Guests: Charlie Gonzalez, Eugene Robinson, Bob Franken
TUCKER CARLSON, HOST: America‘s fight over immigration is now hot enough that there is a fight in Congress over a lawsuit against the Salvation Army. ‘Tis the season.
Welcome to the show, live from the campaign trail in Las Vegas.
The Bush administration‘s Equal Employment Opportunity Commission sued a Salvation Army thrift store in Massachusetts that fired two of its employees for speaking Spanish rather than English on the job. Republican senator Lamar Alexander now seeks a provision to protect employers who demand their workers speak English.
Well, the Democrats in the House are biting back. They have secured a promise from Speaker Nancy Pelosi that the English in the workplace provision will be killed.
Should a company be allowed to demand its workers speak America‘s common language? In a moment, the chairman of the House Hispanic Caucus Civil Rights Task Force gives us his view.
Meanwhile, outside the beltway, the campaign for president is getting even nastier. Over the weekend, syndicated columnist Robert Novak wrote that the Hillary Clinton campaign holds what he called scandalous information about rival Barack Obama. The item prompted denials from the Clinton campaign and a rebuke by Obama of Clinton yesterday.
Here it is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The Clinton campaign didn‘t come out and deny it initially. It would have been great if we had just sat back and they had indicated it wasn‘t true.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CARLSON: It‘s a scandal without a scandal so far, but with the latest ABC-“Washington Post” poll showing a statistical tie between theme in Iowa, is Clinton or Obama gaining advantage from the whispers that Bob Novak started, or is the GOP?
We‘ll figure it out.
And if you haven‘t gotten a good scare in a while, observe this warm embrace. That is Venezuelan leftist dictator Hugo Chavez on the left and Iranian lunatic fundamentalist president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on the right.
How will America deal with this axis of oil?
We begin tonight with the English language, immigration, employers, and the fight about all of it in the U.S. Congress.
Joining me now, the Civil Rights Task Force chair of the Hispanic Caucus, Democratic congressman from Texas, Charlie Gonzalez.
Congressman, thanks for coming on.
REP. CHARLIE GONZALEZ (D), TEXAS: Thank you.
CARLSON: So, if I‘m an employer, why shouldn‘t I be able to demand that my employees speak English if I want them to? My customers speak English. Isn‘t that kind of my right? Why is it Congress‘ business?
GONZALEZ: Sure. Let‘s figure out what the debate is really about and see if we disagree or really don‘t disagree and whether this is just basically political fodder.
The first thing is I think we all agree that English proficiency is of the utmost importance and a goal for anyone that lives in the United States of America. Secondly, we believe, and I think everyone would understand, that an employer should mandate that English be spoken when it comes to job performance, when it‘s relevant to efficiency, when it‘s relevant to safety. But to simply use it as a basis and pretense to discriminate should not be allowed. And that‘s all that EEOC is say basically in their guidelines.
CARLSON: Well, I‘m confused. Why should you as congressman from Texas be in the position to decide whether a nonprofit in Massachusetts is using that power correctly, whether it‘s essential—shouldn‘t the business owner be the one to to decide, not you?
GONZALEZ: Tucker, it‘s called the Constitution of the United States.
And it‘s called equal protection under the laws.
It‘s bigger than any one employer, it‘s bigger than any one state, it‘s bigger than any one member of Congress. And I think that‘s what we have to be sensitive about. The question really comes down to, is it relevant to job performance or simply pretext?
Now, what people don‘t understand, that the language that Senator Alexander attached last week to the appropriations bill was language that we defeated way back in July that was introduced by Congressman Cliff Stearns from Florida. We‘ve been over this before. We understand this issue.
The reason that it passed the other night is that it basically was sprung on the Democrats, and we didn‘t have enough time to let members know that this was the same Stearns language that was defeated back in July. We know that this is a subterfuge, and the...
CARLSON: OK, wait. I‘m sorry, Congressman.
CARLSON: Before getting into all the procedural matters that our viewers may not be totally familiar with, just back to the basic point here, to first principles, how does the Constitution give you the power to decide when it‘s necessary for an employer to have an employee speak English. That‘s something that only the employer would know. I mean, how would you possibly know that?
GONZALEZ: Well, because EEOC investigates these things, Tucker. And if there is a reasonable basis, which they find in most instances, there is no cause of action. But when its used as an excuse—and if you look at this Salvation Army case—now, I don‘t know all the facts and we‘ll let it go through the judicial process, and people with the most knowledge will be the fact finders and the judge will apply the law. But to simply make a blanket statement that Congress should not be interested in protecting the civil rights of all Americans is something that I don‘t think we‘ve arrived at yet.
CARLSON: Wait a second. But you don‘t have a civil right to speak—this is not a civil rights question. You don‘t have right to speak whatever language you want. There is no—I mean, where does that right come from? I‘ve read the Constitution.
GONZALEZ: Well, let me tell you. It‘s about discrimination on national origin. And that connection of language and national origin has already been recognized by the Supreme Court of the United States. We can get into all the technicalities and all the legalities...
CARLSON: No, no.
GONZALEZ: ... but why don‘t we just stay on message here for both of us?
CARLSON: That is—but hold on. I understand. And I‘m not trying to get far afield.
