Guests: Jonathan Alter, Marcus Mabry, Robert Novak, Wayne Pacelle, Leslie Harwood
TUCKER CARLSON, HOST: Welcome to the show.
During a week when the U.S. Senate debated the Iraq war literally around the clock, two out of three of the Democratic frontrunners for president abruptly switched their rhetorical rhetoric from the war to a topic that is not even on the front pages of many American newspapers—poverty. Former Senator John Edwards spent three days traveling the country to call attention to his plans for the poor, and this morning, Senator Barack Obama of Illinois traveled to the tough Anacostia neighborhood of Washington, D.C. to lay out his anti-poverty agenda. Here is part of what Senator Obama said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), ILLINOIS: We cannot afford to lose a generation of tomorrow‘s doctors, scientists and teachers to poverty. We can‘t make excuses for it—or we can make excuses for it or we can‘t—or we can fight about it, or we can ignore poverty altogether. But as long as it is here, it will always be a betrayal of the ideals we hold as Americans. That‘s not who we are.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CARLSON: At a time when the stock market is hovering around 14,000 and unemployment is stunningly low, it‘s an interesting, even noble decision to focus on the problems of the poor. Question is, do the solutions Democrats offer make sense? And how different are they from what we‘ve been trying for the past 40 years with disappointing results?
Joining me now with answers, “Newsweek” senior editor Jonathan Alter and “The New York Times‘” new international business editor Marcus Mabry. Welcome to you both.
MARCUS MABRY, NEW YORK TIMES: Thanks, Tucker.
CARLSON: Jonathan Alter, I was amazed by this speech for what it didn‘t contain. It‘s clearly a well thought out speech. He means it. Not one mention of marriage, not one, not a single one. And yet people who are serious about studying poverty know that whether your parents are married is one of the key factors, maybe the key factor, to whether or not you grow up poor, whether you graduate high school, et cetera, et cetera. Why not mention that, once?
JONATHAN ALTER, NEWSWEEK: I am actually kind of surprised to hear you attacking a speech on those grounds, because Obama in the speech specifically criticized the left by name—he called it the left—for not focusing enough on fatherhood.
CARLSON: No, but marriage is the key, and he didn‘t mention it. And anybody, left or right, who studies this, knows that that is the key.
ALTER: Marriage is very important, but it also—it does have the effect—if you stigmatize people who are unmarried, of getting people all emotional about it instead of focusing on the solutions.
This speech had...
CARLSON: The vast majority of kids born in the inner city are born to unmarried parents. So obviously it‘s not too stigmatized.
ALTER: The point of the speech was not to do a treatise on the diagnosis of why people are poor. We know that. What it was, the point of the speech was to lay out some new ideas for leveraging some programs that we know work, like the Harlem Children‘s Zone, and taking them national, which he proposes to do and put them in 20 cities.
We know that Geoffrey Canada‘s program in New York works to lift people out of poverty, encourage family unification, prenatal care—all the things that we know that work and have provided results...
CARLSON: We know that they work, OK.
ALTER: No, we know. It‘s been studied.
CARLSON: Marcus, I want to get you in here...
ALTER: We know it works.
CARLSON: The very first policy prescription that Senator Obama lays out is raising the minimum wage, which I think was the only thing to come out of the Democratic Congress so far. Again and again, we are seeing examples in this where the senator calls on the government to solve poverty.
We spent $11 trillion on poverty programs since 1964, and nobody is satisfied with the result. Shouldn‘t we think of something new?
MABRY: Well, you know, he is, Tucker, actually. This is still—this is the one part I think of the campaign where I think all the Democrats are still in the kind of Bill Clinton continuation program.
MABRY: Bill Clinton really did split the difference between the traditional right and traditional left. I think the reason Obama really came out against the left, merely saying it‘s all in the responsibility of government, for instance, was because he is still doing that same triangulation. He is not just talking about the old, you know, Great Society programs, war on poverty. That‘s not the stuff he‘s talking about. He is talking about, for instance, giving fathers money, so he didn‘t mention marriage...
CARLSON: That is the one—I agree with you. That is the one thing in there that I thought was new and sort of provocative, paying fathers to stick around.
MABRY: Exactly. And it‘s interesting, because what he‘s saying is, it takes a father to have a family with hope to come out of poverty. And that‘s—it‘s not saying marriage, which some might say was a conservative buzzword. So he wouldn‘t use that word. But he also condemns the left, and at the same time, he‘s talking about giving fathers and ways and means to be responsible and not be ashamed and not have to run away from their families.
CARLSON: Boy, it struck me as much more shallow than that, though. I mean, his diagnosis is that jobs are paying less because we have quote, “busted up unions,” and there are not enough jobs for the poor. Well, our immigration problem exists partly because there are actually a lot of jobs for the poor, and they are taken by people from Guatemala. So actually, there‘s some deeper syndrome here that I don‘t see addressed in any way.
ALTER: But those jobs—see, those jobs don‘t lift people out of poverty. The old union jobs are long gone.
CARLSON: Oh, they don‘t?
ALTER: No. They‘re minimum wage or sub-minimum wage jobs. The jobs...
CARLSON: They don‘t give people dignity? I mean, then why are people coming here to take them?
