updated 1/17/2008 11:07:13 AM ET 2008-01-17T16:07:13

TUCKER CARLSON, MSNBC ANCHOR:  Mitt Romney‘s convincing win in Michigan‘s Republican primary last night raises the stakes for Mike Huckabee and John McCain in Saturday‘s contest in South Carolina.  But there was significance to the officially meaningless Democratic vote in Michigan last night as well.  It doesn‘t bode well, at least in the short-term, for Hillary Clinton. 

Romney‘s nine-point margin over McCain was critical to viability as February 5th approaches.  But Romney‘s rivals were quick to credit his virtual home-state advantage for his performance.  Having spent lavishly to finish second in Iowa, having finished second in another quasi home state New Hampshire, Mitt Romney must still prove his electoral merit away from home.  That‘s what they say. 

In a moment we‘ll talk to Romney‘s senior advisor Barbara Comstock about his electoral challenges. 

Michigan voters also voted in a virtually meaningless Democratic primary where only Hillary Clinton, Dennis Kucinich and someone called uncommitted appeared on the ballot.  Mrs. Clinton finished first but a look inside the numbers reveals a remarkable fact.  It is this: 70 percent of black voters who participated chose uncommitted rather than Hillary Clinton. 

An exit poll indicated that 73 percent of those would have chosen Barack Obama had he been on the ballot.  Despite the apparent truce between Clinton and Obama on matters of race, has the damage among African-Americans already been done to the Clinton campaign? 

And as economic gloom envelopes the country, politicians of every stripe offer their plans to save the day.  But how much can the government actually achieve to revive the American economy.  Which presidential candidate has the best plan? 

Our old pal Charlie Gasparino of CNBC joins us in a minute with the answers. 

We begin tonight with Romney‘s golden victory in Michigan.  Joining me now his senior advisor Barbara Comstock. 

Barbara, congratulations. 

BARBARA COMSTOCK, SR. ADVISOR TO MITT ROMNEY:  Thank you.  Good to be here. 

CARLSON:  Convincing, much better than I predicted.  Not that my predictions mean much after. 

COMSTOCK:  Nobody‘s do, you said it. 

CARLSON:  After New Hampshire, his victory, Mitt Romney‘s victory immediately written off, predictably I suppose, by his—the rival campaigns as a function of his home-state advantage.  He‘s from Michigan, he won Michigan, big deal. 

COMSTOCK:  Well, if you look at the internals, and I haven‘t had a chance to go through a lot of them, but I know he not only won Republican voters, he did well with all the independents and Democrats who can cross over.  But he did well across the income spectrum, with men and women, with evangelical voters, so really the whole cross-section of Republican voters, he really did well with—and his economic—you know, he did spend a lot of time talking about the economy, which is, actually since he had started in Michigan back in February, almost a year ago, he had announced there, we have a very strong message. 

But you know how the press is, it twists and turns, they don‘t always get to talk about what you want to talk about.  But he‘s been very happy being, you know, back home in Michigan and getting to talk about the economy and I think he had a great message how he—you know because he‘s been in the business world, he understand—you know, you can‘t put more taxes and more regulation on business and end up, you know, keep throwing Anvils around them and have it succeed, you know, whether it‘s caf’ standards or  cap and trade, which, you know, caps are economy, trades away the jobs. 

You know, we just can‘t have these kinds or, you know, not have the tax cuts.  We had the highest corporate tax in the world.  And he‘s been talking since last spring lowering the tax rate. 

CARLSON:  Well, let me get for a second on—just a second, but first to his electoral performance.  It‘s interesting to me when you look at the numbers from last night coming out of Iowa and particularly New Hampshire, Romney is getting—he‘s the Gorge W. Bush of this cycle.  In other words, going up against McCain, he tends to gets the more conservative voters, McCain tends to get the more moderate voters and the independents.  And yet he was governor of Massachusetts.  I mean he was famous up until pretty recently for winning the votes of moderates.  You can‘t be governor of Massachusetts unless you win the votes of moderates.  How did that change? 

COMSTOCK:  Well, he‘s—you know, I think you look in all three since he did come in second, second, and now first.  He has a good cross-section, I think, you know, of the vote.  You‘re right.  John McCain has. 

CARLSON:  Which killed him among independents. 

COMSTOCK:  But John McCain ends up losing our own conservative base. 

CARLSON:  Right.  You‘re right. 

COMSTOCK:  So obviously. 

CARLSON:  OK. 

COMSTOCK:  .the trick is always to get our conservative coalition together and have a strong message that is, you know, about the economy, about national security, about the family and social issues they care about. 

CARLSON:  I‘m saying the people who are voting for Romney now are very different from the people who elected him governor of Massachusetts. 

COMSTOCK:  Well, I mean, Massachusetts is a fairly liberal state.  But when he took over the state. 

CARLSON:  Yes. 

COMSTOCK:  .the reason I think he was elected is then the state was in

a ditch in the economy.  They were $3 billion in debt.  You know, they had

the jobs were going away and he came in, got rid of that $3 billion debt.  That was 15 percent of the budget that he cut.  I mean he sat down, rolled up his sleeves, and really went through that budget.  And the state was in such a situation that they wanted somebody who understood the economy.  And I guess, you know, they probably—you know, because they have a Democratic House and a Democratic Senate, sometimes they‘re willing to have somebody a little more conservative, you know, the dad, as you will, who will come in and say, no, kids you cannot. 

CARLSON:  You know, that‘s right.  To counter-balance the excess of.. 

