Guests: Roxanne Roberts, Amy Argetsinger, Ronald Kessler, Jill Zuckman
TUCKER CARLSON, HOST: As the showdown between President Bush and the U.S. Congress comes to a head and fresh accusations emerge that the Bush administration misled the country before the Iraq war, America turns its attention last night to the first Democratic candidates debate in South Carolina.
Given the progress, or lack of progress, in Iraq, the Democrats spent the evening pretty much agreeing with each other. They also spent a good deal of time not answering Brian Williams‘ questions.
We still don‘t know, for instance, any of their definitions of success in the war or how they will pay for their universal health care plans. Extracting meaning from a relatively tepid and non-confrontational debate isn‘t easy. We plan to try anyway.
Joining us to help, we welcome MSNBC political analyst and Democratic strategist Hilary Rosen, and national correspondent from “The Chicago Tribune” Jill Zuckman.
Welcome to you both.
CARLSON: I didn‘t see any knockout blows last night. I don‘t think anybody hurt him or her self or destroyed a campaign in the process of last night. Hillary Clinton still the front-runner, it seems to me.
Her main problem, everyone agrees, Democrat, Republican, independent, she needs to be more appealing.
Was she more appealing?
HILARY ROSEN, NBC POLITICAL ANALYST: I thought she was extremely appealing last night, actually.
ROSEN: I did.
I thought that she didn‘t try too hard to sort of tell personal stories, but she was thoughtful. I thought she had a nice tone about her. I thought she did what she needed to do.
CARLSON: You didn‘t feel lectured at all? You didn‘t feel like, Mrs.
Clinton, may I go to the bathroom?
ROSEN: No. I don‘t think she had that tone at all, Tucker.
ROSEN: Absolutely not. I don‘t...
JILL ZUCKMAN, NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, “THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE”: I think most people expect her to have that tone.
ROSEN: Right. And, so, they read in—they see it even when she doesn‘t.
ROSEN: I think she actually came across as pretty comfortable and relaxed and speaking more naturally than when she would—when is giving a speech.
CARLSON: Yes, I think that is right. I do. Actually, I do agree with you there, that, like the current president, she is better extemporaneously than she is reading something. She‘s not a master of the teleprompter.
ZUCKMAN: The important thing we learned last night, though, is everybody knows who Mike Gravel is now.
CARLSON: Yes, everybody does.
CARLSON: And I want to actually—that is exactly the point I wanted to make.
CARLSON: Thank heaven for the far-left candidates in this race, because they help hold the rest of them accountable for their ridiculous positions on the war.
Here‘s John Edwards lecturing the rest of the crowd, Mrs. Clinton particularly, on their early support for the war—John Edwards.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. CHRISTOPHER DODD (D-CT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: ... in public service. My father was a prosecutor in Nuremberg, was active in...
BRIAN WILLIAMS, MODERATOR: ... you make the case with people...
DODD: ... our country, that not enough people are qualified and want to seek public office. Put aside the presidency of the United States, talking even about congressional seats or local seats, it‘s becoming prohibitive. Certainly, until the law changes, you have to do what you can to raise the resources, which does exactly as you have described.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CARLSON: All right, John Edwards looking a little older.
CARLSON: He has got a Connecticut accent, looks almost like Chris Dodd.
CARLSON: Kind of weird. In fact, that was Chris Dodd of Connecticut, son of Tom Dodd of Connecticut.
CARLSON: OK. My point, Edwards gets up there and says, Senator Clinton and anyone else who voted for the war has to search themselves—grammatically incorrect, but I understand—decide whether they believe they voted the right way. It‘s a vote of conscience, and they should take responsibility for it. I think that is a very good point.
And she can‘t answer that, can she?
ROSEN: What is with you and this issue? She last night...
CARLSON: She voted for a war that she now believes is a mistake.
ROSEN: That‘s right.
CARLSON: Can‘t she concede that she did the wrong thing?
ROSEN: She said she wouldn‘t have done it again. I think she has virtually said it was a mistake. I don‘t know what people want her to say.
CARLSON: Not do it virtually, but do it literally, I guess, is what they want.
ROSEN: What she has literally said is that she wouldn‘t do it again, that she—that it was wrong information, and that the people accountable who gave her the wrong information should be held more accountable.
I think the other thing she said, much more importantly, is, where are we now? Where are we going? And who has the best plan to get us out? And that is why John Edwards, I believe, did not attack her on it, because he had an opportunity to jump down, and decided not to, because I think people are willing to let her go on this.
But it‘s not just a—and we will have—there‘s been some news on this in the last 24 hours, on the information that led this country to war and whether or not it was correct, and who...
CARLSON: ... and knew whether it was correct or not.
But why this is so significant, I believe, is, it is not enough to say, Bush lied to me, so, I went along with it. There is a whole world view, a philosophy, a way of seeing the United States in relation to other nations, that led this country to war.
And Hillary Clinton has never said, I renounce that world view. She is still an internationalist. She‘s still a utopian. She‘s still, essentially, a neocon. And, until she is not, do we want her leading the country? I think it‘s a fair question. Don‘t...
ZUCKMAN: Well, she used to live in the White House. And I think she has a world view that means—that says, the president ultimately makes these decisions...
ZUCKMAN: ... and that the Congress should allow the president to make that decision. And I think that had a lot to do with informing the way she voted when that vote occurred.
And, so, I don‘t—I think one of the reasons she is tiptoeing up to that line, but not willing to cross it, is because, ultimately, she thinks, if she becomes president, she doesn‘t want her hands tied by Congress.
CARLSON: Yes. And I think she also believes—she says she believes that American power should be used to improve the lives of people in other countries, that we should military force, as in Darfur, to make other people‘s lives better.
