updated 11/13/2007 12:54:44 PM ET 2007-11-13T17:54:44

Guests: Gordon Fischer, Peter Fenn, David Harsanyi, Bob Franken

TUCKER CARLSON, HOST:  Unless you had front row seats from the Van Halen concert or bet your house that Illinois would beat Ohio State in football, it‘s very unlikely you had a better weekend than Barack Obama did. 

Welcome to the show.

Obama was in Iowa with the rest of the contenders for the Democratic nomination, but only his performance at the Jefferson Jackson Dinner for Iowa caucus-goers merited unqualified praise from David Yepsen of “The Des Moines Register.”  Yepsen‘s word has influence in the state of Iowa, and he wrote that Obama‘s speech was excellent, the best of his campaign. 

It included the quote, “The passion Obama showed should help him close the gap on Hillary Clinton.”  That has become conventional wisdom among many in Washington today.  Well, that speech, coupled with the Iowa senator‘s hour-long performance on “Meet the Press” yesterday, has given the Obama campaign the sense of upward possibility it has lacked since the spring, at least. 

In a moment we‘ll talk with the former chairman of the Iowa Democratic Party about Obama‘s big weekend and about his prospects in the January 3rd Iowa caucuses. 

Hillary Clinton‘s campaign, meanwhile, remains mired in political quicksand over the weekend in what appears to be an innocent question from an audience member turned out to be a campaign plant.  Upon further review, the plant hands the microphone back to the staffer and winks. 

Will this bat of an eye pass as an embarrassing moment, or will it be the wink to sink the heretofore unsinkable Mrs. Clinton?  Some are hoping.

And the biggest threat to you kids may not be trans fat or teletubbies.  It‘s the government meddling in your family‘s business.  The author of “The Nanny State,” a new book, says the five most dangerous words in the world are, “Something needs to be done.”  David Harsanyi says worry less about trans fats and secondhand smoke and more about your friendly neighborhood government trying to help you.  He‘ll join us later this hour.

But we begin with Barack Obama‘s excellent weekend in Iowa.  Senator Obama appears to own the intangible commodity of momentum at the moment, and here to talk about it is Obama supporter and former Iowa Democratic Party chairman, Gordon Fischer. 

Mr. Fischer, thanks for coming on. 

Hey.  Thanks for having me, Tucker.  Great to be here. 

CARLSON:  So, this speech, which I thought was a good speech, delivered in a serviceable way, it was good, why—but why this speech?  Why is this the breakout moment?  Why are people looking at this and saying, you know, he really could beat Hillary? 

FISCHER:  Well, first, I have to apologize for my voice.  I‘m still actually hoarse 48 hours after the Jefferson Jackson Day Dinner.  I was shouting and screaming so excitedly and so loudly for my candidate, Barack Obama. 

But anyway, the JJ Dinner has historically and traditionally been a real breakout moment.  There has been very many watershed moments for candidates. 

Al Gore called out Bill Bradley in 2000.  In 2004, John Kerry seemed to really turn a corner with a terrific stump speech.  So—and I think 2008 is going to be the same thing. 

Barack Obama really had a terrific breakout night, he gave a terrific speech, and he by far had the most supporters there.  You know, a lot of what this boils down to is a little like a mini caucus.  If you think about it, you have to get your supporters out to dinner...

CARLSON:  Right.

FISCHER:  ... you have to get them excited and enthused about the candidates. 

CARLSON:  Well, so here‘s one of the lines that has been repeated throughout the day here.  This is from Obama‘s speech at the JJ Dinner.  “I am sick and tired of Republicans thinking the only way to look tough on foreign policy is talking and acting and voting like George Bush Republicans.”

So he goes the next day on to “Meet the Press” with Tim Russert, and Russert asked him, who are you talking about?  Who are these Democrats?  And he says this: “Look, we know that too many Democrats, I believe, went along with Bush when it came to the war in Iraq.”

Well, he‘s talking about Hillary Clinton obviously.  Why doesn‘t he have the courage to say so to Tim Russert? 

FISCHER:  Well, I don‘t know what Barack Obama is thinking, I do know he‘s a very, very smart guy.  But I can‘t claim to know what he is thinking. 

But you know it is true that too many Democrats did go along on the vote to authorize the war, and among the major candidates Barack Obama is the one who was against the war.  He opposed the war in 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006.  He‘s still opposed to the war in 2007. 

And that is going to be a key factor that a lot of Democrats, Iowa Democrats in particular, are going to look to in making a decision about who should be our next president. 

