updated 7/23/2007 11:30:08 AM ET 2007-07-23T15:30:08

Guests: Ed Schultz, Peter Fenn, Dan Shannon, Amy Argetsinger, Roxanne Roberts

DAVID SHUSTER, MSNBC ANCHOR, TUCKER CARLSON: Troop withdrawal smackdown. Hillary Clinton pummels the Pentagon as a new fight over the war erupts.

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

An incredible battle is raging tonight in your nation‘s capital between Hillary Clinton and the Bush administration. The issue is the war in Iraq and the charge by this administration official, apparently approved by Secretary of Defense Gates, that Clinton and others like her are aiding the enemy. Clinton is hitting back hard. And we‘ll have the latest for you in just a moment.

Plus, it was one of the most emotional speeches on the Senate floor in months.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) 

SEN. ROBERT BYRD (D) WEST VIRGINIA:  Barbaric! Hear me! Barbaric!

(END VIDEO CLIP) 

SHUSTER:  Later this hour, the complete highlights of Robert Byrd‘s condemnation of dog fighting. You‘ll also hear the group that had this protest at the office of the National Football League.  A star quarterback is in serious trouble with the group, with Robert Byrd, and with much of the nation.

This is day two of the fight between Bill Press and Rush Limbaugh.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) 

BILL PRESS:  Give me a fair shot at Rush Limbaugh, and I‘ll beat his ass 24 hours a day.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:   All right.  Go, Bill.

(END VIDEO CLIP) 

SHUSTER:  We‘ll get an update on Limbaugh‘s reaction from our very own Willy Geise (ph).

But we begin this hour with the Iraq war and an increasingly nasty fight between Hillary Clinton and the Bush administration. A week ago Clinton began asking military leaders if they actually had any sort of Iraq withdrawal plan in case Congress comes up with the votes.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) 

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  I have been long-worried that the Pentagon is not adequately planning for the withdrawal of our troops, because the White House does not want them to plan for withdrawal.

(END VIDEO CLIP) 

SHUSTER:  This week Clinton received a reply to her question about plans. The document was written by an undersecretary of defense named Eric Edelman.

Quote:  “Premature and public discussion of the withdrawal of U.S.  forces from Iraq . reinforces enemy propaganda that the United States will abandon it‘s allies in Iraq, much as we are perceived to have done in Vietnam . such talk understandably unnerves the very same Iraqi allies we are talking to, we are asking to, to assume enormous personal risks.”

The Clinton campaign is calling Edelman‘s letter “outrageous and dangerous”. And today Clinton took on Edelman‘s boss Secretary of Defense Robert Gates.

Quote:  I renew my request for a briefing, classified if necessary, on current plans for the future withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq, or an explanation for the decision not to engage in such planning . Finally, I request that you describe whether Under-Secretary Edelman‘s letter accurately characterizes your views as secretary of Defense.”

To underscore Clinton anger today, she announced that she and fellow Senator John Kerry will introduce legislation forcing the administration to come up with plans for a withdrawal.

Joining us here, in studio, is Ed Schultz, the syndicated radio talk show host and Peter Finn, is a Democratic strategist.

Ed, let‘s start with you.  The late information we have today that apparently Secretary Gates—apparently saw this letter before it was issued and here you have Edelman saying that anybody who has taken the sort of action that Hillary is, is aiding the enemy?

ED SCHULTZ, “THE ED SCHULTZ SHOW”:  Yeah, well, this comes right out of the playbook of Karl Rove, attack her patriotism. And that‘s exactly what they‘re doing, I believe. Attacking Hillary Clinton‘s patriotism, saying that basically she doesn‘t support the troops and wants to get out of Iraq. The majority of Americans want to get out of Iraq.

The dangerous thing here, is that the Bush administration now is using the Pentagon as a political tool in all of this. Hillary Clinton is asking a legitimate question. We don‘t know for sure that this escalation surge is going to work. So what‘s plan B? And have you made plans?

We didn‘t plan for enough troops to go into Iraq? We didn‘t plan for enough equipment, which is well-documented. We didn‘t plan for the aftermath. And now it appears the Pentagon has no plan to exit, or even redeploy, and it speaks right to where President Bush is. There‘s no turning back.

SHUSTER:  Peter, the Pentagon has got to be tone deaf if they think the Americans are going to line up with them, with not having plans for withdrawal?

PETER FENN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST:  I tell you, it‘s totally ludicrous, this whole episode. Eric Edelman‘s previous job, by the way, was working for Darth Vader, Dick Cheney, as his chief defense guy. He knows how to play this kind of hard ball.

