Guests: Ayre Mekel, James Hirsen, Alan Beggerow
TUCKER CARLSON, HOST: Welcome to the show, coming to you today from Bethel, Maine. It‘s good to have you with us, as always.
Let‘s get right to breaking news from the Middle East this afternoon, where thousands of Israeli troops are now on the ground inside Lebanon. They‘re reportedly on a village-to-village search for Hezbollah guerillas. In a daring helicopter raid this morning, Israel says it captured five militants and killed at least 10 more.
Meanwhile, Hezbollah fired more than 200 rockets into Israel on Wednesday. That‘s the most intense barrage since the fighting began three weeks ago.
Joining me now, NBC‘s Peter Alexander. He‘s reporting live from Haifa, Israel.
What‘s going on there?
PETER ALEXANDER, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Tucker, good evening to you.
You said it, more than 210 total rockets today fired on northern Israel. That information from Israeli police. It means the total number of rockets in the northern part of this country in the 22 days of this conflict is more than 2,000. This, despite the fact that Israel generals and leaders claimed they have severely hurt Hezbollah‘s capacity to fire those rockets here.
Today there at least—there were many attacks, two significant of note right now. One that killed an Israeli-American, a 52-year-old man in the town of Nahariya as he tried to escape hearing the warning sirens. The second hit in the West Bank for the first time, but it was more significant because it fell deeper to Israel than any previous strike, 43 miles from the border. Again, it was one of those Iranian FAJR-5 rockets.
And tonight again at the border, as about 10,000 Israeli soldiers have poured in, the ground fighting continues on five separate fronts. The Israeli defense minister has said that at least 300 Hezbollah fighters have been killed.
Their effort again is to deplete the rocket launcher system that they have, that Hezbollah has there, as well as to deplete the rockets. But still, it‘s believed that they have several thousand of the short-range Katyushas in their possession. Ehud Olmert, the prime minister here, said that they will keep fighting and will not stop until a robust international peacekeeping force moves in, and not before.
And overnight, you may have heard last night, and we have more details now, a dramatic airborne raid, as Israeli commandos landed deeper into Lebanon than they have before. The deepest ground invasion.
They took as many as five Hezbollah guerrillas captive. At least 10 others were killed. This happened as they believed this hospital that they targeted was a Hezbollah stronghold.
There were airstrikes nearby. Those did kill 16 civilians, we are told by security forces in Lebanon. When asked about who these five captives were, Ehud Olmert, the prime minister, was asked, “Were any of them big fish?” He replied, “They are tasty fishes”—Tucker.
CARLSON: Peter, give us a sense of the mood in Israel in the aftermath of 210 Hezbollah rockets coming down. It seems to me after three weeks of a ground offensive, that‘s a surprisingly large, very surprisingly large number of rockets.
How are Israelis reacting to that?
ALEXANDER: It‘s a good question. I was just out on the streets of Haifa visiting with some of the folks wo live here, and I think they are quiet, certainly tonight, not just because it‘s a Jewish holiday, but also because in the northern part of this country they anticipated that something like this would happen after a two-day lull.
Many people who had come back up, and for the last two days, returned to the streets, said that as soon as today came they would leave again. Obviously, though, after so long, 22 days in this conflict, Tucker, with about half a million people living underground, they started to get cabin fever and felt a need to leave. They fear that if this isn‘t halftime or the end of three quarters, they‘re hoping we‘re near the end of what they stay is a deadly and awful game.
CARLSON: We‘ll see if we are.
Peter Alexander, live from Haifa.
Thanks a lot, Peter.
And now to the other side of this conflict, across the border in Lebanon, which is where we find Beirut Bureau Chief Richard Engel.
Richard, what‘s the situation in Tyre, where you are?
RICHARD ENGEL, NBC NEWS BEIRUT BUREAU CHIEF: That‘s exactly right, Tucker. We saw quite a few Katyusha rockets launched today, unlike in the past, where they‘ve been somewhat outside of this city. And we just caught a glimpse of them as they were whizzing into the sky.
Tonight we saw them much closer. I wouldn‘t say right in the downtown center of Tyre, but certainly on the outskirts, just perhaps a kilometer from where we‘re speaking right now, several rocket launches. There were probably four or five at a time going off, and that happened maybe five or six times in the course of the afternoon.
This is problematic for us as well to cover, because there are a lot of reporters now staying at this one hotel, and there are also Hezbollah representatives who come by to check up on us. And today we had something of an uncomfortable meeting with two of these Hezbollah representatives who came up to tell us to stop filming the rocket launches. And when reporters were saying, “Look, come on, we‘re here, we‘re pointing our cameras at the hilltops and these rockets are going off, we can‘t help it,” they started to get somewhat more threatening, more aggressive, and they even threatened to have—to kill some reporters, although they didn‘t take any action.
They said, “If you keep filming, we will know what to do with you.