COMSTOCK:  There was a tax woman who heads up the tax group up there who said, you know, it was nice to have a grownup in the corner office saying no to the kids down in the state House.  So that‘s a role we play. 

CARLSON:  Well, that‘s something.  That is—that‘s a holy function I think.  He‘s getting people play that function. 

Here, however, is Mitt Romney speaking to the Detroit Economic Club two days ago, I‘m not sure he‘s playing the adult in this.  This is his plan for the auto industry.  Watch. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY ®, ‘08 PRESIDENTIAL HOPEFUL:  I‘ve got Michigan in my DNA.  I got it in my heart and I‘ve got cars in my bloodstream.  If I‘m president of this country, I will roll up my sleeves in the first 100 days I‘m in office and I will personally bring together industry, labor, congressional and state leaders.  And together we will develop a plan to rebuild America‘s automotive leadership. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARLSON:  I mean, you know, I like the hopeful nature of that, but that‘s overselling, isn‘t it?  I mean the reason the auto industry is in trouble, they are a long-term 40-yearlong economic trend. 

COMSTOCK:  Sure.  And a lot of it. 

CARLSON:  We‘re not going to be—I mean you know what I mean?  We‘re not going to bring General Motors back because the new president has a roundtable on the subject, are we? 

COMSTOCK:  No.  But a lot of it is too many—you know, I mean, who understands things about embedded taxes?  I know I don‘t.  But Governor Romney does.  And. 

CARLSON:  There are legacy costs and labor costs. 

COMSTOCK:  Exactly.  And health care costs something that he‘s addressed. 

CARLSON:  The president can‘t affect those, can he? 

COMSTOCK:  No.  Well, you‘ve got to have some honest discussions that we have to have on all these issues across the board about things that are killing our business.  You have—car companies have basically become health care providers. 

CARLSON:  Right. 

COMSTOCK:  .because we‘ve allowed this to go on and on and we aren‘t solving in a private sector focused way the health problems.  But also the corporate tax, you know, if you‘re choosing where to invest, you go over to Ireland, they‘ve got a 12 percent corporate tax rate.  We have, what are we, 38 or 39 now.  We have one of the highest in the world.  So where are you going to go if you‘re a smart businessman?  So you have to sit down and really have an honest discussion about—and frankly you have to fight the Democrats, who are saying, you know, “Oh lower taxes, it‘s tax cuts for the rich.  It‘s for these corporate tax cuts.” 

CARLSON:  But you can‘t. 

COMSTOCK:  It‘s about jobs and it‘s about bringing jobs here. 

CARLSON:  But you can‘t pay for socialism without high taxes.  So that‘s the problem. 

COMSTOCK:  Well, and we are opposed to that. 

CARLSON:  OK.  Good.  Just want to clarify. 

COMSTOCK:  Yes.  And we are—and that‘s what we‘re fighting here. 

CARLSON:  All right. 

COMSTOCK:  And we want to have a private sector economy that keeps our jobs here.  And this is somebody who is going to fight to say let‘s save the private sector and not let this Anvil of government regulations and taxes keep getting thrown on and downing it when we need—you know, and people wonder why jobs go away.  You can‘t do that. 

CARLSON:  Barbara Comstock of the Romney campaign, winner of the gold last night.  Congratulations. 

COMSTOCK:  Yes, we‘re very happy.  Thank you. 

CARLSON:  Hillary Clinton says Bob Johnson‘s comments about Barack Obama‘s drug use were out-of-bounds.  She also said sometimes supporters can be uncontrollable, at least hers can be.  Shouldn‘t she be able to control them? 

Plus Fred Thompson didn‘t even compete in Michigan.  Why then is his campaign criticizing the results of Michigan? 

You‘re watching MSNBC.  We‘ll be right back. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama call a truce and agree to put an end to fighting over questions of race.  But then Hillary blamed her sometimes uncontrollable supporters.  The question Obama people asking today, if she can‘t control her supporters, how can she be able to control the country if elected president? 

Hmm, we‘ll consider it coming up. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:   Will you now not allow Robert Johnson to participate in any of your campaign events because of that conduct? 

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D), ‘08 PRESIDENTIAL HOPEFUL:  Well, Bob has put out a statement saying what he was trying to say and what he thought he had said.  We accept him on his word on that. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARLSON:  Wow.  You just heard Hillary Clinton say she believes—in fact, she‘s the only person in America who believes Bob Johnson‘s explanation for his apparent reference to Barack Obama‘s youthful drug use.  It was one of the highlights in a debate last night that did not have a lot of highlights. 

Joining us now to deconstruct is “Politico‘s” senior correspondent Jeanne Cummings and “Washington Post” columnist Eugene Robinson. 

Welcome to you both. 

EUGENE ROBINSON, THE WASHINGTON POST:  Thanks, Tucker. 

JEANNE CUMMINGS, POLITICO:  Thanks for having me. 

CARLSON:  I mean, am I being too cynical here?  I mean it seems to me that Bob Johnson‘s remarks, his attack on Barack Obama‘s admittedly, admitted drug use.  Barack Obama wrote about his drug use in his book, OK?  So it‘s not like opposition researchers dug it up.  I think it—that hurt Obama.  I think it was absolutely intentional.  I think that‘s what he was talking about.  And I‘m not sure why Obama let Hillary Clinton get away with pretending to believe Johnson‘s pretend explanation. 

