updated 2/27/2008 6:52:48 PM ET 2008-02-27T23:52:48

Guest: Kiki McLean, A.B. Stoddard, Peter Fenn

TUCKER CARLSON, HOST:  By all accounts but her own, Hillary Clinton is well behind Barack Obama on the score board and the clock is running out.  The question of the hour, will tonight’s debate in Cleveland see her continue her go-for-broke approach of the last three days or will she play it safe or is there a way to do both? 

Welcome to the show. 

The amiable conclusion of last Thursday’s night’s debate in Austin, Texas, Mrs. Clinton has twice directly compared Barack Obama to President Bush in his political operation.  First, she described the Obama campaign’s anti-Clinton mailer on health care and NAFTA is, quote, “straight out of Karl Rove’s playbook.”  In a foreign policy address yesterday in Washington, Senator Clinton compared the potential election of a neophyte like Obama to the election of then-neophyte George W. Bush in the year 2000. 

Doesn’t get nastier than that in the Democratic Party these days.  Will she extend what “The New York Times” calls her kitchen sink barrage tonight? 

Campaign advisor Kiki McLean joins us in just a minute with a preview. 

Meanwhile Senator Obama continues to try to run out the campaign clock.  According to today’s Politico.com, Obama has tightened restrictions on the reporters who cover him.  Hillary Clinton has taken well earned abuse for her hostility of the media but is Obama just as bad? 

And then there is the specter of the Rezko trial in the near horizon.  Obama’s hometown newspaper “The Chicago Tribune” today outlined the expectations for the corruption trial of the senator’s shady former friend Antoine Rezko.  The trial starts next week and the Obama campaign continues to deny any troublesome link between their candidate and the indicted man.  A campaign spokesman reiterated that Obama had given $150,000 of Rezko’s donations to charity. 

Will Hillary Clinton refer to the trial in tonight’s debate?  Is there a marked surprise in store for the Democratic frontrunner?  We’ll tell you in a minute. 

But we begin with the big debate tonight at 9:00 p.m. on MSNBC and the come-from-behind aspirations of Hillary Clinton.  What tack will she take? 

Joining us now is the cheeriest person on the Clinton campaign staff, senior advisor Kiki McLean. 

Kiki, thanks for coming on. 

KIKI MCLEAN, CLINTON CAMPAIGN SENIOR ADVISOR:  I’m glad to be here, Tucker.  How are you? 

CARLSON:  I’m great.  Now you—I said you were the cheeriest, but in fact, that distinction may go to Harold Ickes, who yesterday at the Christian Science Monitor breakfast covered by the faithful Dana Milbank of “The Washington Post”. 

MCLEAN:  Yes. 

CARLSON:  .Mr. Ickes, a smart guy, said this about Mrs. Clinton’s chances. 

He says, I’m quoting, “We’re on the way to locking this nomination down.” 

MCLEAN:  Harold makes a very important point, which is. 

CARLSON:  Do you agree with that? 

MCLEAN:  This is—listen, this is a really close race.  It can go for either person.  Neither campaign can get across the line without superdelegates regardless of their performance. 

CARLSON:  Right. 

MCLEAN:  .over—between now and the last states that—it’s a little more than a dozen states that saw—which represents a lot of delegates.  It’s legitimate.  That’s a legitimate argument to make.  And you know, what. 

CARLSON:  So you agree with that.  We’re on the way to locking this nomination down. 

MCLEAN:  If we have a good time in Texas and Ohio, we’re on our way to locking this up.  We have just as good a chance as Barack Obama does. 

You know one of the things that a lot of your viewers may not know Harold Ickes.  But you know Harold. 

CARLSON:  Yes. 

MCLEAN:  And the political community and political media community knows Harold Ickes as a man of... 

CARLSON:  Son of the famous Harold Ickes (INAUDIBLE)  Very smart guy. 

MCLEAN:  Well, but he’s also highly respected for his understanding of this. 

CARLSON:  I agree.  I agree. 

MCLEAN:  .as well as his directness and his forthrightness about this issue. 

CARLSON:  But he’s a minority of just a very few people who think this or are willing to say it on the record.  I have not heard. 

MCLEAN:  I don’t know about that.  I think the fact that a lot of us who were working in the Arlington, Virginia headquarters that are working, that’s a pretty strong sign that we think that we have a good chance to do this. 

CARLSON:  Well, speaking of those who are working in that headquarters, Phil Singer, who is the campaign spokesman, was also quoted by Dana Milbank in this piece in “The Washington Post” today, and he described his own mindset as this, and I’m quoting, “Sixteen months into this, I’m just angry.” 

MCLEAN:  You know what?  Phil Singer is a great guy.  He’s been working really hard. 

CARLSON:  He’s an angry guy, it sounds like. 

MCLEAN:  He’s a guy who has been working really hard for something and somebody he believes in.

CARLSON:  Right. 

MCLEAN:  And you know what?  Let’s be honest, you’ve said it in your own coverage.  Senator Clinton and her campaign have taken a pounding, sometimes not always fairly.  And he had a moment, he had a very human moment there, and I think we can all appreciate that. 

CARLSON:  But hold on, wait, wait.  Should the Hillary Clinton campaign continue to employ an emotionally troubled spokesman?  Is that wise? 

MCLEAN:  I think you’re totally out of line to make this comment. 

CARLSON:  He said he’s angry. 

MCLEAN:  Tucker, I think that you. 

CARLSON:  He said, he’s—I’m angry. 

MCLEAN:  Tucker. 

CARLSON:  You want a spokesman who is angry?  Come on. 

