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'Tucker' for Dec. 19

Read the transcript to the Wednesday show

Guests: Peter Fenn, Stephanie Cutter, Mark Halperin, Bob Vander Plaats

TUCKER CARLSON, MSNBC ANCHOR:  Just a month ago Mike Huckabee was a charming, also ran in the Republican field for president.  Today he‘s the charming frontrunner.  In a minute, we‘ll talk with Mike Huckabee‘s Iowa campaign chief about the man who has made up as many as 18 points in the field in the last 30 days. 

Welcome to the show. 

As other candidates roll out their Christmas messages to voters, Huckabee appears to have outflanked them all with his.  As critics hammer him from all sides for mentioning Christ in his Christmas greeting, the candidate counters with a soft good humored touch. 


RUDY GIULIANI ®, 2008 PRESIDENTIAL HOPEFUL:  And probably a fruitcake or something. 


GIULIANI:  What?  It would be a really nice fruitcake. 


GIULIANI:  With a big red bow on it or something like that.  I‘m Rudy Giuliani and approved this message.  Merry Christmas.  Happy holidays. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  And you‘re hammering Huckabee having. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  He is a fruitcake. 


CARLSON:  And while the news media treat Huckabee with the curiosity reserved for the unlikely underdog candidates, some believe Hillary Clinton is receiving disproportionate scrutiny from the press.  Are reporters being too tough on Mrs. Clinton?  Mike Halperin of “Time” magazine joins us in a minute. 

Then Barack Obama has successfully crafted a picture of cool and avoided any protracted walks through the muck in the political gutter, but Obama hasn‘t always avoided mud slinging. 

Coming up the Illinois senator as you have not seen him before.  Obama takes on Democratic icon Ted Kennedy on tape. 

But we begin with Mike Huckabee, who is now seemingly out of nowhere at the top of the polls in Iowa and the nation. 

Joining me now is Mike Huckabee‘s Iowa campaign chairman, Bob Vander Plaats. 

Bob, thanks for coming on. 

BOB VANDER PLAATS, HUCKABEE‘S IA CAMPAIGN MANAGER:  Well, thank you, Tucker.  It‘s a privilege to be with you today. 

CARLSON:  Well—and congratulations.  You all have went from basically nowhere to dominating the Republican field.  Does it make you nervous now that you‘ve got something to lose and you could really screw it up?  Are you uncomfortable with that? 

VANDER PLAATS:  Well, that‘s one way to put it.  I endorse Governor Huckabee back in January.  When I looked behind me, there wasn‘t a lot of people endorsing him with me, so today for him to be leading in Iowa and to be leading a lot of polls across the country, it‘s a great thrill for us.  It doesn‘t make us nervous.  It makes us excited.  We‘re just hopeful that we could capitalize on that momentum and deliver a victory on January 3rd

CARLSON:  It is—it really is a remarkable political story that caught so many people by surprise.  I‘m impressed just as an observer of the process.  I‘m also surprised by the hostility you all have encountered from the kind of institutional right, at least in Washington.  Ann Coulter today described Mike Huckabee as the Republican Jimmy Carter. 

I‘m sure you have seen “The National Review.”  Rich Lowry writes this.  He compares Mike Huckabee to Howard Dean.  He says, “Like Dean, his nomination would be an act of suicide by the party.  Huckabee is an undervetted former governor who‘s manifestly unprepared to be president.  Like Dean, he‘s rising in the polls in a crowded field based on his appeal to a particular niche in the party.” 

He‘s talking about evangelicals.  Have—is there evidence that Huckabee‘s appeal has broadened significantly beyond religious voters? 

VANDER PLAATS:  Oh, I think it really has.  As a matter of fact, Governor Huckabee has never been part of the establishment crowd.  He is not part of K Street or Wall Street.  He is part of Main Street, and that‘s the way we‘ve marketed him and advertised him.  That‘s who he is.  He‘s a genuine article. 

But it‘s not just evangelical voters who are surrounding him.  I mean, we have conservative Democrats and independents alike who just like Governor Huckabee a lot.  And they believe he is the guy who can unite this country and lead the country forward.  So we‘re going to expect some shouts from all angles.  It‘s disappointing when it comes from the conservative part of our own party.  But we‘ll withstand those and we look forward to securing a victory. 

CARLSON:  Any idea what that‘s about?  I mean it seems to me there are some relatively liberal Republicans running this year.  And they‘re not taking shots like this from conservatives.  Why Huckabee? 

VANDER PLAATS:                  Well, I think one is that he is leading.  It‘s always easier to attack the lead dog.  As Governor Huckabee says when they‘re kicking him in behind, it still proves that he‘s out in front.  But he‘s one who‘s talking about, you know, real change.  He‘s talking about eliminating the IRS and implementing the fair tax.  He‘s talking about bringing this country together again. 

And he‘s also a guy who can communicate a message and he has something that a lot of their candidates don‘t have going for them.  People just like Mike Huckabee.  He is one of them.  They like him. 

CARLSON:  Ann Coulter said today, you know, if he gets the nomination, he will be attacked as someone who has conceded he does not believe in Darwinian evolution.  Is that going to be an issue? 

VANDER PLAATS:  Well, I don‘t know if that‘s going to be an issue.  As Governor Huckabee stated early on in a debate regarding his belief in creation is that he wasn‘t there when it happened, but he believes that there is a divine creator.  But you need to take a look at, and Ann Coulter needs to take a look at, this is a guy who has won in a Democrat state, and not just once or twice, but three and four times.  He‘s taken on the Clinton machine and he has won. 

He‘s received 48 percent of the African-American vote.  So if Republicans want a candidate who can win and lead this country, Mike Huckabee is going to be their answer. 

CARLSON:  What about national security?  He obviously, as a governor of Arkansas, doesn‘t have national security credentials.  The question has risen recently about who is advising him on national security matters.  Who is advising him on national security matters? 

VANDER PLAATS:  Well, I think Governor Huckabee has a lot of resources that he goes to on national security matters.  But here‘s a guy, a former pastor who understands a theological nature of this war, as we‘re fighting a radical religion in Islam by, I think, he‘s most prepared to lead this country in that dynamic.  But He has definitely a seasoned tenured of people advising him on foreign relation matters. 