CARLSON:  Well, that‘s what you‘d think, but when you look at the polls they show pretty clearly that the Democrats who are most against the war, who rate Iraq as their number one issue, are breaking pretty dramatically for Hillary Clinton.  They are not supporting Obama, in large part.  They are supporting Hillary Clinton. 

Why doesn‘t Obama come out and say look, she didn‘t even read the classified intelligence before voting for war?  That‘s a true—that‘s a true point. Why can‘t he just say that out loud? 

FISCHER:  Well, you know, actually, I think politically I‘m not sure how smart it would be—for any candidate to attack Hillary‘s campaign right now.  Obviously she is doing plenty of damage to her own campaign. 

You know, her own campaign seems to really be on the ropes.  The last couple of weeks have really been very troublesome for Senator Clinton.  It doesn‘t take a former chair of the Iowa Democratic Party to tell you that.

It started with the debate debacle, two answers—two different answers in two minutes on driver‘s licenses.  Now we have planted questions, as you noted at the outset of your show. 

She is doing plenty of damage to her own campaign.  There is no need for anyone else to step in. 

CARLSON:  So this weekend, Mika Brzezinski from MSNBC spoke to Senator Obama‘s wife, Michelle Obama, and asked her why aren‘t black voters, at least as measured by polling right now, supporting Barack Obama in greater numbers? 

Here‘s part of what Michelle Obama replied.  Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHELLE OBAMA, BARACK OBAMA‘S WIFE:  That‘s right.  That‘s right.

That is the—that‘s the psychology that‘s going on in our heads, in our souls.  And I understand it.  I know where it comes from.  You know?  And I think that it‘s one of the horrible legacies of racism and discrimination and oppression. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARLSON:  So black voters aren‘t supporting Barack Obama because white people are racist?  I mean, how does that—I don‘t understand that.  How does that work? 

FISCHER:  You know, Michelle Obama is a very real, honest person who speaks from her heart.  And I think she was saying—you know, she‘s speaking from a place that I don‘t think you or I can frankly really understand.

She was the first person in her family to go to college.  She was born on the south side of Chicago.  And I think she‘s experienced racism in her life and so has her family. 

CARLSON:  Right.

FISCHER:  And I think she was being very honest that a lot of people who experience racism, who experience discrimination, sometimes actually tend to actually believe the discrimination that is brought against them.  And I think that she was just a very honest, real person giving a very honest, real answer. 

CARLSON:  OK.  But she was giving it on behalf of the campaign.  I‘m not judging her personal experiences—and they‘re very different than mine.  So I‘m not judging her at all, but she is speaking on behalf of the campaign and she‘s saying that racism is preventing black people from supporting her husband who is also black. 

Do you believe that‘s true? 

FISCHER:  I don‘t believe that‘s what she‘s saying, to be honest with you. 

CARLSON:  OK.

FISCHER:  I think that she is saying that there are some that don‘t believe—there are some white folks and some black folks that don‘t believe that a black man can be elected president.  And until they see Barack Obama doing really well at events like the Jefferson Jackson Day Dinner, where he just, you know, hit a grand slam homerun, they are not going to fully believe it. 

And I think the burden is on Barack Obama right now to prove that a person of color can be elected president, and I think he‘s doing that.  He‘s doing that by having just smashing success at the Jefferson Jackson Day Dinner, and doing very, very well in Iowa.  It will help that along, obviously. 

CARLSON:  So you think the Democratic Party is ready to nominate a black candidate?  It doesn‘t seem ready by the polls, but you believe it is ready for that, the Democratic Party? 

FISCHER:  I believe it is ready.  I mean, the polls you‘re talking about are national polls. 

CARLSON:  That‘s right.

FISCHER:  We don‘t have a national primary—we don‘t have a national primary, for better or worse.  We have Iowa, New Hampshire and so forth. 

In Iowa right now, it‘s a three-way tie, and I think after this weekend, I think it‘s going to be essentially a two-person race.  I think it‘s going to be Senator Obama and Senator Clinton in a two-person race. 

CARLSON:  Yes.

FISCHER:  And I think New Hampshire, there has been several polls there that have shown that Senator Clinton‘s lead has shrunk dramatically.  So, you know, those are going—there‘s going to be a huge slingshot effect, Tucker, from Iowa and New Hampshire, and I think that could very much benefit Senator Obama, should he do well in these two key critical states. 

CARLSON:  I hope you‘re right. 

Gordon Fischer, thanks a lot for joining us.  I appreciate it. 

