUSTER:  For all those tears at Shea Stadium, it was quite the opposite in Philadelphia, the first team to get 10,000 losses is finally on a winning streak.  But how long will it last?  Only time will tell.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHUSTER:  On the heels of that last segment, it is worth pointing out that for at least few more weeks the St. Louis Cardinals remain world champions.  With that, a big suck up to our boss, Bill Wolff.  Bill?

BILL WOLFF, MSNBC VICE PRESIDENT:  Successfully executed, David.  I appreciate it.  To all faithful St. Louis fans, may I say, it was a rough season for the Birds on the bat.  But we did take part in the Mets‘ downfall last Thursday night and there was some pleasure in it.  Although I better be careful, because all of our bosses, Mr. Phil Griffin, despondent today.  So I got to take it easy on the Mets for professional consideration. 

David, the heartache of the New York Mets and their faithful fans is well documented by now, as their self destruction transcended the sports world, leaked into the consciousness of anyone whoever ever lost at anything.  As great and true as your pain is, please know, Mets fans, that the entire country is laughing behind your back.  But there is a flip side to the pain and anger in New York, and it‘s going on in the city of brotherly pain and anger, Philadelphia, PA, where the fighting Phills have post season berth for the first time since 1993. 

Philly, of course, hasn‘t seen a professional sports championship of any kind since 1983.  And they‘re acutely bitter partisans have booed everyone, from all time great Mike Schmidt to Santa Claus.  Their greatest sports hero is the boxer Rocky Balboa, who, David, does not actually exist.  And the title of the book that chronicled the Phillies one world championship was “You Can‘t Lose Them All.”  So the happy bedlam in Philly was alarming, really, on one level. 

How will the angriest fans alive deal with prosperity, David?  Is this the last sign of the apocalypse?  Do the end times start on a Sunday afternoon in south Philly?  Fear not, dear viewers, things are back where they belong.  Because within six hours of their exulted glory, Philly fans were back to the comfort of total misery when the beloved/hated Eagles took a shameful battering from their arch-rivals the New York Giants on NBC‘s Sunday Night Football.  Happiness they hardly knew you. 

These are great times in Philadelphia, David.  I support it. 

SHUSTER:  These are great times to be able to control the message from

MSNBC. 

WOLFF:  All I can tell you is, nobody deserves one little sliver of pleasure like the people of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  There‘s a website whose name I cannot say on TV because it contains one of the seven dirty words, it‘s all about how many hours, minutes and days it has been since the last championship in Philly.  And they are now in year 24. 

From the pitiable disappointment of Mets fans and exultant but bitter Philly fans to the pitiful bitterness of one New York Jet fan.  His name is Carl Mayer (ph) and he publicly admits to rooting for the Jets.  He is suing the New England Patriots and their coach Bill Belichek for more than, get this, 184 million dollars in the wake of the spying scandal from four weeks ago.  The suit says that the Patriots and their coach, quote, violated the integrity of the game and therefore, misrepresented their product to the consumer. 

You‘ll recall that the Patriots were caught videotaping the New York Jets secret signals.  You will also recall that the Patriots pummelled the Jets and that the Patriots win the Super Bowl every other year or so because they‘re excellent.  That every team in every sports spies on their opponent, and that the Jets have not been to the Super Bowl since eight days before Richard Nixon was inaugurated, the first time, David.  So—

SHUSTER:  Bill, really important question in all this.  The man who is bringing the lawsuit, is it true that he went to Ohio State University‘s law school?

WOLFF:  Is that true?  Did you read that?  Did you Google that?  Was that on the Internet? 

SHUSTER:  I just assumed that somebody would bring something that scurrilous—

WOLFF:  Because you went to Michigan, David.  Leave partisanship out of this, David.  It‘s not fair.  Let‘s get away from sports on to the important news of the day.  It‘s breaking Britney Spears news, David.  It‘s both sad and remarkable.  A Los Angeles judge today ordered that Kevin Federline, Britney ostensible, never do well ex-husband, take sole custody of their two children, Sean Preston and Jayden James, by this Wednesday and until further notice from the court. 

In recent weeks, Miss Spears, the one time teen and dirty old man idol, has faced charges that she is unstable, a drug abuser, an unfit mother, a bad driver, an exhibitionist, and not in shape enough to wear a sequinned bikini on national television. 

The story is sad, David, in that the separation of a mother from her children is always genuinely a sorry deal.  It is remarkable in that Kevin Federline is suddenly and officially better at something than somebody else and that thing is parenthood.  Oh, to have laid a 50 dollar wager on that two years ago!  Very sad story.  Remarkable story, David.  Big K-Fed fan, are you? 

SHUSTER:  I love K-Fed.  I‘m very happy that he‘s getting the kids.  I think he‘s going to be a terrific parent. 

WOLFF:  Sad for Britney.  Got to be sad for Britney.  Speaking of sad, David, finally another story of love and loss from the City of Sin, the Jewel of the desert, Las Vegas, Nevada, where Pamela Anderson, one of my personal favorites, reportedly acquired a marriage license over the weekend with her current flame, a Mr. Rick Solomon.  This according to the Internet, specifically TMZ.com. 

Miss Anderson‘s representatives denied that she‘s married, but she did reveal to Ellen Degeneres that she‘s engaged.  For his part, Mr. Solomon mad featured role in the Internet sex tape starring Paris Hilton and he was once married to former “Beverly Hills 90210” bad girl Shannon Dougherty.  Pam, of course, married to Motley Crew Tommy Lee, with whom she has two children and a sex tape of her own, and to midwestern rock star, Kid Rock, who recently threw down with Tommy Lee at the MTV Video Music Awards.  Classy stuff. 

SHUSTER:  Willie, you are great—Willie—why am I saying Willie? 

Bill Wolff—

WOLFF:  Tucker, my pleasure.

SHUSTER:  Bill, thanks as always.  By the way, everybody, it was Bill Wolff, the brilliant Bill Wolff who wrote that incredible segment for George Zafiris.

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

END   

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

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