Guests: John Bonifaz, Peter Beinart, Eugene Robinson
TUCKER CARLSON, HOST: Welcome to the 6:00 p.m. edition of the show, coming to you from Los Angeles.
Alberto Gonzales is in water so hot, it is amazing he‘s not fully cooked by now. Things went from steaming to scalding over the weekend, as politicians from both parties refreshed their attacks on the attorney general‘s credibility.
The devout cry came on the heels of freshly released documents from the Justice Department that suggest Gonzales, who is the top law enforcement official in the country, was not entirely truthful about his level of involvement in the dismissal of those eight U.S. attorneys. Can stay in his job? We will bring you the latest developments in that story.
Plus: the possibility of impeaching President Bush; and Hillary Clinton‘s big win in Hollywood over the weekend; and the controversial Katie Couric interview of John and Elizabeth Edwards—that is all coming up.
But first: crisis at the Justice Department.
Joining me now to talk about it, Eugene Robinson of “The Washington Post” and Peter Beinart, senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and editor at large of “The New Republic.”
Welcome to you both.
EUGENE ROBINSON, “THE WASHINGTON POST”: Good to be here.
CARLSON: Gene, I‘m having trouble. I go back and forth on how big a story this is, whether it‘s intrinsically significant or merely a measure of the president‘s weakness.
But, in any case, it won‘t go away. Where is this heading? Is Gonzales on his way out?
ROBINSON: You know, I assume so.
I mean, it‘s—how big a story is it? It gets bigger and bigger, as
with every new drip. You know, something comes out. Then something else comes out. And now we know that, even though he said he didn‘t go to meetings, Gonzales said he didn‘t go to meetings about the firings, it turns out he had a meeting in his office about the firings for an hour and talked all about it.
So—so, as long as this kind of drip, drip, drip continues, the story gets bigger and bigger, and definitely won‘t go away.
CARLSON: I guess what is missing for me, though, in this—and, Peter, tell me what your view of this is—motive. Why would Gonzales go up before Congress and say, I had no role in these firings, when the White House has said from day one the firings themselves were defensible, say that knowing that there was documentary evidence showing that he was in fact in a meeting where the firings were discussed?
Why would he do that?
PETER BEINART, EDITOR-AT-LARGE, “THE NEW REPUBLIC”: I have no idea.
But I think you are right. They would have been better off just saying: We had the right to do this and we did it for political reasons, and we have the right to do that. Maybe—but I think that this has further contributed to the sense of incompetence that I think is frustrating a lot of Republicans.
I mean, I think Democrats believe that something really wrong happened here. And I would agree with that, too. I think Republicans are just very angry about the incompetence that would lead you to put out false statements and put yourself in this position. And I think they have much less patience with the Bush administration on these kind of things than they once did.
CARLSON: Yes, well, there‘s no question about—no question about that.
Gene, the White House position on the subpoenas—Congress has of course demanded that top White House aides come before the House of Representatives and explain themselves, under oath, in public. The White House has said, no way.
The thought all along was, there would be some sort of backroom negotiation, where, you know, some happy medium would be arrived at. And the White House yesterday said—quote—“We are not negotiating.”
Do you think they mean it? And this is headed for a constitutional crisis, isn‘t it?
ROBINSON: I guess it is.
I mean, I—I assumed there was going to be some sort of deal that—where—where the lines get fuzzed—somehow fuzzed between under oath and not under oath and transcript and maybe a shorthand record of the meeting or something like that.
But, if the White House is not going talk any more about it, the—the Democrats have pretty much painted themselves into the corner of having to stick by their guns.
Meanwhile, I agree with Peter, that the Republicans on the Hill seem to be giving the White House every possible signal, get this guy out of here, let‘s end this thing, because I think, when Gonzales goes, it does essentially end. But the White House doesn‘t want to do that either, apparently.
CARLSON: I don‘t really understand why, Peter. I mean, here‘s a guy who—you saw two conservative senators, not sort of conservative, genuinely conservative, Chuck Hagel and Lindsey Graham, come out over the weekend and express a lack of confidence in Alberto Gonzales.
They speak for a lot of conservatives who already don‘t like this guy. So, he is not popular with the president‘s base. What is the rationale for keeping him, if his continued presence hurts Bush? I don‘t get it.
BEINART: Well, I—obviously, Bush and he go back a long way. So, maybe there is an element of personal loyalty.
You know, there is also the theory that I heard mentioned about when Donald Rumsfeld was in there, that it is useful having someone out there to catch the spears, so you don‘t. I mean, it seems to me, even though everyone is saying the administration has been so incompetent in this, by putting Gonzales out there to take the heat, it has taken the pressure off of Karl Rove and people inside the White House.
And I think they have a little—there‘s a bit of history of that
with this administration: have the Cabinet people take the heat, and it
insulates the president and his closer White House advisers. They may be -
if you get rid of Gonzales, people may start paying more attention to Karl Rove‘s role in this.
CARLSON: That‘s right. When you are speeding, always follow a guy who is driving faster than you are. He gets the ticket.
BEINART: That‘s right.
CARLSON: No, but I—OK. So, Gonzales is testifying, Gene, on April 17...
CARLSON: ... just a couple weeks from now, on the Hill. And he‘s going to be asked a series of obviously unpleasant questions by members.
