updated 1/28/2008 12:51:27 PM ET 2008-01-28T17:51:27

Guests: Tony Perkins, Archer Davis

TUCKER CARLSON, HOST:  He‘ll always have Iowa, but at this point Barack Obama‘s win in the Hawkeye state feels like a lifetime ago.  Obama is favored to win tomorrow‘s South Carolina primary, though savvy gamblers stopped betting on this contest after New Hampshire.  But win or lose, Obama‘s battle with Hillary in South Carolina has changed this election, and possibly the Democratic Party, in a fundamental way. 

Thanks mostly to the efforts of the Clinton campaign, this race has become about race.  White voters in the south support Hillary, black voters support Obama.  Will Hillary‘s southern strategy pay off for her in the end?  And if so, what are the consequences? 

We‘ll talk to a key Obama backer in just a minute. 

Meanwhile on the Republican side, professional observers declared Mitt Romney the winner of last night‘s debate, not that they know anything. 

Is McCain weaker than he seems?  Is Romney more enduring?  And if Mike Huckabee is the candidate of Christian conservatives, why isn‘t the Christian conservative establishment rooting for him? 

Plus the Clintons pounced on Obama for using Ronald Reagan‘s name without an expletive attached.  And yet, and here‘s the irony, we now have evidence of Bill Clinton himself praising Reagan back when the then Arkansas governor was young, promising and itching to reform his own party.  That was a long time ago. 

More on that ahead. 

But first more on the most intense political battle of my lifetime, the Hillary-Obama race. 

Joining us a key Obama supporter, Democratic congressman from Alabama, Artur Davis. 

Congressman, thanks for coming on. 

REP. ARCHER DAVIS (D-AL), OBAMA SUPPORTER:  Tucker, always good to be here.  How are you doing? 

CARLSON:  I‘m great.  I‘m watching the numbers out of the South Carolina.  And it occurred to me last night Barack Obama could lose South Carolina.  These numbers are changing.  Are you worried about that? 

DAVIS:  You know, Tucker, any of us who lived through New Hampshire know better than to live on polls.  This has been a very fluid race.  But having said that, I feel good about South Carolina, the campaign feels good about South Carolina.  There‘s been an enormous amount of work on the ground.  And anybody who‘s been in South Carolina would tell you the enthusiasm is with the Obama campaign.  There‘s an electricity around this campaign and I think it‘s going to carry him on Saturday. 

CARLSON:  Well, here‘s the story as far as I can tell.  I think you‘re right.  He‘s up eight points in the new MSNBC poll.  But let‘s break down that poll by race and you have what I believe is the story of the season if not this year in the Democratic Party. 

Barack Obama wins 59 percent of black voters in South Carolina.  He‘s got only 10 percent of white voters.  That‘s about half what he had a week ago.  Hillary Clinton, meanwhile, 25 of black voters, 36 of white voters. 

The former labor secretary Robert Reich under the Clintons came out yesterday and said Bill Clinton has injected race into this contest and that‘s what‘s going on here. 

Do you agree with that? 

DAVIS:  Well, it‘s such a serious charge that I‘m not going to put that on the former president of the United States.  But this is the reality.  Senator Obama has not been able to campaign in South Carolina as much as he was in Iowa and New Hampshire.  When he was able to go into Iowa and New Hampshire and spend an intensive amount of time there, race was no factor. 

He was able to get an incredible amount of support in two states that are monolithically white.  Frankly, the time hasn‘t been there.  And then the south is still evolving, we‘re still on our path towards progress in the south.  And I‘m sure the campaign wishes in an ideal world that the senator could be on the ground more.  But the reality is that I think that Barack Obama, if he is the Democratic nominee, is going to have an incredible appeal across racial lines.  He‘s already demonstrated that in a number of states. 

CARLSON:  Right. 

DAVIS:  It‘s not a point about the numbers in South Carolina.  John Edwards is the one getting the surge of votes in South Carolina. 

CARLSON:  That‘s right.  But it‘s... 

DAVIS:  And sure, Senator Edwards is taking some votes away, and I understand that.  Just as some voters in New Hampshire wanted to keep the game going, they want to keep Senator Clinton in the race, so they lurched toward her at the end, there‘s some voters in South Carolina who want to keep John Edwards in the game.  Remember South Carolina is his native state. 

CARLSON: OK. 

DAVIS:  Although he represented North Carolina in the Senate, he‘s from South Carolina. 

CARLSON:  I think every dynamic you described is true, at least from my perspective it is.  But it doesn‘t answer the basic question, which is this: why did Barack Obama lose half his white support in the last week, at a time when the Clinton campaign was attacking him, when the charges of drug use was still hanging in the air, when Bill Clinton was saying things like, “My wife is going to lose here because she‘s white.” 

I mean, is there any other explanation for his drop in white support other than the Clintons injecting that issue into the race? 

DAVIS:  Well, let‘s wait and see what happens tomorrow.  It‘s very hard polling these states as we‘ve found out.  You know, one of the things we have to say about this campaign, Barack Obama, in my opinion, has stayed focused on the broad question of who can bring this country together. 

Now, I don‘t like a lot of the tactics from the Clintons in the last few weeks, but I‘m not going to level the allegations of them of playing the race card because it‘s so serious an allegation.  I‘m going to let voters make their own judgment.  I‘m going to let voters read between the lines.  I think that‘s Barack Obama‘s attitude as well.  But I trust the voters of South Carolina and voters in all these February 5th states to keep their eye on the ball and not to be distracted. 