That is a neoconservative position. That‘s what Paul Wolfowitz believes, what Dick Cheney believes.
ROSEN: Or what she said last night, which is, in the case of retaliation, which I thought she went out on a limb. Other candidates hadn‘t said that yet last night.
ROSEN: If the blame is clear if—on a domestic terror attack, that she would advocate retaliating aggressively, and she would not hesitate to do so.
I think what she has done is tried to articulate sort of her world view of when it is appropriate to use military force and not. I think that, actually, she is pretty close in line with the American people on...
CARLSON: Well, she is certainly more hawkish than anybody else running, certainly even—even than Mike Gravel, whose presence I am grateful for.
ROSEN: I was interested in Barack. And you are a Barack expert, so your view on this would be interesting.
He seemed to want to be much more of an internationalist in his initial answer on the domestic terrorist question. He said, we should not immediately run to invade. We should look at our international allies. We should seek solutions. And then, yet, he came back again afterwards and said, wait, I want to go back to this. We absolutely need to use the military sometimes.
ROSEN: So, he didn‘t want to appear too dovish.
CARLSON: No. No.
ROSEN: And I thought that was an interesting backtrack on his part.
CARLSON: The most, I thought, revealing moment of the entire night came from Joe Biden.
And the question about Joe Biden is not, is he smart enough, is he experienced enough. The question is about self-control. Can Joe Biden keep himself under control?
A remarkable exchange with Brian Williams. Here it is.
Brian Williams asked him, of course, the question on everyone‘s mind. If you are elected president, will you hector us for four years? Will you give 30-minute answers to 30-second questions?
Here is what Joe Biden said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Senator Biden, words have, in the past, gotten you in trouble, words that were borrowed and words that some found hateful.
An editorial in “The Los Angeles Times” said, “In addition to his uncontrolled verbosity, Biden is a gaffe machine.”
Can you reassure voters in this country that you would have the discipline you would need on the world stage, Senator?
SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN (D-DE), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Yes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CARLSON: Now, look at his face.
CARLSON: You are watching a man struggling to hold it together. His tongue is flapping inside his jaws, but he is holding them closed.
I have never seen a person in public control himself with such iron will. Impressive, isn‘t it?
ZUCKMAN: I thought he had a bit of a smug look on his face...
ROSEN: I think that‘s right.
ZUCKMAN: ... practically, like, I‘m not going to—I‘m not going to do what you want me to do here.
CARLSON: The first and only time.
The other most revealing thing, I thought, was that Dennis Kucinich has had a gun at home. What do you think Dennis was using the gun for?
ROSEN: Well, I mean, he also raised his hand last. He hesitated a few minutes.
ROSEN: Yes. I‘m not sure...
CARLSON: He didn‘t want to admit it.
CARLSON: There is a concern he is stockpiling weapons. Do you share that?
ROSEN: I‘m certain of it.
ZUCKMAN: Well, I actually thought that Mike Gravel made Dennis Kucinich look a little more like Ronald Reagan.
ROSEN: That‘s what I said, is, what—and I actually tried to write this, but the MSNBC bloggers wouldn‘t let me.
CARLSON: There are limits even on blogs, Hilary.
ROSEN: If Mike Gravel is crazy, how is Dennis Kucinich going to get any attention?
CARLSON: No, that‘s exactly right.
CARLSON: Somebody has got be the Sharpton, OK?
ROSEN: How is Kucinich going to get any attention, if Mike Gravel goes crazy in this campaign?
CARLSON: That‘s right. Someone has to be the truth-teller, slightly unhinged, not exactly respectable, but the guy for comic relief. I think Mike Gravel has won that.
CARLSON: You will see Mike—every cable news booker in America was sitting up straight. Mike Gravel‘s phone number, where is it?
CARLSON: You are going to see him on the tube soon.
And, in case you didn‘t catch the debate last night or you just want to see it again, tune in to MSNBC on 3:00 p.m. Saturday or noon Sunday to see that debate in its entirety. It‘s worth it, Mike Gravel particularly.
Well, the Democrats faced one another Thursday night, but Howard Dean used his time to take a swipe at Rudy Giuliani‘s personal life. Will Giuliani‘s complicated domestic affairs cost him the nomination? Dean says so.
Plus: Four years since President Bush‘s now notorious “Mission Accomplished” speech, there are fresh allegations from intelligence insiders that the administration did in fact rush to war without the necessary evidence. Who is telling the truth? We tell you.
This is MSNBC, America‘s most impressive cable news.
CARLSON: Former CIA Director George Tenet says the Bush administration never had a serious debate about going to war with Iraq. And he says it‘s all the fault of Vice President Dick Cheney. But wasn‘t Tenet the one who—quoted as saying it was a slam-dunk case?
We will tell you. We will be right back.
CARLSON: As the government figures out how to move forward in Iraq, a new book from former CIA Director George Tenet casts unflattering light on the Bush administration‘s run-up to the invasion four years ago last month.
Tenet‘s most damning claim is that Vice President Dick Cheney and other top administration officials pushed that war on the Congress and the country without ever seriously debating or even discussing the real threat posed by Saddam or the possibility of containing him without military action.
The book, called “At the Center of the Storm,” is out Monday. And, not surprisingly, it appears to exonerate its author. Amazing.
So, is George Tenet‘s account of the start of the Iraq war credible?
Or is he covering his tracks? Or both?
Here with his assessment is the author of “Inside the CIA” and chief Washington correspondent for NewsMax.com, Ron Kessler.
Ron, thanks for coming on.
RONALD KESSLER, CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, NEWSMAX.COM: My pleasure, Tucker.
CARLSON: So, as he—as Mr. Tenet concedes in the book, the motivation behind the book was the Bob Woodward piece that described Tenet as telling Bush, the case for the war was—quote—“a slam dunk.”