CUMMINGS:  Well, I think partly the Obama campaign wants to move off of the issue of race.  I think if this comes down to an election all about race, that isn‘t good for him.  He‘s been running as the candidate for all America and he‘s been specific in terms of trying to have—to reach out to white voters.  If it becomes about electing the first black president, I don‘t think that benefits him, so I think he needs to move away from this conversation pretty quickly. 

Now, I agree with you.  I mean the real—I thought that the real sign that—of Johnson was talking about the drug abuse was, you know, he mentioned something he was doing back in the community and so like community organizing is a bad word?  He can‘t use the language? 

CARLSON:  You know, I mean, there is no question about it. 

JOHNSON:  It was absurd.  There‘s no ambiguity in anyone‘s interpretation of what Bob Johnson said.  It was clear. 

CARLSON:  There‘s no question about it. 

JOHNSON:  Yes.  It was intentional.  He said what, you know, it was meant to hurt Obama. 

CARLSON:  Did he do damage? 

JOHNSON:  You know, a certain amount.  It didn‘t do fatal damage.  It wasn‘t, you know, it‘s not something Obama can‘t recover from.  But I agree with Jeanne.  He needs to and is trying to change the subject.  He doesn‘t want this to be a long slog through race and racial identity and racial history.  That‘s not good for him. 

CARLSON:  Well, that‘s also unfair.  I just think, and again, I‘m not taking the guy‘s side as a partisan here.  Obviously I‘m not going to vote for Obama.  I‘m just—my fairness censor goes off here.  This is a guy who‘s gone out of his way to make this a campaign that‘s not about race.  And it kind of gets thrown on him. 

CUMMINGS:  Well, as much as you say you think it hurt him, I think in South Carolina, that it may have hurt her because it came right after the Martin Luther King business as well, or in context with that.  And that had already set off a firestorm down in South Carolina. 

CARLSON:  See, I think maybe because I think Obama was unbalanced wronged on all this, I was confused by this line last night.  He was explaining some of the remarks from his campaign about Hillary and her campaign and he essentially blamed his supporters.  Here is what he said. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), ‘08 PRESIDENTIAL HOPEFUL:  I think that, as Hillary said, our supporters, our staff, get overzealous.  They start saying things that I would not say.  And it is my responsibility to make sure that we‘re setting a clear tone in our campaign. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARLSON:  So he‘s apologizing for getting attacked, basically. 

ROBINSON:  Well, I think, you know, the Obama camp did further the discussion over last weekend.  I mean, they—you know, they didn‘t kind of just sit back and take it. 

CARLSON:  No.  And they were mad.  No, I talked to some of them. 

(INAUDIBLE).  Yes. 

ROBINSON:  They got in and they, you know, they sent out e-mails and stuff.  So—but I think he felt that in order to end this discussion he had to, you know, take whatever his share of the responsibility was.  And then let‘s kind of move on. 

Now, Jeanne‘s right, in the short-term, I think it does help him in South Carolina and hurt her in South Carolina.  It might have—we might have seen that in Michigan with the uncommitted vote (INAUDIBLE). 

CARLSON:  You might have.  Al Sharpton said to me last night, which I thought it was a self-aware thing for Sharpton to say.  He said, “Look, I ran for president,” and he‘s in kind of the race business.  I mean not kind of, he is in the race business.  He said, “There was less talk about race when I ran than when Barack Obama‘s running.”  I mean just to give, you know, some context to this.  Is this conversation over?  Are we going to hear this again?  Will it crop up again? 

CUMMINGS:  Right.  I think that it will.  I mean I think it‘s—he‘s been trying to use it in a more subtle fashion.  But let‘s face it, he is the first serious African-American candidate.  He could win this nomination.  He could win the presidency.  And so I don‘t think we can go through a presidential campaign of that kind of importance and not have some level of discussion about the race issue.  I think the way it was thrust upon him was certainly awkward. 

And in that debate last night when he did sort of absorb some of the blame for what had gone on, I had to admit when I was watching it, I thought, whoa, that‘s kind of a grownup in the room, you know, where he wasn‘t necessarily deflecting a whole lot.  He just took the hit and said let‘s move on.  And, you know, as a parent, I kind of—you know, we know what these moments are like.  And I actually thought he came off better last night in absorbing the damage than she did when she was talking about her uncontrollable staff and all the rest of that. 

ROBINSON:  There is the possibility that we won‘t hear that much more about race, at least for a while.  I mean I think Obama is not going to raise it.  He‘s not going to raise it explicitly.  And after this dustup, it could be that if the Clinton side wants to raise it, it‘s you know, it‘s very difficult to do it subtly or to do it kind of sub-rosa in any way.  I mean they have to be kind of upfront and basically announce, “We‘re raising the race issue again.”  And that‘s going to be a difficult thing to do. 

CARLSON:  Unless it takes place online.  Unless people are getting e-mails and they are getting e-mails about how Barack Obama is a secret Muslim.  He went to this madrasa in Indonesia.  And someone is writing those e-mails and maybe it‘s some crazed, you know, right-wing Mike Huckabee supporter.  Maybe it‘s not.  Maybe it‘s a Hillary supporter.  Those e-mails are going out.  And I would be willing to know who‘s writing them.  We‘ve no evidence either way. 

All right.  We‘ll be right back. 

Score one for Mike Huckabee, John McCain, and now Mitt Romney.  After three contests, there is still no frontrunner for the Republican nomination.  Will one emerge?  I guess it has to.  But will every Republican candidate get a win before we head into Super Tuesday including Ron Paul? 

