updated 10/4/2007 12:32:46 PM ET 2007-10-04T16:32:46

Guests: Wesley Clark, Paul Waldman, Joshua Green, Kate O‘Beirne

TUCKER CARLSON, HOST:  What began as an item on a left wing Web site has evolved into a full-blown battle between Rush Limbaugh and Democrats, all the way up to the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid. 

Welcome to the show. 

A week ago, Limbaugh used the term “phony soldiers,” and depending upon whom you believe, he was describing either soldiers who lie about their service in the Iraq war or military veterans who criticize that war. 

Among those to attack the talk show host, Senator Harry Reid, who demanded an apology to the men and women of the armed services; the antiwar group VoteVets.org, which produced a television ad attacking Limbaugh; and retired Army General Wesley Clark, who wrote on The Huffington Post that Congress ought to pull Limbaugh‘s show from armed forces radio. 

Both Limbaugh and his employer, Clear Channel Communications, remain defiant and vehement in their position that Mr. Limbaugh has been misquoted, that his “phony soldier” comment referred to a specific soldier, Jesse MacBeth, an antiwar veteran now convicted of falsifying his record of service to include combat duty and a Purple Heart. 

Limbaugh attacked back on all fronts, including this response to General Wesley Clark. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST:  Is this the same Wesley Clark who was in a position—he was in a position to insist the Clinton administration and the United Nations send help to that region, try to stop the mass murder of 800,000?  Is this the same Wesley Clark who has never had to answer for his indifference to that genocide.  And worse, in the face of this genocide, in a public investigation, has never had to answer for it?  Is this the same Wesley Clark who was once a Republican who supported President Bush but then changed parties so he could run for president and then attack President Bush? 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARLSON:  So, who is telling the truth?  Who‘s right?  And in any case, why are U.S. senators spending their workdays discussing a radio talk show host? 

In a moment, General Clark will join us, as will a representative of mediamatters.org, the blog that started this tempest. 

Also today, Senator Hillary Clinton‘s lead over Barack Obama has ballooned to 33 percent in latest national poll taken by “The Washington Post”.  Is there anything at this point she could do to blow it? 

And the security contractor Blackwater has attracted congressional scrutiny this week in the wake of deadly gun battle in Baghdad.  We‘ll talk to a former Blackwater executive about that organization‘s role in the war in Iraq. 

We begin today with the high-pitched screaming match between Limbaugh and many of the pillars of Democratic leadership. 

To begin our discussion, we welcome the man right in the middle of it, MSNBC military analyst, retired U.S. Army General, Wesley Clark. 

General Clark, thanks for coming on. 

GEN. WESLEY CLARK (RET.), MSNBC MILITARY ANALYST:  Thank you, Tucker. 

Good to be here.

CARLSON:  Here is part of what you wrote on The Huffington Post.  You said this—“Since Rush Limbaugh won‘t listen to us, we‘re going directly to Congress, which can prevent him from disrespecting and censoring the voices of our soldiers.”

Now, with all respect, that‘s almost Orwellian.  You‘re accusing him of censorship and at the same time attempting to censor him by taking him off the air. 

CLARK:  Well, I think he‘s—he‘s crossed the line, Tucker.  But the point is you‘re dealing with a right wing guy who contributes to a really bad environment of public dialogue in America. 

Even the three things you quoted about me aren‘t true.  I‘ve answered many times for Rwanda, it‘s in my book.  I‘ve said it many times. 

I was never a Republican.  I never supported George W. Bush.  And, yes, I have attacked him. 

But Rush doesn‘t care about the facts.  That‘s not the point.  The point is the manner of the dialogue. 

You know when Congress took that resolution a couple of weeks ago against the organization MoveOn.org for what they said about General Petraeus, I thought, well, that‘s a distraction from what they should be talking about, which is the problems in Iraq and the Middle East.  But Congress said, no, no, this kind of—this kind of bad, bad publicity about our armed forces, it can‘t be tolerated.  This goes beyond the bounds of propriety and political dialogue and discourse, even though MoveOn paid for the ad, and paid for it in a private organization like “The New York Times”.

CARLSON:  But wait...

CLARK:  Wait, wait, wait, Tucker.

CARLSON:  OK.

CLARK:  Now, Rush comes back from the other side and calls people who disagree with his political views who served honorably in the armed forces “phony soldiers”.  And then there‘s no outcry.  Now look, we need...

CARLSON:  What do you mean there‘s no outcry?  We‘re doing a show on it right now.  Now, hold on.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON:  Wait, General, you‘re skipping over the point that—you may be absolutely right.  And I will grant you all of that.  My problem is your solution.  You want to sensor him and take him off the air. 

CLARK:  I‘m not censoring him.  I‘m not censoring him.

CARLSON:  Actually, you are.

CLARK:  No, he has every right...

CARLSON:  Let me read this right here.  It says...

CLARK:  ... to be on the air, except on Armed Forces Radio.  Armed Forces Radio is paid for by the public. 

CARLSON:  So it should only have voices you agree with?  I mean, how does that work? 

CLARK:  Let him have his own private—because if he‘s on private radio, and it‘s for-profit let him say whatever he wants, provided it‘s in the balance of propriety. 

CARLSON:  But wait a second...

CLARK:  If he‘s on public radio, that‘s a different matter.  That‘s the U.S. government paying for this. 

CARLSON:  Oh, but that‘s not the way—oh, now, General, you know from running for president and working on public policy, that‘s not the way it works.  You can‘t say that National Public Radio, the other public radio entity, I disagree with what you say, we‘re going to shut you down.  We‘re going to take certain host off the air. 

CLARK:  It‘s not that you disagree with what he says—I don‘t disagree with the substance of political discourse on these radios.  I say he crossed the line in maligning the character of people in the armed forces. 

CARLSON:  OK.  Well, others disagree.  Well, but wait a second. 

Shouldn‘t we be able to disagree?

CLARK:  Well, then we should be talking about that. 

CARLSON:  OK.  Well, we are, but you‘re trying to take him off the air, which is different than having a dialogue.  It‘s suppressing speech. 

