Guests: A.B. Stoddard, Peter Beinart, Ralph Nader
TUCKER CARLSON, HOST: Welcome to the Tuesday edition of the show.
With the situation on the ground in Iraq as violent as ever, President Bush focuses on Iraq. And his adversaries in Congress focus on each other and what to do about their hatred of Bush‘s policies.
More on the president, the Congress and the Iranian threat in just a minute.
We begin today, though, with the question of impeachment.
In December of 2005, Congressman John Conyers of Michigan introduced House Resolution 635. It was meant to investigate the administration‘s behavior during the run-up to war in Iraq and to “make recommendations” regarding grounds for possible impeachment of George W. Bush. A total of 38 Democrats signed on as co-sponsors of that legislation.
Fast forward 14 months. John Conyers is no longer an isolated ideologue laboring unnoticed in the minority party. John Conyers is the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. Charlie Rangel, one of that bill‘s co-sponsors, is chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee.
Suddenly, advocates for Bush‘s impeachment are running the country. But they are no longer advocating impeachment. Why is that?
Do they believe that Bush has become a better person? That the crimes they claim he has committed weren‘t criminal after all? Probably not.
The more likely answers, they are cowards. They are terrified to say what they really think for fear of political consequences. What a disappointment.
In this case, the moral imperative is pretty simple: If you think Bush is destroying America by violating its laws, do your best to remove him from office. Or be quiet.
We‘ll have more on that in just a minute. But we turn back now to Iraq with today‘s guests.
Joining us, A.B. Stoddard, associate editor of “The Hill” newspaper, and Peter Beinart, senior fellow at the Council for Foreign Relations, also editor-at-large at “The New Republic.”
Welcome to you both.
So I think, A.B., Russ Feingold has a pretty good point here. Russ Feingold, whether you like him or not, whether you agree with him—I disagree with him on virtually everything, but he‘s got—he‘s a brave character, and this is what he said today about cutting off funding for the war in Iraq.
He said, “We must finally break this taboo that somehow Congress cannot talk about using its power of the purse to end the war in Iraq. The Constitution makes this a coequal branch of government. It‘s time we start acting like it. We have a moral responsibility, as well as responsibility to our troops to end the war.”
Is anybody being won over by this argument?
A.B. STODDARD, “THE HILL”: I think that a thousand flowers are going to bloom. And we—we‘re into February now, and the Democrats are having this discussion about, “Let me tell you what our congressional authority means,” and, you know, “Let me have my hearing to explain to you what we can do to stop the commander in chief.
The leadership in the Congress has made a decision not to touch the purse strings. And everyone else who what wants to run around and have hearings and go before the cameras and talk about this can do so, but the leadership wants to make the Republicans...
CARLSON: Leadership meaning Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi?
STODDARD: Yes. The people who are running the House and the Senate. Really, you know, they know everyone is running for president and everyone has their opinions and everyone is listening to the passionate left and all the activists and all the protesters and all the groups, but the leadership of the Congress doesn‘t want to do this. They want to make Republicans end the war.
STODDARD: And Republicans—the interesting thing about the last few days is that Republicans have finally come around to the wise course, I think, which is to divide and conquer. They‘re splintering now, and it‘s making it harder for the Democrats to push them into a group opposing—opposing the president.
CARLSON: Well, Peter, you‘ve got to concede no matter what you think of Feingold‘s point, it is a consistent point. And it is a point that passionate opponents of the war, I think, have a responsibility to take this seriously and decide. You know, what do we support? Do we support an immediate pullout?
If we think it‘s a disaster that can‘t get better, you kind of have a moral obligation to support immediate pullout. And if you think it can be won, then to think of a way to win it, don‘t you think?
PETER BEINART, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: Yes. I think Feingold is a smart guy and I think he‘s a principled guy. But I think it is not immoral to consider political considerations.
The Democratic Party has a long-term history of a perception amongst Americans that it is—it is not pro-military. That has receded in the last couple of years because Bush has made such a hash of these things. But there is still that larger context.
BEINART: And Democrats, who have an enormous opportunity going towards 2008 to win the president, to have the majorities in both Congress and really be able to do a lot of things they have been waiting to do for years and years and years, are not immoral to think of the potential sabotage if they were perceived to be anti-troops.
CARLSON: Well, which of those things is more important than Iraq? And I‘ll answer my own question. And moreover, you‘re not talking about winning a higher minimum wage, right, or instituting affirmative action. You‘re talking about, as Democrats always point out, the lives of thousands of Americans.
It‘s kind of a big deal. It doesn‘t rise to the level of one of those issues that you just pursue regardless of consequence because you know it‘s right?
BEINART: Well, first of all, I think there‘s a real question about whether
even if you did what Feingold wanted, you would really stop this deployment
anyway. I think that‘s a very serious—that‘s a very real practical
question. But beyond that, I think that Democrats—there—you have to
there is a real concern that you do not want to undermine the troops in battle, even if you think they were being sent there under disastrous circumstances and it was a huge mistake.
CARLSON: I wonder, A.B., without getting into many of the complexities of how some legislation, you know, winds its way through Congress, is it possible, do you think, as a practical matter, for the Congress to stop the war? I mean, if they decided to do it, could they?
STODDARD: I think if they sort of went all the way. But if they wanted to hedge this and do it halfway, act like they were doing it so they could kind of straddle and have it both ways, they would run into serious problems, which is to try and sort of do this line item managing of these bills.
