updated 10/3/2007 11:38:16 AM ET 2007-10-03T15:38:16

Guests Ivo Daalder, Stephanie Cutter, Pat Buchanan, Jack Jacobs

DAVID SHUSTER, HOST:  Barack Obama called it a major foreign policy speech, but did it contain the obvious? 

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

In the movie “Miss Congeniality,” there‘s a moment when all of the characters who played beauty pageant contestants are asked a platform question.  One after another, they all give the same answer in scene that mocks the shallow nature of the contestants and their fans. 







SHUSTER:  Today, Barack Obama, who is one of the Democratic frontrunners in the race for president, gave a major speech punctuated by this... 


SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Here‘s what I‘ll say as president: America seeks a world in which there are no nuclear weapons. 


SHUSTER:  Is Obama making a big deal out of something everybody agrees on, or is there something deeper in what he was talking about today? 

Tonight we will question an Obama policy spokesman. 

Also tonight, on the Republican side, Fred Thompson has proven once again he has his own lonely view of reality.  This time he was talking about Saddam Hussein‘s Iraq. 


FRED THOMPSON ®, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  We can‘t forget the fact that although at a particular point in time we never found any WMD down there, he clearly had had WMD.


SHUSTER:  Clearly?  How is Fred Thompson, who didn‘t know there was oil in the Everglades and couldn‘t remember much about the Terri Schiavo case, going to deal with this one? 

And later, Rush Limbaugh is under fire from the left for calling some U.S. soldiers phony. 


SEN. TOM HARKIN (D), IOWA:  Well, I don‘t know, maybe he was just high on his drugs again.  I don‘t know whether he was or not.  If so, he ought to let us know.  But that shouldn‘t be an excuse. 


SHUSTER:  And yet by focusing on Limbaugh, are the Democratic lawmakers trying to get away from focusing on the war itself? 

We‘ll have all of that and more tonight, but we‘re going to begin this hour with the major foreign policy speech today by Democratic presidential frontrunner Barack Obama. 

Ivo Daalder is a foreign policy adviser to the Obama campaign and senior fellow in foreign policy studies at the Brookings Institution. 

Thanks for joining us.

Glad to be here.

SHUSTER:  Mr. Daalder, America seeks a world in which there are no nuclear weapons.  Who doesn‘t? 

DAALDER:  Well, actually, this administration doesn‘t to start off with.  It has refused for the last seven years to make the case that we need to have a world and move to a world without nuclear weapons.  So it is different to say that we need a world of nuclear weapons and it‘s particularly difficult to make that a core of one‘s strategy.  Not only to say it, but then to put into place number of policies that get us from where we are today, a world with tens of thousands of nuclear weapons even today...

SHUSTER:  But as far as Mr. Obama said today, in addition to not wanting nuclear weapons, that there would be no unilateral disarmament, that he would work with Russia, that they would reduce stockpiles.  How is that any different from the other Democrats who are running? 

DAALDER:  Well, we‘ll see.  The other Democrats, some of them, are talking about this, but others are—in fact, haven‘t said anything about this yet. 

What Obama is trying to do is to say, listen, we live in a world in which the way we have thought about nuclear weapons needs to change.  We used to think about nuclear weapons as these pillars of our national security establishment.  The way to deal with the threats out there is to go after them with threats of nuclear weapons, not talk about when and how we would use them, which in fact this campaign we have come back to. 

He‘s saying, no, we need to be clear about what nuclear weapons are for.  They‘re only for deterring the use of nuclear weapons by other people.  And more importantly, we need to be clear that we seek a world without them. 

SHUSTER:  One of the other things he said today is he said, we‘ll strengthen the nuclear nonproliferation treaty so that the nations that don‘t comply will automatically face strong international sanctions. 

Is there a lack of strong international sanctions right now?  Because if so, a lot of people wouldn‘t see it as far as North Korea, and Iran, and the steps that the international community is already taking.

DAALDER:  Well, what he actually wants to do is he wants to get an agreement among the parties to the nonproliferation treaty.  Not to amend the treaty, but an extra agreement that says, here are the obligations that we as signers up to this NPT, the nonproliferation treaty, have taken upon ourselves.  And hereby, we agree that if one of us somehow violates that agreement, then we will impose sanctions.

That‘s an agreement he‘s going to seek within the Security Council and ultimately within—among the parties themselves.  Not to amend the treaty, but to strengthen it in order to make sure that when people do violate it they will actually pay a price. 

SHUSTER:  Much of the speech today was also about Iraq.  So let‘s play a section and I want to get your reaction to this one particular section. 

Here it is. 


SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Some now seek to rewrite history.  They argue that they weren‘t really voting for war, they were voting for inspectors.  Or they were voting for diplomacy.  But the Congress, the administration, the media and the American people all understood what we were debating in the fall of 2002. 

This was a vote about whether or not to go to war.  We need to ask those who voted for the war, how can you give the president a blank check and then act surprised when he cashes it? 


SHUSTER:  Mr. Daalder, back in July of 2004, “The New York Times” asked Barack Obama if he wanted to criticize John Kerry and John Edwards for that very vote he was just talking about.  And he said that he would not have done the same thing but that, “I‘m not privy to Senate intelligence reports.”