MCLEAN:  Tucker, you and I have always had a good relationship. 

CARLSON:  Right. 

MCLEAN:  But I think for you to use a phrase like that about a member of our staff is totally inappropriate.  I think he. 

CARLSON:  He’s describing himself this way.  He’s emotionally troubled.  He’s angry. 

MCLEAN:  You used the phrase,” emotionally troubled.”  And what I am telling you is that this is a staff person who believes in what he’s been fighting for, he believes in the senator’s plans for the country and the vision for the future, and he had a very human moment yesterday. 

And I think you probably have human moments, too.  But I think the way you’re characterizing that is really.

CARLSON:  I think it’s exactly what the guy just said.  And moreover, I think it’s counter-productive to have people who are out there who are enraged and whose dealings with the press reflect that rage. 

MCLEAN:  You know what?  You know what?  I think we’re talking about what’s been a long race, both teams are tired.  And I think what we’re going to see tonight is a stellar performance by Senator Clinton in Cleveland at the debate because she has something to say.  She has issues to care about. 

CARLSON:  So who is she going to be?  Is she going to be the one who’s yelling at Obama and saying, “Shame on you,” or is she going to be the one who was honored to be with him? 

MCLEAN:  She’s going to be the human being that she’s always been tonight. 

CARLSON:  Well, who is that?  Those particular human beings? 

MCLEAN:  Wait, you don’t have moments where you laugh and moments where you’re upset about somebody lying about your record?  I think that’s very human.  I think that’s very consistent for one person. 

I think what she will be tonight is the person who talks about the issues that the voters of Ohio and the rest of the country want to hear about.  What the differences are and who’s ready to be commander in chief today?  Who’s ready to deal with our economy and turn it around and bring new jobs to our economy and bring us back from the brink of recession?  Who is the person who has the solutions to bring the universal health care to us?  And who’s going to deal responsibly. 

CARLSON:  Right.  I get it.  I get it.  But is she going to. 

MCLEAN:  You get it.  These are—why do you dismiss them? 

CARLSON:  I get it.  OK. 

MCLEAN:  Why do you dismiss them? 

CARLSON:  But I’m—because there are many different—I’m not dismissing the issues.  I’m asking a simple question, how will she express that concern?  Will it be with disdain and anger? 

MCLEAN:  I think she’ll—I think. 

CARLSON:  Or will it be comedy in an amiable way?  We’ve seen both on display.  Which? 

MCLEAN:  I think that she will express it appropriately in the conversation that she’s having with Senator Obama and the voters of Ohio and the rest of the country today. 

CARLSON:  So here’s—here’s the question that I asked you last week, and it was: former President Clinton seemed to say on camera that if she loses either Texas or Ohio, she’s out. 

Harold Ickes said this yesterday at breakfast: I think if we lose Texas and Ohio Mrs. Clinton will have to make her decision as to whether or not she wants to go forward.  In other words, we have to win at least one. 

MCLEAN:  We need to have good showings in both of those states and I feel good about that. 

CARLSON:  So if she wins Ohio but loses Texas, where does that put the campaign? 

MCLEAN:  I think let’s wait and see how voters—what voters say and what they think and then we’ll decide.  I think the most important thing is that we need to do well, we’re going to do well in Texas and Ohio.  She’s up in both of those states right now.  We’re going to move forward with the campaign and then we’ll make decisions. 

I think trying to game out what hasn’t happened yet, I don’t really know if that serves you or any of the voters any better. 

CARLSON:  Well, it’s an important question to her donors.  I mean they want to know if they are giving money to her.

MCLEAN:  I think her donors. 

CARLSON:  .that she’s going to stay in the race. 

MCLEAN:  I think her donors are with her, I think our campaign has a good conversation that goes on with our donors and supporters across and all of our supporters across the country and I think her supporters are with her.  And that’s why we’re having a great showing in Texas and Ohio.  And don’t forget that Rhode Island and Vermont are a week from tonight as well. 

CARLSON:  OK.  I just heard that Phil Singer has just called apparently MSNBC.  He’s upset about what I said.  Oh, I’m sorry, I totally misunderstood.  I did not in any way mean to imply that Phil Singer was crazy.  I’m just saying he described himself as distraught. 

MCLEAN:  You used, you used. 

CARLSON:  And that’s the point I was hoping to make. 

MCLEAN:  You used a phrase that was inappropriate.  And that’s why I challenged you. 

CARLSON:  I don’t believe it was inappropriate.  I didn’t mean to—I did not mean to say the guy was crazy.  I just mean to say he described himself as distraught, and is that an effective spokesman?  That’s the point I’m making. 

MCLEAN:  And what I’m telling you is, that’s a very human person yesterday in one moment. 

CARLSON:  OK.  OK.  I did not say yesterday that the Clinton campaign was behind the picture of Barack Obama in Somali garb. 

MCLEAN:  Yes. 

CARLSON:  Because it wasn’t clear. 

MCLEAN:  Right. 

CARLSON:  Can you clarify absolutely. 

MCLEAN:  Yes. 

CARLSON:  .whether someone on the campaign sent that or not. 

MCLEAN:  I think Howard Wolfson said it yesterday and I’ll say it again here today.  We don’t have any knowledge that anybody in our campaign sent that.  That was no part of a strategic plan, none of us had anything to do with it, nobody that I know of.  And that’s as clean an answer as I can give you. 

CARLSON:  OK.  So, so as far as you know nobody from the campaign. 

MCLEAN:  Absolutely. 

CARLSON:  Do you think that it was inappropriate, wrong, divisive, that picture itself? 

