Guest: Ron Christie, Michael Crowley, Peter Fenn
TUCKER CARLSON, HOST: Is it 1994 again or what?
The president of the U.S. faces a Congress elected to impede him, Hillary Clinton rolls out a universal health care plan. O.J. is locked up.
Welcome to the show.
M.C. Hammer will be with us shortly.
The week begins with a signal that President Bush is tired of fighting this morning, he nominated retired federal Judge Michael Mukasey to be the next attorney general of the United States. That nomination follows days of speculation that the choice would be a partisan Republican.
Instead, Judge Mukasey apparently will be welcomed by prominent Democrats on Capitol Hill.
Has President Bush chosen not to fight this time?
We’ll talk to a former White House aide.
Also today, like Haley’s comet or a swarm of locusts or cicadas, Hillary Clinton’s health care initiative has reappeared 13 years after its last go around. Mrs. Clinton would require medical insurance for every American, including those who don’t want it or need it. She calls this an expansion of choice. Details in a minute.
And the father of modern cable news, O.J. Simpson, is back in the big house, this time for his part in an alleged armed robbery of sports memorabilia. The details are too weird not to be true.
MSNBC’s Dan Abrams is in Las Vegas to bring us up to speed on the latest and tell us how O.J. Might once again beat the rap.
But we begin with the president of the United States. Consider the circle of critics who most recently have ripped him. Alan Greenspan’s new book, “The Age of Turbulence,” says the war in Iraq is largely about oil and he blasts the Bush administration’s abandonment of fiscal restraint.
Hillary Clinton says she would announce around the world to announce the era of cowboy diplomacy is over, even before she’s inaugurated as president.
“Time” magazine, meanwhile, suggests that conservatives might object to the president’s choice for A.G.
And former Mexican President Vicente Fox describes Mr. Bush in a new book as “the cockiest guy I have ever met.”
It has not been President Bush’s day.
Joining me now is the former special assistant to President Bush, Ron Christie.
RON CHRISTIE, FORMER SPECIAL ASSISTANT TO PRESIDENT BUSH: Tucker, it’s nice to see you.
TUCKER: So, the Greenspan book, predictably, has been spun by a lot of dumb people in the media as an attack really from the left. It’s an attack from the right.
CHRISTIE: That’s right.
TUCKER: Clearly. And I think it’s a completely valid attack. He says of the Bush administration why the hell didn’t they veto anything?
What’s the answer?
CHRISTIE: I think the answer is, Chairman Greenspan is right as he looks forward to the next elections. The Republicans lost power, as the chairman says in his book, due to the lack of fiscal restraint and the lack of fiscal discipline.
CHRISTIE: Republicans have got to stop sending up turkey appropriations bills. The farm bill was another turkey. The president could have exercised his veto pen a bit more, I think, than some on the right would like to see.
But if you look at what Chairman Greenspan...
TUCKER: Do it more?
He did it once.
If you look at what Chairman Greenspan said, though, he not only found fault with the president and with the vice president in looking at their economic policy, he also looks at the Democrats and found fault with them.
So while those on the left would like to say oh, Bush is being attacked by his former chairman, the reality of the matter is that Chairman Greenspan—remember 2004, Tucker, Chairman Greenspan was renominated by the president. He took that nomination.
If he had such problems with the Bush economic policy and the direction that the president was taking the country, why did he take that renomination to be chairman?
TUCKER: Well, I think any person who has been awake for the past seven years would make the same critique that Alan Greenspan has made, which is why didn’t a conservative Republican stop the orgy of special interest spending that this White House presided over?
This was the White House response.
CHRISTIE: Well, but, again, remember, Tucker, the president did not preside over that economic largesse. The Congress has the power of the purse strings. The Congress, the fiscal Republicans...
TUCKER: Well, no...
CHRISTIE: ...should have sent up responsible bills.
TUCKER: Oh, no. Oh, no.
TUCKER: Yes, of course, they should have. But they’re members of Congress. They can’t control themselves. They’re children. That’s why we have an executive. And his—his right under the constitution is to veto those bills when he thinks that they’re bad for the country and his responsibility is to sign them when he thinks they’re OK. And he signed them.
CHRISTIE: Absolutely. And, again, I think there are those on the right who had wished he had exercised that veto—the power of the pen. But the important thing now is the president has said very clearly that the appropriations cycle that’s going on right now on Capitol Hill, the bills that they’re larding up, that they’re putting their bridges to nowhere and all these other turkey projects, he’s going to exercise that veto pen...
TUCKER: Yes. Now it’s easy for them to say that because they’re Democrats. But I think that Bush was too partisan.
Why couldn’t he have taken on his own party?
Why couldn’t he have said just because you’re a Republican doesn’t mean you’re not out of control?
Just because your name is Tom DeLay and you claim to be conservative, that doesn’t mean you are conservative.
TUCKER: He should—and so this is the White House response—yes, Bush didn’t veto anything, said the new press secretary, Dana Perino, today. But the president threatened vetoes and those were enough.
TUCKER: Now who writes these talking points?
TUCKER: Well, I’m going to leave it to Dana Perino and her press shop as to who wrote the specific talking points.
Oh my god.
CHRISTIE: As I said to you before, Tucker, again, the president has been very clear that he is going to exercise that veto right. They are out of control with some of the proposals that they have up there. But as a fiscal conservative and one who’s served in this administration, I think the president—you’re right. I would have liked to have seen him use that pen a lot more than he did.
Vicente Fox—now, he and President Bush are close—almost siblings, basically, according to the president. And I remember their first press conference. They’re both ranchers, he said. They’re men of the land, you know?
TUCKER: It turns out Vicente Fox always had another agenda.
CHRISTIE: Of course.
