updated 6/19/2007 11:01:27 AM ET 2007-06-19T15:01:27

Guests: Jim Gilmore, A.B. Stoddard, Ed Schultz, Mike Gravel

DAVID SHUSTER, GUEST HOST:  In the fight over the Iraq war, the battle of September has arrived. 

Hello, everybody.  I‘m David Shuster, in for Tucker Carlson.

Three months before Congress is supposed to decide whether the U.S.  troop escalation in Iraq is working, a fight has erupted between the Bush administration and top Republican supporters on Capitol Hill.  The air in Washington today was thick with anticipation and intrigue.  President Bush is trying to hold on to his war, but top Republicans have started talking about helping Democrats bring the troops home. 

Tonight, we will talk with one Republican in the middle of this remarkable new debate.

Also, 2008 presidential politics.  In a new poll out today, there is big news for Hillary Clinton, and stunning news for Republican John McCain. 

In the CIA leak scandal, the clock is ticking on Vice President Cheney‘s man, Scooter Libby.  Today, Libby put the final touches on documents he will file tomorrow asking an appellate court to throw out the requirement that Libby report to prison this summer.  Pardon advocates have consistently misstated the facts of the case.  Tonight, we will correct them. 

And the strangest campaign video we have ever seen.  Is Democrat Mike Gravel running for president of the United States, or weirdo of the year?  We will talk to Gravel later.

But first tonight, the series business of the Iraq war.  For months,

the Bush administration has touted its troop escalation strategy.  Week

after week, White House message to Congress has been: Don‘t even think

about cutting off funding for the war until our commanders report back in

September. 

Now, however, with no signs of Iraqi political progress and with violence continuing at a horrific rate, a clear conflict has emerged. 

First, the top U.S. commander in Iraq.  Yesterday on Fox News, General Petraeus was asked, will the job of the surge be done by September? 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAJ. GEN. DAVID PETRAEUS, COMMANDER, MULTI-NATIONAL FORCE, IRAQ:  I do not, no.  I think that we have a lot of heavy lifting to do. The damage done by the sectarian violence in the fall and winter of 2006 and early 2007, as I mentioned, was substantial, and this is a tough effort. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHUSTER:  But just as Petraeus was trying to help the Bush administration back away from a fall deadline for progress, the Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell firmly stood against such a change.  Watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL ®, KENTUCKY:  I think everybody anticipates there‘s going to be a new strategy in the fall.  I don‘t think we‘ll have the same level of troops, in all likelihood, that we have now.  The time to properly evaluate that, it strikes me, is in September. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHUSTER:  The contradiction could not be clearer, and so the long anticipated battle between Republicans and the White House has began.  And just today, the president took fire from a Republican presidential candidate, who was one of the war‘s staunchest supporters.  Former Virginia Governor James Gilmore in “The Washington Post” wrote, quote, “We cannot continue our present policy.”  And referring to pulling out some U.S.  forces, Gilmore referred to “drawing down our forces while maintaining the military presence to preserve democracy.”

Republican presidential candidate Governor Jim Gilmore joins us here in Washington.  Governor, first of all, thanks for being with us.

JIM GILMORE ®, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Thank you, David.

SHUSTER:  First of all, we‘ll talk about September in just a second, but you supported the troop escalation.  Now you say we should start drawing some of the troops down.  What has changed your mind? 

GILMORE:  Well, I have been supporting the troop escalation on the basis that we needed to find a third way, we needed to find something that gives us a different type of approach. 

The president was working to try to create that with a troop escalation, and I‘ve tried to help him, you know, have an opportunity to do that.

But the violence is continuing, and the thing that really motivated me to write my letter today, my open letter to the president, is the simple fact that more and more people keep trying to put all the responsibility for this on the people of the United States and of the United States of America.  And that‘s not where it belongs, David. 

SHUSTER:  So just to be clear, though, you‘re saying that we ought to start withdrawing our troops, perhaps to the border, keep some bases there but significantly decrease the number of troops in Iraq?

GILMORE:  Certainly redeploy the troops.  Instead of trying to play policeman on every street corner and having our people blown up by these bombs each and every day, redeploy and then rethink what the mission is.  Is...

SHUSTER:  And starting right now?

GILMORE:  Yes.  Yes.  Is the mission to simply preserve peace on that street corner, or is the biggest strategic issue really is what‘s at work here. 

Number one, we need to make sure that we preserve Israel.  Number two, we don‘t want to see the neighbors of this country invade this country.  Number three, we don‘t want to see al Qaeda take over this country. 

But beyond that, our job should not be policemen.  We could be advisers to this government and to the Iraqi people, but we can‘t take responsibility for their future. 

SHUSTER:  Your change is a pretty significant one, but I want you to focus as a political analyst just for a second on this issue over September.  The Bush administration wanting to keep things going, suggesting that no, we should not be looking at progress by September.  You heard Mitch McConnell say that September is a crucial month. 

Explain the politics on this.  And do you think that Republicans will now start to sort of back away from the president on this?

GILMORE:  You know, David, I don‘t know the politics of this.  All I care about at this point is protecting the interests of the United States of America.  I am a candidate for president of the United States.  I think I have an obligation when I see things and I have a view as to the way things should go, to report that to the president and also to the public, through a public pronouncement, and that‘s what I‘ve done. 

