Guests: Richard Wolffe, Lanny Davis, Jonathan Martin, Kent Snyder
TUCKER CARLSON, MSNBC ANCHOR: The battle between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama gets hotter over questions of Obama‘s religious identity and doubts about whether Bill Clinton is an asset after all to his wife‘s campaign intensify.
Welcome to the show.
Former Nebraska Senator Bob Kerrey appeared in Iowa this weekend to endorse Hillary Clinton. In the process, he repeatedly referred to Barack Obama‘s Islamic middle name, Hussein, as well as his presumable Muslim heritage. The dirtiest of dirty tricks? We‘ll talk to a Hillary supporter in a minute.
Meanwhile, the Clinton campaign picks up the “Des Moines Register‘s” official endorsement today. The editorial board appears to have bought the Clinton‘s claim that Barack Obama‘s inexperience makes his election to the presidency too risky for America. Asked directly on the “Today” show this morning, what exactly are the risks of an Obama White House would be, Mrs. Clinton answered only by innuendo.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, NBC‘S “TODAY”)
SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D), 2008 PRESIDENTIAL HOPEFUL: I would ask people to read the “Des Moines Register” editorial. Basically what they said is that we need a proven leader. We have tough times. We have problems here at home and around the world?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Rolling the dice. What does rolling the dice mean? We know what the “Register” said.
CLINTON: Well, but I think that that‘s one of the principal cases for my candidacy. You know, if you want to know what changes I‘ll make, look at the changes that I have already made.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But what‘s the risk of Obama‘s presidency?
CLINTON: Everybody talks about change. Everybody talks about change in this campaign. Some people think you get change by demanding it. Some people think you get it by hoping for it. I think you get it by doing really hard work.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CARLSON: Even as Mrs. Clinton gains an editorial endorsement from the rapidly dying newspaper industry, her husband is making less flattering headlines. According to a new report, bill Clinton accepted millions from Middle Eastern governments and individuals to fund his library. At least $10 million from the Saudis alone.
So where does all the new news lead this Democratic race and will the Clintonian nature of the Clinton campaign save or sink it? Former special counsel to the president, Lanny Davis, gave us the answers in just a moment.
On the Republican side, meanwhile, the faint heartbeat registered last month by the McCain campaign is practically a legitimate pulse tonight. Endorsements from the “Des Moines Register,” “The Boston Globe,” and former Democratic vice presidential nominee, Joe Lieberman, prompted the McCain camp to send its online supporters an e-mail today entitled, “We‘re going to win.” Will the senator from Phoenix rise from the ashes of near political extinction?
And the Ron Paul movement collects $6 million in a single day. That was yesterday. The 234th anniversary of the Boston Tea Party. Not that many people believe Ron Paul has a chance of getting the Republican nomination, but at this point nobody can deny the remarkable force of his campaign. What‘s the end game for Ron Paul? His campaign chairman joins us later.
We begin tonight with the Clinton campaign simultaneously buoyed by a big Iowa endorsement and scrambling to respond to the rise of Barack Obama. Joining me now, Lanny Davis, former White House special counsel to Bill Clinton.
Lanny, thanks for coming on.
LANNY DAVIS, FMR. WHITE HOUSE SPECIAL COUNSEL TO PRES. CLINTON:
CARLSON: So Hillary Clinton is famously against the politics of personal destruction. And yet, Bob Kerrey appeared at an event this weekend in Iowa on her behalf. He was only in the state to endorse her. And he said this to reporters, and I‘m quoting, “It‘s probably not something that appeals to him, but I like the fact that his name is Barack Hussein Obama, and that his father was a Muslim and that his paternal grandmother is a Muslim. There‘s a billion people on this planet that are Muslims, and I think that experience is a big deal.”
Now, Barack Obama has no control over his middle name or the religion of his relatives. Why bring that up except to remind voters that he‘s a Muslim and that‘s scary. This is an attack.
DAVIS: Well, first of all, I‘m here as a private citizen.
DAVIS: I‘m not officially connected to the campaign. So.
CARLSON: But since you know everyone involved, I‘m interested of what you think.
DAVIS: If I were to say something that is not particularly smart, would you immediately accuse that of being part of the Hillary Clinton conspiracy? Bob Kerrey was a United States senator who lost a leg in Vietnam. He‘s a great American.
CARLSON: Right. What does that have to do with it? He‘s attacking.
DAVIS: Why are you necessarily attributing that to Hillary Clinton?
CARLSON: Because it was at a Hillary Clinton event.
CARLSON: He was there speaking on behalf of Hillary Clinton. Now not everything he says is her responsibility, I‘ll grant you that. But when you are speaking at an event.
DAVIS: I‘m glad you just said it.
CARLSON: And I will.
CARLSON: You‘re speaking on behalf of someone, the reporters are interviewing you about Hillary and the race because he‘s come out for Hillary, and he basically says, “Hey, ladies and gentlemen, the guy is a Muslim. He‘s from a Muslim family. What do you think of that?” And Hillary Clinton doesn‘t get up there and say, “That‘s repulsive.”
Why doesn‘t she?
DAVIS: Actually, he didn‘t say anything close to what you just characterized him, so let‘s be accurate. According to Senator Kerrey, who I greatly respect and I believe is a sincere man, he considers it to be positive that there is that background in Senator Obama. I think it‘s an unfortunate comment that he made because people in your profession might twist it and say that he meant it badly. I don‘t think he did.
CARLSON: In my profession. OK, well, here‘s what Bob Kerrey said on CNN about 25 minutes ago, just a second ago, in an interview with John King on CNN. He said this: “That‘s not something that just sort of came out,” talking about that comment in Iowa. “I thought about it a great deal. I have watched the blogs trying to say you can‘t trust him, Obama, because he spent a little time in a secular madrassa. I feel quite the opposite.”
DAVIS: That‘s just.
CARLSON: He didn‘t go to a madrassa. What is that? That‘s again throwing it out there so bigots can look at that and say, “Oh my god, he went to a madrassa. I mean that‘s an attack on man‘s character.
DAVIS: First of all, you can.
CARLSON: .and religion.
