updated 12/26/2007 10:53:59 AM ET 2007-12-26T15:53:59

Guests: Jim Moran, Melinda Henneberger, Bob Franken

TUCKER CARLSON, MSNBC ANCHOR:  One of the all time upsets in American political history, President Bush appears to have won the battle in Washington over the war in Iraq. 

Welcome to the show. 

A year ago it seemed impossible with the newly elected Democratically-controlled Congress would let this president execute his Iraq policy unfettered.  And yet, just this week, Congress approved yet—approved yet another war funding bill without any mention of the long-promised timetables for withdrawal. 

The fact is, as the year ends, Congressional resistance for the war in Iraq appears to have waned to near irrelevant levels.  Why?  And how did that happen?  What will 2008 mean for the war and the battle in Washington about the war? 

In a minute, we‘ll talk to antiwar Congressman Jim Moran of Virginia who joins us with his answers. 

Also today, Mitt Romney is no Bill Clinton but he is working on it having claimed he saw his father march with Martin Luther King during the civil rights movement.  Romney now explains that there is more than one definition to the word saw.  He saw his father march with Dr. King, quote, “in a sense.”  Is America prepared for another word-mongering lawyer in the White House? 

And it was a brutal year in the financial world with right down to the billions and first-time ever losses for some of America‘s most prestigious firms.  You think executive bonuses on Wall Street reflect the tough time this year?  Think again, pal.  CNBC‘s Charlie Gasparino, the reporter who makes CEOs sweat, brings us a story of the very merry Christmas enjoyed by a few. 

But we will begin with the most unlikely defeat of 2007, the U.S. Congress has capitulation to President Bush on the war in Iraq. 

Joining me now, one of our favorite Democrats, congressman from Virginia, and a member of the out-of-Iraq caucus, Jim Moran. 

Congressman, you have failed.  We‘re still in Iraq.  What was the point of electing Democrats if you‘re paying for the war without saying boo as you are? 

REP. JIM MORAN (D), VIRGINIA:  It‘s not tough competition being one of your favorite Democrats.  This is like. 

CARLSON:  I like a lot of Democrats. 

MORAN:  President Bush owns this war and he was able to bribe and bully the Senate into going along with them.  I think it‘s a disgrace. 

CARLSON:  What does that say about the Democrats in the Senate? 

MORAN:  Not a whole lot. 

CARLSON:  They‘re for sale, that‘s what you‘re saying. 

MORAN:  No.  Some of them stood their ground, but not enough of them.  And I think it‘s a disgrace.  We—this war is not going to be won in the way that it is being waged.  There‘s no question about it. 

CARLSON:  So what about, I mean, so your contention is that Bush got his way because he strong-armed some weak-kneed Democrats in the Senate.  Is there. 

MORAN:  A little too (INAUDIBLE). 

CARLSON:  Well, I think I am paraphrasing what you just said.  Is there any recognition among antiwar Democrats that maybe the surge isn‘t the disaster that you predicted?  In fact, as Jack Murtha said, the leader spiritually of your group, maybe it‘s got to working in some sense. 

MORAN:  The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said that the only purpose for the surge is to create breathing space. 

CARLSON:  Right. 

MORAN:  .if—for political national reconciliation and economic growth.  But without that, no amount of money, no amount of troops and no amount of time is going to amount to much.  And that‘s the reality.  There is no political national reconciliation.  There is no economic growth.  Sixty percent of the people are unemployed and there are reasons why we‘ve seen a reduction in violence, but they‘re not reasons that should give us any hope for the future. 

The Shia militia, in cooperation with the Iraqi police, have been able to ethnically cleanse much of Baghdad so you don‘t see as much violence.  Muqtada al-Sadr has taken a siz-month hiatus from violence, but that‘s time limited. 

CARLSON:  But wait, that wasn‘t the issue.  OK. 

MORAN:  And then of course, the Saudi lords are clearing out al-Qaeda.  But that doesn‘t mean they‘re our guys. 

CARLSON:  It‘s an ugly country with a lot of ugly realities. 

MORAN:  Yes. 

CARLSON:  Iraq is probably every bit as dependent upon the United States size it ever was and that‘s a bad thing. 

MORAN:  No.  More so. 

CARLSON:  But maybe more so.  OK, fine.  I‘ll give you that.  Fewer people are being killed.  And if you guys can‘t stand back and say, “You know, that‘s great,” then I think Americans look at you and say, “What‘s wrong with you?  Why can‘t you recognize reality?” 

MORAN:  Why are fewer people getting killed?  Four and a half million people. 

CARLSON:  That‘s not good? 

MORAN:  .have been either—four and a half million people have been either killed or are refugees, either displaced within Iraq and two and a half million are out. 

CARLSON:  It‘s not like they‘ve run out of people to kill.  Come out, that‘s not—you know it‘s more than that.  That is not just there‘s nobody left to murder.  It‘s that. 

MORAN:  You don‘t have as many as you (INAUDIBLE). 

CARLSON:  .it‘s a more peaceful place, Baghdad.  OK. 

MORAN:  I mean, you know, military dictatorships can bring about the reduction of violence. 

CARLSON:  Yes. 

MORAN:  But that doesn‘t mean it‘s a good thing, that it‘s a thing that is tolerable from our value. 

CARLSON:  It‘s not better than chaos? 

MORAN:  Well, I think it‘s still not. 

CARLSON:  We had chaos.  Now we have order.  It‘s not perfect. 

MORAN:  We still have chaos.  Talk to some of the Christian families. 

CARLSON:  Come on.  OK. 

MORAN:  .who have been forced out of their neighborhoods or some of the Shia families that—well, particularly the Sunni families.  The Sunni families have been largely driven out of Baghdad.  They were the professionals who knew how to run the country.  People know how to run the country are out of the country for the (INAUDIBLE), Tucker. 

CARLSON:  I‘m just saying, you lose credibility it seems to me.  I think almost everything you‘ve said is probably right.  I‘m just suggesting that you lose credibility and your movement does the same when you don‘t recognize the facts on the ground and they include a reduction, a dramatic reduction in violence.  So why don‘t just say that‘s a good thing? 

MORAN:  But it‘s not about a reduction in violence.

