updated 12/21/2007 11:30:18 AM ET 2007-12-21T16:30:18

Guests: Lanny Davis, Bill Press, Tom Tancredo

TUCKER CARLSON, MSNBC ANCHOR:  Barack Obama has rocketed from way behind in the polls to about neck and neck with Hillary Clinton but are appearances and breathless media coverage deceiving?  Time for reality check on the Democratic race. 

Welcome to the show. 

Obama spent part of his morning explaining damaging new reporting on his career in the Illinois state Senate.  As legislator there, he voted “present” rather than “yes or know” nearly 130 times.  Was he dodging decisions and avoiding positions? 

He appeared on a morning show on ABC today to explain.  Obama says the scrutiny of his Illinois record is a natural part of the run-up to Iowa and New Hampshire.  He‘s been polling pretty well, but at least one deeper examination of the numbers across the country suggests that Hillary Clinton is still firmly in command of the Democratic race.  We‘ll clear up that confusion in a moment.

Plus Rudy Giuliani is out of the hospital in St. Louis tonight after he fell ill on his trip back to New York beyond flu-like symptoms.  Neither hospital officials neither Giuliani‘s campaign itself have offered details of what exactly happened to him.  Assuming he feels fine now, the more pressing question may be what‘s happened to Giuliani in the polls.  He has fallen and it remains to be seen whether he can get back up by February 5th.  We‘ll have more on that in a minute. 

But we begin with Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and the fight for the Democratic nomination.  Joining me now is Lanny Davis, former White House counsel to Bill Clinton. 

Lanny, thanks for coming on. 

LANNY DAVIS, FMR. WHITE HOUSE SPECIAL COUNSEL TO PRES. CLINTON: 

Thanks, Tucker. 

CARLSON:  So the clip that I wanted to show a minute go would have had Barack Obama essentially saying we have, you know, in the Illinois state legislature, a tradition of voting “present” on votes where, you know, we‘re hoping for better legislation to vote on.  It doesn‘t mean I‘m taking a pass.  It means I‘m waiting for the next round.  Do you buy that? 

DAVIS:  Can I say neither yes nor no to your question?  I‘ll just say present?  Is that all right?  Just I‘m present. 

CARLSON:  I tend to kind of agree with the implication of what you‘re saying.  It strikes me as BS, too. 

DAVIS:  Look, I actually have a lot of respect for Senator Barack Obama.  I think some day he might make a great president, I don‘t think he‘s ready yet.  I take him at his word that there‘s a tradition in the state legislature to vote “present.”  I just don‘t follow the logic why not vote against legislation if you don‘t think it‘s exactly right there.  There isn‘t that option in the United States. 

But the only reason it‘s an issue, because he‘s a real sincere man and I respect him, is he‘s raised the issue of avoiding issues. 

CARLSON:  Right. 

DAVIS:  .which I thought was unfair when he leveled it against Senator Clinton.  So since he has set the bar, it‘s now necessary for him to explain why he himself avoided, it looks like, voting one way or the other. 

CARLSON:  Well, I suppose here‘s where we disagree.  I actually don‘t buy his explanation.  I‘d rather if you disagree with something, say so.  If you agree with it, say so.  I think that‘s a fair standard, one to which the U.S. Senate, as you said, has held. 

However, I‘m not sure Hillary is the one to be pointing this out.  The Hillary for president campaign has registered two domain names.  Votingpresent.com and Votingpresent.org, presumably they‘re going to be attack sites designed to point out that Barack Obama is a waffler. 

But Hillary is a waffler, too.  We don‘t know what her position on Social Security is in the detail because she‘s basically said, “I‘m not going to tell you.  It‘s so unpopular.”  I mean that‘s the same thing. 

DAVIS:  Actually, I think that we should not be attacking Barack Obama.  We should be laying out what is a very specific and affirmative program that Senator Clinton has spelled out.  So I hope they don‘t go there.  The report today was by a newspaper, from the Clinton campaign. 

CARLSON:  Right. 

DAVIS:  But she has a position on Social Security.  It was Senator Moynihan‘s position which is let‘s have Republicans and Democrats hold hands and jump in the pool together, have a commission, and that‘s what Senator Moynihan. 

CARLSON:  That‘s not a real answer.  A blue ribbon committee—but hold on, like specific questions, like no why are rich people collecting Social Security benefits?  I don‘t know.  That‘s a pretty good question.  I don‘t know what her answer to that question is.  Let‘s have a blue ribbon commission?  That‘s not an answer. 

DAVIS:  Maybe an answer that you disagree with.  But it‘s an answer.  If Senator Moynihan were on the show, and he would say, “We, Democrats and Republicans, need a solution, it‘s either raising tax, cutting benefits or finding new revenues, we need to do this together and do it in a bipartisan,” you would say, “I disagree with your position, Senator Moynihan,” but it‘s a position. 

CARLSON:  No.  But I would say—Senator Moynihan was the guy who led the debate, on so many public policy issues throughout his entire career.  Hillary Clinton isn‘t leading the debate.  She‘s shoving it off to some future date.  She‘s not saying, “Here are the eight things I believe about reforming Social Security.  Let‘s hope the Republicans agree with me.”  She‘s saying, you know, it‘s basically, “I don‘t want to alienate anybody because I‘m a politician with no core beliefs.”  That‘s what she‘s saying. 

DAVIS:  Look, Hillary Clinton can either be what critics call her which is defining herself as a progressive Democrat. 

CARLSON:  Right. 

DAVIS:  .over the years and therefore polarizing or she takes a position on Social Security that you disagree with which is we ought to have a bipartisan commission deal with this, and then somehow she gets attacked for not taking a position. 

But Barack Obama is the one who attacked her.  Now that makes this issue of voting “present” rather than yes or no relevant.  As far as I‘m concerned, I take him at his word that that‘s a tradition in the state Senate in Illinois.  It just doesn‘t make sense to me. 

CARLSON:  What do you make of this “New York Times” piece, pretty interesting “Times” piece this morning, that points out Bill Clinton over the last decade has raised half a billion dollars for his foundation and his activities after the White House.  That includes a single contribution of $31.3 million. 