DAVIS: You‘re entitled criticize Senator Kerrey. I happen.
CARLSON: You knew what that is, come on.
DAVIS: No, I happen to think that Senator Bob Kerrey is a very sincere man, served his country, and is a sincere man and he always—I think he means what he said. Do I agree with his saying that kind of a comment and I probably don‘t speak for the Hillary Clinton campaign. I think he probably shouldn‘t have said it without explaining it further, but it was a sincere comment not meant to denigrate Barack Obama.
CARLSON: It was exactly what we saw last week, where Billy Shaheen comes out there and says, “He did cocaine. Ladies and gentlemen, cocaine.” Did he sell it? That‘s what they‘re going to be asking. I don‘t think he sold it. But other people are going to ask did he sell it? All of a sudden you‘ve got Barack Obama a crack dealer and it‘s coming from the Hillary campaign. That‘s the politics of personal destruction.
DAVIS: Again, what you just said—you know, I like you, Tucker.
CARLSON: That‘s almost exactly what he said.
DAVIS: You came factually inaccurate. Billy Shaheen immediately apologized for it.
CARLSON: And resigned from the campaign. Just totally accurate.
DAVIS: That is the fact.
CARLSON: And shouldn‘t she apologize for what Senator Kerrey said about Barack Obama?
DAVIS: I honestly believe that Senator Kerrey sincerely meant what he said and didn‘t mean it to denigrate Senator Obama.
CARLSON: If someone had come out last campaign and said, “You know what, John Kerry‘s part Jewish.” I think it‘s great that he‘s partly Jewish. You may not know that but he‘s a secretly Jewish guy. He‘s a secret Jew.
People would say correctly that‘s outrageous. You can‘t say that.
That‘s an appeal to bigotry. That‘s what‘s going on here.
DAVIS: If your point is that you disagree with Bob Kerrey making a statement like that, I assume Bob Kerrey was sincere, not trying to hurt Senator Obama.
CARLSON: OK. All right.
DAVIS: That‘s what he repeated on CNN. You assume he was cynical.
In any event, it has nothing to do with Hillary Clinton.
CARLSON: You know what? Actually, I got to say Bob Kerrey is one of the few people I would give the benefit of the doubt to.
DAVIS: Right. Yes, you‘re right.
CARLSON: And I want to because I think Bob Kerrey is a decent guy. I honestly believe that. This just, in the context of politics, is pretty over the top, and I don‘t think people should—that‘s my opinion.
DAVIS: I assume he‘s sincere.
CARLSON: OK. I want to believe that because I do like Bob Kerrey.
Bill Clinton, it turns out, we learned today, more than $10 million accepted from Saudi Arabia, from the governments of Brunei, UAE, Qatar, Kuwait, all these oil-producing countries. Here‘s what his campaign said to explain that and why they‘re not going to release these names officially. Quote, “As president, Clinton was beloved around the world. It should come as no surprise there‘s been an outpouring of financial support from around the world to sustain his post-presidential work.”
In other words, people in the Arab world just love him so much they‘re giving him money and expecting nothing in return. If the Clintons really believe that, they‘re not ready to lead this country. I mean they should be sophisticated enough to know people in the Middle East give you money because they expect something in return, and you know that because you have worked there.
DAVIS: OK. I know you have to do what you have to do, but.
CARLSON: I‘m being sincere.
DAVIS: But—I know you are. George Bush accepted money.
DAVIS: Ronald Reagan accepted money from the Saudis.
DAVIS: Bill Clinton accepted money from the Saudis, and what is the money doing in the Clinton foundation? It worked with President Bush I on tsunami, on feeding hungry children.
DAVIS: .on taking care of AIDS. People around the world know that Bill Clinton has used foundation money for the good of the planet.
CARLSON: Why won‘t he release the names of the donors? If it‘s all about poor, why don‘t just tell us who the donors are?
DAVIS: There are individual commitments made to each donor of confidentiality. I wish he would release all of them, if he could, but everybody watching your program—and I mean everybody, conservatives and liberal—would agree that Bill Clinton since his presidency with that foundation money with President Bush I has done a lot of good for the planet, and to suggest there‘s something wrong.
CARLSON: I don‘t think that justifies the secrecy at all.
DAVIS: Well, the secrecy point, I agree with you, it would be great to have full transparency, but some of those individuals ask for confidentiality, so you have to ask for permission, but I completely agree with you. It would be better for everybody to know the great things that he‘s done with Saudi money to feed hungry children.
CARLSON: OK. You are good. Lanny Davis, thank you very much.
DAVIS: Thank you, Tucker. Thank you.
CARLSON: Another big scare for the McCain camp. Score, rather. Scares are over. This is a score. McCain is rising in the polls. He got newspaper endorsements and now the support of the independent Democrat Joe Lieberman. Is McCain coming back? We‘ll tell you when we come back.
CARLSON: Another money bomb from Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul with the help of his revolutionaries. He‘s holding more than $6 million, breaking every political fundraising record known to man. We‘ll ask his campaign chairman how he did it and when the polls will reflect the Ron Paul movement. That‘s coming up.
CARLSON: What exactly the former Senator Bob Kerrey mean about Barack Obama? Well, according to our first guest, Lanny Davis, Kerrey‘s praise of Barack Obama‘s Muslim heritage was both innocent and sincere, days after the Clinton campaign innocently mentioned Obama‘s youthful drug use. Could Kerrey‘s words have been genuine praise or did they have a more insidious purpose?
Joining us now, “Newsweek” senior White House correspondent Richard Wolffe and the “Politico‘s” senior politico reporter, Jonathan Martin.
Richard, you know, I want to give Bob Kerrey the benefit of the doubt both because he seems like a decent person and he‘s so eccentric that it‘s hard to—you know, you could imagine it was kind of going up the reservation.
But coming on CNN today just a minute ago and referring to the madrassa that Obama went to makes me think, you know, he‘s basically alerting people this guy has a Muslim background.