CARLSON:  It‘s not?  Oh, OK. 

MORAN:  No, it‘s not. 

CARLSON:  It‘s about a political solution. 

MORAN:  That‘s right. 

CARLSON:  But in the meantime isn‘t fewer people dying good?  Why is that so hard to say? 

MORAN;  It‘s about a viable, sustainable nation. 

CARLSON:  OK.  But it‘s—again, on the way to that, why is—I just think, personally think, even though I agree with a lot of what you‘re saying, I think it‘s kind of weird the Democrats won‘t acknowledge that it‘s good that few people are dying. 

MORAN:  Let me take another attempt.  If you were a schoolgirl and going to school in Baghdad and you see these young thugs that are armed by the Shia militia forcing you to wear a veil and to observe their strict cultural traditions far different than the way it was years ago. 

CARLSON:  Yes. 

MORAN:  .that‘s a form of violence, too. 

CARLSON:  No, it‘s—oh, please. 

MORAN:  And if we turn this country into a Shiite theocracy, that‘s a form of violence.  Repression is a form of violence, Tucker. 

CARLSON: You know, I‘m not defending repression. 

MORAN:  And we‘re going to the wrong direction. 

CARLSON:  I‘m merely saying that‘s such a. 

MORAN:  We‘re creating a country that‘s far more loyal to Iran than it will be to America. 

CARLSON:  But that‘s just like cocktail party nonsense.  That‘s a form of violence.  No.  That doesn‘t compare to having your face ripped off with a nail bomb.  It‘s just doesn‘t.  They‘re not the same. 

MORAN:  Of course not.  Of course not.  And it‘s important to stop the violence. 

CARLSON:  Yes. 

MORAN:  There‘s no question about that. 

CARLSON:  We should celebrate when it does stop a little bit and we should -- I just think. 

MORAN:  You can celebrate but is it worth the deaths of 3,894 Americans to bring about this cessation of violence with the wrong guys in charged of the country, creating a theocracy. 

CARLSON:  No. 

MORAN:  .that doesn‘t embrace our values? 

CARLSON:  I‘m not. 

MORAN:  This policy cannot possibly be worthy of the sacrifice of these kids that have been (INAUDIBLE) there. 

CARLSON:  Look, I was against—I mean I‘ve been against the war for a long time.  I don‘t think it was worth going in.  I‘m not defending it.  I‘m just saying you have to let reality shape your views. 

Here‘s what Brian Baird, your fellow Democrat from Washington state, said to the “Politico.”  I thought it was a smart thing to say.  He said, quote, “My hope we would start looking at real solutions instead of the dichotomy of cut funding versus stay forever.  The entire policy has been dictated by the out of Iraq caucus.  What are we going to do, have another 40 withdrawal votes?”  You had 40 votes, you‘ve lost them all.  Isn‘t—there got to be some middle ground between get out now and stay forever.  Why don‘t you join the progressive solution? 

MORAN:  Let me say to my good friend, Brian Baird, that‘s exactly what we voted for in the House.  We will provide the money, but the president has to give us a plan for how he would end this war by the end of 2008.  Give us a strategy, give us some strategy.  There‘s never been a strategy for this war. 

And tell us how you are going to be able to prevent the enormous amount of post traumatic stress disorder occurring from the troops largely because they are in combat for 18 straight months and we don‘t even give them enough time out of combat as they have spent in combat.  Tell us how you‘re going to do this, how you‘re going to show some real respect for our troops.  Show us how—what your plan is.  What is your exit strategy?  It‘s been five years now.  How about an exit strategy, Mr. President, and those of you who support the president‘s policy? 

CARLSON:  And yet he‘s still beating you.  I mean he‘s crushing you.  He‘s spanking—you‘ve got nowhere and he‘s gotten everything he wants.  Maybe it‘s time to revise your strategy, don‘t you think? 

MORAN:  Well, you know, I can take you back to the ‘30s and early ‘40s when there were some pretty bad people who were winning.  But they weren‘t running for the right cause.  This is not the right cause. 

CARLSON:  Comparing Bush to Hitler? 

MORAN:  I didn‘t say that.  But. 

CARLSON:  I‘m asking because that‘s what you‘re doing. 

MORAN:  I‘m just telling you that you can have victories one after another, but they are not sustainable because they‘re not for the right reasons.  And I think that what President Bush has been able to achieve in sustaining his policy is going to come back to haunt us.  That‘s all I‘m saying. 

CARLSON:  All right.  Congressman Jim Moran of Virginia.  Merry Christmas. 

Thanks for coming on. 

MORAN:  Merry Christmas to you, Tucker. 

CARLSON:  When you hear the word, phrase, “world class genius,” who comes to mind first?  Is it Hillary Clinton?  Her husband says it ought to be. 

Plus Mitt Romney is a BS artist literally.  No, wait, that‘s figuratively.  Well, it all depends on what you mean by BS artist.  We‘ll explain in a moment. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  His approval ratings hover near Dick Cheney, his party is out of power and may stay that way for a long time, and yet President Bush still seems to get everything he wants.  How does he do that?  We‘ll tell you when we come back. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  He may be the most least popular president since Richard Nixon.  But just about a year from now, it may be George W. Bush is laughing all the way back to his ranch because in the end he won.  The Democrats have the majority in Congress.  They may have it for generations, but they have not been able to keep Bush from getting just about every single thing he wants on every single issue.  Why is that? 

Joining us now to explain is the author of “If They Only Listened to Us:

What Women Voters Want Politicians to Hear,” and the contributing writer for Slate, Melinda Henneberger, as well as online columnist Bob Franken. 

Welcome to you both.  It is pretty unbelievable if you think about it.  I mean there are a lot of explanations why Democrats were elected, no (INAUDIBLE) corruption.  I really thought the war undercurrent everything. 

MELINDA HENNEBERGER, “SLATE” CONTRIBUTING WRITER:  Sure. 

CARLSON:  .including Bush‘s drop from popularity.  They‘ve made, like, literally no headway.  Why is that? 

