Guest: Eli Pariser, Bill Press, Pat Buchanan
DAVID SHUSTER, GUEST HOST: On the Iraq war, it’s no longer shadow boxing. President Bush versus Moveon.org. The battle is on.
Hello, everybody. I’m David Shuster in for Tucker Carlson. And what a day this has been. For months, the anti-war group Moveon.org has been getting under the skin of Iraq war defenders. Last week, the group ran this full-page ad criticizing the top U.S. commander’s testimony to Congress. Today, it was President Bush’s turn.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I thought the ad was disgusting and I felt like the ad was an attack not only on General Petraeus, but on the U.S. military.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHUSTER: In a moment, the leader of Moveon.org will talk right here about the fight with President Bush. And I will try to show you the political vulnerabilities on both sides.
Also tonight—what’s going on with Fred Thompson, and why is his presidential campaign embracing an economic adviser on Monday and hiding him on Thursday?
Plus, on the Democratic side—John Edwards continues his drumbeat about Hillary Clinton.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN EDWARDS, FORMER U.S. SENATOR: The lesson that Senator Clinton seems to have learned from her experience with health care is if you can’t beat them, join them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHUSTER: And now the shots are coming again from Elizabeth Edwards.
Smart politics or is it emasculating?
And this was a day of protest in Louisiana.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REV. AL SHARPTON, CIVIL RIGHTS ACTIVIST: Now we sit and stand in a city that says it’s a prank to hang a hangman’s noose, but that is attempted murder to have a fight. We cannot sit by silently!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHUSTER: Tonight, we will have the latest on the Jena six and the racial tensions in this country that are again on center stage.
But we begin tonight with the battle between Moveon.org and President Bush. Eli Pariser is executive director of Moveon.org. And Eli, thanks for joining us.
ELI PARISER, MOVEON.ORG: Good evening.
SHUSTER: Eli, last week you ran this full-page ad in “The New York Times.” Today, President Bush weighed in. I want to get your reaction, so let’s listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: I thought the ad was disgusting, and I felt like the ad was an attack not only on General Petraeus but on the U.S. military. That was a sorry deal. And it’s one thing to attack me. It’s another thing to attack somebody like General Petraeus.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHUSTER: Eli, your reaction?
PARISER: Well, first, what I think is disgusting is that the president is keeping our troops in harm’s way with no exit plan, with no willingness to listen to the American people or many of the generals and change his course on the war.
But second, I will just point out, you know, Moveon is not against the troops. We are against the lies. Many of our members are veterans, many of our members are Iraq veterans and their families. And they are sick and tired of the president and his administration continuing to mislead people about what’s going on on the ground on Iraq in order to sell us 10 more years of war.
SHUSTER: Eli, that’s a great argument to make and you guys were making it pretty well until 10 days ago when this ad ran. And since then, the entire debate has been about General Petraeus. Is that what you guys set out to do?
PARISER: Well, we thought it was very important to demonstrate that General Petraeus was coordinating with the White House as part of a political strategy, and in fact he was on the phone with his staff every morning, reported by “The Washington Post,” talking about how to quote,unquote, sell the surge.
So this is unfortunately, you know, President Bush has the tendency to politicize the military. That’s what happened here. And, unfortunately, we know that the generals who do speak out typically in the Bush administration have been fired or marginalized for doing so.
SHUSTER: Eli, I want to ask you about some senators today who voted in condemnation of the ad. There was a nonbinding resolution in the U.S. Senate that passed 72-25. More than 20 Democrats supported the condemnation of the ad, including Bayh, Casey, Leahy, Mikulski, Tester. Jon Tester, for example, he received more than $300,000 in donations from Moveon.org. Isn’t that a big repudiation when somebody who has received several hundred thousand dollars through your organization repudiates you?
PARISER: Well, look, we helped elect Jon Tester and many other people not for their own sake, but because we wanted to help make sure that this war came to a swift end. We thought a Democratic Congress would help do that. So far, the Democrats have not yet delivered on the promise, on the mandate that voters gave them this November.
And so, you know, until that happens, we are going to be more concerned about ending the war than about what the Senate has to say about this ad. And frankly, you know, I think it’s kind of outrageous that the U.S. top deliberative body spent hours and hours today talking about an ad instead of providing our troops with the leave time that they needed or instead of leading the way out of this war.
SHUSTER: And Eli, whose fault is that? Didn’t you give them—weren’t you the one who gave them the opportunity to do that?
PARISER: Well, but it is outrageous that this Senate thinks it’s more important to debate an ad than to talk about how to end this war. I think that’s what this has come down to, just playing politics.
SHUSTER: Eli, they never would have done it had you guys not put the ad out, and so I just want to get back. Given all the attention, do you stand by the ad? In other words, General Petraeus is going to be testifying again. I have not heard you say that you apologize for this ad or that it was a mistake. Do you feel it was a mistake?
PARISER: No. I think it’s important to remember that in a democracy, the truth comes first. It comes over the president and it comes over the general. If someone in 2003...
SHUSTER: OK, having said that...