RICHARD WOLFFE, NEWSWEEK: Yes, you know, you can forgive one error, one episode of misspeaking, but, frankly, when you do this all the time it sounds like a pattern, and the pattern is, well, I really regret that my opponent has these terrible rumors about wife beating, but I think that‘s terrible. You know, this kind of thing is—has been seen before in terms of the e-mails that the Clinton campaign has forwarded on.
Now I‘m sure that‘s all—you can explain it all away, but at heart, look, there is an important issue about Barack Obama. It‘s not off limits to talk about his Muslim family or about his race. They are factors that he brings up himself when it comes to the campaign trail, but to say the madrassa that he went to. It was a public school in Indonesia.
CARLSON: It was not a madrassa.
WOLFFE: Absolutely. It‘s totally factually incorrect.
WOLFFE: So for him to even propagate that as a thoughtful person, a member of the 9/11 Commission, is ridiculous.
CARLSON: Well, Obama, to me, it‘s unfair. I don‘t think that people are responsible for thing they didn‘t choose: their race, their gender, their relatives‘ behavior, their relatives‘ religious affiliation, their middle names.
CARLSON: They‘re responsible for the things they decided to do, the faiths they adopt as adults, et cetera. These are all things that he had no control over.
JONATHAN MARTIN, POLITICO: Right. And no—and you know, I think you are right exactly. The fact is that if you say it one time, well, you can chalk it up to sort of Bob Kerrey being Bob Kerrey. He‘s kind of cosmic and that‘s sort of his deal. But the fact is when it happens now once again, and if he floats the madrassa thing, which has been totally debunk. He didn‘t go to a madrassa.
CARLSON: So why wouldn‘t they say anything about it? The Obama people.
MARTIN: And, look, Bob Kerrey was a former president of a university in New York City. He‘s a very cosmopolitan guy. This is sort of a weird thing for him to actually be doing, I think.
CARLSON: So why isn‘t the Obama campaign—as far as I know as of airtime tonight, 6:00 p.m. Easter, the Obama campaign had not come out with a statement calling foul. Should they?
MARTIN: I think it‘s a matter of time before they may do that, actually. If it‘s happening now twice and it‘s not just one incident, I think that they actually might.
CARLSON: Can we stand back and admire the majestic dumbness of the “Des Moines Register” editorial endorsing Hillary Clinton?
MARTIN: Please, go ahead.
CARLSON: Let‘s put part of it on the screen. Just in case it—the key editorial endorsement of the “Des Moines Register,” not a great paper, I can say. I mean let‘s just be totally honest.
MARTIN: Are you questioning, Tucker?
CARLSON: It‘s a bad paper. Did you ever read it? OK. Here‘s part of what the editorials.
MARTIN: Every day.
CARLSON: OK. There‘s some good writers, but, I mean, let‘s be real. OK. This is part of their endorsing editorial, quote, “As first lady in Arkansas she was both strategist and idealist, borne out by her commitment to children and to families.” Stop me if you start crying. “As the nation‘s first lady, she in essence spent eight years as a diplomat traveling to more than 80 countries and advocating for human rights.”
I‘m going to stop now before I vomit. She was not in essence a diplomat. Like this is crap. OK? Like who believes this stuff? Why don‘t we take this seriously? Why do we care what they say?
WOLFFE: You know, if you wine and dine enough people from “The Des Moines Register” that‘s what you get. Look, the interesting thing is here they endorsed John McCain.
WOLFFE: Chances of winning? Zero in Iowa.
WOLFFE: And who did they endorse in 2000? Oh, yes, Bill Bradley.
WOLFFE: So really we have said all along this is incredibly influential, and look, every campaign wants every endorsement they can get. But, the track record of the Des Moines Register endorsements isn‘t great, with the exception of John Edwards whom they plucked out of obscurity.
CARLSON: He became in a second, though. He may win.
WOLFFE: He did come in second. He did come in second. And this stuff about traveling to 80 countries, as I pointed out before, Laura Bush has traveled to more than 70 countries and nobody says she‘s secretary of state.
CARLSON: I mean—and if you—I think if you really—look, I think you could make an editorial on Hillary Clinton‘s behalf, it‘ll be powerful and accurate and say she‘s tough as hell, she‘s smart, you know, she knows what she wants. She‘s actually quite political in a good way. You could do it, but this is jut repeating her talking points. And speaking of how to sell Hillary Clinton, OK, so Bill Clinton has decided, apparently, that according to a number of papers like “The New York Times” this morning, that they‘re going to stop with the Hillary-ready-to-lead stuff, and starts trying to sell the Hillary-change-agent idea.
CARLSON: My instinct is this is a loser, because whereas the first description is kind of truth, she is tough and smart...
CARLSON: .she‘s not the candidate of change.
CARLSON: Barack Obama is the candidate of change. Can this actually work?
MARTIN: Well, that‘s why they‘re now sort of changing gear because, you know, just of the fact, you know, because Obama has been widely perceived as the change candidate to change election. She needs to sort of grab that change mantle. But they‘re also dealing with something else very interesting. They‘re also trying to humanizing her more. They‘re bringing out her mother, putting her daughter. Put them in commercials. Having childhood friends, family friends come out there. They know she has a problem connecting to Iowans. She doesn‘t have that sort of natural appeal that an Obama or Edwards has. They‘re trying to humanize her more now, and they‘re a bit—you know, now going the extra mile by bringing out her mother and daughter.
WOLFFE: And let me just say, you know, this is—if they succeed, this will be maybe the third time they‘ve reinvented the candidate.
WOLFFE: And if it works, then they‘re absolute geniuses. But if they lose, we‘re going to look back and say, “How come they were humanizing her, how come they were doing the character intro at the end?”
CARLSON: Right. At the end. That‘s right.
WOLFFE: That‘s the kind of thing you should do at the start.
CARLSON: You should always tell the truth like there should be a fundamental truth behind your—there are good things to say about Hillary Clinton. They should say them. But pretending that she, the ultimate status quo candidate, is a change candidate, it‘s just—it‘s a lie. It‘s just not true.
WOLFFE: It‘s also an admission that.
MARTIN: There‘s some error, though.
WOLFFE: The commitment between change and experience, Barack Obama has won.
CARLSON: That‘s right.