Distraction and diversionary tactics are familiar in politics.  And you‘re right that there have been some diversionary tactics thrown at Barack Obama under the bait of the rest of the week.  He‘s had to fight back.  But the bottom line is he is going to stay focused on what it means to be a change agent. 

All these Democratic candidates are talking essentially about the same vision for the country.  The question is who can deliver on that vision.  I think it‘s Barack Obama.  And you know, he‘s coming to Birmingham.  Tucker, you were down there a few weeks ago.  Brack‘s coming here on Sunday.  We sold 4,000 tickets in three hours today. 

CARLSON:  I believe it.  I mean... 

DAVIS:  And we sold them to black people and white people. 

CARLSON:  I have seen it. 

DAVIS:  There‘s incredible enthusiasm for Barack Obama. 

CARLSON:  But I noticed—but wait a second.  So Bill Clinton is the leader of your party.  He has been considered through, I believe, his entire public life above even the accusation that he would do something as vile as inject race but I notice you‘re not jumping in to deny that he might be doing that, which tells you, I think, a lot about... 

DAVIS:  Well... 

CARLSON:  ...maybe the changing of views of (INAUDIBLE). 

DAVIS:  Let me say—let me just make this quick point.  I‘d like to get the Bill Clinton back that we had for the last seven years and not the Bill Clinton we‘ve had for the last seven weeks.  The Bill Clinton we‘ve had for the last seven years knew that he had a legacy that he had to rebuild because he didn‘t go out on a high note.  So he tried to, frankly, overarched a lot of lines. 

CARLSON:  Yes, well... 

DAVIS:  He tried to be a transcendent kind of figure, he tried to be a big picture figure.  The Bill Clinton of the last seven weeks has been an attack dog. 

CARLSON:  Well, the Bill... 

DAVIS:  And I think when the president sits down and reflects on it, he‘ll want to get back to the Clinton that we‘ve had in the last seven years and not the Bill we‘ve had in the last seven weeks.  It‘s been unfortunate. 

CARLSON:  Well, the one we‘ve seen in the last seven weeks is the one that some of us covered for eight years here in Washington, the one who impugns the motives of his enemies.  So it‘s very familiar to some of us. 

Very quickly Hillary Clinton went after Obama in the last debate on the question of this man Rezco, who is a long-time supporter, economically... 

DAVIS:  Yes. 

CARLSON:  ....financial supporter of Obama‘s.  She described him as a slumlord.  Lo and behold to “Today Show” this morning, there it is, the picture of the Clintons with Mr. Rezco.  She says, “I don‘t know who the hell this guy is.  Everyone has his picture taken with me.  I don‘t know him.” 

Why hasn‘t the Obama campaign come out with a comprehensive list, if you can even make one, of every sleazy, indicted, imprisoned, besmirched donor to the various Clinton campaigns over the last 20 years?  I mean it‘s such an obvious point but I think... 

DAVIS:  Well, Tucker, people‘s memories aren‘t that short.  You had this guy sue a few months ago.  The Clintons have a lot of virtues.  But frankly having discretion on who their contributors are has never been one of their virtues.  People remember that.  People get that. 

Obama trusts the voters.  He trusts the voters to sort their way through this.  And I don‘t think the Clintons are the ones to be talking about sordid contributors. 

CARLSON:  I agree with that completely. 

Congressman, Mr. Obama is lucky to have you on his side.  I appreciate your coming on.  Thank you. 

DAVIS:  Thank you, sir. 

CARLSON:  A lot of people concluded Mitt Romney looked and sounded presidential in last night‘s Republican debate.  Should we have been taking Romney more seriously all along?  Or maybe not? 

But John McCain picks up the backing of the “New York Times.”  Liberals are impressed but how do Republican primary voters feel about it?  Is this one endorsement that might hurt him in the end? 

We‘ll be right back. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  Republican presidential candidates met last night in the final debate before Tuesday‘s primary in Florida and said barely a single unpleasant word to one another.  It was so nice, how do you know who to vote for? 

We‘ll tell you in just a minute. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN ®, ‘08 PRESIDENTIAL HOPEFUL:  Now that Sylvester Stallone has endorsed me, I‘m sending him over to take care of Chuck Norris right away.  And I‘m going to get him.  How‘s that?  There you go. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARLSON:  In case you missed it that may have been the single most compelling moment in last night‘s Republican debate here on MSNBC.  The Republicans running for president were so friendly to each other it was more a dinner party than a debate. 

Hillary Clinton took her share of abuse but she wasn‘t there. 

Rudy Giuliani needs a victory in Tuesday‘s Florida primary about as badly as the New York Knicks do.  Did he help himself last night?  Or will John McCain continue with the momentum?  He picked up in New Hampshire and South Carolina. 

And joining us now contributing writer for “Slate” Melinda Henneberger and “Politico‘s” senior correspondent Jeanne Cummings. 

Welcome to you both. 

I don‘t really understand this, Melinda.  So Romney is this famous attack dog.  Everyone dislikes him because he‘s just so mean.  So last night, us the debate organizers allowed him the chance to be mean.  We said we‘ll give you a question you could ask to anybody.  He says, “I would like to ask my question to Mr. Giuliani.”  And he asked him some total softball about China trade. 

Why was he so nice? 

MELINDA HENNEBERGER, “SLATE” CONTRIBUTING WRITER:  Maybe he thought mean wasn‘t working.  I thought his affect to his good last night.  And he was—the whole thing was so dull that I honestly put it back on late at night when I wanted to go to sleep. 

CARLSON:  Did it work? 

HENNEBERGER:  Yes, in minutes.  I just didn‘t think he was that overwhelmingly wonderful last night, Romney. 