But here‘s the key thing with this. The ranking members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Dick Lugar, asked the Pentagon for the very same thing. Everybody up there wants to know what is the exit strategy?  They do not want to see helicopters with ladders hanging down lifting people off of the top of buildings as they did in Vietnam.

SHUSTER:  I had a phone call conversation with Hillary Clinton today, and she repeated what her press aid said yesterday. That this is dangerous, this is outrageous. I asked her, “Have you heard from Secretary Gates since this letter?”

She said, “I have not.”

And then we got this statement late today from Secretary Gates‘ office, saying well, he‘s going to get back to Hillary Clinton next week.  They have had a pretty good relationship up till now. But it sounds like this is the beginning of some problems.

FENN:  When he testified before the Armed Services Committee, when he first came up, he talked about how the dialogue on Iraq was helpful. He—there‘s a specific quote from him about this that Hillary cites in her letter to him, and he better get back to her fast.

SCHULTZ:  Nobody‘s been more supportive of the 10th Mountain Division than Senator Clinton. She‘s been in there with the troops, she‘s been very supportive. All she‘s asking for is to make sure if we do redeploy, that there‘s going to be a safe exit, and at least let‘s get that right because we‘ve gotten a lot of things wrong.

SHUSTER:  Now, there is some very smart politics by Hillary Clinton in all of this. I want to go back to an incident, almost a year ago, where Hillary Clinton was essentially leveraging the problems of Donald Rumsfeld to essentially build up her own credentials with the anti-war left. Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) 

CLINTON:  Because of the administration‘s strategic blunders, and frankly the record of incompetence in executing, you are presiding over a failed policy. Given your track record, Secretary Rumsfeld, why should we believe your assurances now?

DONALD RUMSFELD, FMR. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE:  My goodness.

(END VIDEO CLIP) 

SHUSTER:  The anti-war left loved Hillary Clinton when she said that.  I would imagine they‘re going to love her smackdown with Secretary Gates, now.  Smart politics, obviously?

SCHULTZ:  Well, her numbers are growing. The American numbers for a change in policy in Iraq is growing. So, it‘s just not the anti-war left anymore. Americans want some answers. We‘re already hearing General Pace talk about, well there‘s a possibility of more troops if this doesn‘t work by September. And then the news out today is that one of the under generals was talking about well, we‘re not going to be able to give a true assessment until next spring.

Give us the straight skinny on where we are in Iraq.  And I think that Hillary Clinton is calling their bluff.

SHUSTER:  But, Peter, is there a danger of Hillary Clinton overplaying this?

FENN:  I think hardly. Look, you know, ironically one might think that this administration is trying to get Hillary Clinton the nomination by doing this. The only thing they could do, more than this, is send out Dick Cheney to attack her.

I think—look, I—I—think you make this about policy. You make it about reasonableness. You make it about common sense. And there‘s nothing about her request that is not common sense. Fine. You‘ve got some secret stuff. Then a close briefing is fine.

SHUSTER:  Peter Fenn and Ed Schultz are staying with us.  We‘ll continue on the other side of this break.

The battle over Iraq is not between Hillary Clinton and the Pentagon, of course. Verbal mortar rounds are coming from all directions including the White House and Capitol Hill—and from the campaign trail.  And update is just ahead.

Plus, it was one of the most emotional moments on the Senate floor in

a long time, and it was about—dog fighting. Robert Byrd on NFL star

Michael Vick, in a speech everybody is talking about. You don‘t want to

miss this. You‘re watching MSNBC

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) 

SHUSTER:  The mutual frustration between the White House and Capitol Hill has boiled over into a sharp rebuke slogged back and forth between the president and the Congress. The political report said 70 U.S.  representatives sent Mr. Bush a letter which amounts to an ultimatum.

It begins:  “Dear Mr. President:  We are writing to inform you that we will only support appropriating additional funds for U.S. military operations in Iraq during fiscal year 2008, and beyond, for the protection and safe redeployment of all our troops out of Iraq before you leave office.” 

In other words these congressmen and women will vote to defund further offensive military operations in Iraq. The president, as usual, stuck to his proverbial and literal guns and he did it aloud this morning in the White House Rose Garden.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:   In February I submitted to Congress the Defense Department spending bill for the upcoming fiscal year that will provide funds to upgrade our equipment for our troops in Iraq, and provides a pay raise for our military. It‘s comprehensive spending request that Congress has failed to act on. Instead the Democratic leaders chose to have a political debate on a precipitous withdrawal of our troops from Iraq. 

(END VIDEO CLIP) 

SHUSTER:  Will the united front among liberal Democratic House members do anything to steer the president‘s policy?  Or will it be another feckless political gesture that wilts against the authority of executive power? Back to discuss it, nationally syndicated talk show host Ed Schultz and Democratic strategist Peter Fenn, and let‘s talk as we were talking at the break here.