SHUSTER:  But there was a lot of hope, a lot of expectation that the surge of additional troops would produce some results.  You yourself suggested that we ought to give it a chance.  What was the crystallizing moment for you when you decided, you know what, the surge is not working? 

GILMORE:  It‘s OK with me if the surge works.  I have taken a position it should have an opportunity to work.  It‘s OK with me, and I hope that it is successful, but that is not the point. 

The point is, we continue now to place—to pretend as though the United States has all the responsibility on this.  We say, we ought to partition the country.  What right do we have to partition the country?  We say that the parliament ought to do this or that.  What right do we have to say that?  We‘ll never get out of this successfully until we begin to place the responsibility in the correct place, and it‘s not all on the United States.  Our responsibility is to look after the national interests of the United States of America. 

SHUSTER:  Did you try to warn the White House before you wrote this op-ed?

GILMORE:  No, we simply sent it as they receive any other kind of communique. 

SHUSTER:  Did you get any feedback from the White House after...

GILMORE:  I‘m sure they will take our advice just as much as they would anybody else‘s and take it into consideration.

But the point is, my responsibility is not only to offer proper advice, but also inform the American people of my views as a candidate for president of the United States. 

SHUSTER:  It does appear that most senators—Mitch McConnell, others

are now suggesting we want a full status report in September, we‘re going to make a decision in September.  Are you OK if the Congress of the United States tells the president, you haven‘t made the progress that we needed to see, therefore we‘re voting to start pulling the troops out, starting, say, this fall?

GILMORE:  The letter that I have written also says that the Democrats are wrong to pull it on a timetable, that that is not in the interests of the United States.

David, here‘s the point: If you pull out, then you don‘t achieve the matters that I put in the letter, which is the preservation of Iraq from al Qaeda, from—of Israel from being taken over and overborne.  From the position that another country in that area might invade them and take them over.  There is going to have to be an American presence to deter that. 

SHUSTER:  But what kind of numbers?  I mean, you don‘t put any numbers in your piece today.  Are we talking 50,000, 75,000? 

GILMORE:  I would not presume to be a general of the United States. 

Let‘s let the military people decide. 

The key is not—the political people have to decide the mission, and then the military people have to carry it out. 

And I‘m saying that what we‘re doing right now is that we are pretending as though we have total responsibility for this, and therefore we have to control every street corner.  We have a different national interest of the United States, and that‘s what I‘ve articulated in my letter today. 

SHUSTER:  It‘s a big news when a Republican presidential candidate changes their view the way you have on this, but I want to get to two other issues before we let you go.  

Scooter Libby.  There is a lot of talk in Washington about a presidential pardon.  Would you support a pardon for Scooter Libby? 

GILMORE:  No, David, I would not.  I take no joy in the miseries of Scooter Libby.  I have actually met him and I have no desire for him to have to suffer or so on like that.

But here‘s the fact: I‘ve been an elected prosecutor, I‘ve been a courtroom lawyer, I‘ve been an attorney general, and I have exercised executive clemency as a governor.  And I know that you have to respect the law.  You have to have trials.  You have to have verdicts.  You have to have decisions.  And then all the people of America have to live with that.  You can‘t just simply communicate to the American people that a political pardon is going to disrupt that kind of procedure. 

SHUSTER:  Does Fred Thompson then not support the law, because he supports a pardon for Scooter Libby? 

GILMORE:  Well, you know, I have been a prosecutor; I don‘t just play one on TV.  And the key here is that you have to ask Fred Thompson the question of whether or not the law would be undermined by that kind of pardon.  I‘ve answered the question for myself. 

SHUSTER:  Finally, there has been a lot of discussion that somebody out of the second tier—maybe yourself, maybe Mike Huckabee—somebody is going to rise up and challenge Giuliani, McCain and Fred Thompson.  What do you make, though, of the top of the Republican field right now?  You have got a guy like Rudy Giuliani.  He‘s pro-choice, supports gay rights, supports gun control.  Is that OK with Republican voters in these primaries? 

GILMORE:  Well, I entered the race, David, precisely because I assessed at the beginning of 2007 that there was not a conservative candidate in the race who was reliable and who had that kind of track record.  I have that kind of track record.  My philosophy has been clear for years.  I‘ve actually governed that way.  And I think I will offer that kind of alternative. 

So now we just have to put our ideas out there, and the American people and the Republican Party will have to decide, the Republican voters.

SHUSTER:  Governor Jim Gilmore, who is a Republican presidential candidate, thank you very much for coming in.  We appreciate it. 

GILMORE:  Thank you, David.

SHUSTER:  If Republicans are urging a troop withdrawal, is this the beginning of the end of the war?  Coming up, we will get the latest from Capitol Hill. 

Plus, there is news today regarding Scooter Libby, as you just heard.  He‘s about to file more documents in an effort to stay out of jail.  My question is, what do people asking President Bush to pardon Libby keep misstating some of the facts in this case?  We will explore that, coming up.