Does he contest that he said that? Or I don‘t—I mean, how do you get out from something that damning? Tenet was for the war. He convinced Bush to go to war, was one of those who did. Is he claiming differently now?
KESSLER: He really isn‘t.
He is saying that he was referring to a presentation for the case for going to war, which is really the same thing, and that it was a slam dunk or it could be a slam dunk. So, it is really a distinction without a difference.
And, of course, the fact is that the CIA did believe that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction. So did all the intelligence agencies in the world. So did even Saddam‘s generals think that they had chemical weapons that they were supposed to use. So did Bill Clinton, who said that he has WMD and that we have to have a regime change.
So—so, really, this whole debate is a little silly. There is no question that everyone believed that he had it, and there was no way to really undercut that claim.
And the people who—the critics now who say that it was the wrong war, of course, ignore the fact that Saddam had killed 300,000 people, ignore the fact that Bush has now liberated 50 million people, between Afghanistan and Iraq. Certainly, big mistakes were made on the postwar planning. Two War College professors had it all right. They were ignored.
CARLSON: But wait. Well, wait a second. It seems like what we are
really ignoring—I mean, all of that, I—I—we are debating whether -
and I think, for most people, the debate is over. But there is still a debate about why—you know, whether it was a good idea to go to war.
But I think what has been under-covered is the CIA‘s role in all this. That agency has somehow escaped the blame. If I‘m—unless I am missing something, they backed the president‘s decision. And it was wrong, to the extent they claimed that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction.
CARLSON: Has there been a period of introspection over at CIA to figure out how they got it so wrong?
KESSLER: Oh, yes. Oh, yes.
I mean, there have been tremendous changes there, first of all. But it wasn‘t, you know, that they backed Bush‘s decision. It was, Bush based his decision on what the CIA was telling him. And, again, there was not—if the Iraqi generals themselves thought that they had chemical weapons, how could you possibly get behind that?
It‘s like, you know, going to the Pentagon and finding out that everybody in the Pentagon think—thought that we had certain weapons. There was no way to disprove that.
CARLSON: But what happened to the weapons? OK? So, the CIA—it seems like nobody is doing follow-up here. If they had a good case for believing these weapons existed—and I—it sounds like they did—aren‘t people sort of wondering, like, what happened to all these weapons, all these terrifying weapons of mass destruction? Where are they right now?
KESSLER: It seems, first of all, that Saddam was bluffing, wanted people to think he had these weapons.
Plus, he had previously used them. Plus, he was still trying to acquire nuclear capability once sanctions were lifted. So, he clearly was a threat. We are much better off without him. It is really a very unfortunate debate, because what really is important is, how do we protect ourselves now?
And the answer is that a lot of changes have been made within the FBI, within the CIA, based on Bush policy decisions. And that is why we haven‘t been attacked in more than five years.
And Tenet has a very good story to tell about some of those changes, how thousands of terrorists were rolled up under his watch, how he begged the Clinton administration to stop cutting the CIA‘s budget. Under Clinton, the clandestine service of the CIA was actually cut by 25 percent. And these are the people who were trying to penetrate al Qaeda.
And the question is now, how do we keep safe? I feel every day that we are lucky that we haven‘t been attacked, because it would be so easy to get through. And plots are rolled up all the time.
KESSLER: The FBI, every month or two, announces an arrest. But, usually, it is on the back pages of the paper.
CARLSON: It certainly is.
Thanks very much, Ron Kessler.
KESSLER: My pleasure.
CARLSON: I appreciate it.
KESSLER: Thank you.
CARLSON: More than four years since the invasion of Iraq, a Democratic senator claims he knew the war was based on false pretenses from day one. Yet, somehow, he never told the rest of us—details in a minute.
Plus: Hillary Clinton says she would have voted against the war if she knew what she knows now. That‘s a fair enough claim on face value, but would information that is now coming to light have changed her vote? We will look back, amid plans to move forward.
This is MSNBC.
CARLSON: Do George Tenet‘s new claims of executive and military hubris erode the vestiges of national trust in the commander in chief? In other words, if Tenet doesn‘t trust him, why should we trust Bush? Where does that leave Bush and his remaining allies in Congress in terms of their capacity to execute his military plan?
Joining us again, military strategist and MSNBC political analyst, Hillary Rosen, and national correspondent from “The Chicago Tribune”, Jill Zuckman.
I don‘t actually have a dog in this fight. I‘m not sure what I think of this Tenet book. But I always look at books like this a little bit askance, because you know, they‘re carrying water for the guy who wrote them. This does seem like butt-covering to me a little bit.
JILL ZUCKMAN, NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, “CHICAGO TRIBUNE”: I sort of think that it‘s fascinating. Here‘s a guy who‘s in the room. I want to know what he thinks...
ZUCKMAN: ... and what he has to say about it. But I sort of think history is going to have to sort this out.
ZUCKMAN: I‘m not sure that one person is going to say here is the answer to everything that went on before we went to war, why we went to war, what the president was thinking.
I kind of think we might have to leave it to historians to go through and assess everything. We might not have all the information for a while.
CARLSON: It takes brass, I think, for people who are responsible for the war in Iraq, including Tenet and Colin Powell and some of the informal advisers, people who worked there who are now saying, “Well, you know, I was always a little bit concerned about it.”
Really? Well, if you cared about the country, why didn‘t you pipe up?
ROSEN: It‘s overwhelmingly frightening. And I think what‘s even more interesting is now there‘s this debate kind of going on between them and current White House officials about what they really did and what was really said. And no, we studied it a lot and we had more information than he knew about.
And the irony here is that if any of them would just kind of face the reality of what we‘re going in—through right now, then we wouldn‘t be having this fight over justifying what is already, obviously, a failed strategy.