HENNEBERGER:  I wouldn‘t say it‘s that Bush wins.  I would say it‘s that Democrats lose.  It‘s true that they don‘t have a big majority, but they just failed to do anything they said they were going to do this year.  So I think they‘re slinking home for the holidays after getting nothing they said they were going to do.  And I do think that the public is still quite opposed to this war and that is why they were elected.  That‘s why they took control of Congress.  And they failed to do the one thing that I think the public most wanted them to do. 

CARLSON:  I am just amazed by the whole thing.  “Investors Business Daily” has an editorial today saying, essentially, Bush won.  “The way things are going in Iraq,” it says, the war might just be won before the Democrats can get around to forcing or surrender a cutting off funding, if ever.” 

BOB FRANKEN, ONLINE COLUMNIST:  Well, that is the hopeful point of view of those who favor the Republican Party and the president.  But I think it‘s fairly easy to understand why Congress wasn‘t able to overcome the president.  It‘s called the constitution and the checks and balance system.  The Republicans still have enough power in the Congress because the Democrats don‘t have the power they need to override the president. 

And I suspect that one of their campaign mantras will be, next year, don‘t only elect a Democratic president, but elect enough members of Congress that they can overcome the Republican what they hope will be a minority.  But, Tucker. 

CARLSON:  Let‘s be honest.  So 40 tries, but they weren‘t—I mean there were a number of times when clever Democrats said, “Well, here‘s an idea.  Let‘s actually try and cut off funding.  We‘ll take—really go to it.  Let‘s just cause an impasse here.”  And the leadership every time backed up from the brink.  There was a moment when Democrats, but wait a second, why don‘t we just raise taxes to pay for the war?  You want a war, you‘ve got to have a designated tax to pay for it, which is not a stupid idea.  The leadership said, no, that‘s too controversial. 

FRANKEN:  Do you remember the kamikaze approach when it was the Newt Gingrich Republican Congress taking on Bill Clinton? 

CARLSON:  Of course. 

FRANKEN:  And I suspect that the Democrats learned their lesson from that, and that is, is that Congress, as the Greek chorus, is going to lose that kind of fight.  If they are the ones who are pictured as causing this tremendous implosion of government or some sort of paralysis or something like that, they are going lose. 

HENNEBERGER:  Except that. 

CARLSON:  You may be right tactically, but this is about the war.  I mean this is not. 

HENNEBERGER:  Right. 

CARLSON:  .who even remembers what the government shut down of ‘95 was about, other than it gave birth to the Monica Lewinsky... 

FRANKEN:  But Tucker, politics is tactics.  It‘s all about tactics. 

CARLSON:  Right.  But you—they were making moral claims about this war that were different than anything we heard during the ‘90s. 

HENNEBERGER:  Right. 

CARLSON:  People are dying.  Americans are dying.  This is killing our country.  If that‘s not a time to act and show leadership even as Congress. 

HENNEBERGER:  Right. 

CARLSON:  .what is the time? 

HENNEBERGER:  They refuse to ever draw a line in the sand.  They—there were many things they could have tried and they thought it would reflect badly on them in the end.  They were afraid to cut off the funding. 

FRANKEN:  But they didn‘t have the power.  If they could have drawn all the lines they wanted, the president, with all the power inherent in the office, would have taken a stick and just wiped out the line. 

CARLSON:  Maybe.  Maybe not.  Maybe. 

HENNEBERGER:  But they didn‘t try and that‘s the worst part.  I mean I think the Democratic base would say, “I didn‘t see them making those tests.” 

CARLSON:  See, I think that the last thing that the Democrats want long-term is a Democratic president.  That‘s what killed Bush.  You‘ll notice that, you know, Bush spent six years signing every single piece of garbage bill that came over his desk from the Republicans spending his money in a crazy manner in my way, in my view. 

Now with Democrats in charge, the new omnibus spending bill, 11,000 earmarks.  So Bush can stand up and say, “Look what the Democrats are doing.  They‘re out of control.”  It helps to have a divided government basically. 

FRANKEN:  But the biggest problems that the Democrats had is they over promised.  Now I know that‘s going to surprise you, that politicians over promise and I‘ll let you sort of get used to that idea.  But that‘s what they did and now they‘re paying the price for it a little bit. 

CARLSON:  Melinda? 

HENNEBERGER:  The earmark is interesting because they cut earmarks 25 percent.  That‘s not. 

CARLSON:  Right. 

HENNEBERGER:  That‘s not bad.  And some of the earmarks that I have seen mocked the most, I didn‘t think it sounded so ridiculous.  Some Republican in Canton, Ohio who wants to have 100K for a first ladies‘ museum.  I‘d go see that. 

CARLSON:  I don‘t know.  If you want the person—raise the money yourself like all these other—but allow me, my point is look, it makes life much easier for the president, for Bush to have Congress in the hands of the opposing party because he can point to them and use them as a foil as he‘s going to do with these 11,000 earmarked. 

HENNEBERGER:  But the interesting thing is that if they didn‘t raise taxes and they didn‘t spend, how are they going to complain about the tax and spend Democrats? 

CARLSON:  Well, that‘s a deep structural problem.  All right, we‘ll be right back. 

Mitt Romney says he saw his father march with Martin Luther King, that saw in the sense that he didn‘t actually see it.  We‘ll explain that in minute. 

And speaking of semantics, Elizabeth Edwards insists that her family‘s 28,000-square-foot house is not exceedingly grand, it‘s just comfortable. 

Stay tuned for more from the woman in the big house.  We‘ll talk to someone who is in the house.  We‘ll be right back. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  Well, Mitt Romney says he saw his father march with Martin Luther King.  Does it matter if he literally witnessed it or was just speaking figuratively?  Joining me now to figure that out, contributing for Slate Melinda Henneberger and online columnist Bob Franken. 

I must say, Bob, I‘m not—I don‘t really care.  First of all, I wonder why it‘s relevant to anything that his father marched or didn‘t march with Martin Luther King. 

FRANKEN:  Well. 

CARLSON:  I don‘t really care what his father did. 

FRANKEN:  It‘s easy to be sarcastic about it and say maybe he had a dream or something. 

CARLSON:  I haven‘t heard that yet. 