CLARK:  I‘m not suppressing speech.  I‘m saying that in terms of having U.S. government pay to transmit that, that there should be some standards of political dialogue in America. 

CARLSON:  And what would those be and who would decide?  Would you decide?

CLARK:  I‘d like to see the Congress decide.  Congress decided that MoveOn‘s ad was out of bonds.  I think Congress ought to decide...

CARLSON:  But Congress didn‘t try to shut down their Web site.  That‘s the difference.

CLARK:  Their Web site was private.  Congress wasn‘t paying for their Web site.

CARLSON:  No, but wait a second.  Wait a second.  So you‘re...

CLARK:  I‘m not suggesting we shut down Rush‘s radio program unless he doesn‘t—but I‘m saying that there‘s no reason for the American—but listen, I‘m telling you. 

(CROSSTALK)

CLARK:  There‘s no reason for the American taxpayer to pay for Rush to assault the character of men and women who serve in the armed forces for their political views. 

CARLSON:  OK.  But hold on, General.

I want to know if you‘re going to apply that same standard to the rest of public broadcasting in this country.  And there‘s a lot of it. 

A lot of entities get money from the federal government to put opinions on the air.  You think Congress ought to decide what opinions are acceptable and which aren‘t and yank the unacceptable ones off the air?  That‘s what you‘re saying.

CLARK:  Well, no.  There are standards for propriety in public broadcasting, are there not?  I mean, there‘s X-rated, there‘s R-rated in public broadcasting.  We call it profanity.

CARLSON:  This is a political belief. 

CLARK:  Wait a minute.  Wait a minute.

We should be talking about the facts, we should be having a good discourse in America.  I don‘t see why there can‘t be standards for political discourse.  I‘d like to see A-rated, B-rated, and C-rated for political discourse. 

CARLSON:  I‘ll tell you why.  I‘ll tell you why, because it‘s...

CLARK:  I don‘t think the kind of name calling and invective that Rush Limbaugh engages in advances us.  Now, he‘s got every right...

CARLSON:  But wait a second, you had U.S. senator call the guy.

(CROSSTALK)

CLARK:  I think he‘s got every right to say it under freedom of speech.  But it doesn‘t have to be transmitted at U.S. government expense.  That‘s my point. 

CARLSON:  OK.  OK.  Well, I hope you will apply that exact same standard to the rest of public broadcasting, but I know you think you won‘t, because the rest of public broadcasting is liberal, and so you don‘t have a problem with it.

CLARK:  No, I will.  I will apply it.  You won‘t hear any liberal commentators, Tucker, say that the people who disagree with them are unpatriotic, want the enemy to win, are selfish. 

CARLSON:  Wait a second.

CLARK:  You won‘t hear that. 

CARLSON:  Wait, but hold on. 

CLARK:  They don‘t say that.

CARLSON:  The Senate majority leader called Rush Limbaugh unpatriotic. 

He said, “You‘re unpatriotic.” 

What do you think of that? 

CLARK:  He was talking about what Limbaugh said...

CARLSON:  Are you going to defend that?  Oh, that‘s OK. 

CLARK:  ... about our soldiers. 

CARLSON:  No, no.  He said Rush Limbaugh is unpatriotic. 

CLARK:  See, what we need to do is we need to be raising the whole standard of political discourse in America.  So let‘s raise it.

CARLSON:  Will you call on Harry Reid?  OK.

CLARK:  So let‘s raise it.

CARLSON:  I‘m asking you to raise it.

CLARK:  Let‘s have...

(CROSSTALK)

CLARK:  Let‘s have Congress get into this issue. 

CARLSON:  Oh, this is just political nonsense.  I mean, come on.

CLARK:  This is not political nonsense. 

CARLSON:  Of course it is.

CLARK:  Congress is in it.

CARLSON:  OK.

CLARK:  They‘re in it condemning people on the left.  I‘d like to see them take a real stand and raise the dialogue. 

CARLSON:  OK.  I‘m all for raising the dialogue, I‘m all for people not using names when they describe their political beliefs.  But taking people off the air because you disagree with them just strikes me as a dangerous precedent. 

CLARK:  It‘s not because we disagree with them. 

CARLSON:  Of course it‘s because you disagree with them. 

CLARK:  It‘s not the fact of disagreeing.  He can say whatever he wants politically. 

CARLSON:  That‘s absurd.  OK.

CLARK:  When he calls people who serve in uniform just because of their private political beliefs, he says they‘re phony, that‘s wrong.  In my view that crosses a line. 

CARLSON:  All right.  General Wesley Clark, I appreciate you coming on. 

Thank you. 

CLARK:  Thank you, Tucker.

CARLSON:  Well, it‘s not just about so-called phony soldiers.  Media

Matters is also criticizing Rush Limbaugh for his comments on a recent ad

by VoteVets.org. 

Who is Media Matters?  A representative joins us next to explain. 

Plus, Hillary Clinton expands her lead over her Democratic rival.  She leads Barack Obama now by 33 percent.  Should we crown her now?  Or could she be the New York Mets of Democratic politics? 

You‘re watching MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  The dustup over Rush Limbaugh‘s comments was sparked by a Web site called Media Matters for America.  According to its promotional materials, Media Matters is “... dedicated to comprehensively monitoring, analyzing and correcting conservative misinformation in the U.S. media.” 

What exactly does that mean?  What is Media Matters version of the Rush Limbaugh controversy?

Joining us now, senior fellow and director of special projects at Media Matters, Paul Waldman.

Paul, thanks for coming on. 

PAUL WALDMAN, MEDIA MATTERS:  My pleasure.

CARLSON:  So I just want to get to the question.  What is Media Matters?  I mean, is it a group of journalists who are upset about the lack of objectivity in the news, or is it a political organization?

Here is Hillary Clinton describing what exactly Media Matters is. 

This was on August 4th at the YearlyKos Convention in Chicago.

