Guests: Richard Kadison, Larry Hinker, Steve McMahon, Peter Fenn
TUCKER CARLSON, HOST: Attorney General Alberto Gonzales faces withering doubt on Capitol Hill today. President Bush faces the public on the war on terror. And John McCain faces the delicate reality of politics in the age of YouTube. We will bring you all those stories in this hour.
But we begin with the Virginia Tech massacre. Police said today that the so-called manifesto of mass murderer Cho Seung-Hui adds little to their investigation of the killings of 32 students and teachers in Blacksburg, Virginia, on Monday morning.
By now, you know that Cho mailed the haunting, grotesque multimedia diatribe to the offices of NBC News in New York at about 9:00 a.m. Monday. That was between the two deadly shooting episodes he perpetrated on his own college campus.
That package was received yesterday and turned over by NBC to law enforcement authorities. Then, a small portion of that package‘s contents was aired on “Nightly News.” Almost every media outlet followed suit throughout the evening.
“TIME” magazine has already published an edition which displays that material.
But reaction to Cho‘s pictures and words has been mixed.
For reaction on Virginia Tech‘s campus to Cho‘s manifesto, we turn now to NBC News‘ Kevin Corke. He joins us from Blacksburg, Virginia.
Kevin, what is the reaction?
KEVIN CORKE, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Tucker, you‘re right. Mixed is exactly the right description, because there are people here on this campus who flat out came right up to us and said, you know, that was wrong. You shouldn‘t have done that. It‘s being gratuitous. We feel victimized from beyond the grave.
On the other hand, I also talked to people who said, look, I was actually interested. I wanted to know, would it shed some light? Would it help me understand, perhaps, what this person could be thinking, what could lead someone to kill so many people indiscriminately?
And I even heard one woman say, it made me feel sorry for him.
Now, I know that sounds very tough to believe, but she said, it made me feel sorry for him. It was obvious that he needed help.
So, indeed, a mixed bag, but that‘s what you would expect on such an emotional event in a town where emotions are, quite frankly, still raw.
CARLSON: Now, the authorities, Kevin, have said that this package of materials added little to their knowledge of Cho. I‘m not sure how that can be.
That implies they know a lot about him. What do they know that they have said today?
CORKE: I always like to say, whenever—it‘s not what they say. It‘s what they don‘t say, especially when you‘re dealing with law enforcement.
CORKE: Look, naturally, they‘re going to play this close to the vest. They‘re going to leave it very general and say very little: We didn‘t learn a lot.
Well, that‘s all relative. Maybe it didn‘t spell out why he was angry. And, again, he didn‘t specifically say, I‘m mad only at rich people, or, I‘m mad only at black people, or, I‘m mad at this particular group because of this specific action.
So, in that sense, no, they didn‘t learn a great deal. However, I think you‘re right. Profilers will be poring over every inch of that material, looking for clues into the mind of a killer. And, in that respect, they may not know a lot now. But I believe—and this is just based on my experience in covering stories like this—they‘re certainly hoping to learn a lot more.
CARLSON: What is the status of those injured in Monday‘s shootings?
CORKE: This is where—if there can be any good news on a day like this, it appears that the hospitals is where we‘re finally getting some good news.
A lot of the injured, at least a dozen or so, still hospitalized, we‘re getting word now that some of them are improving to the point where they are actually being released, one apparently released yesterday, one in good condition today.
You saw the news conference earlier today. And, so, we are getting more encouraging news. And what is so good about is that is, this is a town that is trying to heal as quickly and as fully as possible within reason, understanding that this is still very fresh. And, so, they‘re looking to the medical staffs, they‘re looking to the hospitals to give them just a ray of hope.
And that appears, at this point, to be a place where they are getting just a bit of good news—Tucker.
CARLSON: Kevin, the governor of Virginia, Tim Kaine, a Democrat, announced today the formation of some sort of panel to take a look at what exactly happened on Monday in Blacksburg. What is the purpose of that, and what is it going to do?
CORKE: Well, I think he was sensitive to the criticism of the Virginia Tech officials.
And you know how the game is played. When something like this happens, people ask tough questions. They hit it very hard. And there is a bit of Monday-morning quarterbacking. Well, what could you have done better? What didn‘t you do? Why did this happen?
And, so, what the governor is attempting to do in this case is, he is going to a man who helped him out previously in the sniper shootings in Northern Virginia, and he‘s going to a person who has a great deal of experience in dealing with profiling, a person who knows how to handle a large-scale investigation, that intertwines not only the local and the state, but also the national law enforcement community.
And, so, they‘re hopeful that this will somehow break all this down. And it will take a long time. I think they expect this to last quite a long time—Tucker.
CARLSON: Has there been continued talk on campus about what the university could have done to prevent this, to recognize that Cho had serious mental problems?
CORKE: Tucker, I apologize. It feels like I have lost your—I have lost your voice for just a second. Could you try and repeat that question, Tucker, for me?
Has there been continued debate on campus? I know there was when I was with you there two days ago. There was some debate on campus about what the university might have done differently. We have learned now that Cho was hospitalized for mental illness, that he was declared by a court to be a danger to himself and to others.
Have—have there been questions raised about whether or not the university should have taken more action?