FRANKEN:  You haven‘t heard that yet.  Well, chances are you never will again.  But I have to agree with you.  We seem to have gotten to the point now where we are looking for any nit that there is to pick.  We, those of us in the media, Ross Perot, when (INAUDIBLE) a hero of yours, used to call it gotcha politics.  And I think he had a point, that instead of looking at the things that are in point, we watch for somebody important, we watch for somebody to step on his own words. 

And sometimes I say I hate to - I‘d hate to be held to that standard, but if you‘re in public life, I have to get—you have to get used to that. 

CARLSON:  Yes, maybe.  I think if Mitt Romney had said, and I think I‘m being fair here, if Mitt Romney had said, “You know, whatever.  I mean I didn‘t see him.  He was a big civil rights guy,” which he was, George Romney.  You know?  Whatever.  Instead—this is where he lost me.  This is where Romney actually starred to bother me when in the process of explaining how he saw but didn‘t he, he said this.  Watch. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY ®, ‘08 PRESIDENTIAL HOPEFUL:  Look at the dictionary, the term saw includes being aware of in the sense I‘ve described that say it‘s a figure of speech and very familiar, and it‘s very common.  And I saw my dad march with Martin Luther King.  I did not see it with my own eyes but I saw him in the sense of being aware of his participation in that great effort. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARLSON:  Yes.  We‘re getting—we‘re getting actually theological here.  I mean—do you know what I mean?  That‘s—that explanation takes all my sympathy and it‘s evaporated. 

HENNEBERGER:  I think it‘s good that he wishes he had seen his father and that wishes—his father didn‘t march actually.  His father was once in the state as part of the same series of marches, but didn‘t march, but came by and said hello.  And so, I think, more than what it says about whether George Romney did or didn‘t march, it‘s a character issue.  It‘s—if he shaves a little bit on something that is not significant, is he going to do that when he explains. 

CARLSON:  Right. 

HENNEBERGER:  .the policy to us as president? 

CARLSON:  Well, I guess, I mean, my problem is deeper than that.  Why is he bringing it up in the first place?  I mean my father is a decent guy, but that means nothing.  That doesn‘t reflect on me.  It reflects on my father more.  I‘d march with Al Sharpton.  Am I civil rights leader?  No.  It doesn‘t mean anything. 

FRANKEN:  Well, of course, his father has become part of his narrative.  If I see one more article about Mitt Romney as George Romney‘s son, I think that I‘m probably just going to burn the publication.  Enough already.  But nevertheless, it has become part of his campaign message and so I think that he can get himself in that bind. 

But wouldn‘t you like to see somebody in a news conference after something like this happens to just turn to the reporter, somebody other than you or me, of course, and say, you know, that‘s such a ridiculous question and of course, you know what I meant. 

HENNEBERGER:  I think he. 

CARLSON:  I wish he had said that. 

FRANKEN:  But wouldn‘t it be nice, yes? 

HENNEBERGER:  He was defending Mormonism.  He was defending against charges that. 

CARLSON:  Right. 

HENNEBERGER:  .the religion is racist.  And that‘s why it became important for him to say his father marched with him OK. 

CARLSON:  Which I think is a legitimate—that that is a legitimate context, I will say.  But again, if he said that, you‘re right, he would have won points.  It takes a certain courage to say that to the press.  I mean, obviously, I work in the press, but they‘re obnoxious and stupid, let‘s be honest, some of the time. 

And pointing that out, I don‘t think it doesn‘t make you Spiro Agnew just to say buzz off.  Why don‘t they do that? 

HENNEBERGER:  I don‘t know because that‘s a very popular sentiment with the public. 

CARLSON:  Yes, it is, because I think people are legitimately afraid that if they take on the press they‘ll get beat on more. 

FRANKEN:  And it‘s bipartisan when people talked about. 

HENNEBERGER:  Right. 

FRANKEN:  .the press trivializing things.  Bill Clinton last week said exactly the same thing that we spent so much time talking about miniscule tactics and all this kind of horserace and we‘re afraid to deal with the substance of what anybody says. 

HENNEBERGER:  But of course, they also accuse us of, you know, trivializing issues that really are quite important too.  So they dilute their own argument by accusing us when we are taking it. 

CARLSON:  Right.  And also you‘re dealing with people who, on some deep level, have no interest on what‘s true and what‘s not true. 

Anyway, Bill Clinton is a liability for his wife‘s campaign.  That‘s right.  It turns out that people involved in her campaign are blaming him for her recent drop in poll numbers.  Is it fair? 

Plus, Barack Obama is not spending a whole lot of time in New Hampshire, but the voters there don‘t seem to care.  He‘s now tied with Hillary in that state.  What‘s going to happen when he actually starts campaigning in New Hampshire?  We‘ll be right back. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  Still to come, complimenting your wife is one thing, lumping her in with the smartest people ever in the history of the planet could be a little over the top.  Can you guess which candidate we‘re referring to?  We‘ll tell in just a minute. 

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

MILISSA REHBERGER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT:  Hi, everyone.  I‘m Milissa Rehberger.  Here‘s what‘s happening. 

The weather is causing delays for early holiday travelers.  In Chicago, dense fog led airlines to cancel scores of flights.  Dozens of flights have also been canceled in Boston today because of snow.  It‘s estimated 65 million Americans will travel for Christmas and New Year‘s.  Nine million of them will fly. 

A 17-year-old California girl dies hours after her health insurance reversed its decision and said it would pay for a liver transplant.  Cigna had previously said there was a lack of medical evidence that the procedure would work.  Their attorney says the family is now planning to sue. 

In Pakistan, officials say a suicide bomber killed at least 50 people inside a mosque at the home of the country‘s former interior minister.  And in Saudi Arabia, officials say they foiled a terrorist plot to attack holy sites around Mecca just—during a just-completed annual Muslim pilgrimage.  Authorities say a group of men have been arrested. 

Now back to TUCKER. 

CARLSON:  Albert Einstein, Michelangelo and Aristotle, you might be described them as world class geniuses.  Well, according to former President Clinton his wife deserves a spot on that list too.  Mr. Clinton said those very words, world class genius, to describe his wife during a stop in New Hampshire on Thursday.  The question is: how long before we see her face on postage stamps, if not Mount Rushmore? 

Joining us once again, contributing writer for Slate Melinda Henneberger and online columnist Bob Franken. 