“We are certainly”—“we” meaning Democrats—“prepared and more focused on, taking our arguments and making them effective, and disseminating them widely.  And really putting together a network in the blogosphere in a lot of the new progressive infrastructures.  Institutions I helped to start and support like Media Matters and the Center for American Progress.”

So Hillary Clinton helped to start and supports Media Matters?  It‘s a political organization then. 

WALDMAN:  Well, we don‘t make any bones about the fact that we are a progressive organization.  We don‘t endorse candidates, we don‘t coordinate with candidates.

It was started by David Brock, whom you know.  He used to be a conservative and a big part of the conservative movement.  But when he had a change of heart, he realized that there was a big gap in the whole area of how we look at the media. 

And so what we at Media Matters do every day is we look at the mainstream media, we monitor the conservative media.  And when we find misinformation, we put it up on our Web site, explain why it‘s wrong.  And another part of what we do is we look for the kinds of things like this statement by Rush Limbaugh that people find problematic.  And when we find them...

CARLSON:  But what does this mean?  What does Hillary Clinton mean that she helped start Media Matters? 

WALDMAN:  Well, I think that she‘s supportive of what we do and a lot of people have encouraged us.

CARLSON:  Did she help start it? 

WALDMAN:  No.  I think she‘s just been someone who encouraged it and was supportive like a lot of progressive...

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON:  Here‘s my question.  I don‘t—there are many political pressure groups here, many adjuncts to both parties on the right and left.  Mostly now on the left, but at times it‘s been mostly on the right. 

But they work for the parties.  They‘re shills for politicians.  And you are, too.

That‘s fine.  But why would I listen to you any more carefully than I‘d listen to, say, the Hillary campaign itself? 

WALDMAN:  We‘re not shills for any politician.  What we—the reason...

CARLSON:  You‘re not shills for the Democratic Party?.

WALDMAN:  The reason that you can trust what we do is because we are completely transparent.  When we say that, say, Bill O‘Reilly said something that was false, you go to our Web site, we will have the quote from him, you‘ll have a transcript, you‘ll have the video of him saying it, and then you‘ll have our complete documentation with third-party sources and everything about why...

CARLSON:  Really?  OK.

Well, I‘ll give you an example, because I get your e-mails.  And I notice often that the headline and the introduction doesn‘t match the substance.  For instance, on September 25th, at 11:34 a.m., I got this e-mail from you. 

“FOX News panelist Mort Kondracke recently made several racist comments regarding the Jena 6.  Here are some examples of racism on FOX News.”

So I read down.  I know Mort.  Not a racist.  I thought, what an amazing thing to say about Mort Kondracke. 

So I go down, and it says—here‘s Mort Kondracke‘s quote.  “It looks as though the people of Jena can solve this on their own.”

That‘s the extent of his “racism”.  So I wrote a letter to Media Matters, a note, saying, “Where was the racism?”  Busted.  They wrote me back saying, sorry, I guess that wasn‘t racist, we‘re taking it down. 

The point is, the stuff I get from Media Matters is so colored by a political agenda, that it‘s ludicrous, it‘s a joke. 

WALDMAN:  Well, look, Tucker if you...

CARLSON:  I mean, like, is that racist, what he said?.

WALDMAN:  I don‘t know what‘s in the e-mail exchange...

CARLSON:  Well, here it is right there.  No, no, no.

(CROSSTALK)

WALDMAN:  If you want to go to our Web site, you can see and judge for yourself whether it‘s something that Rush Limbaugh said or something that Bill O‘Reilly said or anybody else. 

CARLSON:  Have you ever been a journalist? 

WALDMAN:  Have I?  No. 

CARLSON:  No.  So what exactly do you know about journalism or its standards?  You worked on political campaigns. 

WALDMAN:  I spent the last 15 years studying the media.  That‘s what I do for a living.

CARLSON:  But you told me—no, but you‘ve also—it says in your bio that you were a political hack, you worked on electoral campaigns and political consulting.

WALDMAN:  I‘ve done a lot of things.  But listen...

CARLSON:  OK.  So—but now you‘re posing as an expert on the media. 

It‘s pretty—that‘s not truth in advertising.  That‘s a lie. 

WALDMAN:  Listen, we have lot of people who look at the media every day, and, you know, this isn‘t about me and what my qualifications are.  I have plenty of qualifications.

CARLSON:  No, it‘s about a political agenda that it doesn‘t reveal openly.  That‘s not transparent.  That‘s dishonest.

WALDMAN:  We—no, no, no. 

CARLSON:  You‘re a Democratic...

WALDMAN:  We are not rat all hiding anything that we believe...

CARLSON:  You‘re not a Democratic group?

WALDMAN:  We are a progressive group. 

CARLSON:  Then why would I care what you say?  You‘re helping to elect a party. 

WALDMAN:  Because, Tucker...

CARLSON:  It doesn‘t mean anything.

WALDMAN:  ... if you go to our Web site...

CARLSON:  I have, and it‘s accusing Mort Kondracke of racism.

I mean, it‘s crazy.  Come on, man. 

WALDMAN:  You know, you can call us names.

CARLSON:  I‘m not calling you names.  You called him a racist. 

WALDMAN:  I think the question is, why are we having this discussion now?  We‘re seeing attacks coming from you, frankly, from people like Rush Limbaugh...

CARLSON:  I‘m not a shill for the Republican Party.  That‘s the difference.  I‘m totally independent.  I have my own views and they‘re mine alone. 

WALDMAN:  All of a sudden...

CARLSON:  You are a spokesman for the Democratic Party.

WALDMAN:  That‘s not true.

CARLSON:  And that makes what you do different from what I do.

WALDMAN:  All of a sudden we‘re seeing all of these people who want to make an issue out of Media Matters to say that it‘s part of some conspiracy because...

CARLSON:  No, because you‘re affecting the press coverage.  That‘s why.  Because a lot of these liberals in news organizations take you seriously, and I hope they‘ll wake up to know you‘re just another Democratic interest group.  That‘s fine, but don‘t pretend to be otherwise. 

WALDMAN:  You know what?  People can go and look—this came up because we‘re talking about what Rush Limbaugh said and because a lot of veterans are angry about that. 