I think the administration could really mess with them. If you try to say, let‘s propose, I think, as Jim—Senator Webb has proposed, let‘s propose cutting off the funds for Iraq reconstruction, let‘s say, which won‘t, you know, compromise our troops...
CARLSON: Hopefully not.
STODDARD: ... but if you try to go around and go in circles, I think you end up with a real mess on your hands, because I think it still can still be perceived as something.
CARLSON: I must say—I mean, I just don‘t respect this at all. If you really think it can‘t be won—and I wonder, Peter, what percentage do you believe of Democrats in Congress believe it just can‘t be won, it will never be won, this isn‘t going to work ever, the best we can do is just get home quickly? I mean, it‘s got to be at least 50 percent, wouldn‘t you say?
STODDARD: No doubt.
BEINART: Oh, I think more than 50 percent.
CARLSON: Right. OK.
BEINART: I think it‘s probably 50 percent of Republicans and 90 percent of Democrats.
BEINART: But look, there is—there is an argument that suggests that by Bush‘s own logic and by the increasing pressure amongst Republicans, it is going to become clear pretty quickly in the next few months that this surge has failed, and that the pressure politically may go within a few months to such a strong position that the Bush administration may have to reverse course.
CARLSON: But what about all the guys who die in the meantime? What about John Kerry—who wants to be the last man to die for a mistake? I mean, they are getting up every day and making these melodramatic and maybe correct arguments on behalf of the soldiers, and then they‘re ignoring them in practice (ph).
BEINART: You can believe—you can believe that the war is a disaster and we need to leave and also be concerned about how we withdraw. I mea, America leaving immediately, right away, all of our troops, is not necessarily the most humane thing to do, even if you believe in a withdrawal.
CARLSON: Well, that‘s an entirely—that‘s an entirely separate and I think smart question. I haven‘t even heard anybody talk about that. If we are going to get out, how exactly would we do that? I haven‘t heard anybody bring that up.
BEINART: I think probably we need to withdraw U.S. combat troops away from Iraq cities, but we may need to have a significant presence in the region, even in the country itself, just to deal with some of the potential humanitarian consequences.
CARLSON: Very quickly, A.B., George Casey, Army chief of staff, coming up for confirmation hearings. Petraeus—General Petraeus got through. Everybody voted for Petraeus.
Is Casey going to get through?
STODDARD: I think the only—from what I know, Senator McCain is the only person who is objected so far...
STODDARD: ... to him being Army chief. So, I don‘t—I don‘t—I don‘t expect he‘s going to have a problem. I think that Senator McCain—it will be interesting to see, you know, when—how he sort of articulates his opposition and why.
CARLSON: What a cowardly group, I have to say.
I‘m not impressed.
Coming up, would you vote for John McCain, Rudy Giuliani, or Mitt Romney? A lot of conservatives would not vote for any of those guys. A look at the shallow pool of talent among Republican applicants for president in just a minute.
Plus, so many Democrats accuse President Bush of lying about Iraq in order to start the war. Why doesn‘t any of them have the guts to start impeachment hearings? It may be more about the Democrats than it says about Bush.
CARLSON: Depending where you are on the ideological spectrum, our next guest is either a hero or a villain. But there‘s no denying he is a figure out of American political history.
We are joined now by Ralph Nader, consumer activist and two-time third-party presidential candidate. He‘s also the author of a brand new book, “The Seventeen Traditions,” which is out today.
Ralph Nader, thanks a lot for joining us.
RALPH NADER, CONSUMER ACTIVIST: Thank you, Tucker.
CARLSON: A number of years ago, you said—and I‘m quoting—you‘ve said things like this many times. This is one that struck me. “The Democratic Party has become so bankrupt, it doesn‘t matter if it wins elections.”
Looking at the new Democratic Congress, having just won this election this past November, do you still feel that way about the party?
NADER: Well, I was talking about presidential elections...
CARLSON: Right. You were.
NADER: ... but these Democratic elections in the Congress bring back to the forefront of the key chairs in the House of Representativings, like the chairman of Judiciary Committee, the chairman of the Telecommunications Committee, the most progressive Democrats of the whole lot—Ed Markey, Henry Maxman, John Conyers.
So, I‘ve always worked with them in the past. Was glad to see them on board again.
CARLSON: So you think that a Democratic Congress is better than a Republican Congress. I remember you were arguing previously for Tom DeLay to stay in office because he would, you k now, be this poster child for corruption and it was good for the activist wing of, I guess, wherever you are on the spectrum to have him in office.
Do you think it‘s better for America that Democrats are in control?
NADER: Yes. I think in terms of the key chair people, yes. But remember, when Clinton controlled the Congress—the Democrats controlled the Congress the first two years of the Clinton administration, they didn‘t do very much at all. But I think 12 years out of power has brought back some pretty hungry old progressives.
CARLSON: What do you think of impeaching Bush? I know you‘ve called for it publicly, at least called for the beginning of a conversation about impeaching him. If Democrats believe he is as evil as they say he is, why aren‘t they beginning impeachment proceedings against him?
NADER: I don‘t understand that. I think he‘s the most serial impeachable president in modern history, if not American history, on one grounds after another. And I can‘t understand why they don‘t want to do it, unless possibly two reasons.