It seems to me that‘s the core question. Do you have as immigrant to this country, even as native-born American, the right to speak any language you want and other people just have to deal with it or get sued by the federal government? I mean, I don‘t see where that right emanates from. I think that‘s right at the center of this question.
GONZALEZ: Well, you can come at it backwards if you want to, but why don‘t we start on what is reasonable and legitimate in the way of mandating certain conditions of employees so that employees aren‘t discriminated against on something that is not relevant to their job performance or the ability to do their jobs?
CARLSON: But why would the employer fire the person otherwise?
GONZALEZ: If you take this as the first conclusion it would be ridiculous. And we‘ve been there before. This is nothing new.
And the truth is, Lamar Alexander and others are probably putting it in there and it‘s no more than a political issue. In the name of assimilation they are trying to divide this country, which is an outrage.
CARLSON: Wait, they‘re trying to divide the country? It was Congressman Gutierrez of Illinois, who‘s a member of the Democratic Party, as you know...
CARLSON: ... who said that this all comes out of “bigotry and prejudice,” to which I would say, how dare he say something so divisive, so offensive, so without basis? Ordinary people like me, I‘m not a bigot, I‘m not prejudiced. It seems to me like you ought to have the right to speak English if you‘re an employer and to ask your employees to do the same thing.
Am I bigot for wanting that? No. Why would he say something like that?
GONZALEZ: If you‘re an employer—if you‘re an employer, and you‘ve had someone working for you for five years that has been speaking Spanish as they fold clothes, then one day you come and you say, you have one year to learn English or you‘re fired, I don‘t think, Tucker, that you would do that. And is there a reasonable basis for you to have that kind of a mandate at the workplace?
CARLSON: Well, of course not.
GONZALEZ: There may be something else working here. And I think we can‘t close our eyes to that darker side of human nature which is out there. And that‘s what the courts are for. That‘s what the laws are for. Let‘s just let it work out.
CARLSON: But it‘s absurd on its face. I mean, it‘s not—I mean, this country is, you know, greatly helped by Hispanic immigrants who don‘t speak English, so it‘s not as if you have this blanket problem where Americans are preventing people who speak Spanish from getting jobs. That‘s absurd, as you know. But there are jobs in which you have to speak English.
Why not—again, it just seems to be undue influence and interference
by Congress. You don‘t see that?
GONZALEZ: But I‘ve already—I‘ve already stated, the law already protects employers that have legitimate basis to predicate a rule that English will be the only language spoken on the job. Communication, efficiency, supervision, safety, we‘re not debating that.
This is an entirely different issue. If you want to run with it on an entirely different interpretation, you can do that. But the courts aren‘t even going to be looking where you‘re coming from.
CARLSON: OK. I guess I just don‘t buy the premise, and I don‘t—I especially don‘t buy the premise that people that disagree with you or your party are bigots or prejudiced.
GONZALEZ: No, I didn‘t say that. But you can‘t...
CARLSON: Mr. Gutierrez said that and you defended it.
GONZALEZ: ... have a sound bite. Everything is not a sound bite in this country, unfortunately, for the media.
CARLSON: OK, says a member of Congress.
Thank you, Congressman. I appreciate you coming on.
GONZALEZ: My pleasure.
CARLSON: Up next, does the Clinton campaign have scandalous dirt on Barack Obama? And if they do, why aren‘t they using it? And is Obama really ready for the mud that is almost certain to be thrown his way, fair or unfair?
Then, Senator John McCain wins the endorsement of a key Republican who Rudy Giuliani may have thought was going to endorse him. What happened?
This is MSNBC.
CARLSON: Do so-called “agents” of Hillary Clinton‘s presidential campaign have some sort of scandalous dirt on Barack Obama? Well, syndicated columnist Robert Novak repeated that story on Saturday, prompting Obama to lash out at the Clinton campaign, prompting the Clinton campaign to suggest that his angry response once again illustrates Obama‘s inexperience in politics.
So far, it‘s a scandal without any real scandal at the center of it. So who‘s playing it smartest, Obama for fighting back, Clinton for appearing to rise above it, or the Republicans, who watched the two leading Democrats have it out?
Joining me with their thoughts now, The Washington Post‘s Eugene Robinson and online columnist Bob Franken.
Welcome to you both.
EUGENE ROBINSON, “THE WASHINGTON POST”: Thanks, Tucker.
CARLSON: Gene, take a look at the paragraph that started it all. This is from a Bob Novak column, which is a place that has started many a contretemps.
Here‘s what he wrote about this: “Agents of Senator Hillary Clinton are spreading the word in Democratic circles that she has scandalous information about her principal opponent for the party‘s presidential nomination, Senator Barack Obama, but has decided not to use it. The nature of the alleged scandal was not disclosed.”
Now, you know, you can mock me if I want, but as a longtime reader of Novak‘s column, I‘m willing to believe there is some truth in that. Novak, I‘ve never seen him make anything up.
What exactly is this about? Do we have any idea? There‘s been a lot of screaming about this, but we don‘t know what the core is, do you?
ROBINSON: We have no idea. Start with the word “agents.”
ROBINSON: I mean, and immediately, you know, you see a trench coat and a hat and somebody skulking in an alley, you know, with documents—“I have documents.” We have no idea what, if anything, this is about.
