Guests: Pat Buchanan, Eugene Robinson, Frank Donatelli
TUCKER CARLSON, HOST: Seven days of deliberations and we still have no verdict in the Scooter Libby trial. The latest, a request from the jurors for another Post-it pad—“The large one for the easel.”
Well, it certainly sounds like they‘re busy in there. This trial has served as an eye- opener. We‘ve learned about the infighting at the White House. It‘s not all one big happy family in the administration. Secrets leaked, leakers points fingers, et cetera.
Here to help us make sense of what has happened, MSNBC political analyst and former presidential candidate, Pat Buchanan.
PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Hey, Tucker. How are you?
CARLSON: I don‘t think that Scooter Libby ought to be on trial in first place. I‘ve said that again and again. That said, it looks like he lied to me, just watching—the fact that they are going seven days in deliberating about this, that‘s good news for him, is it not?
BUCHANAN: You know, I thought it was good news for him, because it looked to me—and I agree with you, I think it‘s almost open and shut. I think Fitzgerald has got a terrific case of perjury. You‘ve got Scooter Libby saying, I learned this from Russert, Russert said he never learned it from me. And then you‘ve got seven people saying—before Russert talked to Libby—that Libby had talked to them or they talked to Libby about it.
It looked to me open and shut. It looked to me like they got a motive.
But what explains six days here?
And I said on another TV show I thought that meant almost for sure that Scooter is going to get off on a couple of counts, and they‘re trying—and they‘ve got a hung jury or a couple of counts, and they‘re terror trying to get the toughest and best counts and get him on those. But, they came out and asked a question about this Cooper thing, which everybody agrees is the weakest case...
BUCHANAN: ... that Fitzgerald has. And if they are still dealing with the
weaker case, it suggests they may have already convicted on the strong
ones. But the truth is, I don‘t know now, Tucker. And I was premature
when saying I thought it was good news for him
CARLSON: What do we know about the White House that we didn‘t know when this trial began?
BUCHANAN: Well, we do know—well, Cheney was very unsettled and upset by the fact that Joe Wilson dumped on him and said something that wasn‘t true, and we know Cheney said knock it down to Libby, and that Libby went forward and did, and they got the whole White House in there doing it. And the White House seems to be less—you know, less caught up in it than Libby and Cheney were.
And so—and they were really out to knock this thing down. And so—but what did we learn? We do learn there‘s a bit of a conflict there, I think. But we do learn that Dick Cheney took this deadly seriously. When you go to the president of the United States and say, you know, I want the authority to declassify documents to knock this down, I didn‘t order that guy to go to Africa, he didn‘t do it because of me, and what he said in that column is untrue—and he‘s very unsettled.
CARLSON: What confuses me about that—I agree with you, they were clearly monomaniacal about this column in “The New York Times.”
CARLSON: What is confusing is the administration actually didn‘t bother to explain why they were invading Iraq very well. They didn‘t. They didn‘t.
Their P.R. strategy struck me as pretty lame the whole way through. They didn‘t explain in simple terms, we‘re doing this for these reasons.
CARLSON: I‘m still confused why we did it.
CARLSON: So why would they care about this one attack? They were getting attacked by all sides. Why did Joe Wilson make them so mad?
BUCHANAN: Well, Joe Wilson did one thing—they got the president of the United States sitting right in a State of the Union making a statement that Joe Wilson says they know was false. You put the credibility of the president on the line, you said the vice president sent him, and intel came from the CIA. So all three of them had an interest in knocking this thing down.
So I can understand—I mean, I can understand that, you know, but I just
I do think when you get to the bottom—the big story here, Tucker, which Fitzgerald can‘t deal with is, look, who did we get into this war. Were we mislead in? Were we deceived? Were we lied to? Were journalists used?
And how is this whole thing fabricated, in effect, where he went to war for reasons we find out that did not exist? But Fitzgerald can‘t do that, as he said.
CARLSON: He‘s trying.
BUCHANAN: No, no. He says, I‘m not prosecuting the war. The reason he‘s going to do well is he straight on the perjuries. It‘s the defense that is throwing out...
CARLSON: But wait. The perjury—and again, I just said I think it looks like perjury occurred.