And Democratic presidential candidate Mike Gravel—what on Earth as he thinking when he produced this campaign video?  It is the weirdest political video any of us have ever seen.  We will get a live explanation from Gravel later in the hour.  You‘re watching MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHUSTER:  And welcome back everybody, I‘m David Shuster.  As you just heard, in our last segment, top Republicans are now peeling away from the president‘s troop escalation policy in Iraq.  One after another, Republicans are maintaining that clear progress must be made by September or they will support Democratic calls to bring the troops home.  Joining us here in studio are A.B. Stoddard, associate editor of the “Hills” newspaper and Ed Schultz, Nationally Syndicated Radio Talk Show Host. 

And A.B., I want to start with you, you have heard from Governor Gilmore right there.  Mitch McConnell yesterday said September is the month.  Senator Gordon Smith says that a dozen Republican senators will support the Democratic calls and his call for withdrawal if there is not clear progress by September.  Is the dam began to break on the Bush administration? 

A.B. STODDARD, THE HILL:  I think it already has.  It think, it‘s been more than a month since 12 House Republicans went to the White House and told the president he‘s lost credibility on the issue of the war, that their constituents are saying that something has to change.  I think this is the administration knows that they need to transition into the next change in strategy in Iraq that will officially begin in September when Petraeus reports to the Congress. 

Petraeus has told us now that significant progress is not going to be possible by September, and I think the Republicans in the Congress have warned President Bush, in the last several weeks, that they are not going to be with him anymore unless things change, unless he changes strategy.  They want what they are calling a plan B, a third way, and I think what they would really like is they would like to change the direction in Iraq.  They like the Democrats to continue doing what they are doing.  But they want to work with the president on changing the direction.  They would like to engaged the president and they hope that he works with them.  If he does not, they are going to vote with the Democrats.

SHUSTER:  Jim Gilmore didn‘t engage the White House at all, he just wrote this op-ed and put it out there.   What did you make of the position that he is in?  His change is pretty dramatic. 

ED SCHULTZ, NATIONALLY SYNDICATED RADIO TALK SHOW HOST:  You know, David, I thought for a moment that you were interviewing John Murtha. 

Redeployment that one came up almost two years ago when Murtha stepped out and said these kinds of things.  Look, the Republicans are scrambling.  They are going for hedgerow country because they know they need political cover.  Mainstream Americans are against this policy.  The majority Americans, its just not he anti-war Democrats, mainstream Americans are now questioning this.  This president has been given everything he has wanted when it comes to leeway to go do what you want to do in Iraq.  We are getting close to ‘08.  I‘ve predicted all along, about the time August comes around, they are going to start running for cover because they have got to run for reelection. 

Now, as far as Gilmore is concerned, he needs some pub.  I mean, he is not pulling anywhere in double digits so he has got to get out there and get in step with mainstream Americans.  So I think it‘s pretty much a strategic move on his campaign to make that statement today. 

SHUSTER:  But as far as approval ratings, though, I mean, Congress is lower than the president at 23 percent.  There is a debate in Democratic circles about whether this is simply due to Iraq or the perception that Congress has not done anything.  Is it the Iraq war? 

SCHULTZ:  Well, it‘s not.  It is a culmination of things.  I spoke with Harry Reid today for about 20 minutes.  He got his back up when I positioned the question about getting things done.  He feels they have gotten a lot of with such a small majority in the last six months.  The base is upset because they were upset that Democrats didn‘t vote the way they were supposed to vote, the way the constituents wanted them.  And then they came back and said well, we can‘t override it because we don‘t have 67 votes.  That is not what it is about.  The base of the Democratic party wants the Democrats to go in and vote exactly how their constituents want it, that‘s what they‘re paying a price for. 

SHUSTER:   A.B., what are they waiting for?  I mean, you don‘t get much of a better opportunity than Mitch McConnell disagreeing with General Petraeus about how important September is.  Why isn‘t Pelosi and Reed out there having a news conference today saying we‘re reintroducing the measure that we tried last month? 

STODDARD:  Well, I think first of all, Republicans really do have to wait for a progress report from the ground and from the military.  They are not one to jump ship before September.  They are going to get through this long hot summer.  There will be more Iraq debate, certainly in the Senate.  I am told Republicans, at least leadership Republicans are not likely to give them any help—Harry Reid any help on the amendments he‘s going to offer on the defense authorization bill.  They are going to wait until September, but then it is going to be a different game.  And I think, as I said before, they would really like not to vote with the Democrats.  They would like to find a Republican way so that they—their candidates on the stump and when their members run for reelection in the Congress, can go to the American people and say we too thought that it wasn‘t—that the search had failed and we looked for a new direction in Iraq.  And we changed the direction in Iraq.  They do not want to vote for a timed withdrawal ... 

SHUSTER:   Wait, Republicans are wanting to give the present one more chance to say to the president, we want you to do it our way.  We want you to be on board.  In other words, they are saying ... 

STODDARD:  They want a different way.  They do not want to use the Democrat‘s language.  They don‘t want to vote for Democratic withdrawal plans, they want their own way. 

SHUSTER:  But Ed, you don‘t think this president is going to say, because Republicans want me go along with them, I‘m going to change policy.

