Guests: Jennifer Palmieri, A.B. Stoddard, Michael Hirsh
TUCKER CARLSON, MSNBC HOST: Welcome to the show. I‘m Tucker Carlson.
We‘re glad to have you watching.
We‘ll get right now to our top story: Iraq. President Bush, who‘s in Latvia today for a NATO meeting, stopped short of calling the conflict a civil war, as NBC has begun to call it. But on the eve of the summit with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki in Jordan, the president refused to consider troop withdrawals. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We‘ll continue to be flexible, and we‘ll make the changes necessary to succeed. But there‘s one thing I‘m not going to do: I‘m not going to pull our troops off the battlefield before the mission is complete.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CARLSON: With Iraq in chaos and the White House strategy in doubt, Democrats have emerged with their own plan to stabilize the country. Several plans, in fact.
Senator Joe Biden, the incoming chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, wants to split Iraq into three autonomous or semi-autonomous regions, Kurd, Shiite and Sunni. He talked about the plan in an interview with “Newsweek‘s” senior editor Michael Hirsh, who joins us now from Washington.
Michael, thanks for coming on.
MICHAEL HIRSH, “NEWSWEEK”: Sure, happy to be here.
CARLSON: So just for our viewers who aren‘t intimately familiar with Senator Biden‘s ideas, sketch it out for us quickly.
HIRSH: Well, basically it‘s a way of reckoning with the reality of Iraq, vicious sectarian hatred, so let‘s just split up the country into the three regions—Sunni, Shiite, Kurd—among the groups that are fighting, but not actually make it separate countries, but rather autonomous regions of the same country, a federalized system, so to speak.
CARLSON: So there would be three separate governments is the idea?
HIRSH: Right, and, you know, presumably some function would still be nationalized. You would still have a nationalized army, but you would split up the oil, most critically, so that each of the populations would be somewhat satisfied with what they got. And this sort of political solution presumably would be the only way to end the sectarian bloodshed.
CARLSON: Because the Sunni sector of the country, mostly the middle, is oil-poor. So the Kurds and the Shiites would have to go along with this. Are they likely to?
HIRSH: No, I don‘t think so. I think, as with many of these plans, what sounded reasonable six months ago or a year ago may already be too late to forge this kind of political solution, or at least we may see many more years of bloodshed before something like this takes shape.
CARLSON: Biden is, I think, one of the most interesting foreign policy thinkers to listen to, certainly compelling, well-informed, interested in the stuff he‘s talking about. Does he have any power to make it happen, though, as a member of the Senate?
HIRSH: Well, he‘s incoming chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The new Democratic-controlled Congress, you know, takes place in January. He gets sworn in.
Biden‘s first plan out of the box is the whole six weeks of hearings on Iraq. He suggested to me in the interview he did that he would produce a report that might be a rival Biden plan to the Baker-Hamilton Iraq Study Group report. So I think there‘s going to be a lot of debate, you know, in the months ahead.
CARLSON: Is this a harbinger of things to come? I mean, we‘ve been hearing that the Baker plan had essentially bipartisan acceptance. We don‘t know the details of it, of course. But at this stage, everybody is taking it seriously.
Is it possible that you‘d see a lot of Democrats peel off, follow Biden, and back another plan?
HIRSH: Well, I think what you‘re hearing now is signals that the Iraq Study Group, the Baker plan, the Baker recommendations, are going to bypass what might be considered the elephant in the room, which is: How many troops are going to stay in Iraq? How long? What sort of withdrawal plan is there?
They may just, you know, decide not to address that in order to achieve consensus. And that‘s going to open the door to Democrats like Carl Levin, who‘s offered his own phased withdrawal plan, and Biden to come up and say, “Look, you know, the Baker people didn‘t do the job, so here‘s our plan.”
CARLSON: Well, I think that would be a fair criticism, don‘t you? I mean, if the report...
CARLSON: ... which is designed to answer the question, “What do we do next?” doesn‘t even address what we do next, then it has failed, hasn‘t it?
HIRSH: Absolutely. I mean, look, a lot of these plans are a year late and $100 million short, you know, so to speak. I mean, you‘ve got—the Baker plan is apparently going to focus on Syria and Iran, bringing them into the equation. Two, three years ago, that might have been very effective, before the insurgency and the sectarian killing got out of control.
Now I think that the killing in Iraq has its own dynamic, and I think that Iran and Syria are marginal players. So what Baker and Hamilton ultimately recommend may simply not be enough.
CARLSON: Biden, people may forget, is definitely, I think, on the rightward side of his party in terms of foreign policy. He‘s certainly not part of the “pull out the troops now” caucus, which is a big caucus within the Democratic Party. Are those people going to have their say, I mean, the primary voters who actually elected Democrats this last cycle who want to, you know, get out immediately? Is anybody representing them?
HIRSH: You know, Tucker, I really don‘t think so. I mean, at least since John Murtha, you know, got so badly beaten in the race for majority leader, Murtha obviously was seen as a “pull out now” guy. You don‘t have that kind of constituency.