TUCKER: His agenda is not the same as our agenda. He’s the president of a foreign country, not our country. He, in his book, calls Bush “cocky,” attacks Bush for his immigration policy.
Do you think—a loaded question—do you think the president put too much stock in the personal relationship with foreign leaders?
CHRISTIE: No. I think as a leader of the United States, you have to try to have that personal engagement, that personal connection. And remember when they first met, the first trip the president took out of the country was to have a meeting with Vicente Fox.
For the president of Mexico to suggest that this president is cocky or, you know, he said something about he had an elementary use of Spanish and what not, that’s ridiculous. This president tried to work in a strong, strong manner with Mexico on issues of immigration.
TUCKER: And look what he got for it.
CHRISTIE: And he got nothing for it.
TUCKER: They hate us.
CHRISTIE: He got nothing for it.
TUCKER: The Mexican people, according to polls, don’t like us.
TUCKER: They resent us. They resent Bush. He got nothing for it. He looks like a rube.
CHRISTIE: And the thing that upsets me the most is this president went down to Mexico. He tried to have a very strong relationship with Mexico, our neighbor to the south. And I think the president of Mexico was a bit disingenuous. He’s going to say one thing to the president...
TUCKER: Of course.
CHRISTIE: ...to try to get aid from us and then he’s going to go and smack us.
TUCKER: It was so predictable.
So how naive is Bush to have fallen for that?
CHRISTIE: Oh, god, no.
TUCKER: I mean this is pathetic.
CHRISTIE: This is not (INAUDIBLE)...
TUCKER: You could have called me and I would have said this guy’s interests are different from ours.
CHRISTIE: No, Tucker.
TUCKER: He’s never going to like you.
CHRISTIE: You know, here’s the difference. If you’re the president of the United States, you are looking to try to lead the world. You’re trying to look to lead your neighbors.
Canada and Mexico are two of our most important trading partners, two of our most important economic partners.
TUCKER: But (INAUDIBLE)...
CHRISTIE: He has a responsibility to make sure that we have a strong relationship...
TUCKER: ...represent our interests. I think that’s his—where it begins in this.
CHRISTIE: That’s right.
TUCKER: Finally, Alan Greenspan says in his book that yes, of course this war is about oil and etc. Etc. And he said that to someone at the White House, who said we’re not allowed to talk about oil.
I think this war should have been about oil. I wish it was about oil.
We would have lower gas prices.
Why would the Bush administration say to him, we can’t talk about oil as we prosecute this war?
CHRISTIE: I can’t speak to that. The only thing I can tell you is I saw this clip in his book. But what he also said is he made that point clear, that from an economic policy standpoint, having Saddam Hussein out of power would have been good for oil. But he said, one, I didn’t make the decision to go to war; and, two, perhaps, most importantly, Chairman Greenspan said they did not take the country to war based on oil.
So there’s a gratuitous—let’s take a little snippet out of context and say this is a war about oil.
CHRISTIE: But Greenspan himself said it wasn’t my decision and this was not the reason why they took the country (ph).
TUCKER: OK. Yes.
But the deeper question—and I know we’re out of time—I just, I don’t know why—what would be wrong having a war over oil?
We have—that’s a strategic...
TUCKER: I mean that’s in our strategic interests.
What would be—I mean isn’t that the whole point of war is to advance our interests?
CHRISTIE: Well, I think the president and the vice president made it very clear that they thought it was in the strategic interests in the United States to fight the war on terrorism. But I know you and I can fight about that (INAUDIBLE).
TUCKER: No, I know. It’s just they’re so liberal over there at the White House. It drives me crazy.
CHRISTIE: That’s quite all right.
TUCKER: OK, Ron Christie, I really appreciate your coming on.
CHRISTIE: Good to see you, as always.
TUCKER: Thank you.
Hillary Clinton unveils her new international health care plan—more mandates, less choice.
Will America buy it?
Plus, John McCain has always identified himself as an Episcopalian. He went to an Episcopal high school. Now he tells a South Carolina crowd he’s Baptist.
Preaching to the choir?
This is MSNBC, the place for politics.
TUCKER: If Alan Greenspan or Hillary Clinton or Vicente Fox or the conservative wing of the Republican Party spoke disparagingly of you at any given moment, you might have concerns. But if they all took shots at you at once on one day, you must be President Bush, and your capacity to lead must be in serious question, with more than a year to the finish line of your administration and 160,000 American troops on the ground in Iraq.
Here to discuss the implications of all President Bush’s political trouble today, we welcome Democratic strategist Peter Fenn and “The New Republic’s” Michael Crowley.
Welcome to you both.
MICHAEL CROWLEY, “THE NEW REPUBLIC”: Thank you.
PETER FENN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Nice to be here.
TUCKER: So this Greenspan book, Michael, strikes me as fascinating on a bunch of different levels. I haven’t not read it. But from what I have read, Greenspan’s critique is completely reasonable, particularly his words about oil.
Why would the White House—assuming this is all true, and I assume it is—he goes to the White House and he says this is a war about oil and there are good reasons for this war. And they say, shhhh, don’t talk about oil.
Why would they say that?
CROWLEY: Well, I think they know that it—people think it’s very unseemly to wage a war for energy and for economic reasons, which I think, in fact, is something that we haven’t had a really honest debate about in this country. I mean I think that it’s not as absurd as it might sound that would you have strategic interests that involve your energy supply and your entire economy is built around it, for better or for worse.
But I think there—it’s just a taboo in American political discourse. You can’t—no blood for oil. It’s a great slogan and I think politicians are afraid to make that argument.
TUCKER: It’s a great bumper stick on the back of your Volvo at Whole Foods. You know, you’re going—if you’re enjoying the fruits of capitalist prosperity and you’re in the upper middle class—the people who live, I must say, in Northwest Washington, D.C. Where I live...