SCHULTZ:  I don‘t mean to be snide about this, but it is all about being reelected.  It really is and I think a lot of these politicians here in Washington are going to have just enough time to go home and say, well, you know, I am trying to bring this whole thing to conclusion.  The fact is, the president‘s in charge.  And there is a real possibility that none of this surge, none of this escalation will change until President Bush is out of office.  That may be the cards we are dealing with.

SHUSTER:  And one of the things that I find most shocking is the idea that Republicans think that they can somehow convince President Bush to go along with them and end this thing.  I don‘t think that is happening at all, but in any case. 

On the other side of this break, the Scooter Libby prison sentence.  His legal team is falling more documents tomorrow that ask for a delay in Libby having to report to prison.  We will get some of the latest information about the Scooter Libby case, just ahead.  Plus, there are some incredible poll numbers out today in the race for 2008.  Just seven months before the crucial presidential primaries come and go.  We will talk about it all, you are watching MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHUSTER:  And we‘re back.

Vice President Cheney‘s former of chief of staff spent today putting final touches on the documents he will file tomorrow.  The documents announce a request an appellate court throw out judge‘s decision to send Scooter Libby straight to jail this summer.  Libby wanted to remain free pending his appeal in the CIA leak case that is surrounding, of course, former agent Valerie Plame. 

The speculation continues to percolate in Washington over the possibility that the White House will make all of this moot by granting Libby a pardon.  Advocates of a pardon have consistently misstated the facts of this case, and we are going to devote the next few minutes to cleaning it up here. 

Back with us are A.B. Stoddard, associate editor of “The Hill” newspaper and Ed Schultz, nationally syndicated radio talk show host.

First of all, Ed, the issue of a pardon, you are talking to people every day on your show.  What is their sense about how much they‘re following this? 

SCHULTZ:  Well, there is not much love for Scooter Libby, I can tell you that, with most Americans.  They expect him to go to jail, and they expect the behavior to be by the president that he is going to pardon Scooter Libby, because the president does not want his administration to go down in history that one of his top aides ended up in jail.  I mean, I think there‘s a legacy issue here, and I think that he can probably get away with it and the base would accept it.

You have already got a number of Republican candidates who have said that, on record, that they would pardon the guy.  So they are giving the president political cover right there.  The base does not want to see anybody go to jail, and I think the top 2 percent crowd really does not care about it. 

SHUSTER:  A.B., my sense is that the politics on this, Republicans are really getting cornered by the Clinton impeachment.  The number of Republicans who voted for Bill Clinton‘s impeachment on perjury and obstruction of justice charges, I mean, those Republicans can‘t come out now and say, oh, but in the case of Scooter Libby, lying to a grand jury is fine.  

STODDARD:  I disagree with Ed.  I think that a pardon acknowledges guilt, and so for President Bush to pardon Scooter Libby, who was not his top aide—it is Dick Cheney‘s problem—sullies him.  At this point, I don‘t see why he has to—he is not beholden to the base.  We know this from immigration.  I think at this point, for him to say—to pardon someone who lied under oath just to make himself happy with the conservative base, there is no point in this.  And President Bush is not running.  Dick Cheney is not running.

I think that it would be just such a Christmas in July for the Democrats to paint the Republicans as a party of lying under oath, after, as you mentioned, the Clinton impeachment. 

I just think that it‘s like the Iraq war.  I mean, you could make the case that Patrick Fitzgerald was never—should never have pursued Scooter Libby and he knew who the leaker was, but when you lie under oath—I mean, it‘s just like why (inaudible) the Iraq war.  What‘s done is done...

SHUSTER:  That was one of the points that some Scooter Libby supporters have made.  They keep saying—they look in the camera and they say, oh, Richard Armitage was the leaker, as if there was only one leaker.  But in fact, Richard Armitage would have never known about Valerie Wilson had it not been for Scooter Libby asking the State Department for documents that Armitage saw.  And it also doesn‘t excuse the fact that Scooter Libby leaked information about Valerie Wilson to Matt Cooper, and he also leaked it to Judy Miller on three different occasions.  So this effort about saying, oh, well, it was simply—Richard Armitage was the original leaker... 

STODDARD:  I‘m saying—as you said, his advocates are making—are making that argument, but you‘re right, I mean, if he was one of the leakers, he was one of the leakers.  But more importantly, when questioned, and you‘re a big boy and you have a big job in government, you tell the truth, and he did not.  And so, pardoning that is a huge political problem, I think, for Bush and the Republicans. 

SHUSTER:  The other argument that has been made repeatedly is some defenders of Scooter Libby say, oh, well, Valerie Plame, she was not covert.  And yet in this latest round of documents, we find out that, yes, Valerie Wilson was covert.  She was a covert agent.  And what we also find out is that Patrick Fitzgerald never got enough of a look at the act of leaking information about a classified agent to make a judgment call about whether to charge somebody with that. 

But the mere fact that he did keep it on a charge of perjury and obstruction of justice, does that now make it more difficult or less difficult for the White House to say we‘re going to pardon him? 

SCHULTZ:  I think it‘s easy for President Bush to justify anything.  He is that stubborn, he‘s that pigheaded, and I think it‘s about his legacy. 

I also believe that the American people are out there thinking, you know what?  A lie.  Gosh, how many other lies have we heard from this outfit?  That‘s where they are. 