ALTER: Because they‘re a hell of a lot better than they get in Mexico. But they don‘t lift you out of poverty.
So the old jobs—and by the way, he did not dwell on this in the speech. This was not the same old, same old, if you look at the speech closely. The old jobs are long gone...
ALTER: ... and one of the reasons, if you are diagnosing a problem, is that, you know, the union movement in the United States has atrophied badly. He had one sentence fragment on that. Don‘t mislead people into believing that the bulk of the speech was a defense of unions in America.
CARLSON: I didn‘t suggest that. I am merely saying...
ALTER: It was a fragment of one sentence.
The focus of the speech was on doing real things, like on the earned income tax credit...
CARLSON: This is an ad for Obama or something? I mean, you‘ve got to be kidding.
ALTER: But don‘t—you‘re making...
CARLSON: I‘m not misleading anybody.
ALTER: Tucker, you are mischaracterizing the speech as the same old...
CARLSON: I certainly am not.
ALTER: ... old-fashioned Great Society liberalism.
CARLSON: I have higher hopes...
ALTER: It‘s not.
CARLSON: I have higher hopes for Obama. I don‘t spend my time trashing the guy. I just thought this is a guy who is a kind of a broad thinker, and I expected more than children should go to day care right from birth, which is—I mean, it‘s just been demonstrated on the front page of “The New York Times” that, in fact, going to day care right from birth may be does not produce optimum children. I mean, that‘s a retro solution. Were you surprised to read that?
MABRY: I think there‘s a real kernel of problem here for the Democrats, and that‘s the one that you allude to when you talk about immigrants coming here and taking jobs that the poor could do. Well, one actually probably could not support a family of four above the poverty wage, the poverty rate in America on those kinds of jobs. So that‘s not a solution in and of itself.
However, the Democrats have a problem here, because what you‘re fighting against when you are talking about, you know, those good union jobs that would place one solidly in the middle class in the generations before ours, no longer exist.
ALTER: They‘re gone, right.
MABRY: You‘re talking about globalization, and that‘s a problem.
CARLSON: But there‘s no evidence that they‘re coming back.
CARLSON: That‘s what bothers me. We can‘t get them back...
MABRY: And that‘s the problem.
CARLSON: And everybody wishes that Red River was still, you know, supplying these jobs to automotive workers, but it‘s never going to again, so get real.
MABRY: And that‘s the Democrats‘ problem. Yes, that‘s exactly right.
ALTER: And actually, there‘s a big—another big problem, which is education, and that he really won‘t take on the teachers‘ unions. None of the Democrats will. He actually goes further than the other Democrats in talking about accountability, but basically, Democrats have a huge problem on not focusing more on accountability in inner city schools.
CARLSON: And the idea that we need to spend more money (inaudible) schools spend this really sad, depressing amount of money to get terrible results. It‘s just, oh, so depressing.
MABRY: Well, I think we have to remember, this is a primary campaign...
MABRY: I think the general election campaign will look different.
CARLSON: I just want Obama to say something more interesting than he did, is my personal (inaudible).
ALTER: Harlem Children‘s Zone is very interesting.
CARLSON: All right. Journalist Bob Novak has been protecting his sources for 50 years. Now, he is naming names, spilling secrets. Up next, journalism‘s Prince of Darkness.
What does Oprah Winfrey think about Mr. Novak‘s book? Who knows. But if she endorses it, it will go gold, because everything she touches turns to gold. Will she do the same for Barack Obama? Can she help him win the Democratic nomination? You‘re watching MSNBC, the place for politics.
CARLSON: Robert Novak has been called many things while covering Washington for the past five decades, but both fans and foes agree on at least one thing: Novak gets people to talk like few others. Here to discuss what he has learned in that long process, Robert Novak, “Chicago Sun-Times” columnist, my former colleague on “Crossfire,” and now the author of “The Prince of Darkness: 50 Years Reporting in Washington.”
Bob, thanks for joining us.
ROBERT NOVAK, AUTHOR, “PRINCE OF DARKNESS”: Thank you for having me.
CARLSON: I am honored to have you. I have never interviewed you before, though I‘ve often wanted to.
I‘m not sucking up when I say your book is tremendous, better even than I thought it would be.
On page 10, I am stopped in my tracks by this quote, which I didn‘t know this. You‘re talking about Valerie Plame, Valerie Wilson, Joe Wilson‘s wife, and you said this, quote: “I learned much later that Mrs. Wilson had been outed years earlier by the traitor and Soviet agent Aldrich Ames, which had ended her career as a covert agent long before I wrote about her.”
That—I don‘t know if that‘s publicly known. I‘ve just asked the people in the studio if they knew. They didn‘t. Are you the first to report that? How do you know that?
NOVAK: I was told that by CIA people, and had three or four sources on that. I have—I have—it‘s almost common knowledge in the intelligence community.
CARLSON: Huh. So, all the talk, you are saying, about the outing of Valerie Plame hurting American national security is not true, it had already been hurt?