CARLSON:  Well, just to clarify, how does his experience as a pastor equip him to deal with the war on terror? 

VANDER PLAATS:  Well, I think what it is, the war on terror is, obviously, it‘s a theological war.  We have a radical Islamic group, so we believe that a guy with a training of a pastor and a theological nature of the war, that also makes him very well prepared in regards to this war on terror. 

CARLSON:  I was struck by something he wrote in his piece in foreign affairs—Governor Huckabee did.  He says, “If—the first thing I will do as president is send Congress my comprehensive plan for achieving energy independence within 10 years of my inauguration.” 

That‘s far, far more ambitious than the plan the president, President Bush, has put forward on energy independence.  Is that—do you think—is that a realistic goal?  Ten years? 

VANDER PLAATS:  I say it is a realistic—I think it is a realistic goal.  We‘re the country who put a man on the moon.  Here‘s a guy who understands that our dependence on foreign oil is denying us a lot of our freedom.  If we‘re going to be enslaved to the people who provide us our oil, we need to become energy independent today, and I think Governor Huckabee is right on target saying instead of setting a 20-year goal well after he is out of office, let‘s set a 10-year goal, and measure him while he is in office to get energy independent. 

CARLSON:  And finally, Mr. Vander Plaats, will your campaign have the money?  You come out of Iowa the victor, let‘s say.  You move on to New Hampshire, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.  Are you equipped?  Do you have the staff?  Do you have the dough to keep going?

VANDER PLAATS:  I do think we are equipped to move on into New Hampshire and South Carolina and across the country.  I think one of the greatest things about this campaign, Tucker, is what we‘ve been able to do with a limited amount of resource resources.  The CEO in me says when you have one candidate who‘s got millions upon millions of dollars into this state and the early primary states and other candidates just really spend only thousands of dollars, and you take a look at the market share being divided almost equal or maybe even greater to the one who spent less, that shows a real sign of being able to get the job done and having the right message for the American people. 

CARLSON:  All right.  Bob Vander Plaats, chairman of the Huckabee Iowa campaign.  I appreciate your coming on.  Again, congratulations on all you‘ve done. 

VANDER PLAATS:  Thank you, Tucker. 

CARLSON:  The Clinton campaign complains the media are biased against them and giving Barack Obama a free ride.  Sure it‘s whining.  But even paranoids have enemies.  We‘ll consider whether they‘re right. 

Plus, have Hillary‘s recent sharply negative turns hurt her campaign?  We‘ll tell you about at least one endorsement she has lost.  That‘s coming up. 


CARLSON:  Hillary Clinton won the endorsement of Iowa‘s biggest newspaper.  So why does she think her campaign is getting unfair treatment from the press.  We‘ll tell you.  Coming up. 


CARLSON:  Just because the mainstream media are liberal, and they are, doesn‘t mean they love Hillary Clinton.  The question is: are they fair to her?  Is the coverage even?  Or do the other candidates, particularly Barack Obama, get a pass while Hillary‘s every word is scrutinized and evaluated again and again?  That‘s the claim, anyway. 

Joining me now is “Time” magazine‘s editor at large and senior political analyst, Mark Halperin. 

Mark, thanks for coming on. 

MARK HALPERIN, TIME MAGAZINE EDITOR-AT-LARGE:  Tucker, delighted to be here in the parking lot with you. 

CARLSON:  Outstanding.  On the road, Mark Halperin. 

So you‘re quoted in this morning‘s “Washington Post” as saying Hillary Clinton is held to a different standard in every regard, a higher standard, presumably.  Why is that? 

HALPERIN:  Well, look, I‘m not an apologist or a defender of Hillary Clinton.  What I care about is fairness.  Not everything is fair every day.  The reasons why it‘s unfair, I think, are both mostly historic, but I think the reality is you can look at this campaign and see day in and day out, she‘s held to a different standard.  There were good examples in that “Washington Post” story, and I think reporters have to ask themselves, starting now, for all the candidates: are we holding them to the same standard or is she held to a different standard? 

CARLSON:  When you say there are historical reasons for it, what do you mean by that? 

HALPERIN:  I think reporters just—a lot of reporters, they don‘t particularly want the Clintons to win, and that affects the way they look at stories and how to bounce them.  I think there‘s just sort of a dynamic.  The Clintons are seen as people who don‘t tell the truth.  They‘re seen as being Clintonian.  They‘re seen as sort of the press‘s role to needle the Clintons to try to create controversy and soap opera and to do the press‘s part, and that creates, I think, an inequity. 

Again, not every day.  There are days when Barack Obama gets tough coverage, but if you look day in and day out, I think reporters have just decided over a decade that the Clintons deserve more scrutiny and tougher coverage, and Hillary Clinton, I think, has paid a price for that. 

CARLSON:  I couldn‘t agree with you more.  I think you‘re absolutely right.  I have watched her for a long time. 

What‘s interesting to me is most—if Hillary Clinton gets the nomination, almost everybody I know in journalism is going to vote for her anyway even though they don‘t like her. 

HALPERIN:  Well, I‘ve talked in the past about I‘d see the view of a liberal bias is, as the phrase, mainstream media. It‘s not a phrase I use.  I think the important thing in terms of this race, though, is, you know, I go out on the road, I‘ve been out on the road in the last few weeks with all the candidates at this point, including Obama and Clinton. 

And the Clinton press corps watches her every word, looks for her to make a mistake, tries to look for controversy.  It‘s just not the same attitude with the Obama press corps.  I‘m not saying that that‘s just confined to them, though.  I think in general she‘s held to a different standard.  You may be right.  When it becomes to the general election, if Hillary Clinton‘s the nominee, she might get softer coverage than the Republican. 

We‘ll see.  It‘s not always the case.  I think in 2000 there‘s a good case to be made that Al Gore got tougher coverage than George Bush.  So it‘s not necessarily the case that the Democrats are going to get easier coverage. 

CARLSON:  The reporters covering Gore—liberals, all of them—so far as I can tell hated him.  They hated them.  I think you‘re absolutely right.  It‘s—but isn‘t part of this. 


CARLSON:  .the fact that she‘s seen as the overdog—I mean, rooting for her is like rooting for the house in Blackjack.  It‘s just—it seems wrong. 