WOLFFE: So they‘ve got to reinvent her as the change candidate.
CARLSON: It‘s not going to work. That‘s my prediction.
Coming up, Joe Lieberman is endorsing John McCain, one of the reasons why none of the Democrats running asked for his support. We‘ll have more details when we come back.
Plus, wait until you hear what Fred Thompson‘s most prized possession is. Here‘s a clue. She‘s blonde.
This is MSNBC.
CARLSON: He‘s in fifth place in most polls, but don‘t count John McCain out just yet. Democratic Senator Joe Lieberman of Connecticut announced today he‘s crossing party lines and endorsing McCain for president. That comes after McCain picked up endorsements over the weekend from the “Des Moines Register” and “The Boston Globe.” Does the Straight Talk Express still have some gas?
“Newsweek” senior White House correspondent Richard Wolffe joins us as does the “Politico‘s” senior political reporter, Jonathan Martin.
Jonathan Martin, if you live in Washington, maybe this doesn‘t seem so surprising, you know that Lieberman and McCain are friends.
CARLSON: But if you stand back 10 paces, the guy was presidential candidate last time.
CARLSON: Vice presidential nominee the time before.
CARLSON: It‘s pretty unbelievable.
MARTIN: No, it is. I mean given what you just said, it certainly is. But given what‘s happened in the past two years, it‘s not terribly surprising. His biggest issue is the war. He and McCain are simpatico along the war. His own party doesn‘t really want him. There‘s nobody that he really could endorse running for the Democrats. And he and McCain have worked together for years in the Senate. So it kind of does make sense.
I think (INAUDIBLE) McCain is somewhat among independents in New Hampshire. The problem is that most of the folks up there who are independent are also anti-war, and so, you know, these two people are on the wrong side of that issue, but, look, I think it helps McCain at a more middle level, giving him the sort of image of he‘s got the sort of, you know, a big mo now. He‘s got some endorsements coming. Not just from Lieberman, but some big papers.
So I think it‘s definitely helped for him, but he‘s really got to move numbers in New Hampshire. He‘s been at the same level there for a couple of months now. He‘s on TV. He got some good news yesterday when Rudy appeared to be sort of pulling back out of there. It does seem like now New Hampshire is going to be McCain or Romney.
CARLSON: If you‘re McCain, you‘ve got to be desperately hoping that Hillary Clinton wins Iowa and the Democrat graces essentially shown up at that point because if Obama wins there‘s going to be this mad scramble among the Democrats and New Hampshire. It‘s going to be the most compelling thing we‘ve ever seen, and no independents are going to vote for McCain. They‘re going to want to weigh in on the Democratic side, aren‘t they?
WOLFFE: Yes, and you‘re going to hope for a couple of things. You got to have more than sheer momentum, which is obviously what he‘s got now. I had to use that line so.
CARLSON: You are one of four people who remembers that. Just to clarify, in case you‘re—that Joe mentioned what Joe Lieberman said he had last time.
WOLFFE: Which took him all the way to nowhere. Look, they‘ve got to hope, actually, that Huckabee takes out Romney in Iowa. That‘s their big hope. And, frankly, they‘ve got the same situation that Hillary Clinton is in, which is they should have skipped Iowa. McCain should have skipped Iowa completely because they really want to restart the clock here in New Hampshire and say this is where we really begin this race.
Unfortunately, he has been campaigning in Iowa, so even though he hasn‘t done a whole lot of that recently, you still got to assume that the results actually matter. Plus, New Hampshire only lasts, what, three, four days?
CARLSON: Right. Right.
WOLFFE: .of real campaigning? So he‘s going to get a very small bump but that‘s what their game plan is. As such as it is, in the McCain camp started zero in New Hampshire and see where it leads.
CARLSON: Do they have the money to buy after New Hampshire?
MARTIN: Well, it‘s great question. I was actually checking around today. They do have this line of credit that they‘ve used, that they‘ve, you know, leveraged to spend a lot of money on ads in New Hampshire. He‘s not on TV any where else. Probably can‘t afford But they are in a pretty solid vine in New Hampshire and really pulling out of there. But they have a real opportunity.
But Richard‘s right, the fact is his opportunity rests almost entirely with Mike Huckabee. And Huckabee has got to ruin Romney in Iowa and then McCain has to hope that all those undecided, there‘s quite a few of them, in New Hampshire break his way because Romney then is wounded.
Well, you know, I think McCain, and Rudy, for that matter, are putting a lot of stock in Huckabee. They need Huckabee to do some serious damage in Iowa and then McCain has got sort of do well in New Hampshire. But it starts in Iowa with Huckabee hanging on to that lead against Romney. If Romney can come back and become the comeback kid, take New Hampshire then, go to Michigan where he grew up, he‘s 3-0 out of the gates and this is a whole different ballgame.
CARLSON: I know you‘re not supposed to predict. Richard, quickly, you think Huckabee pulls on those leads in Iowa?
WOLFFE: I think he—I don‘t think it‘s going to be 20 points in Iowa but I think he‘ll win Iowa. But the question is: where does he go from there? Look, he can gain this out five different ways and have 16 different permutations on the Republican side.
CARLSON: That‘s right.
WOLFFE: But easily have four different winners in the first few races.
WOLFFE: This is the first time my wife.
MARTIN: Which is good news for Rudy, by the way, because Rudy wants chaos, he wants this sort of (INAUDIBLE) scenario.
CARLSON: Right. (INAUDIBLE).
WOLFFE: He wasn‘t technically leading there.
MARTIN: Which to hang on until Florida and have sort of a very uncertain chessboard, and in Florida, he wants to use that sort of (INAUDIBLE).
CARLSON: Rudy wants chaos. There‘s the headline for you. So do I but for different reasons politically.
Mitt Romney gets emotional on national television. We‘ve got those tears on tape.
Plus Ron Paul is a fundraising force to be reckoned with. In one day alone, his supporters brought in millions of dollars, $6 million to be exact. It‘s the most ever raised in a single day in presidential politics. What‘s their secret? What are they going to do with the money? The chairman of the Ron Paul movement joins us in a minute.