PARISER: ... in 2003, if we had run a similar ad against Colin Powell, we would have had the same kind of elite hand wringing and condemnation. But the fact is that if someone looked at those facts more closely, we wouldn’t be in this mess in the first place. Someone needs to do the fact-checking. And, unfortunately, that sometimes falls to groups like Moveon.
SHUSTER: Eli, we know that General Petraeus is going to be testifying again in a couple of months. Given that you stand by the ad, would you run it again?
PARISER: We are going to keep talking about the betrayal of trust of this administration. And that’s going to happen in a variety of ways, and advertising is one of them. But the fact is that General Petraeus and President Bush have misled the country about the facts on the ground in Iraq in order to sell us 10 more years of war, and someone needs to call them on that.
SHUSTER: But, Eli, a lot of Democrats are calling up and saying that they are upset with Moveon.org, that perhaps you guys overplayed your political hand, given that you guys seemed to be doing really well on this debate until the ad ran. And a lot of Democrats are wondering if you have any regrets about how this has played out, given that there’s been a constant focus for the last 10 days on General Petraeus and not a focus on some of the issues you raised, such as the lies to war, what’s going on on the ground, and whether or not the books were cooked in terms of this report.
PARISER: Well, let’s remember what happened here. The president and the general spent five days trying to convince the people that we should stay in Iraq. What do the polls show? The polls show that since last week, there has been a small increase in the number of people who support our position on the war, that we need a responsible and swift withdrawal. So what that says to me is that the president and the general ultimately failed in making the case to the American people about 10 more years of war. And did the ad have something to do with that? I can’t tell you that. But the facts are that the public has moved more against the president and his policy in the last 10 days.
SHUSTER: Eli, you can argue with the numbers, but I still think a lot of people in this town believe that it was a political mistake.
PARISER: Well, that’s right. In Washington. In Washington.
SHUSTER: Well, that’s true.
PARISER: And we are an outsider group. We represent people all over the country.
SHUSTER: You are certainly an outsider group. That is—that’s true. You’re a very powerful outside group. In fact, I think I just read that you contributed twice as much money in the last campaign as the NRA. But in any case, Eli, thanks for coming in.
PARISER: Thank you.
SHUSTER: Eli Pariser, executive director of Moveon.org.
SHUSTER: And just ahead, by elevating Eli’s group the way President Bush did today, was that smart politics or stupidity?
Plus, Christian conservatives blast Fred Thompson, as the Thompson campaign, facing a separate problem, plays hide-and-seek with an economic adviser.
You’re watching MSNBC.
SHUSTER: There’s an old saying in politics that you never elevate the status of an opponent when that opponent is not as powerful or prominent as you are. Well, today, Republicans, led by President Bush, turned that strategy on its head. And here to talk about all the attention President Bush and Republican lawmakers are giving to Moveon.org, our MSNBC political analyst Pat Buchanan and nationally syndicated radio talk show host Bill Press. Pat, your reaction to this kerfuffel between the president and Moveon.org. It was pretty very hot.
PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, it was very hot. The president obviously saw an opportunity when the last question came up, oh boy, right down the center of the plate, boom.
What he’s doing and what the Republicans are doing and doing effectively is elevating one of the stupidest mistakes the Democrats made when Moveon.org put that ad in there, insulting the general, you know, casting aspersions on his patriotism and his honor.
And I think it’s a real mistake for the Democrats and a real hurt for them to have all that attention right there, and you caught that when 22 Democrats voted in effect to condemn the base of the party.
SHUSTER: But isn’t there a problem when the president is elevating a group like Moveon.org? Yes, it was a mistake, a lot of people would argue, for Moveon.org to put out this crazy ad criticizing General Petraeus at a time when they were winning this debate. And yet there are a lot of people tonight who are learning about Moveon.org for the first time who have never heard about it, who realized oh, my God, this is an organization that can go toe-to-toe with the president. That’s a pretty powerful organization.
BUCHANAN: Well, what they’re doing is—sure. But what Bush did here, he’s not running again. He’s elevated not simply the organization, but the stupidest, dumbest thing it did. And it’s, you know, here’s what they said about General Petraeus.
Nobody in the center of politics believes that’s very smart. I cannot believe any Democrat does. I think they are humiliated and embarrassed.
The president—was—the president shooting downward, you’re correct there, but he was elevating something that was a very big embarrassment to the Democratic Party, and Republicans, frankly, are trying to keep it going and going and going.
BILL PRESS, TALK SHOW HOST: Well, I have a different point of view.
First of all, look, I think this whole thing is a huge distraction, and we are all falling for it. We are all suckers for this.
I think first of all Moveon had every right to criticize General Petraeus. He’s not a sacred cow. He was recruited for this job by George Bush. He’s part of the Bush team. His independence and his accuracy is a legitimate question to raise.
Now, I think what Bush did today was brilliant, because I read it differently, David. This issue, by the way, has been fanned for seven days on one of the other cable networks, and it was starting to die down.
SHUSTER: Right, and Bill Sammon from “The Washington Times” teed it up for the president at that press conference.