HALPERIN:  Well, it‘s certainly been the case that for most of the year she‘s been the favorite, and she‘s been the favorite for—she‘s still the favorite by the national polls, but, look, Barack Obama is a real credible threat to be the Democratic nominee and the next president.  If the excuse that reporters have for covering her harder than they cover the other candidates is she was the clear essential or inevitable nominee, that excuse is out the window. 

She‘s in a real fight here in Iowa.  She could be out of this race in two weeks.  And I think, again, if that‘s the excuse people are using, it‘s wrong.  I‘ll say again, I‘m not her defender.  I care about fairness, and it in terms of fairness, one example from the “Washington Post” story about Obama and his pack, if she had had a leadership pack and she was giving out money, something no presidential candidate has done, a major candidate, she‘s giving out money to people who ultimately endorsed her, I think that would have been a hot topic on your show, on network news, front page of the newspapers. 

Obama did it.  It barely got any pick-up, whatsoever. 

CARLSON:  Again, I am certainly not a defender of Hillary Clintons, but I think you‘re—objectively you‘re right.  You‘re absolutely right.  But what do you about it?  Her husband (INAUDIBLE) the other day. 

HALPERIN:  Let me give you one more—sorry. 

CARLSON:  Yes—no, go ahead.  I want to hear. 

HALPERIN:  I just want to give you one more quick example.  For weeks the press corps was rooting for Obama to go negative.  They say he had to go negative, he couldn‘t win without going negative.  He said in the newspaper, in the “New York Times,” he was going to start making those contrasts.  Then he did.  He was celebrated.  And as he moved up in the polls, people said congratulations.  Good job. 

When she decided to get tough after being battered by Edwards and Obama and others for weeks, when she decided to get tough, somehow the standard became different.  And standard was, “You‘re not allowed to attack.  This is negative politics.”  Hats off to the Obama people that handled this incredibly skillfully as a matter of political professionalism. 

There are historic reasons we touched on about why Hillary Clinton has this problem.  She has not been warm and fuzzy with the press.  She has not reached out.  I‘m not saying she‘s blameless by any means in terms of the district coverage.  Her, her husband, their whole history, a big part of it.  But again, reporters‘ obligation is to be fair, regardless of history, regardless of whether you like one candidate more or the other. 

You‘re right.  Obama is a better story, and that‘s part of this.  It‘s up to her campaign to figure it out.  It‘s up to us, though, to be fair every day. 

CARLSON:  What do you make of the coverage of Bob Kerrey‘s comments two days in a row pointing out that Barack Obama‘s father and grandfather and his middle name is Hussein, and he went to a secular madrassa, whatever that is, that he—people are saying he‘s an Islamic Manchurian candidate.  Have there been anybody other than Bob Kerrey who‘s liked by reporters?  He would have been drummed out of America for that, don‘t you think? 

HALPERIN:  I think it‘s he‘s liked by reporters, but I think it‘s also, don‘t forget, his old nickname, “Cosmic Bob.”  I mean, if you try to apply a national framed analysis to Bob Kerrey and what he says and does, you‘re not going to get anywhere.  I think that was part of it as well. 

But look, her campaign should have been held to scrutiny for that.  He is—he endorsed her.  He‘s popular in western Iowa.  He‘s from Nebraska.  So I think he should have been held to at least a little bit more accountable.  He stepped forward and said, “You know, I have been saying this for a while, even before I endorsed her.”  He does have an intellectual point behind what he was saying, but, boy, coming on the heels of what Billy Shaheen did. 


HALPERIN:  .the national co-chair talking about Obama and drugs, it certainly looked suspicious, but people took him at his word.  I think that was an example.  Again, as I said before, Clinton is not held every day and every way. 

CARLSON:  That‘s right. 

HALPERIN:  .as we say in Arkansas, to the highest standard and a higher standard.  That‘s the case where, I think, probably things did go in her favor.  I‘ll say one other thing: the Obama campaign kind of gave Bob Kerrey a pass.  They didn‘t make a big deal of it. 

CARLSON:  No, they didn‘t. 

HALPERIN:  Senator Obama said Bob Kerrey likes to talk.  So that‘s part of—we‘re often referees rather than judges. 

CARLSON:  He—Kerrey got the crazy pass that day. 

Mark Halperin, from the road, Iowa, I presume.  Thanks for joining us. 

Appreciate it. 

HALPERIN:  Great to see you. 

CARLSON:  More bad news for Hillary Clinton.  Thanks to recent attacks on Obama she lost a key endorsement today.  Hurting her with Volvo drivers and Chardonnay drinkers everywhere.  Details ahead. 

Plus, NBC “NIGHTLY NEWS” anchor Brian Williams told other viewers here on MSNBC to TiVo this show and watch him instead.  So to those of you watching this on TiVo, welcome.  We‘ll be right back. 


CARLSON:  At some point in every political campaign things go from warm and fuzzy to nasty and mean, but in politics, as in life, timing is everything.  Take the case of Hillary Clinton.  A candidate who spends a lot of time telling us how much experience she has, and yet the question remains did she go negative too soon on Barack Obama? 

Ever since stepping up her attacks on Obama, Hillary has been sliding in the polls.  So much so that she‘s now dropped the experience message in exchange for selling voters on her soft side, what a decent person she is.  Bad judgment or bad politics or both? 

Joining me now, Democratic strategist Stephanie Cutter and Peter Fenn. 

Welcome to you both. 


CARLSON:  Now, the reason I find this such an interesting story is we have a sort of a marker.  There‘s like—we‘ll look back on the campaign and say, you know when Hillary lost?  It‘s when she lost Ken Burns.  OK?  Ken Burns, a PBS filmmaker, totally decent guy, kind of a soft, fuzzy liberal. 


CARLSON:  Beloved by Volvo drivers and Chardonnay sippers everywhere.  He‘s now come out—everybody in my neighborhood loves Ken Burns, OK?  And I like Ken Burns, but he comes out for Barack Obama today.  He says this, “At a time when our politics has descended into cynical slash-and-burn character attacks, Barack Obama has steadfastly presented a positive, un-ironic agenda for this country.  While others find themselves mired in their past actions,” Hillary, Hillary, Hillary, “he‘s presenting a vision for the future that is not only possible, but essential to our survival.” 