FISCHER:  Tucker, thank you for your time. 

CARLSON:  If Hillary Clinton doesn‘t win the Democratic nomination or eventually the presidency, she could always work for FEMA.  We‘ll tell you why she is now qualified for a job there. 

Plus, Joe Biden gets a little bump in the polls for criticizing Rudy Giuliani and 9/11.  Wait until you hear what he has to say about Rudy‘s endorsement from Pat Robertson. 

That‘s ahead.

You‘re watching MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I‘m worried about the long-term effects of global warming.  How does your plan combat climate change? 

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Well, you should be worried.  And, you know, I find as I travel around Iowa that it‘s usually young people who ask me about global warming.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARLSON:  Last week, Senator Hillary Clinton answered a planted question during a campaign stop in Iowa.  In case you missed it, take a look at what happens right after the student finished her question.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I‘m worried about the long-term effects of global warming.  How does your plan combat climate change? 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARLSON:  It appears she hands the mike back and then winks as if to suggest she has gotten the question they wanted. 

Well, joining us now with their insights into the wink seen or not seen around the world, Democratic strategist Peter Fenn and online columnist Bob Franken. 

Peter, my favorite detail in this entire story is Hillary Clinton‘s answer to the question her campaign formulated, which was, “I‘m so glad you asked that question.  I often hear young people asking about it.”

Maybe that‘s because you‘ve asked them to ask about it.  I mean, I don‘t know how it could get more embarrassing. 

Could it? 

PETER FENN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST:  Well, I‘ll tell you, Tucker, I don‘t know if you remember, but back in 1968, Richard Nixon went all over this country with Bud Wilkinson, the Oklahoma football coach, answering America.  Every single question in that place was scripted, every answer was just packed.  This is a case, I think, of a campaign that was suggesting at a biodiesel conference in Newton, Iowa, to ask about global warming, a topic that was destined to come up anyway. 

CARLSON:  So you‘re saying Hillary Clinton is stooping to the level of Richard Nixon? 

FENN:  No, no, no.  I‘m saying—look, look, look...

CARLSON:  Is that what you‘re saying?

FENN:  No, no, no.  I‘m saying it‘s so much different from what it was in 68. 

CARLSON:  Oh.

FENN:  Basically you have a situation, Tucker, where this is much ado about nothing.  A couple of these.  But the campaign said stop it.  This is no way to run a campaign.  And no one likes it.  So this is not 1968. 

BOB FRANKEN, ONLINE COLUMNIST:  This is not much ado about nothing. 

CARLSON:  I agree with that.

FRANKEN:  First of all—well, first of all, can you just see what happened here?  They read the stories, they saw the coverage of the FEMA news conference and they said, what a great idea.  Let‘s do that. 

(LAUGHTER)

FRANKEN:  But can you imagine after this was disclosed how many meetings they had in the Clinton campaign?  They had so meetings that they couldn‘t come up with a straight answer to whether this was happening or not.  And the ultimate answer was, oops, we got caught. 

FENN:  Tucker...

CARLSON:  Yes, because they did—wait, Peter.  Wait, Peter.  They did lie about it, or at least they gave an incorrect explanation when they said to initial inquiries...

(CROSSTALK)

FENN:  One press spokesman said—no, they said that they didn‘t know about this, that this wasn‘t a practice of the campaign‘s.  But look, let‘s put this in perspective.  That was my point.

Here it is.  They found one incident in April and this incident where somebody suggested something.  But this is not the way the campaign has been run.  It is not the way the campaign should be run. 

CARLSON:  Well, it‘s not the way—whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa.  Wait. 

Hold on. 

FENN:  And they said right now...

CARLSON:  No, Peter.  Hold on.  You are suggesting that tightly-scripting exchanges between the candidate and voters, that that is not characteristic of the Hillary Clinton for president campaign? 

FENN:  Listen, I am suggesting—look, all these guys...

CARLSON:  Come on, man.

FENN:  Let me tell you something.  All these guys are “Ask Mitt anything,” “Ask Rudy anything.”  Well, ask anybody anything. 

You know the questions are going to come up.  Folks are going to be talking with one another about what happens.  But should the campaign have a role in planting questions?  The answer is absolutely not, and the Clinton campaign has said no more, no how, no way. 

And that‘s the way it should be. 

FRANKEN:  Tucker, The Clinton campaign also often likes to talk about her having a conversation with the voters. 

CARLSON:  Yes. 