NOVAK: I think it‘s all utter nonsense. And all this stuff coming out of the agency—I have never trusted the people in the CIA, and I trust them even less after this incident. Of course, the fact that she, that Mrs. Wilson worked for the CIA had never appeared in public print until I wrote it in my column. So that‘s—if you want to say that—
Aldrich Ames was not a columnist; he was a traitor, and he passed the word to the Soviets.
CARLSON: What did you think—you dealt with the prosecutor, Patrick Fitzgerald, extensively in all this, and you were involved in the process, obviously, integrally. What did you think of Fitzgerald in the end?
NOVAK: He treated me very nicely, and of course, Tucker, I hope you never have the situation where you are involved in a federal investigation, because it‘s kind of scary.
I think he is a straight person. I don‘t think he was out for any political motive. But the trouble with special prosecutors are that the—that once they get started, it‘s very hard for them to say, gee, there‘s nothing here, I‘m going home, I spent the millions for nothing. I think he had to come out with some kind of a moose on the wall to show that he had done something.
Don‘t forget, Tucker, and a lot of people who don‘t understand this story don‘t realize that when he walked in there as special prosecutor, they knew and they told him who my leak was. It was Deputy Secretary of State Armitage. So he didn‘t have to do any detective work. They didn‘t need a special prosecutor, but they didn‘t have the guts to handle the case themselves, and they had to give it to some kind of an Eliot Ness type character.
CARLSON: They, of course, is the Bush administration, which from...
NOVAK: That‘s right.
CARLSON: ... the point of view of a lot of people, including a lot of conservatives, hasn‘t lived up to its billing. You‘re an out-of-the-closet conservative, though you opposed the Iraq war from the beginning. Kudos to you. Where do you think Bush went wrong? If you could sort of boil it down, having watched a lot of presidents. Where did Bush fall short?
NOVAK: President Bush is the third Bush I covered. I covered his grandfather, for goodness sakes, who was a very liberal Republican, Senator Prescott Bush of Connecticut. And each generation they have gotten a little more conservative. And George W. is the most conservative, but he‘s not a real conservative. He really does believe in big government. He believes in things like the special entitlement for prescription drugs, No Child Left Behind. He likes that sort of thing, and he was never really into reducing the size of the government.
So I think that it was natural that he succumbed to the Woodrow Wilson doctrine of using American power and might to spread democracy around the world, which is never a good idea.
CARLSON: No, it never is, and thank you for saying that. And what do you think of Barack Obama? You‘re from Illinois. And I mean as a purely political matter—I know you don‘t—I would guess probably agree with almost anything he says. But having covered every candidate, essentially, for 50 years, what do you think of him as a candidate?
NOVAK: I think he is very attractive. He is very likable. He—I think if he is nominated, he can be adjusted so he looks probably a lot more moderate than he really is. I think he is probably pretty far over to the left in what he really believes. Certainly was farther to the left in the Illinois legislature than he is in the Congress.
But I think he‘s a very electable candidate. Can he be nominated? I think he has got so much money, I think it‘s a possibility.
CARLSON: And in the book, you make the point that you‘re a conservative, but many of your colleagues in the press are not, and there‘s always this debate about, you know, is the press liberal. But the deeper question is, why? I mean, how would you boil it down? Why are reporters maybe more liberal than most people?
NOVAK: I think it‘s because conservatives do not go into this line of work, Tucker. You and I are freaks to go in as journalists.
Conservatives like to be investment bankers and engineers and doctors and people who do real, real serious work. There‘s something frivolous about being a journalist.
In my book, in the memoir, people may be turned off by the fact that I had really a lot of fun for 50 years doing it, and it really beats being an investment banker. You don‘t make as much money, but it‘s a lot more fun.
CARLSON: A lot more interesting. And you‘re 75 and continuing to work.
CARLSON: Oh, amazing. I love that. I admire that about you. You‘re opposed to retirement, I guess.
NOVAK: Well, I think it would ruin me. I thought that I would go out shooting my guns and revealing my sources in my memoirs as I retired, but I think it would ruin me. And so, I revealed a lot of sources anyway, and I‘ll see if I can survive.
CARLSON: How much time does it take you to write the column?
NOVAK: I think about it all the time. It‘s a—because I try to bring in something new. I think the regular writing time is about two hours, but I really—I think about it riding on planes and driving a car. And it‘s almost a day-long process.
CARLSON: Bob Novak. I must say, honestly, I‘ve admired—the more I got to know you, the more I admired you.
NOVAK: Thank you, Tucker. That‘s a very—I appreciate (inaudible).
CARLSON: I appreciate you coming on. I think the book is great, and I hope it sells. Thanks, Bob.
NOVAK: Thank you.
CARLSON: We have got breaking news from New York City. There are reports of an explosion in midtown Manhattan, between 45th Street and Lexington Avenue. It‘s been reported as a manhole or transformer explosion. We have got pictures. We are going to bring them to you as soon as they come in. We‘ve also got details. The Associated Press is reporting that it is not believed to be terrorism-related.
CARLSON: We have breaking news from New York City. There are reports of an explosion in midtown Manhattan. It‘s been reported as a manhole, or a transformer, possibly a steam pipe that has exploded. The Associated Press says this is not terrorism related. City Hall in New York has reported that two people are injured, it is a four-alarm fire. Apparently it is at 41st and Third Avenue. We will keep you posted on the details as we get them, and we will.