I mean, that‘s exactly where the meat of this argument is going to come, from people who want answers. Where is the line? If a person has a run-in with police officers twice in 2005, is evaluated by a medical professional, who says he is a danger to himself and perhaps to others, and, yet, this person comes back to school, people are wondering, well, isn‘t—wasn‘t there something the university could have done?
The problem is, the university doesn‘t have all the information, necessarily, right away. And, keep in mind, this is a public institution. And university officials this morning were making the argument that it‘s not like a private concern, like a company, where you can just dismiss someone. They have to be very delicate.
There are a number of people in this university, in any campus, that may have had a medical evaluation that had to do with mental illness. Do you dismiss them al? You can‘t.
So, they are saying you have got to be careful in the way you look at this. But I do believe there are a lot of people who will be questioning that question. Wasn‘t there something more the school could have done to perhaps isolate this person to help protect the school community?
CARLSON: I think that‘s right.
Kevin Corke in Blacksburg—thanks a lot, Kevin.
Well, Cho Seung-Hui had a documented history, as you just heard, of mental instability, as do an alarming number of college students. What is wrong on America‘s campuses? And what aren‘t university doctors allowed to do to make that problem better? We will tell you in just a moment.
And Alberto Gonzales meets a very hostile group of senators on Capitol Hill today. We have got the bluster and the attorney general‘s attempt to save his own job.
That‘s next on MSNBC.
CARLSON: In 2005, a judge ruled that the Virginia Tech gunman was—quote—“an imminent danger to himself and others,” but didn‘t lock him up. Why not? And why didn‘t the school do anybody about him either? We will tell you.
We will be right back.
CARLSON: Could Virginia Tech health services officials have done anything to separate Cho Seung-Hui from the rest of the school‘s population, if they knew he posed a risk to himself and to others?
The answer may be, in fact, no. Today‘s “New York Times” reports that restrictive privacy laws prevent university physicians from direct action in cases like this.
Here to discuss the very real problem of mental illness at America‘s colleges and universities and the serious limits on what schools can do about it, we welcome Dr. Richard Kadison, psychiatrist and chief of the mental health services at Harvard, also the author of “The College of the Overwhelmed: The Campus Mental Health Crisis and What to Do About It.”
Dr. Kadison, thanks for coming on.
RICHARD KADISON, AUTHOR, “COLLEGE OF THE OVERWHELMED: THE CAMPUS
MENTAL HEALTH CRISIS AND WHAT TO DO ABOUT IT”: It‘s my pleasure.
CARLSON: To get right to the—I think the most disturbing part of this whole story is this detention order we—we got a copy of recently.
Virginia Tech, December 13, 2005, came up with the following mental health valuation of Mr. Cho—quote—“mentally ill, in need of hospitalization, presents an imminent danger to himself or others, so seriously mental ill—mentally ill—as to be substantially unable to care for himself and incapable of volunteering to undergo treatment.”
Why wouldn‘t that have been the end of the story right there? That sounds so significant that you would think he would be bounced out of school for that.
KADISON: Well, I think the reaction of schools is, in those circumstances where someone is in immediate danger, that they need to be hospitalized.
But, then, there is an ongoing evaluation. And, at some point—and, in these days of managed care, it is generally not a very long period in the hospital when the hospital feels that—the doctors in the hospital feel that the student is no longer in any kind of imminent danger, and is safe to be released from the hospital.
And then there needs to be, I think, dialogue with the school about, person is safe to leave the hospital, are they safe to be back in residence, and what kind of follow-up and ongoing care is needed?
KADISON: And that‘s often where things fall between the cracks.
CARLSON: Well, you would think that alerting the student‘s parents would be an important part of the ongoing care you just mentioned. And, yet, I just learned this morning that it is, most of the time, illegal to tell a student‘s parents without that student‘s consent.
Why is that?
KADISON: Well, the medical privacy laws are very strict. And they basically say that you can‘t share any information about an individual who is considered an adult, unless they‘re in imminent danger.
And, once someone is in the hospital, and safely under wraps, they are no longer considered under imminent danger. But we often push very hard to have families contacted. And, particularly when students are in residence, the laws governing the university are different than the medical privacy laws.
So, the head of a dormitory, an administrative dean, a faculty member could call the parents to alert them, and one would think that the family ought to be notified...
KADISON: ... to help put a support network in place.
CARLSON: Boy, you would think it.
Virginia, this year, last month, actually became the first state to pass a law that prohibits public colleges and universities from expelling students who have attempted suicide or talked about committing suicide.
What would—that—that doesn‘t make any sense on first blush.
What—what is the idea behind a law like that?
CARLSON: And what do you think of it?
KADISON: Yes. I—I think the idea behind that is that many college students experience depression, often for the first time. And the numbers are very scary. Forty-five percent of college students report being depressed, to the point that it‘s difficult to function.
This is some of the research I did in writing my book, “College of the Overwhelmed.” And roughly 10 percent of college students seriously think about suicide.
So, you know, dismissing large numbers of students doesn‘t make sense. What does make sense to me is that those students need to be evaluated, assessed for safety issues, getting some sort of supports into place, and often involving the families. And there needs to be more communication and dialogue between college officials, residential staff, families, and students, done in a very transparent way, with the goal of keeping everyone safe and getting students the care that they need.