MCLEAN:  Look, I think that spending time talking about that and not talking about the economy is a distraction from what voters really care about right now. 

CARLSON:  Right. 

MCLEAN:  And so I think to the extent that that’s what it does, it’s unhelpful to any of the people in the campaign, to either campaign. 

CARLSON:  I actually didn’t think it was that big a deal. 

MCLEAN:  Well, I think, you know, you heard what our campaign manager said.  But you did. 

CARLSON:  I actually—for once I agreed with your campaign manager. 

MCLEAN:  Yes. 

CARLSON:  I don’t think it’s a. 

MCLEAN:  Good.  Maybe you and Maggie now have a build of—a bridge of common agreement now. 

CARLSON:  To show someone in funny garb. 

Kiki McLean, thank you very much. 

MCLEAN:  Thank you, Tucker. 

CARLSON:  Hillary Clinton has gone from sweet to sarcastic to hostile in the last week.  Will she come back sweet in tonight’s debate? 

Plus Texas and Ohio are must-wins for Hillary Clinton, or are they?  What if she wins Ohio but loses Texas?  Will she be back in the hunt for the Democratic nomination?  That’s the question on the table.  We’ll be right back. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  The clock seems to be running out for Hillary Clinton, but a perceived win in tonight’s debate could help.  At this stage, is it possible to stop Barack Obama?  It may be.  We’ll tell you when we come back. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D), ‘08 PRESIDENTIAL HOPEFUL:  The American people don’t have to guess whether I understand the issues or whether I would need a foreign policy instruction manual to guide me through a crisis or whether I’d have to rely on advisors to introduce me to global affairs. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARLSON:  Hillary Clinton suggesting her eight years as the president’s wife has prepared her to run America’s foreign policy.  She said it before, you’re almost certain to hear it again tonight.  Will that message finally resonate? 

Joining us now associate editor of “The Hill” A.B. Stoddard and Democratic strategist Peter Fenn. 

Welcome. 

So here’s the question, what will—will she go after Obama hardest, is the question.  I got a call earlier today from a well-known Democrat, and on the line with either campaign, who said that his theory, at least a theory he’s heard from lots of other Democrats is that Hillary Clinton is going after Obama hard in order to weaken him in his race against McCain, thereby leaving 2008 open for her to run again. 

A.B. STODDARD, “THE HILL”:  2012. 

You know, I have no idea, 2012, rather.  Exactly right.  You’re better at math than I.  Have you heard this? 

STODDARD:  No, but I mean, that’s obviously sort of a dramatic charge. 

But at the same time, you know what? 

CARLSON:  I don’t think that’s true or not. 

STODDARD:  I think that anyone—if anyone in the 700-member Clinton campaign ever did send that photo of him in Somali garb to the “Drudge Report,” it was because they know—I mean they pretty much have all decided that she’s not going to be able to be the nominee and that is a photo that will appear again and again all year long and will be a part of the general election campaign between John McCain and Barack Obama and undoubtedly.  And that’s why he responded so strongly to it. 

CARLSON:  I must be alone.  I wasn’t bothered by the photo particularly and I wasn’t—I also didn’t think it was out of bounds.  It was a real pose. 

STODDARD:  I’m just saying Barack Obama was. 

PETER FENN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST:  The photos. 

STODDARD:  Because he’s going to hear about it again. 

FENN:  No, but A.B., these photos—all these photos of folks in their garb, it’s all over the place, it’s all over the Internet.  Everybody’s got this stuff. 

STODDARD:  I agree. 

CARLSON:  But the point (INAUDIBLE) 

FENN:  Look, here’s my sense of this. 

CARLSON:  That that might be evidence they are. 

FENN:  Well, it’s just stupid, silly stuff from somebody.

CARLSON:  .hitting Obama in a way that might hurt him later. 

FENN:  Yes, I think that notion is totally absurd.  I think that if he wins this primaries on Tuesday, she will campaign as hard as anyone for him. 

CARLSON:  But still. 

FENN:  I think—no, let me just finish this. 

CARLSON:  You’re Hillary Clinton—wait, hold on. 

FENN:  No, no, no.  Look, look, look. 

CARLSON:  Look, I’m not—I’m just saying you know—she’s smart, she’s very smart.  She knows that the odds are strongly against her. 

FENN:  Right. 

CARLSON:  So how does she make the decision about how to handle him tonight? 

FENN:  OK. 

CARLSON:  If she really hammers him, it only helps McCain. 

FENN:  No.  Look, here’s what I would do if I were Hillary tonight. 

I’d start off the debate and the discussion the way I left off in the last one.  In other words, I’d start off with civility.  Forget the ridiculous one-liners.  Whoever the jackass was who gave her that Xerox line ought to be run out of town on a rail because those don’t work in those debates. 

CARLSON:  I think that’s plagiarism if she’s reading somebody’s line. 

FENN:  The Xerox line, yes.  But come on. 

CARLSON:  But are you suggesting she’s plagiarized that from somebody else? 

FENN:  I’m saying some idiot adviser gave it to her.  But my point is, you can make the differences between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton stark without being, you know, over the top, nasty, negative.  It’s tough, it’s tricky.  But my guess is she comes on, she starts off like she did the last one, she can make the difference and she’ll end positive.  I mean that’s. 

STODDARD:  Well, why isn’t John McCain going to use what she did in her speech yesterday.

FENN:  They won’t use. 

STODDARD:  . again and again and again? 

FENN:  Look, look, look.  And they won’t use. 

STODDARD:  And they’re going to say that Hillary Clinton basically said that he’s the same as Bush and we’ve had tragically. 