What‘s changed?  Why is he now saying, oh, well, let‘s go ahead and criticize and how can you not expect the president to cash that black check when he said himself three years ago that he wasn‘t—he didn‘t have access to the same intelligence information? 

DAALDER:  Well, what‘s changed is that in fact he had said before July of 2004 that this was not a vote that should have been taken.  In fact, today was the fifth anniversary of the speech he gave in Chicago arguing that we shouldn‘t—that the Congress shouldn‘t vote for war. 

This was a particular time he was asked that question.  It was just before the Democratic convention.

The Democratic presidential and vice presidential nominees had voted for war.  He was going to be the keynote speaker.  This was probably not the best time to start criticizing the nominees of his party. 

So he carefully tried to say, I don‘t really know how I would have voted, making very clear, on the other hand, both during his campaign running for the Senate and since, that he thought this was the wrong vote. 

SHUSTER:  During the debate a week ago, Barack Obama was asked whether or not U.S. troops—he could promise that U.S. troops would be out of Iraq by 2013.  And he could not, and yet in his speech today he says, “We will remove troops within 16 months of my taking office.”

So is that indication that he made a mistake last week? 

DAALDER:  No.  He‘s actually said the same thing even before the debate.  He wants to remove all combat troops within 16 months, one to two brigades a month starting today, if at all possible.  And if it doesn‘t today, the day he becomes president.  He has also said that we should maintain some troops for two very specific reasons. 

One, because there are lot of Americans who are going to remain in Iraq—civilians, diplomats, and people of the like.  They need to be protected. 

And second, if there are continued terrorist activities, al Qaeda and other activities, we want to have the military capacity inside Iraq to go after those people.  Those are the things he says we should keep troops for.  And presumably that will be passed 2013, which is what the question in the debate was about. 

SHUSTER:  Does the Obama campaign believe that not only was the vote wrong, but people who were advising, say, Hillary Clinton to make that vote, such as Madeleine Albright and others, who are now advising her again, that that is also a problem? 

DAALDER:  The campaign is about where—where the candidate wants to go to.  Mrs. Clinton and her advisers will have to defend their vote. 

What Obama said today and what he will continue to say is, the judgment that counted was the judgment of the day the vote was cast.  And on that day, it was very clear that anybody who was voting for that resolution was voting to authorize the president to go to war, to give him the blankest of blank checks that he could cash at the moment that he was going to cash it and not when there was not going to be a second chance on this. 

There was in fact a resolution which was offered at the time by Senator Levin that would have not only provided an authorization for the president to go forward on the diplomatic track, but then have to come back to the Congress to get an authorization.  On that resolution, key senators who voted for the war voted against that kind of resolution. 

SHUSTER:  Ivo Daalder, thanks for coming in.

He‘s the Obama foreign policy adviser.  He‘s also a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, talking about a very interesting speech today by Barack Obama. 

And we appreciate you coming in. 

DAALDER:  Thank you. 

SHUSTER:  Just ahead, how will Obama‘s speech play today politically? 

Our panel has some viewpoints that may surprise you. 

Also tonight, a lot of people were taken by surprise when Fred Thompson says it was clear Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.  But is self-destruction now the theme of Thompson‘s campaign? 

You‘re watching MSNBC.


SHUSTER:  Hillary Clinton raises more campaign cash than Barack Obama for the first time, but he‘s still ahead of her in the money race.  So how come he‘s not catching up with her in the national polls?



OBAMA:  I am not running for president to conform to Washington‘s conventional thinking.  I am running to challenge it.


OBAMA:  I‘m not running to join the kind of Washington group think that led us to war in Iraq.  I‘m running to change our politics and our policies so we can leave the world a better place than our generation has found it. 

So there is a choice that has emerged in this campaign, one that the American people need to understand.  They should ask themselves, who got the single most important foreign policy decision since the end of the Cold War right and who got it wrong?


SHUSTER:  That, of course, was Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama speaking today in Chicago.

Joining us to talk about the speech and the politics are Democratic strategist Stephanie Cutter and MSNBC political analyst Pat Buchanan.

Stephanie, what was your reaction to the speech today?

STEPHANIE CUTTER, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST:  I thought it was a great speech.  This is a central component of his campaign that, on one of the fund fundamental questions of our time, he got it right. 

SHUSTER:  Pat, I was struck—and we talked about this in the first segment—“Everybody is for a world that doesn‘t have nuclear weapons.”  That line suggesting that that is such an important priority that you would isolate it in your speech struck me as a bit bizarre. 

PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  No, I‘ll tell you, you know who used to say the same thing?  Ronald Reagan.

When you talked to him, he would talk about these God-awful weapons.  He‘d talk in private about them, in public about them.  He wanted to give them up. 

I think as dream that it is utopian, you‘re not going to get rid of them completely.  But the idea of eliminating more and more nuclear weapons I think has appeal to lot of people. 

And let me say this, finally, Barack Obama has really broken it with Hillary—on the biggest vote of your career you got it dead wrong.  This war should never have been fought. 

That is the one way he can move out in front of Edwards and become the alternative to Hillary Clinton in Iowa.  I think he made the right speech.  It may be a little late, but I think at least it‘s the right time right now. 

SHUSTER:  It also looked like some fancy footwork, because there he was—as we said in the last segment—in that debate a week ago, Stephanie, there he was saying, well, I can‘t promise that troops are going to be out of Iraq by 2013.  But in a speech today he says, I will have the troops out within 16 months. 