One is that Nancy Pelosi will be the next in line, and if they impeach—if they impeach Bush, they‘ve got to impeach Cheney. It‘s a package deal.
NADER: They‘re not going to impeach Bush and have Cheney take over.
And second, it‘s really strange. Two years ago, Tucker, there was a national poll that asked the question, “If you believed that President Bush lied about the reasons for going to Iraq, would you favor impeachment?” And two years ago, 52 percent said yes. Of course, even more has come out now from many of your own colleagues in reputable journalism.
And I think the Democrats may see a clear ark toward winning in 2008. There are too many imponderables and potential uncertainties to an impeachment drive, and they know the Republicans can stop them in the Congress.
NADER: So why do it? But it is a matter of principle. What‘s the point of the impeachment provision in the Constitution?
CARLSON: I agree.
NADER: For heaven‘s sake...
CARLSON: They‘re cowards.
NADER: Yes. In that sense.
And the least they can do is have impeachment inquiry hearings so for the historical record it‘s put out for people to see.
CARLSON: I agree. And I hope you testify at those hearings.
“The Seventeen Traditions” is your new book. As I understand, it‘s about your childhood. It‘s out today.
Tell me a couple of the traditions.
NADER: Well, the civic tradition is one. I mean, there are a lot of traditions—the charity tradition, the patriotism tradition, the business tradition. My father was a restaurateur.
The tradition of sibling equality, the tradition of listening, learning how to listen. The tradition of the family food table. But the one that obviously shaped me so much was the civic tradition.
My parents were very active in the community, and they didn‘t say, you‘ve got to go to a town meeting or you‘ve got to go to this rally. No. They just did it themselves, whether it was expanding a local hospital, helping to do that, whether it‘s getting Senator Prescott Bush, the grandfather of the president, to build a dry dam to prevent disastrous floods from hurricanes in our hometown which occurred. Whatever it was.
We just watched them and then listened and participated. And they made it part of our heritage, that freedom has a responsibility component to it. We can‘t just wave the flag and expect someone else to have a more just society.
CARLSON: I agree with that. So you are going to carry on the civic tradition by running again as a third-party candidate in 2008?
NADER: It‘s too early to say. But I think you‘ll find this book tremendously helpful as a father, Tucker.
CARLSON: Well, what do you—very quickly, what do you mean by sibling equality, Ralph?
NADER: One of the worst things parents can do is prefer consistently one child over another.
NADER: Devastating scarring. And my mother and father never did that.
They never said, well, look at your older sister.
NADER: Look what you‘re doing. They never did that. And that‘s what sibling equality is all about. They also...
CARLSON: That‘s a very wise point, by the way.
NADER: Yes. Yes.
They also made sure that any disagreements they had were—were not in front of us. They were in private.
They wanted to maintain that respect. And they also made sure that they knew who our friends were, because they knew that the peer group, as the psychologists put it, are the big competitors to the parents in family upbringing.
NADER: And just so much common sense and intuitive good judgment. And the book really is to encourage a lot of families to look in the wisdom of their past, their grandparents and great aunts and uncles.
CARLSON: “The Seventeen Traditions” by Ralph Nader, out today.
Ralph, thanks a lot for coming on.
NADER: Thanks, Tucker.
CARLSON: Coming up, the prospect of Iranian dominance in the Middle East should scare the hell out of the rest of the world, but our old friends in old Europe act as if they‘re unmoved. Why is that? We‘ll tell you when we get to that.
Then we‘ll discuss impeachment. Why if the president did this horrible thing that everyone says he did, lied about the war in Iraq. Why aren‘t his opponents bringing him up on impeachment charges?
We‘ll tell you. We‘ll be right back.
CARLSON: When Nancy Pelosi took the impeachment of President Bush “off the table,” she surely comforted people who remember the disabling of commanders in chief Nixon and Clinton. However, John Conyers of Michigan, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, announced hearings to begin tomorrow on George W. Bush‘s expansion of presidential power, which may or may not be a crime.
Will the Conyers hearing revive talk of impeachment?
Here to discuss that, A.B. Stoddard, associate editor of “The Hill,” and Peter Beinart, senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and also the former editor of “The New Republic,” a great magazine.
Welcome to you both.
Here‘s what Keith Ellison said, Peter. Keith Ellison, of course, a newly elected congressman, the only Muslim in Congress, a Democrat.
In October, he said that Bush is “running amuck.” “There is one way that we can truly hold this president accountable,” said Ellison. “That is impeachment.”
He took a thousand dollars this last election from an impeachment PAC. Now he says—and I‘m quoting now from Keith Ellison—“My opinions really have not changed over time, but the circumstances that I‘m in have changed.”
What a coward. He believes impeachment is the right thing for the country, but he‘s afraid to push for it.
BEINART: Politics is the art of the possible. It‘s not cowardly to not go running after things that are impossible.
I think that if you‘re—I would say this about impeachment: If the standard is what the Republicans did—I imagine you support it, too—on Bill Clinton, then I would say yes. I think George W. Bush has done things that are more impeachable than what—than what Bill Clinton did. But I don‘t want the standard to be lowered so much that we get into a situation where every president who does some really stupid things becomes impeached, because then the political system will really be weakened.
CARLSON: Well, I agree. And we also have elections every four years to kind of settle this. And Bush was re-elected. I know it seems hard to believe now. That‘s what you get for running John Kerry.
