Guests: Noah Kunin, Tom Andrews, Matthew Continetti
TUCKER CARLSON, MSNBC ANCHOR: Welcome to the show. Our focus on politics was interrupted about 23 hours ago with the collapse of the I-35 West Bridge in Minneapolis. And the recovery mission continues at this hour.
The effort includes divers searching for the unaccounted people believed to be still trapped in the relatively shallow waters of the Mississippi River. All day, experts pondered the cause of the collapse. The news media reports the general state of America‘s infrastructure and politicians visited the accident site and designated funds to aid in disaster relief.
They also cast blame. And all the while, firemen, police, rescue workers navigated perilous, unsteady conditions at the scene where pieces of the collapsed bridge, murky river water and the Mississippi strong current had hampered their mission.
And since yesterday, witnesses, survivors and heroes who rescued them tried to explain to the country what they saw and what they did about it. Here is a sample of rattled Minneapolis.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The bridge just completely went down.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And we were falling, literally falling.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And then I see the bridge in the water and cars in the water and people are swimming out of the river.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There was one car - the bridge was like a V and the car was literally bent in half between it all. And then it just collapsed, crushed the cars.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Something you don‘t see everyday.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CARLSON: MSNBC‘s Contessa Brewer has been on the site in Minneapolis all day. And she joins us now with her observations as well as the latest developments. Contessa, welcome. What do we know at this hour?
CONTESSA BREWER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Well, Tucker, the last official word was still four people are dead, but we heard earlier from officials that they did know there were bodies under the surface of the Mississippi River.
The real problem is they are sending teams of divers in to try to and locate and recover those victims. As you said, the current of the water is interfering and also the murkiness of the water.
We heard earlier from divers - they can only see about a foot in front of their face. Now combine that, Tucker, with gigantic piles of wire and concrete and rebar and steel beams, all smashed together with these vehicles and you have a very tenuous situation. The divers themselves in danger.
So earlier today, they pulled the divers out of the water. They said we need to get heavy equipment down there to be able to move some of this debris from the bridge and the wreckage of the cars as well. However, they can‘t do that until they know for sure, they have all the information from the way the debris fell.
In other words, they want to make sure from an investigative standpoint, that they know what they need to know from the debris that‘s now laying on the river.
Behind me we‘ve been seeing some activity pick up here, teams of people wearing hard hats. They‘ve pulled back some of these vehicles. We‘ve seen some of these officials in hard hats leading dogs around on leashes. And they‘re up high at this point. This is the higher part of the bridge.
Down below is the Mississippi River, of course one of the main thorough fares here in Minneapolis to St. Paul. As you might imagine, if you have a bridge collapse that is one of your main arteries, traffic is a nightmare.
Even on the side street behind us, behind where I‘m doing this live shot, we‘ve seen traffic just back up today as people, onlookers, combined with those who are trying to get from point A to point B and around what used to be their main artery across to St. Paul, real problematic here.
And in terms of the investigation now, big picture here, you have state leaders, national leaders, city leaders saying, we are going to find out why this bridge collapsed. Families however are sitting back and they‘re waiting for answers, especially you feel for the people whose loved ones are still missing at this point, and thinking, why don‘t we know where they are? Why don‘t we know that this bridge deemed structurally deficient several years ago, why wasn‘t it fixed? They want answers and the officials at this point, Tucker, are promising those answers will come. But the NTSB says it may be a year or more before they have real, solid answers.
CARLSON: The question that keeps recurring to me is really a happy one. How exactly did a school bus fall 60 odd feet on the bridge and no one was killed? What happened?
BREWER: You know, I was talking to someone - one of the first people on the scene when that school bus first landed. He said he was walking under the bridge. He could hear the screaming of people. He heard the bridge move and he came up on top. He didn‘t actually go out onto the bridge, but he came up high. And as he listened to these children, he whistled as loudly as he can and he says, if you can hear me, get out, start walking toward me.
We know there were already good samaritans at that bus that opened up the back door of that school bus and helped those children to safety. Now, there were some injuries. Some of the kids did get hurt, but nothing serious, no life threatening injuries from that school bus. That seems to be the uplifting survival story out of all of this.
CARLSON: It is just absolutely remarkable. So just to recap to people who are tuning in right now, Contessa. There are four dead, we know for certain. How many are missing?
BREWER: They have not given us solid numbers. They know at least 20 people are missing. According to some reports, as many as 30. But trying to nail down the officials on how many people are missing has been difficult because they simply don‘t know how many cars are in the rivers.
When they first sent divers down today, the divers were trying to identify the cars on the basis of their license plate. And I said before, only being able to see through the water a foot in front of them, we know one car got identified by sonar. But at this point, they don‘t know how many cars are in the river. Some of them are buried completely under water and then under the debris from the bridge. So 20 or so missing, 80 or so injured, but those numbers are still flexible. They are expecting the death toll of course to rise from four. But right now, officially, it stands at four.