CARLSON:  Here is the question, A.B.  Do you think the Clinton campaign is at a place where they can see clearly the ramifications potentially of the things they say now?  In other words, can they with clear eyes say, “You know?  We’re probably not going to win, therefore we ought to measure things we say now?” 

STODDARD:  No.  I think it’s emotional.  And I think that Mark Penn and Bill Clinton have prevailed, and they’re from the fight-for-survival, apologize-later school of politics and they have prevailed.  And she has few options left.  And I—she’s going to leave sarcasm at home tonight and she’s not going to mock him, but she’s going to fight very hard because she has no other choice. 

FENN:  She’s got—look, she’s got to try to draw the contrast in the final days.  But barring any, you know, any change in the basic dynamic of this race in the next five days, this is extremely tough for her during (INAUDIBLE). 

CARLSON:  Should she bring up Rezko tonight?  Antoine Rezko, the former friend of Barack Obama? 

FENN:  I don’t think she will bring that up tonight.  No, I don’t think she will. 

CARLSON:  No? 

FENN:  Unless she’s. 

STODDARD:  I have no idea what she’s going to do or what—I. 

FENN:  Unless there’s a question asked.  She needs to throw away lines.  That’s the problem with these kinds of line.  I mean. 

CARLSON:  That’s not a line, that’s a trial. 

FENN:  Well—no, no, no.  But I’m talking about when she said it, and also when Obama, you know, the corporate lawyer on the board of Wal-Mart.  Those are throwaway lines and they’re not working in these debates.  And—but—let me. 

CARLSON:  So you’re saying go down quietly, be polite, be gentle, lose with dignity. 

FENN:  I am saying make—no, I’m saying make the distinctions but don’t do it with the sharp elbows.  And I—you know, look, she is so much stronger when she does it—acts herself.  I mean she did an interview with a Christian broadcast network today which was extraordinary, which talked very much about her personal life.  It’s too bad that this stuff happens the last week before the crucial primary states. 

CARLSON:  Is there anything she can do?  I mean if you were running her campaign, and you really wanted to win and you thought you could do it, and you thought, as Harold Ickes said, there was a pathway to the nomination, what would you do? 

STODDARD:  I think that she has excelled in moving the vote—galvanizing the people who already support her and attracting the undecided when she beats him on policy and also makes people feel sorry for her in a blend of sort of tenacity and resolve.  I don’t think it involves screaming and shouting as we saw this weekend. 

FENN:  Right.  Right. 

STODDARD:  Shrieking.  There was one episode of, like, serious

shrieking.  I’m going, let’s get real and everything.  It was really—it

shows her as sort of out of control.  I think the moment in that New

Hampshire debate where she really stood up for herself but she didn’t kind

of flip out really worked for her.  I think that actually the health care -

I think actually the NAFTA and health care mailers are really solid points for her to make with voters. 

FENN:  I do, too. 

STODDARD:  She’s—health care is a very potent issue.  And she’s very fluent in it.  And she should stick with that. 

CARLSON:  All right. 

FENN:  We saw an emotional moment, an emotional debate and it’s got to touch people.  Otherwise it’s going to be tough. 

CARLSON:  Sounds like good television. 

Barack Obama is adopting a new campaign tactic, stiffing the national press.  Why the change?  Is it a change?  And will keeping the media at a distance help his run for the White House? 

Will the good outweigh the bad?  Obama picked up an endorsement from a formal rival, Chris Dodd of Connecticut.  He’s the first former candidate to make an endorsement.  Will others soon follow? 

This is MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “THE TONIGHT SHOW”)

JAY LENO, HOST, “THE TONIGHT SHOW”:  And Barack Obama made another woman faint today.  The bad news, it’s Hillary when she saw the poll numbers.  Yes. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARLSON:  Barack Obama has made a number of people faint, some of them even, I suspect, in the press corps.  The press has been pretty good to Barack Obama.  The question is, has he returned the good feelings?  Some reporters who cover Obama have been claiming—been complaining lately they are being shut out. 

Well, joining us now is someone who would know for certain, from Columbus, Ohio, “The Chicago Sun’s” Lynn Sweet, who’s covered Obama for a long, long time. 

Lynn, thanks for coming on. 

LYNN SWEET, CHICAGO SUN-TIMES:  Thank you.  I’m in Cleveland right now. 

CARLSON:  You’re in Cleveland.  All right.  But you’re in Ohio.  Good for you. 

SWEET:  You said Columbus. 

CARLSON:  So—I mean is—the press famously has generated a lot of positive Barack Obama stories.  But is the Obama campaign as tough on the press as the Hillary Clinton do you think? 

SWEET:  Well, most of my experience is—you know I spend most of my time in Obama world.  I think what you’re seeing is—and also I’m not necessarily advocating the premise, because this is an enormous sprawling campaign with all kinds of reporters.  People have very, very different needs.  And what you have now, though, Tucker, is a very new dynamic.  A much bigger stake dynamic.  And there is something that the Obama campaign, I think, is wrestling with some of these very significant questions about access and about how much time that Senator Obama gives local press and national press, print press and TV press. 

I think that it looks like that he may well be on his way to winning the nomination that these questions take on much more of an impact. 

CARLSON:  Well.. 

SWEET:  And I do think that his campaign is also wrestling with this because they are aware that some reporters have some concerns out there.  But I do think that they are (INAUDIBLE) figure out. 

CARLSON:  OK.  Well, how about this.  Let’s just be—as straightforward as we can be.  Can you get close to the candidate?  Can you ever ask him questions?  Do you get your calls returned by the campaign?  Do they treat you with respect? 