CARLSON: You made a—I thought, a very thoughtful point in this morning‘s “New York Times,” when you said colleges can‘t just kick someone out because they‘re writing papers about weird topics or even because they seem withdrawn and hostile.
And I agree with that. It‘s important that we not punish people for being different from most people.
On the other hand, does it strike you that maybe we have gone too far in the other direction, and that our laws prevent us from reaching out and helping people who need help, but are unwilling to accept it or not in the frame of mind that allows them to accept it?
KADISON: Well, I think that‘s—you know, there needs to be an ongoing dialogue and expectations that students do not create dangers to the safety of the community or disrupt the community by being suicidal, and not taking any action to address that.
So, I think there is some intermediate ground where people need to have dialogue about this, and students need to have consequences, if they‘re not taking steps to address this.
There is the Americans for Disability Act, which basically says you can‘t discriminate against students...
KADISON: ... for having a mental illness, but they also need to take steps to address that, particularly if it‘s disruptive and dangerous to themselves or others.
CARLSON: And, very quickly—correct me if I‘m wrong here. This is probably something of a longer conversation. But it strikes me that, if someone is willing to commit suicide, to murder himself, why wouldn‘t he be willing to hurt other people?
Once you make that decision, you‘re kind of—you know, you‘re going all the way. Doesn‘t that make you, almost by definition, more dangerous to other people?
KADISON: Well, not necessarily.
Most people are very self-directed in their anger and hostility, and the risk is self-destructive behavior. It‘s very rare that someone lashes out at someone else. You know, at times, when people are intoxicated or acutely psychotic, those circumstances may change. But most people who are depressed and isolated and withdrawn really, you know, focus their—their anger and their hostility on themselves.
Dr. Richard Kadison from Harvard—thanks a lot, Doctor. I appreciate it.
KADISON: Sure. My pleasure.
CARLSON: Alberto Gonzales had his long-awaited day on Capitol Hill today. Will his testimony result in his removal as the attorney general of the United States? Or will he survive?
And add John McCain to the list of politicians whose unfortunate word choice lands them on millions of computer screens almost instantaneously. A “Beach Boys” classic gone wrong for the senator—when we come back.
This is MSNBC.
CARLSON: We want to take you now to the daily news briefing at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Virginia. It has just begun. Here it is.
LARRY HINKER, VIRGINIA TECH ASSOC. V.P.: She was an adjunct professor in foreign languages. Her residence was here in Blacksburg. She joined Tech in august of 2001; and Bishop Christopher James; he was an instructor in foreign languages. He was a resident of Blacksburg and he joined Tech August of 2005.
Those names will be made available to you. It will be posted on our website. From here forward, I need to have a discussion with you. I have to admit very freely and frankly that I‘m totally exhausted and spent. I have had about six or seven hours of sleep since Sunday night. This has been the most trying ordeal that you can imagine for everybody in this country.
We grieve for our families and friends. We cannot understand how something like this happened, and our university is going to have to try to find a way to move forward. I know that you all have a job to do. I have a job to do. I have spent my career finding ways to help journalists get their job done. I want to try to find a way to continue to work with you.
Many of you in the room I have known for an awful long time and I respect you sincerely. There‘s not a lot of information left at this point to disseminate. The question and answers, we are going over the same points again and again and again. There is now, as you know, the commission, as the governor is now calling it, that will be reviewing everything that took place.
I don‘t know whether that‘s going to have a blanket on what I can say. Obviously, we need to continue to work with them to assure that they‘ve got the information, but I don‘t see a whole lot more drilling down that I can do. We do have a joint information center. I want to talk to you a little bit about that, how it can continue to get your requests for information, and your requests for interviews.
I don‘t know what the number is here. I think it‘s something like 300 or 350 journalists. You know, I couldn‘t do an interview an hour and get that done in several weeks. From my university standpoint, we have got to move forward. As you can imagine, we cannot let this horror define Virginia Tech. We‘re going to do whatever we can to try to get this place on its feet again, while we remember what took place and do what we can to ever prevent anything like that from happening again in the United States.
We‘re going to work with our families and our community and get this place up and running. Our motto at this university is “Invent The Future.” That‘s what higher education in this country is really all about. Those of us that believe sincerely and deeply in the role of education, in lifting us up, and making us a better community, we will move forward.
I want to thank you again, and I hope that you will continue with the coverage of these victims. And I will continue to try to make my university available, officials in my university available, myself available and the information available. I would ask, frankly, for a discussion, to the degree that I can have a discussion with all these folks, of how I can continue to operate and how I can continue to be of service to you, so that you can get the job done that you need.
And before we move off that phase, at some point, we‘re not going to be able to park in the Drill Field. We‘re not going to be able to park on the sidewalks. We are going to have to get this building back to where it needs to be. So, the joint information center will be open through the weekend. We‘re going to try to find another location to have a briefing when it‘s necessary, if you folks think it is going to be necessary. If I can work just from the joint information center, we can do that.
Frankly, this is not the White House and I‘m just not set up to do that kind of thing. So, I mean, how do we do it, folks?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You‘re doing great.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, Larry.