He is a pretty nice guy. He is a very nice guy, according to those who know, a decent guy. He doesn‘t seem—he‘s not scary looking. He‘s not—do you know what I mean? He‘s no Tom DeLay.
I wonder if the Democrats couldn‘t overplay this, and look like Dan Burton circa 1997, look like inquisitors, rather than legislators.
ROBINSON: Can the Democrats misplay a winning hand? Of course they can.
ROBINSON: This has been done before.
I think it would be kind of difficult. And a lot is going happen between now and the 17th. Kyle Sampson, Gonzales‘ chief of staff, is going testify on Thursday. There‘s going to be all this back-and-forth about the subpoenas and oaths or no oaths.
So, you know, who knows what the—what the situation will look like by the time we get to his testimony on the Hill. But it is hard for me to imagine it is going look a whole lot better for the—for the administration.
CARLSON: Yes. I guess—I guess that is true.
I wonder, though, Peter, I mean, if you sort of step back, the election, we never stopped hearing, was a referendum on Iraq. Nancy Pelosi has said so herself. The Democrats don‘t appear to be spending their time Iraq, but, rather, on inquiries like this one. I mean, why?
Isn‘t this a sideshow, compared to the serious business of ending this war?
BEINART: I don‘t think that‘s entirely fair. I mean, they just managed to pass...
BEINART: ... this—this supplemental. And now they are going to go into the Senate, where they have done something pretty dramatic, which—in the House, at least—they have—they have said, you know, we have got be out of there by—by late 2008.
So, I don‘t think it‘s quite fair to say they‘re not paying attention to Iraq.
CARLSON: Yes. I just wonder—I—I guess this is, you know, it‘s obviously a lot more fun to beat up on Bush.
Well, that‘s what we will be back in a few minutes...
BEINART: You can do it with Iraq, too.
CARLSON: That‘s—that is true. You can. They don‘t—they don‘t seem to have the courage to do it, sometimes, though.
Well, it‘s one thing when a left-winger on the Internet suggests impeaching the president. It‘s quite another when that thought comes from a conservative Republican like Chuck Hagel. Is there a realistic chance that Congress would try to impeach George W. Bush?
Plus: John and Elizabeth Edwards move ahead with his presidential campaign, despite the reemergence of her cancer—the latest on the reaction to their combative interview with Katie Couric of CBS, as well as Mrs. Edwards‘ speech today in Ohio.
You‘re watching MSNBC.
CARLSON: A majority of Americans disapprove of President Bush‘s job performance, according to almost every poll. But has Mr. Bush done anything that merits impeachment?
Republican Senator Chuck Hagel reiterated Sunday his words in the April issue of “Esquire” magazine. Mr. Hagel, whose voting record is actually more conservative than just about anybody now running for president, said this—quote—“Any president who says, ‘I don‘t care‘ or ‘I will not respond to what the people of this country are saying about Iraq or anything else,‘ or ‘I don‘t care what Congress does; I‘m going to proceed anyway,‘ if a president really believes that, then, there are ways to deal with that.”
“Ways to deal with that”—it sounds like the threat of an impeachment.
Joining us now, a constitutional lawyer and author of the book “Warrior King: The Case for Impeaching George W. Bush,” John Bonifaz.
John, thanks for coming on.
JOHN BONIFAZ, AUTHOR, “WARRIOR KING: THE CASE FOR IMPEACHING GEORGE W.
BUSH: Thank you for having me.
CARLSON: So—right. So, you don‘t like Bush. OK. I get it.
Why impeach him? What has he done that merits impeachment, that qualifies as a high crime or misdemeanor?
BONIFAZ: Well, when a president deceives the United States Congress and the American people about the basis for going to war, I can think of no higher crime that a president could commit.
And I think that that‘s impeachable. The president has engaged in authorizing domestic spying of Americans on U.S. soil, in violation of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and the Fourth Amendment. He has authorized torture by members of the U.S. military and extradition to other countries that engage in torture.
And this is a president that has continued to trample on the Constitution and defy the rule of law.
CARLSON: All right. OK. OK.
BONIFAZ: And I think he deserves...
CARLSON: So, let‘s just go back...
BONIFAZ: ... that charge.
CARLSON: Right. You don‘t like him. I can see that.
But let‘s just go back. And I am not defending him. However, there are, as you know, constitutionally, provisions for dealing with presidents who do things that are unpopular. They are called elections. And we just had one in 2004. That was after the invasion of Iraq, after the failure to find WMD, after it came to light that there has been misdeeds at Abu Ghraib. And people still elected George W. Bush.
So, why would you try to overturn a democratic election with impeachment?
BONIFAZ: Well, people reelected Richard Nixon. And then impeachment proceedings began after that.
So, the fact is, is that there are provisions...
CARLSON: Wait. Wait. Wait. Wait. Wait. Wait. Hold on.
But the difference was, Watergate had just broken before the election.
Of course, it was based on—it was done in response to that election.
But we didn‘t know the details of Watergate until long after the election. We knew, going into 2004 -- and I didn‘t vote for Bush as a result—that the war in Iraq was a mistake and that there were no WMD there.
So, we had the facts, and we voted for him anyway.
BONIFAZ: But I think the evidence continues to mount. And new revelations come to light every day. The U.S. attorney general scandal is yet another example of that.