And you will be killed.”
So there is some increasing tension from Hezbollah as they‘re moving closer into the city and apparently are getting more and more nervous about the—this ground war and air war continues—Tucker.
CARLSON: That‘s pretty shocking, Richard. How are you going to respond? Are you going to stop filming those rockets?
ENGEL: Well, I think you have to take into consideration your own
personal safety, but no, we are still here, we‘re still working, as you can
see, and still filming. And if these rockets go off if front of our
cameras, we‘re not going to turn them off. But it does raise the level of
a certain increased risk that Hezbollah is now much more sensitive to this issue.
They‘re watching the reporters very closely, and certainly trying to control what‘s coming out of this country more than we‘ve seen them in the past. But at this stage, no, I think we can still operate from here. But if their threats start coming into actions and their actions start becoming more and more menacing, then obviously we‘ll have to take that into consideration.
CARLSON: Yes, when Hezbollah threatens to kill, you know, you take it seriously. I understand that.
Sum up for us how you think Hezbollah stands in Lebanon today. Does it have more support than it did three weeks ago, do you think?
ENGEL: It‘s very difficult to know right now. There are some opinion polls that are beng conducted right now that indicate that, at least right now, Hezbollah is enjoying something of a spike.
In the early days, people were against this Hezbollah action, people thought the country is back on its feet, the economy is booming. It‘s the summer, and they were expecting several billion dollars in summer tourist revenues. And there was an outrage on the streets, why is Hezbollah picking this fight now and bringing this country back into war?
But as things have progressed, and there have been more and more Lebanese casualties and more infrastructure damage, there is something of a shift in people, including members of the Christian community and the Druze community, who are traditionally not Hezbollah supporters, who are saying, well, Israel is the one that‘s responsible for a lot of this damage and joining up with Hezbollah.
Now, that could be just a temporary spike. I personally suspect that it probably is. And later on, those communities which are traditionally not Hezbollah supporters will turn against the group. But right now it is wartime in Lebanon, and people are—are getting increasingly angry with the Israelis.
CARLSON: Richard Engel in Tyre, a genuinely brave man.
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert today summed up the war this way:
“The state of Israel is winning in this battle and is gaining impressive achievements, perhaps unprecedented ones.” And yet many argue that the reverse may be true, the longer fighting drags on in Lebanon, the worse it is for Israel and, for that matter, the United States.
Joining me now to discuss it, Ambassador Ayre Mekel in New York.
Ambassador, thanks for joining us.
I think you probably heard what Richard Engel just said about Christian and Druze in Lebanon joining up with Hezbollah. That is not a good development, is it?
AMB. AYRE MEKEL, CONSUL GENERAL OF ISRAEL IN NEW YORK: I don‘t think it‘s true at all. I don‘t know what they have to say. If Hezbollah threatens the journalists, simply threatens the Christians and the Druze in the midst, and they‘re probably afraid to speak out. But trust me, in their hearts and beyond, they want the Hezbollah to lose and to lose big and to lose as soon as possible. They want their life back.
CARLSON: Yes, but as—as this conflict continues, and as Israel proves day after day unable to stop these Katyusha rockets from coming over the border, Hezbollah gets stronger, it seems to me, in the public imagination, anyway. Hezbollah is the organization standing up to dreaded Israel. This is good for Hezbollah, is it not?
MEKEL: Not really. We have killed hundreds of them, we have destroyed a large number of their missiles.
They may be still standing, but not for long. I would not judge this operation before it‘s over. By the time it will be over, you‘ll see, there will be no Hezbollah by our borders and they will not be able to send any missiles or rockets. Just like we have said all along.
CARLSON: And yet, for those of us who would like to see Hezbollah destroyed, or at least de-fanged, look on with real concern when this organization is able to send 210 rockets into Israel three weeks after the war began. Why is that? Why were they still able to do that?
MEKEL: It‘s probably because we are using a restrained and systemic approach. We go village to village inside Lebanon, we find the missiles, we destroy them. We kill the terrorists. And it may take some more time, because there are many villages, and you need to go from one to the other.
But, again, by the time this is over, Hezbollah will not be a threat to Israel or to Lebanon.
CARLSON: Go from one village to the other by air or on foot? I mean, does this mean Israel is essentially going to occupy the country again, at least the southern part of it?
MEKEL: I don‘t think that we have to occupy. You can send in—we have been doing this. You send in soldiers, they take over a certain village or they destroy the Hezbollah presence. They may go out, they may come in. They may be held by air, by artillery.
There are various measures. But certainly, as you know, the Israeli ground troops are operating for some time now in south Lebanon. There‘s no question about that.
CARLSON: There have been reports that Ayatollah Sistani, the Shiite leader in Iraq, has been making bellicose noises about the Israeli bombing of Lebanon, and it‘s making—his anger over this makes—puts the United States in a difficult situation, because there are a lot of restive Shiites in Iraq.
