Guests: A.B. Stoddard, Bill Press
TUCKER CARLSON, MSNBC ANCHOR: Should states put troop withdrawal on their ballots? The state Senate in California just moved in that direction yesterday when it approved the Vote Us Out of Iraq Measure. The bill would put the question of troop withdrawal from Iraq on the state‘s February 5th presidential primary ballot. For that to happen, the state assembly and Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger must also approve the measure.
But the Senate‘s approval does raise an interesting question. For one, aren‘t foreign policy matters best left to countries and not states? Back again, associate editor of “The Hill,” A.B. Stoddard, and nationally syndicated radio show host Bill Press.
Bill, here is the wording of the actual initiative that could be on the ballot this year in our home state: “Shall President George W. Bush, in support of the men and women serving in the armed forces of the U.S., end the U.S. occupation of Iraq and immediately begin the safe and early withdrawal of U.S. forces. Further, shall Bush and Congress provide necessary diplomatic and non-military assistance to promote peace and stability in Iraq and the Middle East?”
So pull the troops out of Iraq and fund Hamas, or whatever the second part of it means. What the hell is California and its voters—what are they doing weighing in on this?
BILL PRESS, SYNDICATED RADIO SHOW HOT: California, Tucker, has always had its own foreign policy. You know that. The last I checked, it was the 7th largest budget on the planet, bigger than most countries. And they have always tried to have—we‘ve tried to have our say in foreign policy. First of all, I don‘t think Arnold is going to sign this. I don‘t think there‘s a prayer that he will put it on the ballot.
But I would like to see it on the ballot. You know why? Because it will drive the presidential candidates crazy. They can not compete in the February 5th primary in California without taking a position on that initiative. And it‘s as close as we‘ll have to a national plebiscite on Iraq. Go for it.
CARLSON: Plus you would also have—I mean, if you were honest person, you would have to go ahead and attack the voters of California if you were asked to comment upon this. But they won‘t. That‘s actually—do you think that is the whole idea?
PRESS: I hope so.
CARLSON: Is to make them uncomfortable.
PRESS: You know, it‘s going to be the spotlight. They‘re going to be in the spotlight, so they want to take advantage of it. And let‘s get it on there and put McCain‘s feet to the fire, Romney‘s feet to the fire, and see what happens.
CARLSON: Interesting. California is also the state that has the second largest Republicans for Obama chapter. There is such a group. Its founder says Obama is the guy to bring the country together. Have you been struck by two things? One, by how almost sort of warm many conservatives feel toward Barack Obama, because he‘s not Hillary, and two, the total unwillingness of Republican to attack Obama as a liberal. Why is that?
A.B. STODDARD, “THE HILL”: I don‘t know. I have never heard a cross word from a Republican about Barack Obama, nothing critical. They all like him. I don‘t know when it will happen. I‘m sure it will. But I‘ve never heard anything yet.
CARLSON: Why do you suppose they like him?
STODDARD: I don‘t know. Maybe it is because he‘s not Hillary. I really think that he has earned some mileage by doing what he said he would do, which is to be the conciliator, to not go after his opponents, but to try to find unity in politics. I think that the Republicans—like I said, I‘m sure they will criticize him later. But for now, I‘m not saying that they‘re inspired by him, but I think that there are other fish to fry. There‘s other people to criticize in the Democratic party.
CARLSON: It just tells you a lot though. I mean, here is a guy who is a doctrinaire lefty. I mean, he is. I‘ve never heard—I like Barack Obama. I like his tone. I like the way he speaks. He seems like a decent person. He doesn‘t seem like a hater. He‘s no Barney Frank. You know, he doesn‘t seem like an angry man.
On the other hand, I have never heard him say one thing that deviated really at all from liberal orthodoxy.
PRESS: You know, Tucker, to use the overused word, I think he is a transformational candidate. I think he has got that potential. There is something about Barack Obama. People, I think, are—they have had it with your typical kind of politicians, you know, who go with the wind. And Barack Obama looks different, you know, he is different; he talks differently.
And I think he‘s the kind of person that people can feel good about voting for. That reaches across party lines and generational.
CARLSON: So, he‘s a transformational candidate, so he transforms American politics, is the idea. Has he ever said a single thing that is different from what a garden variety liberal believes? Has he ever actually indicated he would transform anything, other than be a more charming version of Hillary Clinton?
PRESS: He does it in a different way that makes you believe that he is different.