HINKER: Thank you.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Larry.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You might ask for a roll call on how many people will be staying through the weekend. That might give you a sense of things.
HINKER: How many people plan to stay through the weekend? Can I see a show of hands? Can somebody give me a count? That‘s somewhere in the neighborhood of about a dozen and a half.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Larry, while you can (INAUDIBLE) work room there that can accommodate many heads.
HINKER: You know, that‘s an excellent idea. We do have a facility that‘s set up for working journalists. You‘ve got your links over there. Roland, you obviously were over there, right? We could use that as a base of operations. You got the south end zone parking lot. If people are going to keep your trucks here, your vehicles, I can make arrangements to get areas cordoned off, either there or in the coliseum parking lot over on Chicken Hill.
So, what we‘ll do is we‘ll go ahead and work immediately with the Sports Information Office to commandeer that location, and we‘ll begin that tomorrow.
Monday? OK, we‘ll do that starting Monday.
CARLSON: A very emotional press conference at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg. Even the reporters were applauding, something I don‘t think I have ever seen at a press conference anywhere. We will be back in just a moment with the rest of the day‘s news. Stay tuned.
CARLSON: The massacre at Virginia Tech has reignited calls for gun law reform. Congresswoman Carolyn McCarthy of New York and Congressman Jim Moran of Virginia, among others, point to the tragedy in Blacksburg as evidence that America needs more restrictive firearms policies.
Is it true that the state of Virginia has one of America‘s least restrictive polices? Yes, it is. But would reform prevent gun violence? Would tougher laws have done anything? And if so, which reforms?
Here to discuss it Democratic strategist Steve McMahon and Democratic strategist and contributor to the “Hill‘s” pundits blog, Peter Fenn. Welcome to you both.
We had Congresswoman Carolyn McCarthy of New York on yesterday. Perfectly pleasant person. I actually took the time to read a piece of legislation, an anti-assault weapons ban, that she put forward earlier this year. It‘s one of the pieces of legislation that she said, if we had this in place, this massacre never would have happened.
So I read it. And in there, she said she wants to ban guns with something called barrel shrouds. So I asked her yesterday, what a barrel shroud. Watch what she said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CARLSON: In February you introduced the Assault Weapons Ban and Law Enforcement Protection Act of 2007. It would regulate semi-automatic assault weapons, including weapons that have pistol grips, a forward grip, and something called a barrel shroud. Weapons with a barrel shroud would be regulated. What is barrel shroud and why should we regulate it?
REP. CAROLYN MCCARTHY (D), NEW YORK: I think the more important thing is that it also would have banned large capacity clips that Colin Ferguson had used and also the killer.
CARLSON: I‘m sorry, I read the legislation and it said that it would regulate barrel shrouds. What is a barrel shroud, and why should we regulate that?
MCCARTHY: The guns that were chosen back in those days were basically the guns that most gangs and criminals were using to kill our police officers. I‘m not saying it was the best bill, but that was the best bill they could get out of it.
CARLSON: Do you know what a barrel shroud is?
MCCARTHY: I actually don‘t know what a barrel shroud is. I believe it‘s a shoulder thing that goes up.
CARLSON: No, it‘s not.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CARLSON: It is a shoulder thing that goes up. I don‘t want to be mean to Carolyn Mccarthy, seems like a perfectly nice person, but that‘s pathetic. She is attempting to ban something she can‘t identify. She‘s writing laws for the rest of us having to do with thing she doesn‘t understand at all. And I guess I would submit this is not an aberration. This is a metaphor for Congress‘s attempt to ban guns.
They don‘t know what the hell they‘re talking about. Maybe they ought to take a deep breath, and think it through, before trying to forcing it on the rest of America, don‘t you think?
PETER FENN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: I think taking a deep breath is not a bad idea, Tucker. I will say, in her defense, she lost a husband and a son to a random act of violence on a train.
CARLSON: How‘s that her defense? She‘s trying to make a law that affects 300 million Americans. She should know what is in it.
FENN: I don‘t know what a barrel shroud is.
CARLSON: You are not trying to ban them. She is.
FENN: I understand that, but she has fought very well, over a long period of time, for gun control and she believes very strongly in it. I do not happen to agree with her on all of it. I think it‘s too bad that we all don‘t know what a barrel shroud is, or you probably do by now.
CARLSON: I did before, but I guess the point is you ought to know what you are talking about before you try to impose your views on other people. This is emblematic of what I see all the time on this specific subject, gun control. The weapon looks scary. It looks like something I saw on television. It‘s bad!
It relentlessly dumb. Why aren‘t we spending our time trying to figure out what to do about the mentally ill who are prone to violence. That‘s the conversation we ought to be having, don‘t you think?
STEVE MCMAHON, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Absolutely, we should be having that. But we should also be having a conversation about what hunting purpose is served by a gun that can empty 20 or 25 rounds a second into whatever it is that it is being fired at.
CARLSON: No guns sold in America can empty 20 rounds a second.
Moreover, the second amendment says nothing about hunting.
MCMAHON: But that‘s the defense that every Republican uses; I‘m a hunter.