We have—I agree with you, Novak usually doesn‘t make stuff up, although he usually has a reason for writing what he writes that goes beyond necessarily the public‘s right to know. But in any event, he doesn‘t make stuff up.
But if people are telling him this, we don‘t know if what they‘re telling him is true. We don‘t know who these agents are, as opposed to, say, you know, campaign workers or—it‘s so unspecific and, you know, as he says, we have no idea what this alleged information is.
I thought it was—the fascinating thing was how quickly Obama jumped out and kind of latched on to it to try to not only get ahead of this story, but kind of do a jujitsu maneuver and flip it back on the Clinton camp and accuse them of the politics of personal destruction.
CARLSON: And here is, Bob, what the Clinton camp said in response.
This has got to be maybe the single most clever response I think I‘ve ever
seen. This is from Howard Wolfson over at the Clinton campaign. Here‘s
what he said
“Once again, Senator Obama is echoing Republican talking points. This time from Bob Novak.”
“This is how Republicans work. A Republican-leaning journalist runs a blind item designed to set Democrats against one another, experienced Democrats see this for what it is. Others get distracted and thrown of their games. Voters should be concerned about the readiness of any Democrat inexperienced enough to fall for this.”
BOB FRANKEN, ONLINE COLUMNIST: Well, first of all, I‘m assuming that we can eliminate Karl Rove as the sources this time.
CARLSON: We can.
FRANKEN: I‘m assuming that‘s the case.
CARLSON: I‘m assuming that, too.
FRANKEN: Well, and perhaps what it‘s going to take is, like what happens with Novak columns these days, maybe some prosecutor has to order him to divulge his sources. And then we‘ll have a better idea of what this is all about.
But there‘s so many holes in all of this. Agents who are told by—agents of the Clinton campaign, Democratic sources. Were the Republicans involved in this a little bit?
It would seem to me that the one who suffers most from all this is Barack Obama, because while we don‘t have any idea what it is, now of course we‘re all wondering whether it is something at all. And that‘s going to be putting a lot of us on hot pursuit of what might be story.
So it‘s one of these tempests in a teapot. It seems to me that the license—the driver‘s license story has run its course and so now we‘ve turned to this.
CARLSON: So, Gene, if you‘re the Clinton campaign, it‘s kind of brilliant. I‘m not saying they did this, I have no knowledge of it at all. I‘m just—hypothetically, let‘s say you‘re involved or an ally of the Clinton campaign, which describes probably 75 percent of Washington, D.C., right now, and you pass this on to Bob Novak and the Clinton—so Obama rises to the bait. And then the Clinton campaign comes out and says basically, you‘re the only person stupid enough to believe it, so first you get slammed by innuendo in the column and then you get called a dummy.
I mean, it‘s perfect.
ROBINSON: Well, I know. Of course, you can look at this from any perspective you‘d like. I mean, first of all, anyone with a bit of recollection will know that the Clinton are not known to treat accusations of scandal with pure, serene, equanimity. They tend to...
CARLSON: That‘s true.
ROBINSON: They tend to go a bit berserk, you know, at that sort of thing. And, you know—I mean, I think—I think Bob has a point that it does manage to create the suggestion of something that may not be there and, in fact, is not even technically alleged to be there about Obama. But I think Obama managed to reinforce this impression he‘s been trying to create of the Clinton campaign of being kind of, you know, corporate and kind of devious and not entirely on the up and up and willing to play dirty politics. And so he got in the lick and so I don‘t know if it‘s that clean cut a victory.
CARLSON: Well, that perception—let me just say that perception that they‘re not on the up and up and they‘re devious, it sticks because it‘s true, even their friends will tell you.
We‘ll be right back.
Coming up, is Hillary Clinton—speaking of—unbeatable? Well, no, she‘s not, says Karl Rove, who is now a columnist. We‘ll tell you his strategy for beating her.
Then the odd couple of geopolitics, Chavez and Ahmadinejad, spend a weekend together in Iran plotting how to take us down.
CARLSON: “Newsweek” magazine has new columnist on its payroll, former White House Bush adviser Karl Rove. In the debut article from Rove, a tip sheet on how the GOP can beat Hillary Clinton, is in this week‘s issue.
Here again, The Washington Post‘s Eugene Robinson and online columnist Bob Franken.
Bob, how much difference a year makes. A year ago, if he‘d written a column saying Hillary Clinton is not unbeatable for president, people would have been completely baffled. There was never an assumption—I mean, the assumption was she was going to be very hard to elect. And now the conventional wisdom is, of course, the opposite.
Does Rove‘s piece stand up, from what you can tell?
FRANKEN: Well, it does. But, I mean, I‘m sure you have to wonder whether it‘s going to go far.
His piece basically says that the Republicans can beat her by coming out for motherhood and apple pie and baseball. There‘s nothing whatsoever profound in that. I‘m frankly kind of wondering why they even ran this piece, to be honest with you. It‘s kind of self-evident.
CARLSON: Well, the last part of the piece I thought was a little bit less conventional than that. He said essentially the war in Iraq is turning and it may not be to your political advantage to be against the war for a pullout, as Hillary Clinton has said she is. So maybe the situation in Iraq might actually help Republicans.