Plus Hillary Clinton asked Barack Obama to co-sponsor legislation on the Iraq war.  Obama said he would.  Was that the right answer or that wrong answer?  We‘ll tell you in a minute. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  Three states, three different winners, and still the party is no closer to a finding a frontrunner.  As Slate.com‘s John Dickerson put it, quote, “The GOP primary is starting to look like a pee-wee soccer tournament.  Everyone gets a trophy.”

Joining us now “Politico‘s” senior correspondent Jeanne Cummings and “The Washington Post‘s” columnist Eugene Robinson. 

Welcome back, Jeanne, Robinson. 

Here is the headline of “USA Today,” “New York Post,” “New York Times,” I think all of them were not Romney wins Michigan, but Romney beats McCain in Michigan.  This is seen not just as a victory for Mitt Romney but as a loss for John McCain. 

Here‘s John McCain‘s response to his loss last night. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN ®, ‘08 PRESIDENTIAL HOPEFUL:  I congratulate Governor Romney on his victory tonight.  He and his campaign worked hard and effectively to make sure that Michigan voters welcome their native son with their support.  Michigan voters were good to the native son and I understand that and support their decision. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARLSON:  So both Mexican and Michigan voters love their native son. 

ROBINSON:  Exactly.  Exactly. 

CARLSON:  But he is the native son. 

ROBINSON:  Right. 

CARLSON:  Yes.  I don‘t know if you got that, the native son. 

ROBINSON:  I think that‘s supposed to mean that this isn‘t a real victory. 

CARLSON:  Not a real win. 

ROBINSON:  Really beat. 

CARLSON:  It‘s like your mom voting for you. 

ROBINSON:  Exactly.  Exactly. 

CARLSON:  She‘s not going to vote for you? 

ROBINSON:  It‘s a bunch of cousins came in and voted for him. 

CARLSON:  Is that true though? 

ROBINSON:  You know, I don‘t think that‘s entirely true.  I mean, obviously, the name Romney helps in Michigan.  It does.  But I think it was a real win for Romney.  And I think it puts him back in the race and I think it—for me at least, it ends this notion that John McCain can somehow run the table, which I always thought was improbable.  I mean he‘s got to get through my home state of South Carolina where, you know, where he didn‘t do that well the last time.  So—plus all those other states. 

So I think it, you know, scrambles this already scrambled Republican race and who knows where it goes from there. 

CARLSON:  It is really.  It‘s absolutely hard to see it.  I do think, though, Mitt Romney is disliked by the press.  I think that‘s fair to say.  He receives pretty negative coverage.  He‘s seen as a phony.  He‘s seen as someone who can‘t—and a lot of Republicans think he will not be an effective standard bearer for them in November. 

Stepping back from all of our preconception of Mitt Romney, I must say I‘m impressed by the win.  He won conservatives.  Is he making the case effectively, you think, to conservatives that he‘s their guy? 

CUMMINGS:  Well, I think he changed his message when he got to Michigan and went back to his roots as a businessman.  And there are many people who wondered why he didn‘t have that message from the get-go. 

CARLSON:  Right. 

CUMMINGS: I think part of what hurts Mitt Romney‘s image is that he went to South Carolina and became an evangelical. 

CARLSON:  Right. 

CUMMINGS:  And it was just so like not how-do-I-get-my-head-around-this. 

CARLSON:  That‘s right. 

CUMMINGS:  And—but this is truly his roots.  He is a very successful businessman. 

CARLSON:  That is totally a fair point.  That‘s right. 

CUMMINGS:  It became a very authentic message.  I do think there‘s an underlying caution in this Michigan win, and that is the high-level of pandering that went on to the auto industry in order to capture that state. 

CARLSON:  Yes. 

CUMMINGS:  First of all, he made a lot of promises he might regret if he ever—if he did win the White House.  But secondly, if he won because he pandered like that, does that mean his message without that might not have been quite such a great victory because he‘s now moving to other states where he can‘t use that to win.  He can use the broader argument about being a strong businessman, knowing how to fix problems and bringing that wisdom to the Oval Office. 

CARLSON:  Well—I mean I think for now the Romney campaign is—because I don‘t sense they‘re even really attempting South Carolina, are they?  I mean it seems to me a race between Huckabee and McCain. 

ROBINSON:  Yes. 

CARLSON:  And according to some polls, Huckabee is upper within the margin.  Huckabee‘s doing surprising, remarkably well in South Carolina. 

ROBINSON:  Yes.  I think so.  You know, Huckabee clicks, I think, with South—with a lot of people in South Carolina. 

CARLSON:  Why, you‘re from there, why is that? 

ROBINSON:  Well, you know, he talks funny like we do down there.  He talks funny.  And he, you know, he‘s a man of the cloth, a man of faith.  That means a lot to some people.  And that personable way he has of connecting with people as if he‘s sitting in your living room. 

CARLSON:  Yes. 

ROBINSON:  .visiting, you know, after Sunday services, you know, before supper.  I mean he has that way of—that ease about him that is very effective.  Now, so Romney probably doesn‘t do that well in South Carolina.  But let‘s not. 

CARLSON:  So what‘s (INAUDIBLE). 

ROBINSON:  Let‘s not underestimate pandering, though, the effectiveness of pandering.  I mean it worked really well in Michigan. 

CUMMINGS:  I think. 

CARLSON:  It works.  Pandering always works.  Clinton was president for eight years.  I mean come on. 

ROBINSON:  And you know. 