CARLSON: I don‘t know what every Republican says. I‘m telling you that hunting is not the reason, or the reason at all, we have a second amendment. Hunting has nothing to do with it.
MCMAHON: Well, militias have something to do with it. Originally many people believed that the intention of the framers was that people should be able to keep guns in order to form militias. Well guess what, we have militias now. We have the National Guard; we have the military.
CARLSON: How did they do on Monday in Blacksburg?
MCMAHON: The question is what kind of guns do people need? What kind of guns have a legitimate hunting purpose? And I don‘t think there is anybody talking about banning those kind of guns. It is the kind of guns that fire a number of rounds, maybe not 20 rounds a second, but it certainly is far more rounds than a hunter needs to kill a deer or bird.
CARLSON: Again, hunting has nothing to do with it. The obvious question is, wait a second, why is it crazy to say that if a student had had a gun—the police didn‘t do diddly for the victims of this crime. They didn‘t do anything. They showed up when it was over. I‘m not attacking the police. I‘m merely saying they weren‘t enough. Neither was the National Guard or any militia or the U.S. Army, for that matter.
Why would it have been a bad idea if one of the students had a concealed weapons permit, he could have saved lives? Why is that a crazy notion?
FENN: That‘s a great idea, give the students concealed weapons to take to class.
CARLSON: This guy killed 32 people.
FENN: Let me tell you why, because instead of getting in an argument and punching somebody in the jaw, somebody is going to pull out a gun and knock the guys block off.
CARLSON: How often does this happen in Virginia? They have a concealed weapons permit.
FENN: Not too many people were carrying guns in this place. If we want to solve this problem, Tucker, we ought to take a look, again, at the kind of clips that we‘re talking about that you don‘t need for hunting, cop killer bullets. The other thing, which I fully support, and the NRA supports, is that you have got to have information on people, so that when they go in there, a guy like this, who has been put into a mental hospital, who clearly showed signs of violence, who clearly has a problem, is somehow identified and prevented from purchasing two guns in a month and a half.
CARLSON: Let me just say; let me just make a statement of fact, then we can move on. That is already the law. If you have been adjudicated mentally ill, you are not allowed to buy a gun.
FENN: Well, he wasn‘t on this list.
CARLSON: I‘m fully aware of that. He should have been. Just to make it clear for our viewers, that is the law and has been for years.
MCMAHON: Well, it hasn‘t worked.
CARLSON: OK, Hillary Clinton‘s favorability rating plunges in Gallup Poll; that‘s the headline. More Americans say they have an unfavorable view, 52 percent, than a favorable view of Mrs. Clinton. Her favorability rating has gone down nine points in the last month, I believe. Her current 45 percent favorability rating is the lowest for her since 1993. Is this a trend? Is this real, significant?
MCMAHON: Well, I think it demonstrates the polarization in the electorate and what happens when partisan politics enters as early and as strongly as they have in this campaign. I mean, a lot of people are paying attention. One of the other interesting numbers here is that 65 percent of the respondents say they are paying a lot of attention to the presidential race right now.
So what happens when it becomes partisan is people start to draw sides. Democrats go to their side. Republicans go to their side. They feel pretty strongly about it. I think, because she‘s the front runner, because she‘s been so strong in these polls, the Republicans and, according to this, many independents are partisanizing up. That‘s perfectly understandable.
CARLSON: John McCain, really low in the polls. Everyone hates John McCain. It‘s fashionable to say it is over fore that old guy. I‘m actually starting to fall in love with him again based on things like this:
This is from Youtube. This is a clip that is on everybody in America‘s computer. If you haven‘t seen this, watch this. This is John McCain, I believe, last night at an event. Recently at an event, watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When do we send them an airmail message to Tehran?
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN ®, ARIZONA: Remember that old beach boys song, Bomb Iran? Bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb ---
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CARLSON: I don‘t know, this is supposed to be a gaffe? I‘m in love.
MCMAHON: That‘s not a gaffe. That‘s not a gaffe.
CARLSON: It‘s not a gaffe?
FENN: Listen, he is ready to go. I mean, this guy is going to be the biggest defender of the Iraq policy, as he has been, as it goes down. I mean, he did a little bit of a joke on the song—It‘s Barbara Ann, by the way, but great song.
But look, he is in trouble. He is so linked to this president on Iraq policy.
CARLSON: On purpose.
FENN: On purpose.
CARLSON: He is not running away.
FENN: It may squeak him by with the Republican nomination, but it will kill him in the general election.
CARLSON: You may be right. I must say, I don‘t agree with him on anything having to do with foreign policy. I just respect his juevos. I mean, the guy is great.
MCMAHON: Listen, I think it is ironic that the guy who was Mr. Authentic, and Mr. Authentic because he was willing to go out on his own, because he was willing take on his party, because he was willing to take a position that was not a popular position, or one that his president embraced, is now probably going to doom his campaign because he sounds and acts and defends George Bush policies.
CARLSON: He is taking the most unpopular position. He is not only taking on his party, he is taking on the world. That is why all of the sudden.
MCMAHON: But he sounds like President Bush.
CARLSON: He may, he is a more secular version.