And the question here is whether we‘re going to uphold the Constitution and protect the integrity of the rule of law. No one is above the law. Senator Hagel said it himself, when he said, this is not a monarchy. And I agree with him.
This is supposed to be a democracy.
CARLSON: Oh, I agree.
BONIFAZ: And, if we are going be—and, if we are going be true to the meaning of the Constitution, there is another provision in that—in that document that calls for an inquest on whether or not there have been high crimes and misdemeanors committed when a president...
BONIFAZ: ... abuses the public trust.
CARLSON: Well, answer this. There is no institution in American life more democratic than the Congress, particularly the House of Representatives, elected every two years. I mean, they do the people‘s will.
And, yet, they are continuing to fund this war, the prosecution of which you claim is a high crime and/or misdemeanor. So, A, aren‘t they implicated in the president‘s crimes, as well? And, B, if it is so bad, why aren‘t they doing something about it? Why don‘t they defund the war? Why are you focusing on Bush, when you ought to be focusing on Nancy Pelosi?
BONIFAZ: Well, I completely agree that Congress should be defunding this war, but that is not to say that we shouldn‘t also, as citizens around the country, call for Congress to do its job to protect and uphold the Constitution.
Look, this president is making sounds about wanting to attack—attack Iran. And the fact is, there is no authorization whatsoever coming from Congress for that. And, if we are going engage in really protecting the Constitution, we have to make this call for impeachment proceedings to begin.
CARLSON: OK. Well, you have—you have...
CARLSON: By my count, you have listed five different crimes for which you say the president could or ought to be impeached.
Is he going be? I mean, I don‘t see—other than people way out on the fringe—Barbara Lee, who opposed the invasion of Afghanistan, which shows you where she stands on America—nobody seems to be in favor of impeachment. I mean, this is not really going to happen, is it? Or is it?
BONIFAZ: Well, you started the—the segment of this show talking about Senator Hagel. I don‘t think he‘s out on the left fringe.
CARLSON: No, he‘s not. No, he is a right-winger. But...
BONIFAZ: And I think the fact is, more and more people are recognizing, this president doesn‘t choose to be held accountable to the people and to people in Congress. And that is why there needs to be this call made today.
CARLSON: OK, well, tell me, in the 30 seconds we have left, who do you think will lead the charge for this? I know that you have been involved in talking about impeachment with members of Congress. Are there other—apart from Hagel—mainstream members who might be supportive of impeachment that you know of?
BONIFAZ: Well, I—I think, first of all, grassroots citizens are leading the charge. Impeach07.org, AfterDowningStreet.org, citizens can go there and call upon their members of Congress to do this.
I think there will be people on both sides of the aisle who look and continue to see that this president is willing to go to no—to no limit, with respect to the Constitution, and must be held accountable.
CARLSON: All right, John Bonifaz, not a fan.
But I appreciate your coming on. Thank you very much.
BONIFAZ: Thank you.
CARLSON: Katie Couric asked some uncomfortable questions about John and Elizabeth Edwards this weekend. Did she cross the boundaries of good taste, or was she just asking the questions that a lot of Americans have about Mrs. Edwards‘ cancer, and the implications for her husband‘s presidential run?
And, just when Hillary Clinton appeared to have fallen from her popularity perch with the rich, fabulous and self-important here in Hollywood, she scratched and clawed her way back to number one, where it really matters, in the money race. Hillary shows her strength with money.
We will be back in a minute. You‘re watching MSNBC.
CARLSON: Hillary Clinton picked up an endorsement for president today when Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack announced that he will back her run. That could bolster her chances in the caucuses in Iowa. But what about here in California?
Barack Obama raked in millions of dollars in campaign money from Hollywood mogul David Geffen and friends a month ago, or so. Obama‘s success suggested that the Clintons‘ hold over the show business world may have weakened. Mrs. Clinton was in California over the weekend. And the results prove that they still love her in the Golden State.
The haul? About 10 million bucks in campaign contributions. That includes more than two million at one Hollywood event on Saturday night. Is there any stopping Hillary Clinton from getting the Democratic nomination? Joining us once again, Eugene Robinson of the “Washington Post, and Peter Beinart, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.
Peter, so Hillary raises more than two million dollars on Saturday night at an event where Barbara Streisand leads the Q & A. I‘m not sure that is necessarily great news. I mean, that‘s like if the Republican candidate raised two million bucks from the cigarette manufacturers. I guess it‘s impressive, but there is also something unseemly about it, no?
PETER BEINART, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: I think all of this is bad news. I mean, the fact that this, above all—how do we judge whether these candidates are doing well? First, by meaningless national polls that only measure name recognition. Second, by basically how much money you can raise from fat cats of either the left or the right. It‘s OK for there to be money in politics, but it should be small donors from all across the country. A few very large donors, measuring who can get more of those, is not, it seems to me, the right way to judge whether someone would be a good president.
CARLSON: Well, I definitely agree with that. I wonder, Gene, if this plays into and improves the truth of that brilliant Apple rip-off ad we saw on YouTube last week, where Hillary Clinton is big sister and she is kind of the choice of corporate America. And then the underdog, the insurgent comes and smashes the screen. I mean, this really is—Hillary Clinton‘s ability to raise all this money makes her kind of a precarious front runner, doesn‘t it?