Well, audiences revere her and movie stars adore her, authors crave her approval. The rest of us, mere mortals, dare not speak an ill word of her, I won‘t anyway. But, can Oprah Winfrey influence the 2008 race for president? She is planning to host a fund raiser for Senator Barack Obama.
In case you invitation has not yet arrived, Oprah‘s gig for Barack is set for September 8th at her spread in Santa Barbara. If you want to drop $2300 bucks to get in, you might bump into Chris Rock, George Clooney, Will Smith, Brooke Shields, all at the raw bar, eating oysters. So how important is the Obama factor? Joining me today to check the Obameter, we welcome “Newsweek‘s” Senior Editor, Jonathan Alter and the “New York Times‘s” Marcus Mabry. Welcome to you both.
Marcus, does it matter? Seems like it would.
MABRY: Sure it matters. Look, Oprah has more acolytes and more fans in this country than, I think, any politician in America. So, yes, I think it matters. Absolutely. It‘s the pulse of America.
CARLSON: It‘s interesting that, I mean, the Obama people, you would think, would be working on this. Do you know anything about this? Was this spontaneous?
MABRY: You know, I don‘t know how far back their relationship goes, but it goes back father than this campaign. That I do know. She‘s actually said, a long time ago, said privately for years, how much she respects and admires Obama. And you know, Condoleezza Rice, a famous Republican African-American woman ...
MABRY: ... said the same thing, not long ago.
ALTER: Marcus wrote a great book about her, Condoleezza.
CARLSON: Yes. It‘s interesting. You would think, I mean, Hillary Clinton would seem the perfect Oprah candidate. Do you know what I mean? She‘s a woman who has suffered at the hands of her husband and Oprah is about how men are bad.
MABRY: That‘s a good point, I hadn‘t thought about that.
CARLSON: And we‘ve survived men that are really, really bad. Men are bad, I don‘t know if you knew that. And that‘s the key to her appeal. Hillary is the poster child. Kind of an insult to Hillary Clinton that she didn‘t get the endorsement, don‘t you think?
ALTER: Well, it‘s a little bit strange that Oprah is endorsing in the first place.
CARLSON: Oh, it‘s America, man, 2007!
ALTER: She has actually never done that. She‘s been through several cycles and she‘s never endorsed. But I think part of this is, you know, hometown friend.
CARLSON: That‘s right.
ALTER: They have known each other in Chicago for many years, and I don‘t think it actually matters that much. Because I don‘t think any endorsements matter. I mean, I really, I am hard put to think of the last time that an endorsement really swung an election.
CARLSON: Have you ever read “East of Eden,” the Steinbeck book? The Steinbeck book, “East of Eden?”
ALTER: Years ago.
CARLSON: Yes, years ago. And it‘s way too long, I love John Steinbeck, but it‘s just too long and it‘s not his best. I can think of nine Steinbeck books that are better. She endorsed it and it went to number one.
ALTER: Yes, well. With books.
CARLSON: Yes. “East of Eden?”
ALTER: But books are books. I would have loved to been on her show with my book, but books are not candidates.
ALTER: For some reason, the political process loves endorsements because it gives politics something to do, or in this case, show business people something to do. But there‘s really not a lot of evidence that when voters go into the booth, they go, oh, so and so is for this person.
CARLSON: Right. We learned yesterday that Barry Manilow has given to the Ron Paul for president campaign. And I feel like everybody ...
MABRY: That changes everything.
CARLSON: You know what I mean? Yes. It probably won‘t. But—there, do you see, Marcus, I‘m not imagining this, I don‘t think. This divide? It‘s an age divide. It‘s Democrats under 35 or under 40, strongly prefer Obama. Those older like Hillary.
MABRY: You know, that‘s not completely true, Tucker. Yes, there is some truth to it, but Oprah of course, is a Democrat. I would say Oprah is an American over 35.
CARLSON: Well, she has outed herself now. In case you hadn‘t noticed, she was a Democrat.
MABRY: And I think one—I think John is right. Usually these kinds of endorsements don‘t matter, but the one thing I think that Oprah said that was really important here. And more important even than the generation difference between these Democrats and who they are going to support. Was the fact that is she said Obama seems to be something new, I‘ve never endorsed before, but he seems to be something new.
MABRY: And that kernel. If that turns out to be their theme, and it will be their theme.
ALTER: Well, America loves things that are new.
CARLSON: Of course.
ALTER: This is Hillary‘s problem is that this campaign is restoration, that‘s Hillary, restoration of the 1990‘s of the Clintons. Versus inspiration because Obama is a more inspirational candidate for people, and attracts huge crowds. And I think, if it comes right down to it, and the playing field is level with money, which it is. I think inspiration generally beats restoration.
CARLSON: It does. I hope, you know what, I‘ll admit it. I‘d strongly prefer Obama to Hillary and I just hope he‘s as good as his promise appears to suggest he might be.
ALTER: Don‘t know yet.
CARLSON: When Elizabeth Edwards announced she had a recurrence of cancer, people wondered what kind of role she would play in her husband‘s campaign. Based on the last few days, we now know the answer, it‘s a big role. Is it too big?