SWEET:  Well, you know, I’ve been around.  I’m a beat reporter.  I’ve been covering Obama for years.  And I always kind of explain it. 

CARLSON:  Yes. 

SWEET:  It’s kind of like a marriage.  I’m not going anywhere and they are not going anywhere.  And I do have the advantage of working for the “Chicago Sun-Times,” which is the hometown paper.  So, sure, I get calls returned.  It’s not everyone who’s is in this same kind of position. 

What you do have is—it isn’t like it was when you started out.  When I started covering Barack Obama back in the day, there was no Secret Service.  If you—I all the time just went up to him in Capitol Hill or wherever and talked to him.  Once you even had Secret Service come in last year that already created some distance.  I know that Senator Obama and his staff isn’t crazy about reporters following him around on a rope line.  That has been a fertile source of stories for people or catching him, you know, on a flight to get questions answered. 

I think, you know, that is something that’s being worked out.  Look, I got one of my biggest scoops of the campaign season, you know, everything is relative, when he was working the rope line and somebody asked him if Oprah Winfrey was going to campaign for him.  And I just happened to be there with my videotape rolling and he kind of—you know, he said yes.  And it was—and he shot me a look. 

So I think, you know, there’s different concerns such as working on the rope line.  He’s had availability.  There is one today.  There were, I think, two earlier in the week.  You know, does he come back on the plane and schmooze and just let it hang out?  No.  Would reporters love him to be more accessible that way?  Sure.  As this gets into an even bigger stakes phase of the campaign, do I think that the campaign is working about some kind of accommodation?  I do think so. 

CARLSON:  Is—Lynn, is he getting a lot of questions about the Rezko trial that starts next week? 

SWEET:  Well, see, that’s interesting.  I didn’t—I was not at his press availability today.  I know another press availability I’d been, he has not.  And the Rezko trial, this is this Chicago wheeler dealer who is on trial for corruption charges.  He’s the man who sold—he and his wife sold a slice of land on a lot adjacent to the Obama house.  And whether—one of the things that is—has been a constant question on the part of the Chicago papers is why Obama does not sit down for a thorough interview on this. 

I know our investigative reporters of the “Sun-Times” have put in a request and I think others have.  And—you know, this is an area for kind of looking at the multi-faceted press relations that the Obama campaign has.  This is a place, Tucker, yes, where I would put in the minus, because the reporters who are investigating this would like to talk to him because they know the story the best and has the. 

CARLSON:  Yes. 

SWEET:  I had not heard a lot of Rezko questions when I’ve been around Obama just with the general traveling press corps. 

CARLSON:  Right.  I suspect that will change soon. 

Lynn Sweet on the road, “Chicago Sun-Times”. 

SWEET:  Well, the trial—the trial is starting. 

CARLSON:  The trial is starting next week. 

Talk to you later.  Thanks a lot, Lynn. 

SWEET:  Thank you so much. 

CARLSON:  John McCain was quick to repudiate his supporters’ disparaging remarks about Barack Obama.  He said he’ll make sure nothing like that ever happens again.  Is that a promise he can keep?  Is that a promise he should try to keep? 

Plus Bill Clinton has made a couple of slipups while on the campaign trail for his wife giving the impression today that in fact it is he who was running for the third time.  We’ll show you the tape coming up. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(MARKET REPORT)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL CUNNINGHAM, RADIO SHOW HOST:  The stooges from the “New York Times,” CBS, the Clinton Broadcasting System, NBC, the Nobody But Clinton Network, the all Bill Clinton Channel, ABC, and the Clinton News Network, at some point is going to peel the bark off Barack Hussein Obama.  That day will come.  At some point, the media will quit taking sides in the thing and maybe start covering Barack Hussein Obama the same way they covered Bush, the same way they cover Cheney and the same way they cover every Republican.  I look forward to that day when truth comes.  I look forward to that. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARLSON:  That was a radio show host called Bill Cunningham ripping Barack Obama in the course of warming up a Cincinnati, Ohio crowd awaiting the arrival of John McCain.  Perhaps more telling than Cunningham’s riff was McCain’s response to it.  Before reporters could even ask the question, McCain said, I apologize for it.  I did not know about these remarks.  I take responsibility for them.  I repudiate them. 

He went on to call both Obama and Clinton honorable Americans and said, quote, I want to disassociate myself from any disparaging remarks that may have been said about them.  That was that. 

Back with us, associate editor of “The Hill,” A.B. Stoddard and Democratic strategist Peter Fenn.  Blow hardy remarks, obnoxious.  I don’t want to be in a position of defending the remarks.  On the other hand, in 15 years of covering politics, come on.  I mean, you hear rougher stuff—

I hear rougher stuff at the DNC winter meeting.  Let’s be totally real here.  That’s nothing compared to people on television say about Bush every single day.  

FENN:  It is clear that talk show hosts shouldn’t go out there for candidates.  Let me tell you, this guy, you only showed half it.  This guy was so over the top.  He called Barack Obama a corrupt Chicago hack.  He talked about having cookies and cream with terrorists heads of countries.  He was so far gone in that introduction.  You know, it was uncivil—

CARLSON:  That’s so far gone.  You’re a member of a party that calls Bush a criminal at every turn. 

FENN:  I’m telling you, go to Youtube and—

CARLSON:  Look, it’s annoying.  I agree.  But is it something that you say, I’m so sorry?  Get some perspective. 