Does Israel understand that the longer this goes on potential problems for America increase?
MEKEL: This is not just a war between Israel and Hezbollah.
MEKEL: This is a war about the nature of the Middle East. Will Lebanon be a free country or will it be ruled by the Persians, the Iranians, the Shiites? It‘s a war between—eventually between Shiites and Sunnis and Christians and Druze.
Look at Lebanon. It used to be a Christian country, the only non-Muslims country besides Israel. The Muslims look over, now the Shiites are trying to take over. This is not a good development for anybody, and as far as they are concerned, they would like to go Israel the way Lebanon went, as a Christian country.
CARLSON: Well, no, but Mr. Ambassador, look, I think most people in the West share Israel‘s goal. Nobody wants to see Hezbollah get more powerful. Very few people in the West support Hezbollah. No one I know does, anyway.
But Israel doesn‘t seem to be acting with a sense of urgency. Israel doesn‘t seem to understand that the longer this drags on, the worse the consequences may be for everybody else, including Israel.
Is there a sense that this needs to be wrapped up as soon as possible?
MEKEL: You know, we don‘t count the days. The media does. The media says, “Day 20, Day 21.” Israel doesn‘t do that.
The prime minister said that the fighting will continue until a robust international force will come. It was quoted a few minutes ago by your correspondent. I think this is where we‘re heading.
By the time there‘s a robust international peacekeeping force, and they can prevent Hezbollah from returning and doing anything, we will stop it, but we‘re not there yet. It‘s still in the process.
CARLSON: Well, all the rest of us hope you get there very soon.
Ambassador Mekel, thanks very much.
MEKEL: Thank you, Tucker.
CARLSON: Still to come, day six of the Mel Gibson saga, and it‘s taken us this long but we finally found someone who will defend him. Hear is for yourself coming up.
And Anderson Cooper, Nancy Grace, and star Jones. Could this be CNN‘s new unholy trinity? Find out on “Beat the Press” when we return.
CARLSON: Welcome back. It‘s time for “Beat the Press.”
First up, it wouldn‘t be “Beat the Press” without a clip of Nancy Grace getting mad about something. Last night‘s target was Rusty Yates. You‘ll remember him as the ex-husband of Andrea Yates, the Texas mother who admitted to drowning her five children in a bathtub and was found not guilty by reason of insanity last week.
Here‘s what Nancy Grace thinks about him.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NANCY GRACE, CNN ANCHOR: The moment he could, he went out on the courthouse steps and he stated to a microphone, “Andrea Yates, my wife, was psychotic when she killed the children.”
So Jason Oceans (ph), defense attorney, why wasn‘t he charged with at least negligence in raising his children? Leaving your children with someone that you believe is psychotic, that‘s like leaving them with a crack head or a meth freak.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CARLSON: Rusty Yates may be a creep, he may be an ineffective guy. Let me put it this way: If my wife nags me for a new car and belittles me because I won‘t buy one and yells at me day after day to get a new car, and I finally crack under the strain and rob a liquor store so she can have a new car, who is responsible for the armed robbery, her? No, me.
You‘re responsible for what you do. Rusty Yates may be a bad guy, but he didn‘t kill anyone. His wife did. She‘s responsible, not Rusty Yates. I know it‘s very difficult to explain that to someone who hates men on principle, but it‘s true.
Remember that, Nancy Grace.
Next up, CNN president Jonathan Klein was spotted this week having lunch with Star Jones‘ agent. Could she have her eye on a spot on CNN‘s “Headline News”? Should Nancy Grace be worried?
But what I do know is Star Jones embodies everything John Klein claims he hates. After all, Klein is Mr. Hard News himself, the man who once bragged that, “CNN is a different animal. We report the news, and we‘re very good at what we do.”
Just last week, he described CNN‘s mission as combining “visceral coverage with analysis from intelligent people and academia.” And now possibly Star Jones.
You see the point. You can be the hard news network, you can be the Star Jones network, but you can‘t be both.
And finally, our own meteorologist here at MSNBC, Jeff Ranieri, he boldly faced today‘s 100-plus-degree temperatures in New York City‘s Central Park. But have no fear, he had everything he needed to keep cool.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JEFF RANIERI, MSNBC METEOROLOGIST: You want to make sure you drink that water, as we were mentioning earlier in the show, taking a shower can cool you down, what is it, 20 or 30 times faster than just drinking the water. So do all those things.
It may seem a little bit ridiculous, or like some commonsense stuff.
I already know that. But it is really some important things.
We also have my producer here, Laura, who has been doing a great job of misting us today. Ah.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CARLSON: What do we learn from this segment? When it gets really hot, what do you need? Well, you need a wet towel around your neck. It helps to have a straw cowboy hat. And above all, if you can get a producer named Laura to spritz you, you‘re good to go.