CARLSON: But that has nothing to do with the leak that so damaged America, supposedly. We, I think at this point, know who leaked that information, the name of Valerie Wilson. Why is that person not in manacles right now?
BUCHANAN: Because there was—this is one reason why I agree with your fundamental point. Fitzgerald should have come to town and said, OK, what was the crime here? We‘ve got the leak of the name, an outing of a CIA covert operative. You look at it, she‘s not covert, she hasn‘t been out for five years, there‘s no underlying crime.
He should have said, “That‘s it, there‘s no underlying crime. Sorry, I‘m going home.” Instead, he investigates the non-crime, and Libby commits perjury. It‘s the Martha Stewart problem.
CARLSON: Yes—no, I agree.
BUCHANAN: You commit perjury about a crime you didn‘t commit.
CARLSON: What bothers me is that the press, which is not an original group of people...
CARLSON: ... not a group of free thinkers, refuses to acknowledge that actually Scooter Libby may have done some bad things, it seems like he did, but the scariest figure in American life is the prosecutor. That‘s the guy with the power. That‘s the guy who can take your life away.
Why aren‘t we more skeptical about prosecutors? I don‘t understand.
BUCHANAN: Well, I was in the Watergate thing. Let me tell you, a friend of mine...
BUCHANAN: ... went to the penitentiary for making a statement about, “Did you know that Segretti”—the dirty trickster—“was focusing on Muskie?”
BUCHANAN: He said, “I can‘t recall” twice.
He went to the penitentiary for eight months for saying no. It was awful...
CARLSON: I‘m not a liberal and prosecutors scare me.
BUCHANAN: Let me tell you, Tucker, what you ought to do.
BUCHANAN: If the FBI comes in to talk to you and you‘re in the government, tell them the truth or just tell them you‘re getting sick and you‘ve got to go home and don‘t talk.
CARLSON: Getting sick? I‘m moving to Paraguay. Are you kidding?
Pat Buchanan, thank you very much.
CARLSON: Coming up, our most ethical Congress ever is about to name Louisiana congressman Bill Jefferson to the Homeland Security Committee, the man best known for hiding $90,000 grand in his freezer. Sure he knows a little something about security.
Plus, why announce that you‘re going to announce that you‘re going to announce you‘re running for president? Whatever happened to the good old days when someone would just announce?
That was then. We‘ll tell you about now.
We‘ll be right back.
CARLSON: Our most ethical Congress ever is at it again. This time it‘s House Speaker Nancy Pelosi trying to force a vote appointing Democratic Congressman William Jefferson to the Homeland Security Committee after he was removed from the Ways and Means Committee, which was after the feds found $90,000 of alleged bribery money stashed in his freezer.
Back with their thoughts on this shining moment, we welcome “The Washington Post‘s” Eugene Robinson and Republican strategist and former Reagan White House political director Frank Donatelli.
Now, I kind of like Bill Jefferson personally because he‘s a nice guy. And I generally would sort of leave Bill Jefferson alone, but I can‘t, Gene, because of the most ethical conversation ever.
EUGENE ROBINSON, “THE WASHINGTON POST”: Well, it‘s a problem. OK?
CARLSON: Yes. I mean, why did she say that? Why did she brag about that?
ROBINSON: What are you going to do with Bill Jefferson? Because this case drags on and on. And I expect that Nancy Pelosi is, you know, secretly saying—I haven‘t heard this from her or anything, but I suspect she‘s saying, go ahead, indict, do something, you know, do anything. But, you know, what we know is that cold cash was found in the freezer, but we don‘t have a case yet.
ROBINSON: So we don‘t have—there aren‘t formal grounds to, you know, kick him out of Congress, do this, do that. She got some flak from the Black Caucus for taking him off of Ways and Means. And so she‘s just looking for a place to flip (ph) the guy, I think.
CARLSON: It almost seems, I have to say, better to have him on Ways and Means. I mean, here‘s what Pete King said, Frank—“If he was too unethical to be writing tax law, he certainly shouldn‘t be on Homeland Security, where he has access to intelligence materials and ongoing operations.”
That‘s—I mean, I think symbolically it‘s better to be on Ways and Means, which the average person has never even heard of, than to be on Homeland Security. Everyone knows that‘s kind of important.