CARLSON:  Well, you‘re alone in that.  I mean everybody—I mean here you listen to people talk to about it, too.  Romney is clearly the frontrunner, he was the most presidential.  I mean I don‘t know—I have nothing against him, I‘m not attacking Romney, that was not my impression at all.  Why is that the universal impression, I wonder? 

JEANNE CUMMINGS, POLITICO:  Well, I think that Romney is gaining some advantage right now for a couple of reasons.  To have the debate shift to the economy plays to his natural strength.  And then he played it as hard as he could in that debate.  And so there you get—you know, he accomplished something.  He at least had a goal and he accomplished it, which is more than you could say for the rest of them. 

Rudy Giuliani did himself no good, became so little of a threat to John McCain, that John McCain took time out to compliment him and call him a hero.  I mean you don‘t say that about somebody you think might beat you in the next few days. 

CARLSON:  That‘s a good point.  It did seem like he kind of sat down and gave up.  I mean you‘re this famously tough mean guy, why not be tough and mean?  I was amazed by McCain, whom I like a lot.  But on the economic questions, it was almost as if he didn‘t try.  I took notes.  At one point he said, quote, “We can sit down together and figure something out.” 

I mean, I don‘t know.  I don‘t need a lot... 

HENNEBERGER:  These guys are exhausted. 

CARLSON:  But don‘t you—I mean I‘m not hung up on details, I—some of the time.  I like a big picture man myself.  But can you admit that?  We‘ll just kind of figure something out? 

HENNEBERGER:  Maybe they are trying to appear that they can get along in contrast to the contentiousness of the Democrats.  I—and—or why does he have to take on Rudy?  I mean Rudy has been wintering in Florida and, you know, might as well stay there.  So... 

CUMMINGS:  But I actually—I think you have a good point here, Tucker.  I mean the economy is rising as the biggest issue and the McCain campaign does have one of the thinner economic plans.  It‘s essentially extending Bush‘s tax cuts and continuing with the same sort of economic agenda that the president instilled.  It‘s not particularly novel, it‘s not very deep.  It‘s not McCain‘s strength, to be honest.  You know, clearly foreign affairs is. 

However, when that is becoming the number one issue for voters and you are likely last guy to beat is considered a pro on this issue, you better have a stronger answer than that. 

CARLSON:  Or at least pretend.  I mean I like a thin economic plan.  I like the kind of hands off—I don‘t think the government is going to improve my life in any way, shape, or form other than keeping the vandals from sacking my house.  So I like that.  But it seems to me you kind of should pretend. 

I must say Mike Huckabee—I know we‘re all sort of over Mike Huckabee and he is like some snake handler and he doesn‘t have a chance and all that stuff.  But he comes out with all kinds of things I haven‘t heard before, as a stimulus building a two-lane highway from Bangor to Miami? 

CUMMINGS:  (INAUDIBLE) 

HENNEBERGER:  Right.  Right.  Right.   Right.  Right. 

CARLSON:  And people are, oh that‘s stupid.  I don‘t know.  Why is it any stupider than any other plan? 

HENNEBERGER:  It‘s the public works project. 

CARLSON:  Right. 

HENNEBERGER:  The sort of thing that would stimulate the economy, I think, more than these stimulus packages that they are arguing, no mine is a little better, no, mine is a little better.  I don‘t—personally don‘t think any of those stimulus packages would work.  And I‘m kind of even fond of taxes. 

So to me, Mike Huckabee was the one who got my attention. 

CARLSON:  Yeah, I mean, completely.  And I‘m saying, you know, people waste their lives in traffic.  And don‘t we have a right since in a sense we are paying a lot of taxes to get from here to there quickly and make it to our daughter‘s ballet recital?  I thought it was...

CUMMINGS:  I have to admit I spent the debate sorting through my daughter‘s old CDs.  OK?  It was a good time to do it.  And that was the only moment where I stopped and I said, that was creative.  Now, you have to remember where he comes from.  A lot of the south benefited from the public works projects that brought us out of the depression. 

CARLSON:  Right. 

CUMMINGS:  I mean they basically built much of Tennessee that way, and he‘s from that region.  This is something that, you know, I thought at least was creative thinking.  And I would be careful to get over Mike Huckabee, because we may see him in the number two slot. 

Did you see that wink McCain gave him when they were doing their little Sylvester Stallone business going on there?  You—I wouldn‘t knock him all the way out of here. 

CARLSON:  I wouldn‘t either.  And I - I guess here‘s in the end what I appreciate about Huckabee.  He has this idea in the fair tax which has been debated in think tanks for quite sometime.  But you haven‘t seen a kind of front level candidate talk about it that I can remember.  He defended it.  He explained it.  People said, “Well, that‘s crazy.”  He said, “No, it‘s not, let me tell you why.”  It‘s kind of refreshing to see someone actually explain an idea. 

HENNEBERGER:  No, I think people who have been through the plan have given high marks.  And this public works project he is proposing is pretty much what he did in Arkansas and it worked pretty well. 

CARLSON:  The government wastes a lot of money, while they are doing it, they might as well get me to work faster. 

HENNEBERGER:  To job and improve our lives. 

CARLSON:  It‘s a non-dumber than a lot of things. 

Bill Clinton has been criticizing Barack Obama for invoking the name of Ronald Reagan without using an expletive in that context.  But guess what, Obama wasn‘t the first presidential candidate to do that, there was another.  We‘ll give you a hint, his wife is running for president. 

Plus Dennis Kucinich drops out of the race.  Who will his supporters back now?  And why didn‘t the anti-war people ever fall in love with the original anti-war candidate? 