CUTTER:  Well, all of the troops out within 16 months, or the beginning of the troop withdrawal in 16 months? 

SHUSTER:  Well, he said he‘s going to start the troop withdrawal as soon as he takes office...


SHUSTER:  ... so that all of the troops will be out within 16 months. 



CUTTER:  You know, it depends what you mean by all of the troops out and what the mission of the troops are on the ground that are left there.  I think that the majority—or all of the candidates running, with the exception of Bill Richardson, believe that some troop presence is needed to protect the borders and protect against terrorism. 

BUCHANAN:  I think what he‘s saying, in effect, is—and he had a very tough time with the Tim Russert question.  And he lost a real opportunity.

I think what he should have said, David, is, look, we expect all American troops to be out of combat within 15 months, and we expect to be out of that war.  Obviously you‘ll have some soldiers at our embassy as long as things are going well.  And you can‘t know what‘s going to happen if there is genocide, but I expect them all to be out. 

SHUSTER:  Well, and just to clarify, one of the things—I mean, what he said is, “I will remove one or two brigades a month and get all of our combat troops out of Iraq within 16 months.”

CUTTER:  Right.

SHUSTER:  But in any case, there‘s been a lot of frustration among Obama supporters in recent weeks that he wasn‘t being more aggressive with Hillary.  He didn‘t mention Hillary by name, but did he need to today? 

BUCHANAN:  No.  When he said, you gave him a blank check in October of 2002 and you‘re surprised that he cashed it?  He went right at her on this.  I mean, he didn‘t have to name her. 

Why have we got that clip there, David?  We know exactly. 

And so I think he‘s really—I really do.  I think he‘s had very, very good day. 

SHUSTER:  Now, if you‘re the Clinton campaign, Stephanie, how do you respond? 

CUTTER:  Well, if I were them, I probably wouldn‘t respond. 

SHUSTER:  Just let it go and...


CUTTER:  Because you‘re lending to its coverage. 

No.  I mean, I think that they feel that they have very smartly neutralized the issue of how Senator Clinton voted versus Senator Obama‘s position before the war.  And have now moved the debate to how we‘re going to get our troops home.  And they very definitely have done that. 

I think the issue is now, is not so much when troops are coming home, but the type of thinking that you‘re going to bring to Washington in terms of a tough foreign policy that‘s also smart.  And that‘s a major message of Senator Obama... 

BUCHANAN:  You know, Hillary Clinton made a move toward the dove side. 

You know, she took the more hawkish position. 

But she came out and endorsed Jim Webb‘s proposal about Iran.  And that proposal is that President Bush has no present authority to attack Iran, to use U.S. forces to attack Iran in the absence of an attack on our forces, which means Bush has got to come to Congress if he‘s going to war. 

Now, I think that‘s going to be a huge, huge issue.  It‘s been revived.  It was out there last April.  Now with all the talk of attacks on Iran, I think it‘s important.  I think today was quite a day, David. 

SHUSTER:  Well, and it was just—I mean, it was—you‘re referring to last week‘s vote in which there was a non-binding resolution in the Senate that essentially 75 or 76 senators said, look, we‘re going to give President Bush more authority to squeeze Iran and then there was Hillary today, as you mentioned, saying, well, I‘m going to join on with Jim Webb.

Is it a sign, you think, that the Democrats are increasingly aware now, Pat, of sort of the anti-war left and the frustration that they see this happening all over again, whether it was what happened with Iraq happening now with Iran? 

BUCHANAN:  Well, I think they‘ve got to be nervous about the Iran thing.  On the political side, I think Hillary Clinton—I believe if she wins Iowa it‘s over.  And I think she realizes that Iowa is an anti-war state. 

And if Obama can move Edwards out of the way and beat her there, this race is wide open, because he‘s got plenty of money to go the distance, and Edwards doesn‘t.  If Hillary loses, she‘s saying, lord, please have Edwards beat me and not this other fellow. 

SHUSTER:  And Stephanie, regarding the money, Hillary Clinton out-raised Obama in this, the third quarter, $22 million for the primary, as opposed to 19 for Obama.

Does that really matter?  I mean, they both, as Pat said, have enough money to go the distance if they need it. 

CUTTER:  Well, I think she‘s had very strong quarter.  Not just in money, but in terms of her poll numbers. 

I mean, in every sense of the word she is the frontrunner right now. 

And the money reflects that, the 100,000 new donors reflect that. 

I do want to go back for a second to the Iran question.  I think that her support of the Webb amendment is not just a reflection how Iowa voters are going to react, it‘s how the country is going to react, because this administration, in many people, many security experts‘ opinion, some (INAUDIBLE) and laying the groundwork. 

So, it was the right thing to do last week to identify Iran as a problem.  The national intelligence estimates have identified it as problem, and it‘s the right thing to do this week to say, hey, wait a minute, they are a problem.  But we‘re not going to go down the same road that we went down before. 

SHUSTER:  We‘re going to get into that very issue of Iran coming up later in the show. 

But coming up next, Pat and Stephanie are staying with us.

The Republican presidential race was dominated today by more talk about Fred Thompson, but it wasn‘t exactly the kind of press Thompson was looking for. 

Also, Rush Limbaugh is getting some attention from the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives.  We will talk about that later. 