CARLSON: But I think it—I mean, I think you‘re right: had the war been a success, nobody would care why it was initiated in the first place. We would just look at the results and say, you know, it was worth it.
ROSEN: Or if they would just admit that it‘s a failure now.
ROSEN: That their strategy isn‘t working.
CARLSON: Well, I think most people think that...
ROSEN: Most people, except the people in charge.
CARLSON: OK. The nine people at the top don‘t—aren‘t willing to admit it and they can‘t. I mean, if they‘re at war they can‘t say that.
But I think it‘s interesting just from a historical point of view, why the war was waged. I felt from day one, however you felt about the war, you had to still wonder why the hell we were doing this. They never really explained it. I thought that was a huge problem from the beginning.
ZUCKMAN: Well, I think they really believed in a profound way that Iraq was making nuclear weapons, was going to have nuclear weapons, that it was out there, that they—that there were weapons of mass destruction and they needed to do something before something more catastrophic than 9/11 occurred. I think that was what motivated them.
CARLSON: If that‘s the justification, that‘s a totally valid justification for war. Do you think your country is going to be...
ZUCKMAN: It turned out to be wrong.
CARLSON: It turned out to be wrong. But if you think—if you think, I‘m about to hit you and you hit me first, amen for you, as far as I‘m concerned.
ROSEN: Maybe so. But the moment that it was clear that those rationales were either not true or were—had become irrelevant...
ROSEN: ... not to change course while George Tenet was still in office, while Colin Powell was still in office. Not to have taken this on is ridiculous. I think his fight now with Dick Cheney is even kind of more amusing, if it weren‘t so frightening.
CARLSON: Here‘s what George Tenet said. This is from “60 Minutes”. Here‘s what he said. This is explaining why he wrote the book. “The hardest part of all of this has been just listening to this for almost three years, listening to the vice president go on ‘Meet the Press‘ on the fifth year anniversary of 9/11 and say, ‘Well, George Tenet said slam dunk,‘ as if he needed me to say ‘slam dunk‘ to go to war with Iraq. And you listen to that and they never let it go. I mean, I became campaign talk. I was a talking point: ‘Look at the idiot [who] told us and we decided to go to war‘.”
ROSEN: That is just ridiculous. George Tenet primped and preened as the CIA director for the entire time...
ROSEN: ... the invasion was going on. And he went up and received the Medal of Honor.
CARLSON: I don‘t agree with anything you say except that. I totally agree with you.
ROSEN: And the fact that he did all of that with complete consciousness and then now says, “Well, how could they blame me for the war?” At the time, he was so proud they were taking his advice.
CARLSON: You‘re the head of U.S. intelligence. Of course they need you to say “slam dunk.”
ROSEN: It‘s so offensive to be upset that they took the very advice he was paid to give.
CARLSON: Thank you for saying that, amen. And also of course they needed him. He‘s the head of the CIA. So his job is to inform them so they can make decisions about war and peace, right? I mean...
ZUCKMAN: I want to read the book.
CARLSON: I do, too.
ZUCKMAN: I want to—I mean, I‘d like to understand more. I do find it fascinating that he went and accepted that award if he felt so bitterly that he‘d been thrown over the side. And he says that he felt conflicted about it. But I guess he really didn‘t want to...
CARLSON: Right. But if the award was given in recognition of the CIA‘s great work in the war or terror, OK. But that doesn‘t answer the question why did he allow himself to be used as a prop in the propaganda campaign waged by the White House in order to get people to support the war. He was, and you can‘t have it both ways.
And I‘m going to read the book, too. I‘m interesting. But I‘m highly suspicious of the motives of the man who wrote it.
All right. We will be right back.
Hillary Clinton believes that her vote for the Iraq war is less important than the country‘s direction from here on out. Does America believe the same thing? Does anybody care what Hillary Clinton did four years ago, apart from me?
And what‘s going on in the world when a leading Democrat calls out the leading Republican presidential candidate for his unsavory personal life? Can you imagine? It‘s 1998 in reverse. The upside-down doings of the ‘08 race to the White House when we come back.
CARLSON: Still to come. About the Senate intelligence committee and American people get different information about the information on the war in Iraq? Dick Durbin said oh, yes. He couldn‘t say anything, he was sworn to see contract see.
CARLSON: Lost amid the Congress‘ vote on its war bill and the Democratic debate was an admission by Illinois Senator Dick Durbin on the Senate floor Wednesday. Durbin was a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee during the run-up to the war in Iraq.
He now says he knew the Bush administration‘s pitch for invasion was based on faulty intelligence, and the administration knew it, too. Quote, “The information we had in the intelligence committee was not the same information being given to the American people. I couldn‘t believe it. I was angry about it. Frankly, I couldn‘t do much about it because in the intelligence committee, we are sworn to secrecy.”
Well, it‘s an incendiary admission. Did the administration just simply lie to us? And why didn‘t the intelligence committee members make louder and more convincing noise about the invasion of Iraq at the time?
Here to talk about the implications of Senator Durbin‘s revelation are MSNBC political analyst Hillary Rosen and national correspondent for “The Chicago Tribune”, Jill Zuckman.
Jill, you were just telling me in the commercial break something I didn‘t know, which was this is, of course—you‘re the “Chicago Tribune”. You cover this. This is not the first time Durbin said this.
ZUCKMAN: No, Senator Durbin has actually talked about this nine times on the floor and seven times in speeches, according to his staff. That he has—that he felt his hands were tied at that time, but that he still discussed his concerns that the intelligence wasn‘t completely there on the day of the vote. And since then that there were discrepancies.
And when some of those things have become declassified, he has been able to talk about them more. But he has had concerns for a long time, and that was why he voted against going to war.