That‘s all coming up. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  The growing animosity between Obama and Hillary, in fact, between Obama and the entire former first family, is beginning to reach the boiling point.  Surely you‘ve heard the Clintons savaging Obama for not hating Ronald Reagan loudly enough, attacks that may or may not make sense but that seemed to have worked. 

With that in mind, see if you can guess who once praised Reagan for ending the Cold War and for, quote, “his rhetoric in defense of freedom.” 

That‘s right.  It was Bill Clinton back when he himself was a relative unknown running for president. 

Back with us contributing writer for “Slate” Melinda Henneberger and “Politico‘s” senior correspondent Jeanne Cummings. 

There is this great piece by E.J. Dionne, which I‘m sure everybody in Washington read this morning in the “Washington Post.‘  And it quotes, among other things, the Memphis commercial appeal saying this in 1991. 

The Memphis commercial appeal praised Clinton in ‘91 for daring to set himself apart from a pack of contenders for the Democratic nomination by saying something nice about Reagan.  Clinton‘s readiness to defy his party‘s prevailing Reaganphobia, the paper wrote, is one reason he‘s a candidate to watch. 

That is exactly low these many years later, the rationale for Obama‘s campaign. 

CUMMINGS:  Well, what Obama said was even less than that. 

CARLSON:  Well, that‘s good point. 

CUMMINGS:  And so it truly is amazing that the Clintons would go after him and distort it in a way that they put it in an advertisement on the radio where they said that he was praising Republican ideas, and they had to pull it by the end of the day, because he never praised the idea. 

That‘s the big difference between Barack Obama and Bill Clinton.  Barack Obama praised the tactic but he didn‘t praise the content.  Bill Clinton went so far as to praise content.  Very different. 

CARLSON:  It‘s just so unbelievably sleazy.  And I get the feeling, the strong feeling, a lot of liberals who supported Clinton and defending him all these years, are really reassessing the Clintons. 

Do you get that sense? 

HENNEBERGER:  I do.  I think if even a fraction of the Democrats who are claiming that they will go to work for John McCain before voting for Hillary do so, it can be a really crazy general election. 

CARLSON:  Yes. 

HENNEBERGER:  But I think that Obama‘s unforgivable sin to Bill Clinton was not having a kind word for Ronald Reagan but perhaps suggesting... 

CARLSON:  Yes. 

HENNEBERGER:  ...that he did something a little more revolutionary than Bill Clinton. 

CARLSON:  And also I think he has this line in there—this all comes from a conversation he had with, I believe, the editorial board of the Reno newspaper, in which Obama puts Clinton in the same category as Richard Nixon in presidencies that were not transformative, or just kind of place-holder presidencies that were fine and well and good but not, you know, standout presidencies. 

I think Clinton‘s legacy is what?  His anger is about, I think, it‘s what the intensity of this campaigning for his wife is about, I mean, it‘s about the legacy. 

CUMMINGS:  Well, absolutely.  This is his legacy election.  And not being compared in any fashion to Nixon would be offensive to not just Clinton but to many, many Democrats. 

CARLSON:  I wouldn‘t like it. 

CUMMINGS:  Right.  Right.  And so you‘ve got to wonder if Barack Obama knew... 

CARLSON:  Right. 

CUMMINGS:  ...that he was stirring up this, you know, hive.  And if he did, then he should have been a lot better prepared because they knocked him off his game.  He got roughed up out there.  And we‘ve seen his poll—the poll numbers change a little bit.  Now he‘s starting to right himself.  In a way I think this is good for him.  If he wins the nomination, he needs to be run through these paces to see if he can react to get his team in shape. 

But if he knew going in he was going to make that comparison, then he should have been a lot better prepared when he left (INAUDIBLE). 

CARLSON:  I think that‘s right.  I mean but with 10 percent of white voters supporting him in South Carolina, I don‘t—I think the odds are against him getting to the nomination. 

Here‘s who I want an apology from.  All the liberals who in the 1990s defended Clinton no matter what he did and attacked me as some kind of a wild-eyed Clinton hater for pointing out the fact that he was really a nasty piece of work, Bill Clinton.  I said that.  “You‘re obsessed with him, you‘re crazy.”  Actually, now they are admitting I was right. 

HENNEBERGER:  No. 

CARLSON:  When are they going to apologize to me, Melinda? 

HENNEBERGER:  You forget that there were a lot of liberals who were unhappy with Bill Clinton at the time, who voted for Ralph Nader in 1996... 

CARLSON:  The real, the ideological liberals. 

HENNEBERGER:  ...especially after welfare so-called reform.  I mean, there were a lot of disappointments for real liberals during the Bill Clinton years. 

CARLSON:  There were some like seriously principled people said something, critiqued him from the left. 

HENNEBERGER:  I think the more he was under attack, the more they defended him, despite their own disappointments with him, and (INAUDIBLE) especially given the political capital he had and did not spend. 

CARLSON:  Yes.  And I think the main... 

HENNEBERGER:  That was the major point. 

CARLSON:  And I think the nature of all the sex stuff and Ken Starr and all the creepiness about that... 

HENNEBERGER:  Right. 

CARLSON:  ...gave him cover and kind of cloaked the fact that at core he‘s just a mean dude. 

HENNEBERGER:  Well, long-term these attacks that Bill Clinton and these punches he‘s landing on Obama seem to be working.  But over time he‘s making himself the issue, the candidate, Bill 24/7.  And that‘s going to raise a lot more—and already has—more serious questions about who is going to be president, what the line of authority would be.  I don‘t think it‘s good for her in the long run. 

CARLSON:  I agree with that. 

We‘ll be right back. 