FENN: Where we live.
TUCKER: That’s exactly right.
And you can kind of afford it. Like, oh, no blood for oil. But the truth is without oil, it all kind of grinds to a halt and people starve to death.
So why is that a bad reason for the war?
FENN: I’ll tell you, I agree with Michael. And I think part of this stems—and we keep doing this—you go back to Vietnam. And you heard that at that time stories about—from the left—about how we were in Vietnam because of oil.
Now, of course, we—I don’t—that was totally absurd. But I think politically it is absolutely impossible for this administration to allude to that. They did, however, say in the move up to the war, that we really probably could pay for this with the oil revenue from...
TUCKER: Which I thought senior Democrat like a great idea.
CROWLEY: And that was a little different.
TUCKER: We liberate you, you foot the bill.
What’s wrong with that?
FENN: That’s right. Unfortunately, that has not come to pass.
TUCKER: No. It’s ridiculous. But wait. It seems to me, Michael, the—and your magazine is kind of at the forefront of thinking through where liberals stand on foreign policy. So I mean, it seems that we have reached this point where left and right agree that force is only appropriate when we don’t benefit from its use, that it’s somehow immoral to act in our own interests, but it’s moral to act in places where we have no interests—
CROWLEY: Well, I think that’s over simplification.
CROWLEY: But I think—but I think that there was a—but I think that there was a feeling that—that our interests—the definition of our interests changed and we’re stretched to absurd lengths, in the case of this war.
And there, and, you know, there’s another point that I didn’t make at the outset, which is that I think that there was a sense that for the legitimacy of the war on world stage, which was a crock in the end anyway, but there was a sense that America could not seem to be plundering Iraq’s oil.
CROWLEY: So that may actually be a more essential point than how it would be received by a domestic audience. But a sense that you wanted the Iraqis—we wanted to be welcomed as liberators, as absurd a notion as that seems in hindsight. And that was not going to happen if it seemed that we were going in to basically steal their oil.
So that probably is the better explanation.
TUCKER: Now, Peter, the liberals have come out and jumped on this Greenspan stuff to say that’s right. You know, Greenspan is absolutely right, that Bush has been a terrible steward of the economy.
But one of the things Greenspan—correctly, in my view—hits Bush on is allowing these massive budget deficits to rise—to balloon.
Liberals don’t care at all about budget deficits.
TUCKER: You’ve seen John Edwards, just in the last couple of weeks, say budget deficits, you know, whatever.
FENN: I’ll tell you, I think if you look at the Clinton presidency as a good liberal or as a good Democrat, you’d better care about deficits. I mean one of the points that he makes in his book is that Clinton made some very tough choices there, put forth a balanced budget...
TUCKER: Yes. You’re right.
FENN: ...and turned it around, and, you know, to the economic benefit of the country...
TUCKER: You’re absolutely right.
FENN: And so...
TUCKER: But he also makes the point—and I think this is a completely fair point. Clinton was a deficit hawk. And good for Clinton. Hillary Clinton will not be that way, most likely. And Greenspan says the party has completely changed and it’s going in the wrong direction—significantly in the wrong direction, the Democratic Party.
FENN: Well, you know, I think that—I hope that’s wrong, because, you know, I’m a deficit hawk. I think that the balanced budget amendment and line item vetoes are good ideas. I think a lot of Democrats have felt that.
But, you know, what happens is...
TUCKER: A lot of Democrats feel the line item veto is a good idea?
FENN: Well, a lot being...
TUCKER: You and maybe one other guy.
FENN: ...I think John Kerry actually supported it.
But in any case, the main thing I think that you have to look at is what are the economic implications of a policy like that?
And it was proven in the ‘90s that the economic implications are pretty good.
But right now, I think a lot of people are saying it’s out of control. Look, you cannot spend $600 billion in five years and not see the country in trouble.
TUCKER: You shouldn’t spend more than you have. It’s a philosophical matter.
TUCKER: ...matter. And I hope that Democrats (INAUDIBLE).
So we’ll be back in just a minute.
I just hope the Democrats sort of remember their roots.
CROWLEY: They don’t pretend you can cut taxes and balance the budget with a...
TUCKER: No. They just don’t want to cut...
CROWLEY: ...conservative fraud. That’s...
TUCKER: They don’t want to cut taxes, basically. But they don’t—they definitely don’t want to stop their, you know, cut back their spending...
CROWLEY: I think they’re...
TUCKER: ...unless I’ve missed it.
CROWLEY: But I think that liberals are pretty honest about that, more so than conservatives have been.
TUCKER: All right.
Well, we’ll hear about it, because health care is next.
Hillary Clinton says all Americans must have health insurance—whether they want it or not.
Are you ready for mandatory coverage?
Details in a minute.
Plus, the actress who once played “Gidget” gets censored at the Emmy awards.
What did Sally Field say to get bleeped on national television?
We have the tape when MSNBC continues.
TUCKER: Campaigning in Iowa today, Senator Hillary Clinton delivered a
speech describing her plan to provide health care for every single American
man, woman and child, as she said. Of course, Mrs. Clinton tried this once before. She failed spectacularly. That was 13 years ago.
Have voters forgotten?
What’s new about Hillary’s plan?
Joining us once again, Democratic strategist Pete Fenn and “The New Republic’s” Michael Crowley.
Mr. Crowley, do you think that voters want health insurance mandated?
Hillary’s plan would require every person to get health insurance, whether that person wants to or not.
CROWLEY: Well, I mean you make it sound like this terrible thing, you know?
TUCKER: Well, I think it is a terrible thing to force people to get health insurance.
CROWLEY: My goodness.
TUCKER: On what grounds?