He‘s turned off by the Obama‘s a Muslim, run away, Obama is a crack dealer, hide under the bed attacks from the Hillary campaign.  I bet a lot of other people are, too. 

FENN:  I mean I‘ll take that one, too.  But you were looking at Stephanie, but I‘ll come at you. 

CUTTER:  A couple of points.  They rolled that endorsement out in New Hampshire, I think, and it‘s an important endorsement.  You know, a lot of people know Ken Burns has done great work. 

FENN:  A lot of liberals know Ken Burns. 

CUTTER:  He speaks to a certain piece of America. 

CARLSON:  Yes, he does. 

CUTTER:  but it‘s also ironically on the same day that Hillary Clinton is up 12 points in New Hampshire, so, I mean, I think this plays both ways.  There are negative attacks going around every single campaign.  We just have recent memory of what Billy Shaheen said last week.


CUTTER:  And even the Clinton campaign recognized how damaging those types of attacks are and quickly denounced them. 


CUTTER:  So you know, you have to be very careful as you are moving forward. 

CARLSON:  Right. 

CUTTER:  .in these attacks and contrasts are absolutely required. 

CARLSON:  Of course, and they ought to be. 

CUTTER:  .because elections are about choices.  But negative personal mudslinging attacks can be—can hurt you. 

CARLSON:  I think that‘s right.  I think there‘s a threshold over which you hurt yourself, and I think calling attention to somebody‘s family‘s religion and his middle name and suggesting he went to a madrassa, I mean, that‘s so. 

FENN:  Look, you know, that‘s Bob Kerrey, and Bob Kerrey. 

CARLSON:  Bob Kerrey on behalf of Hillary Clinton. 

FENN:  No, no, no, no.  I‘d stop on that. 

CARLSON:  He was at a Hillary Clinton event.  He was endorsing her. 

FENN:  It was an endorsement.  But it was complimentary of Barack. 

His whole point was. 

CARLSON:  And she defended, Hillary defended that nonsense. 

FENN:  No, no, no.  His whole point was he has a different perspective because of his. 

CARLSON:  Because he‘s a Muslim, Muslim.  He‘s a Muslim. 

FENN:  No, no, come on, come on, come on. 

CUTTER:  He‘s a world view. 

FENN:  Look, here‘s what‘s happening.  I mean Halperin had this and I think you agreed with him, Tucker.  A lot of this is much ado about very little.  Another words. 

CARLSON:  You can‘t look me in the eye.  I think that was intentional. 

FENN:  No, no, no, wait.  I am going to tell you. 

CARLSON:  Two days in a row, he‘s calling him a Muslim. 

FENN:  No, no, no.  No. 

CARLSON:  He went to a madrassa?  No, he did not. 

FENN:  No, no, I mean, look.  I‘m not going to defend how Bob Kerrey put it all together.  He didn‘t put it together very well.  No, no, no.  My only point on this is that Hillary Clinton has yet to run a negative against Barack Obama.  Barack Obama has yet to run a negative ad. 

CARLSON:  She has her husband do it for her. 

FENN:  No, no, no.  This is the press blowing up little stuff.  Boy, I just. 

CUTTER:  See, the point that Halperin on, you know, Barack Obama went, quote, unquote, “negative”. 

CARLSON:  Right. 

CUTTER:  .which, you know, how you define negative is an open question.  He wasn‘t criticized.  He was applauded.  When Hillary Clinton went negative, she was incredibly scrutinized.  And you know. 

CARLSON:  Did Barack Obama attack her family or her religion or her personal behavior? 

CUTTER:  But a lot of those—those attacks are not coming out of Hillary Clinton‘s mouth. 

FENN:  Right. 

CARLSON:  I think that Hillary Clinton, when she stands up there with Bob Kerrey, who‘s there to endorse her at a Hillary Clinton event, and he says these things—if she comes out, issues a statement later saying, “You know, I support what he said,” I don‘t know. 

CUTTER:  But it‘s a good point that he‘s making, though.  First of all, having a name Barack Hussein Obama is not going to hurt him in the Democratic primary.  Second of all, it‘s a good point that this is somebody who has lived overseas, who understands that there are different cultures and religions. 

CARLSON:  When he was at a secular madrassa overseas.  That‘s where learned to become the Islamic Manchurian candidate.  I mean. 

FENN:  Look, look. 

CARLSON:  I don‘t know. 

CUTTER:  I think that we‘re giving them too much credit for being that strategic. 

FENN:  Right.  That‘s right.  Right. 

CUTTER:  I think things happen in the campaign trail.  You can‘t give

you know, you can‘t script the people that are coming out endorsing you. 

FENN:  And Billy Shaheen, I mean, he made a mistake.  He knew right away.  He made a mistake.  His wife is trying to run for the United States.  This doesn‘t help her Senate campaign up in New Hampshire. 

CARLSON:  It‘s just—look. 

FENN:  You know, Tucker, look.  We‘re all marked up. 

CARLSON:  They are like this.  They are mean and they‘re scary people.  They dwarf people.  Any other Democrat I‘ve ever covered or been around, not as mean as the Hillary people.  You know that that‘s true.  Who is as mean among Democrats who‘s as tough as the people on Hillary Clinton?  There‘s no—was the Kerry campaign as mean as the Clinton campaign?  No. 

They weren‘t. 

You know exactly what I‘m talking about, too. 

FENN:  But I—look, I think the way we‘re going to win this—

Republicans are a lot meaner.  Look, what is happening in Iowa right now. 

The toughest negative ads. 

CARLSON:  Well, that‘s Mike Huckabee, man, he is. 

FENN:  No, no, no.  You know who I‘m talking about.  Romney is ripping Huckabee‘s face off, and brilliantly. 

CARLSON:  He is.  You‘re right, you‘re right.  Absolutely right. 

FENN:  And boy, if I tell you—if I go up against the consultant, go up against those guys working with Mitt Romney, most of them are George Bush guys, I want to be tough.  I‘m coming right back. 

CARLSON:  Yes.  That‘s not. 

FENN:  But I agree on the issues. 

CARLSON:  All right. 

We‘ll be right back.  Rudy Giuliani tells Santa what he wants for Christmas this year.  Peace with strength, secure borders, lower taxes and something else that Santa says just isn‘t possible. 