EUGENE ROBINSON, “THE WASHINGTON POST”: Well, you know, I think other candidates will find some way to spin almost anything into that brilliant Apple ad or fake Apple ad. But, you know, how much money is enough? I think that‘s a question that we‘re going to ask as the year goes on. And, you know, is a difference between raising 100 million dollars and raising 90 million dollars, I mean, is that really going to make a material difference? Or are people going to vote on who they think is going to be the best president, given that everybody has to raise a ridiculous amount of money?
And so I think that‘s the real question. And Obama would be silly to think he now has to go out and have a 15 million dollar week in Hollywood in order to be credible.
CARLSON: Yes, and also it seems to me, Peter, this is overstated. This is a hangover from political coverage in the 1990‘s when fund raising was more important. I would argue that YouTube, the Internet, all of which is essentially free, makes potentially campaigns much less expensive. Moreover, it makes it faster to raise money quickly, as Howard Dean did in the last cycle. So, in other words, you don‘t necessarily need all that money this far out, do you?
BEINART: No, and what Dean did I think was really instructive. If you remember, Dean caught on because he was against the war. And he started raising a ton of people from people out there in the country on the Internet. And then the big donors came to him because they didn‘t want to be left off this train that they saw was leaving the station when they thought he was going to win. So I think that which ever candidate really catches fire will be able to raise plenty of money. If you don‘t catch fire with—if you don‘t catch the kind of Zeitgeist, I don‘t think the big inside money is going to save you.
CARLSON: That‘s right. Gene, two years out from the 2000 election, -
rather, from the last election, the front runner on the Democratic side was Joe Lieberman. Isn‘t it true, Democrats almost instinctively want to kill the front Runner? It‘s like this Freudian thing? I mean, it really is kind of edipal.
ROBINSON: Yes, if you look at recent elections, that‘s kind of what tends to happen. Or sometimes a front runner can—you can come up as a front runner a little later in the cycle. Then you can go down and come back up again. But it‘s not necessarily the best position to be in. Then again, what position is good to be in right now? It‘s just way too early to really know what people think about the candidates.
CARLSON: I don‘t know. It just seems this year, where people are mad at Washington, they think Washington is corrupt, that there was collusion between the two parties to get us into this disastrous war, you want to be seen as the fresh outsider. Don‘t you, Peter? You don‘t want to be the choice of corporate titans. If you‘re a Democratic primary voter and you feel like your party is ramming Hillary Clinton down your throat—that‘s an unattractive visual, and I apologize for using it—but if you feel that way, aren‘t you going to resent it?
BEINART: Well, I do think what is true is that the Democratic party is particularly, more than in other years, looking for conviction and passion. There is a lot of regret that people feel like they chose John Kerry because they were making this political calculation that he would be the person most likely to win. And he lost anyway. So I think there is a general move that, you know what, we want someone who can really make us feel—dream big.
I think that‘s where Hillary‘s real challenge is going to be. Can she be that candidate? Can she generate the kind of passion and excitement that Obama has shown himself able to generate?
CARLSON: She will generate it, but on the other side. She will generate passion and excitement on the Republican side. I wonder, Gene, if this Vilsack nomination means anything. Do these things ever get anybody to vote for a candidate? And does Vilsack even command votes in Iowa? I think he was forth in the polling, before he dropped out, in his own state.
ROBINSON: It does not put it over the top. I don‘t think these endorsements—you know, he‘s throwing his vast weight behind Hillary Clinton. It kind of plays into what you said earlier. If the game this year, this cycle is not to seem like an insider, like a professional, but rather to be an outsider and to have this passion and this and that, to get these kinds of endorsements, you know, doesn‘t help you, arguably might hurt you. Who knows?
CARLSON: Yes, I don‘t see Tom Vilsack swaying this election. Call me crazy, out on a limb.
All right, Katie Couric asked John and Elizabeth Edwards hard questions about cancer, their family and campaigning. Was she out of line or doing her job? A surprisingly passionate debate breaking out today over that question.
And Sean Penn gets personal about President Bush and his twin daughters. Details to follow on that. This is MSNBC.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KATIE COURIC, “60 MINUTES”: Some say, isn‘t it wonderful they care for something greater than themselves, and others say, it‘s a case of insatiable ambition. Some people watching this would say, I would put my family first always and my job second. And you‘re doing the exact opposite.
You‘re putting your work first and your family second. And I think some people wonder if you are in denial, if you were being realistic about what you were going to be facing here. And some have suggested that you‘re capitalizing on this.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CARLSON: That was a piece of Katie Couric‘s pretty stout interview with John and Elizabeth Edwards from “60 Minutes” last night. The couple, of course, learned last week that Mrs. Edwards‘ cancer has returned and they have chosen to continue Mr. Edwards‘ campaign for president. In fact, Elizabeth Edwards is on the campaign trail today by herself in Ohio.
The “60 Minutes” interview has sparked debates about the nature and the tone of Katie Couric‘s questions. They were personal and they were pointed. Were they sensitive, even, gasp, inappropriate, whatever that means? Was Couric enunciating legitimate questions, being asked privately all over the country?
Joining us once again, Gene Robinson of the “Washington Post,” Peter Beinart of the Council on Foreign Relations. Gene, you had to kind of wince a little bit at those questions. Is it a case of insatiable ambition? I seems to me, you‘re not unfair to ask them, are you? What do you think?