Melinda, I think Hillary Clinton is absolutely above average in intelligence, kind of an impressive person, tough.  She‘s the frontrunner for, you know, the Democratic nomination.  She‘s an impressive person.  World class genius?  It‘s just sad to say like - it is just so not true. 

HENNEBERGER:  The thing is, Americans don‘t want a world class genius for president. 

CARLSON:  That‘s a good point. 

HENNEBERGER:  I think, you know, he said the most important quality in the person you want to elect as president is someone with the ability to help others. 

CARLSON:  Yes. 

HENNEBERGER:  And that‘s—Hillary doesn‘t come to my mind when I look at the field on that point either. 

CARLSON:  No, and just—I would in fact say it because I‘m a mean person.  I went back to Michael Kelly‘s 1993 piece in the “New York Times” magazine quote, saying Hillary is really a tremendous profile of her prior to this conversation he had with her about life.  She philosophies throughout, and I just want to read part of what she said to give a sense of her genius at work. 

This is Hillary Clinton, I‘m quoting, “If you break down the golden rule or if take Christ‘s commandment, love thy neighbor as thyself, there is an underlying assumption that you will value yourself, that you‘ll be responsible being that who will live by certain behaviors that enable you to have self-respect because then out of that self-respect comes the capacity for you to respect and care about other people.” 

Now that‘s a sentiment you could express in about words.  She used about 40, which is the hallmark of someone who is not a world class genius.  No offense or anything. 

FRANKEN:  Here is Hillary Clinton‘s problem.  Just to make it very clear.  The problem is that she believes she‘s a world class genius in the mind of people.  That a lot of people think that that is her outlook, that she is going to somehow come from on high somewhere from her superior intellect, her world class genius, we‘re now finding out, and save the world.  And people, as you point out, don‘t want that.  They want somebody who has a bit of a common touch, who can understand what us lesser mortals feel about things. 

CARLSON:  Yes. 

HENNEBERGER:  Absolutely.  It comes across as condescending and self righteous and those are challenges for her. 

FRANKEN:  And to be perfectly honest about it, one of the problems she‘s had is that many people thinks she comes across as condescending and self righteous. 

CARLSON:  God.  Well, there has been some debate around the Clinton campaign who‘s responsible for the drop in her numbers.  Bob Novak has an interesting piece coming out, a reported column in which he says—let‘s put it up there—“Supporters of Senator Hillary Clinton‘s candidacy privately are blaming aggressive campaigning by Bill Clinton for her recent decline in Iowa‘s pre-caucus polls.  In their opinion, the former president‘s strong defense of his wife pushes the contest for the nomination toward what Hillary Clinton wanted to avoid: a referendum on the Clinton administration making her a symbol of the past rather than an agent of change.” 

Well, I don‘t think truer words have ever been spoken. 

HENNEBERGER:  No. 

CARLSON:  Ever. 

HENNEBERGER:  No. 

CARLSON:  Do you buy that? 

HENNEBERGER:  Absolutely.  But it‘s a mixed bag.  I mean he gets her a lot of support, there‘s no question about that.  But he also lose—he gets her the base.  He doesn‘t get her those people on the fence.  He certainly is capable of driving away the swing voters that she‘s going to need to win. 

And when you remind people of the ‘90s versus now, you know, versus President Bush, sounds good.  But people don‘t want a return, as Novak said.  They want to think that we can get to something better.  They certainly don‘t want to be reminded of the Clintonian parsing. 

FRANKEN:  No. 

HENNEBERGER:  And when he says things like, “I never—I opposed the war from the first day,” that reminds us of what Hillary was hoping we wouldn‘t be reminded of. 

CARLSON:  Well, he devalues language and makes the rest of us really cynical.  It‘s almost when you hear an adult over praise a child.  You immediately assume the child has real deficiencies. 

You‘re great at that, Bobby.  Then you realized, you know, Bobby must be a total moron.  I mean that‘s your first assumption.  He says she‘s a world class genius.  The first thing I think is she must be slow because she‘s not slow. 

FRANKEN:  But there‘s another problem and that is, is that Bill Clinton had a magnetism, a charisma, a certain common touch, and my suspicion is that she, who is more aloof, I think it is fair to say, if not more than fair to say, suffers by contrast a little bit.  And I think that that hurts her a little bit too. 

CARLSON:  Well, see, something‘s hurting her because she is now tied in New Hampshire, more or less, with Barack Obama who hasn‘t been to New Hampshire very much.  He‘s working his hardest in Iowa.  Bill Clinton is on his third trip in New Hampshire right now and still they are tied.  Barack Obama wins Iowa, I don‘t see how Hillary Clinton stops him in New Hampshire, do you? 

HENNEBERGER:  Maybe not but that wouldn‘t be the end for her.  She‘s got so much money and so much organizational strength that she could hang on for a really long time. 

CARLSON:  But don‘t you. 

HENNEBERGER:  .but I think there‘s this scenario in which she finishes third in Iowa. 

CARLSON:  At that point, shouldn‘t she just quit and throw. 

HENNEBERGER:  Oh, that‘s never going to happen. 

CARLSON:  .and throw her support behind Barack Obama in a kind of gesture of unity? 

HENNEBERGER:  She would throw herself in front of a train before she threw her support to Obama. 

FRANKEN:  So much time, so much money to spend.  But there‘s a difference between running a very—a campaign with momentum and, to use your word, hanging on.  And if she does not do well in Iowa, there is such a short period before New Hampshire that there could be quite a bounce.  Much more than there usually has been, particularly with Obama making the headway that he‘s making. 

CARLSON:  Melinda, you have such an interesting piece.  It‘s an interview with Mrs. Edwards, John Edwards‘s wife.  And you pointed all sorts of things but most striking to me, you actually went to their house, this famously enormous house with the squash court.  What was it like? 

HENNEBERGER:  I didn‘t see the squash court.  It‘s vast.  It‘s a really large home. 

CARLSON:  Is it well-done?  Honestly?  It‘s a sincere question.  Would you live there? 

HENNEBERGER:  I don‘t do interior decoration.  I would move in and sell it. 

CARLSON:  You would?  How did going there, and I know that his—I think Mrs. Edwards is an appealing person.  I know that you think that‘s true. 