The more reasoned thinkers in the center, like Biden, like Levin, realize that you simply cannot pull out. It would be such a devastating blow to American prestige, it‘s got to be much more of a longer term plan.
CARLSON: But I‘m not attacking Democrats when I say a huge number of consistent Democratic voters, you know, people who do control the primary process, I would say a huge majority of those people really are for pulling out yesterday. I mean, I don‘t think that‘s—that‘s not politically loaded. I think it‘s an observation of reality.
Aren‘t they going to be frustrated when nobody takes up their cause in the Congress?
HIRSH: Well, I think it‘s a question of them, those on that side, you know, having a reckoning with the reality, which is you can‘t pull out right away. I mean, even if you opted to begin pulling troops out tomorrow, logistically, it would still take, you know, maybe a year to ultimately get to that point.
And I think that, you know, really the “pull out now and forget about the whole thing” constituency is still a minority even, you know, on the Democratic side. So I don‘t think that you‘re going to see a rush to the doors, so to speak.
I think you‘re going to—I think the Democrats in the Congress are going to give a head nod to their more respected senior members, like Carl Levin, for example, who are calling for a more measured withdrawal.
CARLSON: Interesting. It all looks much different after Election Day, always, every case.
CARLSON: Mike Hirsh, thanks very much.
HIRSH: Sure. Thank you.
CARLSON: So could the Biden plan work? And if not, has the White House run out of options in Iraq? Here to answer those questions from Washington, MSNBC political analyst Pat Buchanan.
PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Hello, Tucker.
CARLSON: Do you take the Biden plan seriously, dividing Iraq into three semi-autonomous regions?
BUCHANAN: I think it‘s a plan that looks very good on paper, but I think—I agree with the gentleman before me—I think that it‘s been bypassed by events. I think, in 2003-2004, the United States—it was a unipolar situation. The United States was the big power in Iraq, in all parts of it; I don‘t think that‘s true anymore.
I think we‘re one of many powers. Muqtada al-Sadr has 40,000 to 60,000 troops, enormous popularity in the Shia sectors. In the Anbar Province, you‘ve got Al Qaeda and the Sunni insurgents that tend to be dominant. You‘ve got the Peshmerga and the Kurds in the north fighting to get control of Kirkuk. I think this one is going to be solved by blood and iron.
CARLSON: So are you suggesting that there‘s not much the United States can do to influence the outcome of things in Iraq right now?
BUCHANAN: I really think, in the last analysis, if you take a look at these kinds of conflicts there, people who come out on top are people like Qaddafi, and Hafez al-Assad, and Saddam Hussein, and the ayatollah, who had an enormous movement, people with real power who bring something to the table.
And so I think they‘re the ones that are going to resolve this. And I don‘t think they‘re going to submit their desires and their will to some piece of paper. And when you look at the long-range problems, Tucker, suppose you‘ve got this nice three-way agreement. Who is going to put down Al Qaeda in Anbar Province?
CARLSON: But, wait, I mean, Pat, you‘re painting a picture in which the only winners are the bad guys, and the decent people, very much including us, lose, and there‘s nothing we can do about it. That‘s such a disaster. We can‘t allow that to happen, can we? We‘re the most powerful nation in history; don‘t we have to prevent that from happening?
BUCHANAN: Well, we‘re not the most powerful—we are the most powerful nation in Iraq, but we‘re no longer the only powerful force in Iraq.
Look, Tucker, this is what I‘ve been talking with our colleagues on MSNBC about. The United States is about to suffer an historic defeat here. We can‘t dictate the destiny of that country if we‘re going to pull out.
And the way I see it is: We‘re pulling out.
And other forces there, Iran has got—Iran, I think, would like to have a united Iraq under Shia domination. Its second choice would be a Shia split with all the oil wealth in the south. And so I think each of these forces now—I mean, they‘ve got irons in the fire now, and they‘re not intimidated by the United States anymore.
This is what it means, frankly, to lose a war, and that‘s going to be only the beginning, I think, if we pull out.
CARLSON: So, I mean, all of a sudden—maybe within the last two weeks or so—I think it‘s been clear to the average person that Iran really is a major player in what happens in Iraq. And it seems obvious we‘re on a collision course with Iran; what that means is unclear. But it seems to me we‘re going to likely wind up negotiating with Iran, to be totally blunt about it. Do you think so?
BUCHANAN: Oh, we‘re going to have to one day. Look, Iran, because we smashed the only bulwark against Iran in the Persian Gulf in two wars, Saddam Hussein‘s regime, and broke it all apart, there is a vacuum of power there. And Iran is a country of 70 million, a very dynamic country. They‘re going to move in and fill it.
And they‘ve already begun to fill it, because we‘ve turned Iraq over to the Shia, which is an enormous victory to them.
And, look, but I think we have common interests with Iran. Iran doesn‘t want a war with the United States. Frankly, they owe us an enormous debt for what we‘ve done for them. And I don‘t think they want Iraq broken up. I think they would prefer a unified Iraq under the Shia.
And they also don‘t want the Taliban back in Afghanistan, and so we have things we can talk with them about, but they‘ve got things they want, too, and so do the Syrians.