How long can Republicans hold out and continue to support the administration, Peter?

FENN:  I think it‘s really tough for them now, David. This train is leaving the station. They‘re having a vote on this. They keep supporting the president. The longer that they do this, the more trouble they‘re in.  And now they‘re told that by the generals that maybe we‘re going to have to wait till November or December before we‘re able to make any judgments about the so called surge. So I think they‘re in tough, tough shape right now.

SCHULTZ:  August is the key month. You have a number of them that are running for re-election. They‘re going to go home. They‘re going to have to raise money to keep their seats in the Senate. And I really believe that it‘s going to be hard to raise money if they‘re on the wrong side of the biggest issues.

As far as the president‘s concerned, let‘s be correct on the record here.  The Democrats want on pay raise of 3.5 percent. The president‘s offering only 3 percent, and then he holds a press conference and complains about—

(LAUGHTER)

I mean, it‘s masterful stuff. It is masterful stuff. And one thing about retooling our military. I have had a retired admiral tell me that it‘s going to take at least 10 years to recapitalize our military, we‘re so depleted, to get us back to the position we were before we went into Iraq.  That‘s a major investment.

FENN:  And veteran‘s benefits. You know, this is the administration that has undermined our veterans, they have eviscerated our military. The Republicans are seeing that and are going to see it as—

SHUSTER:  They‘re also seeing is it on the presidential campaign trail. Rudy Giuliani is now criticized the way the Bush administration pursued Al Qaeda. Suggesting the U.S. failed to put enough pressure on Pakistan.  Is that good politics for the Republicans?

SCHULTZ:  Well, it‘s Monday morning quarterbacking, because all along, Giuliani has been shoulder to shoulder with the president on everything he‘s done. Now all of the sudden he‘s not really jumping out there in the polls the way he feels he should be.

The key is Rudy, what‘s your plan? Tell us how you‘re going to get Osama bin Laden. Where are you going to go in Pakistan? How do you feel about the pressure Musharraf is under right now?  He‘s trying to hold on to own job.

FENN:  Rudy says we can do it all. Rudy says we can win in Iraq, we find Osama. The answer is, of course, that you‘ve love to hear from these guys, is now just—or the question, I guess, to be answered is why haven‘t you been able to find this guy in six years? Why is Al Qaeda stronger in Afghanistan?

SCHULTZ:  We don‘t have the resources.

FENN:  Exactly. Because we haven‘t put the troops there, we haven‘t put the emphasis there.

SHUSTER:  Let‘s put up the quote that I say of Rudy‘s talking about Iran, which I found incredible.

He says, “We‘ve got to talk about Iran. Iran is more dangerous than Iraq. And we have to get the job done in Afghanistan and Pakistan.”

Your reaction?

SCHULTS:  How does he know when he hasn‘t talked to him in 28 years?

How does he know what the intentions are of the Iranians, when he‘s refusing to go to the table with them?  He‘s been in lockstep with Bush.  Don‘t talk to anybody.  Don‘t negotiate with anybody.  And now he‘s setting up a straw man.

SHUSTER:  Peter, is Rudy Giuliani on dangerous ground given that he, himself, has apparently not been to Iraq?

FENN:  Extraordinary. I mean, his strongest position is to keep talking about 9/11. His strongest position is to talk about terrorism. The more he gets mired in the politics of the Middle East, which he knows very little about, the worst shape he‘s going to be in, in this campaign.

SCHULTZ:  And this firefighter situation in New York City, where the union is against him, he‘s going to have to bear his soul on exactly what happened.

SHUSTER:  Ed Schultz and Peter Fenn, we‘ll hear from you later in the show.  In the meantime is Fred Thompson running for president, or what? The Fred Heads are growing impatient.

Plus: 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) 

BYRD:  Barbaric!  Let that word resound from hill to hill and from mountain to mountain!

(END VIDEO CLIP) 

SHUSTER:  Even Congress is appalled by the charges against NFL star Michael Vick. With all of this attention on the blood sport of dog fighting is enough being done to end it? On the other side of this break all of the highlights of Robert Byrd‘s floor speech. This is MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) 

SEN. ROBERT BYRD (D) WEST VIRGINIA:  Barbaric! Let that word resound from hill to hill, and from mountain to mountain, from valley to valley, across this broad land! Barbaric! Barbaric! Hear me! Barbaric!

It involves teaching the dog to maul by using smaller animals such as cats, or rabbits, or small dogs, as training bait.

Madam President, I am confident that the hottest places in hell are reserved for the souls of sick and brutal people who hold God‘s creatures in such brutal and cruel contempt! I yield the floor.