CARLSON: Contessa Brewer, on the scene in Minneapolis. We‘ll check in with you later in the hour. Contessa, thanks a lot.
Next, an eye witness account from a man who watched and photographed the bridge collapse from his apartment next door.
Then later in the show, Hillary Clinton on the war she voted for, supported and then opposed. We‘ll have the latest on her evolving positions. That‘s next.
CARLSON: Eye witness accounts of the bridge collapse in Minneapolis have been pouring in over the last 24 hours, but few have been more compelling than that of Noah Kunin. Mr. Kunin lives right next to the bridge and he watched in disbelief as he fell. Still, he had the presence of mind to take some remarkable photographs. He joins me now to share his experience and his pictures. Noah, welcome.
NOAH KUNIN, EYEWITNESS: Hi, good to be here.
CARLSON: So tell me what you saw and where you were when you saw it.
KUNIN: Sure. Right over my shoulder you can see a billboard. That billboard is on my building. So I live exactly there, wedged between the 35W bridge and the Cedar Avenue Bridge. And I was in the apartment with my girlfriend at which point it started to shake, very much like an after shock which I have lived through before.
CARLSON: What started to shake? Excuse me, your building started to shake?
KUNIN: The entire building started to shake. Immediately we went on to my roof‘s porch which faces directly into 35W and saw the tail end of the collapse.
CARLSON: What did it look like?
KUNIN: You know—when the Twin Towers came down, it was a sense that it was in slow motion, that it was falling much slower than it was - that time was going much slower. It was the same effect. There was no blast, no explosion, no shock waves, just a small poof as it settled into the river.
CARLSON: What did it sound like?
KUNIN: It was actually very quiet. It just sounded like rushing wind and a small impact noise at which point - we didn‘t wait any longer. We slapped some clothes on and started sprinting to the river to help in any way we could.
CARLSON: That‘s amazing. Could you see people in the water?
KUNIN: We saw one person in the water who was swimming toward to us who indicated there wasn‘t really anyone to go after out there. And he immediately joined the rescue team. There were about 14 to 15 people including myself and my girlfriend who that assembled. If you were within ear shot or eye shot and could make it there to help, you did.
CARLSON: So this guy presumably was in a car on the bridge when it collapsed. He goes into the water, climbs out of the car, comes back on the bank, and then volunteers to help other people?
KUNIN: Exactly. I paired up with him and there was a car that had fallen off a concrete slab and was wedged in between two girders, balancing precariously off the ground. We got those two people out. They walked along a girder for a bit. We cleared some minor debris and just gave them hand holds to climb back down to the ground, at which point they also joined the rescue efforts.
CARLSON: It sounds like the authorities were not on the scene when you got there?
KUNIN: When I say I literally live there, I literally live there. I was on the scene within 25 seconds to about a minute.
CARLSON: That is remarkable. Tell me about the school bus. I‘m amazed, and obviously it‘s a blessing, that the school bus could fall the distance that it did, remain upright, and no one was killed. What did it look like?
KUNIN: It was very frustrating for us because we heard rumors in all the chaos that the school bus was there. But on my side of the highway, is the northbound side. The school bus was the southbound side. It was mere feet from us, but that might have as well just have been a giant abyss. There was no way for us to get to them, so we had to hope and pray that someone was coming out from the other side, coming out to get the school bus and we just had to help the people on our side because of the way the bridge was buckling and turning.
CARLSON: The man who swam out of the water and joined you in rescuing other people, do you know his name?
KUNIN: Unfortunately, I don‘t. I‘m sure he told me his name as we started to clear debris, but I was still in shock myself. They say your brain stops working. It‘s part of the human condition to do these things. There weren‘t any real heroes down there, everybody was just doing their biological imperative.
CARLSON: Amazing. Well, I have seen things like this before. It‘s not everybody‘s biological imperative to jump in and start helping people. It takes something that some people don‘t have, so I‘m impressed.
KUNIN: It might just be a Minnesota thing.
CARLSON: Are you as stunned as a lot of us watching this from afar by how few people were killed?
KUNIN: Yes and no. The one thing when we got down there, the group of 14 original people, it was quiet. It was very, very, very quiet. And what that meant was there was a portion of the people there who couldn‘t make any noise and could not respond to our calls. And everybody else kept a level head, they self organized and they just started working immediately without any provocation.
CARLSON: Boy, that‘s enough to want to make you move to Minneapolis.
Noah, I appreciate you coming on to tell us your story, thank you.
KUNIN: Your welcome, good luck.
Well a week after calling him weak on foreign policy, Hillary Clinton attack Barack Obama again, but this time for being too tough. We‘ve got the confusing details coming up.
Plus Rudy Giuliani responds to a savage hit piece on his wife in “Vanity Fair” magazine. Here‘s a hint, he is not impressed. That‘s all next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D), NEW YORK: Whatever the contingency might be, it is clear that planning is essential, and not just planning in broad strokes, but very specific plans that take into account all the various and often difficult contingencies and circumstances that we will face.