FRANK DONATELLI, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, the speaker‘s remarks, “this is going to be the most ethical Congress in history,” ranks right up there with Gary—Gary Hart‘s statement, “Follow me around. There‘s nothing there.”
DONATELLI: Talk about just leading with your foot. But I guess I would disagree a little bit with what Eugene says, and that is Congress can set its own rule as to their own membership in Congress. And if they wanted to expel him, they could do so.
DONATELLI: Now, maybe they don‘t want to take that step now, but what‘s the rush to put him on any committees? I mean, he would still be able to vote in the House, he could be part of the caucus.
DONATELLI: But why does he have to be a member of a committee? It seems to me...
CARLSON: Well, this is an open...
DONATELLI: ... she set up this issue herself.
CARLSON: Yes, what is...
ROBINSON: Right. And I can‘t answer that question. I don‘t know what the rush is to put him on a committee.
CARLSON: But, I mean, it—you will concede it‘s going to be an open wound, whether it‘s, you know, fair or not. He‘s had one staffer and one friend indicted. He may never be indicted.
We keep hearing that the FBI is about to indict him, but we hear that about a lot of people. And it may or may not be true.
But the bottom line is, as a P.R. matter, the story is never going away. It‘s just too good. It‘s just too obvious. Plus, he‘s from Louisiana, which, you know, you‘re presumed guilty if you are from Louisiana.
ROBINSON: Well, the story is not going to go away. I mean, I assume that Pelosi hopes—and I hope—that there‘s some resolution to the case, something happens.
ROBINSON: He is either cleared of wrongdoing, or he‘s convicted of wrongdoing, or indicted, or whatever, so that you don‘t just have this one incident that—never charged, and you end up with a congressman, you know, can he never be on a committee?
CARLSON: Right. Right.
ROBINSON: What committee can he be on?
CARLSON: No, that‘s a good point.
I mean, here‘s what bugs me about his behavior. I mean, I‘d be willing to bet, you know, he probably didn‘t have $90,000 in his freezer by accident. But think he‘s an anomaly.
I actually think there are very few corrupt members of Congress. And I think if you look at the polls on Congress, most people think the opposite. They think that everyone‘s on the take.
CARLSON: And it discredits the institution, which is—I mean, you‘ve been here a long time. You both have. Do you—I mean, how many congressmen do you know who are actively corrupt, honestly?
DONATELLI: Well, if I knew any, I wouldn‘t say right now.
CARLSON: No, you don‘t need to name...
DONATELLI: No, no. Obviously, look, I make my living interacting with members of Congress and politicians and I—I mean, generally speaking...
CARLSON: When you offer them a bribe, how many take it?
DONATELLI: You know—well, I guess what‘s defined as a bribe now is lunch at The Capital Grille—the worst thing you can do.
But honestly, I believe that public service is a calling and that the overwhelming majority of the men and women in Congress are honest and want to do the right thing. And I agree that most members of the public don‘t believe that.
CARLSON: Well, you‘ve been in probably the houses of many members of Congress. They don‘t live very well. Have you noticed that?
ROBINSON: No, they don‘t.
CARLSON: It‘s pathetic.
ROBINSON: Some of them don‘t have houses.
ROBINSON: They can‘t afford it. So, no, I agree with Frank that most members of Congress are idealists who come here—you know, they‘re student body council presidents or...
ROBINSON: ... you know, basically kind of government types who want to do the right thing for the country. And so, you know, your point is well taken that this reinforces an image that‘s not what we see day in and day out.
CARLSON: Well, actually, I think the cliches are exactly wrong, the idea that we have gridlock because these people are bought and paid for by the special interests. That‘s a total crock. If they were corrupt, this process would just go like that.
I mean, truly corrupt countries actually work pretty well at the highest levels because—you know, people already paid for it.
ROBINSON: Well, what is corrupt is the process of getting re-elected.
ROBINSON: And the fact that, you know, it takes so much money. And that day one, they are elected to Congress, and day two, they have to go out and start raising money for the next campaign.
CARLSON: Well, you know where that money goes? It goes to us in the television industry. It goes to TV stations to buy ads. It doesn‘t go to them.
ROBINSON: So there‘s a blessing in all of this.
CARLSON: Boy, Chuck Schumer living on a—living on a pullout couch.