CUMMINGS:  In South Carolina the other thing is guns—becomes an issue down there.

CARLSON:  That‘s right. 

CUMMINGS:  Like it may not have been Huckabee has a perfect gun record. 

ROBINSON:  Yes. 

CUMMINGS:  He is the southern Baptist. 

CARLSON:  But he actually hunts for one thing. 

CUMMINGS:  That‘s true.  He‘s for real. 

CARLSON:  He‘s for real. 

CUMMINGS:  He is for real. 

CARLSON:  Yes. 

CUMMINGS:  Thompson, it was hoping that they would rally around his campaign and do a rescue mission for him.  They‘re splitting between Huckabee and Thompson.  Now that is the one window of opportunity or the window of opportunity for McCain.  If you have Thompson trying to do a last stand, appealing to conservative religious voters, gun voters, and Huckabee doing the same thing, Romney trying to peel off his little piece of it, and then McCain grabs up the big veteran population down there and the security. 

CARLSON:  Right. 

CUMMINGS:  .concerned people, you know, that could be enough.  They split and he might have enough to come out of there. 

CARLSON:  The top three Democratic contenders all say they‘re fit to be president of the United States.  But they do admit to some weaknesses, if you call them weaknesses.  We‘ll show you exactly what they said.  If you didn‘t see the debate last night, stay tuned because it‘s almost unbelievable. 

Plus Ron Paul beats Rudy Giuliani yet again.  Is this the beginning of the Ron Paul surge, which will lead to the Ron Paul revolution, which leads to the Ron Paul residency?  Think about it.  We‘ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWS BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

EDWARDS:  I sometimes have a very powerful emotional response to pain that I see around me, and I feel that in a really personal way and in a very emotional way.  And I think sometimes that can undermine what you need to do. 

CLINTON:  I get impatient.  I get, you know, really frustrated when people don‘t seem to understand that we can do so much more to help each other.  Sometimes I come across that way.  I admit that.  I get very concerned about, you know, pushing further and faster than perhaps people are ready to go. 

OBAMA:  I ask my staff never to hand me paper until two seconds before I need it, because I will lose it.  My desk in my office doesn‘t look good.  I‘ve got to have somebody around me who is keeping track of that stuff.  And that‘s not trivial.  I need to have good people in place who can make sure that systems run. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARLSON:  With weaknesses like those, who needs strengths?  The Democratic candidates were asked last night to explain their biggest weaknesses; from the sound of it, the real problem for Hillary Clinton and John Edwards is they are just too genuine, too altruistic, too sympathetic.  They care too much.  Their brave admissions do raise a question, would a candidate get more mileage politically by confessing that he or she is too tough a boss, or doesn‘t recycle, of suffers from mildly embarrassing medical condition, something true, in other words. 

Back with us, senior correspondent for the “Politico,” Jeanne Cummings and “Washington Post” columnist Eugene Robinson.  Welcome back.

I watched John Edwards and I liked John Edwards in 2004.  I watched him say that and I wanted to throw a beer can through the TV.  That was so phony.  It‘s too much. 

ROBINSON:  I have a confession, sometimes when I write a column that touches so many people, and someone comes up and says you‘ve changed my life, sometimes I‘m not humble enough.  It‘s really a weakness of mine.  I hope you can forgive me for it. 

CARLSON:  I think I probably can, for caring too much.  We‘re often cynical about the tastes of the general public.  They will buy this, buy that.  I don‘t think people will buy that. 

CUMMINGS:  I think definitely Edwards was way over the top, you know. 

When was the last time I feel your didn‘t work in a presidential --  

CARLSON:  How fragile is your ego if you have to answer a question that way. 

CUMMINGS:  I thought Hillary‘s was more interesting than you did.  That was impatient, I get frustrated.  All of this—these are little code words for, I‘m pushy.  That‘s a real admission on her part.  That is her admitting to a real weakness. 

CARLSON:  Do you think if you took a survey of all 300 million Americans, you would find a single one that didn‘t know that. 

CUMMINGS:  Uncle, right. 

ROBINSON:  You would find a lot who think that Hillary doesn‘t know that. 

CARLSON:  OK, that‘s a good point.  I was struck, this is a small thing, but I thought it was really telling last night.  All three candidates were asked about nuclear power.  And all three of them basically said I‘m against nuclear power.  It seems to me that we‘ve reached this place where we can be more honest about certain things like nuclear power.  If you‘re against nuclear power reflexively in 2008, you‘re not a forward thinking person, it seems to me.  You can‘t admit this? 

ROBINSON:  I thought that part of the debate was really interesting. 

Edwards says, no, never, I‘m against it, basically no nuclear power.  Hillary was a bit more nuanced, but certainly left the impression she was against it.  Obama, who did mention that Illinois has more nuclear plants than any other state, couldn‘t go quite as far as Hillary, so he tried to kind of walk a funny line. 

It‘s just interesting that none of them would say—when I talk to energy experts they say, of course nuclear power has to be part—

CARLSON:  Or environmentalists, people worried about climate change.  Why I find this striking—it‘s a small thing.  It struck me as a reflection of the same old 30 year old interest group politics, where the Sierra Club is against nuclear power; they want the endorsement of that group, and so they are against it. 

CUMMINGS:  Well, it‘s Nevada politics.  This is our local pander.  We have automakers and Romney in Michigan going on and we have Yucca Mountain and nuclear power in Nevada. 

CARLSON:  You can be for nuclear power and not for stuffing it in the Yucca Mountain. 