Plus the Senate pulls an all-nighter to debate the Iraq war. Did they finally come up with a master plan? An answer? We will tell you in a minute. You are watching MSNBC, the place for politics.
CARLSON: Most of us have pulled the occasional all nighter, always out of desperation or foolishness. And for our sleeplessness, we have almost always wound up with a decent five page paper or a with a passing grade a wild story to tell our friends. The Democrats in the Senate pulled an all nighter last night to debate the Iraq war most certainly out of desperation and maybe foolishly.
For their sleeplessness, the Democrats saw their proposal to withdraw American troops from Iraq voted down this morning by bleary eyed Republicans who were more annoyed than convinced. No five page paper, no passing grade, no wild story; nothing for the sixth time on this issue. So was it worth it? Was there some intangible benefit to Harry Reid‘s all night debate? Is it measurable? Did it happen?
Joining me now to tell us, “Newsweek‘s” senior editor Jonathan Alter and the “New York Times‘” Marcus Mabry.
John, I assume that they knew going into this they were not going to get it. But this is a way to placate faithful Democrats who are wondering what the hell did I vote for these people for.
ALTER: That‘s exactly right. This was a stunt for the Democratic base, because a lot of Democrats were so angry on the funding bill when that—when they didn‘t cut off funding for the war. They thought that their party was spineless, a bunch of wimps. Why don‘t you do what we sent you there for, even though the 2006 election was about a lot more than just Iraq. It‘s been interpreted as being about Iraq.
So this was a gesture to them to say look, we will pull this silly all nighter to tell you, with these cots as our symbol, that we are willing to stay there all night to try to force a vote. The thing that perplexes me about it is the press coverage. Because when the shoe is on the other foot, it is always about a filibuster, you know, how the Democrats are threatening to filibuster when the Republicans controlled.
But there was very little coverage this time—
CARLSON: It‘s the right wing press corps again.
ALTER: I believe the press is more conservative than liberal, but that‘s a whole other conversation.
CARLSON: In what way?
ALTER: Because they take it all from the Drudge Report.
CARLSON: Do you really believe that?
ALTER: Yes, I think even liberal journalists—more journalists are liberal, but—
CARLSON: I had noticed that, like all of them.
ALTER: They still take their leads on news conference from what Drudge thinks is important, how Drudge frames it. So when Drudge frames it as Democrats threatening a filibuster a couple years ago, that‘s the way they frame it. This time it didn‘t get framed as Republicans threatening a filibuster, which is what it was.
CARLSON: Well, thank god for the Republicans. I think the Democrats would be in a lot of trouble without them, because without the Republicans, without the ability to filibuster and stop this kind of tough, Democrats would actually have to withdraw from Iraq. They would have to force, as members of Congress, the president to pull out of Iraq by cutting off funding or something like that.
I think the responsible Democrats say you can‘t just pull out immediately from Iraq. So it‘s useful to have the Republicans as a foil. We can‘t do it because of them.
MABRY: I think this was meant to appeal to more than just the Democratic base. Don‘t forget, the majority of Americans now, 2/3rds of us, are opposed to this war. I think it was the fact that the Democratically controlled Congress‘ approval rating is even lower than the president‘s approval rating. It‘s not just Democrats. It‘s actually Republicans and independents too who want this Congress to have some strength, some opposition to this White House.
CARLSON: Don‘t you think there are two different questions? Everyone I know thinks the war has been a disaster and is mad at Bush about it. I certainly feel that way. But that‘s different than saying we need to pull out tomorrow.
MABRY: I think you‘re right, Tucker. But it‘s about the atmospherics of it. There has to be some sense—the public has to have some sense, the majority of which is against the war, has to have some sense that their Congress, their representatives, whatever their party, are doing something to try to force the president‘s hand on this war that they oppose. It‘s not a question of pulling out, because the people don‘t get to have those kinds of options.
CARLSON: See, I‘m for don‘t just do something, sit there. I actually like a Congress that doesn‘t—
MABRY: You‘re a Buddhist. That‘s a Buddhist saying.
ALTER: Warner and Lugar; they don‘t have the courage of their convictions. They know this war is a loser, but they won‘t vote to wind it down. By the way, Levin/Reed, the bill they were talking about, is not for immediate withdrawal. It is for a responsible redeployment of our forces. It‘s not for isolationism, for pulling out of the region. It is for what will happen a year from now.
People in the Pentagon are telling reporters will happen is we will have about half as many troops as we have there now. We will not be in this folly of trying to mediate a civil war. We will be in a more diplomatic mode and we will be there to try to crush al Qaeda when we can.
CARLSON: You mean in Iraq?
ALTER: In Iraq in some fashion, but not in this foolish way that we‘re there right now. Everybody is arguing over nothing, because in order to preserve the Republican party, Bush will start to draw down in the next six months to a year. There‘s no question about it. Otherwise, the Republicans will lose so badly in 2008.
CARLSON: I agree with that theory, but I haven‘t seen Bush do anything to help the Republican party over the last seven years, so it‘s not clear why he would start now.
ALTER: Because he will be forced to by the Republicans.
MABRY: I don‘t think this president is concerned about that legacy.
CARLSON: I agree.