FENN:  The key on this—The perspective is, if we have a campaign from now on, which a lot of people say we’re going to have, that this is precisely what the 527s are going to do to Barack Obama.  They are going to throw Hussein out there every chance they get.  They’re going to go after him every chance they get with absolutely false attacks. 

CARLSON:  It’s a political campaign.  It’s false to say his middle name is Hussein?  It’s ugly, it’s not false. 

FENN:  Let me tell you, the interesting thing will be, will John McCain stick to his point from today, which is that this will never happen again. 

CARLSON:  Sanctimony coming from a party where literally there’s no crime Bush hasn’t been accused of.  This orgy of Bush hatred and all of a sudden, it’s like, oh my god, they used his middle name.  That’s unbelievable.  That’s disgusting.  Come on, man. 

FENN:  Well, it’s clear if this turns into a racist ethnic baiting kind of campaign -- 

CARLSON:  I hope it doesn’t get any more racist than the Clintons made it.  It would be difficult.  A.B., it seems to me we can get too overwrought, a little too sanctimonious, a little bit too word police, no? 

STODDARD:  It’s his middle name.  Everyone is allowed to use it.  I get that.  I’m just saying that John McCain being so quick to apologize, I actually don’t see the downside.  John McCain said several months ago when no one was reading what he said except for me, because he was counted for dead, that he would not pick on Hillary Clinton.  He would not jump on her. 

When that was the big sport at those Republican debates, he said, I’m going to run a campaign against Hillary Clinton that’s courteous and I’m going to be nice.  No one took any notice of it.  I was going to write about it, then something else caught my eye and I never did.  I just want you to know, John McCain, there’s no loss for the good cop-bad cop thing for him to say, I don’t talk that way.  I’m sorry. 

FENN:  The great news here is there are plenty of issue differences between these candidates to talk about.  There’s plenty to talk about where the country is going.  And I hope that’s what happens and that we have that kind of debate.  My only point, without being sanctimonious—look, I’m as a hardball fighter as anybody, Tucker.  I’ve been in this damn business for 25 years.  But on this kind of stuff, I think you can try, at least, to be somewhat civil.  I mean, a corrupt Chicago hack.  What kind of phrase is that? 

CARLSON:  It may be that, in fact, as A.B. just suggested, being civil, being a gentleman, may, in the end, help you.  The two most civil candidates look like they are getting the nominations of their parties.  It’s true.  I think Obama has run an unusually civil campaign.  John McCain always does.  Maybe it helps. 

Speaking of incivility.  Take a look at—this was up on the “Drudge Report,” which really sort of is an injection into the blood stream of the media, for good or ill.  Here is a clip from Bill Clinton.  I believe it’s from today, where he appears to suggest he’s running again.  Watch. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAM JEFFERSON CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: 

Hillary says, in 2005, the United States Congress adopted the Bush/Cheney energy bill, which gave 27 billion dollars in subsidiaries to nuclear, oil and gas.  The only thing that was justified was clean coal, because countries are going to keep using that.  We have to figure out how to take the Carbon Monoxide out of it.  The rest can wait.  If you elect me, I’ll repeal those subsidies and put them into a strategic energy fund that will create American jobs for America’s future. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FENN:  Repeat the line. 

CARLSON:  He said—in case you couldn’t understand that.  If you elect me, I’ll repeal those subsidies.  A close reading of it suggests that maybe Clinton was repeating what his wife would be saying.  I guess I wonder if it even matters at this point.  He is part of the candidacy himself.  Looking back, it’s going to be one of the reasons why she didn’t win. 

STODDARD:  It absolutely is.  What’s interesting about this is he begins the quote by saying, Hillary says in 2005, blah blah blah, and then he uses the word me.  Number one, she wasn’t running for president in 2005.  So that seems a little odd.  Number two, you’re right.  The lack of discipline, the lack of focus when he’s talking, the fact that the word me ever came out and it ever sounded like that is not helping her.  There’s a lot of things he’s doing that are not helping her. 

CARLSON:  What does Bill Clinton say to his wife if she loses Texas?  What do her advisers say?  What do the people she listens to, whoever they are—I assume he’s one of them—say to her if she loses Texas, which I think is likely, but maybe squeaks by in Ohio.  Is that enough for her to keep going? 

FENN:  She could win Rhode Island, will probably lose Vermont.  The answer to your question would be probably not. 

STODDARD:  She’d be at a delegate deficit. 

FENN:  I think that would be—

CARLSON:  That’s what’s almost certain.  Look, you never know.  But at this point, it looks very, very likely that that is the best she can hope for and you’re suggesting that’s not enough. 

Richard Cohen, my favorite liberal columnist, today in the “Washington Post” has a really smart piece in which he says this; “there is dissension in the Hillary Clinton camp.  Top aides have been in arguments shouting back and forth about differences in strategy.  Should Clinton come on strong?  Should she go negative?  Should she be upbeat and positive.  Here is my answer stop campaigning.  The evidence is overwhelming that since Super Tuesday the minute Clinton steps foot in a state, her numbers start to plummet.” 

What if she said tomorrow after the debate, you know what, it’s been great, and I really tried.  It’s not going to work.  I hereby endorse you, Barack Obama.  That would be kind of a cool thing to do, wouldn’t it? 

STODDARD:  All I can say is, no matter when she steps aside, she’s going to—everyone is going to give her all the love that she hasn’t been getting and they are going to thank her for endorsing Barack Obama and unifying the party.  They are.  Everyone will receive her well whenever she decides that --  

CARLSON:  Will she go on “Saturday Night Live?” 