A.B., you have John Conyers, who really is, having spent some time with John Conyers—it‘s almost hard to believe he‘s in the Congress he‘s so far out. I mean, he just published a book on Bush‘s crimes. He‘s a screamer. I mean, he‘s one of the most left-wing people I‘ve ever met, and I‘m from California.
He is now running the Judiciary Committee. I mean, this guy does have a mind of his own. He‘s not going to push for impeachment?
STODDARD: Well, he tried before. And when they were the minority and they were...
CARLSON: That‘s right.
STODDARD: And last May, he—there was some discussion about impeachment. And someone asked, I think, Nancy Pelosi, and she said, oh, no, it‘s not going to happen. And literally within 13 days there was a John Conyers editorial in “The Washington Post” saying, I‘m not going to push for impeachment because blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.
And I think that...
CARLSON: So she cracks the whip.
STODDARD: I think the whip is then cracked. But, you know, I know Republicans who voted—sane, grownup, respectable people who voted for Bush...
STODDARD: ... who would like him to not be in office tomorrow. I think
the act of impeachment is so severe. And I think both parties learned from
the impeachment of President Clinton, although it was on grounds that, you
know, it was a sex scandal and lying and different things, but I think that
I think that Peter‘s right, when you lower the bar...
CARLSON: But look what happened...
STODDARD: And once you‘ve gone through it, it was so—I mean, it really was so really scarring. And I think the Democrats...
CARLSON: It was interesting.
STODDARD: ... about how much the Democrats—how angry they were with Clinton for what he had done, and how they didn‘t want to stick by him, and how they slowly came around under minority leader Gephardt...
STODDARD: ... to the reality that they had to stop what the Republicans were doing. And in the end, they picked up seats in the ‘98 election.
CARLSON: That‘s right.
STODDARD: And they prevailed upon the public about the process and how damaging it was.
CARLSON: But they didn‘t—I was there. I was actually in the Congress that day when impeachment began, and I remember trying to find a Democrat who would stand up for Clinton. The Black Caucus stood up for him, to their credit or not. But they did. They were always there for him.
But your average Democrat was running away to the cameras to say, oh, this guy‘s a creep. I mean, they didn‘t stand up for him.
BEINART: What saved Clinton was the polling, actually...
BEINART: ... which showed that the American people were never on board. But I think also A.B. is making a very important point, which is that the one thing that could solidify Republicans behind this president—and they are so angry at him and fleeing—would be if Democrats were to go for impeachment.
BEINART: That would be the one thing I thin that could put the Republican Party essentially back together again.
CARLSON: Well, so what would happen—OK, A.B., since you‘re the expert on this...
STODDARD: But I think the Republicans, what they would do is they wouldn‘t so much defend Bush, as they would say, look, the Democrats are power hungry, we, too, oppose the war.
STODDARD: We, too, think it‘s a disaster.
CARLSON: Of course. No, of course.
STODDARD: Please, let us ride it out.
CARLSON: It would have been so easy to triangulate against impeachment. I mean, how easy is that?
BEINART: A good compromise would be to impeach Cheney.
CARLSON: Well, the idea is to impeach them both, because...
STODDARD: Yes, that would be interesting.
CARLSON: ... as slow as some of these guys are, they‘d figure out, if you impeach Bush, Dick Cheney‘s president. Whoa, we don‘t want that.
Let‘s say they both were impeached, they both were convicted. Would that make Nancy Pelosi the president?
STODDARD: I guess—I mean, I guess it would. I haven‘t really been in that scenario before.
CARLSON: You haven‘t thought it through.
STODDARD: I guess that it would, but I think that the point being made about impeaching both of them, the fact that you couldn‘t just impeach Bush, is obviously a salient poit. I mean, you just really couldn‘t look at what Cheney has, you know, practically admitted at this point.
I think the whole thing is just impossible.
CARLSON: No, but wait a second.
STODDARD: It‘s just impossible.
CARLSON: OK. I understand it‘s impossible...
STODDARD: But it‘s a great...
CARLSON: I don‘t think anybody has told Susan Sarandon that, by the way, because she‘s...
STODDARD: And listen. You know, Ralph Nader brought up a poll. He said it was from two years ago and there was about 53 percent of—of the public was favor of impeachment if you learned that he had lied about such and such. About a year ago there was a poll at 53, 54 percent for censure.
This discussion will go on and on. It will not stop. And it might—John Conyers might start talking about it again, but are they actually going to proceed? I mean, no.
CARLSON: Of course not. It would be interesting.
STODDARD: So I think we‘re back to Democrats are cowards.
CARLSON: I think if the average American understood what John Conyers says on a day-to-day basis, the average American would be pretty blown away. I honestly believe that. Just my...
STODDARD: I think you‘re right.
CARLSON: Coming up, the Democrats have at least three impressive entries in the race for the presidency. So where are all the talented Republicans? Whatever happened to them? Conservatives want to know. We‘ll try and find out.
Plus, the trial of Scooter Libby is less about Mr. Libby‘s alleged misdeeds and more about an administration turning against itself. We‘ll have today‘s update on the melodrama unfolding among all the president‘s men and women.