Plus, Barack Obama takes on Ted Kennedy of all people.  We‘ve got that tape.  We‘ll be right back. 


CARLSON:  Still to come, like clinical Grinches, the presidential candidates are grinning through a series of holiday campaign ads while secretly plotting to steal Christmas from their rivals.  We‘ve got those spots just a minute. 

First, here‘s a look at your headlines. 



SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D), 2008 PRESIDENTIAL HOPEFUL:  Where did I put universal pre-K?  Oh, OK.  Ah, there it is.  I‘m Hillary Clinton, and I approve this message. 


CARLSON:  It‘s all warm fuzzies on the cold, prickly campaign trail today.  You just saw Hillary Clinton‘s holiday offering to Iowa television viewers.  Senator Clinton‘s ad joins Rudy Giuliani‘s and Barack Obama‘s as candidates try to claim some of the rapture claimed by grand daddy of the ‘08 Christmas cards, Mike Huckabee, and his humble video offering. 

To what affect will the various holiday themed messages be?  Back to tell us, Democratic strategist Stephanie Cutter and Peter Fenn.

Peter, I want you to compare—OK.  Let‘s take a look at the frontrunner ad.  Compare what you just saw, the Hillary Clinton spot, as a long-time ad maker.  I‘m not going to ask you to comment on what you thought of it.  Here‘s Barack Obama‘s holiday ad.  Can we do a little compare and contrast.  See if you can tell the difference.  Watch this. 


MICHELLE OBAMA, BARACK OBAMA‘S WIFE:  We‘d like to take a moment to thank you and your family for the warmth and friendship that you‘ve shown ours, for sharing your hospitality and your stories. 

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), 2008 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  In this holiday season, we‘re reminded that the things that unite us as a people are more powerful and enduring than anything that sets us apart.  And we all have a stake in each other and something larger than ourselves. 

So from our family to yours, I‘m Barack Obama and I approve this message. 


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Happy holidays. 


CARLSON:  Oh, that‘s so sweet.  Now what‘s the major difference? 

FENN:  Got to use kids, huh?  Got to use kids.  And also teleprompters.  But anyway. 

CARLSON:  But Hillary Clinton didn‘t use the C-word, did she?  Her Christmas ad didn‘t use the word Christmas. 

FENN:  Look, look.  They have happy holidays, merry Christmas. 

CARLSON:  But also. 

FENN:  Huckabee only did Christmas. 

CARLSON:  But they said the dreaded C-word and the other Democrats, no. 

FENN:  And according to Barack - look, look, I think this is really. 

CARLSON:  Christmas is a holiday, I mean, after all. 

FENN:  What I find is this everybody—this is kind of spinning out of control.  I think everybody has to have their Christmas/holiday ad up on the air, and actually, I think that the Clinton one was pretty funny and pretty clever.  And if I were to take—the Giuliani one, I don‘t know if you are going to show it, but as we call it the fruitcake ad, I urge people to look at that one.  That‘s a real loser.  But you know, I tell you, this is—I don‘t think the public is going to base their votes on which Christmas ad they like from people. 

CARLSON:  Well, call me Dopey, but I think they‘re very sweet, and I think a Christmas ad should mention Christmas, but since you called for it, let‘s see if we can put the Giuliani ad up.  This is the so-called fruitcake ad.  Here it is. 


GIULIANI:  With the primaries coming so early this year, I‘ve got to tell you, I‘m having a little trouble getting my holiday shopping done.  So I‘ll be working to get everyone the same gift: a safe America, lower taxes, secure borders, job growth, fiscal discipline, strict constructionist and judges, and probably a fruitcake or something. 


GIULIANI:  What?  It will be a really nice fruitcake with a big red bow on it or something like that. 

I‘m Rudy Giuliani and I approve this message. 

Merry Christmas, happy holidays. 


CARLSON:  Now, doesn‘t the red sweater alone just get you?  Doesn‘t it get you?  I know you‘re a Democrat, Stephanie, but you‘re not kind of tempted to vote for this man? 

CUTTER:  Oh, come on. 

FENN:  Come on.  This is the first and last time he will ever wear that red sweater. 

CARLSON:  I kind of like it. 

FENN:  I can guarantee it.  That was so bad.  That was one of the worst.  That will go up—oh. 

CARLSON:  Really?  You think so too? 

FENN:  That‘s going out in history. 

CUTTER:  I mean I think they‘re clearly all trying to send a very softer message for the holidays. 

CARLSON:  Oh, no.  Not all of them.  You have seen the John Edwards ad, have you?  A soft—a merry Christmas?  I don‘t think so, Stephanie.  People are suffering. 

FENN:  We call this the Scrooge ad. 

CARLSON:  Yes.  We call this the Scrooge ad.  This is John Edwards wishing you a very guilty Christmas.  Here it is. 


JOHN EDWARDS (D), 2008 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  One out of every four homeless people on our streets is a veteran.  Thirty-seven million Americans live in poverty.  Who speaks for them?  We do.  This is the season of miracles, of faith and love.  So let us promise together you will never be forgotten again.  We see you.  We hear you.  And we will speak for you. 

In America, the chance to build a better life is a promise made to each of us, and the obligation to keep it rests with us all. 

I‘m John Edwards, and I approve this message. 


CARLSON:  Again, no Christmas.  He is a secular preacher.  He‘s a bible thumper with no bible, this John Edwards guy. 

CUTTER:  That‘s a great ad. 

CARLSON:  You think it is? 

CUTTER:  That‘s a great ad. 

CARLSON:  Wait.  It depresses the hell out of me.  I‘m all for remembering the poor at Christmas, but that seems so political.  One out of every four homeless is a veteran.  What does that have to do with—isn‘t it enough to be homeless?  Do you have to be a veteran too?  It‘s so relentlessly PC.  It kind of makes you want to throw up. 

CUTTER:  There are troublesome pains, I mean. 

CARLSON:  You want to get to the facts about homelessness? 

CUTTER:  No, I mean. 

CARLSON:  It has to do with mental illness and drug addiction, that‘s the fact of homelessness. 

CUTTER:  And a lot of people like veterans are high numbers. 