CARLSON: But, I mean, there‘s no—I mean, are you suggesting that we stand back and allow Iranian influence in Iraq to grow and just sort of accept that as inevitable? I mean, we can‘t do that, can we? I mean, this is a country that‘s killed a lot of Americans. It‘s sponsored acts of terror against our people, no?
BUCHANAN: Well, look, you know, the Chinese and the North Koreans—excuse me, North Vietnamese killed about 58,000 Americans, and we just had the president over there under the bust of Ho Chi Minh. So the Iranians have not killed as many Americans as a lot of regimes we‘ve negotiated with.
But, Tucker, look, if we are not going to go in there, and win this war, and dominate, and dictate that we‘re going to have a friendly government there, and we start pulling out, there is a vacuum. And the strongest force in the region to fill it is Iran.
And Muqtada al-Sadr is the strongest force now in the Shia region. So I think—I see them as really natural allies. Look, I think the United States—if you‘re not going to win the war—and we‘re not—you‘re going to have to accommodate yourself to the new reality.
CARLSON: Iran, I guess the one hitch in all this, is it presupposes that the people who run Iran are sane and responsive to reason.
BUCHANAN: Oh, I think they‘re...
CARLSON: But in some ways, they‘re acting irrational. I mean, they almost seem to be picking a war with Israel; no good can come of that for anybody. If they are rational, why would they be acting that way?
BUCHANAN: Look, they are fanatic, but they are very rational. You say they‘re picking a war with Israel. Have they taken a shot at Israel? Has Iran started a single war since its revolution? Has Iran started a war with the United States? They could get that in a second; they could get a war with Israel. Launch some rockets at Israel. You‘ll get the war you want.
These guys are fanatics, Tucker, but they are also rational. And I think they also look down the road at the long haul. And if they‘re smart, the long haul should say to them that they are going to inherit what is, after all, the Persian, not the Arab, Gulf. And they‘re going to be the dominant force there.
There‘s nothing left to block them now that we‘ve smashed the Arab pillar.
CARLSON: Interesting. Pat Buchanan, thank you. That is really instructive. I appreciate it.
BUCHANAN: Delighted, Tucker.
CARLSON: Still to come, how to save your presidency in just 100 days. Can it be done? We‘ve got advice for George W. Bush that comes from an unlikely quarter: the Clinton White House. Interesting.
And America‘s most and least popular politicians. It‘s bad news for some, good news for others. We‘ll tell you who‘s in which category when we come back.
CARLSON: The good news, sort of: John Kerry‘s won one national race. The bad news is: It doesn‘t bode well for his political future. Kerry was declared least likable in a Quinnipiac University poll in Americans‘ attitudes about 20 top politicians. Almost nobody liked him. Rudy Giuliani, meanwhile, took the top likeability spot. He was followed closely by Barack Obama. Bill Clinton was number five. Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton was number nine.
I spoke with Peter Brown earlier today and asked him if Kerry‘s poor showing came as a surprise.
PETER BROWN, QUINNIPIAC UNIVERSITY: Kerry‘s numbers have declined steadily over the year. We do these surveys every three months, and he finished dead last this time, at less than a 40 percent rating among Americans on a 1-100 scale. He was in the mid-40s when we started doing this earlier this year, so he‘s come down pretty steadily.
And worse for him is that only 5 percent of Americans don‘t have an opinion of him. So in order for him to run for president and do well, he‘s going to have to change people‘s minds, because they have already made a decision about whether they like him or not, and most don‘t like him.
CARLSON: That is harsh. I mean, you‘ve got to step back a moment and just imagine what it might be like to have poll numbers show up like that about you. It must hurt your feelings. What about Hillary Clinton? She‘s less popular than her husband?
BROWN: Hillary Clinton‘s rating is at 49 out of 100, which is almost even. It‘s a little higher than it‘s been. And it‘s pretty good. It‘s ahead of most of the other potential Democratic candidates.
Here‘s the problem for Hillary Clinton: Only 1 percent of Americans don‘t have an opinion about her. So that, in fact, to get much higher, she‘s going to have to also change people‘s minds.
Now, for instance, Barack Obama rates much higher, but 40 percent of Americans don‘t know much about him.
CARLSON: Huh. What about Rudy Giuliani? Where is he?
BROWN: Giuliani is, as you said, top of the list. He‘s in the mid-60s. He gets strong ratings from Democrats, from Republicans, and independents. And only about one-tenth of the American people don‘t have an opinion about him. So he has a little room to grow, but he doesn‘t need to grow any. He just needs to protect what he‘s got.
BROWN: McCain is in a similar situation. McCain‘s numbers are slightly lower than Giuliani‘s, but they‘re very positive. And he has strong support across the board. He‘s a little weaker among Democrats than independents and Republicans, but he runs very well among independents. And that would be key for his candidacy. He‘s the type of guy who could also grow, because, again, about one in 10 Americans haven‘t made a firm opinion about him.
CARLSON: About John McCain?
BROWN: About John McCain.
CARLSON: Amazing. And finally, who else looks promising, at least according to these poll results on the Republican side?