CARLSON:  Right.  Yes. 

WALDMAN:  And what people can do is, if they want to hear what he said, they can go to our Web site and they can hear the audio, they can read the transcript and they can see the whole thing. 

CARLSON:  All right.

WALDMAN:  This isn‘t about whether Media Matters has somebody...

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON:  It‘s about electing Democrats.  And we in the media, because we share your agenda most of the time, buy into it, and it just—it troubles me. 

Look, I‘m a right winger.  I‘m open about it.  But I‘m not working for any political party, and you guys are.  That‘s all I‘m saying. 

WALDMAN:  You know, Tucker...

CARLSON:  And you know that that‘s true.  And I‘m sorry—I‘m sorry to lecture you and then cut you off, but we‘re out of time.  And I appreciate your coming on. 

WALDMAN:  Thanks. 

CARLSON:  Thanks.

Popular logic is that Hillary Clinton is one of the most polarizing politicians in America, but popular logic is often wrong.  More and more prospective voters appear to be falling in love with her.  Is the Democratic nomination hers for the taking? 

Plus, Ron Paul has been considered a long shot for the Republican nomination.  Maybe not anymore. 

We‘ll tell you how much money he has raised next. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  A mere three weeks from baseball‘s World Series, experts disagree about which team will win the American and National League pennants.  The Democratic National Convention is 10 months away and there seems to be far more certainty about that event‘s big winner, Hillary Clinton. 

She‘s the prohibitive favorite and her odds keep looking better and better.  She‘s dominating the national polls, up a whopping 33 points, according to “The Washington Post” latest poll.  And she finally topped Barack Obama in fundraising for the last quarter. 

The only apparent catch, Mrs. Clinton is in a dogfight in Iowa with Obama and John Edwards.  So which numbers matter most and is Hillary actually the inevitable nominee? 

Here to discuss it, The National Review‘s Kate O‘Beirne, and senior editor at “The Atlantic” and noted Hillary expert, Joshua Green, the man whose piece in “GQ” we would have loved to have read had it been printed.

I won‘t ask you to comment on that. 

But thank you both for joining us. 

You‘ve done a lot of reporting on Mrs. Clinton.  “The New York Times” describes her today as a person about who many Democrats have misgivings.  They‘re worried about her electability. 

Is that—it doesn‘t seem to me that‘s true anymore.  Is that true? 

JOSHUA GREEN, “THE ATLANTIC”:  I think that‘s true.  I don‘t think you see it reflected in the polls. 

I think one of the reasons is that, you know, Obama and Edwards really haven‘t launched a kind of frontal attack, they haven‘t reminded people maybe of why they might have misgivings about Hillary Clinton.  And she‘s run a terrific campaign. 

She comes across looking tough and competent and like she knows what she‘s talking about.  And at this point when you survey the field, Republican and Democrat, you kind of stand out if you can do that. 

CARLSON:  You kind of do. 

It‘s interesting.  Only 16 percent of Democrats, according, Kate, to “The Washington Post” latest poll, think Obama is the most electable.  Twenty percent say Edwards is the most electable. 

Sixteen percent among Democrats?  That‘s so much—the opposite of what I think, for one thing, although I‘m not a Democrat, admittedly.

What accounts for that?  That‘s terrible. 

KATE O‘BEIRNE, THE NATIONAL REVIEW:  I think Josh is right.  I think her performance on the campaign trail, her performance during the debates account for that.

I think she now has both inevitability and electability going for her, both growing.  Not just on the part of Democrats, on the part of Republicans. 

CARLSON:  Yes, definitely.

O‘BEIRNE:  I not talk to Republicans who are extremely nervous about the candidate they most wanted to run against. 

CARLSON:  Yes, they ought to be. 

O‘BEIRNE:  Yes.  During the most recent debate, I thought she came across as very competent.  She doesn‘t look like a scary liberal.  I think she‘s being very careful, unlike some of the other candidates playing for the national race. 

CARLSON:  That‘s right. 

O‘BEIRNE:  I‘m not so sure she‘s picturing herself against a Republican opponent.  I think the way some of her answers and the way she‘s behaving, she‘s already got herself in the Oval Office. 

CARLSON:  That‘s right.  No, no, she‘s planning for the second term race. 

O‘BEIRNE:  Yes.

CARLSON:  Exactly.  Against Jeb Bush or someone.

O‘BEIRNE:  Yes.

CARLSON:  This is the most interesting number, in my view, out of this poll.  The question is, who do you trust on Iraq?  The question asked of Democrats. 

Violently anti-war party, really sincerely anti-war party.  Fifty-two say they trust Hillary most on Iraq, 22 for Obama, 17 for Edwards. 

Now, what‘s fascinating is, that‘s in reverse order.  Edwards is the most eager to get the troops out of Iraq, followed by Obama, and then Hillary, who said she‘s going to leave a ton there.  And yet they trust her most.

What is that about? 

GREEN:  Well, and who voted for the war, too. 

CARLSON:  Exactly. 

GREEN:  You have to wonder.  I mean, these are people with short memories or...

CARLSON:  Is it really an anti-war party?  I mean, to the extent we think it is? 

O‘BEIRNE:  I think among the real activists.  If that‘s general Democratic vote, I can see a Democratic electorate.  I can see people answering that way.  If they haven‘t screened for who is going to be most like to vote in Iowa or New Hampshire or the early primaries.  The very activist base of the Democratic Party, I don‘t think that represents their views. 

GREEN:  That is good point.  But it also shows how much support she‘s got out there.  I mean, this helps to explain why she‘s, you know, leading Obama by 33 points. 

CARLSON:  But didn‘t you think she—and maybe I‘m too conventional in my thinking, apparently, because I thought her very kind of, relatively speaking, hawkish views on Iraq, no, we‘re not taking the troops out, yes, we‘re going to fight al Qaeda in Iraq into the indefinite future, yes, we‘re going to keep them there to train the Iraqi troops, I thought that would really hurt her among Democrats. 