SHUSTER:  The rap against Republican presidential candidate Fred Thompson has long been that he is lazy.  Well, now he‘s facing charges that he‘s also uninformed. 

Asked recently about the Jena 6, Thompson said, “I don‘t know anything about it.” 

Asked about Terri Schiavo, Thompson said, “That‘s going back in history.  I don‘t remember the details.” 

Asked about Social Security reform, which is one of the top issues on Thompson‘s agenda, he said he couldn‘t remember President Bush‘s position two years ago on it. 

Asked in Florida about drilling for oil in the Everglades, Thompson said he didn‘t know there was oil there. 

And yesterday in Iowa Thompson was asked about Iraq under Saddam Hussein. 


THOMPSON:  We can‘t forget the fact that although at a particular point in time we never found any WMD down there, he clearly had had WMD. 


SHUSTER:  Thompson later amended his answer to say he was referring to the use of chemical weapons against the Kurds more than 17 years ago. 

Joining us again are Democratic strategist Stephanie Cutter and MSNBC political analyst Pat Buchanan. 

Pat, you want to defend Thompson?  Go for it. 

BUCHANAN:  Yes, I will.

Look, in 1991, Saddam Hussein clearly had WMD, the same things he had been using against the Kurds.  He had a lot of them, as a matter of fact. 

SHUSTER:  Which we gave him. 

BUCHANAN:  Chemical and biological weapons probably.



BUCHANAN:  But look, he had them.  And then by 1995, under the U.N.  inspections and sanctions, his son-in-law came out and said, Saddam said destroy all of them, they had destroyed them.  And everybody still thought he had some left, everybody did.

I didn‘t think it was a threat.  But—and he didn‘t have them.  So to actually—Fred Thompson, his only problem is he looks tentative here.  If he just used the dates, he‘s right. 

SHUSTER:  Well, but Pat, the issue was the main reason we went to war is because we thought there were weapons of mass destruction.  There were no weapons of mass destruction when we went into Iraq. 

BUCHANAN:  In 2003 there were none.  Clinton thought there were some.  Bill Clinton and Hillary and Bush and everybody, even I thought there were a few left.  Everybody did.

CUTTER:  Pat...

SHUSTER:  All right.  But larger issue...

BUCHANAN:  He didn‘t have them in 2003.  We knew that. 

CUTTER:  He didn‘t.

SHUSTER:  The larger issue, though, is that once again, there...


CUTTER:  But that‘s not what he was saying. 

BUCHANAN:  No.  He said there was time when he had them.  And he‘s right. 

SHUSTER:  Well, but he was—he was making a case for the war saying that—look, the larger issue in all this, Pat—I‘ll cede a little bit of territory on this, but the larger issue is that here again is this sort of idea of Fred Thompson either being sort of uninformed or clumsy or just sort of living in his own sort of reality. 

Isn‘t that a problem?

CUTTER:  It‘s like he hasn‘t read a paper for the past 10 years. 

BUCHANAN:  Well, it takes a little thought.

But look, I do think this, Fred has been out of politics since I think, what, 2002, when he gave up his Senate seat.  And since then, clearly he has not involved himself in these daily things that we cover every day.  And it‘s coming through again and again and again, and it‘s hurting him because this was a time when he‘s really supposed to take off.  And he hasn‘t taken off. 

And the $8 million in the first—his first quarter is not good numbers.  The second quarter is going to be a very tough one.  He may have to go for matching funds. 

So, yes, he‘s got a problem, but he‘s not entirely wrong on WMD. 

SHUSTER:  Stephanie, this is just teed up for you.  Why don‘t you hammer away. 

CUTTER:  I think that if you travel to pretty much anywhere in America, they will have heard of Terri Schiavo and understood what the facts were in that controversy.  And it was a real turning point fort the Republican Party, so what many call the Republican frontrunner, who doesn‘t understand what Terri Schiavo was about, that‘s a real problem. 

The other real problem is that we know that Saddam Hussein did not have WMD.  And the argument that he was making is that the war is justified.  And even members of the president‘s own administration now acknowledge that there was no WMD, there was no imminent threat. 

SHUSTER:  As Thompson sinks, who benefits in the Republican field, Stephanie?  Is it Mike Huckabee?  A lot of people think, well, the Evangelicals were hoping for Fred Thompson.  Maybe Mike Huckabee is their guy, though Huckabee is still cutting a pretty low profile. 

CUTTER:  I think Huckabee is—you know, I think President Clinton said this a couple of days ago, that he could be the guy that surprises us all.  He hasn‘t made a mistake yet.  You know, he‘s a right wing conservative but he‘s not angry. 

He gives great speeches.  He‘s flawless in debates.  And, you know, he surprised everybody in the Iowa Straw Poll. 

BUCHANAN:  Well, let me speak as right wing conservative who is angry, Stephanie. 


BUCHANAN:  Look, I think the beneficiary I think is Romney for this reason—Thompson was a tremendous threat in South Carolina to stop any momentum Romney had.  He was very strong with the Christians.  He‘s being attacked by them, and he was the conservative alternative, you know, everybody is waiting for.  And Romney had not closed the sale. 

And as Thompson recedes, I think you‘ve got to find somebody who is going to beat Romney in South Carolina if he does make that one, two, three Iowa, New Hampshire, Michigan run in 10 days.  And if Thompson doesn‘t do it, it‘s hard to see how Rudy rallies the evangelicals in South Carolina to stop him. 