HENNEBERGER:  She is a lovely person. 

CARLSON:  Yes. 

HENNEBERGER:  Everyone likes Elizabeth Edwards except Ann Coulter and I think even she may be faking it. 

CARLSON:  Yes, I disagree with every single word that‘s ever come out of her mouth and I still think she‘s an appealing person personally.  But going to the house, I mean, a lot has been made of the house.  Do you think having been there that it‘s fair that so much has been made over the house? 

HENNEBERGER:  I do and I don‘t.  I thank that it‘s a blind spot that particularly she, more than her husband, because it—really it‘s her house.  She‘s the one who drew up the plan, she‘s the one who really wanted to build it and he let her build it.  She really makes that case that she grew up in dinky rooms and military housing and she wanted this vast place and her husband, you know, said you go for it. 

But she also says it‘s a homey place, you can bring the dogs.  I don‘t, you know, I don‘t see it as a place you could bring the dogs. 

CARLSON:  You could fit a lot of dogs in 28,000 square feet. 

HENNEBERGER:  Yes. 

CARLSON:  You can have your own SPCA. 

FRANKEN:  You bet. 

HENNEBERGER:  It‘s at odds with his campaign message and even more to the point, it‘s at odds with who she comes across as a person.  I mea she is this cozy, warm person with this vast home. 

CARLSON:  Interesting.  I‘m so glad you went there. 

FRANKEN:  Well, and here you have a candidate who is, in effect, running on a campaign that says that the rich have more than they need and everybody else has less than they need.  And let‘s ask the question: who needs a 28,000-square-root home? 

CARLSON:  It‘s such a syndrome, no?  I‘ve seen it so many times having grown up around rich liberals.  It is absolutely some kind of psychological condition where the people who live in the most excessive possible manor are also the people with the most left-wing redistributionist politics who want to control how much money you have.  It‘s. 

FRANKEN:  But couldn‘t they. 

CARLSON:  I‘ve never—I see—I‘ve seen it in every state in this country.  What the hell is that anyway? 

FRANKEN:  Couldn‘t they just, you know, cut the house up into four 7,000 square foot homes and, you know, see to it that people are. 

CARLSON:  I don‘t know.  It‘s always the same. 

All right.  We‘re, unfortunately, out of time.  Thank you very much. 

HENNEBERGER:  Thanks. 

CARLSON:  It‘s a great piece though. 

HENNEBERGER:  Thank you. 

CARLSON:  I‘d recommend it to everyone.  Thank you, Bob. 

Well, he was named “TIME” magazine‘s person of the year this week, but what do you know about Vladimir Putin.  We dig up the dirt on the man running Russia these days. 

And it‘s again, off again, on again, off again.  A Hollywood fixture.  We‘re talking about Pam Anderson.  Our chief Tinsel town correspondent Bill Wolff has all the details ahead. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  Bill Clinton says he owes his wife big time.  We all knew she stood by her man.  Now he‘s standing by her but in a different way.  What does he owe her and why?  We‘ll tell you when we come back. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  There is an old saying where you stand depends upon where you sit.  And if you sit on an executive suite on Wall Street, you might be having a pretty good holiday season.  Just the bonuses for the big players are expected to hit $30 billion this Christmas.  But wait, isn‘t the economy in trouble?  How does that all work? 

Joining us now is a man who knows.  He‘s the author of “King of the Club:

Richard Grasso and the Survival of the New York Stock Exchange.”  CNBC‘s on-air editor, Charlie Gasparino. 

Charlie, thanks for coming on. 

CHARLES GASPARINO, “KING OF THE CLUB” AUTHOR:  Any time, Tucker. 

CARLSON:  So what, I mean, who‘s getting the bonuses?  Is everybody in Wall Street getting them and are they fair? 

GASPARINO:  You know, this is more of a gray area than a black and white this year.  Top executives at some of the firms that haven‘t done well like Jimmy Cayne at Bear Stearns, John Mack at Morgan Stanley, and their teams, essentially, are not taking bonuses this year.  That was the big story earlier in the week. 

In order to keep top players at these firms, however, you got to pay them something because if you don‘t, there is one firm that‘s making a hell of a lot of money this year, that‘s Goldman Sachs, Goldman Sachs is paying its CEO Lloyd Blankfein, and it just came across the tape, something like $69 million, and it has a lot of money to splurge on talent from other firms.  And so that‘s what these firms are doing.  They just don‘t want to give—they just don‘t want these guys to leave. 

CARLSON:  So what kind of money are we talking about?  Let‘s say you are a mid-level to high level guy, not the guy in charge. 

GASPARINO:  Say that again.  I lost you. 

CARLSON:  Yes, let‘s say you‘ve been at one of these firms 15 years, you know. 

GASPARINO:  Right. 

CARLSON:  You‘re pushing 40.  You know what you‘re doing.  You‘re not running it, but you know, you‘re a good employee.  What are you likely to take home in a bonus this year? 

GASPARINO:  Well, you know, it‘s all over the place.  If you are at a Morgan Stanley, you‘re a decent producer, yes, you might take $5 million home this year, and if you‘ve made money.  I mean the places that don‘t make money, the places like the bond departments, they‘re not taking anything home. 

I can tell you at Merrill Lynch, everybody is getting killed because Merrill Lynch has a huge write down.  They have sort of a financial problem at that firm.  They got to write down $15 billion of losses or more.  So everybody is kind of taking it on the chin over there, more so in the bond departments where those losses are. 

But if you‘re, you know, you got a problem.  You got to run a business. 

Listen, Wall Street is going to come back whether people like it or not.  It‘s going to come back next year and you need people in place, you need traders in place, so you got to keep them.  This would really be a travesty, Tucker, if Morgan Stanley CEO John Mack and Jimmy Cayne, the CEO of Bear Stearns, two of the firms that have screwed up royally for their investors, if the top players at those firms, the management of those firms, if they took huge bonuses, it would be a travesty.  They are not.  They are not taking any bonuses.  But you got to keep talent in place, or else—listen, what are you going to have for the future? 

CARLSON:  Are investors complaining about the bonuses they all paying? 