CARLSON: The leading Democratic presidential candidates are in pretty good shape at this point. They have generated enthusiasm among likely voters. They have received largely slobbering media coverage. But what about the Republicans? Today‘s political reports glowing malaise among conservative consultants, political strategists and talk show hosts, especially, over a lack of an inspiring 2008 candidate.
For analysis of the GOP‘s presidential problems and more, we welcome back A.B. Stoddard, associate editor of “The Hill,” and Peter Beinart, senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, also editor at large of the “New Republic.” Welcome to you both.
Before we get there, I just could not resist putting up on the screen the remarkable similarities between Hillary Clinton‘s current rhetoric and John Edwards‘ rhetoric from 2003. John Edwards, of course, is running first in the polls in Iowa. Hillary Clinton would like to take his place in that position.
Here‘s what John Edwards said at a Democratic president forum in Des Moines, Iowa, May 17th, 2003: my father worked very hard, because he believed it was the right thing to do and he thought he could help build a better future for his family. That‘s the basic bargain we make with the American people. If you work hard, if you act responsibly, you can build a better life for yourself and your families.” That‘s John Edwards.
Here‘s Hillary Clinton last week, this weekend, quote: “My father believe in the basic bargain that America offered. You work hard, play by the rules, you do what you can to further your own life, your country is going to be on your side.”
STODDARD: I mean, just remember, he‘s ahead in Iowa and she is in it to win.
CARLSON: I know she is.
BEINART: They are both really copying Bill Clinton. That line about work hard and play by the rules is a a line he used to say over and over and over again. So I actually think the Clintons got to that line first.
CARLSON: So it‘s OK to plagiarize from your husband, but not from the former president?
BEINART: It‘s better.
CARLSON: It‘s better, OK. Good point. That‘s not a bad point. We‘re probably going to see a lot of that. Will she take up lip chewing, do you think? Feeling your pain, you know what I mean?
BEINART: Let‘s hope not.
CARLSON: Yes, I bet, unlike Clinton, she will not get weepy in public. That‘s my prediction. I don‘t think she can. OK, Politico, interesting piece this morning on the GOP presidential contenders. I can say this as a conservative, I‘m disappointed by the field. I think a lot of people who are still conservative, the eight of us left in this country, feel that way. Here‘s what it said. I thought a particularly interesting point about Rudy Giuliani. It says Giuliani is running first in the polls right now, among likely Republican voters. People really like him because they remember his leadership in 9/11, and cleaning up New York, and all that stuff.
Quote, “but one can imagine the reaction among those on an Iowa Republican committee when they are reminded by the media and by Giuliani‘s opponents about his social views, or the fact that he once decamped from Gracie Mansion and moved in with a gay male couple and their pet Shih Tzu, Bonnie, while awaiting his second divorce.”
I love it. Is that actually a problem? That‘s what everybody says about Rudy Giuliani, A.B. He‘s too liberal.
STODDARD: The other problem about Rudy Giuliani, as someone who is on his side and hopes he will run told me the other day, Rudy Giuliani is going to just tell them that they can do you know what with themselves. He has got a temper.
CARLSON: Tell who they can do what?
STODDARD: Any of these primary—in these intimate settings in Iowa,
in the primary process, when someone challenges him, if it gets, you know,
a little bit cross, he—John McCain has these eruptions where he talks
back to people, but then he feels really sorry, because he really wants to
be like, but Rudy Giuliani doesn‘t care about being liked, say his friends
and supporters. And so there is a real potential not only for differences
on policy grounds, on his record on social views, but he really has sort of
there‘s a real possibility he erupts and he blows it when they discuss these differences.
CARLSON: So when somebody asks him about Bonnie the gay Shih Tzu, he just say up yours.
BEINART: I don‘t think the Shih Tzu was gay.
CARLSON: Whatever, I don‘t know.
CARLSON: From the outside looking in, Peter, do you think that conventional wisdom, that Rudy Giuliani, who again, I can‘t restate this enough, running number one in national polls, not that that‘s definitive, but it says something. Do you think his positions on social issues will disqualify him as the candidate for the Republicans?
BEINART: Well, I think they will in Iowa, but I‘m not necessarily sure in New Hampshire. Interesting thing about New Hampshire is that McCain is tanking there. I mean, I agree with you generally about Giuliani‘s problems, but McCain is really tanking as a candidate, because he is so tied to this surge position. It seems to me it does change the tenor of the race and California getting in so early now, it seems to me creates a different kind of opportunity for Giuliani, particularly if McCain loses the support of moderate independents, as he has over the war.
CARLSON: I think that‘s a smart point. A.B., I‘m not the first to notice—I‘m probably the thousandth person to notice—just how non-conservative and non-inspiring this Republican field is, at least from the position of a conservative. I‘m not attacking anyone individually, but it‘s not—The Democratic side is way more impressive relatively speaking. Why is that?
STODDARD: My question is what took them so long? I mean, I—Peter lays out a good case for how it could shift for someone like Giuliani to secure the nomination on the Republican side. I would be so surprised to see the Republican party at this point abandon some of its core principles, that are the deciding factors in the primary process, in the nominating contest, and go with someone like Rudy Giuliani.
It would be a serious break, a serious break. And that is why I‘ve really believed all along that McCain is stumbling, that once Giuliani gets out there and they hash out his past record on these views, and, like I said, possibly he gets into some—a little bit of a scuffle, there really is room on the Republican side for former governor of Virginia James Gilmore, or someone to come in and be the conservative candidate.