PRESS: Bush saw an opportunity. Pat is right. It’s now alive again. It’s going to be alive for another seven days, and they’d much rather attack Moveon than deal with the real issue, which is this mess in Iraq.
BUCHANAN: Well, that’s the point you made. It’s Moveon—if the Democrats had come up with Petraeus, and did like John Warner, tough, straight questions. Are we safer, General? Will we be safer? Fair enough.
But what you have got now is a big discussion the last two weeks of this stupid, nasty ad coming from the liberal wing of the Democratic Party. And here’s the thing, David—it reinforces the 1960s image of the Democratic Party, not simply anti-war but anti-military. And that’s why the Republicans are holding on to it.
PRESS: Pat, the Democratic Party is not Moveon.org. Moveon.org is not the Democratic Party. George Bush did not apologize for the Swift Boat ads. Dick Cheney did not apologize for the ad that showed Tom Daschle and Saddam Hussein side by side. These outside organizations—god bless America. In politics, they are free to get in and they are free to make mistakes.
SHUSTER: Even though they are not the Democrats, even though they are not the Democrats, there was Hillary Clinton essentially not voting with Republicans, essentially lying down and saying, no, I am not going to criticize Moveon.org in this resolution. Barack Obama did not vote because he said he did not want to register on this.
I mean, that does sound like Moveon.org has a lot of sway over the top two Democratic presidential candidates.
BUCHANAN: They’ve got a hold on them, and take a look at the guys, the Democrats who are in swing districts or swing areas or purple states or red states. I will bet you go down there, I bet every single one voted to condemn Moveon.org. And what that says is, I have got to hold the center. I can’t worry about the nut bolts on the left. We are going to have to backhand them.
PRESS: Let me tell you, this is the difference between the Democratic Party and the Republican Party. The Republicans would never do that. They would never cave in like this. The Democrats who voted for this are a bunch of wimps. They ought to stand—stand up on their feet ...
SHUSTER: You want to call Bob Casey a wimp? Say Bob Casey is a wimp, Jon Tester is a wimp, Evan Bayh is a wimp? Go for it.
PRESS: On this vote, all the Democrats who voted to condemn Moveon.org, I think caved in, and they were wimps, absolutely.
BUCHANAN: Now, here’s loyal Democrat Bill Press calling Democrats a wimp. Is this good for the Democratic Party?
SHUSTER: ... a guy like Jon Tester got $100,000 from Moveon.org.
BUCHANAN: ... to have another ad like this one when Petraeus comes back in March.
SHUSTER: Bill Press, Pat Buchanan are staying with us.
SHUSTER: Just ahead—Fred Thompson’s presidential campaign plays hide the economic adviser. Could it be that Thompson, who didn’t know there was oil in the Everglades, never read what Larry Lindsey said about oil in Iraq?
Plus, what exactly did Hillary Clinton mean when she called Dick Cheney Darth Vader, and is the force really with her?
SHUSTER: Fred Thompson’s political supporters hoped (ph) his presidential campaign would captivate and motivate the religious conservative base of the Republican Party. Like Red Sox fans hoped to vanquish the Yankees, the Thompson camp is probably sweating bullets tonight after an e-mail from Christian conservative leader James Dobson to his supporters leaked to the Associated Press. It reads in part, quote, “Isn’t Thompson the candidate who is opposed to a constitutional amendment to protect marriage, believes there should be 50 different definitions of marriage in the U.S., favors McCain-Feingold, won’t talk at all about what he believes, and can’t speak his way out of a paper bag on the campaign trail. He has no passion, no zeal, and no apparent want to. And yet, he is apparently the great hope that burns in the breasts of many Christian conservatives. Well, not for me, my brothers. Not for me.”
Doesn’t exactly read like an endorsement. Now to talk about the very sluggish Thompson campaign, our MSNBC political analyst Pat Buchanan and nationally syndicated radio talk show host Bill Press.
You must love this e-mail that’s come out, right, Bill?
PRESS: You know, John Zogby on my radio show said, get ready for the Freddy fizzle. And you know, I think we have seen it in the last two weeks.
But I think this is very damaging to Fred Thompson’s campaign, because the whole purpose of it, as I see it, was the religious conservatives were not happy with any of the Republicans who were there, for various reasons. They’d either flip-flopped or they were not good enough on conservative issues. There had to be somebody who was a great hope, and it was Fred Thompson. Now, he’s out there, and Dr. Dobson, who has got, you know, I think more credibility than anybody else today...
SHUSTER: Yes, I think that’s the cheering we are hearing in the Huckabee campaign tonight.
PRESS: Yes, right. I mean, devastating.
BUCHANAN: Well, look, when it comes to—it’s clear that Dr. Dobson is undecided on this...
PRESS: On what?
BUCHANAN: Fred Thompson.
PRESS: I’m just kidding. No, this is very hurtful for the reasons that Dr. Dobson has enormous clout. I don’t know about his radio show, but used to have over 1,000 stations, and he has a tremendous following. And Thompson wants to do well in South Carolina. It’s one place where he is next door, it’s Southern, he’s attuned to it, it’s Christian. And that’s where he is going to stop a Giuliani and a Romney if he is going to stop them. And this could hurt him very badly here.