This is MSNBC.
CARLSON: Still to come, Mitt Romney weeps on television. We‘ll tell you why. And Fred Thompson makes perhaps the single most over-the-top expression ever made in presidential politics. Details ahead.
But first, here‘s a look at your headlines.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, NBC “MEET THE PRESS”)
MITT ROMNEY ®, 2008 PRESIDENTIAL HOPEFUL: I can remember when I heard about the change being made. I was driving home from, I think, it was law school. I was driving home going through the Fresh Pond Rotary in Cambridge, Massachusetts. I heard it on the radio and I pulled over, and literally wept.
Even to this day it‘s emotional, and so it‘s very deep and fundamental in my life and my most core beliefs that all people are children of God. My faith has always told me that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CARLSON: That was Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney explaining to Tim Russert his feelings about the Mormon Church‘s 1978 decision to recognize black people as equal to white people. Romney spent his hour on “MEET THE PRESS” explaining his various positions since he entered public life in 1994 with a run for the Senate.
Joining us now “Newsweek” senior White House correspondent, Richard Wolffe, and the “Politico‘s” senior political reporter Jonathan Martin.
You think that—does that help him? Exactly. That raises all sorts of questions, actually, as I watch that, questions I‘m not going to ask here because I don‘t think it‘s any—the whole religion thing makes me uncomfortable, but I‘m not sure that helps him.
WOLFFE: You know, I was in Iowa the day after his religion speech and the thing that people spoke about most, just regular Iowans, was that he even showed some emotion. It wasn‘t the message of the religion speech.
WOLFFE: It wasn‘t anything to do with his Mormon faith. But the fact that he teared up, people said, “Whoa, we thought he was so wooden and robotic, and there he is actually tearing up.” So actually, I think it does have an impact. It‘s a genuine moment. It seems genuine. Maybe it‘s all hokey, but it seems genuine and that breaks through for a candidate who seems like a puppet without the strings.
CARLSON: Well, I mean, I guess, the obvious question is if you were so emotional about it that you cried at the time—I‘m not suggesting that it‘s untrue or that he is being fake or anything like that—but if you were that—if you despised the policy that much, then, obviously, he must have been working behind the scenes or maybe not—maybe in public to change it. Was he?
MARTIN: There is a cruel irony here at work, and that is that the biggest rap on Romney is he doesn‘t show emotion, he doesn‘t really connect with people, and the moments where he does show emotion and a real slice of humanity, is when he is talking about his faith. But the problem is he‘s not comfortable talking about his faith and there are obvious political downsides to doing it.
But every time that we‘ve seen in this campaign a real sort of, again, slice of Mitt Romney unplugged, if you will, showing some humanity, whether or not it was the summer when he was at the Iowa, you know, radio station going after the host who questions his faith, at the speech in college station talking about religion in America, or “MEET THE PRESS,” in every instance, he was talking about his faith. That‘s when Romney comes through.
CARLSON: See, I‘m sorry, that‘s -- let‘s just state the rules plainly in case you‘ll look him up today. Men are allowed to cry in public on television when a child is hurt or a dog dies. And those are the only times.
WOLFFE: That‘s equivalent for you, is it?
CARLSON: I—yes, I mean, I‘m not saying they‘re equivalent, I‘m just saying those are the two times. I personally don‘t care for men crying on TV. Call me a jerk. I just don‘t care for it. You think Mitt Romney describes himself as an underdog in Iowa and in general. Do you think that‘s accurate?
WOLFFE: Yes, absolutely. Look at the poll numbers. And he has a huge job to do to risk numbers. Well, he—I don‘t think—I don‘t think someone who is relatively new to the national stage can ever really be the sort of presumptive candidate, the frontrunner, and he just didn‘t carry it well. Let‘s see if he‘s better as an underdog because the sort of juggernaut approach didn‘t work for him.
CARLSON: Here‘s what Mike Huckabee says about—this is a synopsis of what he says the president‘s foreign policy, and I‘m quoting now, “American foreign policy needs to change its tone, its attitude, open up and reach out. The Bush administration‘s arrogant bunker mentality has been counter productive at home and abroad.” Deep thoughts from Mike Huckabee.
Here‘s the response from Mitt Romney today. He went on “MEET THE PRESS.” He was asked by Tim Russert, what do you think of that, of what Huckabee said, here‘s his response.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, NBC‘s “MEET THE PRESS”)
TIM RUSSERT, HOST, MEET THE PRESS: Mike Huckabee said that the George Bush presidency‘s foreign policy is arrogant and a bunker mentality.
ROMNEY: That‘s an insult to the president and Mike Huckabee should apologize to the president.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CARLSON: I think if you got Bush in a candid moment and said, let‘s say for the first six years of your presidency, were you arrogant in your foreign policy aims, did you have bunker mentality, Bush would say yes.
MARTIN: But politically, though, Tucker, this is a fast ball at about 85 miles an hour down the middle of the plate for a candidate like Romney because he can just, you know, tee off on that kind of thing. This is Huckabee‘s challenge is that he is saying these things. He‘s sort of riffing off the cuff, which is what he‘s been doing for months and it‘s been helping him, but now he‘s saying this kind of stuff, and he‘s got a problem.
CARLSON: This is a magazine piece.
MARTIN: That is that people are paying attention to it now.
MARTIN: But of course, it‘s quotes off the cuff. It‘s magazine pieces, you know, the sort of same thing in the “Times” on Sunday about Jesus and, you know, Satan. People are now starting to focus on what he‘s saying and not just writing pieces about the sort of fun different kind of conservative, you know, base playing preacher, and so now he‘s more vulnerable and a candidate like Romney, who‘s never going to miss an opportunity, just, you know, tee it off on that.
CARLSON: But do you think—what you are saying then is there are Republican primary voters who are offended by this? There are.
MARTIN: Yes. I mean, if you are a core conservative, still support the president, and one of your candidates is knocking the president, then that‘s not something that‘s going to be helpful. Romney‘s problem, though, is this, is that people just seem to like Huckabee especially in Iowa. They‘re not flocking to him because of policy, because of Bush‘s foreign policy or any issue. They like the guy. They can relate to him.