FRANKEN:  Now we know what she means. 

And I think full disclosure here, Tucker.  We knew you were going to ask this question.  Your producer told us. 

CARLSON:  Yes.

FRANKEN:  You planted a question. 

CARLSON:  There‘s no doubt.  And do you know what else?  I am a man wearing makeup, which is also unacceptable.  I am not running for office.  I am hosting merely a cable television program. 

Thank God.

FENN:  We all look so much better, Tucker, because of it, you know. 

Really. 

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON:  I wonder, Bob, when you watched the Barack Obama speech, were you struck by a line in there—I haven‘t heard anybody mention it.  I was very struck by it.  Obama said something to the effect of George W.

Bush has made the problems we face in this country far worse.

And yet, he didn‘t create those problems.  They were preexisting problems.  He‘s exacerbated them, but fundamentally, they‘re problems that we are all responsible for.  I thought that was a remarkable instance of a candidate not pandering to his base. 

Did you—were you struck by that? 

FRANKEN:  Well, I think that he, in effect—I‘m not sure that I think that‘s exactly what was going on here.  I think that what he was trying to do is to run against George W. Bush. 

I mean, the one thing that the Democratic candidates have in common is their campaign slogan, which is, whatever Bush did, we won‘t. 

CARLSON:  Right.

FRANKEN:  But beyond that, he was also trying to say, and there was a president before him whose name happened to be—what was that again?  Clinton.

CARLSON:  Exactly.  No, that‘s exactly right. 

FRANKEN:  So maybe it was a double pander. 

CARLSON:  I think—no, that is a much deeper reading.  And I think you‘re absolutely right.

Do you think that‘s true, Peter, that the subtext of that speech is no more Clintons?

FENN:  Well, I‘ll tell you, this is strange subtext for the Democrats nowadays, because if you are looking at someone who created 23 million new jobs, if you look at somebody who‘s balanced budgets and created the greatest surpluses in American history, if you saw somebody who put the economy back on track, I think that Clinton name is not too bad right now. 

FRANKEN:  I think Obama may be saying that he had nothing to do with that. 

CARLSON:  I think that‘s what he‘s saying.

We‘ll be right back. 

John McCain isn‘t exactly setting the Republican presidential race on fire.  Why is he turning down support? 

A senior McCain adviser  joins us in a moment to explain why. 

And Remember Fred Thompson, the candidate who was going to galvanize the conservative base of the Republican Party?  Well, he finally got some very good news today. 

Stick around to find out how good it was. 

We‘ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(MARKET REPORT)

CARLSON:  Fred Thompson has mainly been on the business end of late night political humor since he officially entered the race for president back in September.  Today, two Republican sources leaked news that Thompson will receive good news, in the form of the National Right to Life Committee‘s official endorsement.  It‘s both a boon to Thompson‘s conservative profile and a further splintering of the conservative movement‘s influence in this presidential race. 

So far, we have seen Rudy Giuliani, John McCain, Mitt Romney and now Thompson pick up key conservative support.  What does it mean now that the movement no longer speaks with one voice?  Here to answer, Democratic strategist Peter Fenn and online columnist Bob Franken.  Bob, he does  seem, Fred Thompson, as a guy who lobbied on behalf of a pro-abortion group, maybe not the obvious choice for this endorsement. 

FRANKEN:  How more obvious or less obvious is that than Pat Robertson coming out for Rudy Giuliani?  I think we‘re sort of having the paradoxical endorsements right now.  We have the Giuliani one.  We have this Fred Thompson one.  And we are soon going to hear that Mike Huckabee is going to be endorsed by Mike Huckabee.  That would be his conservative endorsement. 

The question is, what does all this mean?  To be perfectly blunt about it, I‘ve always felt that endorsements were relatively meaningless. 

FENN:  I think this is kind of like Britney Spears getting along with Phyllis Schlafly too bad.  That‘s kind of the way it is. 

(CROSS TALK)

FENN:  Anyway, the interesting thing about Fred is he took a lot of heat the other day when he was doing “Meet The Press,” because he called for state‘s rights on abortion; each state could make their own decisions.  That ticked off some of the pro-life crowd because they want a Constitutional amendment.  This is a little bit surprising, I think, in light of that. 

CARLSON:  At this point I wonder, Peter, if you will—you don‘t need to sign a pledge, but if you will just make an oral agreement to stop pretending that the Christian rights control the Republican party, since we know now that that‘s completely not true.  They don‘t even have control over each other. 