(END VIDEO CLIP) 

SHUSTER:  The one and only Robert Byrd. The rhetoric amid the reaction to the indictment of NFL star Michael Vick on dog fighting charges has been more impassioned than we typically hear about cruelty to humans.

Senator Robert Byrd would leave murders and genocidal madmen outside the hottest corners of hell, so that if Vick, if found guilty, could go there.  The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has organized protest of the NFL, demanding the suspension of Michael Vick, who is—it must be noted—innocent until proven guilty.

Joining us now to discuss the situation is Dan Shannon, assistant director of PETA.

And, Dan, given all of these—everything that you did at the headquarters there of the NFL in New York I assume you were also protesting at Michael Vick‘s house today?

DAN SHANNON, ASSIST. DIRECTOR, PETA:  No. We haven‘t protested at Michael Vick‘s house.

SHUSTER:  Why not?

SHANNON:  Well, we‘re protesting out at Atlanta Falcons training camp next week. We feel like Michael Vick needs to be dealt with in a court of law, just as anybody who has a crime alleged against them, must be.  But the NFL—

SHUSTER:  I agree. But let‘s back up a second. Why not protest at his house? If that‘s the target of this, what‘s wrong with going to the sidewalk, where you‘re entitled to be, and have the PETA protesters outside in front of his house?

SHANNON:  We haven‘t ruled that out as a possibility.  But what we need to see is the NFL—

SHUSTER:  Are you afraid?

SHANNON:  No, absolutely not. We need to see though, is the NFL take a very strong stance on this. As they have taken a strong stance on other off-field alleged illegal behavior.  They suspended a guy named Packman Jones for the suspicion of some crimes off the field, without him being convicted. We wouldn‘t expect Michael Vick to be treated any differently.

SHUSTER:  Dan, while you obviously—and so many Americans hate what Vick allegedly did, if it is true. You must be thrilled that he was the one caught doing it given all the attention from the Senate, all the attention at the NFL? 

SHANNON:  Well, if there is a silver lining to this horrible situation it is that maybe dog fighting will be—some awareness will be raised about this issue. We‘ve been inundated with phone calls from fans, who maybe did know that much about dog fighting before this case, have learned a lot about it.  And they don‘t like what they‘ve learned. They read about dogs being electrocuted, being beaten to death, let along being thrown into the ring to tear each other to pieces as Senator Byrd so eloquently described.

If people are horrified and they want to see this stopped and they want to see the Falcons and the NFL take a strong stance against this.

SHANNON:  Dan, PETA is better known for stopping mink coats and urging people to go veggie.  What percentage, until today, what percentage of the PETA resources were used specifically on dog fighting?

SHANNON:  I mean, I don‘t have a number for you, unfortunately, but it‘s something we do a lot with.  We offer local rewards whenever we hear about a dog fighting case that will lead—

SHUSTER:  I guess what I‘m getting at is how do you respond to the criticism that you guys are essentially surfing the Michael Vick‘s unfortunate news to try to raise this as an issue? That you really weren‘t that focused on this before a few days ago.

SHANNON:  I haven‘t heard that criticism before. We‘ve been very focused on dog fighting throughout PETA‘s history. Again, we offer local rewards. We try to publicize these investigations. We did a PSA with former heavyweight champ Lamond Brewster (ph) to raise awareness about dog fighting.  We have literature that we distribute in local communities.  We‘ve done a lot with this issue and it‘s been something that we‘ve fought against for years.

SHUSTER:  Dan, would you support a federal law to stop dog fighting?

SHANNON:  Well, you know, President Bush recently signed into law the Animal Fighting Prohibition Enforcement Act, which made dog fighting and cock fighting, for that matter, a federal felony. I believe that‘s what Michael Vick is being charged under. We absolutely commend him for doing that. And we think that‘s certainly a step in the right direction.

SHUSTER:  The reason that I ask is that Senator John Kerry is apparently introducing new legislation on this. Do you feel that more legislation is needed?

SHANNON:  Absolutely. I think most Americans hear that Michael Vick could face at maximum six years in prison. While that‘s certainly hefty jail time, I think that many people feel that that doesn‘t go far enough.  We would agree with that assessment, and we support any legislator who‘s coming forward and trying to do something about this issue.

SHUSTER:  What about the argument then if you simply ad more legislation and you require more federal resources than already exist, to try to stop dog fighting, which everybody agrees is horrific, but if you add more federal resources then you‘re talking about less resources for investigating murders, terrorists, homeland security.