MCMAHON: No, but he sounds like President Bush when he is defending the Iraq War. And he even sounds like President Bush when he is describing the conditions on the ground.
CARLSON: Yes. But we have got to go. Let me just point out, he can speak English, and that is one thing that separates him from the president.
CARLSON: The attorney general, Alberto Gonzales, faces a tough crowd in the Senate today, including Republicans. President Bush says he still supports his attorney general but will that end?
And deadly violence in Iraq surged this week as the president and congressional leaders stand firm in their stalemate on funding and troop withdrawal. Will anything change in any direction in the war? We will tell you. This is MSNBC.
CARLSON: Attorney General Alberto Gonzales is grilled by a Senate committee for his role in the firings of eight federal prosecutors. Democrats have been vocal in calling for him the resign. Now Republicans are too. Can he stand the heat? We will tell you. We will be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. ARLEN SPECTER (R-PA), RANKING MEMBER, JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: .
press conference where you said there weren‘t any discussions involving you?
ALBERTO GONZALES, ATTORNEY GENERAL: Senator, I have already said that I misspoke. It was my mistake.
SPECTER: But I‘m asking you, were you prepared? You interjected that you are always prepared. Were you prepared for that press conference?
GONZALES: Sir, I didn‘t say that I was always prepared. I said I prepared for every hearing.
SPECTER: Let‘s move on. I don‘t think you are going to win a debate about your preparation, frankly. But let‘s get to the facts. I‘d like to you win this debate, Attorney General Gonzales.
GONZALES: I appreciate that.
SPECTER: I would like you to win this debate.
GONZALES: I apologize, sir.
SPECTER: But you are going to have to win it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CARLSON: Senator Arlen Specter greeted Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez with strong language about the trouble Gonzalez is in. Keep in mind that Specter was one of the friendlier senators today, he is, of course, a Republican. The AG‘s day on Capitol Hill saw plenty of angry bluster from the inquisitors in Gonzales‘ continued claim that he has not misled anybody about the firings of those eight U.S. attorneys.
He is suspected by his political opponents and even some Republicans of, at best, mismanagement of that situation, and at worst, lying about it. Here to analyze the big day in the Senate, we welcome back Democratic strategist Steve McMahon and Democratic strategist Peter Fenn.
Welcome to you both.
MCMAHON: Do you feel outnumbered here, Tucker ?
FENN: Yes, Tucker, you.
CARLSON: You know what, I can handle it. I can take it.
FENN: How many times can you say Democrat in 10 seconds?
CARLSON: You can‘t rattle my cage. Leaving aside—look, Tom Coburn, Republican senator from Oklahoma, I think one of the smartest—definitely one of the most conservative senators in the last 100 years in the U.S. Senate, came out today and he said that he thinks that Gonzales ought to resign.
You know, the drumbeat is coming from both sides. Mostly Democrats, but also some Republicans. Why did Bush—as a political matter, purely political strategy, why did he put Gonzales out there today?
MCMAHON: Well, I think he had to. I mean, he had no choice. They were going to either subpoena him or he was going to go up there voluntarily.
CARLSON: Right. But why not just ask him to resign?
MCMAHON: Well, that is a good question. Why not leave Iraq? I mean, this president is fairly stubborn. I think he has.
CARLSON: Well, because you.
CARLSON: You leave Iraq and the whole region collapses and oil goes to $50 a gallon.
MCMAHON: I think he has demonstrated both his loyalty to his friends and his insularity to his Texas cronies. And this is just an example of both. This is somebody who came with him from Austin, Texas, who wasn‘t up for the job to begin with, who misled the Congress repeatedly and who is now up there trying to save his job.
I frankly don‘t think it is going to work. I think.
CARLSON: I agree.
MCMAHON: Tom Coburn today suggests the writing is on the wall. But I have got to tell you, as a Democrat, I hope he stays.
CARLSON: Well, you have got to wonder.
MCMAHON: Because he is a monument.
CARLSON: I want you to respond to something that Patrick Leahy of Vermont said today. You already saw Arlen Specter, he is kind of co-chief of that committee, really, people who don‘t watch the Congress have no idea, I think, how arrogant U.S. senators are. I mean, it is almost mind-blowing when you watch them. Specter was one example. Here is Patrick Leahy, this is his assessment of the gravity of the situation.
Patrick Leahy of Vermont.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. PATRICK LEAHY (D- VT), CHAIRMAN, JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: Today the Department of Justice is experiencing a crisis of leadership perhaps unrivalled during its 137-year history.
The Department of Justice should never be reduced to another political arm of the White House.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CARLSON: OK. Look, I don‘t think Gonzales is such an impressive guy. And if he resigned, I wouldn‘t lose sleep over it. It would be fine with me, actually. But the most profound crisis in leadership in its 137-year history? They fired eight U.S. attorneys, whose prerogative it was to fire. I mean, let‘s get a little perspective here.
FENN: No, I will give you a little perspective, Tucker. He has turned this thing into his own political sandbox, this president of the United States and Karl Rove.
CARLSON: Oh, come on.
FENN: Here is—no, look, you go back and look at.
CARLSON: Name one political opponent they have.
FENN: Look at the honors program. The honors program was established in the early 1950s.
CARLSON: And what about Watergate?