STODDARD:  I don’t know if it’s going to be tomorrow or next week or whenever.  But whenever it happens, she’s going to do it with class and everyone is going to say thank you, she did a good job.  She did it the right.  Even if they think it’s too late, they are going to stay that. 

CARLSON:  Speaking of stuff, can we call out to Chris Dodd for having the manliness, the gentlemanliness enough to call Hillary Clinton before he endorsed Barack Obama.  A lot of politicians don’t do that. 

FENN:  Absolutely.  I will tell you, that was probably the toughest phone call he ever made in his life. 

CARLSON:  Good for him. 

FENN:  Good for him.  I think he’s a classy guy.  He’s been classy through the campaign and he was great in the debates. 

CARLSON:  Are you going to see anybody come out for her in these final days. 

FENN:  I think they have had some endorsements, but I don’t think you’re going to see any major movement.  Look, I think they are going to play this thing out through Tuesday.  Barring any unforeseen circumstances, which we’ve seen unforeseen circumstances throughout this campaign, it probably is pretty tough for her to win three of the four of those primaries.  I think A.B. is right.  I think then you’ll see this move and the party will be unified.

CARLSON:  Everyone will love her again.  I agree with that.  Maybe even me.  Barack Obama’s name will be popping up at the corruption trial of Tony Rezko next week, one day before the primaries in Texas and Ohio.  Will it have any affect on his presidential campaign? 

And have no fear if the end of the world is near, we will still have plants.  More on the plan to re-vegetate the Earth in the event of an apocalyptic disaster.  That and more cheery stories ahead on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  While I was working on those streets, watching those folks see their jobs shipped overseas, you were a corporate lawyer sitting on the board of Wal-Mart.  I was fighting these fights. 

CLINTON:  I was fighting against those ideas when you were practicing law and representing your contributor Rezko in his slum landlord business in inner city Chicago. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARLSON:  Wow, that very same so-called slum lord Tony Rezko goes on trial next week.  Is there a chance that his name comes up during tonight’s on MSNBC?  The last time Hillary Clinton brought it up, the Clinton-Obama discourse became so nasty, John Edwards emerged as civil.  He seemed like the adult.  It’s not clear whether Mrs. Clinton actually benefited from all that.  Still, is it possible the Rezko trial will be an unwanted March surprise for the Obama campaign. 

Back with us, associate editor of “The Hill,” A.B. Stoddard and renowned Democratic strategist Peter Fenn.  Peter, interesting that this trial—I believe the prosecutor in this is the very same Patrick Fitzgerald—

STODDARD:  The one and the only.

CARLSON:  Exactly, who got our attention for so long in the Scooter Libby trial, not someone you want going after you, a very intense man. 

FENN:  Right. 

CARLSON:  Obama is actually, if not at the heart of this case, he is -

I’m not saying he did anything wrong.  That’s not been alleged, but his name is close to the center of this case. 

FENN:  His name is associated because he got contributions from this guy and because of the land purchase.  He has returned, of course, over 150,000 dollars right away.  He’s answered every question that he’s been asked about this over a year’s time.  I tell you, I don’t think it is going to come up in the debate.  You know, this is one of those things where, as he said, you know, I didn’t know a lot of the stuff going on with this guy.  But the land deal was a bone headed move.  He apologized for it.  He answered every question about it.  I don’t think it’s going anywhere. 

CARLSON:  You have apparently the judge who just announced in this case that the government will argue that Rezko directed two of his business associates, Armando and Malouf, these two people, to give money to Barack Obama.  Apparently it is Barack Obama.  They each gave ten grand. 

STODDARD:  I think when it comes to the contributions, the candidate always says, I had no idea what happened, ponzi scheme, Norman Hsu, whatever is going on, it’s out of my control.  That’s too bad.  I don’t think they really pay for that.  I think the liability for Barack Obama is the land deal and the fact that we now know, after watching him for a year, that he’s not naive and he wasn’t born yesterday.  And when he was in Chicago politics, he probably very well knew that Rezko is not a cuddly lamb.  It’s going to be very hard for him, as this is dragged on and brought up in a general election campaign, to explain that away. 

I think it’s just—I think he knew that this guy was bad news.  It would be hard to argue he didn’t know that. 

CARLSON:  It would be kind of hard to argue.  You get the feeling, listening to the candidate herself, when she says again and again, I’ve been vetted; you know who I am, like it or not, that she’s implying something about Obama?  There’s been this sense that she’s talking about this. 

FENN:  I don’t think she’s talking about this.  I think she’s talking about the votes in the legislature.  I think she was trying to push the voting present pretty hard last spring.  It didn’t go very far.  I actually disagree with A.B. on this.  Look, Lynn Sweet, who you just had on this program, has been all over this for months, if not years.  I think they have got everything they are going to get.  I think it will show up in ads.  It may show up in ads. 

CARLSON:  Wait a second, the trial is starting next Monday. 

FENN:  But he is not in—there is a candidate A, who is not Barack Obama—it happens to be the governor of Illinois, who they are looking at more carefully. 

CARLSON:  My point, I’m not alleging Obama did anything wrong.  I have no knowledge of that.  There’s no hint of it.  And I don’t believe it at this point.  But I do believe that this trial, like every trial, amasses, unearths a huge amount of information that was not previously known.  That’s just what trials do.  Some of that information will pertain to Barack Obama, for good or ill.  The idea that we’re not going to be talking about this a lot, I find that hard to believe. 

STODDARD:  It can’t be a good thing.  It might not be devastating, but it’s not what he wants. 