ROBINSON:  Not really though—

CUMMINGS:  That‘s the only designated site.  You‘ve got to have another site.  You‘ve got to identify it and there isn‘t another site right now. 

CARLSON:  Sure, but you can say that.  You can say, look, nuclear power is, essentially, compared to coal plants or burning any kind of fossil fuel, is a much cleaner technology.  We‘ve just got to find something to do with the waste, but I‘m for it.  They just kind of said no, I‘m against it.  It seemed very small minded to me. 

ROBINSON:  I think, in Nevada, if you say you‘re for nuclear power, you‘re saying you‘re for the creation of more nuclear waste, which is inexorably making its way towards Nevada. 

CARLSON:  You sort of feel sorry for Nevada.  How would you like to be the one state—the rest of the 49 say, you know what, there‘s really not enough going on in your state, you take the nuclear waste.  I see why they resent that. 

I want your response to Hillary‘s answer to a question about the bankruptcy bill.  I bet this will come back to haunt her at some point.  Watch this. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUSSERT:  Senator Clinton, you voted for the same 2001 bankruptcy bill that Senator Edwards just said he was wrong about that.  After you did that, the Consumer Federation of America said that your reversal on that bill, voting for it, was the death knell for the opponents of the bill.  Do you regret that vote? 

CLINTON:  Sure I do.  It never became law, as you know.  It got tied up.  It was a bill that had some things I agreed with and other things I didn‘t agree with.  I was happy it never became law.  I opposed the 2005 bill as well. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARLSON:  I opposed the 2005 bill as well.  Well, she didn‘t oppose the 2001 bill, she voted for it.  But she was happy it didn‘t become law.  I don‘t know.  I could see an ad made out of this. 

CUMMINGS:  Absolutely, because what she‘s saying is I voted for it.  And then, in some relatively short period of time, discovered that she didn‘t mean to, because she said I was happy it didn‘t become law.  It was within that timeframe that she reversed her position on it.  Why didn‘t she know in advance before she cast her vote. 

It is the same kind of argument that Barack Obama makes about the war vote, why didn‘t she know in advance how she should have voted rather than later amending what—or reversing her position. 

CARLSON:  Of course, it‘s very similar to John Kerry‘s famous explanation for his war vote. 

ROBINSON:  And the timeframe is very—is obscure in this.  She sounds as if she voted for it, but she was like immediately happy that it didn‘t—she said, I was happy that it didn‘t become law.  Not I am happy. 

CARLSON:  This is why senators don‘t get elected president very often, because it‘s hard to explain what exactly happens in the United States Senate.  Richard Cohen had a really interesting piece in your newspaper, your colleague Richard Cohen, yesterday about Jeremiah Wright, who I think it is fair to say is the spiritual adviser or mentor, close friend anyway, to Barack Obama, who has this church in Chicago. 

Apparently, the church magazine came out and gave an award to Lewis Farrakhan.  I was amazed to learn as I was reading his most recent speech is still crazy, still an anti-semite, et cetera.  This is not the Obama we know.  This is not the Obama that he‘d like to project.  Why would Obama be tied to someone who would endorse Lewis Farrakhan? 

ROBINSON:  First of all, I think there are a few degrees of separation there.  The magazine gives some award to Farakahn.  The magazine is affiliated with the church and Obama goes to the church.  I take him at his word that, you know, he found a church he wanted to belong to.  It is a church that has a kind of—I was going to say a black liberation liturgy.  That‘s not quite right.  But, you know, it‘s a church in south Chicago that is about spiritual and worldly black empowerment, which is, you know, a current and important subject in the south side of Chicago. 

CARLSON:  Absolutely.  But this guy, Jeremiah Wright, he strikes me—

I‘m not saying that it‘s illegitimate to believe in black empowerment theology.  I‘m merely saying this guy, Jeremiah Wright, who is very close to Obama, I‘ve read a lot of things he said, and a lot of them strike me as over the top.  This quote—Natalee Holloway—he said, “Black women are being raped daily in Darfur.  That doesn‘t make the news.  When one 18-year-old white girl from Alabama gets drunk on a graduation to Aruba, goes off and gives it up in a foreign country, that stays in the news for months.” 

Such a mean thing to say.  For Obama who is not a mean guy to be tied

--

CUMMINGS:  Obama didn‘t say it. 

CARLSON:  He didn‘t say it.  But this is the central figure in his story.  It‘s this guy‘s sermon who gave Obama the phrase, the audacity of hope.  This guy is a big deal in the Obama narrative. 

CUMMINGS:  Well, he certainly is that.  But I think you have to also acknowledge that the Obama campaign said on this issue they disagree.  He doesn‘t agree with the endorsement of Farakahn.  Obama has taken his position.  I don‘t know.  I think there are lots of churches that take different positions but everybody sitting in the pew may not agree with every single one of those. 

CARLSON:  Unless I‘m misreading it, Obama seems to have held this man, Dr. Jeremiah Wright, up as someone who really influenced him.  It‘s really easy to find over the top quotes from him and it seems to me  --  

ROBINSON:  I don‘t think he has held him up.  In fact, he‘s excluded him from some events. 

CARLSON:  In the past six months. 

ROBINSON:  You may want to disassociate yourself.  When the Natalee Holloway thing first came out, I wrote a column that the wonderful headline writers in my paper entitled “White Women We Love.”  It was about the damsels in distress, 24 hour cable TV news.  I phrased it more eloquently. 