SHANNON:  I mean, yeah, that‘s a juggling act for politicians to figure out, I think, not for PETA. Obviously, Senator Kerry feels this is important. Senator Byrd feels this is important. But public education has to be a part of it, too.  It can‘t just be about legislation. People need to learn about this issue.  Learn what they can do to stop it.  Learn what they can look for in their local communities and call the authorities if they think things are taking place. That‘s what PETA comes in, that‘s what we‘ve always done, and what we‘ll continue to do.

SHUSTER:  Dan, we‘ve only got about 20 seconds left. Really quickly, what should people do in their local community if, in fact, they believe or suspect that something is going on in their neighborhood?

SHANNON:  Contact the local police department immediately. Most police departments have people who work on these issues, and they‘ll pick up the investigation immediately.

SHUSTER:  Dan Shannon, who is assistant director of PETA, who was protesting the NFL today. And perhaps will protesting Michael Vick. We appreciate you coming in.

SHANNON:  Thank you.

SHUSTER:  Mitt Romney attacks Barack Obama for supporting age appropriate sex education, but as the saying goes, should a man living in a glass house throw stones? Put it this way:  Romney‘s house better be made of bricks.

Plus, Fred Thompson was supposed to announce his candidacy for president a couple weeks ago, and now his advisers say an announcement won‘t come until Labor Day. Will all the Fred Heads stick around?

You‘re watching MSNBC, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) 

(MARKET REPORT)

SHUSTER:  Do animals get better treatment than people in this country?  are We ready to admit that our society values the life of a dog more than the life of a human being?  Have we become immune to images of violence to the point where loss of life is just another item on the news?  The disturbing details surrounding the Michael Vick dog fighting story have launched an emotional debate about how we value life in general. 

Back again are nationally syndicated radio talk show host Ed Schultz and Democratic strategist Peter Fenn.  Ed, do we value dogs more than we value humans? 

SCHULTZ:  I don‘t think we do, but I do believe that humans get so attached to their pets, like one of the family.  You don‘t have to be an NFL fan or a Michael Vick fan to understand just how much this hurts for America to see this. 

I have a different take on this, David.  I think this is a parental moment in America.  A lot of these kids run around with these jerseys on with somebody else‘s name on their back.  You‘ve got to be careful with that.  Who are these people?  We hold these athletes up to be special people in society, and then a story like this comes down.  I think every parent has to really talk about values and cruelty is the issue here. 

It‘s a real value check for America right now.  It‘s really sad.  It‘s sad for Michael Vick.  I think the Falcons are going to do something for the NFL. 

FENN:  Folks would take their kids to these dog fights or these cock fights.  They would bring them up with this level of violence.  I think when Nike is still selling shirts in their stores that say Michael Vick; hero, that‘s a problem.  And they‘ve pulled their one set of shoes, but I think they ought to certainly pull that stuff. 

And what we‘ve got here—and we‘ve worked for the Humane Society of the United States for the last 15 years.  We‘ve helped pass legislation and pass initiatives in half a dozen states on cock fighting and dog fighting.  I‘ll tell you, there‘s nothing that‘s more important to people than setting values.  And this sets values. 

SHUSTER:  Explain for me, Robert Byrd, in that last segment, we saw a minute of him railing on the Senate floor.  It takes a lot of effort for him to get up on the Senate floor.  For him to talk about dog fighting as opposed to everything else that is going on. 

FENN:  His wife just died.  He was married to her for 68 years.  She was his childhood sweet heart.  He goes home every night to his dog, to his pet.  He sees this as very personal, which is the way most people see it.  And when now we have in our shelters—ten years ago two to three percent of sheltered animals coming in were pit bulls.  Now it‘s 30 percent because people are training those pit bulls.  They get thrown out, and you can‘t—it‘s just - it‘s wrong. 

SCHULTZ:  This is not off the wall for Senator Byrd.  He has in the past made statements about cruelty and been an advocate for animals.  This was in his wheelhouse.  He was the proper person in the Senate to stand up and make this comment. 

SHUSTER:  The great irony though is that you don‘t have senators who have a child who has been killed in Iraq who might then take to the Senate floor and make an emotional speech. 

SCHULTZ:  There‘s always a bigger issue, David.  I think Americans accept the fact that there‘s a lot of tough news out there and there‘s always going to be one story or one issue that‘s more important than the other.  But we can‘t turn a blind eye to open cruelty.  I also think that gambling is a very big part of all of this, Peter. 

FENN:  They have come up with—they bet sometimes 100,000 dollars on these fights.  There‘s huge money to be made.  And that‘s why the cock fighting industry had a lobbying group here.  Former Senator Steve Simms was their lead lobbyist.  And that‘s because of the money involved. 

So, I mean, this is the kind of thing—to me it‘s like child pornography.  I mean, shut it down. 