Withdrawing troops from Iraq will be dangerous and difficult. We must oversee the Bush administration as the constitution demands and that four years of mistakes and mismanagement in Iraq require. That is why we are introducing this legislation. Senators Kerry, Boxer, Lautenberg, Bayh, Brown and Whitehouse to mandate that the Pentagon brief Congress on contingency planning to ensure the safe and secure redeployment of our troops from Iraq.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CARLSON: That was, of course, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton. She was joined by John Kerry, Barbara Boxer, Sheldon Whitehouse and many other senators today for her latest proposal for handling the withdrawal from Iraq. The undersecretary of defense and more recently the vice president have said that planning a troop withdrawal is tantamount to aiding the enemy. But Defense Secretary Robert Gates is working on a plan. He was in Kuwait earlier today to find out how he can 160,000 troops out of Iraq, along with their equipment. What is really going on?
Joining us now, the national director of “Win Without War” and former Democratic congressman from the state of Maine, Tom Andrews and the “Weekly Standard‘s” Matthew Continetti. Welcome to you both.
So Hillary Clinton, an expert on withdrawal now. I mean, it does seem to me that there are - I think Congress should provide oversight. I‘m a believer in divided government, actually. However, what the hell does she know about pulling troops out of Iraq? Zero. And it just seems to me that Congress ought to stay out of the details of things like that, because it can only bother them.
TOM ANDREWS, WIN WITHOUT WAR: Are you kidding, Tucker? First of all, the reason we are in such a mess in Iraq, two reasons. One A, because the Pentagon didn‘t think it had to plan for getting into Iraq and as a result, thousands and thousands of people, including our own young people are dead because the Pentagon refused to look at the plan that was already in place, that had already been worked on by the State Department and went in and didn‘t prepare for what those soldiers faced. So number one, that‘s a problem.
Number two, the Congress let them get away with it. They authorized an invasion without asserting themselves and demanded there be some kind of planning. So thank god someone is going to stand up and say look, maybe this time we should be planning our exit from Iraq and planning some contingencies given the great disaster that we‘ve been facing in Iraq because we failed.
CARLSON: Here is what John Kerry said in this same press conference today. He said, “I think and I think Senator Clinton and Barbara Boxer and others join me in this, the Pentagon ought to be planning to save lives, not save face.” So basically, he‘s suggesting that the Pentagon would put the lives of its own soldiers at risk in order to save face. That seems to me, Matthew Continetti, kind of a heavy charge for John Kerry to be leveling at the Pentagon.
MATTHEW CONTINETTI, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: Absolutely, and I‘m not sure how Senator Clinton wants to be appearing next to John Kerry as she embarks on her own presidential journey. But it is clear that the Pentagon is planning for a withdrawal. They have are contingency plans. Anytime you enter a war - it wasn‘t that they didn‘t have contingency plans for after the invasion of Iraq, it was that the Bush administration didn‘t listen to anybody, didn‘t make any decisions.
So it‘s clear the Pentagon has these plans, they don‘t want to publicize them. As I go on the trail with Mayor Giuliani, I see one of the lines he gets the most applause from, Tucker, is when he says, there has never been an army in the history of the world that‘s announced a date certain for when it retreats. So I think both sides have some legitimate arguments to it.
CARLSON: But what about the idea that Senator Kerry appears to be floating with the Pentagon that it is somehow negligent of the lives of its own soldiers and somehow wouldn‘t kind of think to plan for a withdrawal from Iraq until Senator Kerry reminded.
ANDREWS: Tucker, let‘s start with the facts. I mean, literally.
ANDREWS: The Pentagon itself has admitted - they had to admit that literally hundreds of our young people are dead now only because the Pentagon and the administration didn‘t plan for them going into Iraq.
They didn‘t have the body armor, they didn‘t have the protective vehicles that if they had had them, would have kept them alive. That‘s real and that‘s serious and those guys are dead now. And so to make that charge, I think there is justification. And shame on the Congress for not having insisted that there was a contingency plan that they understood before going into Iraq.
CARLSON: So you think it‘s wise and legitimate for Kerry to imply, as he just did, that the Pentagon doesn‘t care about the lives of its soldiers?
ANDREWS: Not that they don‘t care.
CARLSON: How dare he say that?
ANDREWS: But they are negligent.
CARLSON: What a pompous blowhard that guy is.
ANDREWS: They are negligent. They were negligent when they went in. We have Americans who were dead as a result and they have to be accountable for it.
CARLSON: It‘s a war. People die. I‘m not defending the war. I think the Bush administration screwed it up terribly. But to blame the generals and act as if they don‘t care about the lives of soldiers. I mean, that‘s.