FENN:  The question is which Christian right?  Exactly.  The question is also what they believe in.  Do they really believe in things that they have talked about believing in for the last 20 year, or does it now not matter anymore because of 9/11?  I think they were a little discredited on that one too, Tucker. 

It is true that a guy like Fred Thompson—you know, he has been all

over the map on this.  He put a Vote Smart questionnaire several years ago

Bob, I know that you saw it—where he was kind of echoing the pro-choice position.  I think folks are having trouble knowing where the heck to go.   

FRANKEN:  First of all, the religious rights, don‘t you agree, is really going to line up with the Republicans, particularly if the candidate is Hillary Clinton, who, to be perfectly blunt about it, they perceive as the devil. 

CARLSON:  That‘s the conventional view.  I‘m not sure I believe that anymore.  I think two things one, the evangelical movement has basically fallen apart from bad leadership; and two, a lot of them are not as conservative as we thought they were.  If they were, they wouldn‘t be getting behind Rudy Giuliani and Fred Thompson.  It seems the obvious conclusion to draw; they are not who we thought they were in the end. 

What do you think, Bob, of John McCain‘s decision to attack Rick Reed (ph), a guy who used to do ads for hi, who has this new independent expenditure on his behalf, attacking his own allies, considering he has so few allies?  Is it now the time to be attacking them? 

FRANKEN:  Well, let‘s pretend we are being a bit of a skeptic for a moment.  I know that‘s a stretch.  But is it possible that the candidate is trying to have it both ways?  Getting support from these people while at the same time presenting himself as being true to his principles.  He would not be the first to try that. 

CARLSON:  I don‘t believe that.  Typically, that‘s what candidates do.  They say I know nothing about this and I‘m not endorsing this.  But then they reap the benefits of this.  As far as I know, from everyone I have spoken to today, this real.  McCain doesn‘t want these ads on the air and he was kind of nasty about it.  It almost seems to me self-destructive.  This strikes me as self-destructive behavior for a candidate who needs every bit of help he can get. 

FRANKEN:  Not the way it‘s playing out.  What is he going to do if they do appear?  Hold his breath until he turns blue?  For crying out loud.

FENN:  Think this is hard too, because Rick Reed is a real close friend of John McCain‘s.  This was the firm that did the Swift Boat ads in the 2004 race.  So they have a lot of experience with independent expenditures.  I think it is a hard one for both of them.  Rick is a—look, I hated those ads.  I couldn‘t stand those ads.  But I think Rick Reed is a decent honorable fellow.  I know he is probably conflicted about this, but he has a client.  Also, they are mentioning other people in this ad besides John McCain. 

FRANKEN:  Have you ever done ads that others would look at the same way the Swift Boat ones? 

FENN:  Oh, probably, but not quite as bad. 

CARLSON:  Peter, come on.  The Swift Boat ads were not only defensible, they were accurate.  Before we re-litigate that campaign, I want to get your take on a statement that John Edwards, who is still running for president, made recently in the state of Iowa about health care.  If you think about it, it‘s pretty remarkable.  Here it is, John Edwards.   

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN EDWARDS (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  When I‘m sworn in as president of the United States in January of 2009, I intend to say to members of Congress, to members of my administration, to members of my cabinet, I‘m glad that you have health care coverage.  That‘s good for, good for your families.  But I‘ll tell you this, as your president, if you don‘t pass universal health care for America by July of this year, July of 2009, I will use my power to take your health care coverage away from you. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARLSON:  OK, this is the new John Edwards position; unless everybody has perfect health care coverage, nobody ought to have any health care coverage.  With every passing week, he becomes more and more extreme and has fewer and fewer supporters, from what I can tell. 

FENN:  Tucker, I think you are right.  The last time I looked, the cabinet didn‘t pass legislation on health care.  This is the over the cliff campaign.  Whether it‘s Trippi driving it or Edwards himself, they are taking this bus right over the edge.  This is empty rhetoric.  The notion that we should have a health care system that is as good as the one in Congress, fine, we all get with that.  But I‘m going to take away your health care coverage?  It‘s absurd.  It‘s crazy. 

CARLSON:  But it‘s also, Bob, not working.  There was a piece this week that showed that four county chairs in the state of Iowa who have committed previously to John Edwards have left.  One went to Obama, one went to Richardson, one went to Hillary Clinton, and the fourth is undecided.  In other words, it‘s not that they all went to Hillary because she‘s the front runner; it‘s that they all ran away from John Edwards.  That‘s what they have in common. 