News you can use from MSNBC.
Well, how would you like to help us “Beat the Press”?
Give us a call and tell us what you‘ve seen. The number, 1-877-BTP-5876. Numerically, that would be 877-287-5876.
Still to come, did the Pentagon lie to the 911 Commission? Shocking evidence of deception.
And who runs this country, Oprah or the president? You might be surprised at the answer.
CARLSON: Welcome back from Bethel, Maine. Time now for our “Breaking the News” segment.
Willie Geist is our man monitoring the feeds and the wires. He‘s here now to break the very latest news.
Willie, what‘s happening in the world?
WILLIE GEIST, MSNBC PRODUCER: Hello, Tucker.
I want to state for our viewers emphatically, I have never spritzed Tucker Carlson. And he has asked, trust me.
Tucker, it‘s hard to call weather breaking news. It‘s kind of ongoing phenomenon, but the climate is catching our attention again today as the Midwest and the East Coast break under sifling triple-degree heat. The Southeast is keeping an eye on a potential hurricane brewing in the Caribbean.
Tropical Storm Chris forced a hurricane watch in the Bahamas today and caused the evacuation of two small islands off Puerto Rico. Current projections put Chris in Florida by late in the weekend.
Now, experience has taught us to never make light of one of these storms, and we won‘t, but we do have to ask whether the National Weather Service could have come up with a little tougher name than Chris.
Tucker, we don‘t want to trivialize it, as we said, but can‘t we do better than Chris?
CARLSON: How about Kevin? Hurricane Kevin.
GEIST: Kevin? No. I‘m afraid you‘re missing the point, Tucker.
I mean, my next door neighbor‘s name is Chris, and I‘m not really afraid of him. If I heard Hurricane Butch was coming, I‘d run. I‘d leave town.
Now, we already know Oprah Winfrey controls the media and the tides, of course, but did you know she also runs the United States government? Nevada Democratic Senator Harry Reid says the only reasons Republicans are trying to pass what he calls a “phony” minimum wage increase is because of Oprah.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MINORITY LEADER: Oprah did a story on it. Maybe that‘s reason they‘re conditioned to not getting a pay raise themselves. Maybe someone watched Oprah.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GEIST: Oprah did a show on Friday about families trying to live on minimum wage. On Saturday morning, literally hours after the show aired, the House of Representatives voted to raise the minimum wage by 70 cents an hour. Reid says Republicans are pandering to Oprah‘s massive audience.
Now, Tucker, I like it, but are you alarmed a little bit to know that Oprah is the most powerful member of Congress, despite not being a member of Congress?
CARLSON: I‘m not alarmed, Willie, and nor am I surprised, because my official position on Oprah, as I think you know, is that she is the greatest person of this or any generation. That‘s my position on Oprah, and I‘m sticking to it on television, period.
GEIST: I‘m proud of your conviction, Tucker.
This just confirms that she is in fact the most powerful person in the world. World dominion is close, because President Bush, the previous most powerful man in the world, could not get Congress to vote on a Saturday, trust me.
There is bad news today for people who use cell phones, which is everyone, of course. It turns out talking on a cell phone is not only annoying to everyone around you but it could also make you sick.
British microbiologists report that the average cell phone carries more germs than a toilet seat, or even the bottom of your shoe. Think about that the next time you pick your phone up. Scientists say the combination of constant handling and the heat given off by the phone creates the perfect breeding conditions for dangerous bacteria.
So, Tucker, I have to ask, will you now ever again pick up that filthy, disease-ridden death machine you call a cell phone?
CARLSON: It depends whose cell phone it is. I mean, if you‘ve got a promiscuous cell phone that you‘re passing around parties for other people to pant into, yes, it‘s a problematic. But if you keep your own cell phone to yourself, you‘re good to go.
GEIST: Tucker, and to me this raises some very serious questions about what the British are actually doing with their cell phones. I‘m not sure they know how to use them exactly. If your cell phone is dirtier than a toilet seat, you‘re probably using it incorrectly.
CARLSON: Willie Geist, “Breaking the News.”
GEIST: All right, Tucker. See you tomorrow.
CARLSON: Thanks, Willie.
Coming up, we‘ll talk to a friend of Mel Gibson‘s about the drunken tirade heard around the world. Was it out of character or was it par for the course? We‘ll find out.
Plus, will Republican candidates across the country be dragged down by the president‘s dreadful approval ratings? Is the GOP on the brink of disaster this fall? It‘s starting to look that way.
We‘ll discuss it when we come back.
CARLSON: Still to come, one of Mel Gibson‘s friends joins us for the inside story of Mel‘s melt down. You might be surprised what he has to say.
Plus, the U.S. senators throw a tantrum about having to ride in elevators with ordinary people, God forbid. We‘ll get to all that and more in just a minute, but right now, here‘s a look at your headline.