He has got an awful lot of other bad ink, but his national polls, I will say, are holding up. And it raises questions—he’s about tied with Rudy—how important are those national polls when we get down to Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina and Michigan?
SHUSTER: But it does seem like the screws are coming loose on Thompson. I mean, there he was a couple of days ago saying that he didn’t know that there was oil in the Everglades. And then, on Monday, on Monday...
SHUSTER: ... the Thompson campaign hands out this press release, touting Larry Lindsey as the new Thompson economic adviser. And you have to wonder if Fred Thompson didn’t know there was oil in the Everglades—perhaps he didn’t remember what Larry Lindsey had said about the benefit to the U.S. economy from going to war in Iraq. He said, Larry Lindsey said—
“the key issue is oil. Regime change would facilitate an increase in world oil.”
Well, for the last 24 hours, we’ve been trying to call the Thompson campaign, get Larry Lindsey to come on. They won’t return our phone calls. They announced—sent out the press release Monday. We can’t get the guy here on Thursday. What’s going on?
BUCHANAN: He’s been buried in the Everglades.
BUCHANAN: No, I mean, look, he’s having a very rough patch at the beginning of this, no doubt about it. Novak wrote a column, others have written columns and very negative on how he started. And clearly, his first month has got to be fairly good. So we are going to find out how much he’s raised.
But he’s very high in the national polls now, but there’s no doubt, look, the guy has been stumbling from the beginning and he has got problems in the campaign. Nobody can deny that. And this is the most hurtful—the Dobson thing is the most hurtful hit at all. I mean, George Will and Novak are one thing, but Dobson is another.
PRESS: Well, you know, look, it’s OK to have a rough patch somewhere in the middle of the campaign. John McCain started out like a house of fire, then he had a little rough patch and now he seems to be bouncing back. You can’t, after all the months of expectations and building the expectations, start out with a rough patch, it seems to me.
I mean, Thompson, I think, had maybe 30 days, he’s blown two weeks and has not shown anything.
SHUSTER: I don’t think—if you are going to announce a guy like Larry Lindsey as your economic adviser, why not put him on and say, look, we are going to have the guy defend himself? Instead, you know, sort of play hide the economic adviser to me seems a bit strange.
But the other thing that happened with Fred Thompson this week, again, which seems to suggest that he’s completely out of it. He was asked about Terry Schiavo, the case a couple of years ago, in which the woman was on sort of life support...
SHUSTER: ... and he said, “I cannot pass judgment on it. That’s going back in history. I don’t remember the details of it.”
That was two years ago. And there was a “Law & Order” episode that Thompson starred that ripped the headlines from that story.
PRESS: Plus, let’s come back to Dobson. That was a signature issue for Christian conservatives. I mean, I was on the other side of that issue. Pat and I debated it many times. But there is no doubt where the religious conservative community was. And for Fred Thompson not to remember, not to know the details, you know...
BUCHANAN: It clearly one of the most blazing national controversies...
PRESS: What’s he running for?
BUCHANAN: ... over the right to life issue and the right to die. I mean, it came—it brought the whole Congress of the United States back up here to pass legislation.
PRESS: And the president.
BUCHANAN: And it was a very divisive issue, and it’s very tough to think that you don’t have a firm opinion one way or the other on that.
SHUSTER: And Pat, I hear a lot of conservatives simply ask flat out, what is the purpose, what is the mission of the Thompson campaign?
BUCHANAN: The mission of the Thompson campaign was, look, they saw Rudy over here, Romney, who has belatedly joined the conservative cause. You got Rudy from New York. There is a wide-open swath they see right down the center of the field for a conservative. And a lot of the Tennessee boys, Howard Baker and the others, say Fred Thompson is ideally suited.
This is not something I believe that Fred Thompson has been planning and plotting to break through. I think he’s being pushed to a degree into this. He’s being really drafted as no other candidate has. And quite frankly, so far it ain’t working.
SHUSTER: And that brings up...
PRESS: The question is, I think, that, that vacuum is still there.
Now, who is going to step in to fill it? I mean, do they go towards Rudy? Do they go towards a Mitt Romney and just sort of say, well, we’ll take the best we got, or Newt Gingrich?
BUCHANAN: Newt is champing at the bit to get in on this thing, but I don’t know that he’s going to.
SHUSTER: Well, if the Thompson campaign wants to put Larry Lindsey on this show—we still have your press release—there’s a place for you right here in Pat or Bill’s chair and you’re invited to come on. Pat and Bill, though...
BUCHANAN: Put a picture—put a picture of Lindsey up.
SHUSTER: We’ll see.
BUCHANAN: A wanted poster.
SHUSTER: Pat and Bill will stay with us.
And coming up—Barack Obama blows off the AARP and places a bet on unions instead. We will explain that.
Plus, all of the Democrats have weighed in on the Jena six in Louisiana, but the racial tensions there are real and they are heavy. We will get the latest in a live report.