And you can go after him on this or on immigration or on any number of sort of issues. I‘m not sure if it sticks.
WOLFFE: Well, just to pick up your first point, I don‘t think Bush would ever agree, frankly, that he was arrogant and that he was in a bunker. And the smart approach for Mitt Romney would have been to say, “This is actually dissing our troops because it‘s our troops who are out in the field, who have been doing the hard work, and people don‘t like us for doing the hard work.”
That would have been a battle line. But he got there and defend the honor of President Bush, look, if President Bush had the full support of all Republican voters, his numbers would be much higher than they are today.
WOLFFE: I don‘t think what Huckabee is saying is controversial. You know, Romney is trying to target Huckabee saying he is not really a Republican. Those questions are an interesting strategy, but defending Bush as Bush, I‘m not sure what tells you.
CARLSON: What do you think of his speech? I want to get really to what I think is kind of the seminal political story of this year, and it comes from Fred Thompson, who has run sort of a lackluster campaign.
WOLFFE: Right. Profound.
CARLSON: This is a profound statement. He was asked, along with the other candidates, Republican and Democrat, what is your prized possession?
CARLSON: John Edwards said, “My running shoes.”
CARLSON: Mike Huckabee said an antique musket.
CARLSON: Fred Thompson said, quote, “My trophy wife.” And it was at that moment that I realized two things. One, I‘m voting for Fred Thompson because of today. No, just kidding. But really I realized he knows he‘s not going win. He‘s like growing a comedy campaign. Is that what he‘s doing?
MARTIN: I think there is a struggle within Fred Thompson‘s campaign to do it Fred‘s way and to do it the more conventional way.
CARLSON: Well, that‘s a pretty—I mean.
MARTIN: And sometimes.
CARLSON: That‘s pretty awesome.
MARTIN: Sometimes Fred‘s way wins out, and this is a good example of that.
CARLSON: You really think—so you think that deep down Fred—he said screw it.
MARTIN: He said screw it, I think. He said, “Look, I‘m going to have some fun with this thing.”
CARLSON: Then he‘ll probably get elected president. If Fred Thompson has really decided, “You know what? I don‘t care. I‘m just going to amuse myself. Have fun. Say what I really think.” He‘ll be president.
WOLFFE: You know, as someone close to the Thompson campaign told me, it‘s interesting watching someone in the campaign who has such disdain for campaigning.
WOLFFE: And that is his basic problem. (INAUDIBLE).
MARTIN: He can‘t stand them. You can‘t take him seriously.
CARLSON: What‘s your favorite possession? My trophy wife?
MARTIN: I mean he should have said his dog, right?
CARLSON: No, but well, I suppose the difference between a dog and a wife is one sort—is a possession, the other is definitely not.
MARTIN: But Tucker, there is actually a second question in there. It says, “What is your favorite thing to do in your spare time?” He said campaign, which, as everybody who knows, his current campaign is not really.
CARLSON: I know everyone disagrees with me, I just think it makes Fred Thompson so much more appealing. I‘ve always kind of like the guy. Now I think I‘m deeply in love.
WOLFFE: If you could have the love child of Ron Paul and Fred Thompson, you‘d be (INAUDIBLE).
CARLSON: We‘re going to get to Ron Paul. I mean obviously and I will vote for Ron Paul. But I do love Fred Thompson with all my heart now.
Rudy has decided that he is not going to - apparently, not publicly, but apparently the campaign and by its actions, is indicating he‘s not running in the first two states, saving it‘s—of its money and energy for Florida. Is this wise?
WOLFFE: It‘s a long time to hold your breath all the way to Florida.
WOLFFE: And to be out of the headlines and to suffer the indignity of third, fourth, fifth.
WOLFFE: .tough act. Very, very tough act to pull off. Look, again, if it‘s a chaotic situation that is very messy, that has three or four different winners in those early states, yes, he could finally shake out. But there‘s so many ifs in that. I mean why wait? You got to start winning things early.
MARTIN: I agree with Tucker, it‘s a gamble, but it‘s also the only card that he has to play here. He spent over a million bucks on TV in New Hampshire for the past month. His numbers didn‘t move at all. In fact, exactly it fell.
CARLSON: When did this happen? Were the rest of them asleep when the bottom fell out of the Rudy campaign? I mean this is—you‘re saying this is kind of a desperate move is what you‘re saying.
MARTIN: Well, it‘s kind of been a tough press. Huckabee has blocked out the sun of all coverage by his entire campaign and he‘s going against both Romney and McCain who have some sizable TV buys in New Hampshire. And he hasn‘t been there like those two guys and hasn‘t campaigned there either. And so he just hasn‘t seen his numbers move.
And he‘s also got a problem. He still has to raise money. He‘s still doing fundraisers this week. Romney has the luxury of stroking his own checks. I mean, he can just do retail campaigning every single day. Rudy is still out there, you know, shaking the money tree.
WOLFFE: And he rarely broke out of 20 points in the polls.
MARTIN: Right. Exactly right.
WOLFFE: So he was such a weak frontrunner. We all gave him that title, and he loved it, but honestly, the numbers were never that strong for him.
CARLSON: Interesting. So in the end he was just the most famous candidate?
CARLSON: And we mistook that a lot of the time as the strongest candidate?
WOLFFE: The strength and resonance with voters. Absolutely.
MARTIN: But you can‘t write him off just yet, though. And I think there is a strong possibility that this race is going to stay fluid. He‘s got a strong course of support in Florida and will have a shot there. But I do agree with the fact that it‘s a long time to hold your breath and the media is going to ignore you, at best, if you are coming in third and fourth in these early contests.
CARLSON: But here‘s one thing the media are ignoring, and it makes me upset, a decision by the United States Senate to decide how you light your house. Legislation pending will make it—essentially stop the production of light bulbs as we know them. You know, your sort of normal incandescent bulb, the kind that we‘ve had for the last 100 or so years will be a thing of the past.