So I think the logical—the beneficiary may very well be Romney, but I‘ll say this about Huckabee—did you see the poll in New Hampshire?  He‘d gone up I guess after the Iowa Straw Poll, then it came rolling right back down. 

SHUSTER:  Right.  Well, and he‘s still not raising as much money. 

CUTTER:  Right. 

BUCHANAN:  And he‘s not raising enough to go the distance.

CUTTER:  McCain, though...

SHUSTER:  And on that—well, there‘s also McCain.  But on that point, I mean, I don‘t want to sort of write off Fred Thompson.  He did raise $8 million over this—his first quarter.  Although that‘s about half of what Giuliani raised in his first quarter as a presidential candidate.  But in any case...

CUTTER:  And he supposedly was spending most of the time fundraising for most of the quarter. 

BUCHANAN:  You know, McCain could help—New Hampshire, McCain is emerging as the threat to Romney. 

CUTTER:  Yes, I agree with that. 

SHUSTER:  Pat Buchanan, Stephanie Cutter, stay with us.  We‘re going to talk more politics on the other side of this break.

But coming up, Fred Thompson isn‘t the only one suffering from foot in mouth disease.  Rush Limbaugh is facing a resolution in the U.S. Congress.

Also, we have new information tonight about possible U.S. military plans for Iran.  Meanwhile, the politics keep getting more intriguing on Iran.

We‘ll explain after this.  



SHUSTER:  This morning‘s “Washington Post/”ABC News poll suggests that Americans understand that Congress derives its war power from its purse strings.  And our fellow citizens are increasingly fed up with the Democrats‘ inability to exercise that power.  Fully 70 percent believe that Congress should reduce the Bush administration‘s proposed $190 billion war budget for the next year, including the 46 percent who think the budget should be decreased sharply or entirely. 

Does Congress have the political will to satisfy the public‘s expressed desire?  And if they don‘t have the votes, can they get them?  Here to analyze the landscape on Capitol Hill are Democratic strategist Stephanie Cutter and MSNBC political analyst Pat Buchanan.  Stephanie, I hear from the Democratic leaders that, if in fact they were to cut the funding, they would lose a lot of seats in some of these swing districts. 

But every I time I hear that, it sort of rings as if the Democrats care more about maintaining power than actually getting out of Iraq? 

CUTTER:  I think anybody who has followed the Iraq debate in Congress for the past two years would understand that that‘s just not the case.  Democrats have led on the issue and moved the ball down the field, in terms of getting the president to change policy and getting Republicans to acknowledge that stay the course isn‘t working. 

Now, the reality is we have a very slim margin in the Senate.  You need 60 votes to do anything.  And unless we get enough Republicans to join with us, we can‘t take any action in the Senate. 

SHUSTER:  You can take more votes in the Senate.  Even Mike Gravel was saying in the debate last week, why not have a vote every day at noon, force these people and keep sending the bill back to President Bush. 

CUTTER:  And not get anything else done in the country?  Not provide children health care?  They want a lot of other things done too.  Leadership is not leading in a vacuum.  It‘s leading a country as a whole.  There are lot of issues, unfortunately, that we have to deal with in this country, and turn the clock back on some of the damaging things that have been done. 

SHUSTER:  Pat, what do these polls portend for the Democrats if they can‘t get this war wrapped up?

BUCHANAN:  The country is turned off on the Congress for the simple reason, Congress does have the power to end this war.  They have the power to appropriate and Bush can‘t spend any more than they appropriate.  They could appropriate not all of the funds the president wants, but a certain amount of those, and say these are to get the troops out of Iraq, sir.  That‘s what we want done. 

Congress does not have the courage of its convictions.  Congress is unwilling to take the consequences of imposing its policy on the president, because it is terrified what the president says, we‘re going to have a humanitarian catastrophe, a blood bath and a strategic disaster.  They are scared to death he is right.  Frankly, he may be right.

That‘s why they lack the courage to end this war. 

CUTTER:  Five votes.  Five votes offered by Democratic leadership on the Defense Authorization Bill two weeks ago that failed because Republicans wouldn‘t join them.  And it wasn‘t just cutting off the money, which the Feingold amendment did.  It was changing the mission, protecting our troops.  It was beginning redeployment to focus on al Qaeda, all of the things that the American people want us to do.  The reason we can‘t do them is not because Congress doesn‘t have the courage of its convictions.  It‘s because the Republican party is not willing to stand up to the president and change policy. 

BUCHANAN:  You cannot micro—

CUTTER:  The other thing in this poll—sorry, I didn‘t mean to cut you off, Pat.  The other thing in this poll is that if you separate Republicans from Democrats, Democrats go up ten points.  They have a higher approval rating than Republicans.  The other thing is, 53 percent of independents want action in Congress on the war.  At the end of the day, elections are about choices.  When you come down to it and you look at, whether Democrats or Republicans are better able to handle the issue of Iraq, Democrats win hands down. 

BUCHANAN:  Come on, you and I know that president can‘t spend a dime that they don‘t appropriate.  I agree with you; they can‘t get the 60 votes to impose their certain conditions and things like that.  The Republicans won‘t join them.  But they do have the votes to cut off the funding for the war. 

CUTTER:  Sixty votes? 