SHUSTER: Welcome back to a wild day in politics. How wild you say? Consider this, Vice President Cheney is slamming Alan Greenspan. Hillary Clinton is calling Vice President Cheney Darth Vader. John Edwards and his wife Elizabeth are tag-teaming Hillary Clinton. And Barack Obama has decided to bypass the AARP.
There’s a relevance to all of this, I assure you. Here to help us sort it out are MSNBC political analyst Pat Buchanan and nationally syndicated radio talk show host Bill Press. I have to start with this comment that Hillary Clinton made about Vice President Cheney. Hillary was talking in New York about the vice president going up to Capital hill trying to shore up Republican support for the Iraq war and then said this, watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D), NEW YORK: Vice President Cheney came up to see the Republicans yesterday. You can always tell when the Republicans are restless, because the vice president’s motorcade pulls into the Capitol and Darth Vader emerges.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHUSTER: Funny as that was, there’s something to it, because the Republicans marched in lockstep this week on the Iraq war. Pat?
BUCHANAN: Well, I think it’s a very funny line. I don’t think people should get outraged about it. It’s harmless, quite frankly. On the war, no, they are not in lockstep. But there’s no doubt it shows what we talked about a week ago, which is Petraeus and the president have won the policy battle up there, clearly until next spring. The only thing that is going to undercut their policy is not this crowd up here, but events on the ground in Iraq. It’s the only thing that can undercut their policy.
But Hillary Clinton, that’s a funny line.
SHUSTER: I remember Democratic Congressmen—I’m sorry, Republican Congressman saying a couple of months ago that he had warned the White House that the president has to take himself away from the Iraq war, make this all about General Petraeus, and that’s the only way they can pull it off. The White House did. Congress is now backing the White House again on all this because they were able to follow the strategy through. It’s a success for the Republicans, right?
PRESS: Absolutely. And they have achieved their goal, which is to drag this thing out until George Bush is back in Crawford, Texas, and dump it into the lap of whoever is next. They bought time at least through next July. I don’t see any way there’s going to be enough votes next July. Yesterday, I thought when John Warner turned, having endorsed and embraced the Jim Webb amendment, and then he said yes, I endorsed it, but I am going to vote against it—if Warner had voted for it, I think that thing would have passed.
It didn’t. If they can hold on to John Warner and Dick Lugar and Arlen Specter and these so called moderate Republicans, they will drag this thing out to the end of 2008.
SHUSTER: This was not a dramatic proposal. This was just a proposal that said the soldiers ought to have as much time as home as they serve in combat. Yet not a single Republican that the Democrats were counting on to pull over came to their side, except the ones who already had the last time.
BUCHANAN: Well, there’s no doubt this would have caused a draw down, a much more rapid draw down of troops, and real problems in doing it. Gates has credibility. The key guy is John Warner. When the president said, John, we’re going to go along with your 5,000 in December, and at the end of the surge, the 30,000 are coming home, I think Warner said, I’m on board, Mr. President. And when that happened, there’s no way the Democrats can beat them. No way.
PRESS: I must say, I think it does also give the Democrats a strong argument, which is you can’t run around bragging that you support the troops, when you oppose an amendment to give them just at least the equal time home that they spend on the front line. That to me is fair, it is reasonable, it’s humane, and the Republicans shot it down.
BUCHANAN: But here’s the thing, Congress is at 18 percent approval. And by 2009, January, there are going to be as many troops in Iraq as there were in 2006, November, when the Democrats were elected to bring them home. It’s a failed Congress.
PRESS: You know why, Pat?
BUCHANAN: I know why.
PRESS: Because the Republicans are using the filibuster on every vote and the Republicans have blocked every attempt to change direction.
BUCHANAN: Why don’t you cut off the funding for the war if you don’t believe in the war?
PRESS: I asked the same question. I have written column after column.
PRESS: Policy should be no deadline, no dollars. That’s what the American people want.
SHUSTER: Speaking of dollars, let’s talk about Alan Greenspan. His book came out. He was the most influential economic fed chairman we have ever had. He has a book that comes out, which essentially accuses the Bush administration of a lack of discipline on spending and overstating the use of the tax cut. Where was Alan Greenspan over the 2004 campaign, Bill?
PRESS: I was going to say, that’s my question too. Alan Greenspan went up to Capitol Hill, and having endorsed the Clinton economic plan, once George Bush is in, he went up to Capitol Hill and endorsed the Bush tax cut. Now he said he didn’t mean it that way. But that’s certainly the way everybody read it. He never said boo.
So I think it’s a little late for Alan Greenspan to be tackling George Bush, even though I agree with him.
BUCHANAN: Greenspan has always been a tax cutter. Bush cut those taxes in a recession era, and Greenspan would be behind him. Where he was silent, George Bush has been the biggest spender since Lyndon Baines Johnson in domestic social spending, not for defense and not for the war. Republicans know it and Greenspan said nothing about that when he was in there.