(STOCK MARKET UPDATE)
CARLSON: Welcome back. Now, for the latest on Gibsongate, and don‘t worry, this story will go away at some point. But as of now, no charges have been filed yet. We don‘t know whether they will be, but at least one woman has made up her mind.
“The View‘s” Joy Behar says Mel Gibson, quote, “Needs to be welcomed into the Jewish communities by a public circumcision.” She may be a little harsh. Our next guest is the author of “Hollywood Nation.” He‘s a friend of Mel Gibson‘s. James Hirsen joins us from Irvine, California.
Thanks a lot for joining us, James Hirsen. I appreciate it.
JAMES HIRSEN, AUTHOR: Hi, Tucker. How are you?
CARLSON: Were you surprised by this, does this—I‘m great. I‘m confused, I think, though, as the rest of America doesn‘t know Mel Gibson is by this behavior. It‘s so weird. What accounts for this? What was he thinking? What does he mean?
HIRSEN: Well, it‘s sort of ironic that this happened. You know, I write for NewsMax magazine, and we do a summer issue about celebrities, and that this happened at that when we‘re doing this issue about celebrities that kind of people focus on.
But, you know, it didn‘t just surprise everyone else, and it didn‘t surprise just me. It surprised Mel Gibson. And I think if you look at his second statement, one of the things that he‘s reaching out to the Jewish community for is to understand where these words came from.
And Tucker, one important fact here is he‘s been around. He‘s been a professional in the Hollywood community for three decades. And this whole issue of bigotry and anti-Semitism was never raised, never alleged at all, until the battle about “The Passion of the Christ.”
And with all the thousands of people that he worked with, producers, directors, co-stars, crew, cast—this is a collaborative business—and so many of them are of various faiths and of Jewish faith, and this has never come up. And that supports what he said. He is not—there‘s not an anti-Semitic bone in this guy‘s body.
CARLSON: Right, no, no. No, I mean, I get that. Look, I get that. But, on the other hand, I defended him on “The Passion of the Christ.” I didn‘t care for the movie, but I didn‘t think it was anti-Semitic. I didn‘t understand the claim. However, he has conceded that he was ranting about how the Jews start wars or something else equally bizarre. I mean, where did that come from? Do you have any idea?
HIRSEN: No, I really don‘t. And I don‘t think he does, actually, either. But one important thing—and I actually, you know, I watch your show, and I know you read NewsMax magazine. That‘s why I watch it. But I saw Dr. Pinsky on, and I think he made this wonderful point about this notion about what happens when alcoholic-addicted people fall off the wagon. There‘s been all this talk about somehow alcohol being a truth serum. And if it was, you know, with those guys down in Guantanamo, we would give them martinis. I mean, the fact is...
CARLSON: That‘s true. That‘s right. And anybody who knows a lot about alcohol knows that it causes people to go crazy. Was he really an alcoholic? Were you aware that he was a drinker, but before this? Had you ever talked to him about his drinking? You knew that he had a problem with the booze?
HIRSEN: Sure. For several years at any social event when anyone would offer a drink, he‘d always turn it down. And I personally asked him about it, and he explained this. And he did during, by the way, the whole “Passion” veil (ph), he said that he had a terrible bout with alcoholism when he was in his party period in the 80s. Which, by the way, supports again, if he had these pent up bigotry ideas, they would have come out before, you know, when he was drunk.
So the fact is he was a teetotaler, as recover alcoholics are. And even, you know, the reporting in “In Touch” magazine of the people that were there that evening, they said that when they first ran across Mel Gibson, he was drinking water and he was turning down drinks. And that‘s his normal M.O.
You see, what this is—this is someone that‘s acting completely contrary to his character. This is a fact. This is a guy that always supported police, always supported cops, even did a PSA for the sheriff. And he was...
CARLSON: That‘s an interesting point. That‘s an interesting point. I mean, that‘s right. I mean, he clearly was pro-cop before this, and then, of course, he was abuse to the police while drunk. How long has he been drinking, do you know? Has he been back on the sauce?
HIRSEN: I don‘t know exactly when he fell off the wagon, but I surmise—you know, he had this film the he was shooting in a remote part of Mexico. It was double the normal time that was allotted to it because he ran into weather problems. He had cast members get ill. And he was away in a remote area, away from his family, away from his support system, his friends, and his clergy, and his faith. And I think all of that maybe contributed to it.
But I think this is a part of his recovery, and he has gone into a formal recovery program. He is getting spiritual counseling, and he‘s seeking help. And part of it is to find out what made these things bubble up that are so crazy, so irrational.
And with someone like this who has apparently so much that everyone desires, good looks and wealth and success, it‘s irrational for him to say things like this to a police officer. So it‘s a good thing, though, because when people are addicted, when people are alcoholic, they‘re in denial. So this event caused him to go into a recovery program, and thankfully, he didn‘t harm himself or harm others.