Congress has decided you must have more energy-efficient bulbs that may or may not work as well. Here‘s my question, a philosophical one. Once Congress can decide how you light your house, or how much water your toilet can have, what can‘t they do? What power don‘t they have at that point?
WOLFFE: They‘ll be taking away your guns next.
CARLSON: No, I mean—they can‘t because it‘s in the constitution, but.
WOLFFE: Seriously, Tucker.
CARLSON: And nobody cares and notices.
WOLFFE: Congress already mandates energy efficiency in your car or your SUV, which is probably is, so you are not.
CARLSON: Are they paying my electrical bills?
WOLFFE: You‘ve got—do you have a problem with your SUV being regulated?
CARLSON: I actually don‘t drive an SUV, but I have a huge—I would have a huge problem.
MARTIN: You have a Mercedes.
CARLSON: Look, I‘m paying—I don‘t have a Mercedes. I‘m paying my gas bills. I‘m paying my electrical bills. How dare Congress decide what kind of car I can have? How about what kind of cereal I eat? Or toilet paper I use?
WOLFFE: That is kind of.
CARLSON: I mean what—I‘m serious. What‘s the end of their power? Is there one? And nobody cares because everybody in the country sort of accepts the fact that they‘re in control of the most intimate details of our lives.
MARTIN: Ron Paul cares, though.
CARLSON: Ron Paul cares. You guys don‘t care. You think I‘m a croc.
Everyone looks at me this way when I say this.
WOLFFE: That‘s OK. I know you wear crocs as well.
CARLSON: I do wear crocs.
WOLFFE: Exactly. I rest my case.
CARLSON: Yes. That has nothing to do with it.
MARTIN: And you want to have the right to wear crocs, too. No one should tell you, you have to.
CARLSON: First of all, is there not a single person in the country who is bothered by this except for me? The idea that some senator can decide what kind of light bulb you use?
WOLFFE: Well, do you have a problem that they regulate the emissions from a power plant?
CARLSON: Emissions from a power plant affect other people. No one is affected by my light bulb use. I pay the bills in my house.
WOLFFE: You don‘t think that energy.
MARTIN: Ultimately the environment.
WOLFFE: Right. Exactly.
CARLSON: Then why not tell me how many lights I can have or how long I can keep them on?
MARTIN: There‘s an argument there.
WOLFFE: Well, how big is your house? And you‘ll pay.
CARLSON: Not that big. I have seen the mansion you live in, Richard.
Well, holy smokes. Pot calling the kettle here.
Republican Ron Paul proves he is a money-raising machine. We‘ll get an update on the movement from his campaign chairman coming up.
Plus, is she or isn‘t she? There is buzz tonight in Hollywood about the fate of Pamela Anderson‘s marriage. Bill Wolff knows the answer. We‘ll give it to you at some point coming up.
CARLSON: Ron Paul is shattering records including his own record. He just brought in the biggest single day take for fundraising in the history of presidential politics. Will the poll numbers reflect it? We‘ll talk to his campaign chairman next.
CARLSON: The only recognizable celebration yesterday of the Boston Tea Party‘s 234th anniversary was held by the Ron Paul for President campaign or by supporters of it.
Sam Adams is represented in his anti-taxation spirit, possibly in the bottom form as well, as the Ron Paul movement celebrated by raising more than $6 million in a single day. That‘s a record. So where does this richly funded but unlikely bid for presidency go from here? What is the end game?
Here to tell us is Ron Paul‘s campaign chairman, Kent Snyder.
Mr. Snyder, thanks for coming on.
KENT SNYDER, RON PAUL‘S CAMPAIGN CHAIRMAN: Thanks for having me.
CARLSON: So where did this money come from?
SNYDER: It came from all over the United States. I mean it‘s really surprising. We had about 55,000 people donate the $6 million in a 24-hour period. But what‘s really interesting for us is that about 24,000 of those people were first-time donors.
CARLSON: I saw Ron Paul give a speech last month in which he said, “You know, there‘s going to be a day—he didn‘t even know what the date was.”
CARLSON: This seemed—and I mean that as a compliment, actually.
SNYDER: No. I‘m sure. Right.
CARLSON: This seemed to have taken place, this fundraising, almost completely outside the campaign itself.
SNYDER: Right. Well, that‘s kind of the beauty of our campaign. Dr. Paul talks about freedom, decentralization and, of course, because of the Internet now people are able to actually create things and take the initiative and actually do things because of the Internet. So our job as a campaign is obviously to present Dr. Paul and do more of the traditional things, but also at the same time to make sure we get out of the way of a lot of very energetic and supportive people out there to do what they want to do and, of course, yesterday is proof of that.
CARLSON: So this is a campaign that flies southwest, stays at the best western, eats in diners. I have seen it firsthand.
CARLSON: You‘ve got a lot of cash on hand as a result of that thriftiness.
CARLSON: What are you going to do with all that money?
SNYDER: Well, it‘s still—it is expensive, as you know, to run a national campaign. From the beginning of this campaign back in January, I said we‘re going to have—to be successful, we‘re going to have to blend the old techniques with the new techniques. So we still have to do radio, television, direct mail, travel expenses and those sorts of things. And of course, the country is very big.
But you know, we‘re using the Internet as much as we can, but it‘s going to be a proper blend of the old with the new, and I think that‘s what we‘re doing now.
CARLSON: Do you have any sense of what drawing people? I mean there‘s so many facets to Ron Paul‘s message.
CARLSON: It‘s the small government element, the foreign policy stuff.. What‘s the main draw?
SNYDER: I‘ve thought about that quite a bit and Dr. Paul and I have talked about it. I really think what it comes down to now is people want real change. They really do. And that—change really is the message that we have. Peace, freedom, and prosperity. There‘s a lot of people out there that I talk to around the country who are—who what I call disgruntled Republicans. They realized that the Republican Party isn‘t the party of big government—or small government anymore.
They don‘t like it. But at the same time our campaign is growing. A lot of new people who never were interested in politics. I mean, for example not too long ago I had a gentleman called. I happened to answer the phone. The gentleman said, “I‘m in my mid-40s. I have never registered to vote. I‘ve never voted in my life. I heard Dr. Paul speak. I am on my way to the DMV to register to vote for the first time in my life.”