CARLSON: That would be Mike Huckabee, former governor of Arkansas.
STODDARD: Well, apparently he raised tax and that‘s not --
CARLSON: Do you take Mitt Romney seriously?
BEINART: Yes, I do actually. I think that if you (INAUDIBLE) Republican thinking about 2008, you want someone who is as different from George W. Bush as possible, as far away from Washington as possible. Romney looks like a good manager, someone who can speak about domestic issues, someone who has done something on health care. He‘s a very competent, impressive guy. He talked about globalization, economic threats to the country. I think he may be the strongest the Republicans have.
CARLSON: I think Hillary Clinton could spank him like the bad girl he is.
STODDARD: And again, how does he get through the discussion of all of those flip-flops, with those die hard voters in the primary process?
CARLSON: Yes, in 1994, in his race against Ted Kennedy, he said, I will be more pro-gay than Ted Kennedy. And this time around he is saying gay people? No, I don‘t know who they are.
BEINART: It‘s true, but the front tier is him, Giuliani and McCain, so unless Huckabee or Brownback or someone emerges, you have to choose your poison between those three.
CARLSON: I think that‘s all the more tragedy, it seems to me, all the more to regard as a tragedy the White House attacks on Chuck Hagel as a liberal. He is actually the most conservative guy in this race, were he to get in. He has taken a conservative position on Iraq from day one. He is written off as some kind of Ted Kennedy figure, totally unfair, and his political career is probably over now that I‘ve said nice things about him.
What do you make, Peter, of Iran? We learned today in the “New York Times” that all these different European nations, including Great Britain, are basically refusing to stop doing huge amounts of business with Iran. Liberals always say we need an international coalition. We need the rest of the world to lead the way. Where here‘s the rest of the world. They‘re always talking about Belgium and France. Belgium and France are totally sucking up to one of the most evil regimes there is.
BEINART: Yes, I think it‘s pretty appalling actually. I don‘t think that multi-lateralism, as Democrats imagine it, means you just go along with whatever other countries want. It‘s partly about America having the credibility to convince those countries to do things they wouldn‘t naturally do. That‘s the credibility this administration doesn‘t have, the leverage to get the Europeans, who have a lot more economic ties to Iran than we do, to change their position.
CARLSON: Wait, you can‘t just blame—You‘re right, of course, Europeans, a lot of the rest of the world, everyone hates Bush. That hurts our credibility, of course. They‘re mad about the war, of course. On the other hand, they have free will. They‘re big boys. They can make their own decisions. They know that Ahmadinejad is a nut cake. They know that Iran wants nuclear weapons, and they are still propping up the regime, in effect, by doing all this trade with them. It‘s their fault.
BEINART: They‘re free-riding. It‘s a not a new story. It‘s what they did on Bosnia too. It‘s what the Europeans have a tendency to do, unless America can really effectively lead.
CARLSON: Well so, they are cynical and corrupt in a way—I‘m serious. They are. I mean, I love their food. I think their cheese is second to none, but let‘s be totally honest, they are cynical and corrupt. When are politicians going to stop pointing to old Europe as the model?
STODDARD: I think that what Peter said is true. We‘ve—the Bush administration has exhausted the patience and the motivation of some of our allies and that is going to be hard for them. On the other hand, there‘s a few different fronts on his strategy on Iran, and at the same time that he is trying to help—he needs the help of Europe to apply financial pressure on Iran, he is also trying to stop Iran‘s meddling in Iraq. And on that, you know, Democrats are referring to it as taunting and they‘re kind of trying to figure out if they are really opposed. And I think that that is a separate question.
I think in Iraq, the Bush administration is rightly saying, we have to defend ourselves. That‘s a defensive action. And I think that if you look at the Democrats—
CARLSON: Defend ourselves in Iraq from Iranian --
STODDARD: Yes, and that if our soldiers are threatened—and I think the Democrats are reacting to news that we sent aircraft carriers and we‘re taking this posture in Iraq as if we‘re sort of taunting Iraq—
STODDARD: I mean Iran. I‘m sorry. And I don‘t think they‘ve really settled in what their thinking is and what their opposition is.
CARLSON: And yet there‘s a lot of—as you just suggested, there‘s a lot of whispering. I heard it today at lunch from someone involved in national security, who said, Bush is going to double down on this war and he‘s going to attack Iran by the time this administration is over. I don‘t quite believe it, but people are saying it. Do you believe that as credible?
BEINART: I think the idea that we are going to stop Iranian influence in Iraq is absurd. Those two countries have a huge border. They know each other far better than we do.
CARLSON: -- attack Iran to stop their nuclear weapons program?
BEINART: I think it‘s possible that Bush may get himself into a situation by doubling down where things go out of control. That is one of the things that concerns me. We think we can control this so well. Look at what is happening in Iraq. It‘s chaos there. We may find ourselves all of a sudden in some kind of fire fight with some Iranians and things spilling out of control.
BEINART: -- who knows what.
CARLSON: Democrats would go along with that, wouldn‘t they?
BEINART: No, I don‘t think so.