MABRY: One can say he‘s wrong headed. But I think he is concerned about the long term legacy.
ALTER: Marcus, that doesn‘t really matter. It‘s like Richard Nixon did not have to resign when all the Democrats wanted him to resign. It wasn‘t until Barry Goldwater went to the White House, even though Nixon didn‘t want to resign. When he lost support within his own party, he had to. And Bush will change course on this war when his own party forces him to. The Democrats are irrelevant.
CARLSON: I agree with Marcus. And I say this as someone who is very angry at Bush and didn‘t vote for him the last time as a result of the war. I think he is doing this because he means it. I don‘t see any other explanation. Let me ask you about Elizabeth Edwards. She has taken a much larger role in her husband‘s campaign publicly. I think she was always the driving force behind the scene. But since her diagnosis, publicly, she has really been out there.
Here‘s her latest ad on behalf of her husband. This is Elizabeth Edwards.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ELIZABETH EDWARDS, WIFE OF JOHN EDWARDS: I‘ve been blessed for the last 30 years to be married to the most optimistic person I have ever met. But at the same time, he has an unbelievable toughness, particularly about other people, and that‘s his ability to fight for them. You‘re not going to outsmart him. He works harder than any human being that I know. He always has.
It‘s unbelievably important that in our president we have someone who can stare the worst in the face and not blink.
JOHN EDWARDS (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I‘m John Edwards and I approve this message.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CARLSON: I bet he does approve that message. Is this wise politics. He has his wife call in to “HARDBALL” to take on Ann Coulter. He has her cut the spot. Does he run the risk of seeming week, or does this just seem like a loving wife.
MABRY: To speak of it in very harsh and brutal political terms, John Edwards is running third nationally right now. He is doing better in the early states. The fact is this does not hurt him. The fact is he doesn‘t look weak. This is a woman who is greatly admired by the American people. I think there is no downside at all to this.
There‘s also a sense, I think many Democrats in this early primary season have a sense of frustration. They want to let loose. They want to tell the truth. They want to stop being political, stop being calculating.
CARLSON: Let their freak flags fly.
MABRY: I think they look at Elizabeth Edwards; this is a woman who is speaking the truth.
CARLSON: She does do that. She went before—they all went before Planned Parenthood yesterday and all said the exact same thing, Elizabeth Edwards, Barack Obama. If elected, we will make certain that the tax payer pays for abortion. Now, however you feel about abortion, pro life, pro choice, whatever, that‘s a pretty—that‘s not a popular view. Most Americans don‘t believe that the public should pay for abortion.
That‘s like saying, I‘m in favor of the second amendment. The government ought to pay for guns for everybody. Why do they have to go before Planned Parenthood and say that?
ALTER: Because Planned Parenthood is an important interest group in the Democratic party.
CARLSON: How sick is that. You‘ve got a party where the abortion providers are—
ALTER: They all believe this. They are not changing their position.
They have all believed—they have for the last 30 years believed that. They believe it‘s discriminating against poor people to prevent them from having abortions. But I agree with Marcus that the key thing here with Elizabeth Edwards is everybody assumed that Bill Clinton would be the big spouse in this race. And he obviously is in a certain way.
But she has really carved out a unique place for herself, and I think that she genuinely believes—and I felt this when I went down and interviewed her a couple of months ago—that because of her personal situation, she is going to say exactly what she thinks. She is not trimming at all.
She told me, for instance, that she doesn‘t pray to god to protect her from cancer. The god that she believes in she doesn‘t think prayer works for on this kind of issue, because that‘s the same god who blew her 16 year old son off the road. That is the kind of thing you don‘t say if you‘re a calculating spouse of a politician. You say it if you have decided you don‘t know how much time you have left to live.
CARLSON: So she just prays for—what does she pray for? Federally funded abortions?
ALTER: No, she doesn‘t pray for either one of those. She doesn‘t have that kind of relationship with god.
CARLSON: Every time I have dealt with Elizabeth Edwards, I think I like this women. But boy, they are very left wing, like nobody even listens to what the Edwards are saying. I do for my own amusement.
MABRY: Tucker, you know what this game is. You‘re appealing to your base.
CARLSON: I think they mean it. I guess that‘s the difference.
ALTER: We all mean it. The Democratic party has been for publicly funded abortions for 35 years.
CARLSON: It blows my mind. We‘re out of time, unfortunately. Thanks to Michael Vick and the atrocities he‘s accused of committing we‘re going to switch gears for a second. But I appreciate both of you coming on. Thank you.
Well, we‘re used to professional athletes getting in trouble with the law, but this time the details are genuinely disturbing. NFL star Michael Vick is accused—not guilty—but accused of running a dog fighting ring, as well as being involved in the execution of dogs. Could it be true? And if it is, what‘s going to happen?
Plus, a Vermont town known for showing too much skin is now being ordered to cover up. Our chief nudity correspondent, a job he embraces whole heartedly, Willie Geist reveals the naked truth. You‘re watching MSNBC.
CARLSON: Michael Vick is one of the most famous athletes in the world. He‘s the quarterback of the Atlanta Falcons. He is a man of remarkable physical talents. He‘s also now accused of unspeakable crimes. A federal Grand Jury has indicted Vick on charges that he held dog fights on his property in Virginia.