CARLSON: Interesting. I have to say, Hillary, this rings false to me. He said, “I couldn‘t say anything about it, because that information was classified.” Well, he can‘t characterize the classified information to the public, that‘s true.
But he can and is, in fact, supposed to draw conclusions from that classified information. That‘s why it‘s given to him as a member of the intel committee. Why didn‘t he chain himself to the White House gates, go on “Meet the Press”, put a sandwich board over his head, do whatever it took to tell the rest of us, “This information is wrong, the White House is lying to you”? He didn‘t do that. Why not?
ROSEN: I think there‘s an assumption in the story that somehow there was some smoking gun, that the White House or that...
CARLSON: That‘s what he‘s saying.
ROSEN: He didn‘t say that. What he said was that the information he was given he felt like wasn‘t as strong a case as the administration made.
CARLSON: No, he said, “I couldn‘t believe it. I was angry about it.”
CARLSON: “I couldn‘t do much about it, because we were sworn to secrecy.” Yes, he could.
ROSEN: There were other members of—Democratic members of the Senate Intelligence Committee, like Dianne Feinstein, who felt like they had made the case and so...
CARLSON: Who voted for the war.
ROSEN: Who voted for the war, and Dick Durbin voted against it.
So now the thing that matters is that they both and the rest of the Democrat senators feel like what was originally told to them did not prove to be the case. The war has been mismanaged and that they now all agree on the strategy. So I think...
CARLSON: OK. But Dick Durbin brought this up two days ago for a specific reason. He‘s not talking about where we go from here.
ROSEN: You‘re necessarily harping on sort of a single line that implies that there is more information there that nobody else saw. If it had come out, it would have dramatically change their view.
CARLSON: I am not. That is what he said. He brought this up! Dick Durbin himself. And my question is, then doesn‘t this destroy the claims of the other members of the Senate, who voted in favor of the war, Dianne Feinstein, Hillary Clinton: “We were lied to.”
Dick Durbin is saying, “We were lied to, and we knew then.”
ZUCKMAN: Well, I think what he has said repeatedly over time is that the administration was selectively using some of that intelligence to make their case and ignoring other things.
ZUCKMAN: In 2005 he complained that the vice president was taking intelligence information...
ZUCKMAN: ... and making sure it was always the strongest spin towards the immediate need for a war. And that‘s how we ended up in that thing. And what he‘s saying...
CARLSON: And I believe that‘s true, by the way. I‘m sure the vice president was doing that.
ZUCKMAN: And so what he‘s been saying is there was other information that wasn‘t as strong or contradictory.
CARLSON: OK. But why wasn‘t he saying that? My only point is this. And I‘m not blaming Dick Durbin for the war; it‘s Bush‘s fault. OK? So I‘m not—I want to be fair.
CARLSON: On the other hand, he said he was privy to this disturbing information that made him furious. Why the hell didn‘t he pipe up at the time? He was within his rights to do so. In fact, it was his moral obligation to do so, and why didn‘t he do it? I wish he was here so I could ask him.
ROSEN: You know, and maybe he will be. All I can say is that it is clear that he spoke out against the war at the time, that he was one of many members of the committee who saw that data and made—came to different conclusions. And so the assumption that there would be some great clarity for all of us if that data was revealed, I think is a bad assumption. Now it‘s just hindsight.
CARLSON: Yes. Now it is hindsight. Except he brought it up again Wednesday, as if to say this was a series of lies from day one, rather than a series of miscalculations.
ROSEN: The context he brought it up in is that this administration consistently refuses to acknowledge their faulty analysis, their faulty handling of the war, and the reason for staying in it.
CARLSON: Yes, I agree with that.
ROSEN: The frustration for the members of the Congress, Republicans and Democrats, from the administration standpoint is just why does this keep happening?
CARLSON: OK, but again, if we‘re all going to admit that we were wrong—and I‘m a huge believer in being honest and just saying, “I screwed up, and I‘m so, so sorry”—then I wish Mrs. Clinton would do the same and Dianne Feinstein and every one of those people who voted with the president on this. Why can‘t they just admit it? Why can‘t they be the man that John Edwards is and get up and say, “I blew it. I‘m really sorry. Forgive me, please”? That‘s not so hard.
ZUCKMAN: There‘s clearly enough blame to go around on that.
CARLSON: No, there‘s not. I‘m not just saying that (ph). I really do.
ROSEN: Unless Clinton is around. Then you blame...
CARLSON: I blame Bush first and foremost. That‘s not true. I blame the president of the United States for this war. It is his fault. I didn‘t vote for him as a result. I‘m not being partisan; I‘m being honest. I think anybody who supported the war and now realizes it was a mistake ought to own up to his or her mistake, honestly. And she‘s not. And it bugs me.
ROSEN: And I just don‘t see that she‘s not owning up to it. I don‘t know what words you want her to say.
CARLSON: I‘m sorry. We‘ll start with that. And then we‘ll go from there.
ROSEN: What she said last night was, “It was a mistake. I wouldn‘t have done it again.”
CARLSON: Those are weasel words. Those are weasel words. She blames the president. She blames everybody but herself.
And speaking of blame, Howard Dean—boy, this guy is out of control. Every night when I put my children to bed, I get on my knees and I say, “Thank you, God, for Howard Dean.” Because you know what? He‘s provided me with more fodder. It‘s unbelievable.
Here‘s the latest line from Howard Dean, talking about Rudy Giuliani on CNN, talking to Wolf Blitzer. He says this: “Rudy Giuliani has lot of character issues that he has to answer for,” says Howard Dean. “And overwhelmingly, Americans are going to vote on honesty and integrity. We‘ve begun to reach out to evangelical Christians”—good luck, Howard Dean—“and that‘s a real problem for him. His personal life is a serious problem for him.”