So they would like to see Scooter Libby go to jail, and I do believe that most Americans think that he will be pardoned.  And this is just a microcosm of how they have operated on so many other issues.  They‘ve been great at dodging the tough questions, they‘ve been great at covering up a lot of different things.  And so, if this is the only thing that can give solace to the American people on this action, I think it‘s relevant. 

SHUSTER:  I‘ve got to say, one of the things that we‘ve got to watch in Scooter Libby‘s case, which may make it more difficult for the president, is the argument that‘s going to be made—the strongest argument that Scooter Libby may have for having this reversed is the position of Patrick Fitzgerald, the idea that he was not appropriately appointed, special counsel, and there is a constitutional question.  But that has nothing to do with the merits of the case of whether Scooter Libby lied.  And for that reason, I think it‘s an awfully tough case to make to give a pardon to Scooter Libby.  But we‘ll see what the president does.

Coming up, America, are you ready for your first female president?  If you follow the polls, or at least one poll, you better be, because Hillary Clinton has taken a big lead over Barack Obama. 

Plus, is he the fire or the spark?  And why has presidential candidate Mike Gravel released an ad showing seven minutes of burning wood?  We‘ll pose those questions to the candidate himself.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(MARKET REPORT)

SHUSTER:  Hi, I‘m David Shuster, in for Tucker Carlson.  Today, the latest polls show some shake-up in the presidential field.  Hillary Clinton has regained her lead over rival Barack Obama.  And despite not even being in the race officially, Fred Thompson has overtaken John McCain.  Does this mean the Straight Talk Express is dead on the side of the road? 

Back again are A.B. Stoddard, associate editor of the “Hill Newspaper,” and Ed Schultz, nationally syndicated radio talk show host.  I can‘t take credit for that line, by the way. 

Let‘s talk about the Democrats.  Hillary Clinton—a stunning poll today, “USA Today”/Gallup.  A.B., Hillary at 39 percent, Barack Obama 26 percent.  You add Al Gore into the mix, Hillary still has a 12 point spread.  What is going on here? 

STODDARD:  Well, I think that she is sort of a stumble free candidate.  She remains—she has always actually had a lead over Barack Obama.  And in many polls it‘s between 10 and 12 points.  I think she has moved to the left on the war.  It has helped her a lot.  And she remains still the candidate with the most experience, who is the most prepared, and has an incredible political machine behind her. 

The interesting thing, at this very early stage still, is that Barack Obama does remain a threat.  He is not the powerhouse that she is.  He is behind in the polls.  But he is still a threat.  And that makes it still an open race.  He is making gains with African-American voters, that were absolutely in the Clinton camp before, with their donors, with support in South Carolina.  There is a poll out that has him ahead of her with African American voters in South Carolina.  I think that she still has to watch her back. 

SHUSTER:  But Ed Schultz, I have heard a number of Democrats say that Barack Obama has had a better run in the media then Howard Dean had four years ago.  Howard Dean got off to 44 percent before it plummeted.  Barack Obama has not broken 25, 26 percent despite all of this great coverage, despite all of the fund-raising. 

So, is this an indication that he has gotten about as high as he is going to get? 

SCHULTZ:  Well, I think competition is a little bit tougher for Barack Obama than it was for Howard Dean, because Hillary‘s in the race and it is a well-oiled machine.  They are just covering all the cases.  I think you are right, she is stumble free. 

But the Clinton people are amazing.  They view this as a marathon, not a sprint.  And they view this as, do not get too excited about good news or bad news, in it for the long hall.  It‘s a long way to February.  There is still a lot of Americans that have not made up their mind.  But another thing that I think plays into these polls is that I thought Hillary Clinton was terrific in the debates.  I think her answers are smooth and heartfelt and to the point.  And she is well schooled up on issues. 

And I think that she has weathered the storm on the vote back in 2002.  And I think that she has appeased mainstream Americans by standing up in the Congress, even though she was not one of the first ones to vote—it was Dodd first and then Obama and Clinton—but she did vote for change.  She voted for policy change. 

SHUSTER:  But doesn‘t that get to perhaps one of the biggest problems Obama has and that is there is such great anticipation, such great expectation.  He is the next Robert Kennedy.  He gave this stirring speech at the Democratic National Convention.  Who could possibly live up to that sort of expectation?  You hear over and over, people go to the Obama event.  They are anticipating somebody incredible.  He is not a bad, but he is not this Robert Kennedy type just yet.  Is that hurting him? 

STODDARD:  Well, I mean, the expectations are high and they are hard to live up to.  But at the same time, for a guy who has been in the Senate for 20 minutes—who could have possibly raised more money than Hillary Clinton?  Who‘s going to do it?  He continues to defy, I think, the odds. 

Again, that might not last.  He might not make it.  She remains the inevitable front runner, et cetera.  I just think that he remains enough of a threat.  I think it has surprised her. 

SCHULTZ:  He is a generational later.  Barack Obama is going to be around politics in Washington as long as he wants to be.  He is viewed as a next-generation thinker and next-generation type of leader in America.  No matter what happens in 2008, it doesn‘t mean that it is going to be his last run.