CARLSON:  Absolutely.  But he‘s not talking about the fact. I mean, he‘s not willing to tell the truth about social problems, obviously.  But. 

CUTTER:  Oh, come on.  This is a Christmas ad.  It was. 

CARLSON:  It was not a Christmas ad.  It‘s like. 

CUTTER:  And Christmas season is about being thankful of what you have and giving back to others.  And that‘s what he is. 

CARLSON:  But how dare you say when you‘re in your centrally heated house and enjoy yourself while homeless veterans languish on the streets. 

CUTTER:  That‘s not what he‘s saying. 

CARLSON:  You don‘t think so? 

CUTTER:  No.  That‘s not what‘s he‘s. 


FENN:  Are you worried about his 25,000 square foot house? 

CARLSON:  I am.  I think, now why doesn‘t he let a few on to his squash court?  You know what I mean?  Just for Christmas.  Just hang out there on the squash court, warm up a little bit. 


CARLSON:  Yes, exactly.  I don‘t know.  It seems to me that you don‘t hurt yourself by getting out there like Barack Obama or Mike Huckabee, the two frontrunners in Iowa, by the way, because it appeared to work, with your family, and just say, you know what?  Let‘s just call a time-out for a second, you know, merry Christmas.  It‘s Christmas.  Merry Christmas. 

FENN:  You know, the Huckabee thing, as they say, started it all, was actually quite brilliant because he didn‘t have any money to put that ad up. 

CARLSON:  Well, that‘s true. 

FENN:  But he‘s gotten more free press play. 

CUTTER:  Absolutely. 

FENN:  .on that ad, and, you know, Huckabee, the one thing he does well is deal with the camera, and he is very good in that ad, and for his audience of Christian conservatives in Iowa, homerun. 

CARLSON:  I want to know, Stephanie, what you think—a really interesting piece of tape that was dug up by somebody.  It may have been the “Huffington Post” yesterday and I‘m sorry I can‘t give the person credit who found this because I can‘t remember, but it‘s a piece of tape of Barack Obama from 2003 talking about a health care plan winding through Congress, and really going after Ted Kennedy from the left.  I think we have it.  Let‘s take a look at Barack Obama in 2003. 


OBAMA:  And we‘ve got to call not just Republicans, we‘ve got to call up Ted Kennedy and say, Ted, “You‘re getting a little old and maybe—you have been a fighter for us before.  I don‘t know what‘s happening right now.  Ted, get some spine.  Stand up to the Republicans. 


CARLSON:  Interesting.  I watched that and I think, you know what?  That might have been politically unwise, but at least he is not a mindless partisan.  I mean, attacking someone in his own party.  He is open minded enough to tell the truth based on his beliefs, not partisan affiliation.  I kind of like that.  What do you think? 

CUTTER:  How do you know that‘s what he was doing? 

CARLSON:  Well, I don‘t know.  But he‘s attacking one of the most popular Democrats there is... 

CUTTER:  Yes. 

CARLSON:  .before a Democratic audience because he, you know—he didn‘t think—he thought Ted Kennedy was compromising his principles.  I thought that was kind of an honest thing to say. 

CUTTER:  I think it‘s fine to comment on an issue. 

CARLSON:  Right. 

CUTTER:  .or somebody‘s particular stance on an issue.  I think it‘s wrong to call somebody old and tired. 


CUTTER:  I mean anybody who knows Ted Kennedy knows that he works harder, longer hours, and gets more done than anybody else in the United States Senate. 

FENN:  Right. 

CARLSON:  You think this is, like, very stupid or kind of stupid? 

CUTTER:  That‘s a (INAUDIBLE) thing to say and I think if Barack Obama were asked the same question now, he‘ll probably have a different answer now that he knows him. 

CARLSON:  Definitely. 

FENN:  Yes, yes.  Well, you know, you‘re talking about the line in the Senate.  Accusing him of not having a spine is kind of like telling Superman they don‘t have enough strength.  I mean this is unbelievable that he would do it, and it shows a little bit of judgment problem.  And again, a little bit of naivete and maybe he‘ll say when he is asked about this, “You know, it was a dumb thing to say,” which would be the smartest thing that he could do. 

CARLSON:  So attacking Ted Kennedy is verboten in the Democratic Party. 

FENN:  No, no, no.  You can disagree with him on issues if you want to. 

CARLSON:  Right. 

FENN:  But saying he is old and tired and has no spine.  Of all people in the Senate, to say he has no spine, Ted Kennedy, who‘s been fighting since 1964 for all the things that --- ‘62, you‘re right but who‘s quibbling?  You know, it‘s exactly what Barack Obama would hold up, I would think, as somebody he‘d admire. 

CARLSON:  How long—no, I think that‘s a fair point. 

CUTTER:  One point to make. 

CARLSON:  I just like people who aren‘t just, again, mindless partisans who are willing to say what they really think, and that seems an instance of a man. 

CUTTER:  There was plenty of criticism at the time in 2003 about that prescription drug bill.  Democrats, by and large, are reeling against. 

CARLSON:  Right. 

CUTTER:  Ted Kennedy was the lead in the United States Senate.  There are plenty of Democrats out there criticizing that bill as being too much of a windfall for drug companies, having too much of a donut hole for those to pay too much. 

CARLSON:  Right. 

CUTTER:  And Ted Kennedy was the one that was trying to close that donut hole.  If Barack was criticizing the Medicare bill or how much money students had to pay, that‘s one thing, but to personalize it to Ted Kennedy is another thing. 

FENN:  Right. 

CUTTER:  So just to make it clear, there was criticism of the bill out there at the time. 

CARLSON:  Can I get your 10-second apiece guesses how long is this primary season going to go?  Is it going to be done the first week—can we go—I mean, are we going to make it all the way to that?  Could it go longer? 

CUTTER:  I think for Democrats it will be over by February 5th at the latest.  I think for Republicans it could go longer.  That is a wide open field. 

FENN:  You know, I think—I wrote a little piece for “The Hill” on this.  My sense of it is both parties could go longer.  I think Stephanie is right that the likelihood of the Republicans going longer is greater than the Democrats at this point.  But if Edwards wins Iowa, which is not inconceivable, then this could open things up.  Not that he‘s going to go but. 

CARLSON:  Right. 