SHUSTER:  Speaking of children, I want to move on to something that hit the campaign trail, both Republican and Democratic side this week.  That is Barack Obama was giving a speech to Planned Parenthood in Washington this week in which he was asked a question about sex education for children.  He referred to his campaign for Senate a couple of years ago in which he was chastised for saying that even kindergartners should get sex education. 

He responded and then there was a response from Mitt Romney.  Let‘s watch these tapes and then we‘ll react.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), ILLINOIS:  It‘s the right thing to do, to provide age appropriate sex education, science-based sex education in the schools. 

MITT ROMNEY ®, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  How much sex education is age appropriate for a five-year-old?  In my view, zero is the right amount. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHUSTER:  Now, the irony with all of this is that Mitt Romney had a slightly different position a couple years ago where he actually supported comprehensive sex education.  But, again, a bad week for Barack Obama when he‘s there battling Mitt Romney over sex ed; and there‘s Hillary Clinton battling the Pentagon over Iraq. 

SCHULTZ:  On your network you‘ve got a man going out and doing stories on predators and preying on kids.  It‘s a different society today.  Parents are looking for answers on when do you actually start talking about appropriately what‘s right when it comes to approaching another human being or what‘s appropriate, what isn‘t appropriate when it comes to touching?  Where can you touch?  What‘s acceptable? 

Our kids today are exposed to a lot of different things.  I think that Barack Obama is spot on with this.  And I think that he‘s really breaking down the barriers.  Parents, it‘s OK at an early age to be talking about this stuff, because there are people out there in society preying on your kids. 

SHUSTER:  But Peter, doesn‘t it help Mitt Romney, when he‘s trying to appeal to conservatives, to say oh, Barack Obama is talking about something we should never allow? 

FENN:  The thing about Mitt Romney is whatever issue comes up, David, he has flipped on it.  Isn‘t it good that he comes out against abortion.  Oh, but he was for it.  Oh, isn‘t good that he‘s against gay marriage?  He was stronger on gay than Ted Kennedy. 

How about Iraq?  And here we go again.  He used the term age appropriate in his answer to the Planned Parenthood questionnaire.  This guy can‘t get fricken anything right.

SCHULTZ:  That‘s right.  There‘s a big difference between sex education in junior high school and high school than it is for a Kindergarten kid.  It‘s all part of development.  I think Barack Obama is spot on with this.   

SHUSTER:  All right, let‘s talk about the other Republican that a lot of people are waiting in the wings for, Fred Thompson.  His supporters seem to be getting impatient.  There‘s a website called FredHeads.com.  The site‘s homepage currently asks, what‘s the hold up.  It says the time has come.  Enough with ambiguities.  Enough with those around you being more decisive than you are.

SCHULTZ:  Fred is still napping.  He loves to take naps.  He didn‘t work very hard in the Senate.  If he comes out and announces, he‘s actually going to have to work twice as hard.  He‘s raising money.  Nobody‘s jumping out there in the polls. 

FENN:  He‘s got more people ready to endorse him lining up.  The latest Rasmussen poll has him at 26, Romney at 21, and then McCain—

SCHULTZ:  He‘s in great shape. 

SHUSTER:  Why bother getting in? 

FENN:  Exactly.  There‘s a serious point here.  And that is that the dumbest thing you can do as a candidate is to get into a race before you‘re ready.  You‘ve got to have the stump speech done.  You‘ve got to have the staffing ready to go.  You‘ve got to have—this should be a professional operation from the start, because people are going to be watching him. 

The power on that microscope gets turned up just like that once you announce and he better be ready. 

SHUSTER:  Speaking of that, I don‘t like to quote Bob Novak very often.  But a couple of weeks ago he had an interesting column where he said that Republicans were surprised and a little bit disappointed with how Fred Thompson‘s stump speech was going in a couple of the places he was speaking.  That would suggest that maybe Fred Thompson is not the dream candidate a lot of people were hoping for. 

SCHULTZ:  Passion he does into the have.  He is not one of these guys that can get up to the podium in front of a crowd and really inspire and really speak to the passion.  He‘s more of a value kind of a candidate.  And he comes from a generation that the conservatives have already appealed to.  They‘ve got to get somebody in there that‘s going to appeal to young people, and I don‘t think Fred Thompson does that. 

I think he‘s staying out for a reason, because when he gets in, he has to make sure he‘s got this right. 

SHUSTER:  The other news this week with Fred Thompson that was so interesting is that a few weeks ago he said oh, I don‘t remember my law firm doing any lobbying for abortion rights groups.  And now we find out that he was actually doing maybe 15 or 20 hours worth of lobbying.  And that seems to put a dent into his conservative credential. 