CONTINETTI: The overriding issue here though is that this is going into the congressional recess in August. The one question that the Bush administration wins in public polling on the Iraq war is should we wait for General Petreaus to make his report in September before making any decision. And so here, Senator Clinton and Senator Kerry are coming out for the Pentagon to announce its strategy for withdrawal before having heard from General Petraeus. I think that does put them in a bind.
ANDREWS: Let‘s be truthful. They are saying they want to be briefed, they want a full review, have an opportunity to fully review what the Pentagon is planning for contingency. That‘s not holding a news conference. That‘s not having a public hearing.
CARLSON: But hold on. The question remains, it hangs in the air. What happens when David Petraeus comes back to Washington and gives his report and what if he says things - what if he agrees with other people who have been in Iraq recently, who say things are improving, there is a hope that we can get the situation under control and not be humiliated. Are they going to ignore it? What are they going to do with that?
ANDREWS: Obviously they‘re going to listen to him. But listen, the facts on the ground belie what he has been saying up to this point. He says there‘s astonishing normalcy in all of these neighborhoods. What‘s happening in Iraq right now is exactly what critics including General Casey, including General Abizaid, including the Iraq Study Group said would happen. You‘re going to have a reduction in violence in some areas of the country, some neighborhoods of Baghdad. You‘re going to get an increase in violence in other parts of the country.
CARLSON: Could anything give the antiwar radicals - they‘re not even antiwar, it‘s something else. But whatever, the people who want to withdraw immediately, could anything convince them that it‘s worth not pulling out immediately? Any fact presented to convince them of that?
ANDREWS: I think, and here‘s the thing.
CARLSON: How close minded are these people?
ANDREWS: Here‘s the thing. The whole premise of this search was to provide the space—the political space for compromise so that the politicians, the leaders could come and have negotiations. Of course, just the opposite is happening.
Maliki‘s government is falling apart. The parliament is now on vacation. There‘s interesting fighting between the factions the likes of which we have yet to see. So things are actually getting worse when it comes to the only way this thing is going to be solved, which is politically not militarily. And the surge was designed to.
CARLSON: . I am wiling to buy that, I just never had any hope at all that they‘d be able to govern themselves in a democratic fashion and I don‘t care if they do.
CONTINETTI: The problem is that the politics comes after securing the Iraqi populace. And securing the Iraqi populous has only just begun. It began last month. So we are one month into the actual operations of the surge and Democrats and antiwar critics are already calling it a failure.
CARLSON: Well I don‘t know why we don‘t just - why not get a strongman and knock off this democracy nonsense?
ANDREWS: I thought we invaded in 2003. I don‘t know, maybe I‘m—
CARLSON: Look, they‘ve screwed up every year. It‘s just, how do we minimize the humiliation? I think that‘s worth thinking about. Don‘t you?
ANDREWS: Well, we are being humiliated right now.
CARLSON: I know, let‘s make it better.
ANDREWS: We are providing Osama bin Laden with the single most popular tool recruit. So let‘s stop that humiliation and let‘s start saving some lives in the process.
CARLSON: Want the government to provide free medical care for kids but aren‘t certain how exactly you‘re going to come up with the money? Well here‘s an idea, have poor, unhealthy people pay for it. That was Congress‘ solution.
Plus, Barack Obama goes after the religious vote by touting the endorsement of a man he describes as quote, “a civil right‘s leader.” But is that an accurate description of the man in question or is it indeed laughable? That‘s next.
CARLSON: Still to come, Barack Obama says he was always against the war in Iraq, long before you were. But now he‘s threatening to bomb Pakistan.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), ILLINOIS: I understand that President Musharraf has his own challenge, but let me make this clear, there are terrorists holed up in those mountains who murdered 3,000 Americans. They are plotting to strike again. It was a terrible mistake to fail to act when we had a chance to take out an al-Qaeda leadership meeting in 2005. If we have actionable intelligence about high value terrorist targets, and President Musharraf won‘t act, we will.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CARLSON: That looked like Barack Obama and as of yesterday, it sounded like him too. Obama gave one of the most remarkable speeches of the 2008 campaign so far yesterday, in which the former peace candidate advocated sending troops into the sovereign nation of Pakistan. Pakistan wasn‘t impressed, they said today. John Edwards and Hillary Clinton though didn‘t object to Obama‘s unilateral military strategy, but fellow candidate Chris Dodd did, and the “Quad City Times” newspaper in Iowa reported that local Democrats weren‘t impressed by Obama‘s bellicose turn either.
Has he risked his solid position with the primary voters and the left wing of his party in order to look tough. Here with their analysis, national director of Win Without War, and former Democratic congressman from the state of Maine, Tom Andrews, and the “Weekly Standard‘s” Matthew Continetti.
Matt, here Obama comes out and says he wants to move unilaterally into Pakistan if need be, into a sovereign nation, disregarding the will of that nation. And he wants to establish democracy in that country. He sounds so much like Bush, could you see voting for him on the basis of his neo-conservative foreign policy?