CROWLEY: You know, you’re going to—you’re going to have reliable care. And if you get sick, someone is going to be there for you and you’re not going to have these unexpected...
TUCKER: Maybe you are, maybe you aren’t.
But wait, I’m an adult. If I don’t—when my first child was born, I didn’t have health insurance. That was a choice that I made. Now, you could call that reckless...
CROWLEY: Tucker, you have...
TUCKER: ...but I didn’t make a lot of money...
CROWLEY: So when you go to...
TUCKER: ...and that’s the choice I made.
CROWLEY: So when you go to the DMV and—to get your driver’s license, do you lecture them about the fact that you’ve been sucked into this driving crazy bureaucracy?
TUCKER: No. Because—I can’t believe you haven’t thought this through. Come on, you’re smarter than that.
TUCKER: You go to the DMV...
TUCKER: No, no. You get insurance because you might hurt other people. It’s liability insurance. You’re not required to get insurance for your own vehicle.
TUCKER: You’re required to get insurance to cover other people’s vehicles.
CROWLEY: There is a way in which—there is a more subtle way, there is yet a deeper level of thinking, which is to say that you don’t have insurance, you’re hurting other people by expecting them to...
TUCKER: How is that?
TUCKER: You can pay for your own medical care if you want. I have.
CROWLEY: What happens if you don’t have money, you don’t have insurance?
You go to the emergency room and society pays for you anyway.
TUCKER: Well, then once you start thinking that way, then you should not be allowed to smoke cigarettes, eat cheeseburgers, gain weight. I’m serious. You ought to be—exercise ought to be mandatory.
I mean once you start telling people—whatever happened to like the leave people alone—the liberalness of liberalism?
TUCKER: What happened to it?
FENN: Well, I’ll tell you what’s happened to it. We’ve left—we’ve left this problem unsolved since Harry Truman called for it in the late ‘50s.
TUCKER: So you don’t have a problem?
TUCKER: You don’t have a problem?
FENN: I have absolutely—no. Just like I don’t have a problem with getting, as Michael said, getting car insurance.
TUCKER: But that’s liability. That’s for other people, not for you.
FENN: And it’s also for yourself. But, look, you can get an insurance policy, Tucker, which is only the craziest one and they only pay, you know, hospital bills over $50,000 or whatever the heck it is.
I mean you can you write checks to doctors if you want to. Her system is about choice.
TUCKER: No, it’s not.
FENN: Yes, it is. It is (INAUDIBLE) choice.
TUCKER: Well, but then what if I decide—OK, then how about this, I’d like to—the only choice they believe in is the choice to have an abortion.
FENN: Did you like...
TUCKER: You know that that’s true.
TUCKER: They don’t believe in individual choice.
TUCKER: If they did, then how about this? I want to make the choice not to buy health insurance. That’s not allowed. I don’t have a choice. It’s mandated. I mean...
FENN: Tucker. You’re making...
TUCKER: This doesn’t give you the creeps?
FENN: Let’s—let’s get real here.
TUCKER: Am I living in a parallel universe?
FENN: You would never make a choice like that for you and your family.
TUCKER: I have made a choice like that for me and my family.
FENN: To never have health insurance?
TUCKER: No, not to never have it. But I—you know, people live.
FENN: But look, let me just...
TUCKER: Life is complicated. People ought to be able to make their own decisions.
What do you—now, do you buy this?
Now how about this—does the lying bother you?
Here’s what Mrs. Clinton says. There will be “no new bureaucracy, agency or department. This is not a government takeover of health care.”
How can you—how can you restructure the entire system, regulate drug costs, regulate doctor bills, regulate health insurance premiums and say there’s going to be no new bureaucracy?
CROWLEY: Well, Tucker, are you happy...
TUCKER: That’s a lie.
CROWLEY: ...with our current health care system?
TUCKER: That’s not the question.
CROWLEY: I mean costs...
TUCKER: The question is, is she telling the truth?
Is there—no, of course not. There are inefficiencies in the system.
I’m just saying, this...
CROWLEY: I mean it’s kind of like the Iraq debate. It’s not, you know, there are maybe not—there’s no great alternative.
TUCKER: It is the Iraq debate.
CROWLEY: There’s no instant cure-all, right?
TUCKER: It is the Iraq debate because I’ll tell you why...
CROWLEY: But you have to have some...
TUCKER: Because it’s a bad situation that could get worse. That’s why it’s the Iraq debate.
CROWLEY: It’s getting worse right now. The status quo gets worse year after year. I mean you—I’m sure your premiums are rising as fast as mine are.
CROWLEY: We’re paying for it every month.
TUCKER: Answer this question.
Do you believe her when she says I’m going to restructure, you know, a significant percentage of the entire economy and there will be no bigger bureaucracy, no new agency, no new department, we are not going to create a -- I mean that’s—that’s insane.
FENN: Well, let me, look, you know who’s going to make—it’s, you know, this is like Medicare.
You know who’s going to make out with this?
You know, in the end, it’s—the insurance companies are going to be doing finer than doctors. Doctors thought Medicare was socialized medicine. They found out that it’s not.
Listen, Damati (ph)...
TUCKER: So doctors love Medicare?
FENN: Let me just...
TUCKER: Is that what you’re saying?
I mean come on.
FENN: They do!
FENN: But Deamonte Driver, 12-year-old kid who had a frigging toothache in Prince George’s County. His mother tried to take him around to get medical...
TUCKER: And he died.
FENN: And he died.
TUCKER: So is that...
FENN: And let me just say...
TUCKER: So that’s the excuse that I should be forced to buy health care?
FENN: No. We now have 47 million people without it.
TUCKER: What do you—what does that mean?
FENN: And that’s a seven million increase under this administration.
Over eight million of these are kids.
FENN: And this is...
TUCKER: That’s doesn’t mean anything.