BROWN: On the Republican side, it‘s hard. Mitt Romney rates next best, but he‘s basically unknown. Two-thirds of Americans don‘t know enough about him to rate him.
What‘s interesting is John Edwards, because John Edwards is slightly higher than Hillary Clinton in the Democratic side, but 20 percent of Americans don‘t have an opinion about him, so that he has real potential to grow. And he on paper looks to be perhaps the strongest of the candidates, other than Obama, although there are clearly questions about Obama, because, again, 40 percent of Americans don‘t know enough about him to have an opinion.
CARLSON: John Edwards from out of nowhere. Peter Brown from Quinnipiac University, thank you very much.
BROWN: My pleasure.
CARLSON: Coming up, could the battle for the Republican frontrunner come down to John McCain versus Mitt Romney? We‘ll handicap that race, just ahead.
And how documents that could be a blueprint for terrorists wound up in public libraries across this country. Are we still that vulnerable? A shocking story, when we come back.
CARLSON: The next presidential election is still almost two years away, but for some candidates it‘s already too late. The question is:
Which Republicans actually have a shot at the White House, who will wind up sitting on the sidelines?
Joining me now from New York, one of the great political strategists of our time, a man who‘s advised John McCain, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Mitt Romney, and many more, Mike Murphy.
MIKE MURPHY, REPUBLICAN CONSULTANT: Hello.
CARLSON: So who—I know this is a difficult election for you since you‘ve worked for virtually everyone running so far. Is Romney the most conservative guy in this race?
MURPHY: Well, I‘m getting behind Duncan Hunter. I think that‘s going to be my master strategy here.
CARLSON: He‘s a nice guy.
MURPHY: Yes. No, I think it‘s really early. I think they‘re all good conservatives. I think a lot of the social conservatives have been impressed with Governor Romney, so he may be getting some names in that area. But, you know, John McCain has got a strong record on the pro-life issue and most of the litmus conservative stuff.
Sometimes he might not put the kind of accent on it, because he‘s worked so much in foreign affairs, but I think they‘re both good conservatives. I think the conservative-moderate thing will come into play if Rudy Giuliani gets in the race, because I think that‘s how both the McCain and the Romney world will try to isolate him a little bit, with Mitt trying to also isolate McCain.
CARLSON: This is the least conservative field I‘ve seen in my adult life on the Republican side. Why is that?
MURPHY: You know, it‘s an interesting point. Well, one, I‘m not sure it‘s mature yet. You know, other things are going to happen. Brownback may get in.
The question is: Are any of the classically, ideological conservative candidates going to have the ability to raise money, the base, and all the other things you need to be kind of a first-tier contender?
But it‘s true. I mean, I think both McCain, Romney, and to a little lesser extent Giuliani are kind of the more moderate conservatives, Giuliani being more of a pure moderate. And, you know, our presidential politics, there tend to be more movement conservatives in the past. And this time it looks a little less dominating.
CARLSON: So you‘d think after, lo, these many years in Iraq, nation-building would be discredited as an idea, but here‘s John McCain, according to a lot of polls, the most popular, the frontrunner in the race for the nomination in ‘08, this aggressive nation-builder, all for, you know, building democracy at the point of a gun around the world. He hasn‘t been hurt by that. Why?
MURPHY: Well, I‘ll defend my pal, McCain, because I think McCain is the adult on the issue, which is whether you like the war, whether you don‘t support the war, I think McCain is telling the truth, which is we either have to fight to win or not. And the current status quo of not having the resources there to go on offense is a mistake.
So I don‘t think McCain is talking about nation-building. I think he‘s talking about being realistic in a very, very tough situation with no easy outcome. And McCain is doing what McCain does well, which is say things that may not be popular, but I think people respect him for having a cogent opinion.
CARLSON: So at a time when everybody dislikes the war in Iraq, even people who work in the White House who can‘t say so publicly—I mean, it‘s just not a popular war—McCain comes out almost alone and says we need more troops. That helps him?
MURPHY: Well, McCain is not in the popularity business, and I think that helps him. I think people are tired of politicians who, you know, work on the weathervane principle. “Well, what‘s popular now?” “Strawberry ice cream.” “You know what this country needs? More strawberry ice cream.”
McCain tells it like it is, like him or hate him. And I think people respect him for that; it‘s his great advantage. But I agree, his position is not classically popular. But, you know, my view is that, you know, foreign policy sometimes should not be left to the simplicities of an election campaign, and I‘m worried we‘re going to fall into that for Iraq.
CARLSON: Well, I think most Americans agree with that, that, you know, foreign policy requires a view longer than a four-year election cycle, and I think they get that. When are you going to see candidates come out four-square against Bush? And does that have to happen?
MURPHY: Well, you know, it‘s still a Republican primary—like I heard the pollster you had before—and we‘ve got to remember that these primaries on both sides aren‘t about voters. They‘re about delegates.
You know, before you‘re anything, you‘ve got to win the nomination. And that race is a year away. It‘s going to be at the very beginning of 2008, so 2007 will be the campaign year. And I don‘t think in the Republican primary you‘re seeing anybody walk away from the president, but I think you will see almost everybody create their own identity and not be afraid to have some points of difference.