Why that is significant is the Clinton people won‘t say who these donors are.  You can‘t tell me that someone who has given $31.3 million to Bill Clinton is not going to get special consideration from his wife if she becomes president.  There‘s just no way that I‘m going to believe that.  And if it‘s not true, why can‘t we see who these people are? 

DAVIS:  First of all, I think they need to be transparent.  There are commitments on privacy that have to be overcome.  But I agree with you they ought to release these names if they‘re able to.  But everybody watching, I‘ll bet you, everybody, left, middle and right, would agree that whatever money given to that Clinton foundation has gone to help people who are suffering, tsunami victim, people with AIDS.  The Clinton foundation is the one thing that people left, right and center all agree on. 

CARLSON:  I don‘t know. 

DAVIS:  So I don‘t see what the issue is aside from (INAUDIBLE). 

CARLSON:  Well, here—there are a number of issues.  One, we know that Bill Clinton sold a pardon of Mark Rich for $450,000 in return for that money donated to his foundation.  I mean that‘s kind of a little bit beyond dispute.  We know from the “Times” today, there were a couple of people under federal investigation during this Clinton‘s term as president who gave large amounts to the foundation.  And in at least one case, their problems were fixed.  I mean why shouldn‘t we have the rights to know who these influence buyers are? 

DAVIS:  I shouldn‘t laugh because it‘s a serious charge, but I don‘t think you really mean it seriously. 

CARLSON:  I mean it so seriously. 

DAVIS:  You‘re too fair minded a person.  If Congressman Dan Burton and the congressional investigation of the Mark Rich pardon never established any quid pro quo between the contribution, and you‘re now taking the position there was a quid pro quo. 

CARLSON:  I don‘t want to re-litigate some of the stories, but I—there is no alternative explanation.  Louie Free, who was the FBI director under Clinton, appointed by Clinton, said this, he said, he met with Prince Abdullah, the head of state of Saudi Arabia, with Clinton.  They wanted to talk about Khobar Towers where all those Americans were killed in 1996, and Clinton instead, quote, “hit up Prince Abdullah for a contribution to his library.” 

DAVIS:  Well, he actually. 

CARLSON:  It seems to me. 

DAVIS:  He actually said more than that that was false that there was a quid pro quo.  The Saudis have given money to the Clinton foundation. 

CARLSON:  Yes. 

DAVIS:  That money went right to AIDS victims in Africa.  I repeat what I said, nobody but nobody disagrees that Bill Clinton has done a great job of taking that money and doing good things. 

CARLSON:  OK. 

DAVIS:  .for the planet along with President Bush. 

CARLSON:  I actually would dispute that but we don‘t have enough time.  I think some of the things he‘s done have been good, some have not been good.  But here‘s the bottom line of political point, there‘s no way she‘s going to make it to election day without having her husband release the names of the donors—half a billion dollars worth of donations, we don‘t know who these people are.  She can‘t be elected without releasing that information.  Will you agree with that? 

DAVIS:  I certainly agree with them, that President Clinton and Senator Bill say they believe in full disclosure, they are proud of the money, and proud of what it‘s done, but they have commitments to people that have to be dealt with one at a time.  I hope they do release all the names. 

CARLSON:  All right.  I don‘t think she can get elected without it. 

But we‘ll see.   I‘ve been wrong before. 

Lanny Davis, thanks a lot.  I appreciate it. 

DAVIS:  That‘s right. 

CARLSON:  John McCain picks up another big endorsement today.  We‘ll tell you what well known Republican says McCain is the best man in the world to be president. 

Plus, while some candidates for president have taken to weeping on stage, Barack Obama is as composed as ever.  Is that a bad thing?  We want criers in the age of Oprah.  We‘ll tell you in a minute. 

ANNOUNCER:  TUCKER is brought to you by. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  Mitt Romney is a Mormon.  Barack Obama is a Protestant, not a Muslim.  Are those significant facts?  More than you might think.  Details in a minute. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN‘S CAMPAIGN AD)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN ®, 2008 PRESIDENTIAL HOPEFUL:  One night after being mistreated as a POW, a guard loosened ropes binding me, easing my pain.  At Christmas, that same guard approached me.  Without saying a word, he drew a cross in the sand.  We stood wordlessly looking at the cross, remembering the true light of Christmas.  I‘ll never forget that no matter where you are and no matter how difficult the circumstances, there will always be someone who will pick you up. 

Now you and your family have a blessed Christmas and happy holidays. 

I‘m John McCain and I approve this message. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARLSON:  I‘ve seen this footage many times and McCain is always smoking a cigarette in it but not this time. 

Religion and politics, not a good idea to bring them up during Christmas dinner.  But in a presidential campaign, everything is fair as Barack Obama and Mitt Romney have learned the hard way lately.  How much does religion matter in contemporary politics? 

Joining us now, two men who thought a lot about it, MSNBC political analyst Pat Buchanan and nationally syndicated radio talk show host and former seminarian Bill Press. 

Welcome to you both. 

BILL PRESS, NATIONALLY SYNDICATED RADIO HOST:  God bless you. 

CARLSON:  God—thank you, Bill.  I—there‘s so many angles to this recently, but I am—I guess the one that strikes me most is this amazing question asked by NBC News and the “Wall Street Journal,” what religion is Barack Obama?  The results, 17 percent guessed Protestant, 8 percent guessed Muslim, 2 Catholic, and the rest had no idea. 

So almost as many thought he was a Muslim as thought he was Catholic.  It seems to me this is the fruit of Hillary Clinton‘s disinformation campaign against Barack Obama, trying to plant the seed that this guy is an al Qaeda member.  And why else we all think he‘s Muslim?  He‘s. 

PRESS:  I‘m just stunned that you would take that poll and then try somehow to attach that to Hillary Clinton. 

CARLSON:  Well, key members of her staff were fired for spreading the rumor that he was a Muslim. 

PRESS:  No. 

CARLSON:  You saw Bob Kerrey get up and call the guy a Muslim in two days in a row.  Why else would they think that? 

PRESS:  Tucker, passing that e-mail along didn‘t impact a poll like this.  I think it shows that most people just look at Barack Obama, they don‘t think religion.  They don‘t care which religion he is ad they either accept him for as a change agent or not.  I think the religion factor—by the way, I‘ve never seen religion play more of a role in presidential politics than this year.  I mean that McCain spot the judicial. 