ROBINSON: I did wince. Edwards‘ reaction was, I‘m a presidential candidate. Everything is fair game. You can ask those questions. I thought it was a weird occasion for Katie Couric to show how tough she can be in grilling a presidential candidate. I kept wondering—she kept saying, some people would say, others would say, some would say. I guess that‘s true, but it was almost—who are these some people anyhow? Is it really kind of a 50-50 argument, if you took a poll.
It should be the Edwards‘ decision as to what to do. That‘s at least the overwhelming sentiment that people who wrote to me after I wrote a column about it on Friday, that‘s what people overwhelmingly thought. They know what‘s right for them and their family.
CARLSON: Peter, watching that, my first instinct was to recoil a little bit, because it is such an uncomfortable series of questions to ask. On the other hand, it was the Edwards who got up in front of America last week and told us, invited us into their marriage and told us details of their decision-making and explained its political significance. You sort of have to wonder, did they invite those kind of questions? I think they did.
BEINART: Yes, you know, the whole thing makes me really uncomfortable, and I really at a gut level don‘t like it, but I‘m not sure I know what the alternative is. Edwards had to acknowledge publicly, I think, that his wife had had this recurrence of the cancer, but I guess I just wish we could have left it there. He could have given the information that was necessary and he could have said, I‘m still running. And then people could have made their own decisions.
This is more of almost an aesthetic thing than anything else. I just think we‘re all fallible. How spouses make decisions about these kinds of things are private. We deserve to know what his decision was, but not how he made it. He shouldn‘t have to explain it.
CARLSON: But it‘s not private. They bring their children out to campaign events. Look, I completely agree with you. And the whole thing bothers me intensely. I almost didn‘t want to talk about it today, but I think it raises legitimate questions. If you‘re going to say, you know, this is what we‘re doing and here is why we‘re doing it, rather than just issuing a press release, which is what I think they should have done, then it follows naturally that people are going to say, well, what about your kids, the ones I see at campaign events? What happens to them? I don‘t know. Why shouldn‘t she ask that question?
BEINART: I don‘t think it‘s our concern whether they are good parents or not. That‘s not one of the issues that should come into play with John Edwards being president. It‘s just none of our business.
ROBINSON: But tucker, I think they knew, just as we know sitting here, that those questions were inevitable. Had we put out a press release and said, there has been a recurrence of the cancer. Here is where it is. And we‘re going on with the campaign, people would have come at them with all the questions that they preemptively answered or tried to preemptively answer last Thursday. I think that was inevitable.
The discussion doesn‘t make me that uncomfortable. Cancer is a fact of life and death in America. And cancer treatment is changing. Prognoses change. People live with cancer for a longer time. You know, for a long time, it was kind of a disease whose name wasn‘t said. We just didn‘t want to hear about it. I think it‘s healthy that there are millions of cancer survivors, or people living with cancer in this country. And I think it‘s healthy that someone in that prominent position, a family in that prominent position, is wrestling with the same kinds of issues that millions of other families are wrestling with.
CARLSON: I know, for myself, I find it very hard to judge the decisions made by someone who has just received a terminal diagnosis, since I haven‘t. That‘s a pretty heavy situation to find yourself in. But as a political matter, since this is a campaign that they are continuing to run, Peter, quickly, do you think it‘s believable that this campaign will continue? If Mrs. Edwards is as ill as it appears that she is, can he really run a campaign? I know he wants to. I know she wants him to. I‘m not attacking him for that. But do you think they can actually do it?
BEINART: Well, I guess - you know, I guess it probably does make it harder. It‘s always going to be there looming in the background. I think, in a way, it is a little analogous maybe to the questions that McCain and Giuliani have, that we may be reminding ourselves, they had cancer. One of the tragic things about cancer is that it does come back sometimes. So there will be this question of when will it really start to take its toll, how will that affect his candidacy?
Again, I wish this could be private, but it will be part of the discussion.
CARLSON: Speaking of John McCain, you probably both saw the interview he gave while on his bus, riding around America somewhere, in which he said, with characteristic frankness, I‘m actually going to come nowhere close to my fund raising goals when the numbers are released at the beginning of next month, and that doesn‘t bother me. I‘m paraphrasing him here, Gene. But he said essentially, I prefer campaigning like this with a bunch of reporters or town hall meetings to raising money.
Is that a reflection of his honesty, of his lack of seriousness, his unwillingness to do the hard work of raising money, and does it matter?
ROBINSON: Well, you know, we just finished saying a little bit earlier why do they have to spend so much time raising money? Why can‘t they go out and campaign and meet people and do the things that McCain says he likes doing? Do I think he is putting the best face on a situation? Would he rather have his bank accounts bulging with money and be out campaigning with reporters and having a good time? Of course. But he is making the best of the situation I guess.
CARLSON: Well, here is why it matters in the short term: the McCain campaign is the size of a multinational corporation at this point. I must know 20 people who work for John McCain. He has a lot of mouths to feed. Baby needs new shoes about ever 20 minutes on the McCain campaign.
If it turns out, Peter, McCain has raised less money than Mitt Romney, who I don‘t consider an electable candidate, that‘s just me, will it matter? Will people say, my gosh, Mitt Romney now number two in line, after Giuliani, McCain third. Or will they just ignore it?