BUCHANAN:  Fifty.  Just do not appropriate the money.  It‘s very simple.  Don‘t appropriate the money. 

SHUSTER:  I have never heard anybody apologize for interrupting Pat Buchanan.  But I‘m going to interrupt him now and move on.  One of the best -- one of the great debates we‘re seeing playing out in Congress involves Rush Limbaugh, who on his radio show referred to a caller, who referred to soldiers who complain about the Iraq war as phony soldiers, phony.  So this group VoteVets.org is taking out an ad that they are running in a couple of places, including Rush Limbaugh‘s home town.  Here‘s the ad. 


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  More and more troops and veterans of Iraq believe George Bush‘s military policy has been a disaster.  I am one of them.  Rush Limbaugh called Vets like me phony soldiers for telling the truth about Iraq.  Rush, the shrapnel I took to my head was real.  A traumatic brain injury was real.  And my belief that we are on the wrong course in Iraq is real. 

Until you have the guts to call me a phony soldier to my face, stop telling lies about my service. 


SHUSTER:  There have been resolutions in the House, condemnations in the Senate, condemnations by Harry Reid.  Rush Limbaugh has responded by calling Harry Reid a bone head, saying that Harry Reid should resign.  Pat, who is winning this argument? 

BUCHANAN:  I think that—clearly Rush is being hurt to some degree, no doubt about it.  My view, looking at what he said—somebody called up, was describing this guy, was saying all these things.  Rush said—he should have said phony soldier rather than phony soldiers.  But I think the Democrats seized upon this.  I don‘t think the Democrats are helping themselves. 

Good heavens the majority leader and Harkin is saying it‘s Rush on drugs.  He‘s a radio talk show host who has an entertainment show as well as a political show.  And the whole Democratic Congress is in a fight with Rush Limbaugh?  This is not MoveOn.org, where they took out a premeditated ad saying Petraeus, Betray Us, which is real assault upon his character, his veracity. 

SHUSTER:  Here‘s the problem, Pat.  That is Democrats were arguing that the Petraeus ad took attention away from arguing about the war, from thinking of the soldiers, from thinking of the policy.  The Democrats, Stephanie, are falling into the same trap by focusing on Rush Limbaugh.  There‘s a focus on Limbaugh and not on what‘s going on in Iraq.  How does that help them? 

CUTTER:  First of all, they‘re not debating Iraq on the floor as we were two weeks ago, when Republicans were seizing on the MoveOn ad.  They were thankful to have something else to talk about than the actual policy.  I think this is giving Republicans a taste of their own medicine.  You know, Rush says things like this all the time.  Let‘s hold him accountable for this. 

If he believes—if it‘s true that he wasn‘t talking about phony soldiers, why did he edit his transcript and why did he go after Murtha the next day. 

SHUSTER:  I want to know why Rush Limbaugh on his radio show last week, when talking about some of this stuff, referred to himself, Pat, as a battleship.  Now there‘s all sorts of temptation to talk about Rush Limbaugh as—


SHUSTER:  Talk about battleships with Rush Limbaugh, maybe we should be talking about the Bismarck, given his sinking ratings.  In any case, let‘s move on. 

BUCHANAN:  One point very quickly, this manifests the Democrats‘ frustration.  I think you make the point.  You can‘t debate this.  They‘re at 18, 21 percent, whatever it is. 

CUTTER:  Thirty eight.  

BUCHANAN:  They can‘t get anything done in the Congress, so they‘re attacking Rush Limbaugh.  They‘re failing their constituency and they‘re trying to make up for it, trying to compensate. 

SHUSTER:  They‘re also not talking about this issue of Iran.  We were talking about it a little earlier with Jim Webb and co-sponsor Hillary Clinton, saying that if you, Mr. President, are going to launch war in Iran, you must come back to Congress.  That‘s smart politics by Hillary. 

BUCHANAN:  That‘s not only smart politics.  That‘s very serious policy, though.  Let me tell you, Nancy Pelosi had this.  This was moving forward in the House Appropriation, and she pulled it down after she went to the APEC meeting.  I‘ll tell you, this is very serious politics when you‘re talking about Iran, because, frankly, Israel is terrified of Iran.  It‘s the number one issue of the Israeli lobby.  It‘s the number one issue of AEI and all these folks. 

The president has got to take out those nuclear plants.  Lieberman‘s number one issue is he‘s got to hammer the camps.  Hillary is now saying with Webb, he hasn‘t got the authority to do it until he comes up to us and gets another authorization like October 2003.  I think this is very big stuff. 

SHUSTER:  I got to say one thing about the Israeli policy, Pat, is you start hearing a lot of them say that they‘re actually more afraid of Iran now because of Iraq, that the Iraq war, with how bungled it was handled, has actually made Israel less safe.  That‘s another reason they‘re concerned about Iran. 

BUCHANAN:  Israel wanted us to hit Iran.  They were saying what are you going after Iraq for.  The big threat—it‘s the nuclear one that bothers them.  The long range missiles, Iraq didn‘t threaten them. 

SHUSTER:  Real quickly, there‘s a poll out that is among young Evangelicals, 45 percent approval now for President Bush among young Evangelicals, older, 52 percent.  We had this segment yesterday.  We talked about some Evangelical Christian conservatives who are now saying that they will not support Rudy Giuliani under any circumstances. 