GREEN:  Oh, but that‘s counter with the line that if George Bush doesn‘t end the war, I will.  And that‘s a message people want to hear.  I think that‘s a message Democrats, you know, hone in on.

CARLSON:  Yes, but she‘s not.  She says, I will end the war, but I‘m going to leave thousands of troops fighting. 

GREEN:  Well, the fact that she‘s not is obviously a message that hasn‘t gotten through to a lot of the Democratic voters. 

O‘BEIRNE:  She was being very responsible.  She‘s picturing herself sitting in the Oval Office. 

CARLSON:  I think you‘re right.  So that‘s what...

O‘BEIRNE:  She had to know that that answer would drive the activist anti-war base of her party crazy.  And she doesn‘t care, because she‘s playing to both the general audience and she knows she‘s planning on being commander in chief and recognizing she cannot irresponsibly withdraw all of our troops from Iraq. 

CARLSON:  Now, Obama‘s support, meanwhile—it‘s not just that Hillary has gained—at least—this is all one poll, but I think it tracks with what we‘re seeing in other places, too.  Obama‘s support the lowest since his announcement.

Among women, Hillary beats Obama 57 to 17.  So that‘s not just that they like Hillary, it‘s that they really have a problem with Barack Obama. 

What‘s that problem? 

O‘BEIRNE:  Is he looking inexperienced?  I think he looks new.  I think he looks like a freshman senator. 

I mean, he has a winning personality, certainly.  He‘s intelligent.  But I think in contrast with Hillary Clinton, women (INAUDIBLE).  Women tend not to vote for the new flavor. 

CARLSON:  Right.

O‘BEIRNE:  I think many women are apt to go with experience, somebody they feel can be trusted.  So maybe it‘s his—the fact that he‘s a novice. 

CARLSON:  I think you‘re right. 

And here is the ultimate indignity.  Among black voters, Hillary beats Obama 51 to 38.  That‘s just—this campaign is in deep trouble, would you say? 

GREEN:  I mean, it seems to be now.  I mean, let‘s remember, there‘s three months left at this point.  Four years ago, Howard Dean looked like the greatest thing in the world and was setting up staff and later on states. 

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON:  I knew that that really was a kind of mass hysteria that was going to evaporate. 

GREEN:  But the point is, there‘s a lot of time for things to happen, for people to stop and think about the real prospect of a Hillary Clinton presidency.  And...

CARLSON:  Say your prayers.  Just say—in the commercial break, a prayer chain, OK? 

Hold on.  We‘ll be right back. 

Rush Limbaugh is getting hit by the left for using the phrase “phony soldiers”.  What did he really mean by that?  Does it really matter?

Plus, Congress is trying to change the law that gives private security contractors in Iraq immunity from prosecution.  And then it will talk with the former vice president of Blackwater USA. 

This is MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(MARKET REPORT)

CARLSON:  As the controversy expands over Rush Limbaugh‘s disputed phony soldiers remark of last week, several key questions emerge.  One, what did Limbaugh actually say?  Two, if anyone, is winning this rhetorical battle.  Three, why are Senators Harry Reid and Tom Harkin and Congressman Mark Udall spending official on the clock time responding to Rush Limbaugh. 

Well, here to discuss this remarkable topic, we welcome the “National Review‘s” Kate O‘Beirne, and senior editor—we mean senior—at “The Atlantic,” Joshua Green. 

I can‘t get over—let me just say, Rush Limbaugh attacks me all the time, and calls me names.  I‘m not any kind of died in the wool Rush fan.  I feel weird defending him, and I also like it when Congress wastes time, because it‘s better than passes laws that restrict our freedom.  On the other hand, it does seem over the top.  The one thing that made me grumpy was Tom Harkin saying, Rush Limbaugh was high on drugs.  I say that as someone who is sensitive to people with addiction problems.  That does seem over the line, a Democrat attacking a guy for addiction.  I thought Democrats were all for helping people for addiction. 

O‘BEIRNE:  It‘s so uncivil.  It‘s so ad hominem.  I understand.  I can answer all of your questions.  I understand why the Democrats are doing it.  They know that they were badly hurt by the MoveOn.org ad, that their allies had run an ad in the “New York Times” accusing General Petraeus of betraying us.  They know that hurt them.  And it gave the Republicans the upper hand. 

For their part, the liberal left wing base is furious that the Democrats committed resolutions condemning the ad to come to the floor.  This is all pay back.  If you look at both the transcript of what Rush Limbaugh said, the timeline of how it transpired, that he was talking about phony soldiers, meaning those who pass themselves off as being soldiers who aren‘t, it‘s perfectly obvious that he did not accuse anybody who disagrees with back form Iraq of being phony or a fake soldier. 

That‘s completely obvious.  But they desperately need to look friendlier to the military, and they‘re going to smear Rush Limbaugh, which of course their left wing base loves.  They can‘t end the war in Iraq.  But can smear Rush Limbaugh. 

CARLSON:  Do you buy that?  I mean, the core charge that Limbaugh basically was slurring soldiers who disagreed with the president‘s war policy is phony.  Do you think that‘s what he was saying. 

GREEN:  I think that was a pretty tortured reading to come away with that.  At the same time, it‘s hard to drum up a lot of support for Rush Limbaugh, who has made a career of taking what Democrats and liberals say out of context.  He‘s made a great fortune doing this.  If anything, Media Matters‘ existence is testament to the effectiveness of guys like Limbaugh. 

Now there‘s somebody on the other side that can stand up do the same thing to him.  You want to talk about who won that round?  Rush Limbaugh today on TV, on his radio show, looked like some sobbing housewife on Dr.  Phil.  And here we are talking about—

O‘BEIRNE:  Even though I reject the premise, because I don‘t think Rush Limbaugh goes—I am a fan of him—goes around distorting.  When he has—does an entertaining jobs on Democrats, Republicans do not race to the floor of the Senate and the House to introduce resolutions and echo all of it.  What is so striking is that Media Matters can manufacture this charge against Rush, smear him and then ask presumably serious people, want to kick him off Armed Forces Radio, which is of course using the power of the government to somehow shut him up. 