GASPARINO:  No.  You know, it depends on what you talk about investors.  Listen, large institutional investors like the mutual funds that hold the majority of these stocks, listen, this whole issue about executive pay with those folks, it‘s a non- issue.  The real problem is what—you‘ll see you see like the, you know, the sort of the teamsters, the class warfare advocates, the guys that run the state municipal pension funds. 

Those are the guys that use bonus season as a way to drum up support for their cause, which is to unionize, you know, corporate America.  I will tell you this.  New York City loves bonuses.  The biggest socialist state, left wing, liberal state, in the city and state in the country, New York City and New York state, loves Wall Street bonuses, because guess what?  When Wall Street makes a lot of money, you got to plan all those social programs they dole out to people.  So there‘s the tale of two—of two ways—it‘s two ways of looking at this, Tucker. 

CARLSON:  You would not have any car dealerships in northern New Jersey, where if not for bonuses.  Pretty much. 

GASPARINO:  That‘s right.  Listen, you wouldn‘t have the health and hospital corporation which essentially is socialized medicine in New York City if it wasn‘t for Wall Street bonuses.  So there you have it.  Listen, it depends on where you sit on this whole thing. 

CARLSON:  Charlie Gasparino of CNBC.  I really appreciate it, Charlie. 

Merry Christmas. 

GASPARINO:  Anytime.  Thank you, Tucker. 

CARLSON:  When politics goes crazy, is that the surging Mike Huckabee on a segue?  It appears to be.  The story behind these pictures coming up. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  Welcome back.  The previous 50 minutes, a mere prelude to what‘s really going on in Washington, D.C.  And for that, we are joined now by Roxanne Roberts and Amy Argetsinger, the ladies of “The Washington Post‘s” universally-read gossip column, “The Reliable Source.” 

Welcome to you both.  Tell me something. 

ROXANNE ROBERTS, THE RELIABLE SOURCE:  Happy, happy holidays. 

AMY ARGETSINGER, THE RELIABLE SOURCE:  Glad to be here. 

CARLSON:  And merry Christmas. 

ROBERTS:  I thought you‘d be wearing like a Christmas hat or something. 

ARGETSINGER:  Yes. 

CARLSON:  I know I should be wearing Christmas hat. 

ROBERTS:  Something Santish? 

ARGETSINGER:  I know. 

CARLSON:  There were these cutbacks at the network this year.  Christmas hats somehow got—we‘re waiting for shipping in China. 

Tell me something I didn‘t know about Vladimir Putin, the new cover boy of “TIME” magazine? 

ARGETSINGER:  Well, you think Vladimir Putin is just all, you know, squashing democratic debate and freedom of speech in Russia, but with making “TIME” magazine‘s man of the year—person of the year.  Person of the year. 

CARLSON:  There he is. 

ARGETSINGER:  Vladimir Putin. 

ROBERTS:  I was trying to see your soul in your eyes. 

ARGETSINGER:  Oh, no. no.  Vladimir Putin, though, he has the kinds of eyes, that she‘s got the gaze of a—I can‘t remember how they described it, but all kinds of little great tidbits about the man behind the strong man.  His favorite Beatles song is “Yesterday.” 

CARLSON:  Oh, that‘s nice. 

ARGETSINGER:  He has a black belt in judo.  He likes to read the bible. 

CARLSON:  Interesting. 

ROBERTS:  And shorter than you expect.  He‘s like 5‘6”. 

ARGETSINGER:  According to “TIME” magazine‘s estimates. 

ROBERTS:  Which means he could go head on with Tom Cruise in some kind of a death match. 

ARGETSINGER:  Also, he doesn‘t drink nearly as much as Boris Yeltsin. 

CARLSON:  Well, what does that mean? 

ARGETSINGER:  He just like twirls the red wine in his glass. 

CARLSON:  So he‘s conscious most of the day.  Is that what you‘re saying? 

ROBERTS:  All the days he‘s in power. 

ARGETSINGER:  Oh, oh, and he has never sent an e-mail in his entire life. 

CARLSON:  Good for him.  Boy, you‘re starting to—I feel like I‘m looking into his soul now.  Now my producers told me that you had something that‘s so unlikely I can‘t believe it‘s true, but you—they claimed you had videotape of Christopher Hitchens, one of my favorite people, singing. 

ARGETSINGER:  I think your producers are about to bring this up.  Christopher Hitchens was the guest entertainer at “Reason” magazine‘s holiday party. 

ROBERTS:  Secular holiday party. 

ARGETSINGER:  Yes. 

ROBERTS:  Yes. 

ARGETSINGER:  “Reason” magazine being a prominent libertarian magazine and they get the prominent, atheist, contrarian Christopher Hitchens to perform.  He did a rendition of Tom Lehrer‘s “Christmas Carol.”  And I guess you can hear it now. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, CHRISTOPHER HITCHEN‘S SINGING)

CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS, AUTHOR AND JOURNALIST:  Even though the (INAUDIBLE) sickens, brother, here we go again.  Relations bearing no matching pen. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARLSON:  That is really touching.  I mean that‘s really kind of. 

ARGETSINGER:  I‘m for (INAUDIBLE). 

CARLSON:  That is like the service of blessings and carols at the National Cathedral.  I‘m impressed.  I love Christopher. 

Bill Clinton, finally, Bill Clinton came out the other day and said he owes his wife?  Fill us in. 

ROBERTS:  He owes his wife.  He‘s—the exact quote is—he was asked about campaigning for Hillary and he said. “I love doing it for Hillary.  She worked for me from 1974 until I left the White House in January 2001. 

So the way I calculate it, I owe her about 19 years until we are even.” 

All right?  Now. 

ARGETSINGER:  But who‘s counting? 

ROBERTS:  No, that‘s just the campaigning part.  I figure he owes her so much more than that. 

CARLSON:  Yes, he does. 

ROBERTS:  You know? 

ARGETSINGER:  It‘s good to know someone‘s keeping score in a relationship. 

ROBERTS:  I‘m keeping score.  Lots and lots of voters are keeping score. 

CARLSON:  That‘s the one thing you can be certain of.  Someone is keeping score. 

Roxanne and Amy, thank you so much. 

ARGETSINGER:  Thank you.  Happy holidays. 

ROBERTS:  Hey, have a great holiday, OK? 