FRANKEN:  And there is a debate about just how significant that is.  But what is significant is the fact that it is being reported.  This is the type of thing where perception becomes reality.  And John Edwards has a problem.  Let‘s go back to his statement a moment ago, where you said, when he is put in as president in January of 2009, he is going to do whatever he is going to do. 

Talk about an empty threat, because it is looking less and less likely that he is going to the one who is sworn in as president in 2009.  The other thing is, let‘s suppose he did what he said he was going to do, and that was to take away the health care coverage for the Congress people and their families as well.  That could be easily filled in by lobbyists. 

CARLSON:  That‘s an excellent point.  Here‘s the question, Peter—let me just say, I don‘t believe John Edwards has a decent shot of getting the Democratic nomination at this point.  Will he collapse in time for Barack Obama to get his supporters and use them to beat Hillary in Iowa and New Hampshire? 

FENN:  I think that is a really critical question; where do those votes go?  There is some polling that indicates that if he collapses, Tucker, that they may, in fact, go more to Hillary than to Obama.  The conventional wisdom is Obama picks them up.  I cannot imagine why the Edwards campaign is doing this.  I mean, Joe Trippi was bantering with a bunch of kids from the Obama campaign and talking about kicking her ass with press all-around. 

Is he trying to do his candidate in?  Is he trying to push them over the cliff?  Hard for me to wonder.  But this is the strangest dynamic I have ever seen right now.  He started out last summer in first place and he has gone steadily downhill. 

FRANKEN:  I think everybody has gotten rattled by just how powerful Hillary Clinton‘s campaign has done.  But I think that also to make the assumption that the support for John Edwards would go to Obama overlooks the possibility that it would really go to Dennis Kucinich. 

CARLSON:  At this point, it may.

FRANKEN:  Actually, I used to live in Cleveland.  But the point is that he is starting to sound more and more like Kucinich. 

FENN:  Actually, I think Ron Paul is coming up the outside.

CARLSON:  By the way—and hold your tongue before you commit blasphemy there, comparing Ron Paul to Dennis Kucinich.  Shame on you.  So here‘s the question for Mitt Romney at this point—this has been the question from the beginning; do you address the Mormon question directly.  On our air, on MSNBC last week, you saw John McCain‘s mother, 95-year-old mother, make kind of a snide derogatory comment about Romney‘s Mormonism and the Mormons of Salt Lake City. 

This is an issue for a lot of people.  Every poll shows it.  Should he give the speech trying to reassure people that it‘s OK to vote for a Mormon?  Apparently they have the speech.  Romney says he may give it in the end.  Bob, do you think he will give it in the end? 

FRANKEN:  Well, I think it is going to depend on what the polling is.  What is it going to be, some sort of checkers speech or something?  What is he going to say?  Yes, I‘m a Mormon.  Then what?

FENN:  She conflicted.  E. J. Dionne wrote, I think, a great piece in the Post a couple weeks ago when he said, look, when John Kennedy gave that speech, what he was trying to say was, listen, religion is private.  It‘s personal.  And I‘m not governed by the Vatican.  It was given in that mode, and at a time when religion was not so involved. 

Now you have candidates that talk about their faith, that talk about religion, that want the religious vote.  So does he give a speech saying religion doesn‘t matter?  That doesn‘t work.  Is it my religion doesn‘t matter?  That‘s a little shaky.  So it‘s a hard speech to kind of give in this climate. 

CARLSON:  Or you can say it‘s wrong to judge a candidate on his religion, which is basically saying or implying that people have a problem with his mormonism are bigots.  That‘s not a way to win votes either. 

FRANKEN:  He‘s doing something else that might be the way to go.  That is, on occasion, he‘s treating it with humor.  He made a comment about his family, his wife and his son and their wives, and that type of thing.  Maybe that‘s the way to handle it. 

FENN:  Five sons and five wives.  Whoops, I didn‘t mean to talk about five wives. 

CARLSON:  Bob Franken, Peter Fenn, thank you both very much. 

FENN:  Thanks, Tucker. 

CARLSON:  Well, with new laws banning everything from trans-fat to smoking in your own house, not to mention the hard to resist cupcake, you‘ve got to ask, is America turning into a nanny state?  Of course it is.  The question really is, what does that mean for future generations?  We will tell you in a minute. 

Plus, one of England‘s most eligible bachelors is back on the market. 