Clearly conservatives, Pat, social conservatives are very angry.  How does this all play out, given that they‘re so angry at President Bush?  They‘re angry at Rudy Giuliani; where do they go? 

BUCHANAN:  The thing—frankly, what the Republicans are hoping for if Rudy wins—say he wins the nomination, that Hillary Clinton will bring them all home, their fear and terror at Hillary being president of the United States.  It certainly will bring a lot of them home.  They are people, whatever you say, who do believe.  They‘re right to life people.  They do believe in the sanctity of marriage and so they believe these things deeply. 

And it is really hard to go in and vote for somebody that‘s been marching in gay pride parades and is proudly pro choice on abortion. 

SHUSTER:  Pat Buchanan with the last word.  Stephanie Cutter, who doesn‘t want to follow up on that.  Thank you both for coming in.  We appreciate it. 

Is the U.S. getting ready for a military strike against Iran?  We have new exclusive details from a briefing with America‘s top military officials. 

And why did Britney really lose custody of her kids?  Willie Geist sets the record straight. 


SHUSTER:  We have some new information tonight about potential U.S.  military plans to strike Iran.  According to military sources, the Pentagon has far more detailed information about the sites in Iran that are allegedly sending materials and bombs into Iraq than had been previously acknowledged.  Furthermore, there is some indication that Iran‘s Revolutionary Guards, in an effort to avoid a U.S. attack, are now in discussions and are dealing with top U.S. military commanders.

Our own MSNBC military analyst, retired U.S. Army Colonel and Medal of Honor recipient Jack Jacobs has been helping us with reporting on this story all day long.  He joins us now.  Jack, thanks for coming in.


SHUSTER:  First of all, take us through this.  It seems as if the information that the Pentagon has is a little bit more precise than anybody has thought.  Explain. 

JACOBS:  Yes, there was interesting article in “the New Yorker” by Sy Hersh that came out yesterday.  It was talking in kind of a hyperbolic and breathless fashion about how going we‘re going to after Iran because they‘re bad guys, and all the rest of that stuff.  And it doesn‘t make a whole lot of sense, because we‘re almost undoubtedly not going to go after headquarters of the Revolutionary Guards in Tehran, and so on. 

But a little investigation turns up the fact that we do have a great deal of interest, military interest, in striking those areas, those facilities that are producing weapons which are being used by Shia militants inside Iraq.  And they‘re manufactured by Iran.  These are very, very dangerous weapons, like the improvised explosive devices and large 240 millimeter mortars. 

These are produced by and supplied by Iran, and if you want to do something on the battlefield that will make a difference, the argument goes among the military, get those things off the battlefield.  The way to do it is to strike at the facilities inside Iran that are manufacturing them. 

SHUSTER:  Jack, to be fair though to Seymour Hersh, I thought the headline out of his piece in “the New Yorker” was that the Bush administration has moved away from targeting nuclear facilities, and is now going after these more tactical sites, as you mentioned, the sites where they‘re producing equipment and material and shipping it into Iraq. 

But that‘s still ratcheting up of the plans for military strikes on Iran, even if they‘re restricted to these Iranian military forces. 

JACOBS:  That‘s true.  We have to remember that we have plans, military plans, to do all kinds of things.  We have plans to defend western Europe against invasion by Russia, still.  China attacks Taiwan, we have plans to defend against that too.  It‘s not surprising that we have plans against Iran, which I think is the most dangerous country on the face of the Earth. 

But you‘re absolutely right, talking about this and talking about it openly is ratcheting up the dialogue, well the hysteria, about going after Iran. 

SHUSTER:  Talk about that dialogue.  There‘s some reporting that in fact U.S. military commanders are having talks, perhaps indirect talks with the Iran‘s revolutionary forces.  Explain where that stands and what it is that could possibly accomplish that obviously nobody is willing to talk about publicly. 

JACOBS:  We captured a bunch of bad guys, Iranian agents, inside Iraq some time ago.  Among them was a very senior guy who used to be Iran‘s man in Lebanon, running Hezbollah, effectively.  Was brought back to Tehran and then was dispatched to Iraq with the instructions—I‘m quoting, to Hezbollize (ph) Iraq.  We policed him up.  Iran would like to have him back.  And they said that they will take him back.  And in exchange, they will be happy to stop supplying these dreaded weapons to militants inside Iraq. 

SHUSTER:  In other words, we give up some of these Iranians that were captured in Iraq and Iran will pledge to stop providing some of the equipment that is going into Iraq.  Is that the gist of it? 

JACOBS:  That‘s the gist of it.  Our response is that we don‘t deal with people like that.  However, there‘s some evidence to indicate that as a goodwill gesture, we‘ve released some of the lower ranking people that we collected back to Iran.  Nevertheless, the weapons are still coming in.  And there‘s no doubt in my mind there are talks taking place between our side and theirs. 

SHUSTER:  Finally, Jack, the Pentagon has made these representations that Iran is supplying weapons and material to insurgent in Iraq.  How solid is the evidence that the Pentagon has been putting forward? 

JACOBS:  I was going to say.  It‘s interesting, we bandied about the notion of trying to find nuclear weapons inside Iran, and go after them and so on.  We don‘t have very much idea where those things are.  They have moved them around.  But I tell you this, we know where those facilities are that are producing these improvised explosive devices, these explosively former projectiles that are killing tanks and humvees, and the plants that are producing the mortars.  Those we know where they are. 