SHUSTER: But it’s still an awkward position for both the vice president yesterday, in his “Wall Street Journal” op-ed, and the president in an interview the other night, have to take issue with Alan Greenspan, this man that they held up as some sort of God during the 2004 campaign. And now there they are saying, well, Alan Greenspan is not to be believed.
His book is wrong.
PRESS: This is the last thing they needed, right, to have to battle. Also, on the war in Iraq, to say the war in Iraq was all about oil, which Alan Greenspan said in this book. I have to say, if you in the financial community, right, who has more credibility on the economy? Alan Greenspan or Dick Cheney? Alan Greenspan all the way.
BUCHANAN: There’s no doubt Greenspan hurts the president. But in a way Greenspan hurts himself, too. He got seven million dollars for the book and he did not criticize the president’s spending at that particular time. And now he’s got to make the book—the book has to sell to get back the advance on something like that. So he is going to take shots at people. That’s what they do in their autobiography.
SHUSTER: Speaking of taking shots, there was John Edwards with the speech to the Service Employees Union this week, criticizing Hillary Clinton for essentially being in bed with the lobbyists on health care, and being late to making changes. It was a good speech. It was a good argument. I think Edwards made some points. Yet, today we now found out there’s Elizabeth Edwards, also weighing in, saying Hillary Clinton was late in the political process and that Hillary Clinton might cave to the health care lobby.
BUCHANAN: Let me tell what you this is all about. Edwards—everything depends on Iowa for Edwards. He’s moving to the left on every issue. He has a very cutting attack on Hillary. The real threat represents is not in the long run to Hillary. He doesn’t have the legs to go the distance. He is a real threat to Barack Obama, because if Edwards’ wins or comes second close to Hillary, he is vaulted up in New Hampshire. Who does he take from? Barack Obama. And there’s no way Barack Obama can break out.
This is why Barack Obama is skipping the AARP and speaking to the old folks in Iowa, because Iowa is it for Edwards and it is it for Obama.
SHUSTER: But is it emasculating, Bill, to have Elizabeth Edwards out there having to help John Edwards with every attack, it seems. There’s John Edwards, it works for a couple of days, and then it’s reinforced by Elizabeth Edwards.
PRESS: First of all, I think Elizabeth Edwards is a big asset to John Edwards. Secondly, I give him credit. He was the first one out with the most detailed health care plan and it’s probably best. But we are not a nation—here’s my read—we are not a nation of Talmudic scholars. People are not going to sit down and take the Edwards plan and the Obama plan and the Richardson plan on health care and go through line by line. So this constant attack is a non-starter.
All they know is he’s for health care. She’s for health care. Barack Obama is for health care. Move on.
BUCHANAN: I tell you what, Hillary Clinton’s clan, the boys in the opposition research in the Republican party are going to go through it line by line. But I think you have this point, which is very valid; they are over-using the asset of Elizabeth Edwards too much. She did the Ann Coulter thing, fine. Then this. Every time it comes out, I think they are over-using this particular asset and they’re basically diminishing its value.
SHUSTER: You mentioned Barack Obama a minute ago. Of course, the danger to Barack Obama if John Edwards beats him in Iowa—can Barack Obama, even if he finishes second in Iowa—does Barack Obama have a chance in New Hampshire here? A lot of Democrats are saying, Democrats in New Hampshire are not as progressive as other states in the rest of the country.
BUCHANAN: They have a lot of liberal Democrats up there too, but there’s a conservative wing of the Democratic party. A lot of them are independents. If Barack Obama comes in second in Iowa, it better be second to Edwards and it better be very, very close. If Edwards—look, if Edwards wins Iowa—if Hillary wins, she goes the distance. If Edwards wins, Edwards vaults upwards in New Hampshire. I don’t think enough to beat Hillary.
I think as long as—if Edwards wins Iowa, Hillary wins the nomination.
PRESS: I have to come back to Obama skipping the AARP event. Look, I don’t think there’s any way every candidate can make every one of these forums and every one of these debates. I would not read too much into Barack Obama. I was out at the laborers in Chicago this week. Hillary spoke to them. Joe Biden spoke to them, Bill Richardson and John Edwards. Barack Obama didn’t. It doesn’t mean he’s not pro labor. It just means that they can’t be everywhere at one time.
SHUSTER: On this one, this is not a Democratic National Committee sanctioned event. Barack Obama has been consistent, at least, in saying I’m not going to these forums if they are not sanctioned by the party. On the other hand, I think pat is right. If Obama gets beaten in Iowa, especially given the fluidity of this race, whoever comes out of Iowa with a victory automatically gains 10 or 15 points going into New Hampshire.
BUCHANAN: They certainly do. If you give Hillary ten more points going into New Hampshire, where do you stop her? That’s why if Edwards wins and he gets ten points, everybody will say, look, the giant killer.
PRESS: South Carolina, that would have to be the Obama state.
SHUSTER: What is Obama waiting for? He’s been so nice as far as he treats Hillary Clinton. There’s John Edwards on the attack against Hillary Clinton. At a certain point, doesn’t Obama have to get in the game?