It will be a healthy family debate. But I don‘t think there will be a, quote, “anti-Bush candidate.” And if there is, I don‘t think he‘d get nominated.
CARLSON: If you were running the Republican campaign for president—and who knows, you may be, you may well be—who would you rather run against, Hillary or Barack Obama?
MURPHY: That‘s a very good question. I probably would rather run against Hillary, because she is old news and Barack is new news. I actually have a crank opinion about the Democratic primary. Good thing I don‘t work in Democratic politics. But I think Al Gore will be the nominee, if he runs. I think he is the one who is big enough to beat Hillary.
Barack might beat her; Edwards might beat her; but I think the real heavyweight who hasn‘t entered the stage in that primary is Gore. I have no idea if he‘ll run or not. And although Republicans like to mock him, I think Gore would be a very tough opponent in a general election.
CARLSON: Boy. Quickly, is there any evidence of—I know you‘re on the other side, but you know all the consultants in the business. Is there any evidence he‘s actually considering a run?
MURPHY: Oh, I think he‘s musing a little bit. I hear that through the consultant kind of tom-toms, but I don‘t have any concrete info. I just know that, when the Democrats nominate a southern white protestant—
Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton—the math works better for them.
And, for all Gore‘s mistakes last time, he has the advantage of having run last time, which is a very exclusive graduate school in American politics. Now, if he‘s gone completely nuts, he‘ll be a horrible candidate, but I‘m thinking he‘s maybe a little older, wiser, and smarter, and he is the one guy famous and big enough to take her on. I mean, she‘s got a lot going for her in the primaries, I think a little less in the general elections.
CARLSON: Boy, that would just be an answer to a prayer. Mike Murphy, thanks very much.
MURPHY: Thank you.
CARLSON: See you, Mike.
Still to come, the conventional wisdom says the Democrats‘ presidential hopes will come down to a battle between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. You heard us talking about it a moment ago. Could the convention wisdom, though, be wrong? We‘ll tell you when we come back.
CARLSON: Despite the Republican losses in Congress this month, some people believe President Bush still has time to redeem himself politically. The Center for American Progress proposes that the president has 100 days to tackle issues like national security, immigration reform, removing barriers to economic growth, the middle class, etc. The group just released its policy agenda today. Joining me now to discuss it Jennifer Palmieri. She served as deputy press secretary during the Clinton administration and is currently with the Center for American Progress. Jen, thanks for coming on.
JENNIFER PALMIERI, FMR. CLINTON DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY: Thanks for having me Tucker.
CARLSON: Before we talk about the specifics of this plan, we have got a little breaking political news.
PALMIERI: I heard.
CARLSON: Alcee Hastings of Florida, the former impeached federal judge, has been basically pulled—
PALMIERI: And current member of Congress.
CARLSON: And current member of Congress, and a very charming guy, has been pulled from consideration for replacing Jane Harman as head of the Intelligence Committee by Nancy Pelosi. He issued a statement that ended with, and I‘m quoting now, sorry haters, god is not finished with me yet. Alcee Hastings, he is going to be around for a while. What do you make of this disaster?
PALMIERI: Well, I think the haters—I‘m afraid the haters comment was directed personally at you, Tucker.
CARLSON: I like Alcee Hastings.
PALMIERI: I think the people who predicted that Mrs. Pelosi was going to have a difficult time with the caucus after the leadership battle between Murtha and Hoyer are proven wrong. I mean this is a very difficult situation for her to maneuver, and I think that she has maneuvered it well, and I think that Mrs.—Jane Harman is going—she has been very competent on intelligence matters and that should be, you know, and made a tough decision, but and one that I think is probably right for the Democratic caucus and, you know, ultimately the Congress.
CARLSON: Well it‘s certainly been enjoyable for the rest of us to watch, I must say.
PALMIERI: I‘m sorry that it ended before December, that she was able to wrap this up.
CARLSON: I feel that my soap opera is over. You know what, she‘ll provide more fodder, I have the feeling. I‘m certain of it, actually. Now to your recommendations for the president‘s, Center for American Progress, center-left think tank here in Washington, proposing all sorts of things the Bush administration ought to do in the first 100 days. Some of them, you know, make sense, restore military readiness, get better intelligence reports, fix our schools, etc, etc. We get to number five, though, here is the question that kind of popped out at me, demand Sudan end the violence on Darfur. You‘re basically suggesting, Democrats are suggesting that we send troops, if need be, to a Muslim country, occupy it in order to do good. Doesn‘t this sort of ignore the lessons we ought to have learned in Iraq over the last three years?
PALMIERI: Well, we‘re not suggesting that you start with putting troops into Sudan. What we‘re suggesting is that the administration has been very hot and cold on Sudan. You know, they had earlier in the administration, when Zealot was still the deputy secretary of state, he spent a lot of time in Sudan and he was actually able to make some good progress, but then he left. And now there is an envoy over there now. But when Bolton had the chance to weigh in, when the rest of the U.N. Security Five was meeting on Darfur in Africa, he took a pass. So if we have—what we‘re saying is that if the U.S. would play a more active, permanent, and consistent role in Darfur, that we think they would make a difference.