He delivers his last State of the Union on Monday and President Bush is planning on going big, big as in proposing doubling aids funding for Africa.  Message, President Bush is a good guy.  But is that a good plan for the country?  That is our country. 

Plus Rudy Giuliani is putting all of his eggs in Florida‘s basket.  But you never know it if you looked at the poll numbers.  What happened to those millions of dollars he spent campaigning?  Is there anything to show for them? 

We‘ll be right back. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWS BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVID LETTERMAN, TALK SHOW HOST:  Category, top ten Barack Obama campaign promises.  Here we go, number ten. 

OBAMA:  To keep the budget balanced, I‘ll rent the situation room for Sweet 16s. 

LETTERMAN:  Hey, that‘s a nice idea.  Number nine. 

OBAMA:  I will double your tax money at the craps table. 

LETTERMAN:  Good idea.  Number eight. 

OBAMA:  Appoint Mitt Romney secretary of looking good. 

LETTERMAN:  Yes, sir.  Wow. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Dave, Dave, Dave, you‘re on. 

LETTERMAN:  Could you get me a cheese pizza, please, Paul. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Dave, you‘re no longer my friend. 

LETTERMAN:  Thank you.  Number seven.   

OBAMA:  If you bring a gator to the White House, I‘ll wrestle him. 

LETTERMAN:  Wow, that‘s innovative campaigning.  Have you heard that before? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Never. 

LETTERMAN:  No.  Number six.   

OBAMA:  I‘ll put Regis on the nickel. 

LETTERMAN:  Why not.  Number five.   

OBAMA:  I‘ll rename the tenth month of the year Barack-tober. 

LETTERMAN:  Barack-tober, how about that?  Number four.   

LETTERMAN:  I won‘t let Apple release the new and improved iPod the day after you bought the previous model. 

LETTERMAN:  It‘s about time.  Number three.  

OBAMA:  I‘ll find money in the budget to buy Letterman a decent hair piece. 

LETTERMAN:  Thank you, senator.  A grateful nation salute you.  Number two. 

OBAMA:  Pronounce the word nuclear nuclear.

LETTERMAN:  How about that.  There‘s a breakthrough.  And the number one Barack Obama campaign promise. 

OBAMA:  Three words, Vice President Oprah. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARLSON:  Senator Barack Obama on “The Late Show With David Letterman” on CBS last night.  Has Obama made a conscious decision to go back to being Mr. Nice guy after his brawl with the Clintons.  Or was he always Mr. Nice Guy?  Here, once again, contributing writer for “Slate,” Melinda Henneberger, and “Politico” senior correspondent Jeanne Cummings.

OK, speaking of Mr. Nice Guy, the president, President Bush, is doing what every single president—

HENNEBERGER:  Who? 

CARLSON:  That‘s right.  He‘s, A, reminding us he‘s here.  In the eighth year of his term, every president does the same thing.  He decides, wait I‘m going to be judged by history.  I better go do something that everyone likes that‘s good.  So now President Bush has decided he wants to double AIDS funding for Africa.  I hate to be the one mean guy who asks the question—that‘s a good thing.  Of course, helping AIDS sufferers is good always and everywhere.  But why should American tax payers looking down the barrels of a recession be paying for that? 

HENNEBERGER:  No, I would ask why he didn‘t think of it a lot earlier. 

CARLSON:  He spent a ton of money on it already. 

HENNEBERGER:  Yes, he didn‘t really concentrate on it very early.  And it seems a little late to get around to his good works.  I think his quote was, now for something totally different. 

CARLSON:  Actually, he‘s been a guilty white liberal from day one.  That‘s always been my view. 

HENNEBERGER:  Maybe guilty, but where‘s the action?

CUMMINGS:  He‘s got a very good record in Africa.  You know, this whole—they do think legacy now.  But he‘s actually sunk a fair amount of money in AIDS and Malaria and, you know, even, you know, liberals will say, when it comes to that part of his legacy, he did more than Clinton.  This is the one area where he was committed from the beginning.  He‘s closing out with it. 

CARLSON:  Sure, but this is totally consistent with the liberal world view that the United States ought to commit money and human lives, our lives, to improving the rest of the world, nation building.  That‘s the Utopian view that liberals have had since Wilson of our relationship with the rest of the world.  Bush is like the ultimate example of that. 

CUMMINGS:  He came in no nation building, he goes out raring to go. 

CARLSON:  I‘ve always thought he was that way from day one.  There‘s nothing conservative about Bush‘s view from the rest of the world. 

HENNEBERGER:  He does not have a big record on social conservative acts.  And the world is a small place.  I think that public health dollars spent anywhere help us all. 

CARLSON:  Maybe.  I just think if we have a real recession and the unemployment rate spikes, if inflation gets worse, people are going to say two things.  One is, wait a second, we have all these immigrants here who we didn‘t ask to be here.  We love them when we could afford to pay them to mow our lawns.  Now we‘re very mad at them.  Please leave.  Two, why are we paying money to other countries to raise their standard of living, when we‘re suffering?  No ones going to say that if we get into a real recession?  

HENNEBERGER:  I think they may think about cutting the funding for Iraq before the minimum dollars put into AIDS funding. 

CARLSON:  I have a feeling I‘m never going to get anywhere on this one.  Hillary Clinton, speaking of spending money wisely—Hillary Clinton is the biggest provider—source of earmarks among any of the candidates running, should not be a surprise.  Last year, she secured more than a million dollars in funding in an earmark for Calvin Butts III, the famous rector of Abyssian (ph) Baptist Church in New York City.  Low and behold, he goes and endorses her. 

CUMMINGS:  It‘s always tricky when these religious leaders get involved in politics. 