STODDARD: I don‘t think the Democrats—the problem is that Bush has only recently articulated the Iranian threat to our operation in Iraq. And all long we got rid of a Sunni government with Hussein, and the Maliki government is influenced by Sadr and the Mahdi Army, which is also supported and armed by Iran. It is a question of how much time have we given the new Iraqi government to keep their—to grow their ties with Iran, and will they sever them. And I don‘t think -- We have given Iran a window that now we are trying to close, and I don‘t think the Democrats have figured out how to deal with that. I think that Bush has sort of just come out.
CARLSON: I don‘t think they‘ve figured anything out. I haven‘t anybody say anything, other than this is bad, let‘s leave.
STODDARD: -- put pressure on him to say, I will not attack Iran.
That‘s what they are trying to do.
CARLSON: That brings us back to the first block of the show. Thank you all very much, Peter, A.B.
Up next, we have the daily report on the melodrama that is the Scooter Libby trial. Who said what about whom? Who put the knife in who‘s back and where does it all leave the Bush administration?
And still to come, it was media day at the Super Bowl today. Stick around for MSNBC chief Super Bowl hype correspondent Willie Geist. He‘ll give us the latest. We‘ll be right back.
CARLSON: Is the White House trying to burn Scooter Libby. So far everyone that‘s been trotted out to testify in his trial has done nothing short of hang him dry, from former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer to the vice president‘s former communications director, Kathy Martin. What‘s going on? Here with the story, MSNBC‘s David Shuster, who has been following this since day one. He joins us now from the court house.
David, this is a very, very complicated case, that, I fear, will confuse new comers to it. If you haven‘t been following it every day, you might not know exactly what‘s going on, but give us—explain for me, is my perception accurate that elements in the White House are actually trying to hurt Scooter Libby? That‘s the way it looks.
DAVID SHUSTER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Well, yes and no. It certainly looks that way, but, Tucker, you have to remember that as of the day Scooter Libby was indicted—and remember he stands charged with essentially trying to block the CIA leak investigation by lying about when he first learned about that CIA operative. Since he was indicted some 16 months ago, we‘ve known that there were at least six government officials who are part of the prosecution case, who would say that they heard Scooter Libby talking about Valerie Wilson before Scooter Libby says he first heard about Valerie Wilson from Tim Russert.
And remember, the key here is the sequence. Libby said he only first heard about Valerie Wilson on July 10th, 2003. Well, ever since Scooter Libby was indicted for making that statement, the government has essentially listed in its indictment that there were at least six government officials, including the vice president, who were prepared to testify that Libby knew about Valerie Wilson before July 10th, 2003.
The only thing that has been filling in this trial is that some of the names we didn‘t know. It took pre-trial documents to discover that Ari Fleischer had an immunity deal, that he would be testifying about hearing information from Scooter Libby about Valerie Wilson before the crucial time period. We didn‘t know until opening arguments the names of the CIA officials who would be testifying. And so it has sort of been a gradual process of essentially filling in the blanks, but we‘ve known for some 16 months.
CARLSON: David, let me stop you there. Why would Ari Fleischer, the former White House press secretary, why would he need an immunity deal? I mean, if he‘s just going to come in and tell the truth, why would he fear prosecution?
SHUSTER: Well, in his testimony yesterday, Tucker, Ari testified that when he first learned that the CIA had referred the disclosure of Valerie Wilson to the Justice Department for criminal investigation, Ari Fleischer essentially panicked. He said, oh my god, could I have done something that resulted in the outing of a CIA operative. And what he was doing is, as he was saying that to himself, he was remembering that he, in fact, had a conversation with Scooter Libby the day after Joe Wilson goes public with criticism of the administration, in which Scooter Libby tells Ari Fleischer about Joe Wilson‘s wife. And again, this is before a sort of crucial time period, before Valerie Wilson was actually outed.
So there was Ari Fleischer thinking, wait a second, I had a conversation with Scooter Libby before anybody in the public knew that Valerie Wilson worked at the CIA. I heard Scooter Libby tell me about Valerie Wilson. And then later that week, I went ahead and tried to tell reporters, and when Ari Fleischer looked at the timeline himself, and saw that this was all before Valerie Wilson was outed by Bob Novak, Ari Fleischer said to himself, wait a second, I don‘t think I committed any crimes, but it may not look that way to investigators so I need to get a lawyer, and I need to get a deal for immunity.
CARLSON: He‘s a very cautious man. In 30 seconds, tell me, do you think that the vice president‘s office, those people loyal to Scooter Libby, who liked them and worked with him—do you think they resented it when the Kathy Martin, the vice president‘s communications director, former, got up and cut holes in Scooter Libby‘s story?
SHUSTER: No, because—I mean, Kathy Martin, I suppose, -- I mean, she has cooperated from the beginning, according to her supporters and even people in the vice president‘s office, where she used to work. And so I think it‘s not unexpected that Kathy Martin would say, look, I learned about Valerie Wilson in July 2003. I went into the office of the vice president, told Vice President Cheney, told Scooter Libby. Remember, if Scooter Libby‘s argument is I don‘t remember when I first heard Valerie Wilson. I thought it was from Tim Russert in July 2003.
You can then expect that Vice President Cheney is also not going remember the sort of details of when Valerie Wilson was first known, and certainly may not remember one very short conversation with a press secretary coming in and saying, look what I just learned at the C.I.A. So, it‘s not unexpected in the vice president‘s office. But I do think, Tucker, you‘re on to one thing, and that is the testimony in this case has been damaging to Scooter Libby.