CARLSON: Here is what I am confused by, though, here you have North Korea and Iran, both of which threaten the world, both of those regimes commit human rights atrocities on a far larger scale than anything you have seen in Darfur.
PALMIERI: There‘s problems all over the world.
CARLSON: Exactly, but those countries threaten our existence and the existence of our allies, such as Israel. But Democrats, kind of, recoil in horror at the very thought of committing troops to those countries, a military intervention in North Korea or Iran. Why is that?
PALMIERI: We don‘t think it‘s a smart thing to do.
PALMIERI: Having military options for North Korea and also for Iran aren‘t off the table, but do we think that that‘s the best way to address conflicts there? No. I mean, is that where we‘re going to start? Are we going to start with armed conflicts?
CARLSON: Well I don‘t know, it just seems to me that Democrats are much more comfortable with military intervention when it has no obvious strategic value to the United States.
PALMIERI: I actually think that‘s not true. I could see why the stereotype is there. But, you know, I mean the sad—the same people who say Bill Clinton wouldn‘t go into Somalia—excuse me, into Rwanda, because of what happened to the U.S. marines in Somalia, you know, said that Democrats, to the contrary, they are scared to use our power, be it military, diplomatic, and otherwise, to fight genocide and they said that Clinton wasn‘t willing to do it in Rwanda.
PALMIERI: I actually think that in terms of—in terms of Democrats
being concerned—I mean, I think that being concerned about how you use -
how you use force, the rap over the past twelve years has been that they‘re scared to say that genocide is a time when we should use force. We‘re not saying—we are not recommending force in Darfur. What we‘re saying is that it is—it‘s genocide. It‘s wrong. The president has called it genocide.
The United States of America needs to restore its moral authority. And that we should be leading on this. And Bush has done some things that have been good on it, but he hasn‘t been consistent and that there is more that the U.S. could do, if they would have a little leadership. But, you know, military armed conflict isn‘t the first option in Sudan or Iran or North Korea.
CARLSON: Ah, you‘re not selling me.
CARLSON: Jennifer Palmieri, thank you very much.
PALMIERI: Always a pleasure, Tucker.
CARLSON: Thank you.
So is this policy agenda, the one we have gotten partly to here, something George W. Bush actually ought to consider? And what do the Democrats think of speaker-elect Nancy Pelosi‘s rejection of Alcee Hastings‘ bid to become chairman of the House Intelligence Committee?
For answers to those questions and more we welcome someone who follows the Hill very carefully, associate editor of the “Hill Newspaper,” A.B. Stoddard, joining us from Washington. A.B., welcome.
A.B. STODDARD, THE “HILL”: Hi, Tucker.
CARLSON: The second question first, Alcee Hastings out, forced out by Nancy Pelosi. He had the strong backing of the Congressional Black Caucus. What do they have to say about this, him being thrown overboard?
STODDARD: This will be a big problem, but I believe, as Alcee Hastings said, I mean, he obviously is going to set his sites on something else. And there must be some other plan that Nancy Pelosi has concocted with the Black Caucus about some other position for Alcee Hastings. He had the seniority in this position. Harman was—jumped over him and her time was up. So it‘s not likely she is going to pick Harman. We don‘t think that is going to happen, but Alcee Hastings was next in line. And he‘s going to have to be—he is going to have to be persuaded that there are other opportunities. So does the Black Caucus.
CARLSON: They are going to have to pay him off. But what exactly does the public—I don‘t mean that in a bad way. But they‘re going to have to give him something else, I think. What exactly is the public rationale then, as you pointed out, he is the senior man. I mean, he deserved to get this job.
STODDARD: Right, this is a path now of less resistance. I mean, we saw after this leadership fight, when Nancy Pelosi was going to choose Jack Murtha, who has ethical questions on his record, over Steny Hoyer, who was in line for the job, I think she realized, after weeks of press about this, that the Republicans were going to, sort of, create this cottage industry about investigating Jack Murtha and making hay of this, if he was the majority leader in the House.
I think that she heard—she saw the writing on the caucus room wall here about Alcee Hastings. The Democrats were saying please don‘t give—he might have cleared—he might have exonerated—been exonerated from everything from 20 years ago. He might deserve the job. He might have the seniority, but we cannot have a political liability at the starting gate. We can‘t have this. And I think she heard that.
CARLSON: To Congress more broadly for a second. Republicans, of course, lost earlier this month. But they still exist. There are still some of them in Congress, believe it or not. What‘s their plan? What are the going to work on in concert with the White House for the next two years?
STODDARD: The Democrats or the Republicans?
CARLSON: The Republicans.
STODDARD: I don‘t know. The Republicans, as you know, have decided to give Bush nothing, in these weeks up to the election, to shorten the lame duck session, to bail on the spending bills and leave it in the laps of the Democrats. And, you know, they are not in the mood right now to give President Bush anything. I think that their goal right now is to watch what happens in the first couple of months, a very important period for the Democrats, to see if they resist temptation to over reach, give in to temptation. Whatever happens, sort of, leave the stage to the Democrats and the president.