CARLSON:  I hope you do, thanks. 

ROBERTS:  Thanks. 

CARLSON:  And now with today‘s Lindsay Lohan update and so much more, we turn it over to the vice president for primetime here in MSNBC, Bill Wolff. 

BILL WOLFF, MSNBC VICE PRESIDENT FOR PRIMETIME:  How do you follow Chris Hitchens and Bill Clinton owing Hillary Clinton 19 years, Tucker? 

CARLSON:  If anyone can do it, Bill, you can. 

WOLFF:  Well, let‘s begin then, shall we? 

Social psychologist, Tucker, presidential candidates and ordinary people like you and me are weighing in on the unplanned pregnancy of 16-year-old TV star and Britney Spears‘s sister, Jamie Lynn Spears.  And now so is child-star-turned-utter-train wreck Lindsay Lohan. 

Miss Lohan, whose career as whatever she was, has faded in the mist of her car accidents and drug rehabs, was asked by the credible and authoritative “OK” magazine what she thought of Jamie Lynn Spears‘s being with child, quote, “not much,” said the fetching Lohan, quote, “Why do people think it‘s such a big deal,” end quote.  Now when one considers that Jamie Lynn Spears is the star of a wildly popular TV show, the idol of million of impressionable children, and will have a child at 17 by 19-year-old laborer to whom she‘s not married, maybe Lindsay Lohan‘s got a point.  What‘s the big deal? 

CARLSON:  What is the big deal?  I personally preferred Mike Huckabee‘s answer, which was, you know, I‘m not going to weigh in on this other than I‘m for children and good for having the baby. 

WOLFF:  I‘m with Mike Huckabee.  I‘m not going to weigh in on it. 

CARLSON:  Yes.  I agree with that. 

WOLFF:  God bless them all.  That‘s what I say. 

Tucket, ‘tis always the season for Pamela Anderson relationship news.  And there is a report which would explain last week‘s divorce filing and sudden un-filing by Miss Anderson against her husband of two months, Mr. Rick Salomon, o‘ he of Paris Hilton‘s sex tape fame. 

Now, according to “Page Six” of the “New York Post,” which is sometimes accurate, Pamela spent the night of December 8th in Las Vegas, Nevada cozying up to the illusionist and publicity-seeker Criss Angel who is reportedly famous. 

Anyway, according to the paper, Mr. Salomon, quote, “hit the roof,” end quote, when he learned that his comely wife was hanging out with the magician guy while he, Salomon, was off at a poker tournament.  That blowup led to a huge fight which led to Pam filing for divorce which led to reconciliation which led to the dropping of the divorce petition.  Said a friend of Pamela, and I‘m quoting now, “I‘m sure this won‘t be the last time she files,” end quote. 

While it‘s good to know that Pam and Rick are back together, it‘s troubling, Tucker, that she has so little respect for the institution of divorce. 

CARLSON:  Well, mercurial, that Pamela Anderson. 

WOLFF:  Well, look, divorce is forever.  You know what I mean?  Since when do we just willy-nilly get a divorce?  Sure, the last time—this ain‘t the last time she will be filing?  Come on.  Come on, Pamela. 

CARLSON:  You know that‘s completely right. 

WOLFF:  It‘s completely right and awfully sad. 

Tucker, you mentioned it earlier.  Presidential contender Mike Huckabee is deep in the midst of the Iowa campaign, but he did take time to participate in some pop culture.  First, as you reported, he expressed care and concern for Jamie Lynn Spears, not that he condone her behavior, but he wishes her well.  I call that pop culture clemency.  How do you like that? 

Now having taken care of that, he disembarked the Huckabus for a ride on the inexplicable segue, the standing motorized two-wheeler whose practical purposes mystified scientists worldwide.  There he goes.  Mike Huckabee, tooling around like a segueing fool, just as he forgives Jamie Lynn Spears, we here at the f-black(ph) editorial staff forgive him for having someone else steer. 

CARLSON:  That‘s his segue driver.  That‘s his segue chauffer. 

WOLFF:  Tucker, do you get the segue?  I want your comment now.  I‘m going to press you on this.  What‘s your stand on the segue? 

CARLSON:  I‘ve never figured out what it was for?  I noticed that in some airports the police ride them around.  The cops look like they can use a little walking frankly.  They look like they go about as fast as a power walker, but they are more cumbersome and very expensive.  So no, I don‘t understand. 

WOLFF:  Also nowhere to put your stuff, right?  So you can‘t carry anything with them.  And also, you might fall down and hurt yourself.  So none of the benefit of a motorcycle and all of the danger.  I just do not—that is not progress.  That‘s my official statement. 

CARLSON:  No one ever picked up a woman riding a segue. 

WOLFF:  Can‘t have it. 

Finally, Tucker, for people with last names, which are also nouns, the choice of a first name is critical.  My parents quickly dismissed howling, lone, timber and hairy when I was born.  Now this woman we‘re about to show you was born Mary Young, and she had the good fortune of falling in love in her home state of Utah with a handsome and gentleman named Brian. 

Now how much did she love this man?  She married him this year despite the fact that his last name is Christmas.  And so she, along with an estimated 90 others in this country, is now Mary Christmas. 

CARLSON:  I don‘t—what do you mean his name is Christmas? 

WOLFF:  What do you want from me, pal?  It‘s absolutely true.  His name is Brian Christmas and now she is Mary Christmas. 

CARLSON:  That‘s unbelievable. 

WOLFF:  It‘s unbelievable.  It‘s kind of like—I‘d guess it‘s sort of an inconvenience, Tucker.  You know what I mean? 

CARLSON:  Yes, I would say.  It‘s better than Happy New Year. 

WOLFF:  Yes.  It‘s like being really, really tall.  Not that great. 

CARLSON:  Well, speaking of, merry Christmas to you, Bill.  Thank you. 

WOLFF:  And merry Christmas to you, Tucker.  Say hi to the wife and the kids. 

CARLSON:  Amen.  Thanks. 

That does it for us.  Thanks for watching.  Have a great Christmas, a great New Year‘s.  We will be back.  We promise.  Up next is “HARDBALL WITH CHRIS.” 

Have a great night. 

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

END   

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