CONTINETTI: Well, listen to what Obama actually said, Tucker. He said that those terror is groups in the northwest province, he would be willing to attack them and go after them if Musharraf did not. Now, we talk about a sovereign nation. He‘s not saying in this speech that he wants to invade Islamabad. He wants to go into those territories which actually the Pakistani government don‘t control.
What I find so remarkable is the reaction to this speech. Really, Obama is saying nothing remarkable. He‘s saying that he would, unlike the Bush administration, go after the terrorists in Waziristan. I‘m for it.
CARLSON: Bush has said that too.
CONTINETTI: In 2005, -- what Obama is talking about—in 2005, an operation to go after top al-Qaeda leaders in Waziristan was called off. It was a battle within the Bush administration.
CARLSON: That‘s right. But Bush, in response to a question last year, said yes, he would be willing to do that. But there is a philosophical debate here that I think is unresolved. Waziristan and the northwest territories of Pakistan are not, in effect, controlled by the government, but they are in the borders of the country. They belong to Pakistan.
An invasion or an insertion of troops would be a unilateral move of the exact kind Democrats hate. What the hell is this?
ANDREWS: Tucker, again, I think you‘re right Matt. He said he would take action. What does that mean? Does that mean he will invade Pakistan? I don‘t think so.
CARLSON: That‘s what he said.
ANDREWS: He‘s going to invade Pakistan?
CARLSON: He‘s going to send troops. What‘s the difference between sending troops and invading? Let‘s see, nothing.
ANDREWS: He said he would take action. Of course, he is going to take action. We were divided in our camp, among those of us in our coalition about what to do about Afghanistan.
CARLSON: I thought you were against unilateral moves against sovereign nations?
ANDREWS: I am against allowing, as Senator Obama was saying—allowing those who are preparing to attack us from being able to attack us. Of course we take action.
CARLSON: That‘s exactly what the Bush administration said in the run up to the Iraq war.
ANDREWS: Action does not mean we‘re going to unilaterally attack Pakistan. He said if he is unwilling to take action—
CARLSON: They‘ll unilaterally invade Pakistan. What am I missing?
ANDREWS: OK, listen! Number one, you can take all kinds of clandestine action. There are 100 tribal—
CARLSON: Just because it‘s secret doesn‘t mean it‘s not unilateral.
ANDREWS: Hold on! One hundred tribal leaders in that part of Pakistan have been killed by the Taliban. There are all kinds of potential allies on the ground that are ready to help us to take out that Taliban threat and al-Qaeda. There are all kinds of options for action, just as there were in Iraq, outside of invading a country, but still protecting this country.
CARLSON: I‘m totally losing track of the differences between the neo-cons on the right and the neo-cons running for president on the left. What are the differences? I don‘t get it.
CONTINETTI: There are profound differences.
CARLSON: I don‘t understand.
CONTINETTI: The Republicans are for remaining in Iraq; the Democrats are for leaving.
CARLSON: If you could boil down to how their philosophies differ; how do they differ?
CONTINETTI: Well, the philosophy of unilateral action—I think you are totally misreading the speech, Tucker. This is not about the speech. The story here is the reaction to the speech from some on the right who are criticizing Obama for saying something perfectly reasonable and some on the left who are against Obama for actually willingly attacking a terrorist target. That‘s the story here.
CARLSON: I‘m not taking a position on whether or not what he said is reasonable at all. I think you could argue both sides. You don‘t want to destabilize Musharraf‘s regime. Though he said he did want to stabilize it by bringing democracy to Pakistan, great idea. I‘m only asking the question, what is the difference between his view of foreign policy and Bush‘s? I don‘t see any difference. They disagree about the war in Iraq is working. But on a philosophical level, they appear identical. They are both willing to take unilateral action against independent sovereign nations that don‘t want it.
CONTINETTI: There is a long standing American tradition to interfere in the internal affairs of other countries. It‘s been going on for 200 years.
CARLSON: Someone ought to tell the net roots this, because I am positive they have no idea.
CONTINETTI: If they net roots are going to be very hard on Obama when he appears for this yearly Kos convention in Chicago. It‘s something he has to worry about while he is trying to gain hawk points on Senator Clinton. He does open himself up to attack on the left. Governor Richardson, for example, released a statement saying that Obama was totally wrong in actually wanting to go after terrorists in Waziristan.
ANDREWS: You know, what he said—what Governor Richardson said was you only use that kind action as a very last resort. That is not inconsistent with what Senator Obama was saying. Let‘s at least allow him to have a fair hearing of what he actually said.
CARLSON: I just want you to know, I think the war in Iraq was a mistake, but every arguments you just made is an argument that Dick Cheney made in favor of going into Iraq, every single one. The circumstances are different, but the arguments the arguments are wrong.