CARLSON: Up next, he did it. It‘s official. He‘s going to run. Sort of.
Last night, Arizona senator John McCain broke the non-breaking breaking news that next month he‘s going to announce that he‘s running for president. Follow that?
Plus, can you name the senior administration official who just got back from a trip to the Middle East? If you can‘t don‘t worry. He pretty much names himself.
We‘ll be back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAVID LETTERMAN, “THE LATE SHOW”: Are you thinking seriously of running? Are you running? Are you going to announce that you are running?
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN ®, ARIZONA: The last time I was on the program—
I‘m sure you remember everything very clearly that we say—but you asked me if I would come back on the show if I was going to announce. I am announcing that I will be a candidate for president of the United States.
By the way, I will be making a formal announcement in April.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CARLSON: It‘s official, he is going to announce next month. Arizona Senator John McCain dragged out his plans to run for president a little longer with this not-so-news worthy announcement. Other than giving us a bit of a timeline, what exactly was the point?
Back again with their best attempts to explain, we welcome the “Washington Post‘s” Eugene Robinson, and former Reagan White House political director, Frank Donatelli.
OK, Gene, this is what a man named Peter Suderman, writing on “National Review Online,” said today about the McCain announcement. He said, “This blog post is to let you all know that I will be writing a blog post announcing my intention to eventually write a blog post telling you about John McCain‘s announcement tonight, that after announcing he was considering running for president. He will be officially announcing his presidential run next April.”
ROBINSON: Well, let me be the first to announce that I will have a reaction to that blog post later in the show.
CARLSON: What is the point?
ROBINSON: The point is to stretch it out and to get more attention.
You know, to go on Letterman, which is a good venue for a guy who is worried about seeming too old. And so he can seem young and hip, and banter with Dave, and announce, but still get another shot later. a formal announcement.
CARLSON: I guess that‘s right. I mean, it‘s free media. It seems to me, so McCain goes on Letterman. He is very good in venues like that. He does have great sense of humor, almost alone among politicians at the national level, I‘ve met, anyway. He‘s a genuinely funny guy. But he‘s not going to C-PAC, conservative political action committee meeting, that those outside Washington may not know really is this big deal event for conservative activists.
McCain is under suspicion as not conservative enough. Why the hell would he not go to this event?
DONATELLI: I think this became a big issue when Giuliani decided to go, which wasn‘t until this week. And then that put McCain in a box. I think he should have gone. It‘s kind of interesting, he is being attacked for pandering to the right. And now, because he is not going to a convention on the right, he is being attacked for that. So, I mean, this is part of the intramurals. But I think it‘s great to announce on Letterman.
And if you think about politicians and the shows they ought to announce on, I guess Rudy will go on “CSI New York” and announce. Hillary could announce on “Designing Women,” if they still had that show on television. Maybe your man Willie Geist could come up with --
CARLSON: I am going to shoot him an e-mail. You can‘t overstate how much the right dislikes, or at least suspects McCain of unauthorized thoughts. This William Lauderback (ph), he‘s the head of the Conservative Union, one of the people who does this conservative event. He said, of McCain‘s snub, it was classic McCain, dissing us by going behind our backs.
I mean, there is real bitterness there. The tragedy, it seems to me, is McCain actually is pretty conservative.
ROBINSON: He is a pretty conservative guy.
CARLSON: I know, but the right hates him. And the left doesn‘t like him because he‘s too close to the media. And the media doesn‘t like him because he‘s been sucking up to Bush for the past two years.
ROBINSON: Well, media used to like him, and may like him again some day. I don‘t really understand the benefit of not going to C-PAC for McCain, because if he goes, he gets to talk to the right, which is an important constituency in the Republican party, let‘s face it. And other people can see it as him walking into the belly of the beast and confronting people who have questions about him, or whatever, and being the kind of stand up guy—you know, Straight Talk Express. But to avoid it, it is weird.
CARLSON: Well, it is weird. And it‘s also part, it seems to me, of a syndrome that is going to get worst. I spent a lot of time around McCain the last time he ran, and one thing I concluded about McCain, and I mean this as a compliment, but he takes a lot things personally. He‘s a passionate guy. He gets in an argument with someone and he means it. His animous is totally real. He is getting into the cycle of arguing with conservatives that‘s going to wind up preventing him from getting the nomination, if he doesn‘t get it under control.