STODDARD: I think that there were Democrats for Ronald Reagan. And they supported him for the same reason. I think that there is a time when you may not agree in certain policy principles, but you trust the leadership of somebody. Now, it is different between elected Republicans that we talk to in Washington and Republicans out across the country who support Barack Obama.
I do think that if he becomes the nominee, he will be a bunching bag, and they will call him a liberal and everything else. But in terms of the Republicans out there, who are not holding office, who are disappointed with the office holders of their party, who think the office holders of their party have dragged their party down, I think that is why they have more sort of openness to crossing party lines now.
PRESS: Anybody who is drawing the huge crowds that he is right now, you have got to say, you know, something is going on here.
CARLSON: There is no question. My complaint is—and I say this as someone is predisposed to like the guy, because I think he is the silver bullet, potentially, who can end the national nightmare of Hillary Clinton as president before it begins, and plus I think he seems like a decent person. I just would like the country to seem a little more serious about the way that it picks a candidate.
I mean, if the guy really hasn‘t been pushed to say anything, that says something about how unserious and shallow we are maybe. I mean, certainly I‘m in TV, so I‘m not going to call anybody else shallow. But truly—
PRESS: You could not have watched the presidential debates without all of us hoping that we would find a more serious way to elect a president.
CARLSON: I agree with that. Speaking of someone who probably isn‘t going to run for president, Bill Jefferson from New Orleans. He has been indicted on more than 15 counts of pretty serious misdeeds. He is accused of soliciting a bribe in the House dining room, among many other things. I am fascinated by the fact that members of the Black Caucus are still appearing to support him, that Barack Obama, whose campaign we called just a minute ago, is refusing to demand or even ask that Mr. Jefferson leave Congress.
This guy had 90 grand wrapped in tin foil in his freezer. Why wouldn‘t Barack Obama just have enough courage, audacity you might even call it, to stand up and say hey pal, leave.
PRESS: I think it is a mistake for Democrats of any stripe to rally behind Bill Jefferson, to tell the truth. I think he ought to be out of Congress, and I think the Democrats should vote him out. I know the Republicans didn‘t when it came to Bob Ney, or to Duke Cunningham.
They waited until they were indicted. I know that is what law is. I know—
CARLSON: But he‘s already been—
PRESS: I‘m sorry, convicted. They waited until they were convicted -
CARLSON: And they also got thrown out of Congress. You know what I mean? They lost the last election partly because of that.
PRESS: So I just think he is an embarrassment to the House, to the Democratic party, to the American people and they ought to—
CARLSON: I mean, I like the guy personally. Bill Jefferson is a very charming guy, but why isn‘t—but that is not the point, I guess. Why isn‘t Nancy Pelosi standing up and saying, you know what, we are the most ethical Congress in the history of the world, since the word ethics was invented.
STODDARD: Heavily influenced by the Congressional Black Caucus. The Congressional Black Caucus that voted, with the exception of two members, for the resolution that Steny Hoyer sponsored, asking that the Ethics Committee investigate anyone who has been indicted.
CARLSON: Wow, that‘s pretty tough, huh? Pretty tough ethics reform.
If you‘ve been indicted, you get investigated.
STODDARD: You can still say I won‘t call for his resignation and this is terrible and it‘s going to poison any chance he gets of a fair trial. So, it‘s not—I mean it‘s hard to be a member of Congress. And you should take this into consideration before you become one. But at the same time, I don‘t think the presidential candidates pay either way, no matter what they say.
CARLSON: No, I don‘t think they do. I just think it‘s striking that if you can‘t say that Bill Jefferson, whatever his personal charms may be, ought to leave Congress at this point, if you can‘t say that, you can‘t muster the courage to say that, then you are a major wuss.
STODDARD: I think it is harder for the leadership, not Barack Obama, but actually the leadership in the House, because they did say it wasn‘t OK that the Republican leaders stood by as their members corrupted the government, got indicted, et cetera, that they didn‘t eject them. I think to be different, to hold a higher standard, it is hard to sit by silent.
PRESS: You and I have a problem. We are not happy with the leadership because they are saying something almost un-American, innocent until proven guilty. But I do think the sooner he‘s out of there, the better.
CARLSON: But that‘s not the threshold though. My point is not that you want to throw him in prison before a trial. I‘m not saying that he ought to be dragged away in handcuffs or fined, or he ought to be punished legally. I‘m merely saying he has so discredited himself at this point, whether he is proven innocent or guilty in the end is irrelevant. He shouldn‘t be in Congress.
PRESS: I agree. I think there should be a higher standard for members of Congress than there is for the average American.