CARLSON:  And/or immoral. 

CUMMINGS:  Well, you look at this and then you look at the faith-based initiative at the White House.  What was that? 

CARLSON:  I hated that too.

CUMMINGS:  That was a grant program.  It was all about—the political overhang on that was to break into the African-American community. 

CARLSON:  Exactly. 

CUMMINGS:  And so, at least, you can give Hillary Clinton credit for not being a phony about the whole thing.  She not only loves lobbyists, she loves earmarks and is number one at it.  OK, stand up, girl.  Go ahead. 

CARLSON:  The faith-based, I remember when that looked like it was going to become a reality.  All these preachers were out there from different denominations saying, you know, Bush is actually a good guy, come to think about it.  It was all about the money.  Can we just agree we‘re going to keep money and politics and religion separate?  No? 

HENNEBERGER:  That would be good.  Actually, it was interesting, in that there was this big perception that all these preachers sold out.  And when they went back later to look at where they had given the dollars and where they got the biggest boost from voters, it really didn‘t—there wasn‘t that correlation. 

CARLSON:  But the potential for abuse was there. 

HENNEBERGER:  Of course, and it looks horrible.  Clinton, I think, has a long-standing relationship with Calvin Butts, so I‘m not sure that was—

CUMMINGS:  There are other New York Democrats who co-sponsored that earmark as well.  So, all—not all.  Sorry, Mr. Boehner.  Everybody except Minority Leader Boehner in the House, they do earmarks, because that‘s how they drive money home into their districts.  So this is going to happen.  She‘s got a bunch of them.  That‘s how Congress works. 

CARLSON:  It‘s like you‘ve got a church and you‘re tax exempt, raise your own money.  If people support you, they will give you money.  If they don‘t, they won‘t.  Don‘t take it from the rest of us, from the federal treasury.  Just my view.

Peggy Noon has an interesting piece today about the Republican party, which is obviously in some disarray, trying to figure out who is the real Republican running for president.  She said this, which I thought was smart, “Rush Limbaugh declared on the radio this week, I‘m here to tell you, if either of these two guys, McCain or Huckabee, get the nomination, it‘s going to destroy the Republican party.  It‘s going to change it forever, be the end of it.” 

Peggy Noonan says, quote, “this is absurd.  George W. Bush destroyed the Republican party, by which I mean he sundered it, broke its constituent pieces apart and set them against each other.  He did this on spending, size of government, war, the ability to prosecute war, immigration and others issues.”

Democrats hate bush so much they can‘t see this.  But Bush‘s legacy, among other things, is the disintegration of his party. 

HENNEBERGER:  Peggy Noonan is a smart woman. 

CARLSON:  Yes, she is. 

HENNEBERGER:  And I don‘t understand this—or maybe I do—this conservative loathing of Huckabee and McCain.  ®MD+IN_®MDNM_McCain, there‘s such a history.  But with Huckabee, it seems to be, oh my God, among these conservatives who have only been playing the god card all this year.  When faced with someone who would actually give them a theocracy, they‘re completely panicked, just as panicked as all the liberals who have been pretending we‘ve all been living in a theocracy all these years. 

CARLSON:  The truth is—Huckabee, in last night‘s debate, actually defended atheism, the right of people to be atheist, which I thought was sort of nice.  I think the truth is, people who run—the elites who run the Republican party are as secular as the ones—almost—who run the Democratic party.  They all dislike religious people, sincere religious people.  They all think they are weird.  I think that‘s what it is. 

The “New York Times” has endorsed John McCain.  John McCain has a problem with conservatives.  Here is part of the endorsement, “McCain has been a staunch advocate of campaign finance reform,” says the “New York Times,” “working with Senator Russ Feingold, among the most liberal of Democrats, on ground breaking legislation, just as he worked with Senator Ted Kennedy on immigration reform.  That doesn‘t make him a moderate, but it does make him the best choice for his party‘s nomination.” 

That can‘t help McCain. 

CUMMINGS:  You would think if they really wanted to help him, they at least would have left that Ted Kennedy stuff out, and a few other of those sentences and just been very brief. 

CARLSON:  If they wanted to help him, they would have said, we wanted to endorse McCain but he‘s become too much of a screaming right winger.  We can‘t.  You know, he‘s too orthodox now. 

CUMMINGS:  If they wanted to help him , they would endorse Romney or somebody else. 

CARLSON:  Speaking of deserved endorsements—OK, so Dennis Kucinich of Ohio drops out of the race because he‘s got I think four different people challenging him for his seats.  It‘s the same old story, guy runs for president, constituents get restless, people decide they can horn in on his territory. 

My question about Kucinich though, here is the most sincere anti-war candidate of the season.  There are a lot of sincere anti-war liberals.  They never supported Kucinich.  Why is that? 

HENNEBERGER:  Because they didn‘t think he could win? 

CARLSON:  How Machiavellian is that? 

CUMMINGS:  Three letters. 

CARLSON:  I think I know what they are.  UFO. 

CUMMINGS:  UFO. 

HENNEBERGER:  I think his wife will be missed. 

CARLSON:  Completely.  I don‘t know.  I like people who really believe what they say. 

CUMMINGS:  Keep in mind that in that field they had alternatives.  Perhaps they were not—Barack Obama was against war before it started, before the vote, just like Kucinich.  So, the anti-war constituency in the Democratic party had alternatives that were legitimate alternatives as well. 

You look over in the Democratic (sic) field and, you know, Ron Paul is the only man standing.  So if you want to be anti-war in the Republican field, and you‘re not worried about necessarily electability, you had one place to go.  But you certainly don‘t have that in the Democratic field. 