CARLSON: Yes, it‘s a pretty high cost, though. And that‘s my final question. How is his family? You know, he famously had quite a few kids and married a long time to the same woman. I mean, how is his family handling this?
HIRSEN: Yes, he violated the rules in Hollywood, Tucker, because he was only married to one woman, the same woman, and he has seven children. And they‘re a tight knit group and very loving. And he‘s back together with them.
And that‘s a very important part of his healing process, I think. And I think this is going to work out actually as a positive, because you know, this trending synagogue in Hollywood has now invited him to speak.
I think there‘s going to be a new discourse and a new dialogue. And his actions will prove what he‘s saying in these statements, that in fact, he is the man that people who have worked with him know he is, which is the antithesis of a bigot.
CARLSON: All right. James Hirsen, Thanks. I appreciate it.
HIRSEN: Thanks for having me.
CARLSON: Well, if you think Mel Gibson‘s got problems, how about the Republican Party? Is it headed for its own apocalypse? With one hundred days left before the midterm elections, Washington could be on the verge of a major political shakeup.
Polls show voters are fed up with the White House and with Congress, but is a Republican defeat a fait accompli? Joining me now, Charlie Cook, NBC News political consultant and editor of “The Cook Clinical Report.” He joins us from Washington, and he is the one man we can trust to shed some light on this question. Charlie...
CHARLIE COOK, NBC NEWS POLITICAL CONSULTANT: Tucker, I‘m afraid what you‘re going to ask me between germ infested telephones and public circumcisions. I‘m terrified what this is going to be about.
CARLSON: Well, I mean, it‘s a more depressing conversation, the one we‘re about to have, in my view. I think the Republicans deserve to lose, not that I want to see them lose. But you tell me. You know what‘s going to happen. What is going to happen?
COOK: You know, Tucker, for over the last year or so, we‘ve seen public pessimism on the rise. We‘ve seen Congress‘s job approval rafting going down. We saw the president‘s job approval rating going down. And all this while people in my business have been talking about, well, can Democrats win a majority in the House of Representatives? Could they even win a majority in the Senate?
Well, at least in terms of the House, I think we‘re now at the point where it‘s not, “Can Democrats win it?” It‘s, “Can Republicans hang on?” That we‘re now, as you say, within 100 days. And depending upon which poll you look at, Republicans are between 8 and 15 points behind nationally in what we call the Generic Congressional Ballot Test.
Congress‘s job approval rating is around 28, 29, 30. When it‘s below 40, typically, you have blowout elections. It‘s just sort of, all the diagnostic indicators in terms of national polls that we usually look at that tell us, “Hey, we may be having a tidal wave ahead of us,” are arguing that way.
We have the traditional large Republican advantage, financial advantage, in terms of national money, has shrunk down to its narrowest point in 20 years. And the individual races are now, at least in the House, coming into alignment where, you know, I think right now, today this moment, it‘s more likely than not that Republicans would lose their majority in the House.
CARLSON: Boy. Compare this—compare the numbers you‘re seeing now to the numbers you were seeing in August of 2004 -- I mean, of 1994, rather, the last tidal wave.
COOK: All of the major numbers we look at, right direction, wrong track, Congress approval, all of them are basically on par or in some cases worse than they were for Democrats in 1994 before they lost 52 House seats, eight Senate seats, and the majorities in both chambers.
And, for example—yes, right now the average poll has President Bush around 38 percent, 39 percent approval. You know what the lowest job approval rating Clinton had during all of 1994 in the Gallup poll? Thirty-nine percent. And that was like a once every 50 year tidal wave.
So it‘s, “Can this majority be saved?” not, “Can Democrats pick it up?” In the Senate, you can get them to four or five. Democrats need a sixth seath in that gain, and I can get them to five without too much difficulty. And once you‘re at five, you‘re not to far from six.
CARLSON: No, you‘re not. I mean, look. This is such a big deal for the White House, among many others. If either House of Congress falls into Democratic hands, you‘ve subpoena power in the hands of Democrats.
This is going to be a hellish environment in the executive branch for the next two years. Do Republicans—is it finally—and I know that they‘re very, very thick about things like this. But has it, do you think, finally penetrated that it could be over for them?
COOK: You‘re seeing a lot of concerns/panic, and in some cases pessimism, among a lot of Republican professionals right now. And you‘re right. It would be a horror show for the White House in many ways in terms of the subpoena power and the investigations.
But I would argue that in a very perverse way that Republicans might be better off and Democrats worse off if Democrats were to actually get a narrow majority in the House. Because the thing is, right now, the time for changed sentiment is very strong, and it‘s growing.
And you go two more years with this sort of pressure cooker building, building, building, building, time for a change sentiment and go into 2008 presidential, House, Senate elections, you could see the big bang theory.