CARLSON: So even as the Congress is affording all this sympathy to Bill Jefferson—
PRESS: Well, he‘s not getting much sympathy.
CARLSON: He is. Tacit sympathy; they are not asking him to leave. They could force him out today if they wanted to. And even as Paris Hilton has her sentences commuted, or whatever, poor Scooter Libby is looking at two and a half years behind bars, quarter million dollar fine, billion hours of community service, separated from his little kids. Why doesn‘t the president offer to at least commute his sentence? Is there some—you know what I mean, take the sting out of it, take the jail time out of it?
Is there some political downside to that?
STODDARD: Maybe he will. I think that I‘m with Pat Buchanan on this.
I think it‘s really hard to invite the Democrats to say the Republican party is the party of lying under oath. You can be a big boy and get the big job in government, at the highest level, and then you get to just say whatever you want to investigators. I just don‘t think that that‘s what the Republican party needs right now.
It‘s hard. You could make the case that Patrick Fitzgerald never should have pursued him. He knew who the leaker was. You can make that case. But that‘s over with.
PRESS: Look, I think Scooter Libby knew what he was doing. He did it deliberately. I don‘t feel sorry for him. But I‘ll tell you why George Bush doesn‘t want to do this, because he has managed to stay removed from the whole Valerie Plame thing, right. And then it was Scooter Libby. And he‘s out the door. And then, Scooter, kind of, you‘re on your own.
For George Bush to step into it right now means that I approve of lying under oath basically to save your skin if you‘re a top White House. It makes George Bush the center of this thing. And that‘s the last thing he wants.
CARLSON: I think you are absolutely right. I think it would be a little different were he to say, look, the jury has spoken. He‘s guilty, but two and half years is just too long. That is unfair. He‘s been disgraced in public, and that‘s enough. And just take away the jail sentence.
PRESS: I think Scooter Libby should hire Paris Hilton‘s attorney.
CARLSON: I think that‘s exactly right. I think he needs a website just like Paris Hilton.
PRESS: Three days and a rash and you‘re out of jail.
CARLSON: Speaking of someone who is almost never not in the news, Newt Gingrich came out, and in his own kind of weird Newtian way—you always feel like when he talks about himself that he is kind of standing from above looking down. He‘s got that Fidel Castro way of referring to himself in the third person.
He says he now gives his own chances of running for president at about one in four.
STODDARD: And that might be true. Or he might just have a calendar of odds that he keeps reporting as the months pass to sort of keep the discussion up. I happen to believe that he will run because I think he should run. The reason is it will help him, and he—I think he doesn‘t imagine that he will become the nominee of the Republican party.
I think that he wants to invigorate the debate, talk about his ideas.
He is very poised to do it, no matter how well Thompson does if he gets in. No matter what is happening, I think he can really shake it up. And I think he doesn‘t need a lot of money, and I don‘t think he needs a lot of time.
I mean, it might be the case that he is not going to do it. But he is holding this big forum in September. And I think he‘s trying to beat the drum about that. And I think we‘ll all be listening with some interest until then, but I think he is going to do it.
PRESS: Tucker, the chances, he said, are one in four that he‘s going to run. The chances are one in 10,000 that he will get the nomination. But I am disappointed, because I want to see him as a candidate. And I want to hear Newt Gingrich speak about sanctity of marriage. I‘ve been looking forward to that day.
CARLSON: That‘s a tougher one. He is a more interesting guy to listen to.
STODDARD: He‘s fascinating.
CARLSON: It tells you a lot about a lot that—if you took a poll, who would you rather have dinner with dinner Newt Gingrich or Barack Obama, overwhelmingly it would be Barack Obama. I would probably choose Barack Obama too. You could listen to Barack Obama talk for four hours and not hear a single interesting thing.
CARLSON: It‘s true. You listen to Newt Gingrich for 30 seconds and you‘re like wow. You hate it or you love it, but it‘s interesting.
STODDARD: But this is what he said yesterday: we have to have very relentless, dramatic change in American government. We need to have some very bold proposals for fundamental change. How many of his—of the primary voters in the Republican party are thirsting—
PRESS: He has also said that Republicans can‘t win by just being Bush light. They‘ve got to challenge the Bush policies. No, he‘s—listen, I think Newt Gingrich has done an amazing job of reinventing himself as a thinker, as a visionary, as a long range thinker, and that is his role.
CARLSON: And a book reviewer. He‘s an avid book reviewer on Amazon.