FENN: Yes, it does...
TUCKER: (INAUDIBLE) something.
FENN: ...because the system is not working.
TUCKER: Should—this is a philosophical question and it’s also a practical issue. Should people—because people do die under our current system of care—should everybody be forced to—that is, have the choice taken away from them...
FENN: Tucker, let me say something.
TUCKER: ...about whether to participate?
And you’re saying yes.
FENN: They—the number of people...
TUCKER: I think that’s authoritarian.
FENN: ...who would decide not to have health insurance, you could put in this studio in this whole country.
TUCKER: That is not true. That is totally not true.
FENN: That—you’re telling me...
TUCKER: If I am—that’s a total lie. If I am 25 years old and I’m a healthy person, I might make a rational decision not to get health care.
FENN: Well, if you...
TUCKER: The chances I’m going to need it are infinitesimal.
CROWLEY: And would you sign a contract saying that if you got gravely ill, you would relinquish free emergency room care...
TUCKER: That right there...
CROWLEY: ...if you couldn’t afford it?
TUCKER: That is an interesting question and I think that’s—right there. That’s an interesting debate right there.
CROWLEY: I mean maybe...
TUCKER: Would I?
Yes, I probably would. Maybe I wouldn’t.
CROWLEY: Well, that...
TUCKER: But that’s a fair...
CROWLEY: You could fill a room with those people.
TUCKER: That is absolutely a fair question.
CROWLEY: Those people would only fill this room.
TUCKER: But that’s not what—that’s not what’s put before us.
CROWLEY: But Tucker, you’re...
TUCKER: We’re not. That’s a choice. She’s not giving a choice.
CROWLEY: Do you believe you should be able to...
TUCKER: You have to.
CROWLEY: ...be able to opt out of having to pay taxes?
Do you feel like there are government programs you don’t support and you want out?
I mean it seems to me that there are a lot of...
TUCKER: That’s (INAUDIBLE).
CROWLEY: ...there are a lot of ways in which we structure society and government for the common good. And you...
TUCKER: Ooh, that one would be scary.
CROWLEY: ...you force people to pay money and do things that they don’t want to do.
TUCKER: I must say—OK.
CROWLEY: It happens all the time.
TUCKER: OK. Then, look, the bottom line is government is going to force us to do one more thing for our own good. Fine.
Then just say so.
Let’s not put this B.S. about choice in there and freedom. There’s no choice. There’s no freedom. They’re saying I know what’s good for you, I’m going to make you do it, and if you don’t like it, I’m going to punish you and put you in jail.
TUCKER: That’s the bottom line.
PENN: ...Tucker, everybody...
TUCKER: So we’re pretending that it’s a choice?
That’s not a choice.
CROWLEY: Look, it’s a...
It sounds like a riot squad is coming...
TUCKER: That’s what it is.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The riot (INAUDIBLE).
TUCKER: I’m sorry, I’m the only libertarian left in the world.
TUCKER: I believe in freedom and I don’t care if anybody else does, I do.
TUCKER: President Bush finds a replacement for Alberto Gonzales, a retired federal judge from New York City. Democrats appear to be pleased with that choice.
What about Republicans?
Can they both be pleased at the same time?
Plus, O.J.—he’s back behind bars, thank god, this time in Las Vegas. He’s there for alleged armed robbery. He’s getting like Al Capone, busted on tax evasion charges.
Will these charges stick this time?
We’ll find out.
You’re watching MSNBC.
CARLSON: Welcome back. For the first time in recent memory, President Bush made an important political move that is unlikely to start a brawl with Democrats in Congress. The president nominated retired federal Judge Michael Mukasey to succeed Alberto Gonzales as the U.S. attorney general. Mr. Mukasey is a Republican. He’s been a consultant to the Rudy Giuliani campaign.
But Democrats, like Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, appear to favor his nomination, at least for now. Last week, amid speculation that the president would pick a partisan Republican, Senate Democrats promised strident resistant. Why did the president choose to avoid a battle this time?
Here to tell us, we welcome back Democratic strategist Peter Fenn and the “New Republic’s” Michael Crowley. Now, before we go on to this, I was thinking and talking to you during the commercial break, Mitt Romney—I was getting all huffy about Hillary’s plan to mandate medical insurance, which I think is wrong and sick, actually. But it was Mitt Romney who started this. When he was governor of Massachusetts, the state of Massachusetts required this of all people who lived within the state.
Mitt Romney had the brass to come out today and criticize Hillary’s plan as essentially European socialism. And just, in the interest of fairness, I had to point that out. I meant to and I’m sorry I didn’t. All right, Mukasey. Bush doesn’t want to fight. Is he going to get a fight? You’re hearing all these Democrats saying nice things about the guy.
They’re not going to contest this.
FENN: He didn’t want a fight at all. He has other things he wants to fight out. Plus the other problem is that the morale in that department, in the Justice Department, is horrendous.
FENN: You have a situation where people are leaving, people are furious. I mean it’s like the employees at Exxon over there. So he doesn’t need that. He’s going to get criticized within the Justice Department, and he will probably get criticized from some Republicans too for having a long battle fight over this thing.
CARLSON: My feeling is—there was a piece today, I believe in Time, saying that Republicans are going to be angry that someone more conservative wasn’t nominated. My sense is that conservatives have kind of given up on Bush, and that they are not surprised. Of course he rolled over. He’s rolled over for everything. You know, we have an expanded—
We got the prescription drug program under the guy. He’s not a conservative.
CROWLEY: It’s interesting. In some large sense, in the Greenspan analysis, I guess he rolled over. But in individual fights like this, showdowns with Congress, he often winds up raising the stakes.