FRANKEN: Well, he‘s not the only one saying that.
FRANKEN: If there‘s a Republican out there, with couple of exceptions, they‘re all saying that. We all get the e-mails from the White House, “In case you didn‘t read this,” and it‘s the latest report about things going well there. But I think it‘s an awfully hard sell, at least as things look now, to say that the war in Iraq is going to be a plus for the Republicans.
CARLSON: I kind of tend to agree with that, Gene, that it‘s hard to see how running on the invasion is ever going to be a good thing for anyone. But running against the immediate withdrawal seems to me might get you somewhere.
I mean, we are getting report after report of things not being great in Iraq but definitely being better. There‘s a consensus that that‘s true. All of a sudden you can make a pretty good case that, wait, maybe we shouldn‘t split on something that‘s getting better.
ROBINSON: Well, and why is Hillary Clinton getting heat from the left of the Democrat Party? Because she has very successfully inoculated herself against this very attack.
ROBINSON: So that‘s not going to beat Hillary Clinton.
Look, Karl Rove could teach me a whole lot, could teach me volumes about winning elections. I could probably teach him a little bit about being a columnist, because a lot of what he says either is obvious or never going to happen. Certainly not happening.
He says, gee, Republicans, if they talk about jobs and health care and issues that Americans care about, if they really appeal for the votes of minorities, well, yes, that‘s true, they might be able to make some progress. But none of the Republican candidates has shown the slightest inclination to do anything of these things. They all say the economy is just fine and we don‘t need universal health care and, you know, just shut up and vote for us.
CARLSON: And moreover, it‘s not clear that they would work anyway. I mean, the last Republican I saw to really make an effort to reach, say, black voters was Jack Kemp, who ran for vice president in 1996.
CARLSON: And how did that work for him? Nobody cared.
ROBINSON: Well, no, it didn‘t work for him, but, you know, at least a token attempt to try to get black votes tends to help Republicans, I think, among white suburban voters who don‘t think of them selves as racists.
ROBINSON: But meanwhile...
CARLSON: Here‘s what I think...
ROBINSON: ... talk about the nation‘s largest minority, Republicans have managed to alienate a lot of Latinos in this process.
So, you know—but, here‘s what he says that‘s absolutely true—
Hillary Clinton has very, very high negatives. And that‘s the theme I think if I had been writing this column and I had been Karl Rove I would have tried to develop, why are her negatives so high and how would you attack those?
CARLSON: Right. See, I think just the column itself is significant, Bob, because every Republican I talk to kind of believes Hillary‘s going to win. They‘re resigned to it. Their party‘s in disarray. And to have Karl Rove, someone credited with mystical powers by many people in his party come out and say, actually, she‘s beatable, I think that‘s significant in itself.
FRANKEN: Well, it was incomplete column. First of all, he left out the very important tactic of leaking information to Bob Novak. But beyond that—beyond that, again, it‘s all obvious.
Everybody knows that she has a perception of being to use this term “hard and brittle” and that they can by running on the fundamental values of the United States run a credible campaign. We‘ll have to see. But this is Karl Rove. This is the guru, and that didn‘t seem like guru material to me.
CARLSON: Tough crowd. Two columnists give Rove‘s debut column the thumbs down.
ROBINSON: It takes a while to find your voice.
Up next, Obama has the omnipotent Oprah Winfrey in his camp, but only Mike Huckabee has the second-most intimidating television icon of the last quarter century in his corner. Stay tuned for the visual evidence. It‘s legitimately entertaining.
And then, can Rudy Giuliani put out the flames being fanned by New York firemen who say his claim to 9/11 is a lot of hot air?
Details in a minute.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM CAMPAIGN AD)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: An important policy message from Governor Mike Huckabee.
My plan to secure the border?
Two words—Chuck Norris.
CHUCK NORRIS: Mike Huckabee is a lifelong hunter who will protect our second amendment rights. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There‘s no chin behind Chuck Norris‘ beard—only another fist.
NORRIS: Mike Huckabee wants to put the IRS out of business.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When Chuck Norris does a push-up, he isn‘t lifting himself up, he‘s pushing the earth down.
NORRIS: Mike‘s a principled, authentic conservative.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Chuck Norris doesn‘t endorse, he tells America how it‘s going to be.
MIKE HUCKABEE ®, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I‘m Mike Huckabee and I approve this message. So did Chuck.
NORRIS: Chuck Norris approved.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TUCKER CARLSON, HOST: Chuck Norris approved and that matters because, according to his legions of fans people don‘t kill people, Chuck Norris kills people. When the boogie man goes to sleep at night, he checks his closet for Chuck Norris.
But can America‘s favorite fictional butt kicker scare people enough into voting for Mike Huckabee to make a difference?
Back to discuss Huckabee‘s campaign and his ad, we welcome “The Washington Post‘s” Eugene Robinson and online columnist Bob Franken.
Gene, did that intimidate you?
And did it make you take Mike Huckabee more seriously?
EUGENE ROBINSON, “THE WASHINGTON POST”: (LAUGHTER).