BEINART: No, I think it does matter. It probably shouldn‘t matter, but I think it does, because it fuels the perception that McCain hasn‘t done doing very well recently, that, in a weird kind of way, he has become a guy whose identity is not very clear anymore. It is weird. It would have been one thing for John McCain not to raise as much money when he was running as the campaign finance guy, running as the rebel, right? He could have made it into a matter of honor.
But having kind of become the candidate of the Republican establishment, which should mean at least that you raise the most amount of money, and then not being able to do that, I think does suggest that there is a certain malaise in the McCain campaign. That‘s a dangerous idea I think for them.
CARLSON: Well there is a malaise in the Republican establishment, to the extent it still exists. If you thought—if you were on the fence between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, may I submit reason number 4,912 to vote for Obama? He was asked by a constituent recently, what do you think of this Duke lacrosse case, Mike Nifong, this completely out of control prosecutor, elected prosecutor in North Carolina, who has obviously over-stepped his bounds, done things that I believe are criminal, what do you think we ought to do about him? And he wrote back, we need a federal investigation into Mike Nifong‘s investigation of the Duke lacrosse players.
This strikes me, Gene, as an amazing thing for him to say. Because A, he is weighing in on a subject he doesn‘t need to weigh in. B, he is weighing in on the right side, but on an unusual side. You remember when this first happened, Jesse Jackson was out there on behalf of the civil rights community, he claimed, offering a college scholarship to the accuser, because, of course, she must be right, of course, the accused must be guilty. And here is Obama weighing in on exactly the other side. What do you make of this?
ROBINSON: Well, a few things have happened between those two.
CARLSON: That is right.
ROBINSON: Those two, we have got...
CARLSON: Though we knew then—I mean, I could tell even then that this was a crock, not to brag.
ROBINSON: Well, I couldn‘t tell then that this was a crock. You know, I wasn‘t sure what this was at the time. And frankly, at the beginning of an investigation like this, one does not assume that the district attorney has just gone off completely halfcocked, you know, in violation of various ethical rules and this and that. And is accusing players where there is apparently no evidence at all.
One doesn‘t assume that that is the case. But, you know, it seems to have been and kudos to Obama for being forthright about that.
CARLSON: Well, but why hasn‘t—Peter, why hasn‘t the Justice Department jumped in here? I mean, what is—I mean, if the roles were reversed, the Justice Department would have, you know, opened a new office down in Durham, North Carolina. It‘s obvious this guy has abused his authority gravely. Why hasn‘t Bush‘s Justice Department, Alberto Gonzales‘ Justice Department opened an investigation into Mike Nifong?
BEINART: I have no idea, but I think the whole fact that we are talking about this and you are saying these nice things about Obama suggest one of the deep strengths of his candidacy, which is that he does not generate the hostility amongst conservatives and Republicans that Hillary Clinton does.
CARLSON: Not at all, you are right.
BEINART: Or even that John Edwards does. And I mean, I am always struck by that. Because you are not going to—they are not going to—you know, conservatives, I never—they are not going to vote for Obama, but they just can‘t really get their anger up against this guy, and that is a big problem. That is why they beat John Kerry, because they finally managed to demonize this guy. And it shows you how elusive Barack Obama is in these kind of polarized times.
CARLSON: You are right. You read his book. And I don‘t know anyone who is more conservative than I am, in a true sense. And I read his first book and I came away disagreeing with him but liking him. I mean, it was sort of hard not to.
Speaking of anger, Gene, I want to play a clip. This is from Sean Penn who seems like a pretty sane guy under certain circumstances, clearly not all. Here is what Sean Penn said at an anti-war rally this weekend. Watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEAN PENN, ACTOR: And I have got a question for your daughters, Mr.
Bush. They are not children anymore. Do they support your policy in Iraq?
If they do, how dare they not be in uniform?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CARLSON: You know, I have heard more haters on the left make this point that Bush‘s girls ought to somehow be in Fallujah killing bad guys. A, why attack the guy‘s kids? B, can we dispense with the myth that parents can send their children into the military? They are adults, like they can do what they want. You can‘t—do you know any circumstances where parents just dispatch their children to the Marine Corps against their will?
ROBINSON: Not really, no. I mean, look, it—that is—you know, the Bush twins, no, I would not send them to Fallujah. I doubt they would be much use to the military in Fallujah anyhow.
CARLSON: Yes. Good point.
ROBINSON: But I think the point that people who say that are trying
to make is, who is fighting this war anyhow? And do the people who ordered
up the war have the kind of personal stake in it that many families in this
country do? And if the nation were more broadly invested at that personal
level in the war, perhaps we wouldn‘t have had a war or perhaps it would be
the conduct of the war would be different.
CARLSON: I can‘t imagine anybody with a bigger personal investment than President Bush. His family name will be forever tarred, forever, for history if this doesn‘t get better and soon. I think—you know, I‘m not defending him or the war but he has got a lot invested. Thank you both very much.
BEINART: Thank you.
ROBINSON: Thank you.
CARLSON: Gene Robinson, Peter Beinart, I appreciate it.
Well, there is already one New York City mayor in the presidential race and he is the frontrunner, Rudy Giuliani. His successor, Michael Bloomberg, has billions and billions of dollars and almost as much ambition. Is he next in the race for the White House? We‘ll tell you.