FENN:  I think on the abortion issue he‘s going to have explain himself.  And that was more recent—but also he filled out questionnaires for Project Vote Smart which indicated that he was a lot more pro choice than he is now.  But, you know, everybody‘s got this problem in this race.  My sense of this is that the—no one else—they think Romney‘s moving up.  I just have trouble with Romney.  He spent a lot of money, true. 

I think everybody else is screwing up this race, and it will be his for the taking if he gets into it. 

SCHULTZ:  Can you say Jeb Bush? 

SHUSTER:  No, but I can say Tom Tancredo, who‘s one of our favorites because you never know what‘s going to come out of his mouth.  He raised the issue of immigration again this week.  He said we‘re becoming a bilingual nation and that is not good, as opposed to the president who said yesterday Americans will soon realize they need immigrants and temporary foreign workers. 

SCHULTZ:  Well, that will play to the extreme.  Everybody‘s all over the board on illegal immigration.  If they just secure the border then a lot of things will change.  As far as Thompson is concerned, one more thing about him, he made his first mistake.  If you don‘t know the answer, don‘t answer the question. 

FENN:  I think the Tancredo thing is so interesting though.  You know, there was just a study that I came across.  The National Institute for Literacy said the fastest growing classes in this country right now for adults are English as a second language.  Folks are going out learning English. 

But, you know, isn‘t it funny when we go to Russia, boy, we want to see those signs printed in English.  When we‘re in Paris, we want to see the English signs in the airport.  We want folks to talk to us in English.  But heaven forbid that you should have ballots that might be printed in English and Spanish. 

SHUSTER:  The problem I have with Tom Tancredo is he wants to deport every single illegal immigrant.  The question is, how are you going to pay for that?  Some of the rhetoric that‘s out there he simply can‘t back up. 

FENN:  He didn‘t want any more legal immigration.  The world is getting to be more of a melting pot.  There‘s more cross-border fertilization.  We are a multicultural society, which he hates that phrase.  I think—he‘s back 100 years. 

SHUSTER:  Before we let you guys go, I want to bring this back around to the topic at the top of the show about Hillary Clinton.  There was new poll out, a “New York Times” poll, that said among all registered voters, 46 percent of women had a favorable view of Mrs. Clinton, 33 percent have an unfavorable view.  We‘ve seen a lot of back and forth now with the Edwards campaign sending out Elizabeth Edwards trying to make the appeal to women for John Edwards.  Hillary is vulnerable, isn‘t she? 

SCHULTZ:  I don‘t think so.  I think that she‘s going to have to do the same battles that every other candidate is going to do.  I was surprised that President Clinton came out and defended his wife this week.  I think that everybody in America knows that Hillary Clinton has been an advocate for equal pay in the work place for women and equal opportunity and women‘s rights across the board. 

I thought it was a battle that they didn‘t need right now.  I think that it was more of a strategic move on the Edwards campaign to make a comment like that, because he‘s starting to slip a little bit in the polls.  What do you when that happens?  You go after the leader. 

FENN:  The interesting thing about that poll, which—when you look at Democratic primary voters, her positive/negative amongst women was 69/1;

69 positive.  And the two things that she‘s got to worry about are the two L‘s with a lot of people.  She‘s perceived as to liberal and likable.  And she‘s moving on the likable. 

SHUSTER:  What about the argument—and I don‘t necessarily agree with it—but the argument that Hillary‘s behaving more like a traditional male candidate, even by taking on the Pentagon, doing battle with the Pentagon, whereas Barack Obama talks about hope and passion and emotion? 

SCHULTZ:  We‘ve never had a female candidate go this far. 

FENN:  Look, she has done well according to that poll and other focus groups and other polling I‘ve seen on the experience and competence factor, which people are looking into.  She does have to move into the likability.  But she is—in the debate she‘s been warm, funny.  I think she‘s done a good job.  Barack hasn‘t done terribly, but she has shined in those debates. 

SCHULTZ:  You know what no one says about Hillary Clinton, she‘s a tireless worker.  Her whole day is—

SHUSTER:  She does work hard.  She‘s been preparing for this campaign for eight years.  But in any case, Ed Schultz, Peter Fenn, always a pleasure. 

“Hustler” publisher Larry Flint is taking the credit for outing David Vitters, one of the names in the so called D.C. Madam‘s black book.  He says it‘s all pay back for all the government investigations into his wrong doings.  Who‘s next on his list?

Plus, there‘s just about five more hours until the release of the final Harry Potter book.  Our chief Hogwarts correspondent Willie Geist shows us exactly what they mean by Harry Potter mania. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHUSTER:  So we‘ve brought you the serious, the war, 2008 politics, the ugliness of dog fighting, immigration.  Now, it‘s time for a break from all of that and the scoop on what‘s really going on in D.C., the steamy must know down low.  For that we turn to Amy Argetsinger and Roxanne Roberts, the ladies of the “Washington Post‘s” universally read gossip column, “The Reliable Source.” 