Believe it or not, I don‘t think his name recognition is quite as good as it probably could be with all the media attention.  I think that he still has a long way to go even with African-Americans.  There are more African Americans that know who Hillary Clinton is and the Clintons than Barack Obama.  So he—there is still some newness to Barack Obama I think.

SHUSTER:  Let‘s talk about the Republicans.  John McCain wakes up this

morning, sees the latest “USA Today”/Gallup poll showing Rudy Giuliani at

28 percent, Fred Thompson, who‘s not even officially in the race yet, at 19

percent.  There you see John McCain at 18 percent.  I mean you‘re talking -

yes, it is a long time period until the Republican primaries and Democratic primaries.  But it‘s still only seven months, seven months until we‘re going to know who the nominees are going to be.

If you‘re John McCain and you wake up on a day like today and you see those kinds of numbers, A.B., what do you do?  

STODDARD:  Well, his campaign is struggling and everybody knows it.  They are struggling financially.  They did not report an impressive number last time.  They have got a few more days until the June 30th deadline.  It is not looking so great or they are trying to lower our expectations.  His supporters are very concerned about the fact that his stance on the war and his immigration position are not popular with primary voters. 

I mean, this is—It is not going well for him.  And you are right, for John McCain it is actually not so early, because he has been working at this for seven years.  He really has been laying the foundation, brick by brick, week by week.  He hired the right people.  He got the Bush fund raisers.  He has worked very hard.  The fact is he will not fake it and he will not flip-flop.  So he is sticking by his guns on these huge policy issues and the people do not like it. 

SHUSTER:  Well, the other thing that‘s a little bit surprising to a lot of John McCain supporters is, for somebody whose been around so long, the strategy that he has had the last week is to pick these fights with Mitt Romney.  And that is fine, Mitt Romney and John McCain can go after each other on the issue of abortion.  But the guy at the top right now is Rudy Giuliani. 

STODDARD:  Who no one wants to pick on.

SHUSTER:  At some point, McCain is going to have to go after him. 

Right? 

SCHULTZ:  Well, McCain, admittedly, doesn‘t like to raise money.  You can‘t win the presidency unless you realize that that‘s a big part of the job.  He even tells people in the Senate he doesn‘t like to raise money.  Well, that is part of the whole deal.  But one thing that has really hurt McCain is the war.  He has been very dogmatic on the war.  He won‘t change in any way, shape or form.  And you get a feeling when you listen to John McCain that we would be in Iraq a heck of a lot longer if he were president than George W. Bush.  He scares a lot of people when it comes to his war talk.

The other thing is the immigration bill.  I think the entire Congress has missed where the American people are on this.  The American people are about protecting jobs.  The American people are about enforcing the law.  And the American people are not about amnesty.  And McCain has missed it on all three of those facets of this immigration bill. 

SHUSTER:  A.B.?

STODDARD:  I think, back to the strategy of sort of going after Romney, you have to pick off the low hanging fruit.  And I think Rudy Giuliani is not exactly in his sights.  He needs to wait for Giuliani‘s support, which is softening, to get even—to get—he needs his candidacy to be more challenged.  He is waiting for Rudy to stumble. 

I think that he sees an opportunity in sort of getting rid of Mitt Romney.  And there is a case to be made that McCain really still, in the end, could be the nominee.  I mean, it seems unrealistic now, but I think it is not the time for him to go after Giuliani. 

SHUSTER:  I agree 100 percent with you about that.  One think I want to throw at both of you, something we have got coming up in our next segment: Mike Gravel, former Alaska senator, Democratic presidential candidate; he has this new video that is out there on his website that is generating some attention to him.  I want you guys to watch it here in the monitor and we will get your reaction to what is clearly one of the most bizarre videos I think we have ever seen.  Watch.

So there you see Mike Gravel just staring at the camera.  You know

that this is not still video because you see the man walking in the

background.  He just looks in the camera.  He‘s looking.  We are not sure

where this was filmed, although it sort of looks like it could be perhaps -

I don‘t know.  Maybe it is Alaska, where he‘s from. 

This goes on for two and a half minutes or so.  He just looks at the camera.  At a certain point, he will change things a little bit.  A.B., what is your reaction? 

SCHULTZ:  That‘s all he does?  That‘s the whole thing?

SHUSTER:  It changes, but what do you think of the stare?

STODDARD:  It is weird, because, actually, in the debate, I found him kind of charming.  Every presidential field needs a country song candidate.  And Mike Gravel was really, you know, Mr. Authentic, and sort of—I don‘t know—really lively at the debate.  So I am a little actually surprised to see him really acting so strange. 

SCHULTZ:  This is not the same man that I have interviewed on “The Ed Schultz Show” numerous times.  He is a live wire.  He is a walking sound bite.  He is appealing to a lot—

SHUSTER:  There he goes.  There he goes.  Here‘s the big moment of the commercial here.  There he goes.

SCHULTZ:  Is he leaving us?

SHUSTER:  Keep going, keep going, Ed.

SCHULTZ:  Well, he‘s trying to get America‘s attention.  And he‘s going to pick up a rock and—he just throws it in the water. 

SHUSTER:  A.B. Stoddard, Ed Schultz, thank you both for joining us. 

We are going to talk to Mike Gravel about this very bizarre video. 