CROWLEY: And kind of picking a fight. So, to me, this is kind of a signature moment, when you’re starting to see the guy, just enough already. I don’t need another one of these. The boxer telling the ref to call the match. Conservatives are always going to carp about something. The margins of both parties are going to carp. But there’s only 15 months left for this guy.
CARLSON: Bush cares about the terror stuff. He doesn’t actually care
about the social issues. I don’t think Bush wakes up in the middle of the
night worrying about abortion. But he does worry about this terror stuff
and Mukasey is strong in that. I don’t think that from his point of view -
I don’t think Democrats are going to challenge him as a taker away of civil liberties.
FENN: I don’t think you will get too much. Pat Leahy has talked about he wants those documents from the White House before they have the hearing. He’s going to want to ask Mukasey about it. Look, this is not a Supreme Court nomination here. This is, as Michael said, 15 months. I think the question is, what kind of questions he gets to ask and how hard they push the White House on the—
CROWLEY: That’s what the hearings will be about, this document struggle, and uncovering what’s happened up until now.
CARLSON: I don’t know. I don’t think the Democrats are going to get a lot of traction out of that. But you never know with these things.
FENN: Personal liberties, you know. As a libertarian, you want to have a debate about that.
CARLSON: I like a little oversight. I wish Democrats had the courage to stand up in 2003 and contest the Iraq war. But they were reading the polls and they were cowards. And we got the Iraq war.
CROWLEY: The majority of House Democrats voted against the Iraq war.
CARLSON: That’s true. But the ones who mattered, the leaders in the Senate, Hillary Clinton, John Kerry, John Edwards, they just rolled over. Thank you, sir, may I have another.
It’s been a terrible week for Bush. I think when Hillary becomes president—and I’m safely living in Barbados—I’m going to look back at this country and see people like Sally Fields, who by that point will probably be head of the World Bank, and I am going to look at America and I think a lot of Americans are going to have regret.
Sally field was at the Emmys last night and she gave this little speech that was partly bleeped by Fox. Here it is. Just remind yourself that Bush may be a bad president, but liberals are creepy in a lot of ways. Here she is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SALLY FIELD, ACTRESS: Let’s face it, if the mothers ruled the world, there would be no—thank you so much. Thank you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CARLSON: If mothers ruled the world there would be no wars is what she was saying. The Pentagon would have to hold a bake sale, Peter. You know what I mean? How out of touch can you be?
FENN: A cut away. Listen, I was shocked to see a Hollywood artist get up and give a political speech. What a shocking thing. I loved the cut away. That was the worst cut away I have ever seen.
CROWLEY: That was actually funnier than the nuttiness of the speech.
State television, they start playing like classical music or something.
CARLSON: People say though—people have said today, this is another example of Fox’s right wing work. But if Fox was really the kind of right wing propaganda organ that its enemies imagine it is, it would have allowed Sally Field to speak. I mean, it really would have. And Barbara Streisand too, for that matter. There’s no better advertisement for conservatism than letting these chicks paddle on about the importance of mothers running the world.
FENN: I’m sure she will be on O’Reilly tonight.
CARLSON: Do you think she went on to say—not to take Sally Field too seriously, but what the hell. She went on to say that we just don’t take mothers seriously in our society. And I guess my question to you, Michael, is there another group we take more seriously than mothers? Since when do mothers not run the world? They seem to kind of run the world.
CROWLEY: I don’t even know how to engage with that question, Tucker. Help me out here. I think we take mothers very seriously. But children, actually, we take more seriously. What rhetorical device is more valuable to the American politician than our children.
CARLSON: Than the children, yes.
FENN: W.C. Fields may have said it best, children and dogs, they rule the world, right?
CARLSON: They do. That’s fine with me. I like them both. Barack Obama went to New York today to challenge Wall Street on its own turf, challenge Wall Street to give back. I kind of—in my heart, I kind of agree with what Barack Obama is saying. A lot of creepy greed heads on Wall Street. But he made this point; he said the tax burden increasingly falls on the middle class. Now, unless somebody has changed the numbers overnight, this country is supported by rich people, by people on Wall Street. Rich people allow us to do what we do with government. They pay for our government here.
Can we be honest about that? We are not allowed to say that?
FENN: Well, I suppose you can say that.
CARLSON: I’m not endorsing rich people. It’s just true.
FENN: I think a couple of things here. The accumulation of wealth during the Clinton period was extraordinary.
CARLSON: Yes it was. But that was a good thing.
FENN: Yes, when we are taxed fairly. But when Bush came in, of course, he gave the folks over 250,000 dollars a nice big hit, so they could—the great line was that if you made over 250,000 dollars, you could afford a new Lexus. If you were middle class and made under 50,000 dollars, you couldn’t afford a new set of tires. So there is a sense here that maybe, to those who much is given, much should paid back.
CARLSON: But much is—again, I’m not—I think if you made 100 million dollars last year manipulating some hedge fund, you’re not my friend. I think there’s something wrong with that. There’s something bad about our society. On the other hand, taxing rich people? That’s kind of the answer? That’s sort of—that hasn’t really worked as an economic plan over the last, say, 100 years around the world. Has it?
CROWLEY: Except for the Clinton era. His whole budget plan involved raising tax rates, especially at the top level. It wound up balancing the budget. There was a great economic boom. So I don’t—
CARLSON: The tax burden for people making a million dollars a year was dramatically higher under Clinton than it is now? I don’t believe that’s true.
CROWLEY: I don’t think dramatically higher but I think it was somewhat. Look, there’s no question also that in a time of war and run-away deficits, the rich have benefited the most from Bush’s economic policy. So, we are asking the people who are most able to help out, these hedge fund managers, who are building houses in Greenwich that are the size of this entire building—
CROWLEY: -- are being asked to contribute less in this era than they were when things were going on pretty nicely.