CARLSON:  Yes. 

PRESS:  But I think it playing much more of a role in the Republican primary where it‘s a real positive factor for Huckabee and a real negative factor for Mitt Romney. 

CARLSON:  Well, I think you‘re right.  I just—I guess I disagree with—and I hope you‘re right, but I disagree with the point you just made that Americans don‘t care what religion Barack Obama is. 

PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Yes, they do. 

CARLSON:  I think if people believe Barack Obama were a practicing Muslim, they would not vote for him. 

BUCHANAN:  Sure, that‘s exactly right. 

CARLSON:  I‘m not saying they shouldn‘t vote for him, I think that‘s too bad, but I think that‘s just the reality. 

BUCHANAN:  I mean, look, if whatever it is, 10 or 20 or 30 percent won‘t vote for a Mormon, if they think he‘s a Muslim, it‘s going to be a lot higher than that.  There‘s no question about it. 

CARLSON:  It‘s lights out. 

BUCHANAN:  I—look, I think they‘ve really—the Clintonites, with what they did, whatever you call it, but the cocaine thing and did he buy, sell, still using drugs. 

CARLSON:  Was he dealing?  Was he a crack dealer?  That‘s not a question Billy Shaheen raised. 

BUCHANAN:  He just wasn‘t—no, he‘s not a crack dealer when he was in college. 

CARLSON:  It‘s unbelievable. 

BUCHANAN:  But look, they‘ve stopped his momentum cold, I think.  And they‘ve hurt themselves a bit but it‘s after the fact.  I think it stopped Barack Obama‘s momentum cold, you can sense it and feel it.  But I agree with Bill, in the Republican side if Mitt Romney were a Catholic rather than a Mormon, I think he‘d be rolling to the nomination.  And if Mike Huckabee were not an evangelical Christian, let‘s say he were a Presbyterian and not an evangelical Christina, I don‘t think he could be anywhere. 

CARLSON:  What‘s so striking to me about the poll questions on Mormonism, would you ask people: are you biased against this, that or the other thing?  They may be, but they‘d never admit it because we‘re not allowed to admit any kind of bias or bigotry in America.  Everyone knows the script.  Everyone lies. 

And most people don‘t think of it anyway, it might be.  You ask about Mormonism.  This is the view of Mormonism among white evangelical South Carolina Republican primary voters.  Favorable, 25 percent, unfavorable 51 percent.  Not only don‘t like it but admit they don‘t like it.  Now holy smokes. 

PRESS:  No, that‘s—yes, holy smokes.  No, there is—there‘s a real bias against Mormonism. 

CARLSON:  Yes, I would notice out of that.  Fifty-one percent?  I see that.  Unbelievable. 

PRESS:  Which is why it was important that Romney give that speech.  I think the speech helped him, but maybe it didn‘t help him enough.  And it. 

BUCHANAN:  And you know. 

PRESS:  It‘s never—no speech is going to help him with a group of people that respond to poll that way. 

BUCHANAN:  You know that number, Tucker, is. 

PRESS:  Yes. 

BUCHANAN:  You know, Huckabee is leading now in Iowa.  He‘s leading in South Carolina and Florida.  Let‘s suppose Huckabee loses Iowa and Romney wins the first two.  Those numbers tell me that Huckabee can still come back in South Carolina after losing the first two.  There‘s that possibility which makes him that much stronger a candidate.  And we‘ve just underscores your point.  Religion is incredibly important in the Republican primaries in this campaign. 

CARLSON:  You think—when Huckabee comes out and says as he did the other day in an interview that he—that Isaiah 54 applies to him, that the weapons formed against you will not prosper, quoting Isaiah, one of the prophets, in an interview, to say—let‘s say—essentially saying, I‘m shielded by the power of God. 

BUCHANAN:  Look, I tell you why I don‘t have a problem with that. 

CARLSON:  I‘m not saying I got a problem with that, I just want to know how it works politically. 

BUCHANAN:  I think it—well, it works wonderfully well with those Christian folks.  He‘s a Baptist preacher.  That‘s the way he talks.  I don‘t have a problem with it.  He‘s clearly appealing to them.  I mean it‘s just fair for him to do that as is Barack Obama to start talking in this preacher language and Oprah did that and appealing to the fact that he‘s a young black man who‘s rising up. 

They‘re appealing to the fact that he‘s black and he‘s appealing to the fact that he‘s a Baptist preacher, an evangelical Christian in a race where evangelical Christians can be decisive.  Jack Kennedy played the Catholic card in Catholic communities.  It is done. 

PRESS:  No, no, no, wait, Pat, we have never seen anybody play religion the way Mike Huckabee has.  And he‘s doing it deliberately and openly. 

BUCHANAN:  What is wrong with it? 

PRESS:  And he is saying. 

BUCHANAN:  What is wrong with it? 

PRESS:  Well, I think because we live in a pluralistic society where there‘s a separation of church and state, and he, I believe, has gone over the line.  Pat, he is asking people to vote for him because he‘s a Christian.  He comes flat out.  And that Isaiah quote, for example. 

BUCHANAN:  Well, he‘s only, in effect. 

PRESS:  I think if you reported to him, if I can just finish, you reported today, you not only have to carry a copy of the constitution around, you‘d have to carry a copy of the bible around to keep up with Huckabee‘s. 

CARLSON:  I don‘t think the average reporter has ever held a bible. 

So that would be actually an interesting. 

PRESS:  When I heard the Isaiah 54 I went and got the bible today to figure out what the hell Huckabee was talking about. 

CARLSON:  We‘ll just take a quick break.  We‘ll be right back.

Tom Tancredo drops his bid for president.  He throws his support to Mitt Romney.  Congressman Tancredo joins us in just moments to explain why he did that and what‘s next. 