Well, let me take those two questions. Yes, it intimidated me a little and no, it didn‘t make me take him more seriously, because it was kind of an amusing ad. And I don‘t—you know, I don‘t think the foundations of the republic are shaken if a candidate, you know, has a little fun with a campaign ad.
You know, how many fans does Chuck Norris have these days?
Is he—I‘d rather have Oprah myself, but...
TUCKER: Maybe. But then, on the other hand, Bob, Chuck Norris once ate an entire cake before his friends could tell him there was a stripper inside of it.
TUCKER: So, I mean, this is a guy who is tough.
BOB FRANKEN, ONLINE COLUMNIST: Well, but don‘t you think...
TUCKER: He can slam a revolving door, let me put it that way.
FRANKEN: But don‘t you think the endorsement thing is getting a bit out of hand?
I mean the next thing you know Rudy Giuliani will have an endorsement from Pat Robertson.
TUCKER: Well, here‘s an endorsement that tells where you Huckabee is going with this. “Outdoor Life” magazine didn‘t endorse Huckabee didn‘t endorse Huckabee, but they did put him on their of 25 most influential hunters and fishermen in the country. Huckabee is making, I think, a pretty self-conscious appeal to sort of blue collar Reagan Democrats, because he is, again, espousing a populist message, socially conservative, economical populist. I think it‘s—if he comes out against immigration even tougher, I think it‘s pretty clever.
FRANKEN: Well, besides which...
FRANKEN: ...besides which, there is one thing that Mike Huckabee has going for him more than any other candidate in this race—he has a sense of humor. People like that. And this ad plays to that strength.
ROBINSON: But for that constituency, Tucker, he can stand in line. I think he‘s got—you know, Rudy Giuliani, for example, is going after the NASCAR crowd.
ROBINSON: This is the quintessentially American sport, according to Rudy, who‘s gone to three NASCAR races this year and says he‘s a big fan.
You know, do you believe that?
TUCKER: Has there ever been anything less plausible, I wonder?
ROBINSON: I can‘t think of anything.
TUCKER: I mean I‘m not beating on Giuliani. I‘m not a NASCAR fan. But then I‘m not pretending to be. I‘m not out there, you know what I mean, with a dip of Skoal and a trucker‘s hat. I mean, that—it seems to me there are diminishing returns when you get that phony. I mean that‘s just ridiculous.
ROBINSON: Well, I would tend to agree. I just want—I want to see Rudy out there in the infield, you know, with a 12-pack going yee haw.
TUCKER: I wonder, Bob, how many—now that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has
hosted—I believe for the fourth time—Hugo Chavez of Venezuela at his
whatever—his place, his hacienda in Tehran—I wonder, are you going to
is Sean Penn going to go again?
Are you going to have more people from Hollywood making pilgrimages to Caracas now that Chavez has been seen hanging out with Ahmadinejad?
Or has he finally crossed the line into unacceptable?
FRANKEN: No. What I think is going to happen is that the two of them are going to show up at a NASCAR race.
FRANKEN: I think that‘s what‘s going to happen.
But—but I mean where are else are they going to turn?
These are two people who have really decided they‘re going to be hostile, if not to the United States, certainly George W. Bush. And so there they are. I think that it really is sort of meaningless in a political context.
TUCKER: It is meaningless in a political context, maybe—and yet these are two very significant oil producing states, Gene.
TUCKER: And if they were to decide, in some real way, to forgo their own economic game to hurt the United States—I mean oil prices are set on the world market, so if they pull out they hurt themselves. But they could hurt us.
ROBINSON: Yes, but they won‘t pull out. I mean oil is nearly at $100 a barrel. If you—look, if you‘re tired of Chavez and Ahmadinejad and you want them to just go away, you know, let‘s think about how we can reduce dependence on oil. And that‘s all you—that‘s all we have to do. Now, granted, that‘s not a small thing. But that‘s what‘s giving them their prominence—the fact that they have buckets and buckets of money to pour into social welfare programs. Look, Chavez, who is demonstrably becoming a cadillo (ph) -- a dictator in Venezuela. You know, 60, 70 percent of Venezuelans say they‘re just happy with democracy in Venezuela. And the reason is he‘s able to shower them with all this largess.
ROBINSON: And it comes from $100 a barrel oil.
TUCKER: Yes, but I wonder—I mean do we care what the people—I mean does that matter, post-Iraq?
I mean are we still sold on the idea that self-determination is the highest good for other countries?
ROBINSON: Well, who‘s going to—who else is going to do the determining?
I mean, you know, Venezuela is a formidable country. And, also, we need the oil at this point.
ROBINSON: I mean we—we can‘t replace Venezuelan oil very easily. So we—we continue doing a ton of business with Venezuela.
FRANKEN: And these are two—TUCKER: (INAUDIBLE).
FRANKEN: ...and these are two people—by the way, you said self-determination. Both of them won in elections—free elections. And so it raises another question—just how far do we push this concept of democracy around the world?
TUCKER: I think we should stop pushing it entirely. I mean that—that‘s one of the most ludicrous criteria I think I‘ve ever heard. You can have plenty of people—most famously Hitler—elected by the people and then, of course, oppress the hell out of the people. People cried when Stalin died.
Does that mean he was a great leader?. Of course not.
I mean the question is are they good for us or are they bad for us?