SHUSTER:  Jack Jacobs, MSNBC military analyst.  Jack, thanks for coming in.  We appreciate it. 

JACOBS:  Good to be with you. 

SHUSTER:  Things got a little crazy on “The View,” when Nancy Pelosi showed up this morning.  The speaker came to talk about the direction of the country, but she left with an indecent proposal from Whoopi Goldberg?  Willie Geist has the cringe worthy details when we come back. 


SHUSTER:  Now, the segment you‘ve all been waiting for, Willie Geist is back.  Willie, the floor is yours. 

WILLIE GEIST, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT:  Thank you, David.  It‘s a segment I‘ve been waiting for.  At least that much is true.  David, I know you‘ve been following the twists and turns of the Britney Spears custody case very closely out of our Washington bureau today.  For the benefit of our viewers, here is what we know at this hour.  An attorney for Miss Spears tells “People Magazine” that Britney lost custody of her two children temporarily because a judge accused her of failing to take a drug and alcohol test. 

The lawyer says Britney also could not provide a valid California driver‘s license.  You lose your kids because you don‘t have a driver‘s license.  Seems a little harsh.  She applied for a California license yesterday.  That‘s pending.  Spears and husband Kevin Federline now due back tomorrow for another custody hearing, at which time sources say Spears expects to get her kids back, at least in a shared custody arrangement. 

Now, David, I don‘t know if you saw this, but yesterday apparently Britney handed over the kids to Federline in the parking lot of a Carl‘s Junior fast food restaurant.  If that doesn‘t say it all, I don‘t know what does. 

SHUSTER:  I was a little confused.  She failed to take a test, as opposed to just failing the test? 

GEIST:  I think she refused to take it because she would have failed it maybe.  I think that‘s—I just love that she—right before she took the kids, she drove them through the Carl‘s Junior, left them in the parking lot, let her back-up dancer ex-husband take them home.  So what an American love story.  It‘s a lot of fun. 

We‘ll bring you up to speed on that again tomorrow, David, obviously.  Well, it looks like all that kicking down doors and shouting in a Las Vegas hotel room business all for naught for Mr. O.J. Simpson.  A California judge ruled today that any of the memorabilia from that sting operation that is, in fact, determined to be Simpson‘s must be surrendered to the Goldman family.  The judge also ruled, get this, that O.J. has to hand over his Rolex Watch. 

But here‘s the thing, Simpson‘s attorney says it‘s a fake and that O.J. paid 125 bucks for it.  That‘s not going to put much of a dent in that 33 million bucks he owes the Goldmans.  Do you really believe that O.J. is walking around with a fake Rolex?  I don‘t know about that.

SHUSTER:  I do believe.  In fact, I think all this talk from Rush Limbaugh about phony, I think maybe he was really talking about O.J.  Simpson. 

GEIST:  You think O.J. is a phony?  None of this could happen to a better guy.  I hope they take everything he has.  Well, they called it, David, a historic summit in North Korea today between Kim Jong-il and South Korean President Roh.  It was only the sold meeting between the two since the Korean peninsula was divided after World War II.  In the spirit of that have famous North Korean hospitality, the dear leader appeared historically disinterested in the get together they had. 

Kim could bring himself to utter only five words to the South Korean president and he gave him all of 12 minutes of his time before passing him off to an underling.  Presumably so he could get back to the important business of plotting the destruction of South Korea. 

Now, isn‘t that kind of, David—if you‘re going to have the summit, have the summit.  You don‘t invite somebody over for dinner and then go in the TV room and watch a football game.  Have the summit. 

SHUSTER:  He‘s one of the scariest people on the planet.  He‘s also one of the shortest. 

GEIST:  He is.  He just keeps coming out with those suits.  Those are sharp, those sort of one-piece look and the platform shoes.  Handsome devil that Kim Jong-il.  Well now, David, of strange hospitality.  Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi got a very bizarre welcome on “The View” this morning.  Before Pelosi came on stage to do her interview, Barbara Walters and Whoopi Goldberg had been fawning, fairly explicitly I must say, over Pelosi‘s apparent hunky husband, who was seated in the front row. 

But it turns out Whoopi would not be satisfied with one half of the Pelosi couple.  Prepare to be uncomfortable. 


WHOOPI GOLDBERG, “THE VIEW”:  She made history when she went from Democratic Congresswoman to the first female Speaker of the House.  Yes!  Along the way, she managed to raise five kids.  Please welcome Madam Speaker, Nancy Pelosi. 

BARBARA WALTERS, “THE VIEW”:  She says do Paul Newman, and I think she‘d like to do your husband. 

GOLDBERG:  As I said to Joanna, I would do her as well.  But we should wait on that, because you‘re still in office.  I don‘t want to cause a problem. 


GEIST:  Are we using the word do as a verb in that context around America‘s breakfast table.  I can‘t have that. 

SHUSTER:  Willie, thank you very much as always.  We appreciate it.  Tucker will be back tomorrow in our new studios across town.  For all of the hospitality here for Tucker‘s show and all of us on “HARDBALL” would like to give a special thanks to NBC News Channel Bureau Chief Jay Hurt.  Jay, thanks for everything.  “HARDBALL” with Chris Matthews is next.



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