And the Republicans really want the majority back, obviously. They want to be able to sort of throw bombs and just mess up the Democrats, essentially. I think that there will be policy matters on which the White House and the Republicans will work together, but the blood is so bad right now, there is not some domestic agenda or strategy for Iraq that you see Republicans in Congress working with the White House on.
CARLSON: So, Barack Obama shows up to New Hampshire for his first, kind of, preparatory to running for president trip up there. Does this mean he is running for certain?
STODDARD: I mean, I think the fact that Barack Obama has now come out and said that he‘s considering it and is hiring key staff people and making some pretty quick moves and doing all this travel, is a pretty strong indication that he wants to proceed. Now, things, as you know, stop you on the path, but it seems, at this point, like, as he said, he hears what people are telling him.
When you have party faithful coming out and saying we have been in a wasteland and you are going to save us, you are going to get the White House back for us, please don‘t turn your back, I mean, I think he has been profoundly affected by that, and I think that he really wants to precede it. Like I said, it‘s a prickly path and there‘s many reasons not to do it. But he seems enamored right now.
CARLSON: Speaking of reasons not to do it, quickly, you heard Mike Murphy maybe a minute ago say he thought his eccentric view was that Al Gore is best positioned to get the nomination and in fact to win. Is that likely at all, do you think, that Gore will run?
STODDARD: You know, I don‘t know if Gore is going to run. I mean, it sounds reasonable that he‘s considering it. Maybe many in the party are asking him, as well, to reconsider. There is an interesting thing about this. You know, John Kerry can‘t run again for many reasons. And one of them is that you don‘t get another chance when you lose in the Democratic party. But Gore didn‘t numerically lose.
CARLSON: Well America doesn‘t like John Kerry either, apparently, according to—
STODDARD: That‘s why I said there are other reasons. I mean for gore, you know, does he run again as an outsider but, of course, having run and technically won? I mean, it‘s—there is—Gore is the exception to the, sort of, you know, the conventional wisdom here. I‘m interested. I do agree that just generally speaking, people like you when you have been gone. I mean they just like you better. Look at Newt Gingrich. Once you exit stage right and refashion yourself, I just think that Al Gore sort of has much more appeal than he left with.
CARLSON: I have never noticed the draft Mike Dukakis movement getting anywhere, but who knows?
STODDARD: I didn‘t say it applied to everyone. I just said leaving usually helps.
CARLSON: A.B. Stoddard, thank you very much.
STODDARD: Thank you.
CARLSON: How difficult is it to get sensitive information about nuclear plants in this country? Do you have a library card? Lisa Meyers joins us next with an alarming report about the availability of blue prints for terror.
CARLSON: You probably wouldn‘t know it, but scattered among the novels, magazines and encyclopedias at your local public library are some of this country‘s most sensitive nuclear documents. How did this information wind up at the finger tips of the general public, and more important, within easy reach of potential terrorists? NBC‘s senior investigative correspondent Lisa Myers joins me now from Washington with more, Lisa.
LISA MYERS, NBC INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: Good question Tucker. After 9/11, the federal government scrubbed websites, removing thousands of sensitive documents that might be useful to terrorists, but we discovered that the Nuclear Regulatory Commissions left thousands of those documents in libraries. We had no trouble finding them, why would the terrorists?
MYERS (voice-over): What if an airplane were to crash into a nuclear plant? The U.S. government actually studied that catastrophe and published the results in this 1982 report.
How long would it take terrorists to penetrate security barriers at a nuclear facility. The government ran drills like this and published the answers in this data base. These and thousands of other sensitive documents, considered virtual blueprints for terrorists, were removed from the website of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission after 9/11, but an NBC News hidden camera investigation found those same documents are still readily available at public libraries across the country. And accessing them was as easy as finding the right files, printing them out, and walking out the door, no questions asked. We shared our findings with the former chairman of the 9/11 Commission.
GOV. THOMAS KEAN, FMR. CO-CHAIRMAN 9/11 COMMISSION: It‘s appalling because what it means is we‘ve given the terrorists an easy map in order to find out about our nuclear facilities and that‘s the worst possible thing we could be doing.
MYERS: Dave Lochbaum, a nuclear safety expert recently bought thousands of sensitive NRC documents from a public library, including the report on the impact of a plane crash.
(on camera): So this would tell you exactly where you needed to hit on a nuclear plant to cause a melt down.
DAVE LOCHBAUM, NUCLEAR SAFETY EXPERT: That‘s correct. It basically draws a bulls eye on the plant.
MYERS: How could this happen? E-mails and letters obtained by NBC News show that after 9/11 the NRC did compile a list of extremely sensitive documents to be pulled from public collections, but it seems that request was never passed on to libraries and the documents, never removed.