ANDREWS: No, exactly wrong! Because Dick Cheney and George Bush decided they could violate international law. They didn‘t have to build alliances. They could just go, willy nilly, do whatever they want. Senator Obama didn‘t say that.
CARLSON: Yes, he did. Is what he said yesterday in his speech consistent with international law?
ANDREWS: It could very well be. Action could mean many, many, many things. Action, not a unilateral invasion, not a violation of international law, not a dissing of the—
CARLSON: I don‘t know what the would be, but OK.
CONTINETTI: Remember, the Bush administration hasn‘t done this. I think the Republicans are open to attack here from Democrats who said you have not done enough.
CARLSON: I think that‘s a fair attack. I think they ought to do that. Where is Osama bin Laden? You know what? I am on the Democrat‘s side on that one question. Not that they would know what to do.
ANDREWS: He‘s stronger now than ever before, Tucker, as a direct result of this administration.
CARLSON: Maybe, so we should run away from them in Iraq. OK! Let me just ask you this, the Democratic party, under the leadership of right Reverend Howard Dean of Vermont, has decided they are going to some how win over religious voters. This is Dean, who thought the Book of Job was in the New Testament. Yes, he did. He said it was his favorite book in the New Testament, the Book of Job, right next to Deuteronomy.
Barack Obama issued a press release saying—announcing that civil rights leader joins grass roots movement for change, ie the Obama campaign. Bishop Gene Robinson, a civil rights leader, and a leading voice in the faith community—for those who aren‘t members of the Episcopal church, as I am, Gene Robinson is a thoroughly discredited, often drunk, bishop of New Hampshire.
ANDREWS: He‘s a bishop.
CARLSON: He‘s a civil right‘s leader now? Here‘s my point; if you know anything about the Episcopal church, or pay attention to Protestant Christianity, you are not going to brag about having Gene Robinson on your side. This shows how completely, totally out of touch with the faith they are attempted to woo over. This is pathetic. This is embarrassing.
ANDREWS: I‘m not an Episcopalian, so I can‘t speak to your bishop. But what I can say is the Democratic party is laying out a strategy, a political effort, to focus on and talk with people of faith. When you think about issues like providing health insurance to five million more children, which the Democrats in the Congress did yesterday, or the environment or issues of war and peace, there are so many value based issues that the Democrats are talking about, and they should be talking about.
Not from a position of pure analysis and facts and figures, which they always do, but from the heart, from the basis of what they feel. That‘s what Americans want to hear. My coalition—Reverend Robert Edgar is co-chair of our coalition, National Council of Churches. Jim Wallace from Sojourners. We have the methodists. These people come to this issue as a matter of faith. I think Democrats are very smart to have a strategy to frame these issues in terms of values.
CARLSON: They come to the issue as a matter of left wing ideology, using their faith as a justification. Which leads to my question, why is the religious left any less pernicious and annoying than the religious right? I just don‘t see that.
CONTINETTI: I‘m sure Christopher Hitchens would agree with you here.
The problem for Obama in announcing this public embrace and endorsement
from Bishop Robinson is that it puts Obama, as though he weren‘t there
already, on the cutting edge of some very tense issues involving same sex
marriage, the place of homosexuals in the church. And that‘s not a place -
the environment for Democrats is so beneficial, the political writer Tom Etsel (ph) points out, going into 2008, you wonder whether they really want to go into these live wire issues into that election.
CARLSON: I don‘t care about the gay stuff at all. I just think Gene Robertson is such not a serious person. To call him a civil rights leader is an offense to the idea of a civil rights leader. You mentioned health care for children the Democrats have just passed. They are paying for it by taxing cigarette smokers, who are the poorest, unhealthiest people in our society. So the poor are going to pay for this new coverage of children in our country? How exactly is that fair?
ANDREWS: Number one—
CARLSON: Is there a more regressive tax than the cigarette tax?
ANDREWS: I used to chair the taxation committee in Maine. I was very opposed in many cases to increasing the cigarette tax precisely for that reason, because it‘s people, largely low income people, people that don‘t have the money. But listen, on the other hand, this is a Congress that‘s actually paying for the investments that it‘s making.
CARLSON: No, poor people are paying for it. They are not paying anything.
ANDREWS: They are coming up with the means to pay for things. Unlike what the Republicans did. Unlike what George Bush is doing in this war. Every penny that we‘re paying for this war is being borrowed. Number one, let‘s give them credit for coming up with—we may not like the tax, but they are paying for what they are buying.
Number two, yes, there could have been other ways, other taxes. But listen, getting 5,000,000 kids covered is going to save an enormous amount of money in the long term for this country. I think it‘s good policy..
CARLSON: A lot of poor people are going to suffer as a result of that. It just seems to me if you‘re against smoking—the government is addicted to smoking.
ANDREWS: They‘re also finding that increasing taxes decreases smoking. So maybe we will have a benefit there.
CONTINETTI: That will dry up the revenue base and make it more expensive in the end.