CARLSON:  I just feel like all the rest of them were sort of on the neo-conservative side.  All the rest of them are committed to nation building and committing our troops in order to make the world better.  Only Dennis Kucinich, who I disagree with on everything—I‘m not endorsing Kucinich.  It just seemed a shame there weren‘t more principled people out there. 

HENNEBERGER:  I was surprised by how many people I meet who say they were still supporting him. 

CARLSON:  Really?

HENNEBERGER:  Yes, but Kucinich has had a lot of kind words for both Obama and Edwards. 

CARLSON:  Maybe the Kucinich support is deeper than we realize, but the pollsters couldn‘t penetrate that far into the commune.  You never know. 

Next week‘s show, I wear Melinda Spencer‘s spare time.  Thank you both very much. 

Six months ago, we predicted that religious conservatives would never back Mitt Romney.  It looks like we were completely wrong.  What do we now?  Details in a minute.   

And Sin City up in flames; a massive fire broke out at the Monte Carlo Hotel and Casino this afternoon.  What started it all?  Our Vegas strip correspondent Bill Wolff has every detail coming up. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  Is the leadership of the Christian Conservative movement backing Mitt Romney for president?  A new posting on “Time Magazine‘s” website suggests it might be   That posting is based on a voting guide put together by Focus on the Family.  Here to clarify what all of this means is the president of the Family Research Council, Tony Perkins. 

Tony, thanks for coming on. 

TONY PERKINS, FAMILY RESEARCH COUNCIL:  Tucker, good to be with you. 

CARLSON:  So, about six months, eight months ago, I remember predicting with great confidence that Christian Conservatives would never coalesce around or behind Mitt Romney.  I appear to have been wrong.  Do you think that the leadership, such as there is, of the Christian Conservative movement is coming behind Romney? 

PERKINS:  No, I don‘t think so.  I think that was kind of taken out of context in the—what that was was coverage of the South Carolina primary.  Comments were taken, put in little snippets.  They were favorable toward Romney.  There was also favorable remarks about John McCain and Mike Huckabee as well. 

What was said, which I think is important—and you were talking this earlier in the show, about how he was able to put together—his message is appealing to the three key elements of the Conservative Coalition, the fiscal conservatives, the defense conservatives, and the social conservatives.  That‘s where some of the candidates are struggling is pulling together that whole coalition, which is essential to victory. 

CARLSON:  So, here from the tape that we‘re both talking about here, here is Tom Minnery, who is identified as the vice president for public policy for Focus on the Family, talking about Mitt Romney.  This really struck me.  Watch this. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TOM MINNERY, FOCUS ACTION SR. VICE PRESIDENT:  Mitt Romney has acknowledged that Mormonism is not a Christian faith, and I appreciate his acknowledging that.  He said, but on the social issues, we are so similar, and that is true. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARLSON:  Mitt Romney has acknowledged that Mormonism is not a Christian faith and I appreciate that.  Has Mitt Romney acknowledged that? 

PERKINS:  I think he made some statement to that affect in his speech from Texas that he made on the Mormon faith.  I think he tried to make clear that he was not saying that Mormonism is the same as the evangelical Christian faith.  I don‘t recall the specifics of that, but I think that‘s where Tom‘s remarks came from on that. 

CARLSON:  I‘m not aware.  My understanding is that Mitt Romney and most Mormons see themselves as Christians. 

PERKINS:  There was something he said—and again, I don‘t recall the specifics of what he said in that speech.  But that‘s where Tom drew that from, and I think he even had some communication with the campaign about that.  I think what‘s significant—Tucker, what happened here in my home state of Louisiana this week, the Republicans had their caucus.  The leading slate that was elected across the state were slates of uncommitted delegates committed to a pro family, pro-life platform.  They beat out the other candidates with that uncommitted slate. 

I think that‘s where the majority of social conservatives remain.  They‘re committed to the issues.

CARLSON:  Here‘s a question I don‘t know the answer to.  So a lot of Christian Conservatives distrust and many dislike John McCain for two reasons that I can see.  He‘s been pro-life all his career.  So it‘s not that.  It‘s that he attacked Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell in 2000, which seems to me ought to be a badge of honor.  But it isn‘t, I guess.

Also, he is for McCain/Feingold, which I think is embarrassing, for ®MD+IN_®MDNM_the campaign finance reform that has hurt groups like yours.  That‘s a legitimate criticism, I think.  But President Bush signed that.  President Bush signed that legislation and they don‘t hold it against him.  Why? 

PERKINS:  Well, I wouldn‘t say they don‘t hold it against him.  Many see it as a bad move on the president‘s behalf to sign that.  I do think it‘s more the latter than the former.  I think John McCain has taken a lot of steps to put behind him the dispute that he had with some evangelical leaders back in 200. 

There were some legitimate visit issues driving that outburst that he had toward them.  He met with Jerry Falwell before he died.  He met with other evangelical leaders.  I think that‘s a thing of the past. 

It‘s more of a policy issue.  I do think the McCain/Feingold was an issue.  But I think he‘s trying to take steps to appeal to that element of the Conservative Coalition.  He‘s got a ways to go.  There has yet to be a candidate that is bringing together the entire coalition.  I think many had hopes that Fred Thompson was going to be that candidate, because he had positions that were acceptable to all three.  He wasn‘t able to do it. 

Can John McCain do it?  I think he‘ll have to do it to be successful.  Can Romney do it?  He‘ll have to if he‘s going to be successful.  Will Mike Huckabee do it?  He‘ll have to if he‘s going to be successful.  There‘s no way for a Republican candidate to be successful without appealing to all three elements of the Conservative Coalition. 