PRESS: But as a candidate, I don‘t think that‘s it.
CARLSON: Bill Press, Alexandra B. Stoddard, thank you both very much. I should point out, before we go to break, that I said a minute ago, and misspoke, that Barack Obama‘s campaign had issued the statement about Bill Jefferson of Louisiana. In fact, it was his Senate office. It was still Barack Obama, but his Senate office, not his presidential campaign. There‘s a distinction.
Rudy Giuliani took on New York‘s biggest ferret advocate. Yes, you heard me, ferret advocate, as in the animal. He and his ferrets will join us next.
And surprise, surprise, not really surprised, Paris Hilton is out of jail. We‘ll get the scoop from MSNBC‘s senior Paris Hilton analyst, Willie Geist. You heard it here first.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUDY GIULIANI ®, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: There is something really, really very sad about you. You need help. You need somebody to help you. This obsessive concern with little weasels is a sickness.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CARLSON: Thanks to miracle of the Internet, you just heard a clip from then Mayor Rudy Giuliani‘s WABC radio show from 1999. The city of New York at that point had made it its business to forbid city residents from keeping ferrets as house pets. He castigated the caller, humiliating him for his ferret‘s rights stance.
Giuliani supports would say that the mayor had a point. Critics might say that Mr. Giuliani was unduly harsh, mean, even a bit out of control. Still fighting the good fight, and joining us to talk about his reign as mayor, Giuliani‘s reign as mayor, we were about to have executive president of New York‘s Ferret Right‘s Advocacy David Guthartz, who, unfortunately, has not made it to the studio.
He drove himself because he wanted to keep his two ferrets safe. He will join us in the 6:00 p.m. hour. So stay tuned for that. He‘ll be joining us with his two ferrets, Master Linus Van Pelt and the Princess Katy Mini Miss (ph).
But in the meantime, we are honored to be joined again by A.B. Stoddard of “The Hill,” and nationally syndicated radio show host Bill Press. Now, it turns out the ferret community, and there is in fact a community, is a large one. Here‘s a fact you probably didn‘t know, Alexandra—
STODDARD: Ferret facts, bring it on.
CARLSON: In the state of New York alone, there are seven ferret‘s rights organizations. And my question to you, in an age when Mrs. Clinton is openly courting the Fujanese (ph) American vote, can Mayor Giuliani afford to alienate a key, but small voting block like ferret right‘s advocates?
STODDARD: I think so. It‘s a gamble, but I think his campaign can proceed without their money.
PRESS: I disagree. I totally disagree. I have two words word Rudy Giuliani, Ingrid Newkirk, PETA. I‘m telling you, A.B., in politics or talk radio, if you offend or say anything bad about any animal—and by the way, he called the ferrets weasels, that right away is a reason to vote against him.
CARLSON: That‘s exactly right. That‘s like calling a house cat an ocelot. They‘re not the same. They just look alike.
PRESS: Personally, I just want Ingrid and everybody to know I have never met a ferret I didn‘t like.
STODDARD: It obviously speaks to a larger question. This is obviously—we‘re are listening to the September 10th Rudy, or the pre-presidential campaign announcement Rudy Giuliani, who is now all smiles, quite calm, composed, and giving his—the best, sunniest disposition on the campaign trail.
And it is interesting for people who are on the fence about him or don‘t like him—it is one more thing to sort of explain, that he has outbursts where he gets very critical and possibly mean, and that it doesn‘t work for him in sort of a longer view of the whole Rudy package.
CARLSON: I wonder though if people don‘t like that? Don‘t—in a post 9/11 world, don‘t you want a guy who is willing to bear his teeth?
CARLSON: Sharp, ferret like incisors.
PRESS: Well, I have to tell you, I don‘t like ferrets either. I wouldn‘t want a ferret, to tell the truth. But I you have to be careful about going after the ferret community. I would—
CARLSON: I agree with that. They can get back. Bill Press, A.B.
Stoddard, thank you.
Remember when we told you that Paris Hilton was going to jail for three weeks? Well, we meant three days. Paris has been sprung from the joint. She‘s back among us. How did she swing that? Willie Geist takes a break from his welcome home Paris pool party to fill us in. You are watching MSNBC.
CARLSON: And now for the latest on breaking news from the state of California, we welcome our chief Paris Hilton correspondent Willie Geist.
WILLIE GEIST, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Hell Tucker. I‘m going to make this quick. I know everyone is tuning in to see Ben Affleck on HARDBALL. I know my place in the world. So I will just get through this quickly and get out of the way, OK.