Now can you believe that? Isn‘t it a little weird? I know that the Democrats no longer have a stranglehold. They no longer have a monopoly on creepy. I mean, you know what I mean? There are a lot of creepy people ion both parties, right?
ZUCKMAN: What are you talking about? Who are you talking about, by the way?
CARLSON: I‘m just saying. I‘m saying there are Republicans who have weird personal lives, too. I‘m not saying it‘s only Democrats.
But how dare Howard Dean, the defender of the Clintons, say something like this? It‘s pretty outrageous.
ZUCKMAN: Howard Dean is a defender?
CARLSON: He was a defender of Bill Clinton. He doesn‘t get along with the Clintons, but he was—his point has always been these zealots attacked Clinton based on his personal life, and that was wrong.
ZUCKMAN: OK. But what I find most amusing about this, that he‘s raising the specter. And then when asked, “OK, well, what are you talking about?”
He said, “Oh, I would never do that.”
CARLSON: His quote: “I don‘t like attacking people on their personal lives.”
ROSEN: Right. Listen...
ZUCKMAN: Didn‘t he just do that?
ROSEN: I didn‘t get my DNC talking points today, so I don‘t know what they‘re supposed to say. But I can assure you that there were phone calls into the Dean campaign from, you know, six or seven Democratic campaigns saying, “Please stop that. We don‘t want to go down this path.”
CARLSON: But they always are—so you‘re involved in Democratic politics. So you know the truth.
ROSEN: Why wouldn‘t those campaigns not want Howard Dean to be...
CARLSON: They don‘t. And you know, because you‘re involved in this world. The Hillary people, as far as I know, at least as of yesterday...
ROSEN: Not just the Clinton campaign.
CARLSON: OK. Any smart person.
ROSEN: They don‘t want personal life issues to be like that.
CARLSON: But they also want Howard Dean to go away. They understand
the Clinton people particularly don‘t like Howard Dean. They think he‘s dumb, and they think he hurts them. Why can‘t they make Howard Dean be quiet?
ROSEN: Well, I don‘t know that that‘s true.
CARLSON: Well, how are they going to take on the North Koreans if they can‘t silence Howard Dean?
ROSEN: I‘ll disabuse you of your premise, first of all and say that, you know, he‘s the chairman...
CARLSON: What, they like Howard Dean?
ROSEN: He‘s the chairman of the party, and he is organizing Democrats across the country.
Nonetheless, I think every Democrat wants social—you know, personal life issues not to be a part of this campaign.
The Giuliani problem is interesting, though, because Giuliani just keeps setting himself up on the issues. He sort of doesn‘t even need—you don‘t need to attack his marriages to start attacking his credibility.
CARLSON: Though I think it is fair—I do think it is fair—and I agree, and most I think Americans post-Clinton give candidates every possible pass. And I think they should. But when you won‘t say where you met your current wife, that is a little weird. I mean, let‘s be completely honest.
I mean—and the Giuliani campaign has said, I‘m not going to—you now, we are not going to answer that question, where they met. I don‘t know, I think that makes people uncomfortable.
ZUCKMAN: The fact is, if you are going to run for president, everything is out there. I mean, nothing is private. So all of these things that people want to discuss about his marriages, about how he dresses, all of that stuff that is going to be out there, people are going to talk about it at some point or another. And he is going to have to answer questions.
ROSEN: But the standard is that is.
CARLSON: OK. What is the standard? I want to know what the standard is. I am glad you brought that up, Hillary.
ROSEN: This is my view. My view is the standard is it is for them to disclose. People are allowed to ask questions, and it is for them to disclose. If people want to judge them based on—if voters want to judge them based on their responses or based on their lack of responses to issues, fine. I think that the line is drawn at other candidates attacking them for the little personal...
CARLSON: OK. So Howard Dean has obviously crossed that line. He is making—he is implying that there is something weird, untoward, creepy about Rudy Giuliani‘s personal life. Why aren‘t the other campaigns—the people of integrity running for president on the Democratic side, John Edwards, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, Mike Gravel, why aren‘t they jumping up right now and saying, hey, Howard Dean, that is a bridge too far?
ROSEN: This is where it is going to come up—this is where it‘s going to come up for every candidate is where their personal lives turn into hypocrisy for their public policy issues. And that is where you get down to. So Rudy Giuliani, who actually flip-flopped on gay civil unions this week, now talking up—you know, saying because he so believes in the sanctity of marriage between a man and woman, well, you know, is he putting his own marriage on the table when he is starting to talk about issues like that? I think that is when personal lives end up getting on the table, is when people go down that road.
CARLSON: You may be right, but that is a slightly different point, I think, than trying to decide when it is fair for rival campaigns to attack the personal life of another candidate. And—or I mean, is there.
ROSEN: . when there is a policy.
CARLSON: OK. But that is not what Howard Dean—I am not sure Howard Dean has the intellectual capacity to make that distinction. Well, let‘s just say for sake of argument he did. He has crossed the line, like he is just coming out and saying the guy is a weirdo, don‘t vote for him.
ROSEN: Yes. I think this is going to go away.
ZUCKMAN: Well, I think it is so—I mean, obviously it is so early for everything, but I don‘t any Democrats—I think all of the democrats are focused on trying to win the nomination right now. They are not focused on attacking Rudy Giuliani who may not even win the Republican nomination. I think this was Howard Dean being Howard Dean...
ZUCKMAN: . and not necessarily a Democratic strategy to try to bring down Mr. 9/11.
CARLSON: I know—you‘re right—I think you are right. But—I mean, because he just—Dean talks without thinking. But the beauty, he is the head of the Democratic Party. And you know, all of us thank the lord for that.
Thank you both, very much. He is the gift that keeps giving. Thank you.