It seems to me that ought to be the one thing that determines our stand on them.
Were you surprised today, Bob, that Tom Kean, former long time governor, a Republican—a liberal Republican governor of New Jersey—endorsed John McCain and not Rudy Giuliani, from neighboring New York?
FRANKEN: Well, Tom Kean is a very thoughtful guy and possibly he is among those who have been so closely associated with 9/11 -- the co-chairman of the Commission—who has gotten tired of Rudy Giuliani making that his singular campaign issue before he adopted NASCAR.
But what I am surprised about, frankly, is that Tom Kean got involved at all. This is a man who has really valued—as did his co-chairman, Lee Hamilton—this view of being above it all. So I was surprised that he got in. I think it‘s a great get for John McCain.
TUCKER: Is it a great—I mean here‘s one thing I thought, Gene, when I saw this. Yes, I mean he‘s a thoughtful guy and a well-known guy. But he‘s also from the liberal wing of the Republican Party. McCain it seems to me, still needs to win over conservatives who doubt his conservative bona fides—or is that attempt just going to fail no matter what?
ROBINSON: No. I think McCain is making some progress with conservatives, with his undeniable authenticity and with—and his position on national security. You know, John McCain is in a position where, you know, you get a prominent Republican, albeit a liberal one to support you, you‘re happy. You know, I think he—I think he ought to be happy.
TUCKER: Yes, at this point, probably any support is good support.
TUCKER: There was news today, Bob, that a group of former New York City firemen and others—family members of those killed on 9/11 -- are going to be running ad campaign against Rudy Giuliani. Here is a quote from one of the leaders of it. He says this—this is from a former New York City fire chief: “Television made him”...
Giuliani—“a hero. And we‘ll use TV to take him down. We don‘t want him running on all the bodies of those dead people or my dead son, saying that he did a great job that day.”
That‘s from Jim Riches.
To which the Giuliani campaign referred reporters to one of its supporters, whose son also died on 9/11. And he said Giuliani did a splendid job that day.
Is this too repulsive—people trotting out dead sons on either side of this debate?
Will it just—I mean I look at that and I think that‘s nauseating and I don‘t want to hear anymore.
Do you think voters will have their minds changed by this?
FRANKEN: Well, they might. But it really does harm Giuliani, I believe, because it raises that question of whether he is very cynically exploiting that horrible national tragedy. So I think after all the dust settles in this debate, I think that what you‘re going to find is, is that this is a negative for Giuliani.
TUCKER: Yes, I wonder, though. I mean—look, I‘m not flacking (ph) for Giuliani here, Gene, as you know. I‘ve been very critical of Giuliani, even in the last 40 minutes.
However, I sort of trust my eyes. I watched Giuliani on 9/11 -- as did all of the other 300 million of us in this country.
And I thought, you know what?
That‘s an impressive guy.
Are people going to have their—I mean they remember that.
Are they going to revise their memories?
ROBINSON: People do remember that. Look, you know, I personally—what do I think of Rudy Giuliani?
I think he would potentially be disastrous president. On 9/11, I respected the buy.
TUCKER: Yes, exactly.
ROBINSON: I thought he was—he was a real presence. I think New Yorkers—even those who opposed him before 9/11 and opposed him after 9/11, appreciated the, you know, the calmness and stolidity with which he dealt with a day like no other in the United States history.
You know, that said, I agree with Bob that this kind of spectacle of dueling families trotting out the dead to support or oppose Giuliani, you know, in the end, I think it probably hurts Giuliani because it questions his sincerity.
TUCKER: Oh, it‘s just so stomach turning. There was a piece, Bob, today in “The Wall Street Journal” about the effect of immigration on Democrats and on Republicans. And it made the point that there are a number of states—Arizona; Nevada, where I am right now—among others—where Democrats are hoping for a backlash against Bush and the Republicans to help them this year in the presidential race.
Is that—I mean is that plau—I mean is that actually going to—are there numbers behind there?
Have you heard—talked to Democrats who believe that the difference will be made in this state, Nevada, by Hispanic voters mad at the failure of immigration reform?
FRANKEN: Well, what‘s going to be interesting is to see what other constituencies in the Democratic Party do, because the whole issue of immigration gets into the economic well-being of people who are now in an economy that is threatening the jobs of many people. And I think a lot of people are going to start becoming more anti-undocumented immigrant when they see that their jobs might be threatened by people who can come to the United States and work for wages that are much lower than they can afford to. This is a very complex issue.
TUCKER: That is absolutely my sense of it, too, Gene. And you may disagree, but you‘ve got to think that people who are at the lower end of the economic scale—a lot of them Democrats, some of them black Democrats who voted Democrat their whole lives—have got to look over and think, well, my wages are being depressed by illegal immigration—a be mad about it.
Aren‘t they mad about it?
ROBINSON: I think some people are. I, you know, I don‘t see them crossing the fence to vote for this particular crop of Republicans, kind of no matter what they say on the issue.
Look, I think the Democrats have a real fine line to walk here, because they do have a potential for gaining and cementing a lot of support among—particularly among Latino voters; particularly in the swing Western states that have become so important. By the same token, they have to, you know, take mind of the fact that most of the country is opposed to things like granting driver‘s licenses to illegal immigrants.