CARLSON:  But he attacks Natalee Holloway

ROBINSON:  I know.  You didn‘t need to do that.  Of course you didn‘t need to do that.  I think I‘m probably a better writer than he is.  That‘s one of my weaknesses, Tucker. 

(CROSS TALK)

CARLSON:  I want to ask you very quickly about something Fred Thompson said.  I don‘t think we have time to put it up here, but Fred Thompson‘s campaign sent out a press release basically attacking John McCain as a liberal.  Fred Thompson and John McCain are good friends.  McCain‘s wife told me last week that she and her husband went on Fred‘s honeymoon, Mr.  Thompson‘s honeymoon with him and his wife. 

They are good friends.  He‘s attacking McCain, why is he doing that? 

CUMMINGS:  Last stand, this is it.  He loses South Carolina, he can finally get back to Tennessee.  But he‘s got to at least pretend to try.  So he‘s there and he‘s trying.  I‘m sure that McCain knows exactly what he‘s doing.  I wouldn‘t be surprised if Thompson didn‘t give him a heads up, that I‘ve got to throw some elbows, play some hardball and try to survive. 

CARLSON:  Politics is mean. 

ROBINSON:  It is mean.  Fred will be OK soon.  He‘ll be back on the front porch.

CARLSON:  If anybody attacked me in a press release, it would really wound me.  Gene, Jeanne, thank you both very much. 

The presidential candidates write prescriptions to ease America‘s money worries; are any of them effective?  CNBC‘s money man, Charlie Gasparino, on next. 

And more trouble for O.J. Simpson.  He takes a tongue lashing in court.  Will he make it out jail before dinner?  The latest from Bill Wolff. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  Now that fears of a recession has begun to filter down to the average voter, every presidential candidate in the race has begun to make promises about having not just the prescription to the problem, but the cure for it.  Are any of them right?  Do voters believe the president can turn the economy around?  Can he? 

Joining me now is author of “King of The Club, Richard Grasso and the Survival of the New York Stock Exchange,” CNBC‘s Charlie Gasparino.  Charlie, thanks for coming on. 

CHARLIE GASPARINO, CNBC ANCHOR:  Thanks for having me. 

CARLSON:  Hillary Clinton says in an interview today on Bloomberg with Peter Cook, Americans want a president who can manage the economy.  Can any president manage the economy?  Does a president have a power to do that? 

GASPARINO:  Presidents can make the economy a lot worse.  You do know that.  Fiscal policy, that‘s what the White House controls.  The monetary policy is essentially controlled by the Federal Reserve.  Fiscal policy can make things dramatically better, dramatically worse. 

Full disclosure, I like Ronald Reagan.  I think the fact he cut taxes in the early ‘80s, that he took off regulations on business, I think that helped the economy immeasurably.  I don‘t think Bill Clinton did a great job with the economy, despite the fact he had all those boom years.  All you have to do is look at the fact that right after he raised taxes when he got into office, the first three years of his presidency, the economy didn‘t do very well.  It was until we had essentially a stock market bubble that it did. 

So, clearly, presidents can make things better.  The concept of managing an economy, though, it sounds like something out of Sweden or something like that.  It sounds like she‘s thinking that the president should be involved in every part of the economy, that the White House should be making economic policy, not letting the free market work.  That to me is a little troublesome. 

I‘ll tell you, when big businesses hear that, big and small businesses

a lot of jobs are created by small businesses.  When they hear that, they get a little scared.  That‘s when they start ratcheting back, worried about these mandates and taxes.  I think that‘s a problem, when presidents really start to manage the economy. 

Listen, we had 9/11, which was a terrible disaster.  We had a stock market bubble that blew up during the last couple of months of the Clinton years, Bill Clinton‘s last term, and then bled into Bush‘s first term.  He cut taxes.  He wasn‘t really an interventionist president when it came to the economy.  And if you think about it, the economy is doing pretty good.  What are we at, five percent unemployment, despite the fact we‘re going to run into problems now because of some of the Wall Street stuff. 

Think about managing this Wall Street stuff.  That might be the worst thing in the world. 

CARLSON:  Every candidate—almost every candidate on both sides has expressed concerns about the housing market and the pretty dramatic drop in housing prices.  But didn‘t we all agree that housing prices were too high, that it was a bubble.  They were unsustainable.  Aren‘t they supposed to fall to more realistic levels? 

GASPARINO:  Absolutely.  People forget about this housing crisis.  Listen, this gets very technical.  But one of the reasons why we have a housing crisis right now is because we had the federal government—it began with the Clinton White House and to some extent the Bush White House, where they were saying, listen, banks, we want you to make loans, subprime loans, to people that, let‘s face it, can‘t afford to buy homes, people that can‘t qualify because they don‘t make enough money.  That‘s why you created this whole market of subprime lending, which really is at the heart of the current crisis right now. 

That was part of the bubble.  Home ownership generally, historically, from what I understand, was about 66 percent of Americans.  They wanted to ramp that up.  They wanted to make it over 70.  It did get over 70 because you created a market of subprime lending, people that really can‘t afford loans.  Those people are now defaulting on their houses.  They‘re causing the malaise that‘s in the housing market to a large extent. 

By the way, it‘s not just poor people involved.  There‘s a lot of semi-rich people who bought huge houses with these subprime loans that they really couldn‘t afford.  But that whole market has essentially hurt the economy.  That market was created, let‘s be honest here, by the federal government, directives from the federal government. 