If you were to hold a straw poll in Iraq, ask everybody serving, who do you think supports us more, Rush Limbaugh or Congressional Democrats.  I submit Rush Limbaugh would win that poll.  It‘s a very—

GREEN:  That‘s not even the point.  It‘s political theater.  Where we agree is that all this was done to balance out the MoveOn stuff from last week. 

CARLSON:  What about Media Matters—

GREEN:  Democrats are helpless to get President Bush to withdraw soldiers from Iraq? 

CARLSON:  Do you that Media Matters is taken by people in the news business as kind of legitimate watchdog group?  We seem to be paying attention to them, which—

GREEN:  To the same extent that real reporters listen to watchdog groups on the right.  I mean, sometimes they have a transcript.  That ought to be useful.  You can verify it.  You wouldn‘t want to take anything either side said without checking into it.  But look, they serve not so much to tell reporters what to do, as to kind of draw up these controversies, and let reporters take over from there.  That‘s exactly what has happened with this. 

O‘BEIRNE:  But when reporters take over from there, that‘s not what happened it seems to me, Josh.  They can play—I think they can play a valuable role.  They‘re spending a whole lot of time watching things that other people aren‘t.  So they can find a quote, bring it to people‘s attention.  It should speak for itself, within its four corners.  And it either has merit or not. 

They should not have the about manufacture something somebody said and then use it to smear people.  That should be—

GREEN:  That‘s fair enough, but it hasn‘t been journalists this time around.  It‘s been members of Congress, Democrats and Republicans, who have been—

CARLSON:  Speaking of Congress and the war, Dave Obey, John Murtha proposed—I don‘t know how seriously—a war tax, a tax that would fund the war in Iraq, which I think is an interesting idea and maybe worth talking about.  Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House, categorically against it.  This comes just days after Democrats voted to raise on smokers 150 percent just to tax poor fat unhealthy people in case they didn‘t have enough problems.  Right, go get them. 

Why would Pelosi be against a war tax? 

GREEN:  Because—not having spoken with her, I would assume because any talk about Democrats raising taxes is one she probably doesn‘t want to get into.  It would take the focus of the debacle in Iraq.  It would take the focus of other Democratic priorities.  But at the same time, I think you have people like Obey who want to get the point across that there‘s a cost to the war in Iraq. 

CARLSON:  I agree with that.  I don‘t think that‘s a crazy idea, actually. 

GREEN:  If Americans had to see this cost, and bear this cost themselves, even more of them would be against the war.

CARLSON:  I‘m against taxes, and I‘m against raising taxes—

GREEN:  It‘s a perfectly legitimate—

CARLSON:  It‘s just weird how, sure we‘ll raise taxes on poor people, people who are pathetically smoking Winstons outside 7-Eleven, no problem, you know what I mean, welfare moms, no problem.  But we would never consider raising a tax on a war that we hate?  I don‘t know. 

O‘BEIRNE:  I think what Nancy Pelosi recognizes is that there‘s a far more effective way for the Democrats to use the cost of the Iraq war.  This way gives the Republicans a real easy sound byte.  Democrats will use any excuse to raise taxes.  Republicans would love nothing better that to have a tax fight.  You know, they‘re not winning too many other fights. 

CARLSON:  I know, but it‘s not that crazy.  You support the war, pay for it.  I don‘t know why that‘s crazy. 

O‘BEIRNE:  -- use, effectively I think, the cost of the war in Iraq is the spending fight this fall.  They are going to be fighting with George Bush over essentially 22 billion dollars that the Democrats are spending over and above what they ought to be, according to George Bush.  They are going to be saying the war in Iraq costs ten billion a month.  They‘re going to be driving home the cost of the war in Iraq.  George Bush is somehow starving domestic needs to pay for the war in Iraq.  That‘s how they intend to use the cost of the war, not by getting in a tax fight. 

CARLSON:  I think the tax fight is a more honest, direct way to do it.  I do, I think for all sides.  All sides can be on the record, if you really support the war, raise the taxes.  Fred—Roger Simon has a really interesting piece in the Politico on Fred Thompson.  It‘s a positive, actually, portrayal of Thompson‘s affect on audiences as he travels around the country. 

But he quotes Thompson saying these—they‘re almost like Zen cones, these—democracy is good.  Let‘s keep doing what works and quit doing what doesn‘t work.  Every few years we‘re presented with new issues on the table.  We must keep the faith and stick to the principles we believe in, et cetera.  In other words, not electric rhetoric, but somehow it‘s working. 

GREEN:  He must have some kind of weird like hypnotic power over an audience when you see him in person. 

CARLSON:  I like the sound of that. 

GREEN:  It doesn‘t comes across on TV.  If you look at where he‘s been in the poll—he was this great Republican hope to come in and fill the void that was, and I think probably is still there.  His numbers have dropped.  I don‘t think he‘s added a lot of new converts.  I happen to come down on the side that he‘s disappointing.  As terrific a reporter as Roger Simon is, I‘m still not quite -- 

CARLSON:  So, our old pal Ron Paul—

O‘BEIRNE:  You could do that with any political—

CARLSON:  Of course, you‘re absolutely right.  There‘s something about

I‘m not attacking Fred Thompson, in any way.  I like—

O‘BEIRNE:  We‘re not talking about the Gettysburg Address. 

CARLSON:  I kind of like the sound of it, which you can break into sentences, and make it sound trite. 

O‘BEIRNE:  Exactly. 

CARLSON:  Ron Paul, over five million dollars raised in the third quarter.  That‘s significant.  I say that as a former Ron Paul supporter from 20 years ago. 

O‘BEIRNE:  They are in extremely enthusiastic bunch, Ron Paul supporters. 

CARLSON:  The Paul-Heads. 

O‘BEIRNE:  Yes, absolutely.  He‘s got the issue of that fair tax going for him.  And they are supporters of the fair tax, equally vehement and enthusiastic.  And so he has found his audience.