I mean, you could see—and the thing is, you would have—the worst scenario for a party is to have total responsibility for governing and no authority to get anything done. And a lame duck president with poor numbers and narrow majorities in the House and Senate—man, that‘s a recipe for disaster.
CARLSON: Oh, no. That‘s the election where Dennis Kucinich gets elected president. It could be total disaster. Charlie Cook, really one of the few people you can listen to and trust on this subject. Thanks a lot, Charlie.
COOK: Good to see you, Tucker. Glad to see you back from Israel.
CARLSON: Thanks very much.
Time now for quick hits. New revelations with the Pentagon‘s actual initial response to 9/11. Rumor has it our military was prepared to shoot down a fourth hijacked airliner if it threatened Washington. The truth of the matter, though, is U.S. jet fighters never had any of the hijacked planes in sight.
Sources say that was one of the many lies Pentagon leaders told Congress and the public to conceal a series of military snafus. Why are we just learning this now? What about the 9/11 Commission? Weren‘t they supposed to be on top of this? Wasn‘t that the whole point of the 9/11 Commission, to get to the bottom of what happened?
Apparently, they didn‘t. Maybe we need another one because the result of not knowing is, what? Conspiracy theories. And those are bad for the country, especially when it comes to 9/11.
Well, Georgia Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney, who once accused George W. Bush of having prior knowledge of 9/11, is now fighting to keep her job. The latest poll shows McKinney lagging way behind her top challenger.
That‘s only a week before the runoff election.
Observers think voters have lost patience with her bizarre behavior, such as hitting a Capitol Hill cop and claiming fellow Democrat Al Gore had, quote, “low Negro tolerance levels,” whatever that means. Does Cynthia McKinney deserve to lose? Of course she does. And she probably will.
On the other hand, Congress will be a much less interesting place were she to be bounced out of it. Jim Traficant, perfect example. Everyone said, “He‘s a disgrace to the institution. He ought to be in jail.” Well, now he is in jail. Is the House of Representatives a better place for it? Not really. It‘s a little more boring, actually. I don‘t know. I kind of like Cynthia McKinney, having her around. She‘s good for us in TV, I can tell you that.
Well, those American marines implicated in the deaths of 24 Iraqi civilians in Haditha last November might soon be facing criminal charges. The Pentagon says there is supporting evidence that those unarmed Iraqis were killed, as one U.S. lawmaker put it, “in cold broad.” Many of them were women and children.
The obvious response to this is, war is hell, even when we‘re fighting it. Even though we do everything we have possibly can, the U.S. military does, to be as clean and decent as we can in war, atrocities occur. One of the reasons you ought to think really hard before getting into war.
Well, the hallowed halls of Capitol Hill are anything but hollow these days. Some beleaguered senators claim that hoards of summer tourists are trespassing on their private elevators, thereby lawmakers to mingle with masses on the public lifts.
New Jersey Senator Frank Lautenberg says he sometimes has to shove his way through. Add to that the hardship of not having an attendant to push his floor buttons for him and what do you have? Pure hell.
Frank Lautenberg having to touch ordinary people in the course of a business day? It‘s hard to imagine a bigger crisis in Washington, D.C. I say this to you, Mr. And Mrs. America. If you‘re coming to Washington, seek out Frank Lautenberg, rub up against him in the elevator. It‘s your right.
Coming up, what kind of man would sit on the couch and not even look for a job as his wife struggles to support his family? Well, it turns out there are millions of guys like that. You‘ll meet one of them when we come right back.
CARLSON: Welcome back. Isn‘t a low-wage job better than no job at all? Well, not if you‘re one of the million of American men who‘ve been laid off and refuse to take jobs they view as demeaning or low paying. My next guest is one those men. He spends his days dabbling at hobbies at home. He stays up late, sleeps until 11:00 in the morning, all while living off his wife. Alan Beggerow lives in Rockfalls, Illinois. He joins me now from Chicago.
Mr. Beggerow, thanks for coming on.
ALAN BEGGEROW, UNEMPLOYED HUSBAND: You bet, Tucker. How are you doing?
CARLSON: I‘m doing great. I can‘t imagine how angry and contemptuous your wife must be at this point. I mean, she must just be really mad at you.
BEGGEROW: No, actually there‘s been some perceptions about that article that aren‘t quite the truth, like I‘m sponging off my wife. That‘s not really so.
CARLSON: OK. You‘re talking about a “New York Times” piece from earlier this week in which you were featured. And the piece explained that you are not working. You worked for 30 years for a company in Illinois, but you were laid off.
You live on a small pension and your wife‘s disability. You are an able-bodied man who‘s clearly smart, but you‘re choosing not to work because, as you put it, quote, “ I have come to realize that my free time is worth a lot to me.” That‘s an attitude that I think most American men would be embarrassed to have.
BEGGEROW: That‘s probably true. I‘m not embarrassed to have it, though. Not embarrassed a bit.