(voice-over): In fact, we were able to obtain documents from that very list at all four libraries we visited. And federal investigators recently found them in all 25 libraries they checked. For security reasons, we will not reveal the location of the libraries, or the exact content of the documents. However, the NRC insists only a limited amount of sensitive information is still in the public domain, and claims the usefulness of this information is minimal, given its age and subsequent changes in the nuclear plants.
But engineer Dave Lockbalm strongly disagrees.
LOCHBAUM: The information is very explicit, is very detailed and would be very useful to the terrorists planning out such an attack.
MYERS: Useful and oh so easy to find.
MYERS: One other point, Tucker, one of the country‘s top nuclear safety experts had requested some of these documents from the NRC and been refused access to them on national security grounds. It seems odd that the NRC would remove documents from websites, deny access to scientists and then claim they purposefully left the documents in libraries because they were of minimal use to terrorists.
CARLSON: Sorry to laugh, it‘s just so amazing that the Patriot Act famously allowed the federal government some access to the borrowing habits of citizens. Is there any evidence that people with links to terror groups have tried to get these documents from libraries?
MYERS: So far there no evidence, but usually that‘s the kind of thing you only find out after the fact. And also, there are no records kept. When we went in and asked for access to these documents, our producer was shown Director to the NRC documents and she didn‘t have to sign in. She did not have to leave any record of what she copied. She just walked in, got access and walked out the door.
CARLSON: So there would be no way to know, that‘s amazing. NBC‘s Lisa Myers, thank you very much.
MYERS: You bet.
CARLSON: Why Borat is being blamed for the breakup of Kid Rock and Pamela Anderson, to shift gears fairly dramatically. We‘ll tell you that incredible story when we come right back.
CARLSON: Joining us now, a man who for national security reasons has been removed from your local public library, Willie Geist, Willie.
WILLIE GEIST, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: You know, Tucker, it struck me watching Lisa Myers‘ very interesting piece, I haven‘t been to the library in about 10 years probably, and I would like to know who still goes to libraries. It‘s actually a question, do people still go to libraries?
CARLSON: People who can read, yes.
GEIST: But what about book stores and things like that. I don‘t know, I‘m just suspicious of people who lurk around libraries.
CARLSON: My kids go. Yes, stay away from the men‘s room, definitely.
GEIST: Tucker, we reported to you yesterday the sad news that Pamela Anderson and Kid Rock have called it quits after less than four months of marriage. What we didn‘t know was that irreconcilable differences was just code language for Borat. The “New York Post” Page Six reports Kid Rock was furious after seeing a private screening of the Borat movie with his wife Pamela. If you haven‘t seen it, the plot revolves around Borat‘s quest to find and marry Pamela Anderson.
The report says Kid Rock was not happy about Anderson‘s role in the movie and yelled unkind things to her, which I will not repeat, in front of everyone after the screening. And apparently, Tucker, that was the beginning of the end. And I know Borat is a cultural force. He certainly changed my life. But if he is coming between you and your wife, there are probably some other underlying things. I don‘t think it‘s Borat alone who ended the marriage.
CARLSON: Well, I mean, I think the question is, if you believed your wife was flirting with Borat, wouldn‘t that be enough to wreck your marriage? Yes, probably.
GEIST: If you‘re threatened by Borat, then you have serious problems with yourself, I think. Tucker, who would you turn to for a little stability if you were going through a very public divorce? Paris Hilton, of course. With Kevin Federline in the rear view mirror, Britney Spears has stepped out publicly with her new best friend Paris. Britney and Paris have been hanging out nearly non-stop for the last couple of weeks, shopping, going out to clubs, even spending a little quality time with Britney‘s son Sean Preston.
Now Tucker, I was analyzing this, because I am the pop culture analyst here on the show. This is actually an upgrade from K-Fed. Paris is an upgrade, because number one, she doesn‘t rap. So you have that going for her, and number two, she doesn‘t require a weekly allowance. You know what I mean, she is paying her own way and she doesn‘t rap. Those are the two things she has.
CARLSON: Well, she‘s got her own perfume line.
GEIST: Totally. You know, I was looking at them, what do you think the combined S.A.T. score on those two is? Something to think about.
CARLSON: Room temperature.
GEIST: Finally, Tucker, I don‘t have to tell you the Indian snake charming industry was absolutely crippled when the national government recently banned the training and displaying of snakes. Snake charmers are demonstrating this week to protest the new laws, which they say deprive them of their livelihood, and maybe their manlihood. Many said they would continue to charm snakes, even at the risk of imprisonment. This is an inspiring story. It‘s kind of like Norma Ray, isn‘t it Tucker.
CARLSON: It really is.
GEIST: The scrappy union workers, the snake charmers. But can I ask you a question, is snake charming real? Isn‘t there like something going on with like—it‘s like a magician right? They‘re not really charming snakes?
CARLSON: It‘s totally real. And let me just say Willie, if snake charming is wrong, I don‘t want to be right. And good for them for standing up.
GEIST: You just don‘t take away a man‘s right to charm snakes. You take away his manhood when you do that. It‘s wrong.
CARLSON: Willie Geist. Thanks Willie. That‘s our show for today. Thank you for watching. We‘ll be here tomorrow at the same time. Hope to see you then.
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