The charges are difficult to read, dogs killed and mutilated for sport, some at the hands of Vick himself. If Vick is guilty, no punishment is too harsh, in my view. In the meantime, you‘ve got to wonder how widespread is dog fighting and why aren‘t we doing more to stop it?
Joining me now is Wayne Pacelle. He is the president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States. Wayne, thanks for coming on.
WAYNE PACELLE, THE HUMANE SOCIETY OF THE U.S.: Thank you, Tucker.
CARLSON: So, I have no idea if Michael Vick is guilty, certainly seen people falsely accused recently, so I‘m not going to make a judgment on that. But tell me about dog fighting in general. Is it common?
PACELLE: Well, it‘s more common than most people think. There are 10 underground dog fighting magazines. There are a network of websites. We estimate, frankly, there are tens of thousands of people involved. The Humane Society of the United States was founded in the 1950‘s, and at that time it was mainly a rural phenomenon with professional dog fighters and hobbyists.
We have seen in the last 15 years a real rise in urban dog fighting, often associated with gang culture, driven by rap music and hip hop sub-culture and, frankly, some celebrities like Michael Vick and some other sports figures who have been associated with the activity.
CARLSON: So the accusation against Michael Vick includes the allegation that he killed dogs that failed to show the requisite killer spirit, that rather than just letting them go or giving them up to the Humane Society, he killed them. He beat them to death. He drowned them. It will wreck your day reading the descriptions.
Is that part of dog fighting?
PACELLE: It‘s pretty chilling stuff. The indictment is on our website at HumaneSociety.org. It‘s 18 pages and it‘s really macabre information. As you indicate, Tucker, it wasn‘t just that they were staging fights. Those fights can last anywhere from five minutes to two hours and the dogs typically suffer serious injuries or die from blood loss or shock.
Sometimes when they don‘t perform well, their handlers or owner really exhibit some sort of retribution. And that‘s what seems to have happened with Vick and his cohorts. They hung dogs. They put some in water and electrocuted them. They picked them up by the back legs and slammed them against the ground, bludgeoning them to death.
That‘s a little unusual, but you are talking about a subculture where the norms are cruelty and abuse. So, it‘s not entirely to us. What is surprising is that here you have—as you indicated—one of the world‘s most remarkable athletes with a contract in the tens of millions of dollars, and why would he jeopardize all of that just for this little hobby to watch animals kill one another and to be titillated by the blood letting.
CARLSON: Especially dogs. I mean, dogs are the most faithful, loving, obedient animals, better than people in a lot of ways. It‘s so outrageous. And I guess what makes me the most angry is you read these stories about kids getting bitten by pit bulls or Rottweilers and so often those dogs are fighting dogs, and they have been tortured from puppyhood to make them vicious.
PACELLE: Well, there‘s not just an epidemic of dog fighting. There‘s an epidemic of pit bulls, especially in urban communities. People think of them as some sort of instrument or implement, kind of a macho extension. Some of the most dastardly people, frankly, turn them into fighting machines and fight them in pits, often for illegal wagering. Others just kind of have this macho display. They want a tough dog.
If you go to shelters, local humane societies, animal control agencies and urban communities, Baltimore, Chicago, Los Angeles; the shelters are full of pit bulls because they‘ve been turned into these machines.
CARLSON: Wayne Pacelle from the Humane Society, thank you very much for all you do to stop that.
PACELLE: Thank you.
CARLSON: We are going to go now to an update of the breaking news story we have been following all hour. There has been what turns out to be a steam pipe explosion in mid town Manhattan on 45th street and Lexington Avenue. Officials say, and we want to be very clear about this, it‘s not an act of terrorism. City hall has said a couple of people have been injured. We‘re not exactly certain the extent of their injuries.
These are really remarkable pictures. These are live, by the way.
This is happening right now. There is, and it‘s not visible in the camera
but we are hearing the waves of steams—the geysers you are watching now are coming—coming out of a hole in the ground. We are getting reports now that a building in the area, presumably right nearby, is, quote, shaky.
We assume it‘s being evacuated right now. This is taking place right in the middle of the city at about 10 of 7:00 eastern time. It‘s rush hour in the middle of Manhattan. Again, these pictures are live from our NBC affiliate in Manhattan.
If you‘re tuning in right now and you‘re looking at a picture of something terrifying going on in Manhattan, we want to reassure you that this is not terrorism. This is apparently a broken steam pipe in the middle of the city, which is why the people at the bottom of the screen are not running, but standing and watching.
Presumably it‘s not dangerous to these people because they are pretty close. But it is very dramatic; Old Faithful right in the middle of the city.
We know nothing about injuries at this hour beyond the report from New York City Hall that two people have been injured in some way. But again, we don‘t have any details beyond that, nor is it clear exactly how this happened. But it‘s throwing up an incredible amount of debris. There‘s a four alarm response. It doesn‘t appear to be a fire exactly, but it is a four alarm event.
We want to go now to Contessa Brewer, who is standing by at the MSNBC news room, who has more context for this event. Contessa, the pictures are remarkable. What else do you know about this.