Amid the seemingly endless stream of unhappy news from Washington comes a moment of goodness. It involves White House press secretary Tony Snow. We will bring it to you next.
Plus Angelina Jolie takes a break from being on the cover over every gossip magazine for adopting children and for having marital trouble long enough to come to D.C. How was she received in the seat of power? The scoop is next only on MSNBC.
CARLSON: How do you get a news conference about foreign aid for orphans in the headlines? That‘s an easy one, make Angelina Jolie the speaker. So what did she say to the paparazzi-like crowd? We‘ll get a scoop from “The Reliable Source” next.
CARLSON: Had a long week did you? Stay up all night watching MSNBC‘s coverage of the Democratic debate? And now you feel a little ragged, now is your time to sit back, relax, and let the most salacious, most revealing, most sought after news in the nation‘s capital wash over you like a hot tub. Yes, it is Friday, and we bring you your weekly dose of D.C. gossip from the people who have forgotten more inside stuff than you and I will ever know combined. We welcome, as always, Amy Argetsinger and Roxanne Roberts, the ladies of The Washington Post‘s universally read gossip column “The Reliable Source.”
ROXANNE ROBERTS, “THE RELIABLE SOURCE,” THE WASHINGTON POST: Is it true you were in a hot tub when you watched the debates?
CARLSON: Of course I was in a hot tub. You can‘t tell, because I am only shot from the waist up. But yes, I was.
A little prune-y this morning when I woke. So what is going on, ladies?
AMY ARGETSINGER, “THE RELIABLE SOURCE,” THE WASHINGTON POST: Well, big news, this is the only thing that matters, Angelina Jolie was in town yesterday. Everything kind of comes.
ROBERTS: Did anything else happen?
ARGETSINGER: I don‘t think so. I was there and it kind of just washed all over me. It is—I have to say, she is very smart about these things. This is—she was here for a press conference for the global—it is an organization called Global Action for Children. It is an organization that advocates on behalf of orphans across the world and basic education.
And no, she is not advocating that we all go out and adopt or that she adopt them all. It is about more funding, and more U.S. foreign aid. And it was billed as the formal launch of this group. The group has been around since 2003. What is actually new here is that Angelina is affiliated with the group. She and Brad Pitt gave this organization, which is based here in D.C., a million dollars last fall.
And her involvement kind of means that we all pay a lot more attention. So they are having a press conference just to advocate for more funding, and 50 reporters show up. And she.
ROBERTS: Pro bono lobbyist. You know, you basic—I said to my editor, he said, why is she in town? I said, she is saving the world again. And I said, do you need to know more? He said, no, just tell me about her.
CARLSON: I must say, with all due respect to your editor, I disagree.
I mean, I think she is, you know, cute enough, she is fine, she is great.
You know, but not.
ARGETSINGER: She is really rather pretty, actually.
CARLSON: I am sure she is pretty. But I just don‘t see it. It is not life-changing for me, if I can just admit that.
ARGETSINGER: I don‘t know how to explain it. I mean, she is like—you know, it is like Elizabeth Taylor in her heyday. She is this mesmerizing figure. And she is—when she is in the room, every eye is on her every minute of the time.
And you almost feel a little bad for Angelina Jolie, because there she is trying to be a very serious person who is casting all of this attention on these causes and yet everyone is looking at her. And you are not really hearing any of her words because you are so busy looking at her.
ROBERTS: Tucker, I think it is a little bit like “Idol Gives Back.” You know, less the cause—no, it‘s just the fact that people that some people think—movie stars are involved, oh my God, maybe I should do something. It is the celebrity factor.
ARGETSINGER: I will also say this, she is very savvy. We get a lot of celebrities traipsing through D.C. with various causes and all of that. She is smart in that she doesn‘t come here very often. This is the first time she has been here in a year-and-a-half. She spreads—she doesn‘t spread herself too thin.
ROBERTS: Spreads the love.
ARGETSINGER: Yes. She doesn‘t wear out her welcome. There are a couple of celebrities, I will not name them, you know, we get the call, hey, such and such is going to be there, and we are like, yes, we saw him last night.
CARLSON: They call you before they come. I would love to know much more about this seamy side of the celebrity promotion. But I know you are not at liberty to divulge.
ROBERTS: Oh no, not seamy. They are heartfelt.
CARLSON: On a happier note, what—Tony Snow, how is he?
ROBERTS: He is great. I—you know, I was so thrilled. You know, he is a very—you know, it is hard being press secretary for the president, particularly now. He was pretty brave to take the job. He is very well-liked and well-respected and people were pretty devastated when they heard that his cancer had reoccurred.
He ended up being a surprise guest at last Saturday‘s White House Correspondents Dinner. There was a place next to the president empty. When they announced him, he got a stand ovation. And then the White House announced that he will be coming back to work on Monday.
He is going to continue treatment. But feels well enough to be back on the job, sparring with all of us. So I think people were very thrilled about that.
CARLSON: So he is going to just be back in his normal position as press secretary indefinitely?
ROBERTS: Yes, yes, absolutely, which I think is encouraging news because I think a lot of people were very worried when they heard. Yes. They assumed that he would not be back. So there was a collective sigh of relief among the Washington press corps, because he is well-respected and well-liked.
CARLSON: He is a tremendous guy. And I don‘t say that about many spokesmen. In fact, none other. Amy Argetsinger, Roxanne Roberts, have a great weekend, thank you.
ARGETSINGER: Thank you.
ROBERTS: Thank you.
CARLSON: Coming up, Alec Baldwin pleads mea culpa on Rosie O‘Donnell‘s show. But the line between pop culture and actual human life gets even blurrier from there. We have got the details. This is MSNBC, America‘s most impressive cable news.