And John McCain isn‘t raising money nearly as fast as he needs to for his presidential race, some say. But he has got a surprisingly good run in another area of national interest. The latest on “McCain Madness.” You are watching MSNBC. We will be right back.
CARLSON: Everybody has heard of Rudy Giuliani, of course. The former big city mayor is running first in the polls for the Republican nomination right now. So what about the man who replaced him in New York City, Michael Bloomberg? Bloomberg has a 73 percent approval rating among New Yorkers. They prefer him to Giuliani by 46 to 13 percent as mayor. And by 46 to 31 percent as a presidential candidate. So why couldn‘t Michael Bloomberg make a serious run for the White House? Joining us now, New York political consultant Hank Sheinkopf.
HANK SHEINKOPF, POLITICAL CONSULTANT: How are you today?
CARLSON: I‘m doing great. Thanks for joining us.
SHEINKOPF: A pleasure to be here.
CARLSON: This—he certainly has enough money. He has $5.5 billion, according to The Washington Post. He is popular in New York. Why wouldn‘t he run?
SHEINKOPF: Why not is really the question.
SHEINKOPF: Mike Bloomberg has had an extraordinary impact on New York. He is almost a nonpartisan figure here. He has brought out the best in both parties. He has been able to cross party lines constantly. A pretty enviable position. He has got the money to do exactly what he wants.
CARLSON: So he spent $85 million to beat Freddie Ferrer in the last race. Overkill, I think you would say, by any definition. How much would he be willing, would you imagine, to spend on a presidential run?
SHEINKOPF: The entry fee probably for someone who is not going to be running with either party is about $500 million-plus...
SHEINKOPF: ... would be the number. Could he afford to do that, the question is? Yes. Would he do it? My hunch is so long as Rudy Giuliani is in the race, he probably won‘t do it. But if Rudy Giuliani is not there, or John McCain is not there as the Republican nominee, watch Mike Bloomberg run right up the middle.
CARLSON: So you figure that Ross Perot spent about $60 million of his own money and got 19 percent.
SHEINKOPF: Different deal. Ross Perot was in, was out, was in, was out.
SHEINKOPF: Never was fully committed. Bloomberg, if he runs, would be fully committed. Would put his whole effort into it. Would put together a terrific team because he can afford to put any kind of team together that he wants. And he would be a serious contender.
CARLSON: So you have got to figure he hurts the Democrat in a scenario like that. You also have to assume he is running as an independent, right, rather than as a Republican.
SHEINKOPF: I would assume that he runs as an independent. And I would presume not only does he hurt the Democrat, but he hurts the Republican as well. The Republicans are in deep trouble. The Democrats not in as much trouble today. But the Republican ideology of the defense that will protect you in the post-Iran hostage world plus the new morality in politics have kind of both been thrown out the window. Republicans are in trouble and Bloomberg is the kind of guy that can take the best of both sides of the aisle and make it work.
CARLSON: What is his issue? So Perot runs on the deficit. Nader runs because he thinks Gore has moved too far to the right. What is the one-sentence rationale for a Bloomberg campaign?
SHEINKOPF: As Nixon could only go to China, Bloomberg could only go to the income and wage gap, which today again was a front page or near front page story in The Wall Street Journal.
CARLSON: What does that mean, income and wage gap? I mean, does that mean that, you know, he understands you because he has built his own business?
SHEINKOPF: No. He understands you because he will know how to deal with the problem. That is very different. People voted for Mike Bloomberg in New York because they wanted a manager.
SHEINKOPF: He can present himself as a management. And frankly, he is someone who was not afraid to tackle large problems, nor to discuss them openly in public.
CARLSON: What—how late does he have? What is the last possible moment he can get in, do you think?
SHEINKOPF: So long as he can afford—he can have the money to file in the number of states he needs to get on the ballot, there is no time span. He is in a different position than everybody else because he doesn‘t have to show his colors or do anything else until he is ready.
CARLSON: So when—I mean, when do you think that is?
SHEINKOPF: I have to look at the political calendar, but he has got some time. He has probably got another five months or so before he gets close to having to make a decision, one that is final.
CARLSON: Interesting. I think that would make this—just when you thought the race couldn‘t get more compelling, that would make it so. Hank Sheinkoff, thanks a lot.
SHEINKOPF: Thank you.
CARLSON: Well, if you read television ratings and internet traffic, and of course we do, you know America wants to know how Anna Nicole Smith died. And in fact, we do know. We will tell you next. You are watching MSNBC.
CARLSON: Welcome back. We are joining you from Los Angeles. And I can tell you, you can notice the palm trees behind me. The only thing that would make this nicer, this moment, is an update on Anna Nicole Smith. And for that we go to Bill Wolfe, vice president of MNSBC.
BILL WOLFE, VICE PRESIDENT, MSNBC: Well, here goes nothing, Tucker. I hope you are right. I hope it makes it nicer. Anna Nicole Smith‘s posthumous grip on America‘s curiosity tightened this morning when officials in Florida announced the result of her autopsy. Ms. Smith died of an accidental overdose of prescription medication, Tucker.
According to the coroner‘s report, she had nine different drugs in her system at the time of the death. And Dr. Joshua Perper said it was the cocktail of meds, not any individual dose, that killed Anna Nicole.