Tucker, as she has with so many of her boyfriends, Paris Hilton tried jail for a few days and decided it just wasn‘t for her. So she left early this morning and went home. I didn‘t realize that was an option. I‘m surprised more inmates don‘t take advantage of that. The L.A. County Sheriff‘s Department announced at a press conference today that Paris had been sent home to serve house arrest because of a phantom medical condition.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEVE WHITMORE, L.A.COUNTY SHERIFF‘S DEPARTMENT: It was determined that Paris Hilton would be reassigned to a community-based alternative to custody, electronic monitoring program. What that means is this: she has been fitted with an ankle bracelet, and she has been sent home. And she will be confined to her home for the next 40 days.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GEIST: Paris reported to jail on Sunday night and got credit for five days served. That leaves those 40 days of her original 45-day sentence to be served on this Hollywood spread in the hills. Some of the paparazzi gathered around there. TMZ.com reports that a psychological problem was the reason for her release. If by psychological problem you mean the food was bad, she couldn‘t use her cell phone and the orange color of her jumpsuit went out of style like three years ago.
Paris released a statement this afternoon that reads, quote, I want to thank the L.A. County Sheriff‘s Department and staff of the Century Regional Detention Center for treating me fairly and professionally. I‘m going to serve the remaining 40 days of my sentence. I have learned a great deal from this ordeal and hope that others have learned from my mistakes.
I hope so too. Tucker, TMZ also reporting the ankle bracelet Paris is wearing requires that she stay within 500 feet of a monitoring unit that‘s inside her house. There are reportedly no restrictions on visitors, so expect a big welcome home Paris party at her place.
CARLSON: I think you may be being a little too cynical, Willie. I mean, she has dyslexia. I‘m not sure you‘re aware of that. That she does. She has trouble reading. While it is a psychological ailment, it‘s also very real to those who suffer from it.
GEIST: I‘m sorry. I feel terrible about that. I hate to actually take this story seriously, but it is really, really pathetic, isn‘t it, that they let her out.
CARLSON: It is also kind of offensive, honestly. It is offensive.
You think you could get out early?
GEIST: Don‘t even lie to us. Don‘t tell us she had a psychological problem. It‘s insulting to our intelligence. As you watched this story unfold, Tucker, today, I‘m sure you were wondering to yourself, what does the Reverend Al Sharpton make of all of this. Well, Reverend Al wasted no time inserting himself into the controversy. He said, in a statement of his own, quote, “I have served several sentences for civil rights and civil disobedience actions and I even fasted, which caused health concerns to prison authorities, who paid for a doctor to come see me daily rather than release me. This act smacks of the double standards that many of us raise.”
He also pointed, Tucker, that he was sympathetic to Paris Hilton‘s cause, because why, he appeared on Saturday Night Live with her in 2003, so they‘re tight.
CARLSON: You know, I got to say it, I kind of agree with the Rev on this one.
GEIST: As always! Also, Don King has weighed in. Just now crossing the wires, he says he‘s on her side because Paris Hilton, quote, is what America is all about. When he sees her, he‘s going to give her a hug, and, quote, tell her that I love her. Although they have never met. This would be the first time he meets her, but he‘s going to tell her he loves her. This thing is spiraling out of control very, very quickly.
CARLSON: This really is late Rome, I‘m sorry. It is.
GEIST: I know. It‘s getting really bad, Tucker. It‘s getting really bad. But we wish Paris all the best and we hope we get an invite to the party tonight.
CARLSON: Willie Geist.
GEIST: All right, Tucker.
CARLSON: I am not going to the party tonight. But I am going to celebrate in the privacy—
GEIST: Go watch Ben Affleck.
CARLSON: -- of my home. Yes, Ben Affleck on “HARDBALL” next. Ben Affleck, don‘t agree with him, pretty good guy—hopefully Ben Affleck will weigh in on the travesty of the Paris Hilton springing from jail.
GEIST: I‘m sure he‘s got a lot to say about that.
CARLSON: I was going to send her a Twinkie with a file in it. She had to wait another day because I was worried about the effect of it on her.
GEIST: She doesn‘t need it any more, Tucker.
CARLSON: Not necessary. Willie Geist, thanks, Willie. For more of Willie Geist news you can‘t use, you can check out ZeitGeist@TUCKER.MSNBC.com. It‘s excellent. That does it for us. Thanks for watching. Up next, “HARDBALL” with Chris Matthews. Have a great night.
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