CARLSON: Welcome back. Joining us now, a living after-dinner mint to sweeten the bitter news of the week, Bill Wolff.
BILL WOLFF, MSNBC VICE PRESIDENT: Tucker, I don‘t know where you get your stuff, but it is good stuff. Appears to be written by a union member. That‘s how good it is.
With America‘s attention diverted, Tucker, by actual world events, there were important developments in the world of the ridiculous, beginning with aging sex symbol Richard Gere‘s trouble in the emerging world power of India. At an AIDS awareness event in Jaipur, Gere planted playful kiss on the painfully beautiful movie star Shilpa Shetty.
What appeared to be simply a slightly creepy May-December moment in her life turned into an arrest warrant for the both of them. The warrants were issued Thursday for a violation of local obscenity laws. After initially brushing off the offense as no big deal, Gere realized they were not kidding in Jaipur and he has since apologized profusely. Ah, the irony, Tucker, that a closed mouth kiss in public would be the sex act that got Richard Gere in trouble. Like if Mikey died of old age and not from a pop rocks overdose, you know what I‘m saying?
CARLSON: Yes. Ever aware of libel laws, you are not going to get me to comment on that, Bill. But nice try.
WOLFF: I know a guy who knows a guy who knows a guy who knows a nurse, you know what I‘m saying.
CARLSON: And I don‘t believe a word.
WOLFF: Yes. In other news, Tucker, the Alec Baldwin custody divorce saga continued today in the only way it possibly could, with an appearance on “The View.” Sitting haunch to haunch with noted parent Rosie O‘Donnell, Baldwin apologized sincerely for the cruel words he directed at his daughter Ireland, who is of course the subject of an intense custody fight between her dad, Alec Baldwin, and her mom, Kim Basinger.
You will remember Baldwin‘s horrifying message on his daughter‘s voicemail a couple of weeks referred to the girl as a quote, “rude thoughtless little pig,” end quote. He says he has a great relationship with his daughter and is experiencing a syndrome called parental alienation.
It was also revealed in the last 24 hours that Baldwin sought the psychotherapeutic counsel of TV‘s Dr. Phil. I‘m not kidding. Dr. Phil, with whom he had a quote, “far-reaching and intense conversation.” Good to see, Tucker, that television is starting to help the healing process.
First step, go on “The View” to apologize, next step, some quick therapy with Dr. Phil. Next step of course, a cruise on “The Love Boat” with the friendly bartender Isaac to help forget your worries with a neon cocktail.
CARLSON: That is so good I can‘t add to that, Bill.
WOLFF: Go hang with Gopher, your yeoman-purser.
CARLSON: You know what? Television really is the panacea. Got a mental problem? Talk to Dr. Phil.
WOLFF: Makes you proud, doesn‘t it?
CARLSON: It is just too great.
WOLFF: Hire Andy Griffith for security.
CARLSON: I mean, really, you ought—I mean, I want to see him doing like the Richard Simmons workout routine next...
WOLFF: Well, you shed a few pounds, sweat to the oldies, do what you got to do, Tucker, come on. You are into it.
Well, there is more celebrity custody battle being played out on cable TV news today, Tucker. Broken news from the Bahamas where a judge ruled that Larry Birkhead, you know him, he is the baby daddy of Anna Nicole Smith‘s 7-month-old daughter Dannielynn, Larry Birkhead can pack up his stuff, put Dannielynn in a baby Bjorn, and leave the island chain for his home in these United States.
The ruling was a rejection of an appeal, follow me now, from Anna Nicole‘s baby momma—or mother, I suppose is the proper, Virgie, to keep Dannielynn in the Bahamas as she tried to wrestle custody from Birkhead, something like that. Outside the courthouse, Larry Birkhead told the Associated Press, and I quote: “I‘m happy because this is nonsense, really.” Yes, yes, it is, and has been for quite some time, Larry, nonsense.
CARLSON: Can I ask you a very just quick pointed, simple question?
WOLFF: If you feel like it. It is your show.
CARLSON: A question of Brian Williams-like brevity, who is Larry Birkhead exactly? Where did he come from? What is—who is Larry Birkhead?
WOLFF: Well, I believe—he is an MIT grad, he is chemical—I have no idea. He is a—I believe he was a photographer and at some point he and Anna Nicole, you know what I‘m saying. The stork came, there was the baby, they took some DNA. He is the daddy.
CARLSON: Good enough for me.
WOLFF: Finally back to the business of red meat politics and the presidential candidacy of former Alaska Senator Mike Gravel. Gravel, of course, did everything in his power last night to make that debate as entertaining as he could as he channeled the rage of a nation into his brief but colorful outbursts. But who is Mike Gravel?
“HARDBALL‘s” Chris Matthews, who will be along in a matter of seconds, got to the bottom of that question in the moments after the debate.
Here is how it went.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST, “HARDBALL WITH CHRIS MATTHEWS”: Where have you been for 35 years, sir?
MIKE GRAVEL (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Hiding under a rock for 10 years because I was so disgusted.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WOLFF: OK. So he spent a decade under a rock and claims his name is Gravel? Come, it‘s gravel. What are you, trying to assimilate? This is America.
WOLFF: No one is going to judge you for your association with rocks or gravel or any other mineral. We are past that prejudice as a country. And a program note for fans of Chris Matthew‘s signature laugh, tune in tonight to “COUNTDOWN WITH KEITH OLBERMANN” for a special “COUNTDOWN” compilation tape from Chris‘ record 78-hour on-camera marathon yesterday.
CARLSON: Who are you trying to assimilate? That is just—you know what, that sends me to the weekend happy. Thanks, Bill.
WOLFF: My pleasure.
CARLSON: That does it for us. Thanks for watching. Up next is “HARDBALL.” We are back Monday. Have a great weekend. See you then.
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