Plus Arnold Schwarzenegger can never become president.  He‘s a foreigner, but he can be a Cabinet secretary.  Which presidential candidate would want a Secretary Schwarzenegger?  We‘ve got the answer.  We‘ll return in a minute. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  The latest development in the Republican race for president, Colorado Congressman Tom Tancredo has dropped you out.  Mr. Tancredo says he is throwing his support behind Mitt Romney.  Tancredo has been railing against illegal immigration for years.  Apparently, it‘s gotten the attention of Mike Huckabee and Rudy Giuliani, both are once considered to be sympathetic.  No more. 

Joining us now the man who may have changed their minds, Tom Tancredo. 

Congressman, thanks for coming on. 

REP. TOM TANCREDO ®, DROPPED OUT OF ‘08 RACE:  It‘s a pleasure.  I feel like the weatherman who has to come outside to show you it‘s really cold out.  It‘s really cold out. 

CARLSON:  First, congratulations, Congressman, I thought you ran an honorable principle based campaign and you did it with good humor.  How do you feel now that you dropped out? 

TANCREDO:  I feel really honestly at great peace.  I really do.  I‘ve done everything I can do.  I set out a series of goals for us when we did this thing.  And Tucker, you know, you and I have talked about this many times, I don‘t think I ever told you, don‘t worry I‘m going to be president of the United States, but I certainly told you that I would work as hard as I can to make these other guys come to grips with this issue.  And I think that‘s happened.  And so I‘ve done what I can do.  And, you know, now it‘s in America‘s hands.  And they‘re—now, you know, that‘s the thing, America has the issue.  It‘s not Tom Tancredo.  I don‘t have to breathe life into it anymore.  America has got it and these guys, they‘ve got to respond. 

CARLSON:  Well, you‘ve been cheery throughout the entire process,

which, I think is maybe what I admired the most.  That can‘t be easy.  What

do you think that the candidates I just mentioned, Huckabee and Giuliani, whose opinions on illegal immigration seemed to have changed pretty dramatically. 

TANCREDO:  Yes. 

CARLSON:  Do you think their conversions are real? 

TANCREDO:  Here‘s what you‘ve got to ask yourself.  I know the rhetoric.  And I‘m glad to hear it, but you have to look at a record to determine whether or not it‘s for real.  And that‘s one of the reasons why I chose to support Mitt Romney because at least when he was governor of Massachusetts, he stopped illegal alien drivers licenses, didn‘t approve of giving them in-state tuition.  Now that‘s in a state that—and at a time when it wasn‘t even, you know, the “the right” thing to do politically. 

So he‘s got a record.  I can at least count on that.  For the other ones, hey buddy, it‘s a flip of the coin. 

CARLSON:  Well, but it‘s not a flip of the coin with—and speaking of coins, with the one former coin dealer in the race, Ron Paul.  I think if you put your name and Ron Paul names into one of those candidate finders, you would be the two closest.  You‘re both really followers of the constitution.  Did you consider backing Paul? 

TANCREDO:  Yes.  Sure, he‘s a great guy.  I really like him.  I have been a friend of his for 10 years.  I attend what is called the liberty caucus in his office every Thursday, we have a great time, it‘s very stimulating.  But on the issue of the war, you know, this whole concept of whether we‘re at fault or whether we‘re really at war with radical Islam, we are so far apart on that, we—I can‘t possibly come together on that issue. 

CARLSON:  Yes. 

TANCREDO:  I believe we are in a clash of civilizations and there‘s no square in that circle with him, you know?  So God bless him.  He‘s a great guy.  Very principled, but we just don‘t see this—the world in the same way with regard to Islam. 

CARLSON:  I think that‘s an absolutely fair criticism of Ron Paul, one of the few fair criticisms of Ron Paul.  But I think you‘re on to something.  Do you trust Mitt Romney, whose views have changed pretty dramatically?  You‘re allowed to change your views, of course, but his have changed, you know, 180 degrees on at lot of issues.  And do you think he‘s heartfelt on the subject of immigration? 

TANCREDO:  What can I tell you?  I met with him today.  We spent at least an hour.  And I mean I gave him everything I could, boy.  I mean we went through every single aspect of his, quote, “plan.”  And I really nailed as hard as I could him to the issue.  And he promised me a lot of things.  And I said, “I‘m going to go out and tell people this is exactly how you feel.”  He said, you know, “This is OK.  It is how I feel.” 

Now there‘s some things we disagree on.  You know, I‘m for a time-out on immigration.  He‘s definitely not.  He‘s probably for H1B—increases in H1B visas, I‘m not, but on—some of the things that really count, the basics as I call them, the fence, going after employers, going after sanctuary cities, and by the way, add this to the mix.  He can go the distance.  What‘s the good of, you know, saying well, so and so—I mean my good friend, Duncan Hunter is a great guy on all the issue, but hey, I‘ve got better numbers than Duncan. 

So it‘s—you know, what am I going to do?  You‘re going to go with the guy who can maybe get it done and who gives you his word that he‘ll try.  That‘s all I can ask for, what else can I do, bud? 

CARLSON:  Tom Tancredo, congressman from Colorado, until today, Republican presidential candidate, all-around good guy.  I appreciate you coming on, Congressman.  Thank you very much.  Merry Christmas. 

TANCREDO:  I thank you for having me, buddy.  Bye-bye. 

CARLSON:  Rudy Giuliani may be out of the hospital but he‘s not in the clear when it comes to his latest poll numbers.  He‘s dropped more than 10 points in the last month.  Can he bounce back in time for the primaries? 

Plus the family affair in libertarian land, Ron Paul gathers all the Pauls together for his Christmas ad.  It could be the best one yet.  We‘ll be right back. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  Still to come, Mike Huckabee rips into Rudy Giuliani‘s lead in the polls.  Karl Rove weighs on the ever lengthening campaign process.  And what position might the Terminator take in an Obama administration? 

We‘ve got answers to all three. 

But first, here‘s a look at your headlines. 

(NEWSBREAK)

CARLSON:  Rudy Giuliani emerged from a hospital in St. Louis this afternoon, waving and smiling after he spent the night there with what his campaign called flu-like symptoms.  It‘s good to see him full of his normal vim and vigor, though his good cheerful surely belies his reaction to the recent poll numbers. 

Last night‘s “Wall Street Journal”-NBC News number show a 13-point dip in Giuliani‘s national standing in just one month.  That puts him in a virtual three-way tie with Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee.  The question is: are these a speed bump or road block? 