Now America being what it is, Tucker, speculation swirled in the weeks between her February 8th death and today that foul play had been involved. Not so. Ms. Smith fell victim to the second-leading cause of accidental death in America, accidental drug overdose.
Next up in this ever-unfolding story, who‘s the baby‘s daddy, Tucker?
CARLSON: Who is the baby‘s daddy? I thought we were supposed to find that out today, too.
WOLFE: No. That‘s coming at a time to be determined in the future, my friend. Although we know that DNA swabs have been taken of Larry Birkhead and Zsa Zsa Gabor‘s ninth husband, both of whom are among the people who claim to be the father of Dannielynn.
CARLSON: Well, don‘t keep me in suspense, Bill. When that news comes, will we be there live?
WOLFE: Oh, I guarantee you we will be there live, Tucker. And as a matter of fact, I‘m bucking to have you cover the story.
WOLFE: Dateline, Reno, Nevada, Tucker, those are three words that are usually good to hear but not today. The last remnants of the Mustang Ranch, Nevada‘s first legal brothel, were burnt to the ground Sunday. It was the ranch‘s annex. It was built in 1983 to house a proposed male prostitute annex to the regular prostitute business next door. That business quickly failed. There are now only ashes where practitioners of the oldest profession once plied their trade.
A former employee of the ranch, she calls herself “Air Force Amy,” said wistfully, quote: “It‘s out with the old and in with the new. The day of the $20 roll in the hay in a trailer is gone.” The ranch was burnt as part of a firefighting exercise, Tucker. Good to know that the ranch was put to good use until its demise. Sort of like “The Giving Tree” if you think about it.
CARLSON: I just can‘t get over the idea they built an annex for male prostitutes. Girls don‘t have to pay for it, that is rule one. Whoever thought that up is not fit for business.
WOLFE: I‘m not at liberty to make comment on your last comment, Tucker, but you know, this is America, some enterprising person saw a market that was available. It didn‘t work out.
CARLSON: But it didn‘t exist!
WOLFE: Well, you know, hindsight is 20-20, my friend.
WOLFE: We are on to international politics now, Tucker. Snoop Dogg, the legendary rapper with a famous love of marijuana has been denied a visa by the government of England. Snoop had intended to perform in the U.K. but his long histories of brushes with the law over things like his famous love of marijuana prompted British authorities to say politely, thank you very much indeed, Mr. Dogg, but no thanks. Ever the diplomat, Snoop offered this plea for international cooperation.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SNOOP DOGG, RAPPER: Home sweet home, baby. Let me in. Let me in. I need to be back at home. London, England, U.K., someone speak for me. Big Snoop Dogg.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WOLFE: I‘m not in the game of international...
CARLSON: He is so high.
WOLFE: What is that?
CARLSON: He is so high, to make an obvious point.
WOLFE: Well, I wouldn‘t make that conclusion, Tucker. I‘m not an expert on that subject. I am also not an expert on international relations. But I am willing to take up for Snoop Dogg. Come on, England. Snoop Dogg is all right. He coached youth football. He does a lot of things in the community. I like the man. Come on. Give Snoop a break. Let him in your country.
CARLSON: He would not be the creepiest person in Great Britain, trust me.
WOLFE: Are you kidding, not by a long shot. He wouldn‘t be in the top 10 million. Come on. Snoop Dogg is all right. Good guy. By the way, he went to the same high school as Cameron Diaz. There is news you can use, Tucker.
And finally, an update on John McCain‘s NCCA Tournament picks. The Arizona senator and presidential candidate, of course, posted his brackets on his Web site, johnmccain.com. And in this exact time slot, I personally derided his choices as conservative and probably wrong.
Well, mea culpa, Tucker. Senator McCain only got two of the Final Four, but his conservative choices for the tournament and the favorite teams that he picked stood him in very good stead. He still has both Florida and Ohio State. And his total accumulation of accurate predictions made my pseudo-expert picks look exactly what they were, which was totally crappy.
CARLSON: Wait, are you saying that in the end conventional wisdom turned out to be accurate?
WOLFE: More accurate than mine, that is why I‘m saying mea culpa, Tucker. I have to apologize to the senator and his presidential campaign. Tucker, I have just one comment on some of the preceding material in this program.
WOLFE: Sean Penn.
WOLFE: Lighten up, buddy. You know, I don‘t know Sean. And I‘m not taking a side in this debate. But that is a guy who has a stunt double talking about who ought to be fighting a war. And as much as I admire his work, I have to say, lighten up and pipe down. That is my comment.
CARLSON: There are things I like...
WOLFE: That is a special comment, as a matter of fact.
CARLSON: ... I like about Sean Penn. He is kind of an appealing guy.
I had dinner with him once. Liked him fine. I agree. A little wound up.
I think it must be a...
WOLFE: A little wound...
CARLSON: It must have been a non-smoking section there at the anti-war rally.
WOLFE: Unbelievable. Enough already, Sean.
CARLSON: Bill Wolfe from headquarters. Thank you, Bill. That does it for us. Thanks for watching. Up next, “HARDBALL WITH CHRIS MATTHEWS.” We will be back tomorrow. Tune in then. Have a great night.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
Copy: Content and programming copyright 2007 NBC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Transcription Copyright 2007 Voxant, Inc. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material other than for research. User may not reproduce or redistribute the material except for user‘s personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon NBC and Voxant, Inc.‘s copyright or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.