FENN: By—listen, let me just say, Watergate was a bad time, too.
But institutionally, these guys resigned with courage then. Now.
CARLSON: Can you name one political opponent they put in jail? I mean, let‘s be real. Let‘s get some.
FENN: I will get you real. This is supposed to be a department where they recruit lawyers from law schools, the best and brightest of this country, Herbert Brownell started this honors program in the early ‘50s.
CARLSON: Yes, OK.
FENN: No, no, no OK.
CARLSON: So you think it is political.
FENN: In the early.
FENN: It is totally political. And they are coming from Oral Roberts University.
CARLSON: Yes, wow.
FENN: . and they are coming from.
CARLSON: You mention letting those Jesus freaks in to a federal agency, that is wrong, man. That ought to be illegal.
FENN: . litmus tests, litmus tests you have to take to get into the Justice Department. That is what he is talking about. And that is serious.
CARLSON: You know, look, Democrats don‘t agree with the politics of the people who run the Justice Department, but it is still a liberal agency and let‘s be real...
MCMAHON: But leaving aside, leaving aside Peter‘s legitimate criticism of the.
CARLSON: Of letting Christians in?
MCMAHON: Of the politicization.
FENN: No, come on.
MCMAHON: The politicization of the Justice Department, there is a constitutional principle at stake here, and that is the separation of powers.
CARLSON: I agree.
MCMAHON: . as co-equal branches of government. And this administration has treated Congress basically with contempt, treated it as if it is irrelevant. And then they send their top administration officials out there and they don‘t tell the truth. They have created their own problem. And Alberto Gonzales is not going to be able to fix it by being slippery.
CARLSON: Well, I agree. So Tom Coburn, I think he is on his way up. Tom Coburn is now against Gonzales. Bill Richardson, the governor of New Mexico, was asked the other day, you have been in Congress, you are a (INAUDIBLE) guy, how do you feel about Alberto Gonzales?
He says, I‘m kind of on the fence, I‘m not exactly sure whether I support him resigning or not. Then he said this, and I‘m quoting: “The only reason I‘m not there,” meaning, the only reason I‘m not for him leaving is, quote, “because he is Hispanic and I know him and like him. It is because he is Hispanic, I‘m honest. I want to give him the benefit of the doubt.” Because he is Hispanic.
Now, I imagine there are governors who have said more racist things but I guess off the top of my head, I can‘t imagine—I can‘t remember a sitting one who said anything more racist than this.
FENN: I will tell you, he also is very critical of him. But, Tucker.
CARLSON: Did you support Clinton because he was white?
FENN: No. I mean, that kind of statement, I think, yes, he was being honest. He said, I have got a simpatico deal here. But he is—you know, I think it was wrong. I mean, I don‘t see that as being a reason not to come out and say the guy has done wrong. He has politicized this department. He should be gone.
CARLSON: If George Pataki got up and said, you know what, Scooter Libby, I‘m not really sure, but he is white and I‘m white, too, I‘m kind of on Scooter Libby‘s side, because you know, we are white.
FENN: I will tell you, the patricians in this town have been doing it for years.
CARLSON: No, they haven‘t. No, they haven‘t. To say that in public?
FENN: Richard Helms, oh yes, they stuck with Richard Helms because he was one of their own.
CARLSON: Because he was white?
FENN: Well, because he was a white patrician.
CARLSON: Now that is.
FENN: No, well, you look at the.
CARLSON: I have never heard anybody say anything like that in public.
I mean, I guess, good for Bill Richardson for being honest in public.
CARLSON: Hard to imagine him being chosen as vice president. Up ahead. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid declared today that the Iraq War is lost. With 233 dead in Iraq yesterday alone, is he right? We will discuss the ongoing stalemate between congressional Democrats and the president on that question when we come back. You are watching MSNBC.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Don‘t put our troops in between the debate. Let‘s get them the money. Let‘s give the commanders the flexibility. And we can debate Iraq policy without shorting the capacity for these troops to do their jobs.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CARLSON: That was President Bush speaking today in Ohio, a day after he met with congressional Democrats to discuss the war in Iraq. The president reiterated that he will not sign any war funding bill that includes a timetable for troop withdrawal. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said today, quote: “This war is lost.” Is it? Back with us again, the two Democratic strategists we love most, Steve McMahon and Peter Fenn.
Well, I want to actually play what Harry Reid said today. Before I do, you have got to give him credit for honesty, I mean, he just says, sort of like Bill Richardson, exactly what he really thinks in contrast to most people in politics.
This is Harry Reid on the Iraq War, watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER: Now I believe myself, that the secretary of state, the secretary of defense, and you have to make your own decisions as to what the president knows, but this war is lost and that the surge is not accomplishing anything as indicated by the extreme violence.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CARLSON: “This war is lost.” Now, I believe he sincerely believes that. I think most Democrats in Congress believe that too, and a lot of Americans, for that matter. But if you really believe that, then how could you support, as Harry Reid did, General Petraeus, right? How could you vote in favor of Petraeus? How could you have anything at all to do with funding a war you believe fundamentally was lost. That would kind of be immoral, wouldn‘t it?