Back again, MSNBC political analyst Pat Buchanan and nationally syndicated radio talk show host, Bill Press. 

Pat, I remember talking with you six months ago and you were asking the question, you know, is the party ready for the radical change he represents?  Giuliani represents.  Is the answer no? 

BUCHANAN:  The answer is no.  And his problem is not simply the 20 percent he‘s got, it‘s that he‘s going to lose Iowa, he‘s pulled out of New Hampshire, he‘s going to lose Michigan, he‘s going to South Carolina, and he‘s running third in Florida which is his firewall.  I mean you cannot lose five or six straight states and expect to hold your national lead and his national lead has already gone. 

CARLSON:  Because momentum is what you want. 

BUCHANAN:  Well, momentum, sure, but Tucker, you win Iowa and it‘s worth $50 million in free media.  You don‘t need a bank account.  You win New Hampshire, it‘s probably worth $75 million in free and favorable media and those people will naturally go up.  You‘re seeing people start to focus on the race, we are right now getting the—what we‘ve all been talking about is how important Iowa is. 

As we look at Romney and look at Huckabee, they‘re not only the two guys—everybody else is dropping in Iowa, they‘re rising nationally.  This thing, the momentum thing is crucial and for the life of me, I don‘t understand why Thompson and McCain and Giuliani dished Iowa by pulling out of their straw poll. 

CARLSON:  It‘s so—and you said that at the time.  And you said that again and again, I thought, boy, is he overstating the value of the straw poll?  No, but. 

BUCHANAN:  No, it went up. 

CARLSON:  He‘s run for president a couple of times, he probably knows a lot about it.  You were right, of course, as it turns out.  But are you amazed, Bill, having watched this a lot, how this kind of—if there was one establishment campaign it was Giuliani‘s.  I mean he had all—he lots of elders and Pat Robertson endorsed him, you know, all this money, he seemed kind of unbeatable. 

PRESS:  You know what?  This whole presidential campaign has been such a roller coaster on both sides.  But let‘s take Giuliani.  We talked here so many times.  How could the party go for a guy who is so against him on the issues like guns and gays and abortion and immigration, right? 

But it looked like they were going to do it.  And yet it seemed they were thinking, no, security is the only issue, he can win, he can beat Hillary, and so he was riding high.  So for a while, I thought, well, I guess they‘re going to go with him.  Then I think there are three things that happened.  Pat mentioned them.  You know, one is he‘s so out of step on the issues.  Secondly, he‘s got some personal baggage.  You know, he‘s got the Kerry stuff, the Judy Nathan stuff. 

And then this unbelievable strategy of bypassing Iowa, bypassing New Hampshire and saying—bypassing even South Carolina—I‘m going to be there in Florida when everybody else falls apart.  To me, I never—I didn‘t—I thought that was crazy to begin with.  And it‘s all tumbled in. 

CARLSON:  But what is if he sticks to it.  I mean you got to actually think this through for a second.  I mean we‘re so caught up in this.  We—

I—you know, Iowa is still this non-representative, extremely cold state.  I‘m not attacking Iowa, but, you know, it‘s not the country.  What if he were to say, “Well, that‘s great.  You can win all the states.  I‘ll give you Florida.  But we still have California, Texas,” I mean all these states we don‘t think of as primary states.  Why not make them so? 

BUCHANAN:  But Iowa isn‘t Iowa.  Iowa is 1,000 journalists from all over the world. 

PRESS:  Right. 

BUCHANAN:  .putting the picture of somebody in Des Moines in the snow who just won Iowa. 

PRESS:  Right. 

BUCHANAN:  That‘s what it is.  It‘s the journalists.  By the time you get to New Hampshire, I tell you when I got to New Hampshire, I went to a Timko(ph) lumber, and there were about 20 workers and there are 300 reporters with all microphones.  I couldn‘t even move. 

CARLSON:  I think I was there.  Absolutely, yes. 

BUCHANAN:  I couldn‘t even move.  And we all just moved back, came here, and moved around to the van.  It‘s unbelievable. 

PRESS:  Tucker, it‘s the juggernaut.  You think that Iowa, massive publicity, and then you move that to New Hampshire, and then Rudy‘s down waiting in Florida, saying, “Hey, how about me?” 

BUCHANAN:  People are waiting.  A case of the blackout.  He has a blackout all the way to Florida? 

PRESS:  Right. 

CARLSON:  But Karl Rove has a piece today, which he makes a point—

Karl Rove, formerly of the White House—he makes, I think, an interesting point, which is, this is no way to choose a president.  You want a more deliberative process.  You want to give voters time to digest what happened.  You don‘t want people casting their votes on the basis of a “Newsweek” cover, do you?  Why not space this a little bit? 

PRESS:  Let me tell you something.  Karl Rove, I believe, and I wrote my column on this today, is absolutely spot on.  This is the worst possible way, I believe, to pick a president.  And we talk—we said that for years, but everybody, the politicians and the candidates, I mean, and the party leaders are afraid of Iowa and they‘re afraid of New Hampshire.  We should have four regional primaries. 

BUCHANAN:  No, no. 

PRESS:  Rotate the primaries. 

BUCHANAN:  No, it‘s good, Tucker. 

PRESS:  And give every American a voice. 

BUCHANAN:  It‘s good because the establishment is terrified of Iowa and the establishment is terrified of New Hampshire because they know it‘s the only way an outsider can get in.  You run a regional primary, say, a western regional primary with California, the only guy that can do well there is somebody who comes in with $50 million on the table. 

CARLSON:  Right. 

BUCHANAN:  So you cut out all the guys who could come from behind. 

The Huckabees are dead if you do that. 

PRESS:  Pat, the only people making any progress are the Huckabee, I must admit.  In Iowa, they‘re the ones with all the money.  Look, Tucker, Iowa 1/47th of 1 percent of the votes cast in a presidential election and they basically dictate who the nominees are going to be.  It‘s crazy. 

CARLSON:  It is.  It‘s nuts. 

BUCHANAN:  They‘re miserable. 

CARLSON:  Right.  Exactly.  We‘re going to give it to New Hampshire. 