ROBINSON: And, you know, that‘s—that‘s not a winning position. And so they‘re going to have to walk this line. And they can‘t just say. But we need comprehensive reform. Well, everybody knows that.
But what are we going to do with this issue and that issue?
I think it is a piecemeal issue. They‘ve got to—got to work through that. If they do it right, big gains for the Democrats.
TUCKER: Gene Robinson, Bob Franken, thank you both very much.
Up next, one man‘s year long quest to follow the laws of the bible. We‘ll talk to A.J. Jacobs of “Esquire” about how he did it and what he learned along the way.
Plus, Mike Tyson has something new in common with Nicole Ritchie and Lindsey Lohan—you know, you wouldn‘t want to fight any of them. But that‘s not today‘s story. Stay tuned for the tie that binds.
This is MSNBC.
TUCKER: Coming up, one man‘s extreme biblical make-over—how living a year solely by the rules of the bible turned out to be hard. Of course it was hard, but it was even harder than you‘d think.
TUCKER: Most of us try to follow some of the more known biblical laws
thou shall not murder, love thy neighbor, honor thy parents. But chances are you never tried to follow every single rule in the bible.
Well, our next guest did. A.J. Jacobs is the author of “The Year of Living Biblically: One Man‘s Humble Quest To Follow the Bible As Literally As Possible.”
A.J. JACOBS, “THE YEAR OF LIVING BIBLICALLY” AUTHOR: Thank you for having me.
TUCKER: So of all you—oh, you shaved your beard, I‘m glad to see.
For this project, you grew a—ZZ Top-like beard.
What was it like—I mean there are lots of esoteric rules you attempted to follow.
But what was it like really trying not to lie at all every day?
JACOBS: Wow! That was incredibly difficult. You don‘t realize quite how much you lie in given day until you start to keep track. And the same with gossiping and coveting. You know, I work—I live in New York City and I work as a journalist. So this is 65, 70 percent of my day.
TUCKER: I mean we lie partly because we‘re bad people, but partly because it makes life easier to lie. What—if you don‘t lie at all, you must put yourself in some uncomfortable positions.
JACOBS: Oh, absolutely. And I think there is a place for white lies. But I did try to eliminate all lies. And it created some serious havoc. I told a friend of my wife‘s that I didn‘t want to see them because I had enough friends, things like that. It was a bit of a disaster.
TUCKER: What laws were impossible to follow?
JACOBS: Well, there was—we mentioned some of the really hard ones, coveting and lying. Another was things that will get into trouble in 21st century America, like stoning adulterers. This one was—was pretty difficult. But I did manage to stone one adulterer.
TUCKER: You stoned an adulterer.
JACOBS: Well, it was in Central Park. And I was dressed—I had my beard and my sandals. And he asked me what I was doing. I explained, I‘m trying to follow everything in the bible, from the Ten Commandments to stoning adulterers. He says, well I‘m an adulterer, are you going to stone me?
And I said, well, that will be great. And I took out a handful of pebbles—because I had these in my pocket, hoping for this interaction. And he grabbed them out of my hand and threw them at my face. So I decided to throw one back at him in retaliation. So this is how I stoned.
TUCKER: Well, he probably thought, you know, will you get stoned with me and you misunderstood. What—Deuteronomy tells us to kill magicians. Did you ever figure out why the bible wants us to kill magicians?
JACOBS: Well, I think it was a pagan—they were considered pagan. But, yes, the bible has a tremendous amount of capital punishment—killing people who break the Sabbath or blasphemers or stoning homosexuals. And this was—I was on an earnest spiritual journey to find what was good in the bible and what was maybe not so relevant. And this was a big issue I had to struggle with—why is the bible so wise and compassionate in some places and yet so seemingly barbaric in others?
TUCKER: You say of yourself when you started this project that you were Jewish in the way that The Olive Garden is an Italian restaurant.
JACOBS: That‘s right.
TUCKER: By the end, did you become more faithful?
JACOBS: Well, I actually did see a lot of the good parts of religion. And my wife and I did join a temple. We don‘t really go very often. But we do pay the fees—which seems to be the important part. And I started out as an agnostic. And I became, by the end, a reverent agnostic, because whether or not there‘s a God, I believe in the idea of sacredness—that rituals can be sacred—prayer, the Sabbath, can be sacred.
So it was a real transformative experience.
TUCKER: What are the rules you still follow?
JACOBS: Well, I still try to follow the Sabbath. I‘m much more grateful than I used to be because of all the prayers of thanksgiving I said. So I try to focus on the hundred good things that went right every day, as opposed to the three or four that go wrong.
TUCKER: That‘s fantastic.
A.J. Jacobs, this is a great book.
I really appreciate you coming on.
JACOBS: Oh, thanks, Tucker.
TUCKER: Thank you.
Well, if you still believe in Santa Claus keeping the faith, avert your eyes. Disappointment comes in many forms. Holiday snafu correspondent Bill Wolff shows it stuck on a rope in Texas, after the commercial break.
This is MSNBC.
TUCKER: Welcome back.
Here with our celebrity news update—all the news we haven‘t given you so far—we are proud to welcome the vice president from MSNBC, Bill Wolff.