CARLSON:  But how many of these people who support—I know it‘s very hip to support Ron Paul.  It‘s like it was cool to support Jerry Garcia a year before he died.  How many people who say they support Ron Paul really know what Ron Paul thinks, apart from his opposition to the war, that he would basically take the Department of Education and throw it in the Potomac.  That‘s just a start.  Do they know that? 

GREEN:  I think some of them do.  If your issue is throwing the Department of Ed into the Potomac, you‘re a Ron Paul guy.  If your issue is I‘m a conservative.  I want out of the war in Iraq—I think Ron Paul supporters tend to see in Ron Paul what it is that they‘re jazzed about.  It‘s a polyglot community. 

(CROSS TALK)

O‘BEIRNE:  And a lot of them live in their mother‘s basements and spend a lot of time online, so they have time on their hands. 

GREEN:  That‘s just mean.  I don‘t think a lot of Ron Paul‘s supporters are going through the entire platform.

CARLSON:  No, they‘re not.  I like Ron Paul for the right reasons.  I live in my own house above ground, not to brag. 

O‘BEIRNE:  You‘re a former Ron Paul. 

CARLSON:  I voted for him in 1988.  Everyone thought I was demented.  My roommate at the time said, who the hell is Ron Paul.  It‘s like Lanora Falani (ph).  Now, I‘m proud of it.  Thank you both. 

O‘BEIRNE:  You were ahead of your time. 

CARLSON:  Thank you, Kate.  Coming up, Blackwater under fire.  The private security firm was on the hot seat before Congress after a shooting in Iraq left more than a dozen Iraqis dead.  We‘ll talk to Blackwater‘s former vice president about that in just a minute. 

And is Britney‘s ex going after the sympathy vote?  Kevin Federline showed up in court today sporting a brand new look.  If it‘s cable TV, you‘ll get update.  It is cable TV, specifically MSNBC.  Willie Geist ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  Private security firms are a big component of the American force fighting in Iraq.  Tens of thousands of contractors are doing many of the jobs that soldiers used to perform.  One of the biggest firms on the ground there is Blackwater USA.  But today the firm and its roster of experienced former military personnel is under the microscope, both in the press and in Congress.  This after 11 Iraqis were shot by a Blackwater security detail recently. 

Joining us now is the former vice president of Blackwater USA, Chris Taylor, who is currently a graduate student at the John F. Kennedy school of government at Harvard.  Mr. Taylor, thanks for coming on. 

CHRIS TAYLOR, FORMER BLACKWATER USA VICE PRESIDENT:  Thank you. 

CARLSON:  I know since you used to work there, you have both a comprehensive understanding of Blackwater and maybe some bias.  But to the extent you can you tell us objectively, do think Blackwater is negligent, in any way?  Here is it guilty of the things it‘s been accused of doing? 

TAYLOR:  First, we have to understand that the investigation has not yet been completed.  That‘s a very important part to determining what happened today—or few weeks ago.  So until the investigation is completed, it‘s very difficult to make any comment on it. 

CARLSON:  Could we prosecute a war in Iraq, this war in Iraq, without security contractors? 

TAYLOR:  I don‘t think we could.  Keeping in mind that we had an unexpected outcome after the fall of Baghdad, I don‘t think we could get through what we are doing today, certainly not with the diplomatic service, and the service that Blackwater and other companies are providing, the reconstruction effort. 

CARLSON:  Why is that?  For people who aren‘t familiar with this, it seems confusing.  We have not a huge military, but it seems like it would be big enough to provide security for our diplomats.  Why aren‘t our military personnel doing that? 

TAYLOR:  Well, you know, historically the military hasn‘t provided security for diplomats.  Historically it‘s been other parties.  Quite frankly, we‘re stretched all the way across the board with our military already.  So this is why there‘s a gap to fill and the private sector steps in to fill that gap when asked by the government. 

CARLSON:  When asked by the government.  Now, there have been conflicting accounts—I‘m not sure most people understand—if a Blackwater employee, or any security contractor in Iraq or Afghanistan, is accused of committing an atrocity, is he beyond prosecution? 

TAYLOR:  No, that‘s absolutely not true.  What CPA Order 17 said was that contractors were immune to the Iraqi legal system, with regard to the terms and conditions of their contracts.  Outside of those contracts, they could technically be prosecuted in Iraq.  But they also could be prosecuted here in the United States under the Military Extra-Territorial Jurisdiction Act, the War Crimes Act and any number of other national laws. 

CARLSON:  Lot of uniform military guys, including some officers, don‘t like contractors in Iraq.  It‘s obvious when you go there.  You hear them talk about it.  Why is that? 

TAYLOR:  Well, I think, first of all, that a lot of those stories are anecdotal.  We don‘t—for every person you can say that they don‘t like private contractors, I can find many more that say they like them a lot.  In fact, Blackwater particularly has been involved in many efforts to assist the military in their operations overseas.  So right now it‘s anecdotal.  Stories about outrageous pay, all these other things—people like to use big numbers and annualize them.  But that doesn‘t clearly represent what‘s really going on. 

These guys work about 90 days or six-month contracts, and then they may not work for another three, four, five six months.  They come home and spend time with their family.  Remember, they‘re independent contractors.  They work while there is work is available.  After that, there is no additional cost to the government. 

CARLSON:  How many of them are killed or wounded? 

TAYLOR:  Contractors as a total? 

CARLSON:  Yes, or how about Blackwater? 

TAYLOR:  You‘d have to ask Blackwater.  I believe Erik Prince testified that the number was 30 yesterday. 

CARLSON:  Interesting. 

TAYLOR:  And 30 Blackwater guys were killed in the line of duty, yet in 16,000 movements, they haven‘t lost or had a seriously injured protectee. 

CARLSON:  To this day? 

TAYLOR:  To this day, zero. 

CARLSON:  Wow.  I didn‘t know that. 

TAYLOR:  Yes. 

CARLSON:  There‘s an interesting fact.  Chris Taylor, former vice president of Blackwater.  No longer.  Now at Harvard.  Thanks a lot for joining us.

TAYLOR:  Thank you. 