It‘s slightly bigger. 

PRESS:  Just as bad. 

CARLSON:  There was an interesting piece today in the “Politico” that talks about—sort of a window into what the candidates are like when they‘re campaigning on the retail end, something a lot of us get very little exposure to, unfortunately, because we‘re stuck in a studio, though we are headed up there soon. 

Anyway, Barack Obama has this kind of wonderful moment where Barack Obama is talking to a woman and she‘s explaining how she can‘t afford her prescription medicine and to heat her house and, you know, her life is essentially falling apart.  And rather than taking her hand and empathizing, maybe weeping a little bit and deeply feeling her pain, he says the following, and I‘m quoting, “There‘s a direct correlation between the special interests agendas in Washington and your situation.  Nobody expects government to do everything for them, what people expect is that you‘re working hard and doing the right thing.  You should be able to retire with dignity and respect and have some basic health care.” 

In other words, he takes a little booklet with a stump speech out of it—out of his pocket and reads it back to her.  Now you‘re not a big weeper, Pat.  But when you ran. 

BUCHANAN:  You got to empathize with people for heaven‘s sake. 

CARLSON:  A little bit. 

BUCHANAN:  Yes.  You read them the liberal manifesto. 

CARLSON:  Something. 

PRESS:  Let me tell you.  First of all, I excuse anything these candidates do almost at this point because they must be absolutely just drugged.  No problem. 

CARLSON:  Well, I think that‘s right. 

PRESS:  But—yes.  But at the same time, Bill Clinton would have cried up a storm. 

CARLSON:  Oh, yes. 

PRESS:  And you know what?  So would Hillary.  So would Hillary. 

BUCHANAN:  With his arms around her. 

PRESS:  And that‘s the difference, you know?  It‘s the professorial Obama versus the empathetic Clinton. 

CARLSON:  I kind of like—I mean I must say I already, as I made very clear, favor Obama over Hillary very strongly, however, I kind of like this.  I sort of like a guy who‘s willing to at least pretend to be rational.  I‘m made very uncomfortable by demigods, those people who weep over strangers. 

BUCHANAN:  Let me say, you know the guy - there‘s this guy in New Hampshire (INAUDIBLE) that come up here and say, “I‘m losing my job and this is going to happen to me, and the company is folding up,” and I said, you know, you empathize with him, but you say to yourself, look, if I win New Hampshire, I‘m not going to win this election, I‘m not going to be president.  This guy is going out of here, there‘s not a thing you can do for this guy right now. 

CARLSON:  Yes. 

BUCHANAN:  And so, I mean, you really just try to empathize with him and talk to him, but I don‘t think I would give the, you know, read from Barry Goldwater‘s constitutional speeches. 

CARLSON:  I like that.  Exactly.  Federalism is the answer to your problem.  Let me explain supply side of economics to you for a moment. 

PRESS:  You realized some of these people (INAUDIBLE). 

BUCHANAN:  Here‘s the Laffer curve. 

CARLSON:  Exactly.  No, you‘re right.  No, that actually is a very fair point, the one you just made. 

PRESS:  Yes.  And everyone they talk to has got a problem and wants that personal attention, and let me tell you, I‘m sure, by the end of the day, I think they‘re totally wiggy. 

CARLSON:  They‘re on (INAUDIBLE) completely, totally.  Wiggy, as you pointed.  Very good. 

Henry Kissinger endorses McCain.  Republicans love the institutional candidate.  They want the elders to tell them whom to vote for.  Henry Kissinger telling them to vote for John McCain.  Is this big? 

BUCHANAN:  This is a McCain rollout.  McCain‘s rolling them out.  He‘s rolling out Lieberman, he‘s got the “Boston Globe,” the “Union Leader.”  He rolls out—he‘s got Kissinger.  It‘s to get him the daily momentum.  And it‘s working in New Hampshire where to he‘s moved up to where he‘s tied with Romney.  It is working.  That‘s what he‘s got to do.  How do you get headlines when he‘s going to be wiped in Iowa, go dark in Iowa? 

And this is it.  And you know, it‘s working.  I don‘t think Henry makes that much difference but he‘s a big picture on the front page. 

PRESS:  I hate to be snide, but I don‘t—I think you could hear the Kissinger news conference and at the end of it not know who he endorsed.  I can‘t understand a word that he says. 

CARLSON:  Yes.  Well, that‘s right. 

PRESS:  But, look, I can‘t believe that Henry Kissinger is going to sway one vote in the 2008 presidential primary. 

CARLSON:  Well, think of it this way, though.  People who thought, “Yes, McCain, I remember him.  Is he still running?”  Or, “McCain, I like him but he doesn‘t have the chance?”  “McCain, isn‘t he out this year?” 

BUCHANAN:  It‘s a picture on the front page.  Photograph.  Photograph. 

CARLSON:  Yes, Henry Kissinger endorsed him, I don‘t know. 

PRESS:  It‘s not going to be on the front page.  Let me put it this way, given a choice, I‘d take Oprah. 

CARLSON:  You would take Oprah over John McCain? 

PRESS:  Yes.  Yes.  Over Henry Kissinger. 

CARLSON:  Oh, over Henry Kissinger. 

PRESS:  Yes. 

CARLSON:  What do you think—so the “Drudge Report” comes out today with this report over a supposed “New York Times” report that supposedly is running tomorrow.  And this is just another measure of how Drudge really is in control of all news coverage in the world which is really true. 

BUCHANAN:  One thing, you know, guys use Drudge.  I mean those “New York Times” obviously they‘ve been. 

CARLSON:  Of course, they do. 

BUCHANAN:  .they‘ve been rebuffed and rebuffed on this story, and they say we‘ve had it, and they go around then and Drudge pops it just like he popped the Monica Lewinsky story first. 

CARLSON:  Or somebody did it.  So this story apparently says, supposedly says that McCain gave favor to a lobbyist.  McCain‘s campaign says we‘re not going to respond to this.  Reporters go right directly to McCain and say what do you say, he can‘t control himself as usual, and weighs in because he‘s angry that his honor has been questioned.  Is this where you hurt him? 

BUCHANAN:  I‘m dumped into the head lines.  I don‘t know what the story says. 