BILL WOLFF, MSNBC VICE PRESIDENT: Tucker, thank you for that generous introduction and I promise in the next segment not to covet—but that‘s all I‘m promising.
Tucker, Tom Cruise is neither fat nor bald, as far as we know—and he‘d like to keep that it way. That is to say, he‘d rather not be fat or bald and he doesn‘t want anyone to see a picture of him wearing a fat suit and a bald cap. That picture exists. In fact, his super powerful litigious representatives have threatened lawsuits against anyone who uses said photograph. So reports MSNBC.com‘s Courtney Hazlett.
So, like responsible corporate citizens, we have managed the risk by informing viewers that the picture is out on the Web—and Tommy looks fat and bald. But that‘s all I‘ll say. He was photographed by some evil paparazzo while shooting a new Ben Stiller movie.
So what have we learned?
Tom Cruise is a scary looking fat and bald guy. Tom Cruise is a bit paranoid. And Tom Cruise is in a Ben Stiller movie. All of that, Tucker, is troubling information.
TUCKER: It‘s definitely hard to imagine what Tom Cruise would do in a Ben Stiller movie, but kind of—kind of intriguing.
WOLFF: Intriguing. I would say that‘s the most troubling of the news items—the fatness, the baldness. I mean that‘s common to everybody, you know? I mean we‘re all headed the same place. But Tom Cruise in a Ben Stiller movie?
Hmmm—who plays the neurotic?
That‘s what I want to know.
WOLFF: Tucker, former heavy weight champ and baddest man on the planet, Mike Tyson, has one in this in common with Celub whatever‘s Nicole Richie and Lindsay Lohan.
No, it‘s not that he has forever lacked demonstrably marketable job skills—remember, he was the heavyweight champ of the world. It‘s that his love for partying and driving has landed him with a jail sentence of exactly one day. Tyson pleaded guilty to cocaine possession and a misdemeanor DUI charge in September—after he was caught red-handed outside the Pussy Cat Lounge in Scottsdale, Arizona last December. Tyson had faced a maximum—a possible maximum sentence of four years and three months in the big house. But he got a day and three years probation—which, thankfully, Tucker, he starts serving Tuesday. I reckon he‘s out by Wednesday. Prison just got to be a scarier place.
TUCKER: But you‘re Mike Tyson, is that really—I mean it‘s not like you‘re going to get harassed in the shower.
I mean how hard is it to do three days in jail?
WOLFF: it‘s one day in jail and it‘s—for Mike Tyson, I‘m guessing it‘s not a problem. I would say he is one of the only guys in the world who would go into prison and have not that much fear.
WOLFF: that would be guess—as opposed to Lindsay Lohan and perhaps Nicole Richie.
Tucker, there is a Santa Claus and he had his troubles in Conroe, Texas over the weekend. There was no chimney for Saint Nick to squeeze out, so instead he got all outward bound and rappelled down an 80-foot wall, as hopeful children watched with wonder. Then, as you can see, Mr. Kringle got stuck. His white beard got caught in the rope and Santa was hanging on for dear life 30 feet above Mother Earth. Somebody chucked him some scissors, which is a bad example for the kids. And then rescue workers ultimately called in to rescue the guy—or Santa—as several children watched, horrified and in tears.
Tucker, every generation has its moment of disillusionment. For me, it was Watergate. For today‘s 6-year-olds, it‘s Conroe, Texas‘ Santa Claus. There he is hanging on. Get me a scissors. Oh, there goes the hair.
Who‘s that guy?
TUCKER: That is pathetic, even by the drunken standards of shopping mall Santas. That is pretty bad.
WOLFF: Pretty bad?
How would you like to find out that way?
Mommy, let‘s go down to the wall and watch Santa rappel. Oops, there‘s no Santa Claus. Damaged for life. Oh, it‘s horrible. I feel terrible about that. I never believed in Santa Claus and I still feel terrible about it.
TUCKER: Yes. Remember, we don‘t—we don‘t say that on this show, Bill.
WOLFF: Oh, sorry. My apologies to your children.
Finally, some old-fashioned sporting news from the weekend, Tucker. Alex Rodriguez—or PayRod, as he‘s known—appears to be poised to return to the New York Yankees for the relative pittance of about $275 million over 10 years.
Pittance, you say?
Why, yes. When compared to the fortune of the man who advised A-Rod to crawl back to the Yankees, mend fences and cash in. That man is Warren Buffet—the multi-billionaire investor and philanthropist from Omaha, Nebraska, who reportedly advised Rodriguez that the Bronx is where Rodriguez belongs. A-Rod took Buffet‘s advice, called a friend at Goldman Sachs and that guy called the Yankee brass and the rest is about to be nine digit baseball history.
Tucker, the Evil Empire rules again.
TUCKER: Yes. You know, if their players are getting advice from Warren Buffet, that tells you something.
WOLFF: Yes. Be scared.
TUCKER: Yes. Not scrappy underdogs.
TUCKER: Bill Wolff from 30 Rock.
I appreciate it, Bill.
WOLFF: You‘ve got it.
TUCKER: That does it for us.
Thanks for watching.
We‘ll see you tomorrow night live from Reno.
Up next, “HARDBALL” with Chris.
Have a great night.
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