BUCHANAN: Look what they are trying to do. They’re trying to drag him down there to Louisiana, Jesse Jackson. That’s the last thing he needs is that. What Obama has is he’s risen above that. He’s got—I think his one chance is set the country on fire in December with rhetoric and speeches and really get rolling and see if that can carry him over. Other than that, I don’t see it.
PRESS: I wish Barack Obama had been in Jena, Louisiana. I think it’s a racial outrage out there. But I do say that at some point, you’re right. At some point—and we have all been waiting for this, to see Barack—it’s like Nascar. The car is right behind us. At some point that car has got to make its move and pull ahead. We have not seen it yet. You know what, there’s not a hell of a lot of time left.
BUCHANAN: That would kill him. If he goes down to the Louisiana thing, that will hurt him with the white vote.
SHUSTER: We are going to talk about Jena in just a second, but I agree. I think there are two theories, either Barack Obama is going to attack Hillary Clinton at a certain point. Or Barack Obama is waiting for Hillary Clinton’s campaign to implode for whatever reason.
PRESS: That’s not going to happen.
BUCHANAN: Here’s what he’s waiting for. He wants Edwards to take her down in Iowa.
SHUSTER: Then he would owe Edwards a big one. In any case, MSNBC political analyst Pat Buchanan and Bill Press, syndicated radio talk show host. Great show, by the way. Thank you both.
PRESS: Thank you.
SHUSTER: Coming up, we’ll the latest on a day of protests in Jena, Louisiana, where thousands gathered to march in support of six black students caught in the middle of racial tensions.
Plus, as one of our cable colleagues noted the other night, if the world is off-track, O.J. must come back. We will get the latest from our senior O.J. analyst, Willie Geist. You’re watching MSNBC.
SHUSTER: Thousands of protesters crowded tiny Jena, Louisiana today to call attention to a criminal justice system they believe is racially biased. The rally derives from outrage among African-Americans over the perceived overzealous prosecution of six black Jena High School students for beating up white classmate. That incident was part of a period of racial tension at the school, which began when white students hung nooses from a landmark shade tree on campus.
NBC News correspondent Martin Savidge is in Jena, Louisiana and he joins us today. Joins us from the scene of today’s protest rally. Marty, how did it go today? Were there any arrests? Any violence? Did it get out of hand? Was it largely peaceful?
MARTIN SAVIDGE, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Good evening, David. It was largely peaceful. There were no arrests that we know of. There were no problems that we know of. And there is also no head count that we know of. At least not officially coming from anybody here in town. Safe to say, there were thousands of people here, probably well over 10,000 people. It didn’t not quite approach the number of 50,000 that had projected. But nonetheless, it was significant impact on a community that has only about 3,500 people living here.
You did a very good job of summarizing the events that date back to August of 2006, when that African-American student at the high school approached the principal and said, could I sit beneath that tree? Well, that tree that was in question was one that many people said for a long time whites only sat under. The next day there were those three nooses. Of course, that was considered a hate crime in the mind of just about everyone here. And that’s what triggered the racial tensions.
There were fights that broke out, mostly off campus, spread out over several months. Somebody burned down the academic building. It shows you how serious it got. And then there was a fight on the high school campus. Six black students attacked a white student, the so-called Jena Six. No whites have been charged with any crime throughout all of this. But it is the six black students that were initially charged with attempted murder. Those charges have been reduced.
But there was one trial of Michael Bell, found guilty. He’s still in jail, even though his conviction was overturned last week. That’s the long story that brought everyone here. And many were pleased that they came. They felt they were part of something much bigger than the problems of the small town talking about injustice. Injustice that is found in many places, not just Jena. David?
SHUSTER: Marty, I have read that Jena, that area voted 60 percent for David Duke back in the 1990s, the white supremacist. So I’m wondering, what was the reaction of towns people today to all of these demonstrators that came in and essentially walked through the town?
SAVIDGE: Well, first of all, in defense of the town, that was some time ago. There were many in Louisiana that voted for David Duke, unfortunately, not just Jena. This is a town that’s about 85 percent white. There reaction—there were a couple hundred Jena residents that were here. But for the most part, the streets were deserted of Jena residents. They stayed at their homes. They closed their business. The school was not open and the mayor had declared a state of emergency.
That was because of the number of people coming, not because of fears of any violence. But for the most part, they did not have a whole lot to say. When you talk to them in private, they will tell you, look, they believe all of this has been overblown. Many will say they think the young black students were overcharged. But they believe the media has gone a long way to stir up emotions that probably would not have been so strong if we were not here.
SHUSTER: Marty, I think you’re absolutely right. We appreciate your reporting today from Jena, Louisiana, on, of course, the scene of incredible racial tension for these last several months. Marty Savidge reporting from Jena.
There’s no need to check the polls to see how popular Rudy Giuliani is, just ask the man himself. Willie Geist tells us where Giuliani ranks himself among the most famous Americans in the world. That story and more when we come back.
SHUSTER: Now for the segment you have all been waiting for. Willie Geist and the latest on the O.J. Simpson case.