CARLSON:  What you just said is the least remarked upon, most important thing I‘ve heard about this subject.  I hope you say it every day in every way until every American know. 

GASPARINO:  Nobody believes me though. 

CARLSON:  I do.  Charlie Gasparino of CNBC, thanks a lot. 

GASPARINO:  Thanks. 

CARLSON:  When we come back, big news for actor Matthew McConaughey, the man who never wears his shirt, he‘s about to be a father.  What‘s even more shocking is how he made that announcement.  Bill Wolff will tell us coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  Welcome back.  Earlier this week, we brought you news that Bill Wolff, the vice president for prime time here at MSNBC, was sick at home on his couch.  Thanks to medicine and the help of his wife, he‘s back.  Joining us now, Bill Wolff. 

BILL WOLFF, MSNBC VICE PRESIDENT:  And heavy pancake makeup, Tucker. 

Let‘s face it, I have Samsonite under my eyes at this point. 

CARLSON:  That‘s the spirit.

WOLFF:  I have a cold and that‘s news.  Makes you think about the state of journalism in America. 

CARLSON:  We‘ve got 24 hours to fill, Bill. 

WOLFF:  That‘s alarming.  Now, Tucker, America‘s question for O.J.

Simpson is now part of the official record of Clarke County, Nevada court.  Mr. Simpson appeared in court today on charges that he violated terms of his bail after he was indicted for armed robbery in Las Vegas last fall.  America‘s new hero, district court judge Jackie Glass doubled Simpson‘s bail to 250,000 dollars because he attempted to contact his co-defendant Clarence C.J. Stewart through his bail bondsman.  That was a direct violation of the terms of his bail. 

In issuing her ruling, Judge Jackie Glass put the thoughts of hundreds of millions of Americans on the record when she said, quote, I don‘t know, Mr. Simpson, what the heck you were thinking, end quote. 

Now, we‘re news men, not mind readers, but the only reasonable answer to the question of what he was thinking is, of course, quote, you think Britney Spears is melting down, I‘ll show you melting down? 

CARLSON:  Except the difference is I don‘t feel sorry for O.J. 

WOLFF:  I certainly don‘t feel sorry—I don‘t feel too sorry.  I have new details.  Apparently he has not made bail yet.  He owes 15 percent of 250,000 grand, which 37,500.  Get this, he appears to have a bad name among bail bondsmen, Tucker, which I consider to be one of the lowest things I‘ve heard.  If you‘ve got a bad name with certain areas of society, you‘ve got a bad name.  You know what I mean? 

CARLSON:  I know exactly what you mean. 

WOLFF:  Famously buff actor Matthew McConaughey is good for more than just working out with no shirt on.  He also has reproductive aptitude.  On his website yesterday, Mr. McConaughey revealed that, quote, my girlfriend Camilla and I made a baby together.  It‘s three months growing—no G—in her womb.  We are stoked and wowed by this miracle of creation, end quote. 

The 38-year-old actor who was charged in 1999 for possessing Marijuana but not for dancing around naked and playing bongo drums in the middle of the night, which he was also doing, went on to ask his fans prayers as he awaits and then embarks on fatherhood.  He ended his message, and I quote, by signing off, where you would say yours truly or sincerely, “wow, McConaughey.” 

Wow, so congrats to Matt. 

CARLSON:  Nice.  That‘s just—What does he do? 

WOLFF:  He‘s an actor of some repute.  He often works out with no clothes on, frisbee and yoga, push-ups and such.  He‘s often in some of your favorite magazines, “US Weekly,” “In Touch,” “Life and Style.”  He‘s often—he‘s very muscular, Tucker, very, very muscular.  Keep you‘re eyes out for a muscular baby six months from now. 

CARLSON:  Congratulations. 

WOLFF:  There was in Los Angeles a rare confluence of significant news makers on the world scene and it was captured on tape.  Here is Prince Von Anhalt, Zsa Zsa Gabor‘s ninth husband, one time self-proclaimed but not baby daddy to Anna Nicole Smith‘s daughter with his well considered analysis of the Britney Spears/Kevin Federline custody battle.  Here it is. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PRINCE VON ANHULT, HUSBAND OF ZSA ZSA GABOR:  She needs help.  She needs help of all of us.  We should help her, not attack her.  That‘s what people do, attack her all the time.  People should help her and give that ex-husband of hers a kick in the (EXPLETIVE DELETED).  He needs a kick, fighting for the children.  He has no rights.  He should leave the children to the mother and he should visit the children, not the other way around.  He‘s a (EXPLETIVE DELETED) loser. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WOLFF:  A what?  That‘s perhaps the sound bite of the year, Tucker, courtesy of this segment of the show.  He‘s a something loser, apparently.  Like the sign says, it takes one to know one. 

CARLSON:  That‘s the guy who calls himself prince? 

WOLFF:  Right.  First of all, he calls himself prince in a country where, as far as I know for the last 231 years or so, it doesn‘t mean anything to be a prince, prince.  Part two, he‘s Zsa Zsa Gabor‘s seventh, no eighth, no ninth husband.  Congratulations.  My goodness.  Third, he suggested that he was the baby daddy of Anna Nicole Smith‘s baby girl, Dannielynn.  He‘s one tawdry fellow and shouldn‘t really be casting stones at one Kevin Federline, America‘s favorite father.

CARLSON:  Well put.  Bill Wolff from headquarters, thanks Bill.  That does it for us.  Thanks for watching.  “HARDBALL” with Chris is next.

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.

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,