So for that perspective, we‘re drawing some disgruntled Republicans, but also a lot of people that are new to the political system.
CARLSON: So it is a movement. I call it the movement throughout the show. That was not tongue-in-cheek?
CARLSON: You‘ve broken—literally broken the record of one-day fundraising. You broke the record and it was on, A, 147 in this morning‘s “Washington Post.” I mean it was a tiny item. It was ignored.
CARLSON: That must drive you bananas.
SNYDER: Right, yes. But we‘re used to this, but we‘re keeping—working to make sure that we get out there more and more, but, you know, I think that the mainstream media by and large, they are a little bit behind the times. I mean, comments often about the press is usually about a year or two behind. The point is something is going on out there. People like yourself and a few others are recognizing that. But a senior producer for one of the major news shows told me not too long ago there is something going on. There‘s a story and we‘re trying to find it out. So I think more people are now realizing there is, in fact, something going on.
CARLSON: John Stossel did a full hour with Ron Paul. They didn‘t put it on ABC. They put it online.
SNYDER: Yes. The Web site.
CARLSON: All right. Kent Snyder, I really appreciate your coming on.
Thanks very much.
SNYDER: Thanks for having me.
CARLSON: And congratulations.
SNYDER: Thank you.
CARLSON: It‘s unbelievable.
Well, in the U.S. political spats usually played out through verbal attacks. In South Korea, they do it the old-fashioned way. With violence. Bill Wolff brings us the play-by-play next.
CARLSON: Welcome back. And now politics from the international perspective brought to us by the vice president for primetime here at MSNBC, Bill Wolff.
BILL WOLFF, VICE PRESIDENT, MSNBC: And an expert on international politics, Tucker, as you know.
American politics are, at the very least, interesting, sometimes fascinating, and for some people, Tucker, addictive, but American politics are a gateway addiction for the hard stuff. Look east to South Korea. This was the scene today when parliament in the pro-government United New Democratic Party tried to block their conservative opponents from entering the main floor of the building.
Now that is a manly democracy. This is the second time in less than a week that South Korea‘s elected officials have settled things the old-fashioned way. You‘ll recall last week it was a slapdown over some impeachment proceedings. Why waste time suggesting your opponents‘ secret sexual obedience or took drugs when they were young. Just go out in the parking lot and rumble, Tucker.
CARLSON: I saw a lot of hair pulling there, Bill.
WOLFF: Well, you know, any port in a storm. No holds barred. You know? Eye gouging. Rope burns. Whatever you want to do.
CARLSON: Hair pulling? That‘s pretty fourth grade girl, I think.
WOLFF: But, you know, some of the toughest people in the world—and I know you know this for a fact—are fourth grade girls, Tucker.
CARLSON: Quite a few.
WOLFF: I know you do. Well, now, there is tire fire news tonight, Tucker. Britney Spears still smoldering, occasionally flaming, and creating lots of smelly smoke. Today‘s nugget, “Star” magazine, one of the last bastions of accurate reporting, says that Britney is planning to marry. She plans to marry Sam Lufti, that‘s L-U-F-T-I, who is described in print as a, quote, “professional hanger on.”
According to sources, Britney‘s baby-daddy and the father of the year, Kevin Federline, does not like hanger-on Sam Lufti and won‘t let the guy near his kids. In fact, sources speculate that marriage to Lufti could cost Britney any custody of her two sons. Apparently paid by the word, the same source says Britney doesn‘t care, quote, “She‘s completely under Sam‘s spell. She pays for his food, his bar and restaurant tabs and his clothing,” end quote. Tucker, I‘m no relationship expert, but this guy sounds perfect.
CARLSON: Is that really what he does for a living? I mean, literally?
WOLFF: I find this whole thick to be utterly fascinating. Britney‘s choices are not the best. I think it‘s safe to say that.
CARLSON: I think it is.
WOLFF: Now there is broken Pamela Anderson news this evening. That is it broke earlier. The Web site TMZ.com reported this morning that Miss Anderson, actress, model, and role model, filed for divorce on Friday from her latest excellent choice of husbands, one Rick Salomon. Salomon, you‘ll recall, was the oh man who starred in and distributed his intimate encounter with Paris Hilton. Lo, those many tabloid news stories ago.
It appeared that Miss Anderson and Mr. Salomon were doomed after just 72 days of bliss. However, TMZ now reports that the divorce is off. The marriage is back on. The couple had a bad spat, but they‘re working through their issues and hope has been restored to married romantics across the globe. Tucker, relieved.
CARLSON: You get this feeling this is all scripted with the story arch, the crescendo, (INAUDIBLE), I mean it‘s all, like, made for Hollywood. Is this real?
WOLFF: That‘s why they call it showbiz. It‘s a show, Tucker, and I love it. Finally, 2007 draws to a close, and we are the beneficiaries of lots of lists. Today‘s lists, the top baby names of the year. Results are quantitative, not qualitative, and here we go.
From fifth through first for the girls. Number five, Ava, like Ava Gardener married once to Frank Sinatra. Number four, Madison, like Madison, Wisconsin, a tremendous town, also tremendous avenue here in New York. Number three, Emma, very Jane Austin, which is lovely. Number two, Isabella, like Isabella Povich(ph) who produced this countdown and is quite excellent. And number one, Sophia, like Sophia Loren. Nuff said.
On the boy‘s side, Tucker, number five, Caden, number four, Jaden, number three, Jacob, number two, Ethan, and number one, for the second straight year, Aidan. So for those of you keeping score, and I know most of our audience does, Caden, Jaden, and Aidan, all in the top three, all rhyme. Hayden nowhere to be found.
CARLSON: Boy, I—if you had given me a million dollars, Bill, I wouldn‘t have guessed that. I‘m glad.
WOLFF: Nope. If I had a million dollars, I‘d give it to you.
CARLSON: Bill Wolff, from headquarters. Thanks, Bill.
WOLFF: Got it.
CARLSON: That does it for us. Thanks for watching. We‘ll be back here tomorrow for MSNBC‘s Super Tuesday coverage.
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