MCMAHON: Well, I think they are having that debate right now. And as for supporting General Petraeus. I think many Democrats were hoping that General Petraeus would change direction in Iraq.
CARLSON: That was like 20 minutes ago, though.
MCMAHON: . and he hasn‘t. Many Democrats were hoping, in spite of their belief otherwise that the surge would be successful. It clearly has not been. And you have got a bipartisan consensus, the Iraq commission basically said it is time for us to start thinking about bringing the troops home and thinking about a time line for doing so. That is was the Democrats in Congress are still working on.
CARLSON: But that was quite a while ago.
MCMAHON: I know. I know. But, Tucker.
CARLSON: But the Iraq commission said that, what—you know, a year ago, however long, I mean, quite some time ago, and yet they still voted for Petraeus. But it—even leaving that aside.
MCMAHON: But we were in the war, Tucker. You have to have somebody who is leading the troops. The president is still the commander-in-chief. And the Congress has very little ability to influence the outcome of the decisions that he makes. One of them is funding.
CARLSON: But if you believe it is lost, you are entering moral terrain at that point. And how can you sit by and let Americans die in a war whose conclusion is foregone, if you really believe that, if you believe there is no hope?
MCMAHON: The Democrats are doing every single thing that they can.
CARLSON: No, they are not.
MCMAHON: . to bring the troops home. Yes, they are. They are threatening.
CARLSON: To cut off war funding.
MCMAHON: . to cut off funding.
MCMAHON: That is the conversation that is going on right now. And I don‘t think the Democrats want to leave the troops in that position. They are hoping that the president will acknowledge that there is a co-equal branch of government that has a role in this. And they are hoping that they can reach an agreement.
CARLSON: But why has Harry Reid said—wait, hold on. Why has he said, we are not cutting off funding for the war? Harry Reid has said, we are not going to cut off funding. If you believe the war is lost, then why are you continuing to fight it?
FENN: (INAUDIBLE) cut out the funding. Secondly, if you are going to do something like this, you don‘t want to leave the troops over there and with the president putting even more troops in. And, in fact, if anything, this legislation Democrats have has more money for veterans, has more money for funding for the troops.
But the problem, you are right, Tucker, is that if you are going to say this war is lost, then you have to do some very concrete things. Such as, the secretary—Secretary Gates going over there now and saying to the Iraqi government, folks, the American people do not have the stomach for a long war.
We are not going to be here forever. As George Bush‘s father said, we are not—you know, being an occupying force ain‘t working. And I think what is going to happen is this isn‘t going to be decided by the Democrats so much. Just like the Gonzales thing we are talking about, you are going to see the Republicans saying, that is it, we have had enough.
CARLSON: That may be right. But I wonder what—I mean, you know, I have been against this war almost since the beginning of it and I have been very vocal about it, so I—you know, more than most Democrats, more than Hillary Clinton, so I don‘t need to apologize for that, in my view.
On the other hand, if you are one of the tens of hundreds of thousands of Americans who have cycled through Iraq, the families of those who have been killed, and you see Harry Reid, who doesn‘t really know—you know, may not be qualified even to say what he just said, how the hell does he know it is lost? He doesn‘t.
If you hear him say that, what effect does that have? I mean, honestly, that is a very heavy thing to say. America just lost a war against our Islamic lunatic enemies. I don‘t know.
MCMAHON: Let‘s go back.
CARLSON: Should he be saying that?
MCMAHON: Let‘s go back and remember what the troops were there for.
They were there to.
CARLSON: Oh, I know.
MCMAHON: No, but let‘s—seriously, to get rid of Saddam Hussein, to rid the country of weapons of mass destruction, and to deliver democracy to Iraq. They have done those things. The war that we are talking about now is a civil war. And the Americans are over there.
CARLSON: So what does it mean that it is lost?
MCMAHON: . with a target on their backs. Well, there is a civil war that has gone on for a long time in that region and it is probably going to go on for a long time.
CARLSON: No, but it is.
MCMAHON: . regardless of how long we stay. And we are not going to change the fact that...
CARLSON: No, but what does he mean?
FENN: You know what he means? When they just finished that poll and they found that between 80 and 90 percent of Iraqis want us out of there...
CARLSON: So that is the measure?
FENN: Well, the measure is.
CARLSON: Whatever the population of a Middle Eastern country wants, we do?
FENN: No, no, no, the measure is what will best stabilize Iraq? What will best put it in a position to exist? And it is going to take the Iraqis to determine that. And right now, we are an impediment to that. We are harming it. And staying longer is not going to help. More people will die. You talk—everyone.
CARLSON: You are not making unreasonable points—hold on. I think you are making fair points. That is very different from saying it is lost, though.
FENN: I think.
CARLSON: Unfortunately we.
FENN: I think they mean psychologically it is lost.
CARLSON: I wish he would explain what he means. He is the majority leader of the U.S. Senate. He has got an obligation to.
MCMAHON: Maybe he did, Tucker.
CARLSON: . what he means.
MCMAHON: . you just didn‘t roll that much tape.
CARLSON: Thanks, both. That does it for us. Up next, “HARDBALL WITH CHRIS MATTHEWS.” We will be back. I hope you have a great night. See you tomorrow.
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