CARLSON: Well, I mean, shouldn‘t you be working? I mean, the rest of us are working. We‘re paying to keep the roads clear and the nation defended from foreign invaders. I mean, we‘re keeping the system afloat, and you‘re dead weight. Don‘t you feel guilty?
BEGGEROW: Heavens, no. I‘m not dead weight. I‘m getting a reduced pension. By the way, I was not laid off. I took a forced retirement. The plant I used to work at shut down, and my wife and I bring in about the same amount of money every month.
I mean, we pay our bills, and we make enough money that we still pay taxes. So I have chosen not to work for various reasons. And we seem to be getting by, and that‘s cool with me.
CARLSON: Well, I bet it is cool with you. I bet a lot of people would be happy to do that, but they don‘t because they realize that our society would fall apart if people did that.
And one of the reasons you have the luxury of sitting around and writing novels, and practicing the piano, and living this kind of fun, interesting, hobby-filled life is because everyone else chooses not to do that, chooses to get up and inconvenience themselves and go to work and make us a rich society so people like you can lie around. I mean, don‘t you see why people would resent that?
BEGGEROW: Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. I see why they would resent it. I could see where some of the resentment might be from jealousy, too, because they will not do what you need to be able to do what I‘ve done.
CARLSON: Well, how about—I mean, one of the reasons men work is to get self-respect, but also respect from other people, specifically, the women they live with. “I had a rough day at the office. You wouldn‘t believe what I‘ve been dealing with,” right?
And you come back, you know, into the cave after slaying the woolly mammoth, and you‘re the man. But if you never left the cave, if you‘re looming around the cave playing video games, you‘re not really the man anymore, are you?
BEGGEROW: That‘s the way some people perceive it. There‘s more to being a man, as you say, than just working at a job. I mean, there‘s more to life than working, period. I consider myself very fortunate to be able to do what I am doing.
CARLSON: Yes. How much sleep do you get at night?
BEGGEROW: It varies. Sometimes six hours, sometimes eight hours.
Sometimes more. Sometimes less.
CARLSON: Are you ever bored?
BEGGEROW: No, sir, I‘m not. No, there‘s plenty to keep my mind occupied. I am involved with charity work, with the peace groups, reading, you know, everything that was in the article. My life is very full now.
CARLSON: We appreciate you taking the time out of your schedule to join us. Alan Beggerow, thanks very much.
BEGGEROW: Thanks, Tucker.
CARLSON: Still ahead, Mel Gibson‘s comments were offensive. But were they any more offensive than Mayor Ray Nagin‘s chocolate city rant? Interesting question. We‘ll discuss it when we come right back.
CARLSON: Welcome back. It‘s time to listen to the wisdom of the people, or as we call it, our voicemail segment. First up.
WOLFGANG IN LAFAYETTE: Wolfgang from Lafayette. You know, I think everyone can agree that Mel Gibson‘s comments were completely out of line, but I wonder why we didn‘t see this kind of coverage and outrage when New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin called for a chocolate city. And, as I recall, he was sober when he had those racist remarks.
CARLSON: Well, I was out raged by what Ray Nagin said. I mean, I think objectively, what Mel Gibson said was worse because he attacked a group, whereas I don‘t think Ray Nagin in. On the other hand, Ray Nagin is supposed to be running one of America‘s great cities. He‘s clearly not suited for that. So yes, there should have been much more outrage about that, I thought. Next up.
SABRINA IN COLORADO SPRINGS, COLORADO: Sabrina from Colorado Springs. I think that Israel is getting a bad rap for their involvement in the current conflict. They‘re doing everyone a favor by getting rid of Hezbollah. They‘re a terrorist organization that needs to be destroyed.
CARLSON: I don‘t think you get any argument from anyone. Everyone would love to see Hezbollah destroyed. But Israel is not destroying Hezbollah. That‘s the problem. The problem with the war is not that it‘s illegitimate. It‘s completely legitimate. The problem is, it‘s not working; 210 rockets fired into Israel yesterday after three weeks of bombing? That‘s a big problem. It‘s time to be honest he about that. Next up.
DAVE IN LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA: Dave from L.A. It finally got a little cooler here, but man, this heat wave, total product of global warming. And for some reason, global warming doesn‘t get the attention in the news that it deserves.
CARLSON: He‘s got to be kidding. Everybody talks about global warming all the time. What gets less attention is what global warming is. If you were to ask the average person, the average television viewer (ph), “What is global warming? Explain it in three sentences.” Not possible. Nobody knows what it is, but everyone is upset about it. Is this a result of global warming? I don‘t know. I‘m not sure anyone does.
Keep those calls coming. The number, 1-877-TCARLSON. 877-822-7576.
We want your calls. We‘re not kidding. So give us a buzz.
That‘s the program today from Bethel, Maine. Thanks for watching. We appreciate it. Up next, “HARDBALL.” Don‘t miss it. See you.
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