CARLSON: They actually—again, you take those people away and, all of a sudden, you don’t have enough money to run the federal government.
CROWLEY: You don’t take them away. You just say buy one less helicopter. Ask them to buy one less helicopter.
CARLSON: OK. I wonder if Barack Obama, since he disapproves so much of their greed—by the way, I disapprove of their greed a little bit. But I wonder if he will stop taking contributions from them. It’s OK to take their money.
CROWLEY: Sure, it’s even better to take their money and then stick it in their eye than to take their money and go along with them.
CARLSON: So, you know what, what do you think? John McCain has been an Episcopalian I believe for his entire life. He went to Episcopal High School here in Alexandria, Virginia. But he announced on the road in South Carolina on a campaign swing that, in fact, no, Episcopalian; I’m not Episcopalian. I’m a Baptist. That marks, by my count—and I do keep track as an Episcopalian—that marks the third national politician—fourth actually—to disavowed his own Episcopalianism.
There was the president, who is now a Methodist. There was his brother, the former governor of Florida, who is now a Catholic. And there is Howard Dean, who is—I don’t know, Shinto or something. God know what Howard Dean is. Is it so embarrassing to be an Episcopalian?
FENN: Poor John McCain. It really could have helped him in South Carolina in 2000 if they knew he was a Baptist.
FENN: I agree. I know he went to a very good school here, Episcopal School, and was raised --
CARLSON: Is it embarrassing? When you meet an Episcopalian, do you think, you’re a nice person, but you can’t run for office?
CROWLEY: I don’t think about it. Talking about religion makes me uncomfortable. I sort of feel like, we kind of look at the Sunnis and Shiites and what are they all so worked up about? And then in American politics, we have our own version of this sort of sectarianism.
CARLSON: It’s just the opposite. Nobody seems to care.
CROWLEY: McCain seems to think they care down there. It does seem to me like an act of pandering. This is the guy who basically apologized for the position he took on the confederate flag the last time around, saying, I confess, I was basically pandering. And it makes you wonder whether he’s doing the same thing this time.
CARLSON: He’s braver than most to admit it.
FENN: He could say, hey, Episcopalian, Methodist, yes.
CARLSON: That should not be an automatic disqualifier.
FENN: I’m a Protestant, so what the heck.
CARLSON: Gentlemen, thank you.
Well, it’s like a late summer sequel. Many didn’t expect O.J. Simpson behind bars, facing a slew of felony charges. Is it time to call in another legal dream team?
And it’s the scene of scandal that everyone is itching to see. Willie Geist explains why tourists are calling the Minneapolis Airport the place you have got to go. You’re watching MSNBC.
CARLSON: Getting benched has taken on a whole new meaning for O.J. Simpson today. More than a decade after the white Bronco chase and the murder trial that ushered in the modern era of cable news, of which we are all beneficiaries, Simpson is sitting in jail at this hour. He is allegedly the star of an expletive filled incident in the Vegas hotel room. He says he was trying to get back memorabilia that belongs to him. Police say it was armed robbery.
Once again, the question is, did he do it? NBC News’ chief legal analyst and host of “MSNBC LIVE WITH DAN ABRAMS,” Dan Abrams himself joins us from Las Vegas. Dan, welcome.
DAN ABRAMS, MSNBC ANCHOR: Hey, Tucker.
CARLSON: For our viewers who have not heard it, I just want to play the tape—apparently the tape—of O.J. in the hotel room in question. Here it is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
O.J. SIMPSON, FORMER NFL STAR: Don’t let nobody out of this room.
Think you can steal my—and sell it.
Don’t let nobody out of here. You think you can steal my—
Mind your business.
SIMPSON: I always thought you were a straight shooter.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CARLSON: Wow. Is that O.J.?
ABRAMS: That’s what they say. I mean, you know, it’s not just a gathering among friends, as O.J. has sort of portrayed it. But, yes, supposedly it does sound like O.J. And according to TMZ, who obtained the tape, they say it is O.J. And that kind of cuts both ways. Look, it certainly backs up the police that O.J. Simpson went in with a group of people and didn’t just ask for something back, as he had initially claimed.
On the other hand, he is repeating again and again that it’s his stuff, the idea that he is sort of yelling at these people, clearly indicating that he thinks this belongs to him. That is helpful in terms of his defense here, because if he had not used—if there were no weapons involved, for example, and they hadn’t used force and he had just gone into the hotel room with a few friends and said, look, I want my stuff back; that’s not a crime.
What the authorities are saying is that’s not exactly what happened.
CARLSON: You hear people on the tape saying, you know—you hear O.J. say, don’t let anybody to leave. You hear somebody else say up against the wall. It sounds like somebody has a weapon.
ABRAMS: It does sound like it. Look, even O.J. described it as a, quote, sting operation. Citizens are not allowed to engage in sting operations. They are allowed to go ask for things back. But the way you deal with it, if you think someone has stolen your items, is, as a legal matter, you call the police. And you say, hey, someone stole my stuff.
O.J. says, well, I have not been able to trust the police ever since my brush with the law. Well, you know, OK. That doesn’t mean that legally you’re entitled to go in there with guns blazing, if that’s what happened.
CARLSON: So he’s saying they set him up the first time and so they might set him up again?
ABRAMS: He’s saying he just doesn’t trust the police. O.J. claims he doesn’t trust anybody. Everyone—everyone is out to get O.J. according to O.J. That in O.J.’s world, his fans love him. He did nothing wrong. He’s been framed. The police are out to get him. The media is out to get him. And O.J. lives in this kind of fantasy world that he’s lived in for a long time.
I remember talking to him at length during the civil case in the hallway of the courthouse. Again and again he would focus on this minutia in the case that had nothing to do with the ultimate outcome. He would get incensed about it. You know, that guy came in, he said we went golfing at 11:30. He knows that I could not have been there at 11:30. I was there at 2:00. It’s like, OK, let’s even assume you’re right. So what?