CARLSON:  As Giuliani is just learning the hard way, it looks like right now.  Tony Perkins, thanks very much for coming on.  I appreciate it. 

PERKINS:  All right, Tucker.  Good to be with you. 

CARLSON:  Thanks.  Hide the children; Britney Spears is on the loose and she‘s coming to an elementary school near you.  Our senior Spears correspondent Bill Wolff has the scoop on Britney‘s visit to the school yard.  That‘s up next. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  And for everything outside of politics that happened today, there were some things, we go now to Bill Wolff at 30 Rock. 

BILL WOLFF, MSNBC VICE PRESIDENT:  Tucker, I noticed you called me senior Britney Spears correspondent.  Actually it‘s chief Britney Spears correspondent. 

CARLSON:  I like that. 

WOLFF:  The Britney Bureau Chief.  We‘re not going to get to that yet just yet because Monte Carlo, Tucker, was ablaze this afternoon.  No, not the European enclave known for tax breaks but the real Monte Carlo, the hotel and casino in Las Vegas.  There it is. 

That‘s a fire that broke out late this morning Las Vegas time along the roof line of that 32-story hotel.  It appears to have started on the outside of the building, though the exact cause remains unknown.  It took about an hour for fire fighters to get an upper hand on the three-alarm blaze.  They reportedly had to carry their hoses up 32 flights of stairs because the building was taller than the fire department‘s ladders. 

There were no series injuries reported.  Hotel guests were evacuated to neighboring New York, New York and Bellagio, where they presumably continued gambling against near certain odds of losing, Tucker. 

CARLSON:  I always have thought—this is what I learned today—that hotel was made out of stone.  It looks that way.  Yet, when the facade caught fire and threw off oily black smoke, it suggested that maybe the stone isn‘t really stone. 

WOLFF:  Hmm, who have thunk?  I‘m not our chief investigative correspondent, so I don‘t have any qualifications or bona fides to comment on your suggestion that things in Las Vegas are not as they appear, Tucker.  As far as I know, it‘s stone, looks like it to me.  But it was surely on fire in a way that stone generally isn‘t. 

Now, the Britney spears news.  A day after not making news—perhaps she was just making room for Dennis Kucinich—Britney spears returns to the scene with some bizarre behavior at a Beverly Hills, California elementary school.  USMagazine.com, the online version of the weekly Bible of showbiz non-sense, reported that Britney showed up at an elementary school yesterday just before the 3:00 bell, quote, scantily clad, freaking out the students, while telling grownups she was there to pick up someone else‘s kids.  Quote, she was just rambling and confused, said a witness.  She said, I‘m here to pick up my kids, but they she changed her story and said, they are not my kids.  I have a new attorney and I came to pick them up for her, end quote. 

Britney was reportedly chain smoking cigarettes.  Kids started freaking out when they heard she was at the school.  Supervising adults showed her to the back entrance, booted her and Britney then reportedly scrammed alone.  I must say, when Britney Spears comes in to say she‘s there to pick up someone else‘s kids, there‘s a flaw in the story.  Who would allow Britney Spears to pick up their kids?  No one, Tucker. 

CARLSON:  Britney Spears wandering the halls of an elementary school chain smoking.  Boy, if I didn‘t feel sorry before, now I really do. 

WOLFF:  Therapy bills there in Beverly Hills are going nowhere but up, my friend.   

Viewers are advised not to believe this next story until there‘s proof.  “Star Magazine,” the Bower Griffin Photo Agency and X17Online.com are all reporting exclusively that not only is the fetching Angelina Jolie pregnant, she‘s pregnant with twins.  Brad Pitt would presumably be the father, but the reporting is sketchier than usual and that‘s saying something. 

Neither TMZ.com nor “People Magazine” nor “US Weekly” has reported the news. as a journalist, Tucker, you know that the aforementioned media outlets are a veritable holy trinity of celebrity news, and their silence on this matter has skeptics uncertain whether the Brangelinas will be adding two more to their ever expanding flock.  We‘ll see, Tucker. 

CARLSON:  I‘ll count myself among those who will refuse to speculate until the facts are in. 

WOLFF:  So responsible of you.  I guess, after New Hampshire we‘re all a little gun-shy. 

CARLSON:  That‘s journalism, Bill. 

WOLFF:  Yes, finally, Tucker, the New England Patriots and New York Giants practiced today.  For the second consecutive day, the only man that makes Mitt Romney jealous, New England Quarterback Tom Brady, was nowhere to be seen.  Brady was photographed Monday with a walking cast on his foot, you may recall, or maybe not, reportedly to protect an ankle sprain.  Yes, Tom Brady may have an ankle sprain. 

There he is.  The national sports media and hordes of international press only have another nine days to obsess about every last detail of a single game, which will not be played this weekend—repeating, not be played—leaving tens of millions of American football fans with a six hour gap in their lives known as Sunday afternoon. 

Whatever will we do with the time, Tucker?

CARLSON:  Thing is, Patriots don‘t even need Tom Brady.  They are from New England, Bill.  They‘re tough enough to handle him on their own. 

WOLFF:  Actually, they need him quite badly.  I say that with some confidence.

CARLSON:  Bill Wolff, predicting confidently from New York City. 

WOLFF:  Have a great weekend. 

CARLSON:  You too.  That does it for us.  Thanks for watching.  We‘ll see you from Florida on Monday as we get ready for the much anticipated and possibly key Florida primary.  Be sure to tune into MSNBC tomorrow all day for coverage of the South Carolina Democratic primary.  Up next, “HARDBALL” with Chris.  Have a great weekend.

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

END   

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