SCHULTZ:  That‘s a heck of a splash.  Did you see that.

SHUSTER:  The Alaska Democrat is raising eyebrows, not only with this video, but also another where picks up twigs.  We will ask him what it is all about just ahead. 

Plus, it was a sad, sad weekend in India.  Well, not really.  So then why were all of these women crying?  Keep watching MSNBC for the answer.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHUSTER:  Wow!  And with the toss of a rock into a lake, one of the more unusual presidential ad campaigns begins.  Why would any presidential candidate produce a video that is this strange?  Well, let‘s ask the candidate himself.  Former Alaska Senator Mike Gravel joins us now.  And senator, what is the point of the stare? 

MIKE GRAVEL (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Well, first off, it is not an ad.  It‘s not meant to be an ad.  I didn‘t pay anything for it.  I had a couple of young teachers from Southern California that approached my campaign asking if they could film me.  And so Mindy Aiden (ph), who is representing me in Southern California, she says—and I said, what‘s it about? 

She said, well, they want you to throw a rock in the water.  I said I‘ll do it.  Because here, you throw a rock in the water, you see ripples.  That‘s, of course, what a campaign is all about.  You try to do something and they see ripples.  Now, why people like you don‘t understand this, which is hilarious—this is a metaphor.  This is a metaphor. 

And it is not a metaphor that I have initiated.  This is a metaphor of how they look at me. 

SHUSTER:  Speaking of metaphors, is it true that you did more than one take? 

GRAVEL:  Oh yes.  They had larger—in fact, I was wondering, because this is the first time I‘ve seen it, is did he use the little rock or the big rock.  The big rock I had to pick up with two hands.  But they used—

SHUSTER:  So, in other words, even though the only point of this was to look in the camera and go over an pick up a rock, you had to do more than one take? 

GRAVEL:  Three.

SHUSTER:  Three takes.  Isn‘t that a little bit bizarre?

GRAVEL:  No, it took them three days to do all this whole thing. 

These kids came up from Southern California in their modest little vehicle. 

They had rocks in the trunk of the car.  They had these twigs. 

SHUSTER:  Let‘s show you the twig video.  This is a video where—you can narrate as we‘re watching this video here.  This is the other video that is on your campaign website. 

GRAVEL:  It‘s not on the campaign website yet.  We‘re going to put it and I‘m going to explain what it is so people above 30 will understand what‘s happening.  

SHUSTER:  OK, well, I did not understand the one about you walking around in the forest.  I think we‘ve—there you go again with the rock and you—By the way, where is this? 

GRAVEL:  This was in San Francisco.  And they has scouted this area out before.  That is the heavy rock.  What am I talking about.  Yes, that is the heavy rock.

SHUSTER:  That was take number three?

GRAVEL:  Yes, I don‘t know why they have both on there, but -- 

SHUSTER:  All right, now some people may think this is not a guy we want to be president of the United States if he needs three takes to stare in the camera and throw a rock, and if that‘s going to be his reaction when you‘re dealing with -- 

GRAVEL:  Stop and think of what that says.  That‘s not what I say.  That is what they are saying.  What they see of me is an ordinary citizen who is trying to make a difference by doing something and it causes ripples in society.  And then you move on into infinity.  Now that is a metaphor for somebody who is trying to do something significant.  Now, many of the pundits do not understand its.  Is that a surprise to you? 

SHUSTER:  That‘s right, we don‘t understand it.  What about this other video you have where you‘re walking around in a forest, and this other one where you walk around and you pick up twigs—

(CROSS TALK)

GRAVEL:  What the metaphor is that the branches I have under my arm are what a person acquires in the way of wisdom.  And then he reaches down and acquires a little more experience, a little more wisdom, reaches down, picks up a little more, a little more wisdom.  And then he then goes out and starts a fire.  What does a fire represent?  Fire represents light, heat, warmth.  It is the sustenance of life. 

So what you have there is a metaphor of what I represent in their eyes.  I did not think about this. 

SHUSTER:  So you didn‘t even come up with this idea? 

GRAVEL:  Not at all.  I had to figure this out after.  I didn‘t even ask them a question.  Because I trust these young people, who are two teachers, who teach art and technology.  And do they not have a message to give about my campaign. 

SHUSTER:  Senator Gravel, you are a nice man.  I do hope that your next videos on your website will be about Iraq and your policies now that you‘re generating all this attention.  But I still don‘t get the point of having seven minutes of fire burning there.

GRAVEL:  That‘s the way it goes.  It‘s a metaphor. 

SHUSTER:   All right, Mike Gravel.  If the price is right, Rosie O‘Donnell just may take the job if Bob Barker has his way.  It didn‘t take him long for him to come in and give his recommendations for his replacement.  Maybe that‘s another job for Mike Gravel if this campaign doesn‘t work.  In any case, back on the other side of this break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHUSTER:  We are back.  And we are still in shock over that last segment with Mike Gravel.  So let‘s move on to a man who never needs any twigs for his fire and can stair at the camera and throw rocks in just one take, not three, Bill Wolff.  

BILL WOLFF, VICE PRESIDENT OF MSNBC:  David Shuster, how are you?

SHUSTER:  Good to be with you.