Our senior royal match maker, Bill Wolff, is on the case. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  Don‘t drink, don‘t smoke, don‘t eat trans-fats, slow down, wear your seat belt, put on your knee pads, protect yourself or we‘ll kill you.  That‘s modern American life.  Is the government too involved in our private lives?  Are they legislating the life out of us.  Here to tell us why the five most dangerous words in the English language are “Something Needs to be Done,” David Harsanyi.  He‘s the author of “Nanny State, How Food-Fascists, Tee-Totalling do-Gooders, Moralists and Other Boneheaded Bureaucrats are Turning American into a Nation of Children.”  Let me just say, off the top, it‘s a great book,  David, thanks for joining us.

DAVID HARSANYI, “NANNY STATE” AUTHOR:  My pleasure.  Thanks for having me. 

CARLSON:  Give us—the very small number of people who aren‘t already convinced of this—anybody who pays attention knows what you are arguing is true.  Give us three examples, very quickly, of America turning into a nanny state. 

HARSANYI:  Well, we can start with kids, I suppose, where recently schools have begun to ban tag, because one kid is it and other kids aren‘t and people are being chased.  In south LA, very recently, there was an ordinance that a council-member wanted to enact that would create health zones in south LA where you could only buy certain kinds of food.  In Chicago, there was a person who wanted to legislate food portions and calorie counts.  So there are many examples. 

CARLSON:  We spend our lives looking on in horror, at least I do, as this country becomes more and more regulated.  Our freedom ebbs away.  What I‘m struck by, though, is how nobody does anything about it.  The country that brought you the Boston Tea Party, That staged a revolution just because someone raised a tea tax, stands by and just lets bureaucrats have their way with our lives.  Why do we do that? 

HARSANYI:  I think most politicians are cowards, frankly.  There is not a politician who is going to stand up for the smoker or for the over eater or for the guy who goes to strip clubs all the time.  I mean, it‘s very hard to do that.  Also, most of these things start for the children.  So who is going to stand up against the children?  Very few people. 

CARLSON:  Why don‘t we stand up for ourselves?  Why don‘t people who, I don‘t know, have habits that others deem unattractive, but who have rights to continue with those habits, stand up and say, back off pal?  Buzz out of my life.  Why doesn‘t anybody stand up for themselves? 

HARSANYI:  I suppose the majority of people, for instance, don‘t smoke, so they don‘t like it.  It‘s surrender of convenience, I guess.  What happens is most of these things that are being banned are done by minorities, so the majority crushes—the collective crushes the individual, I guess. 

CARLSON:  Do you think the nature of the country has changed?  Do you think America in 1850 would have put up with these intrusions into our thoughts and behavior? 

HARSANYI:  In many ways, we are still very free.  We‘re freer than most places in the world.  But I think we have changed.  Whenever there is a problem, the first thing we do is turn to government for a solution.  You can see it on every editorial page in the country.  We never say, you know, we can take care of this.  If there is an obesity epidemic, perhaps, I should eat less.  It‘s up to us to change our behavior.  I think it is. 

CARLSON:  I wonder if—you see this coming trend, I notice, at every turn.  The claim that speech is the same as violence.  You say something that someone else disagrees with and that person implies you are hurting him or her.  I feel like we are about to lose the right to say certain things because words will be equated with violence.  Do you see that?

HARSANYI:  I do.  It‘s just an incremental attack on freedom on every level.  Speech is certainly one.  Here in Colorado, in Boulder, they have a hate hotline, where if your neighbor says something that offends you, you can call up and complain.  So I think people think that they have the right not to smell things or the right not to hear things that annoy them.  That‘s not what America is about.  At least not what I think America is about. 

CARLSON:  No, it really isn‘t.  The only country I‘ve ever been in that isn‘t like that is Israel, where, maybe because they are under attack all the time, they don‘t really care.  They are not interested in this kind of crap.  It‘s a beautiful thing to be in a place like that.  David Harsanyi is the author of the book, “The Nanny State.”  Go to Amazon and buy it.  Absolutely worth your money. 

HARSANYI:  Thank you. 

CARLSON:  Bad news for Britney Spears.  She‘s caught running a red light.  That‘s just the beginning.  If you have been suffering from Britney withdrawal, Bill Wolff is coming up next with your weekly fix.  We‘ll be right back. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  We promised you a moment ago, all those desperate shaky Britney fans among you, that we would give you your daily Britney fix.  We are as good as our word.  Joining us now, Bill Wolff.