FENN:  Unless you have—I mean, Hillary wins Iowa, it comes back and wins Iowa and New Hampshire, then things start to roll. 


FENN:  But, boy, Edwards could be interesting. 

CARLSON:  That would be remarkable.  Edwards wins Iowa.  I will, first of all, eat my predictions in public.  And I‘ll be impressed.  That would be an amazing thing. 

CUTTER:  Bet is on. 

CARLSON:  I will. 

Stephanie Cutter, Peter Fenn, thank you both very much. 

Should the English version of Arabic television and the network Al-Jazeera air in the U.S.?  Or is that a bad idea for our national security as some say? 

Plus, Anna Nicole Smith isn‘t the only unstable blonde Larry Birkhead likes.  We‘ll tell you who he‘s on to next.  Details in a minute. 


CARLSON:  Coming up next, Brian Williams with a little advice on watching this show.  We‘ll show it to you in a minute.  We‘ll be right back. 


CARLSON:  When Osama bin Laden wants to get a new videotape on the air, he sends it to Al-Jazeera and they put it up.  Is it a good idea to have Al-Jazeera on the air in this country?  The English language version of the Arab network claims to be debunking myths about Islam and helping to bridge the gap between the two cultures.  Should Americans buy that? 

Joining me is the author of “Mission Al Jazeera: Build a Bridge, Seek the Truth, Change the World,” Josh Rushing joins us in the studio. 

Josh, thanks for coming on. 

JOSH RUSHING, “MISSION AL-JAZEERA” AUTHOR:  Thanks for having me, Tucker. 

CARLSON:  So I don‘t think there‘s a brand with a more negative connotation in this country than Al-Jazeera. 

RUSHING:  And yet, it‘s one of the most influential and most recognized media brands in the world, or brands period in the world that is the most recognized media brand in the world, 

CARLSON:  In the world? 

RUSHING:  In the world.  In 2004 it was one of the most five most recognized brands in the world behind Starbucks, Ikea, Apple, and something else.  And every year Brandchannel does this survey, Al-Jazeera is the most recognized media brand in the world. 

CARLSON:  As you know, it has very—it‘s carried on very few cable systems in the United States. 

RUSHING:  In the United States. 

CARLSON:  I suspect that most cable operators are hesitant to put it on because most Americans believe Al-Jazeera is run by people who hate us, and its programming is anti-American.  Why do people think that? 

RUSHING:  I actually sat in on the distribution meetings with all the cable distributors and seller executives in America.  And the truth is, it‘s less to do with what you‘re talking about and more to do with they believe Americans don‘t care about international news.  So it‘s the same reason that you don‘t get BBC World distributed throughout America.  CNN International tends to not have its own channel in America.  Distributors believe Americans don‘t care about international news.  It‘s a money venture.  There‘s a limited spectrum. 

CARLSON:  But Americans do believe that Al-Jazeera is the jihadist network.  I mean people believe that and. 

RUSHING:  And yet, Al-Jazeera has been broadcast in America for the last 10 years on the disc satellite system. 

CARLSON:  Right. 

RUSHING:  Al-Jazeera Arabic.  So if it‘s really that big of a controversy, it‘s been broadcast in America all these years.  That‘s not what stopped Al-Jazeera from coming in. 

CARLSON:  But (INAUDIBLE), I mean, so are you saying that Al-Jazeera is not a channel that carries tons of anti-American, anti-Semitic programming? 

RUSHING:  Absolutely.  Absolutely.  As a matter of fact, look at Israel.  If you want to talk anti-Semitic, Israel has taken BBC World off its satellite system, put Al-Jazeera English on its place.  It‘s taken CNN off the cable system—the largest distributor television in Israel has pulled CNN to put Al-Jazeera English on in its place.  If it was anti-Semitic, would Israel do that?  No.  It is not anti-Semitic. 

CARLSON:  Well, it‘s anti-American, which is my primary concern.  Is it anti-American? 

RUSHING:  Nor is it anti-American.  I was a Marine for 14 years straight of active duty, and now I‘m a reporter for Al-Jazeera, and I tell you, I watch it all the time.  It is not anti-American. 

CARLSON:  What do your friends say?  What do your families—because leaving aside the merits of your argument, you will concede that people have that perception. 

RUSHING:  Absolutely. 

CARLSON:  They think that. 


CARLSON:  So when you say, “I‘m a reporter from Al-Jazeera,” what do people say to you? 

RUSHING:  Well, it depends on who I‘m talking to.  My friends and my family, of course, they get it.  The people I work with in the Pentagon, of course, they get it.  The Pentagon has me out to speak to senior leadership all the time.  How do we understand Al-Jazeera?  How do we misunderstand it?  How shall we engage it? 

It‘s those people in middle America that don‘t know what it is that I kind of have to tell them what it is, but, you‘re right, they do react rather strongly.  I mean there was a point, I was in North Dakota doing a story on small town America, a very charming story, had a federal agent follow me from town to town and interview all the people that I interviewed and tell them that there was national security consequences to the fact that they spoke to me and made them all nervous.  So I couldn‘t go back.  He burned every bridge. 

CARLSON:  From what federal agency? 

RUSHING:  He was a border control from North Dakota, Crosby, North Dakota, and he was either INS—I forget now.  They‘ve mixed up the Border Patrol and the Customs. 


RUSHING:  They‘ve combined them.  He was one of those guys. 

CARLSON:  Well, I definitely disapprove of that.  I think I‘d probably disapprove of some of what‘s on Al-Jazeera, but I wish I could watch it because I think it‘s interesting to get other points of view. 

RUSHING:  I can really only speak for Al-Jazeera English because I don‘t speak Arabic.  So I don‘t understand what they‘re even saying on the air. 


RUSHING:  But Al-Jazeera English, I watch it every day and I bet you would disapprove of a lot less than you think you would. 

CARLSON:  Well, I would like to make that judgment myself.  But again, I‘m always interested in seeing what other people are saying. 

Why does Osama bin Laden send his tapes to Al-Jazeera? 

RUSHING:  Well, he doesn‘t anymore.  He doesn‘t because Al-Jazeera didn‘t air them in their entirety.  They didn‘t air all the tapes.  He now releases them online.  Al-Jazeera covers that as a news event, but so do American stations.  When American networks cover it, what they do is they show Al-Jazeera covering it.  But it‘s released—if you look at the last two bin Laden tapes and the al-Zawahiri tapes, they‘ve all come out online. 