WOLFF:  You did not get the metaphor? 

SHUSTER:  I missed it. 

WOLFF:  You‘re so not hip, Dave.  Me, I got it the entire time.  Come over to my house.  I‘ll show you some other stuff.  You know, Dave, as a dedicated news man, I know you know that this is America, and we Americans value the smooth transition of power.  And so with the hopes of Republic in the balance, we wait to learn who will succeed Bob Barker as the host of the “Price is Right.”

Now, among the rumored possibilities are the tannest man alive, George Hamilton, and that gray haired actor from “Dancing With the Stars,” John O‘Hurley.  But, according to Mr. Barker himself, a worthy replacement would be the vanquished queen of nice, Rosie O‘Donnell.  Quote, she knows the show, Barker said Friday, after picking up his 756th daytime Emmy, breaking Hank Aaron‘s career record.  Quote, there‘s no doubt in my mind she could do the show.  Now, whether they want a lady host, I don‘t know, end quote. 

So we will see.  Now this is some late information I‘ve just gotten from the latest poll: actually leading the race for replacement host for Bob Barker, Fred Thompson.  He‘s not even in the race.  Unbelievable.

SHUSTER:  You know, Bill, I have to give you extra credit today, because that video that you had of the woman in green looked surprisingly like Rosie O‘Donnell.  I do not know how you came up with that, but that was brilliant. 

WOLFF:  Just good TV producing, David.  Stay right where you are.

SHUSTER:  Something I wouldn‘t know anything about. 

WOLFF:  Me neither.  Dateline India, for what looks like reaction to the end of the Bob Barker era.  The women you are about to see are weeping.  But before you offer consolation, because you‘re a gentleman, David, be advised that there is nothing wrong.  These women are contriving misery as part of a crying contest in eastern India held to ensure the perpetuation of the Indian tradition of crying at weddings. 

Now according to the copy I read that was attached this video, Indian brides are obliged to leave home and head to their husbands‘ residence immediately after their weddings, a practice that has always led to a complex confluence of emotions and an uneasiness about their future. 

And may I just say, as a man who married well, I mean, married up—by my mother‘s own account married up—there‘s good reason for that uneasy feeling, brides.  I don‘t know why you‘ve got to have a contest.  Just marry a guy like me.   

SHUSTER:  Bill, you know, that video of the women doing things with their tongues, that looked like that was the dance floor at your wedding a year ago, right? 

WOLFF:  I have no comment, David.  I‘m still a married man.  I‘m trying to keep it that way.  Sports news now David.  I know you‘re a big sports fan.  Part of what makes Indian brides and brides everywhere uneasy upon moving in with their knuckle dragging life partners is golf, especially golf on TV. 

Yesterday, on NBC, I might add, I and husbands just like me spent a beautiful day indoors watching the final round of the prestigious U.S.  Open.  Tiger Woods played brilliantly on the unbearably tough course at Oakmont, outside Pittsburgh, but he fell one stroke short of the champion, Angel Cabrera of Argentina. 

Now, for wives who wonder why their decaying spouses would waste potential quality time watching TV in a dark room, the answer lies in Cabrera‘s training regiment.  While Tiger showed up his developed guns, his well honed buffness, your U.S. Open champ got the job done with a belly that lopped over his belt, and a pack of cigarettes in his golf bag, which he smoked throughout the tense final round. 

Any sport that involves fat bellies and cigarettes among its great champions will always have a market among husbands like me. 

SHUSTER:  That‘s great.  I think Ping has just gotten a whole new bunch of supporters there. 

WOLFF:  Come on, fat guy, smokes cigarettes, win the U.S. Open; there is no greater sport than golf.  If you do not think it is a sport, you try smoking cigarettes and being fat and winning the U.S. Open. 

SHUSTER:  That will be us someday, Bill.

WOLFF:  Wouldn‘t work in tennis.  Finally, Davis, some more international news breaking from the world fashion Mecca of Milan, Italy.  The streaks of fur you‘re about to see—those, right there.  Those are rabbits.  And that wide open space is Milan‘s Linate (ph) airport, which shut down for three hours Sunday as 80 bunnies do what bunnies do at airports. 

Get your mind out of the gutter, Shuster.  They hopped around.  They messed with the radar system.  For three hours, travelers with stuck at the Cinnabun, which in Italy is called the Cinnabene (ph), while 200 would be Elmer Fuds captured the hairs, who were transferred from their unnatural tarmac habitat to a protected nature reserve, where they can not be hunted, which is good news for them.

It is a good thing they were not at Newark.  They would have been fair game, if you know what I mean. 

SHUSTER:  They would have been turned into somebody‘s stew.  Bill Wolff, thank you as always.  That was hilarious.  And that does it for us.  Thanks for watching.  Up next, “HARDBALL” with Chris Matthews.  A great debate ahead on Iraq and policy and what September means.  Chris Matthews is back.  His show starts right now. 

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

END   

Copy: Content and programming copyright 2007 NBC.  ALL RIGHTS  RESERVED. Transcription Copyright 2007 Voxant, Inc.  ALL RIGHTS  RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material other than for research. User may not reproduce or redistribute the material except for user‘s personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon NBC and Voxant, Inc.‘s copyright or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.

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