CARLSON: Thanks a lot, Contessa. That school bus is so remarkably close. We are going to go to go down to Leslie Harwood, who is in Manhattan, who was in a building right nearby when this happened. Leslie, are you on the line?
LESLIE HARWOOD, WITNESS: Yes, I‘m hear. How are you?
CARLSON: I‘m fine. What did you see?
HARWOOD: Well, I was in my office. I work at 125 Park, which is the corner of Park Avenue and 42nd street. And I was in a meeting with some colleagues. All of a sudden the building started shaking. We realized the windows were shaking. We looked out the window and we realized everyone was running out of Grand Central, running towards Madison.
So all of a sudden everyone in the office started yelling, you know, time to evacuate, time to evacuate. We went running down the stairs. It was really scary, as you can hear in my voice. We were quite scared but everybody was calm. I was only on the 11th floor.
When we got down, they were insisting that he head north and cross over to Grand Central, and then go over to Madison. And we‘re all covered in this very light brown dirt. And it surprises me that it was only a transformer, because we are covered in dirt. And that‘s what happened.
CARLSON: I don‘t even need to ask you this question, but I will.
What did you think when you heard the explosion?
HARWOOD: Of course, we all had—when you work across the street from Grand Central, every single day we have these special drills with the police. When we all got to the ground floor, everyone was happy to be alive, to tell you the truth. We were happy to be out of the building and safe.
CARLSON: So this began with an explosion? Did you hear it or did you feel it?
HARWOOD: We heard it. We thought it was thunder. We though it was thunder and then someone said, oh my gosh, it‘s an earthquake. And then someone else said no, it‘s an explosion. And, of course, everybody thought terrorism right away and we headed outside immediately. We have had a few drills on this.
CARLSON: I don‘t know exactly where you were relative to this explosion.
HARWOOD: I was one block away.
CARLSON: Leslie, I‘m sorry, we‘re going to go now to a reporter who is on the scene. Thanks so much.
HARWOOD: OK, thank you.
CARLSON: All right, we want to go now, I believe, to a reporter from WNBC, our affiliate in New York.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You can see this enormous plume of steam going up into the air. You‘ll also notice that there is a brown liquid. I guess it‘s filled with dirt. It‘s shooting up from the street. It appears in the last 20 minutes or so, it may have gotten bigger, because police are pushing us even further back—further south on Lexington Avenue.
There are a lot of people here, a lot of confusion, a lot of nervous people. I can tell you, we saw a lot of people running to the side streets on Park Avenue, completely soaked in muddy water. They had mud caked on to them. They were very likely underneath this explosion when it happened.
Right now the NYPD says it was a steam pipe that exploded and they have no immediate details on any possible injuries. We did speak to someone who was in his office when he heard this explosion and everyone in the office got out and ran down the stairway.
Right now they tell us that the four, five, and six trains are not working. They are not working in this are. They are bypassing Grand Central, but obviously getting home right now is the last thing on people‘s minds because of everything that is happening.
Now, take a look over here. You‘ll see an emergency vehicle. This is an FDNY vehicle that just came through. We have had tons of vehicles coming through here, An enormous response here, as both fire and police try to respond to this explosion and also to assist the people who are confused, nervous, perhaps injured from this explosion. Chuck?
CARLSON: All right. You are watching live coverage of what apparently is the explosion of a steam pipe in mid town Manhattan. We believe it‘s on 41st street, right in the middle of the city, during rush hour. You‘re looking at live pictures now. There‘s a school bus, as you can see, almost right next to what has become a geyser, a Yellowstone like geyser—not to make light of it—but right in the middle of the city.
We spoke to Leslie Harwood who was on the scene a minute ago in a nearby office building, who said she was alerted to this by an explosion so forceful that it shook her building. Everyone in the building immediately evacuated as they had been trained to do. All of them, of course, assuming this was an act after terrorism.
We should add, to make it crystal clear, that this is not an act of terrorism. If you‘re just tuning in now and assuming that you‘re looking at something diabolical, you‘re not. This is an accident. This happened in the middle of Manhattan. But apparently authorities are finding it impossible to bring it under control because this has been going on for over 10 minutes now, shooting a massive geyser of steam and some debris into the air.
Two people injured that we know about. That was reported by city hall. We‘re going to check back now with Contessa Brewer, who‘s at the news desk here at MSNBC and may have more details.
CARLSON: It looks like they‘re having a great deal of trouble getting it under control. We just thank god that it‘s mud and not ash raining down on the people around. Just to recap here—I‘m going to turn this over to MSNBC‘s David Shuster for continuing coverage. But there has been a steam pipe explosion in mid town Manhattan on the east side of Lexington Avenue. It happened within this hour.
It began with an explosion, scaring the heck out of everybody on the block, and it continues. This is by no means brought under control, but as you can tell from the pictures you‘re looking at, nobody appears panicked or even particularly frightened.
There is a school bus right in the foreground there, right next to that geyser of steam. We don‘t believe anyone on it was injured. That by the grace of god, considering how close it is to what has become a geyser of steam in mid town Manhattan. There are many question about this, what caused it and what‘s going to happen next. We‘re going to answer those questions for you on MSNBC. David Shuster takes over, next.
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