When it came to the actual facts of the case, he would not address it.
CARLSON: Amazing. I wonder why? Dan Abrams, back on the O.J. case.
It is really nice to see you in that role again.
ABRAMS: Yes, I’m thrilled to be back.
CARLSON: Thanks, Dan.
ABRAMS: All right, Tucker.
CARLSON: For more details into O.J.’s arrest, be sure to catch Dan tonight live in Las Vegas. That’s 9:00 p.m. Eastern time.
What do you get when you ask a tough question of Senator John Kerry?
Well, this college student was dragged away in tased, as in taser gun. What on earth did he ask to deserve that? Willie Geist has the answer when we come back.
CARLSON: Welcome back. And a very special welcome to O.J. Simpson, back on cable news after a hiatus. He is much missed. He is back. Joining us now, our O.J. correspondent, live from headquarters, Willie Geist.
WILLIE GEIST, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Cable news, by the way, O.J.
Simpson; don’t we owe him our jobs, essentially?
CARLSON: Literally. Literally.
GEIST: We do.
CARLSON: It’s like peanut butter and chocolate, two great tastes that go great together.
GEIST: I want to say; I know Dan Abrams is the boss. But I thought I was supposed to go to Vegas from LA to cover the breaking story. Apparently he took the assignment himself.
CARLSON: You got big footed, Willie.
GEIST: Very nice of him to do that for himself. Can I say—I’m only half kidding here—can you imagine the horror, Tucker, O.J. Simpson comes in your room screaming like he was on that tape. I mean, your life literally must flash before your eyes.
CARLSON: Yes, he’s got a track record, I would say.
GEIST: Yes, we know what he’s capable of. That was kind of a scary tape from TMZ.com. Another scary story for you and a bizarre one—the O.J. story, of course, Tucker, in a category of bizarreness all its own. But this next one not half bad; Senator John Kerry spoke to a group of college students at the University of Florida today. One of those students got up and asked Kerry, among other things, why, if there really was such widespread voter fraud and voter suppression, had he conceded the 2004 presidential election to George Bush so easily?
As the student became more and more worked up, and as Kerry tried to answer his many questions, police moved in. Watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Were you in a secret society.
SEN. JOHN KERRY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: That’s all right. Let me answer his question.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa! Is anybody watching this? Get off me! hey! Help, help, help, help! Are you kidding! They are arresting me! What have I done? Get away from me man, get away from me! What did I do?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GEIST: OK, pretty ugly scene there, Tucker, but it gets worse. The
University of Florida police officers warn that student at that moment that
if he didn’t stop resisting, he would be tased, as in tasered. If you
listen closely here for the sound of a taser gun, you will hear that they
were not bluffing. Listen
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I didn’t do anything. Don’t tase me, bro! Don’t tase me. Oh, ow, ow, ow!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GEIST: So he got tased for asking John Kerry a strange question about the 2004 presidential election. Hmm, you do the math on that one.
CARLSON: All of those tough guys standing over him. Like 19 cops and police women standing over him couldn’t get the cuffs on him so they had to shoot him with a taser gun? They ought to be ashamed of themselves.
GEIST: Tucker, the student was arrested and charged with disrupting a public event and with resisting arrest. He was sent to county jail. The spokesman for the University of Florida, who I talked to, said the student suffered no physical harm for the tasering. An investigation of the cops’ use of force will be conducted. If you watch the tape, the guy was a little annoying. He was sort of pestering Senator Kerry more so than we saw at the beginning. And Kerry actually rolled with him.
As this was going on, Kerry was saying, everybody cool down. Everybody cool down. And the guy is getting tasered in the back of room and Kerry starts answering his question. He says, well, we didn’t have enough evidence of the voter suppression in 2004, as you’re being tasered in the back, so we couldn’t move on it. We didn’t have enough evidence. It was actually kind of entertaining.
CARLSON: Kind of a sensitive guy, John Kerry.
GEIST: He carried on. Tucker, that might have been the most excited anyone has ever been at a John Kerry speech, I have to say.
CARLSON: It takes a taser.
GEIST: He does. He takes the taser. The next story, Tucker, either a strange commentary on our morbid curiosity, or a sad one on the state of tourism in Minnesota. The rest room in the Minnesota airport where Larry Craig was famously caught allegedly seeking sex has become a big tourist traction. Move over, Mall of America. Karen Evans, the woman who works the information counter at Minneapolis/St. Paul Airport says one of the most common questions she gets is, where is the Larry Craig bathroom?
Employees in the concourse where the bathroom is located said people take photographs both outside and inside the men’s room where Craig Was throwing up those infamous hand signals, Tucker. Now, let’s be clear, people are not like buying round trip tickets to Pittsburgh just to get into see the bathroom. They are already traveling and then they stop by to see the bathroom, as far as I understand it.
CARLSON: I’m going to skip that landmark next time I’m in Minneapolis.
GEIST: There was—the “Idaho Statesman” wrote the piece today and there was a quote from one man who was traveling with his wife to Guatemala. He had already seen the bathroom. He travels through Minneapolis. He visited several times. But he wanted to bring his wife by to see the rest room where Larry Craig was arrested for soliciting sex. So it’s kind of bringing families together.
CARLSON: He’s quite a husband. When I want to impress my wife, I take her to a nice restaurant, not to a men’s room in a terminal.
GEIST: Hopeless romantics.
CARLSON: For more of Willie, check out his Zeit Geist video blog.
That’s at ZeitGeist.MSNBC.com. That does it for us. Thanks for watching.
We’ll be back tomorrow. Hope you will join us then. Have a great night.
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