DONATELLI: No question about it. But I would just say, I think that‘s one quote that you cited. The right is little broader than that. There are prominent members of the right there are supporting Senator McCain. Some are going with other candidates. But I think it‘s up for grabs right now.
CARLSON: Of course, there are prominent conservatives that will supportive him, and I think it‘s fair for them to do so. But a lot of conservatives don‘t like him and don‘t trust him. Why is that?
DONATELLI: Well, it‘s two reasons, 2000 and the bitterness of the South Carolina primary with President Bush, and campaign finance reform, which a lot of conservatives, still to this day, dislike. Those are two things he‘s going to have to talk about. His staff tells me, for the record, that they are doing a lot of events with conservatives, that they are reaching out to conservatives, and they have every intention of trying to contest for that voter group.
CARLSON: Well, I think campaign finance was stupid. And I think it‘s unconstitutional. But Bush signed it. Bush signed it. So Bush is more culpable even than McCain. I mean, he‘s the only person, constitutionally, who could have just ended it with a veto pen and he didn‘t. He doesn‘t take any crap for that. Why is that?
DONATELLI: Well, again, he‘s in Washington. Remember this, McCain is in Washington. Giuliani is in New York. Mitt Romney is in Massachusetts. And so when you are in the Senate, when you‘re in Congress, you get caught up in a lot of these intramurals. I mean, conservatives are still angry about Senator McCain for being part of the, so-called, gang of 14, that headed off the filibuster challenge. I mean, why that‘s still an issue? Well, some conservatives feel very strongly about that.
CARLSON: I think Bush is much more liberal than McCain. And I think the difference is Bush said Jesus was his favorite philosopher. I really believe this. I‘m not attacking religious conservatives at all. I‘m very sympathetic to them. But he said that, and they looked at him and said, you know what, he‘s one of us.
DONATELLI: He‘ll have his opportunity when he really announces for president. I hope what he will do—I hope what all the Republican candidates will do will be to lay out, in some detail, the top two or three things they would do if they were president. That‘s how we should make this choice.
CARLSON: I suspect conservatives won‘t even hear it. They‘ll say, John McCain—I think it‘s a religious thing. I really think they think Bush is an evangelical. And McCain is the high church Episcopalian, who has contempt for the grubby Jesus weasels.
ROBINSON: So where are they going to go?
CARLSON: That‘s the whole new Newt Gingrich question. Twelve percent in this new Time poll, any chance Newt Gingrich runs, do you think?
ROBINSON: I have no idea. My sense is that he is playing with us all. I don‘t think he runs, but what do you think?
DONATELLI: It depends on what he thinks when he wakes up on a given day. My guess would be no, but if he feels genuinely there‘s an opening for him, and that only he can talk about certain issues, I wouldn‘t rule it out, but I think it unlikely.
CARLSON: Jack Murtha, obviously the living, breathing embodiment of the anti-war movement, a guy who had a lot of credibility on military issues, one of the more conservative Democrats in the House on social questions anyway. All of a sudden there is tension in the Democratic party, as you know Gene, about him. He comes out recently and says, I‘m partnering with MoveOn.com or .org, or whatever, this left wing website, in order to stop the war. And a lot of Democrats resent that. They think he is overshadowing Nancy Pelosi. Can anybody keep Jack Murtha under control?
ROBINSON: I doubt it. Because of his anti-war stance before the election, he has credibility in that wing of the party. He has decided to translate that into more of a leadership role. I‘m not sure he is going to go that far off the reservation, although MoveOn.org is—that‘s a red flag to a lot of people. But I wonder if, in another sense, his taking a more radical stance on the war, and pushing on the war, isn‘t useful to the Democratic majority, just in terms of keeping that wing of the party inside the tent.
It makes it hard to manage, but at least they are not out there with nothing else to do.
CARLSON: That‘s a good point. Here‘s why I think he might hurt the Democrats. Today he posted on editorial online, in which he explained that the war is Bush‘s fault, which I think is a fair and true point. And that it‘s Bush‘s responsibility to make things better. Then he says this, and I‘m quoting now, General Pete Pace is trying to shift the blame, when, in fact, it is this administration policies that are hurting the military.