FENN:  I think the way he’s handled it so far and the way to handle it in the future is to answer every question about it.  It’s to be totally up front about what happened.  Any dealings that you had, any social occasions you were with him; let it all go.  Then people make the judgment.  Because I think what happens in these kinds of things is that if you’re not telling the truth and if there’s some hint of any kind of covering things up, then you’re in real trouble.  I don’t think there’s enough there to come after him that hard, to be perfectly honest. 

CARLSON:  It worked for John McCain. 

FENN:  Yes. 

CARLSON:  Thank you both very much.  It did, answer every question. 

People get bored after a while. 

Coming up, Beijing is still six months away.  This young man has already made history.  He’ll be the youngest Brit ever to compete in the Olympics.  More on that coming up. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  Welcome back.  For everything else that happened today, Bill Wolff joins us from headquarters. 

BILL WOLFF, MSNBC VICE PRESIDENT:  Almost everything else, Tucker, almost everything else.  I can never quite fit it into the five minutes.  Rest assured, sir, and be afraid all at the same time; a doomsday seed vault officially opened today amid ceremony deep in an Arctic mountain after a year in the creation.  There’s the Arctic mountain.  The Spald Barred Global Seed Vault (ph) will eventually protect 4.5 million seed samples from the around the world, kept safe there in the ice pack in the event that some horrific disaster, natural or otherwise, compromises plant life here on good old planet Earth. 

There are already seed banks in various spots across the world, but this one is in place in case Doomsday is worse than anticipated.  So rest easy; if in fact the end is near, we have a plan, Tucker.  I’m a little creeped out by that. 

CARLSON:  Who is going to be the post-apocalyptic Johnny Apple Seed? 

WOLFF:  I think Kevin Costner is up for that role.  I’ve got to tell you, I was very creeped out and not all that reassured by that story.  Congratulations are in order this evening for 13-year-old Thomas Daley (ph).  He’s going to be the guy in the Speedo here on the left whose synchronized diving has left him the youngest Olympian in British history.  Daley and his teammate qualified for the Olympics in Beijing, right here on your family of fine NBC Universal broadcast and cable networks, starting August 8th, until that near perfect final dive. 

He’ll be 14 when the games begin, but he will still be the youngest Englishman ever to compete for Olympic gold.  He says he’s hopeful for a medal, but focused more on the 2012 games in London.  Between now and then, he’s likely to discover many of the excellent distractions that kept most of the rest of us from achieving our own boyhood dreams, if you know what I mean.  It gets tougher at 13 and 14. 

CARLSON:  Girls are going to wreck it for him?  That’s your point. 

WOLFF:  I wouldn’t say they wrecked it for me, but I really gave up right around then.  I’ll just be a normal guy and try to have a girlfriend and probably fail at that as well. 

The rock group the Black Crows have a new record coming out.  It’s their first in seven years, in case you’ve been counting.  According to “Maxim Magazine’s” review it kind of stinks.  A critic gave the record, called “War Paint,” two and a half stars.  But there was a rub, Tucker.  The critic hadn’t listened to the whole album.  The band complained and today the magazine issued an apology to its readers.  Interesting that Maxim didn’t apologize to the band, instead telling the band manager that the review was, quote, an educated guess, end quote. 

If you have love for critics like I do, you will certainly enjoy that story.  Sort of a critique by guesstimate, I suppose.  Unfair, I would say, Tucker. 

CARLSON:  So you’re suggesting he’s not the only critic to take a shortcut like that. 

WOLFF:  I have no idea about the habits of my friends.  In fact, some of my best friends are critics.  That’s actually true.  That’s pretty bad.  You cannot go ripping somebody’s product—it’s not that nice to do it anyway, but what if you haven’t actually consumed the product.  Bad, very bad, Tucker. 

CARLSON:  I’m proud to say some of my best friends are not critics and never will be. 

WOLFF:  Fair enough, fair point.  Finally, Tucker, Cuba has a new president, the full results of whose election remain to be seen.  Either way, Cuba still has, Tucker, and you know it, the world’s best cigars.  The tenth annual Habanos Festival is under way.  It’s a five-day Cigar-fest attended by distributors and managers of the cigar-making nation, as well as ordinary cigar lovers from countries with normal diplomatic relationships with Cuba. 

That does not include us.  Guests get to smoke the new cigars, tour the tobacco fields, and listen to seminars conducted by Cuban cigar experts.  So smoke them if you’ve got them.  But, Tucker, don’t tell anywhere where it is you got them, because they aren’t legal in this country.  You’re a fan of cigars, are you not? 

CARLSON:  I’ve smoked a cigar before.  Want to hear my prediction?  The second Raul Castro dies or gives up and just says welcome Starbucks and democracy; we’re no longer communist—the second Cuba changes over into a reasonable country with humane policies, the price of Cuban cigars, the cache that surrounds them, will plummet immediately. 

Next up, it will be Venezuelan cigars from the Verboten kingdom of Venezuela, run by Prince Chavez.  You know what I mean?  The fact you can’t get them makes them valuable. 

WOLFF:  Your suggestion implies that they are not, in fact, better than the rest.  I don’t know the answer to that question.  Do you? 

CARLSON:  It drives me bananas because you don’t want to support the Cuban government, but actually they are better, I think. 

WOLFF:  What are you going to do. 

CARLSON:  Just my view.  Bill Wolff, thank you, Bill. 

WOLFF:  You got it.

CARLSON:  That does it for us.  Thanks for watching.  We’ll see you back here tomorrow night.  Don’t forget, tonight at 9:00 eastern, right here on MSNBC, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama face off in the last debate before the Ohio and Texas primaries.  Up next, “HARDBALL” with Chris.  See you tomorrow.

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