CARLSON:  I don‘t either. 

BUCHANAN:  The story is coming out tomorrow in the “New York Times” because of McCain responded.  And they responded to Drudge and Drudge was pushed to it, my guess is, by some guy at the “New York Times.”  Well, Drudge got it.  He moves these things in the context. 

CARLSON:  It‘s unbelievable.  Yes.  Give me your 20-second. 

PRESS:  Yes.  Just quick.  I haven‘t read the story and so I hesitate

I‘m not going to comment on whether it‘s good or bad for McCain.  If it‘s just a—he‘s helping a lobbyist, he‘s one of 100 senators who‘ve done.  We‘ll just have to wait and see.  I don‘t know. 

CARLSON:  Yes.  We will.  Gentlemen, thank you very much. 

BUCHANAN:  And Tucker, merry Christmas. 

CARLSON:  Excellent.  Merry Christmas. 

PRESS:  All right. 

CARLSON:  Calling all reporters.  Al Qaeda‘s number-two leader will be taking your questions.  Really?  Is this a new terror tactic or an elaborate al Qaeda practical joke?  We‘ve got details in a minute. 

Plus, vindication finally for Miss Puerto Rico.  Never doubt a pageant queen who said she was pepper sprayed.  That‘s the lesson here.  Our beauty pageant correspondent Bill Wolff with the details coming up. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  Ever wanted to question one of the world‘s top terrorists? 

You could have your chance for real.  You won‘t believe how easy it is. 

We‘ve got details ahead. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  In the days since 9/11, we‘ve seen a lot of stories about how technologically savvy al Qaeda is, not in how they plan their attacks but in their PR.  Now they‘re taking it to a whole new level.  Al Qaeda‘s number two is hosting an online forum where the terror mastermind will take questions.  Can this be real? 

Here to tell us, NBC terrorism analyst and founder of GlobalTerrorAlert.com, Evan Kohlmann. 

Evan, welcome.  Is this real? 

EVAN KOHLMANN, NBC TERRORISM ANALYST:  Yes, it is actually very, very real and the questions are being taken through the same Internet forums which disseminate messages from Osama bin Laden and Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri.  And in fact, this is not the first time this has happened.  In the past, other al Qaeda leaders have submitted to Q&A. 

Other leaders of other terrorist organizations, in fact, Hamas just issued a English language Q&A for those in the United States and Europe.  And interestingly enough how do I know that this was real and the questions are real, I submitted questions and they were answered. 

So these people are very interested in reaching out to an audience that‘s outside of their traditional constituency and they‘re being very aggressive about it. 

CARLSON:  Wait.  You submitted questions? 

KOHLMANN:  That‘s correct. 

CARLSON:  What were your questions? 

KOHLMANN:  I was asking them about their relationship with al Qaeda, about various different aspects of what‘s going on right now in terms of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, and they were very frank in their answer.  I mean, you know, it‘s controversial for a group like Hamas to be saying something nasty about al Qaeda but they did. 

And they were being very straightforward and honest and I think that‘s exactly what al Qaeda is trying to benefit from here.  The idea that if they‘re open and very honest with their constituents, their supporters, that that will be rewarded by a greater number of people than joining the cause.  And it‘s—there is demonstrable evidence of that.  There have been individuals who have participated in these Q&A sessions and who have later gone on to be killed in clashes with different security forces. 

There was one guy who was asking about whether training camps were open in Afghanistan, whether he would see real action.  And shortly thereafter he was killed in a clash with Lebanese security forces in Lebanon.  So yes, you have to be careful, you have to just not watch just what‘s being said in the chat session, but also who‘s asking the questions. 

CARLSON:  That‘s remarkable.  It—all of this raises the kind of obvious question, which is if Zawahiri can—you know, has on time for an online chat, if he‘s available to take our questions, why can‘t we kill him? 

KOHLMANN:  Well, it‘s funny you should say.  One of our colleagues at NBC said, well, they‘re being so open and straightforward, how do—how come we just don‘t ask them, where are you located? 

CARLSON:  Right. 

KOHLMANN:  And it is a bit amazing.  It is to be said that U.S. law enforcement, intelligence agencies, monitor these chat forums, leave them running in order to try to determine where the people are that are running them, who is participating in them, where exactly al Qaeda comes in, the al Qaeda connection.  Obviously, we haven‘t pursued that to the penultimate conclusion yet. 

But yes, I mean, it‘s quite frustrating that someone who is a most wanted individual on the FBI‘s list that he is responsible for killing thousands of Americans is able to laugh about it and joke about it in Q&A sessions on the Internet live. 

CARLSON:  That—do you see this as a middle finger to the west? 

KOHLMANN:  It is.  I mean that‘s exactly what it is.  And they say as much.  They say, you know, your generals go on TV and they make up different casualty counts and they say they‘ve killed number two and number three of al Qaeda.  You know, here we are.  You know, if they‘ve killed us, if they‘re got us cornered, how come we‘re able it do this?  How come we‘re able to reach our supporters this way so easily?  How come we can release videos of ourselves, you know, any time we want? 

And I—it is a question and it‘s a good question.  And I think unfortunately it‘s an indication that we‘re still trying to catch up in terms of the information and media market that al Qaeda has been running over the past few years. 

CARLSON:  Boy, I don‘t know what we‘ve been doing all this time.  Anyway, you‘ve infuriated me.  Evan Kohlmann, I really appreciate it though.  Thanks very much. 

KOHLMANN:  Thank you very much. 

CARLSON:  Next, no, you‘re not watching a scene from candid camera, that‘s one of our very own correspondents dancing.  We‘ve got that story when we come back. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  Welcome back.  For most of you, I suspect the first 55 minutes of this show have merely been a prelude to the latest updates on the fortunes of Miss Puerto Rico.  Well, wait no longer.  Bill Wolff is here to tell us. 

BILL WOLFF, MSNBC VICE PRESIDENT FOR PRIMETIME:  Tucker, thank you for that appropriate lead-in America, of course, gripped by the drama of Miss Puerto Rico.  And all I can say is, she told you so, Tucker. 