It seems to me, even Jack Murtha, who‘s a Marine veteran, any member of Congress doesn‘t win when he takes on the generals directly, and particularly by name. Does anybody side with a politician over a general in this country?
DONATELLI: Not unless it‘s General McClellan. Definitely not. But the interesting thing about the Pelosi/Murtha situation is they have switched roles, almost. Pelosi is the liberal from San Francisco, no offense. And yet, she‘s taken on the role, because she‘s the House Speaker, of being the regular Democrat, criticizing the war, but not going to far.
Murtha, the more conservative Pennsylvanian, former Marine, is really invested now in the anti-Iraq movement, and so he is pushing much more and she is trying to hold back, I think, on the very sound theory that if the Democrats ever take ownership of a policy that gets us out of Iraq prematurely, that would be a disaster.
CARLSON: Or any Iraq policy. I mean, I don‘t think any person on either side really has a great idea of what to do next, or the ramifications of doing it. I mean, I think this is all a huge mess in the minds of everybody I‘ve ever talked to on the subject. But Jack Murtha strikes me as the kind of guy who just runs face first into everything, and is willing to come out with all these prescriptions of we ought to do this, we ought to do that. The effect is to make it seem as if Jack Murtha and the Democrats are trying to run the military from the Congress. That‘s not a winning idea, is it?
ROBINSON: No, that‘s not a winning idea. I think Pelosi‘s approach politically is a better one, which is, essentially, not to take ownership of a policy that causes a quick withdrawal, to continue to pressure the administration to change the policy toward some sort of timetable or some sort of earlier withdrawal than they otherwise would manage to come to. I think it makes more sense politically.
CARLSON: If Murtha comes out and says, I am now devising my strategy with the partnership of MoveOn.org, that suggests to me that MoveOn.org and some of the others haters and crazies out there actually have, online, real political influence. Or am I just being hysterical and overstating it?
ROBINSON: Well, MoveOn.org is not a tiny little thing. It‘s a constituency. And don‘t forget that the country is anti-war at this point. They‘re not that far left of where the country is. If you look at Post poll, if you look at other polls—now, granted, not everybody has thought through the implications of getting out quickly, what happens next, and so forth, but you‘ve asked people, you know, should we stay or should get out in, say, six months or a year. Most people say, within a year, we should get out.
CARLSON: I mean, I‘m coming at it from anti-war position too. It just seems to me that Republicans, and they‘re so lame that maybe this will never occur to them, could get some political benefit out of, you know spend a week reading the MoveOn.org, just read the website, and try to tie those non-mainstream opinions to the Democratic party. That‘s not effective? Why aren‘t they doing that?
DONATELLI: I think the RNC tries to do it all the time. You know, Rush Limbaugh read some of the more angry postings on one of the left wing blogs about Vice President Cheney and how it was a shame that the Taliban didn‘t get him, and so forth. So there are those efforts.
CARLSON: Do you ever read sites? I mean, I guess left and right, but in this season, particularly left? Pretty heavy duty. I don‘t think your average TV viewer knows what is on there.
ROBINSON: Yes, but you should see my e-mail and the comments at the end of the column. There‘s still a lot of anger out there on every side of every issue.
CARLSON: The Internet is just bad. Can we be totally honest, it‘s bad. It allows people to let their ugly side out.
DONATELLI: It‘s a low level of discourse that really doesn‘t do anyone any good.
CARLSON: Should we ban it? Sorry, I‘m getting carried away.
DONATELLI: I was just going to say that I was talking at an event, the other night, to a couple of Republican senators, and they both said that if a vote to defend the war in the Senate came up, a majority of Democrats would not even vote for it. That‘s why they are so desperate about changing the subject away from the one tool that could actually work, defunding, toward all these other.
CARLSON: Public opinion may change. You never know. Gene Robinson, Frank Donatelli, thank you both very much. Coming up, Dick Cheney blows his cover to the press. Did the vice president mistakenly reveal that he is, in fact, Darth Vader? We‘ll explain.
Plus, was there a Scientology link to Anna Nicole Smith‘s death? We‘ll tell you what John Travolta and gang have to with that story when we come back.
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