It‘s also been very damaging to Vice President Cheney, and remember, Vice President Cheney was not questioned under oath in this case. When he testifies for the defense, if he testifies, he will be under oath for the first time, and in his effort to try to help Scooter Libby say, hey, look how busy we were, the vice president then faces, essentially, an open door for prosecutors to ask the vice president a whole series of questions that Mr. Cheney may not want to talk about.
CARLSON: I doubt he wants to go in the first place. David Shuster at the courthouse, thanks a lot David.
SHUSTER: Thanks Tucker.
CARLSON: Well ladies and gentlemen, we have a new Miss America. The question is, could she be as entertaining at Miss USA has been. Our chief pageantry correspondent Willie Geist is on the scene. He‘ll tell us.
CARLSON: Joining us now, a man who knows maybe about the Miss America competition than any straight man in America, Willie Geist, joining us from headquarters.
WILLIE GEIST, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: More than I should know. More than I should know and we‘ll get to that in just a moment Tucker. But I want to start with something else. President Bush today at the Caterpillar plant in Peoria, Illinois, talking about the economy, and there to check out some of the company‘s famous construction equipment. The president would not resist taking one of the new tractors for a spin.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I would suggest moving back. I‘m about to crank this sucker up.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GEIST: I‘m going to crank this sucker up, he said, and he did crank that sucker up. The funny part about it was he wasn‘t supposed to crank that sucker up. He was supposed to sit in it for a photo op. But then watch, he throws it into gear and he drove about 20 feet, as the stunned crowd looked on. So, I have to say, I give him points for actually bypassing photo op and—there he goes, about 20 feet, but that‘s good enough—and driving forward. And you know Tucker, these are actually the moments where Bush excels.
CARLSON: Yes, totally.
GEIST: When he can get out and be himself. He‘s kind of the anti-Dukakis when he gets behind one of these.
CARLSON: No, no, he is good at that. In fact, Bush is at his least articulate when he should be at his most, when he‘s sitting at a podium. But when he‘s kind of hanging around he‘s pretty good.
GEIST: I‘d rather him say, I‘m going to crack this sucker up, than anyone else. I‘ll tell you that. Well Tucker, the delicious Super Bowl cocktail calls for one part football and three parts hype. Many, many more hours will be spent talking about the big game than will be spent playing it. A lot of that talking was done today Super Bowl media day, the annual pointless exercise where hundreds of over-fed journalists graze around the field to ask players questions to which they already know the answers.
Today‘s media circus at Dolphin Stadium in Miami featured such journalistic luminaries as the two guys who were humiliated on “American Idol” a couple weeks ago. There they are. I‘m not really sure what they added to proceedings, but they were there covering the big game, Mr. Hawaiian shirt. Now Tucker, I know you‘re not a huge sports guy, so I want to help make sure you‘re ready for the big Colts/Bears showdown on Sunday. I‘m going to through some trivia at you. You ready?
CARLSON: I‘m ready.
GEIST: Super Bowl trivia, Tucker style, here it is. Question, the Super Bowel is played to determine the champion of what American sport?
CARLSON: I know—I know you want me to say hockey.
GEIST: -- producer is your lifeline in the control room. Feel free to use it if you need to.
CARLSON: That‘s just too humiliating. Look, I have a son. I know that it‘s football.
GEIST: I don‘t mean to show you up.
CARLSON: Thank you Willie.
GEIST: Who do you like in the big game, by the way, Bears or Colts.
CARLSON: I very much like the Bears.
GEIST: Good, you should like the Bears.
CARLSON: I strongly do, yes.
GEIST: Finally, Tucker, there is a new champion in the Super Bowl of pageantry. Miss Oklahoma, Lauren Nelson, was named Miss America in Las Vegas last night. The 20-year-old college student and aspiring Broadway star was crowned by an all star panel of judges, led by MSNBC‘s very own Chris Matthews of “HARDBALL.” Chris took a moment during the broadcast to explain for us, thankfully, the significance of the bathing suit competition.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC ANCHOR: This bathing suit competition goes way back to 1921, when this was a contest on the beaches of Atlantic City. And I think it‘s a great tradition. We can argue about it, but I‘m not arguing about it. And what else? It shows guts. We‘ve been going through these preliminaries the last three nights. It takes a lot of guts for a girl to come out here and walk around like that in a bathing suit. And I think it shows guts, and guys like guts, and they also like bathing suits on girls.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GEIST: Well done Chris, well done. I actually watched the show last night. I was doing a little research. I‘m meeting Miss America tomorrow. Long story, but I am. So I was watching the show and Chris was excellent. He was a good judge. He was playing “HARDBALL” with the contestants. He crystallized why we like bathing suits. That‘s Tara Conner there. There‘s Chris. And he actually—one of them said Oprah is the most powerful woman in the world, and he asked her why. You know, that‘s kind of the default answer. He was the best judge on the panel. So, good job Chris Matthews.
CARLSON: And I noticed my old pal Mario Lopez was up there.
GEIST: Mario Lopez was hosting.
CARLSON: Loose in a room full of women in bathing suits, amazing.
GEIST: All right Tucker.
CARLSON: Willie joins us again tomorrow with his exclusive interview with Miss America. That does it for us. Thanks for watching. Up next, “HARDBALL.” Stay tuned. See you tomorrow.
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