Miss Puerto Rico, Ingrid Marie Rivera, was, in fact, pepper sprayed during last month‘s pageant during which he overcome swelling and itching, maintained her poise and her plum, and took home the most prized stash in the Caribbean.  You‘ll recall that tests of a dress and a makeup brush came back negative for pepper spray sabotage, but another dress and her swimsuit were then tested. 

And Tucker, traces of pepper spray appeared.  Police suspect a pageant volunteer of sabotaging Miss Rivera‘s garments in the changing room during the final round of competition.  From now on, organizers will screen volunteers more carefully because, according to the pageant director, quote, “there are some people who are very fanatical, we generate a lot of passion,” end quote.  Sabor(ph). 

CARLSON:  I have met those people. 

WOLFF:  Yes, they care, man. 

CARLSON:  They care. 

WOLFF:  Anyway. 

CARLSON:  They‘re not kidding around. 

WOLFF:  Anyway, we say congratulations to Miss Puerto Rico.  We never, ever should have doubted her.  Shame on us or at least me.  Except for the fact she‘s human, beautiful, poised and renowned, Miss Puerto Rico has nothing on the robot of the year. 

Eighty-three of Japan‘s finest robots competed in the talent, evening gown and swimsuit portion of the contest staged by the Trade Ministry.  Well, mainly just the talent competition, Tucker, and the winner, a sexy little number named M4301A, which can track packs of food or pharmaceuticals moving at a high speed on a conveyor belt with its vision detectors, picked them up, looked at them, picked them up, and placed them into a box divided into as many as 16 units. 

M4301A will wear the crown for a year and says it wants to do some modeling work and some acting after its obligations as robot of the year have been fulfilled, Tucker. 

CARLSON:  She‘s working on some different things, she‘s talking to some various people. 

WOLFF:  Yes, have some stuff going on. 

CARLSON:  Her agent is hopeful. 

WOLFF:  Projects up in the air. 

CARLSON:  She‘s got William Morris behind her.  She‘s. 

WOLFF:  Three-picture deal. 

CARLSON:  We‘re going to read about her. 

WOLFF:  Yes.  We‘ll see her on the cover of “OK” magazine before you know it. 

Christmas means different things to different people, Tucker, but there‘s one essential truth to this season.  Everybody gets a little fatter.  And that may be good news for the planet because New Zealander Pete Bethune has built an eco-friendly boat called the Earthrace, there it is.  It runs on biodiesel, Tucker, and on human fat, yes, blubber, the old spare tire. 

Bethune is in the middle of a round-the-world sail, and while the trip will be fuelled mainly by biodiesel, he and two pals had liposuction to the tune of 10 liters of human flab.  Those two and a half gallons of unsightly blubber sucked out of them not only made him felt like he always dreamed he‘d be, those pounds of fat powered Earthrace eight nautical miles.  So have some more eggnog or two dozens more of those cookies with the white icing, you might, Tucker, just be saving the planet. 

CARLSON:  That is—honestly, I could say. 

WOLFF:  Yes. 

CARLSON:  .that‘s one of the most repulsive stories I‘ve ever heard. 

WOLFF:  Hmm, which part? 

CARLSON:  The life or the idea that you could liposuction gallons of fat. 

WOLFF:  Gallons.  Gallons of fat.  But put them to good use.  Zero carbon footprint, Tucker. 

CARLSON:  But wouldn‘t you just be—would you be cutting out the middleman, i.e., the plastic surgeon just by rowing? 

WOLFF:  Yes. 

CARLSON:  Wouldn‘t that be a way to use your fat to power your boat? 

WOLFF:  You know what?  That‘s a heck of a point.  I thought you were going suggest that you put a liposuction machine on the boat like almost as though you are the fuel tank and it‘s sucking the fat out of you and the boat is going, you know?  But you‘re right, row, people, row.  And in the meantime, enjoy those holiday goodies. 

Now, Tucker, a man who will dance has an advantage.  A man who can dance is dangerous.  And this brings us to the great David Gregory.  Gregory hosted the “TODAY” show this morning.  Mary J. Blige stopped by to belt out a tune or two and Mr. Gregory could not help himself. 

Look at him, look at him go.  I got to tell you something, Tucker, I‘ve seen worse.  I‘ve done worse. 

CARLSON:  Oh, I definitely have. 

WOLFF:  Yes.  Gregory has rhythm.  Now he‘s a tall drink of water.  He‘s a tall man who will dance, who can dance.  And I say, Tucker, that makes David Gregory a dangerous individual. 

CARLSON:  I‘d agree with that. 

WOLFF:  I‘m scared to do it and I‘m terrible when I do. 

CARLSON:  Take it from me, Bill, it‘s not worth it. 

WOLFF:  No, not worth it.  Now I got one more for you, Tucker.  A lot of these politicians have sent their Christmas ads out.  But whose have you been waiting for?  Come on, tell the truth. 

CARLSON:  The same candidate I‘ve waiting for.  Ron Paul from Texas. 

WOLFF:  Waiting for of all time.  Ladies and gentlemen, Ron Paul has put it together.  So if you want the last word in Christmas tidings, we are now proud to bring you the Christmas greetings of that libertarian from Texas running as a Republican, Dr. Ron Paul. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, RON PAUL‘S CAMPAIGN AD)

REP. RON PAUL ®, 2008 PRESIDENTIAL HOPEFUL:  I‘m Ron Paul and I approve this message because I want to take time out from my campaign so my family and I can wish you and your family a very merry Christmas, a joyous and happy holiday season, and an absolutely great 2008. 

               

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WOLFF:  Come on, Tucker.  He‘s good.  He‘s very good. 

CARLSON:  He is—you know what?  And it‘s all completely real.  I‘d bet not a dollar was spent on makeup before that political shoot. 

WOLFF:  I‘m not a political consultant.  I can sum it up in one word, authenticity.  Try it. 

CARLSON:  He‘s about as real as it gets. 

WOLFF:  Yes. 

CARLSON:  Yes.  He‘s also at 8 percent but that will rise.  Bill Wolff, at headquarters, thank you. 

WOLFF:  My pleasure. 

CARLSON:  That does it for us.  Thanks for watching.  As always, we‘ll be back here tomorrow night.  I hope you‘ll join us.  In the meantime, “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.

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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