CARLSON: More and more states are considering leasing their toll roads or bridges, giving the state billions of dollars up front. Is that a good idea? Should highways be sponsored by corporations or should the sates pay their own way? This is MSNBC.
CARLSON: State‘s across America face a backlog of roads and bridges in desperate need of repair. But tight budgets mean the nation‘s infrastructure continues to deteriorate. Could privatization be the answer? Well, some partnerships have already been hatched. A host of mostly foreign interests see gold in the U.S., an untapped and bursting market where cars are king.
Privatization could help bring outdated interstates, bridges, even airports into the next century. Should we hand over the keys like has already been done in Europe, Australia, and Latin America? We welcome back former Democratic congressman from Maine, Tom Andrews, the “Weekly Standard‘s” Matthew Continetti.
Matt, I hate instant, Monday morning quarter backing, easy answers, finger pointing, blaming. I‘m not sure this is the answer, necessarily. I‘m not sure. However, if this bridge had been owned by a private company, a for profit enterprise, it would be a lot easier to hold the people responsible accountable than it will be to hold the federal government and state government accountable.
CONTINETTI: That gets to the heart of it, Tucker. It‘s not a funding issue. It‘s not even a public or private issue about what happened in Minneapolis. It‘s an engineering issue and a competence issue. So I think what we see when Americans express so much distrust in their government, the lack of confidence in institutions across the board, with exception of the military, we face a real crisis among our leadership here.
Now it is the moment to step up if you are Governor Palenti (ph), if you‘re the mayor of Minneapolis. But the question has to be, whether you are the CEO of a highway company, or whether you‘re the engineer in charge of this project, or the safety inspector, you have to be able to do your job well. So, I think if there‘s any political implication to this, it‘s the overall implication of leadership and competence.
CARLSON: Tom, here is a quick quiz. If you had something valuable, your mother‘s wedding ring, a human organ, pace maker, and you had to get it from Washington, D.C. to Los Angeles by tomorrow, would you go to the Post Office of Fed Ex? I think I know the answer.
ANDREWS: Well, the Post Office is doing a heck of a job. I very well might, express mail, not first class. But let me tell you this. Let‘s not blame the engineers when we have such a huge movement—or have had in this country for many years an anti-government movement that says look, all spending, all government spending is, by definition, bad.
So you have a governor, in the case of Minnesota, that proposed a 11 percent cut in the highway budget back in ‘04, ‘05. You have a Republican candidate, Giuliani, Mayor Giuliani, who is actually calling for a mandatory five to 20 percent cut in all departments of the government annually every year. We have 25 to 30 percent of our bridges, Tucker, in some kind of state of structural disrepair. Why? Because we have not made the investment.
CARLSON: Wait a second, should we blaming—
CARLSON: Patty Murray—it‘s hard to believe she is a senator. She gets up and says, this is what I worry about every day, the lack investment in infrastructure is frightening. This is what Bush is threatening to veto, investment in infrastructure for roads we use to go to work everyday. Should we be using this as a political issue less than 24 hours later?
ANDREWS: Listen, you brought it up. Let‘s have a discussion about the kind of investments this country has not been making over the last several years.
CARLSON: I‘m not using it to get elected to anything.
ANDREWS: She‘s not using it to get elected, but she‘s pointing out a fact. The fact of the matter—
CARLSON: It‘s Bush‘s fault.
ANDREWS: Here‘s the problem, if you took over a business that was failing, what would you do? You would have a business plan. There would be two things in that business plan. One, you would want to cut spending in your business that nothing to do with productivity. But you would also have a goal and you would have investments that you would make to reach that goal.
Why can‘t the government treat its budget in the same way. In investment in infrastructure, in the nuts and bolts of taking goods and services and bringing them to market is an investment in this economy, but we have been failing to make that investment, because we have not distinguished between those two.
CARLSON: I don‘t think the future of the economy is bridge building.
ANDREWS: Bridges take goods from point A to point B. That‘s—
CONTINETTI: The point of this type of partisan debate about blame is exactly what voters don‘t like about Washington. And one X factor in the 2008 election is which party is going to be blamed most for it.
ANDREWS: Let‘s have some accountability. How about accountability.
CARLSON: I don‘t know. Terrible things happen in the world. Americans always assume when something bad happens, something has gone wrong. Bad things happen.
ANDREWS: Twenty five to 30 percent of our bridges in structural disrepair. I am surprised this has been the only case recently of this kind of disaster. We‘ve got a problem.
CARLSON: Thank you very much.
What could make a 40-year-old bridge suddenly collapse without warning? We will take a look at some of the theories behind the catastrophe and head back out to Minneapolis for the very latest the on going recovery every effort. We will be right back.
CARLSON: People are asking how a bridge could suddenly collapse, sending cars and trucks into the Mississippi River. But it could be months before investigators know exactly what happened and why this overpass went down yesterday. With more on that is Robert Hager, a veteran reporter who covered several bridge collapses during his time with NBC News.