CARLSON:  Coming up, she may look sweet and innocent, but ladies don‘t fall for it.  When we come back, we‘ll tell you why you should keep your men far away from Barbara Walters.  We‘ll be right back. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  Joining us now, a man who does not have a PHD in media studies, but who knows a lot about the business, nevertheless, the vice president for prime time here on MSNBC, Bill Wolff. 

BILL WOLFF, MSNBC VICE PRESIDENT:  I certainly don‘t have the advance degree, but Tucker, it‘s arguable how much I know.  You know that first hand my friend. 

Here is what I do know: we have some breaking Britney Spears news again today, Tucker.  I know you remain committed to its coverage, so here goes.  She and ex-hubby Kevin Federline are fighting for custody of their two kids.  The parties were back in court late today in Los Angeles.  Item number one, Britney herself was not seen at the courthouse.  But item two, Kevin Federline reportedly showed up unexpectedly, and the man wore an eye patch. 

No reports of any other injuries, Tucker.  Beyond that, I have no news for you.  They are still in court.  People are still watching it.  It‘s like the Vatican at this point.  If there are any developments in the next three and a half minutes, I‘ll bring them to you along with sarcastic commentary. 

CARLSON:  May I ask you a quick question?  I‘ve been out of the country for the past couple of days.  This is all news to me.  But I keep hearing it described as a loss of physical custody.  What‘s the difference between that and custody? 

WOLFF:  Well, ask any son about his mommy; there‘s emotional custody, and I‘m a captive, 41 years old.  Hi, mom.  No, I‘m doing fine, mom.  Yes. 

CARLSON:  That‘s really—

WOLFF:  You know what I‘m saying. 

CARLSON:  I do.

WOLFF:  I got a spoiler alert for you, Tucker.  Everyone else who can‘t wait for the movie version of the one time HBO show “Sex and The City,” you know the show.  It chronicled the lives of four women, the preppy one, the serious one, the one who slept around, and that charming advice columnist who could somehow afford 3,000 pairs of shoes.  Why, there was a character to whom everyone could relate. 

For instance, I have 3,000 pairs of shoes.  Anyway, they‘re shooting movie right now, Tucker, in Manhattan, and some snoops witnessed the big climactic scene.  So if you do not want to know that Sarah Jessica Parker and her character gets married to that guy from “Law and Order” at St.  Patrick‘s Cathedral, turn away from your TV set now. 

Wait.  I think I got that—see, I mean, there‘s your PHD in media studies at work. 

CARLSON:  Very good, Bill. 

WOLFF:  Got the spoil alert all wrong.  Anyway, it‘s big spoiler alert.  It was in the newspapers and it‘s all over the inter-web. 

CARLSON:  I suspect that‘s a “New York Post” item.  Just a guess. 

WOLFF:  I believe—wasn‘t in the Times, that I can attest.  I read the Times front to back today.  It came from are somewhere. 

Anyway, from a “Sex and The City” spoiler to a plain old sex spoiler, Tucker.  Be warned, the images that you will hear described might upset you.  Things are getting randy on the daytime talk fiesta “The View.”  Following House Speaker Nancy Pelosi‘s appearance on that program yesterday, co-co-co-host Whoopi Goldberg today confessed her interest—get this—in a possible intimate encounter with Mrs. Pelosi and her husband. 

In a word, ewe.  No offense, of course.  But then it got worse.  The stately Barbara Walters, proper if anyone ever was, greeted country singer Faith Hill, who is married to country singer Tim McGraw—and Barbara unloaded this little nugget. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(CROSS TALK)

BARBARA WALTERS, “THE VIEW”:  Listen Faith, you‘ve been on with us before and you are one of the—just one of the nicest women.  We all said, we‘d all like to do your husband. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WOLFF:  Oh, for those of you keeping score, that was Barbara Walters saying, we all want to do your husband.  Tucker? 

CARLSON:  Let me ask you a question.  Do you know the name of the PR person at ABC in charge of that show, because whoever it is ought to get the biggest bonus in all of television.  That show, which I‘ve seen—I‘ve been on it once and seen it never, except the time I was on it, is in the news every single day.  What do they pay that person?  Not enough. 

WOLFF:  I do not know, but like any decent middle manager, I promise to look into it, Tucker.  And I‘ll get right back to it in our next meeting. 

CARLSON:  Thank you, Bill.

WOLFF:  Sure.  Now, the only thing, Tucker, whose length approaches campaign ‘08 is the Christmas season, which, in one sense, begins when the first catalog arrives.  So rejoice, the Neiman-Marcus catalog is out and either shield your kids‘ eyes or get a third job, because this stuff is outrageously expensive.  That flying craft you‘re looking, 80,000 dollars, Santa not included. 

For the diamond-encrusted cell phone right there, 73 large, Tucker.  For the child with no friends at all, you can buy a robot that converses with you for a mere 75,000 dollars.  But Tucker, can you really put a price on love?  Yes, the Christmas season has begun, and like the interminable campaign season, the holidays are pure and true to the meaning established by our distant ancestors.  Hmm, merry Christmas, Tucker. 

CARLSON:  Merry Christmas.  That flying machine, is that another word for a hang glider? 

WOLFF:  Something like that.  You get in it.  you try not to die.  And for the pleasure, it cost you 80 grand.  Can you imagine—I can‘t imagine 80 grand on anything, Tucker.  I live in a place that doesn‘t cost 80 grand. 

CARLSON:  It‘s an ultra light.  Can I say, as someone who is a little bit inured to this, numb to it—there‘s a fly rod.  That‘s worth getting, always.  The submarine, that was the greatest thing they ever sold in that catalog. 

WOLFF:  They got one this year too.  It‘s some kind of 1.8 million dollar—false advertising, but if you got 1.8 mill, you can have it, buddy. 

CARLSON:  Great.  Bill Wolff, thanks, Bill. 

WOLFF:  My pleasure. 

CARLSON:  Thanks for watching.  That does it for us.  Up next, “HARDBALL” with Chris Matthews.  We‘re back tomorrow.  We‘ll see you then.  Have a great night.

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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