BILL WOLFF, MSNBC VICE PRESIDENT:  The most desperate and the Shakiest, Tucker, that‘s me.  It‘s been a while, buddy, almost four days since Britney Spears made heard hitting, TV-worthy news, but she is back in full imploding flower.  According to TMZ.com, Ms. Spears was caught on tape last Thursday night running a red light in her Mercedes Benz with her two children in the back seat while texting. 

That isn‘t all.  TMZ also reports that Britney‘s court-ordered drug tests came back positive last week, though somehow she reportedly passed the positive test, which is some trick.  In sum, Tucker, like a tire fire, the mess that is Britney just keeps smoldering.  It will never go out. 

CARLSON:  I hate to take credit for such an obvious prediction, but many years ago I interviewed Britney Spears and after the interview—

WOLFF:  I remember that.  She chewed gum the whole time.

CARLSON:  She did, Nicorette.  I remember turning to my cameraman at the time, when I was over at CNN, and saying, you know what, this is not going to end well.  It was pretty obvious even then. 

WOLFF:  It‘s headed in a bad direction slowly and painfully.  We are here to bring you every last detail.  Congratulations on that prediction.  Unhappy news for former movie star Tom Cruise over the weekend, Tucker; his latest movie, “Lions for Lambs,” finished fourth at the weekend box office, behind Jerry Seinfeld‘s “Bee Movie,” Denzel Washington‘s “American Gangster” and something called “Fred Claus.” 

A source close to Tom Cruise told MSNBC.com‘s Courtney Hazlett that, quote, Tom is not happy.  That‘s been clear for years, what with the creepy hostile laugh and all.  But now we have specific cause and effect evidence.  “Lions for Lambs” was the first outing for Cruise as a studio chief since he took over United Artists.  It proved him a valuable lesson, Tucker, being a suit isn‘t all fun and games. 

CARLSON:  How would you know that, Bill? 

WOLFF:  Fun and games are such a small part of my daily chores.  I promise you.  It‘s more toil than I care to discuss in this happy forum. 

CARLSON:  That‘s the spirit. 

WOLFF:  I have bad news for prospective grooms shopping for that symbol of dedication, eternal bonding and the inevitable gravy boat that comes with marriage; it‘s the diamond, Tucker.  If you are shopping for a rock for that someone special, you are not going to top that.  That is an 87 carat diamond, and it‘s up for auction on Wednesday.  If you want in, and you might, bring 16 million dollars US with you, because that‘s what it‘s expected to fetch.  Yes, she will know what you truly feel about her and she probably won‘t consider the fact that you will be in debt for the rest of your life, paying for that rock. 

Isn‘t that what love is all about, Tucker?  Ignoring debt? 

CARLSON:  The saddest thing is, Bill, is you know and I know that Debeers has, deep in some vault in South Africa, probably 15,000 diamonds that big which it is holding, keeping off the market so rocks like that can sell for 16 million bucks.  You know that‘s true. 

WOLFF:  I was glad to put a diamond on the finger of my intending.  I was glad to pay for it.  I‘m glad about diamonds.  However, it‘s a roost.  Man, they don‘t insure you against bad things happening.  You can‘t eat it.  You can‘t drink it.  It‘s a depreciating asset.  But we are all happily part of the game.  Aren‘t we?

CARLSON:  Exactly.

WOLFF:  Absolutely.  Now, one of the only gents who could afford that gaudy rock has taken himself out of the bidding, at least for now.  England‘s Prince Harry, the younger one with the red hair who is always getting loaded and wearing offensive Halloween costumes, has reportedly been dumped by his girlfriend, the fetching Chelsea Davie (ph) of Zimbabwe.  According to “the News of the World,” whose accuracy rate is almost 100 percent, Miss Davie bagged Harry after losing patience with his playboy life style and lack of commitment. 

She was apparently displeased when he went to the Rugby World Championship instead of to her birthday party.  No comment from Harry‘s camp, but the prince is 21, hideously wealthy and apparently single again.  Poor, poor Harry. 

CARLSON:  Got to be a pretty life rough life. 

WOLFF:  Well, to be fabulously wealthy and single and everybody knows who you are, tough stuff. 

CARLSON:  Twenty one years old and a good polo player. 

WOLFF:  I remember those days for me, Tucker. 

CARLSON:  Sounds like hell, Bill.  Bill Wolff, at 30 Rock in New York. 

Thanks a lot, Bill.

WOLFF:  My pleasure.

CARLSON:  That does it for us.  Thanks for watching.  See you here back tomorrow from Phoenix live.  Up next, “HARDBALL” with Chris Matthews.  Have a great night.

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

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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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