WILLIE GEIST, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Yes. I’m the legal expert who has been brought in to analyze the case for the last week or so. There’s not a whole lot to analyze today, David. I have to be honest with you. Nothing really happened in the O.J. case. But this is cable news and it is our sworn pledge to keep the story alive by any means necessary. Here comes the resuscitation paddles. O.J. is back in south Florida, where he flew coach on a commercial flight last night after being released on bail in Las Vegas yesterday.
Now, I don’t want to pile on or nit pick here. But it looks like we have to add another charge to the complaint against O.J. Look at the hangers he’s carrying here as he walks to the airport. Those are hotel hangers, with the miniature hooks that you cannot use at home. Yes, David, I accuse Orenthal James Simpson of stealing hangers from the Palms Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. How do I know that? I stole some hotel hangers myself just last week, Tucker.
SHUSTER: Wow. That was good. I was going to say something but I am going to take the fifth.
GEIST: OK, smart play. That’s about as close to news as I can get in the O.J. case today, and it’s not really news. I just made it up basically. But one man who actually does gather legitimate news, NBC’s Kerry Sanders. He was in the middle of a live shot today in front of O.J.’s home, when Simpson’s girlfriend pulled out of the driveway. Kerry sprung into action without hesitation. Watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KERRY SANDERS, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: There’s a car coming out. I have no idea who is in there and, quite frankly, with the glare and the traffic I’m not sure I will know. But you know what, we have a moment. Let’s just see if we can find out if it is O.J. Simpson. I will walk over here and see.
Hi, there. I’m from NBC News. I’m curious—Christine? Christie.
How are you doing?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Fine. I’m fine. I would just like to have my privacy. I have to go to work.
SANDERS: You have to go to your work.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, and I can’t have people following me to my job.
SANDERS: Are you and O.J. back home? Everybody is under the belief that you all aren’t here. And I see you coming out.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We’re around.
SANDERS: You’re around. OK. Is O.J. home or just back in Florida?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He’s back in Florida.
SANDERS: He’s back in Florida. OK.
(NED VIDEO CLIP)
GEIST: Now, there were a lot of reporters outside. Kerry Sanders, the only one who ran through traffic, David, leaned into the window of the car, and actually got information from the interview, found out where O.J. was, what he was up to. So hat’s off to Kerry Sanders.
SHUSTER: Willie, I got to think, we have a weird sort of glimpse there at Kerry Sanders dating tactics. I love the guy but that was kind of strange.
GEIST: I am glad you said it. He had that tone of voice, like, are you lost, little girl? What is your mommy’s name? He was kind of smooth-talking her a little bit, wasn’t he? But he came back across the street after that, and continued his live shot. He just sort of reported off of that. Boy, I really tip my cap. Kerry Sanders, nice piece of work there.
David, for better or worse, O.J. Simpson is one of the most famous Americans in the world. But Rudy Giuliani thinks he can give the Juice a run for his money in that department. Giuliani was in London this week, apparently courting the all-important British vote for the 2008 election. Yesterday he gave an impromptu press conference in his hotel, during which he proclaimed the following, quote, I’m probably one of the four or five best-known Americans in the world, end quote.
When asked who the other four might be, he threw out Bill and Hillary Clinton’s names, before his handlers whisked him away. Now, it was an interesting question. We were debating this in the news room, David. I have a few. George Bush, obviously, Michael Jackson, Tiger Woods, Michael Jordan. You have any?
SHUSTER: Madonna, Britney Spears. And I’m tempted to make some sort of parallel joke—never mind. I have heard enough from the Giuliani campaign.
GEIST: Brangelina maybe, right. Brad and Angelina all over the world, taking people’s children, doing things like that. So I don’t—I think Rudy Giuliani may be a little bit optimistic thinking he’s in the top five.
SHUSTER: Maybe he’s just bad at math or something.
GEIST: Yes. Maybe that’s what it is. Anyway, settle down a little bit Rudy. You’re not in the top five. Finally, David, President Bush may or may not be number one on that list of well-known Americans. But he says he was most definitely at the head of his class in at least one subject. During that wide-ranging press conference at the White House today, the president defended his tax cuts when he was asked if he is worried about the prospects of a recession in the American economy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You need to talk to economists. I think I got a B in Econ 101. I got an A, however, in keeping taxes low.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GEIST: Yes, and an A-plus in kicking butt. Now, he is a self-proclaimed C student, as you know. He said he got a B in econ. A check of his Yale college transcript says that also was a little bit inflated. More like a C-minus in econ, David.
SHUSTER: We all know about the president’s memory. But, whatever, he’s the president. We are on cable television. So I guess that is how it all ends.
GEIST: That’s exactly right. A little grade inflation for the president, but he’s entitled.
SHUSTER: Willie, you’re the best. For more of Willie, check out his Zeit Geist video blog at ZeitGeist.MSNBC.com. Willie Geist, thank you. Thank you to everyone on the show. That does it for us. HARDBALL starts right now.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
Content and programming copyright 2007 NBC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Transcription Copyright 2007 Voxant, Inc. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material other than for research. User may not reproduce or redistribute the material except for user’s personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon NBC and Voxant, Inc.’s copyright or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.