ROBERT HAGER, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The Tacoma Narrows bridge in Washington, nicknamed galloping girty (ph), remains one of the most spectacular bridge collapses in U.S. history. On November 7th, 1940 a large windstorm, coupled with poor design, caused this. The only fatality was a Cocker Spaniel named Tubby. But for the first time, the nation‘s attention was focused on its bridges.
The Silver Bridge, spanning the Ohio River, between Ohio and West Virginia, was filled with Christmas shoppers in December 1967 when suddenly it collapsed after years of corrosion and structural fatigue; 46 people died. And even though that tragedy led to more rigorous inspection procedures, 16 years later, inadequate inspection was again blamed when the Mayanas (ph) River Bridge in Connecticut collapsed and killed three people.
RUSSELL KOLMUS, BRIDGE EXPERT: A lot of the bridges in the past have collapsed because of things that were unknown. And what we do is we learn from those collapses and correct them in future designs of bridges.
HAGER: But even the best designs can be undone by mother nature, as when a violent rainstorm with high winds and almost zero visibility caused a freighter to slam into the Sunshine Skyway Bridge in Tampa Bay, Florida;
35 people, most of them on a Greyhound bus headed for Miami, plunged 150 feet to their deaths.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I saw the rest of the bridge was out and applied the brakes immediately and I stopped within about two feet of going in.
HAGER: A barge hit the Interstate 40 bridge spanning the Arkansas River at Webber‘s Falls, Oklahoma in May of 2002. Cars and trucks plunged into the river killing 14 people. But truck driver Rodney Tidwell survived.
RODNEY TIDWELL, SURVIVOR: The last thing I remember was going off the bridge. Everything else is a blur. Bits and pieces are coming back.
HAGER: Tidwell said at the time he had been wearing his seat belt for the very first time.
TIDWELL: I‘m very fortunate to be here.
HAGER: And raging floodwaters ate away the Skohary Creek (ph) bridge in New York State, causing it to collapse, killing 10 people. The NTSB recreated that disaster, as I reported in this broadcast back then.
To show what happened, the safety board had built a miniature seven foot long replica of the bridge and photographed as the current undermined the bases as the models piers, just as waves at the beach undermine the sand beneath a bathers toes.
(on camera): The causes generally group themselves into three different general headings. First is a pier of the bridge struck by a vessel. That doesn‘t appear to have occurred here. The undermining of the riverbed underneath a pier. That also does not seem initially to be an issue here, although investigators will have to see more about that. And then the third and big category is metal fatigue or corrosion. And investigators will be looking very closely at that issue here.
Robert Hager, NBC News, reporting.
CARLSON: For the latest on the recovery effort in Minneapolis, we go back to MSNBC‘s Contessa Brewer who is there and has been there all day live. Contessa, what‘s the latest?
CONTESSA BREWER, MSNBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Tucker, there is a big staging area behind me, where they have brought in crews of engineers, as well as forensic investigators to figure out why this bridge collapsed. It is a daunting task because there are tons of concrete and steal and rebar and wire that sit not only beyond this span of broken bridge, but also in the Mississippi River right now.
The divers that went into the river today delved below the surface, trying to recover some of the victims who were trapped in their cars, were brought out. The water just too murky today. They could only see about a foot in front of their face. Those piles of debris just simply too dangerous for the divers.
So until big equipment can be brought in and they can somehow organize some of that debris so that it‘s not a danger to the divers, they have to wait. We‘re told that the Army Corps of Engineers right now is working on controlling the flow of the water somewhat, so that they can at least have the peace of mind that the current is not going to wash any of that debris over the divers and trapping them.
In the meantime, we‘ve just received news that the secretary of transportation has asked the Highway Administration to go to all of the states and say to them, look, there are about 750 bridges that are built similar to this one, 35W. You need to go out immediately and inspect these bridges so we can be sure this doesn‘t happen anywhere else. They‘re also going to look at the standards of the bridge inspection and see if they perhaps need to do something, in terms of the inspections, to make sure they catch deteriorating bridges before another collapse, Tucker.
CARLSON: Very quickly, Contessa, you mentioned earlier that the traffic is snarled in Minneapolis. Does this cut off downtown? How big a deal is not having this bridge for the city of Minneapolis?
BREWER: There are a number of bridges over the Mississippi span. Some of them are much smaller bridges, in essence local roads. There are two major arteries that go from Minneapolis to St. Paul across the river. 35W is one of them. The other one is I-94. I was told by the locals today, you take one of those out, you are talking about a major commuter headache, to say nothing of the local roads now, where people are in here taking a look at the bridge and trying to get across that river.
CARLSON: Contessa Brewer, live for us in Minneapolis, thanks a lot. That does it for us. Thanks for watching. Up next “HARDBALL” with Mike Barnicle. See you tomorrow.
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