And al Qaeda is so sophisticated now they actually buy banner advertisement weeks in advance to say what Web site the new bin Laden message is going to come out on.  They‘re frustrated with Al-Jazeera because they don‘t control it.  Everyone in authority hates Al-Jazeera, including bin Laden, including Zawahiri.  Anyone in al Qaeda hates Al-Jazeera and they‘ve said that publicly. 

CARLSON:  Interesting.  You should put that in your ads. 

Josh Rushing from Al-Jazeera, I really appreciate you coming on. 

Thank you. 

RUSHING:  Thank you, Tucker. 

CARLSON:  Just when you thought news from the Spears family couldn‘t get weirder.  Britney‘s sister tells the world she is pregnant at the age of 16.  Of course, we‘ll have those sordid details when we come back. 


CARLSON:  If are you like most Americans, you‘ve had one thought in the back of your brain since you woke up this morning.  What is going on with the Spears family of Louisiana?  Well, wait no longer.  Bill Wolff is here to tell us. 

BILL WOLFF, MSNBC VICE PRESIDENT:  Well, I‘ve got all the information. 

I was watching Al-Jazeera.  They‘re very pro-Britney, and. 

CARLSON:  Actually, I was sort of—I was impressed by him. 

WOLFF:  Oh, no question about it. 


WOLFF:  But I‘m here to talk about Britney Spears. 

CARLSON:  Sorry. 

WOLFF:  And I gathered my information on Al-Jazeera Arabic.  I don‘t get Al-Jazeera English. 

Anyway, here‘s what I have learned.  It was certainly a mixed news day for the Spears family of Kentwood, Louisiana, over this last 24 hours.  The talk of much of our little blue planet is the pregnancy of 16-year-old Jamie Lynn Spears, Britney‘s kid sister. 

Now besides the trauma of a pre-adult pregnancy, there is the trauma experienced by the kids and parents who know Jamie Lynn Spears as the star of Nickelodeon‘s “Zoey 101.” 

Tucker, how do you tell your 8-year-old about this one?  But the news is not all traumatic.  Some of it is kind of is (INAUDIBLE) and pitiful.  First of all, Brit and Jamie‘s mom, Lynn, was writing a book on parenting for Thomas Nelson Publishing, which I learned, specializes in inspirational books and bibles.  Needless to say, Tucker, that project is on hold. 

And reports that the Spearses will receive a cool $1 million in cash for the first photo of Aunt Britney‘s new niece or nephew upon arrival.  Still trying to figure out why the bible publisher put the mom‘s book on hold, Tucker.  She seems like she‘s got everything under control. 

CARLSON:  Yes.  I mean, I think Britney Spears herself might have been a tip off of the publisher that whoever reared her, probably didn‘t know what she was doing. 

WOLFF:  Well, let‘s say she has unconventional methods with interesting results.  How‘s that? 

CARLSON:  Nicely put. 

WOLFF:  The Christmas season.  Forgiving. 

Now the news about Britney was somewhat more upbeat today.  No.  It‘s not that she‘s been ordered to a January deposition in her child custody case, though she has.  No, it‘s not that she was only joking when she said she didn‘t know that her sis was pregnant.  She was.  It‘s that “In Touch Weekly,” which, Tucker, is really the international “Herald Tribune” of trashy magazines, says that Larry Birkhead thinks Britney is, quote, “sexy.” 

According to “ITW,” Birkhead has a weakness for blonde-haired women in peril.  He‘s a single dad.  He‘s looking to get set up with a single mom named Britney Spears.  Birkhead, Tucker, the father of the daughter of another blonde bombshell, the late Anna Nicole Smith. 

My advice to Britney, start over.  Stay out of this.  Don‘t do this. 

Larry Birkhead, nice guy, but stay out of it. 

CARLSON:  You know, when Alan Keyes gets up on stage and says this country is falling apart, you are tempted to kind of ignore him.  I‘m now convinced he‘s on to something. 

WOLFF:  And that‘s why we‘re doing a public service right here right now, Tucker.  We‘re showing you the world falling apart. 

Now, Larry Birkhead, not believed to have been in the running for “Time” magazine‘s person of the year.  That annual recognition given this morning to outgoing Russian president, incoming Russian prime minister, and probably future Russian president Vladimir Putin.  Mr. Putin, of course, puts the bear back in Russian bear.  This year with a series of manly topless shots from a nature retreat.  There he is.  He also put the cold back into the cold war by cozying up with Iran and generally sticking it to President Bush on a number of key international issues.  Putin, believed to have edged out award-winning Al Gore, among others. 

Larry Birkhead not one of them, Tucker. 

CARLSON:  Good. 

WOLFF:  That‘s your hard news. 

Now this program was the beneficiary of some genuine synergy today.  The truly great Brian Williams of the NBC “NIGHTLY NEWS” visited MSNBC coverage during the day during a segment on re-gifting for the holidays, and he rightly advised viewers to catch NBC “NIGHTLY NEWS” at 6:30 Eastern, 5:30 Central and Mountain, and he said what to do about this show.  Quite a shout-out. 


BRIAN WILLIAMS, NBC NIGHTLY NEWS:  Thanks so much for asking what‘s coming up tonight on NBC “NIGHTLY NEWS” on your local NBC station.  Just TiVo whatever is on MSNBC.  Make sure to catch up and watch it later in the day. 


WOLFF:  See?  TiVo it and catch up on it later in the day.  But viewers are advised, please watch the commercials.  Great products.  You‘re going to enjoy.  So don‘t miss the commercials, everybody. 

CARLSON:  OK.  I‘ll take that as high praise.  If you‘re watching this on TiVo right now, we‘re grateful to have you. 

WOLFF:  We certainly are. 

CARLSON:  Amen. 

Bill Wolff from headquarters.  Thanks a lot, Bill. 

WOLFF:  You got it. 

CARLSON:  That does it for us.  Thanks for watching.  We‘ll see you back here tomorrow night live or on TiVo.  Up next “HARDBALL with CHRIS MATTHEWS.”  Have a great night. 



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