ROXANNE ROBERTS, “THE WASHINGTON POST”:  We‘re serious, David. 

SHUSTER:  I know you‘re serious.  But seriously, the story that I love this week—that I love—although I didn‘t get much information about it, was that apparently Larry Flint is getting ready to out another senator.  So what do you know about that? 

AMY ARGETSINGER, “THE WASHINGTON POST”:  He‘s getting—is he really going to out another senator? 

SHUSTER:  I read it on the wire. 

ARGETSINGER:  He should have done it earlier this week.  You know, we‘ve been waiting all week.  Everyone was a little skeptical that this D.C. Madam was going to amount to anything.  Finally he brings us a scalp, David Vitter last week.  We‘re all excited, thinking OK, he‘s promising another.  And here it is the middle of the summer, very slow week in gossip, and we would have appreciated to have another. 

If he says he‘s got another, we‘ll sit by the phone. 

SHUSTER:  How much fun did you have with David Vitter?  I mean, we were laughing about where was he sleeping on Tuesday night when the Senate slept in the cots and who would—

ROBERTS:  My theory is that any time there are beds and senators and no hookers, it‘s a good week. 

ARGETSINGER:  But seriously, we‘ve been waiting all week.  Nothing happened.  With the lack of any—anything on the sex scandal, Washington had to resort to talking about Senator Hillary Clinton showing some cleavage. 

ROBERTS:  A faint hint of cleavage.

ARGETSINGER:  Not that much.  I didn‘t even know this was first for her.  Was it? 

ROBERTS:  I don‘t think it has been, but it‘s summer time in Washington, and we‘ll grasp anything we can get. 

SHUSTER:  Was this more of a fashion faux pas?  Is that the issue?  Or was there something else going on?

ROBERTS:  I don‘t know David, do you think cleavage is a faux pas? 

SHUSTER:  I don‘t think cleavage is.  I just wonder if that pearl combination with that jacket—my wife might tell me that doesn‘t work.  I don‘t know.

(CROSS TALK)

ROBERTS:  You‘re going to be an expert at this. 

SHUSTER:  Of course, the crucial question is what kind of shoes was she wearing?  Was she wearing pumps or heels? 

ROBERTS:  And did they match her purse, exactly. 

SHUSTER:  Well, tell us what else you guys are cooking up for the next couple of days. 

ARGETSINGER:  Well, the other story we have this week really is more an example of how mean “Washington Post” reporters are.  Margaret Spelling, very distinguished secretary of education, came in here last week for a meeting with reporters and editors, in the process of which one of the reporters asked her hey, how come you didn‘t go out on a date with Karl Rove when he asked you out? 

True story; early ‘80s Karl Rove has told the story on himself.  He asked Margaret Spelling out on a date and she turned him down.  He‘s joked that it took his ego decades to recover.  Finally though, it was a chance to hear Margaret Spelling‘s side of the story.  They asked how come she didn‘t go out with Karl Rove. 

She was taken aback by the question.  Then she said well, have you ever met Karl Rove? 

ROBERTS:  And then she went on—and clearly this was not rehearsed,

because she used words like unartful and

ARGETSINGER:  inarticulate. 

SHUSTER:  It‘s a wonder that she even became education secretary.  How did that get past Karl Rove?  But in any case, Amy and Roxanne, thank you very much.  A pleasure to talk with you. 

ROBERTS:  Thanks.

SHUSTER:  For two and a half hours tomorrow, Americans will be living under the Cheney administration.  What does the vice president have on his agenda while President Bush is in surgery?  Willie Geist explores the possibilities when we come back.  You‘re watching MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHUSTER:  And now it‘s a segment of the show you have all been waiting for.  Willie, I speak for PETA as well, Geist.  Take it away, Willie. 

WILLIE GEIST, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT:  David, great job today.  Always great to have you with us.  Did you happen it catch the show yesterday by any chance? 

SHUSTER:  Oh, yes. 

GEIST:  As you know, things can get pretty heated on this show on occasion.  But it is rare that we have a guest actually challenge someone to a fight.  It happened yesterday.  One of our favorite panelist, Bill Press, was here arguing Tucker about the fairness doctrine.  That is an old broadcasting regulation that if it makes a comeback in Congress would require as many liberal voices in the media as there are conservative.

Well, Bill Press is, among other things, a liberal radio show host. 

He says he wants a piece of conservative radio titan Rush Limbaugh. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PRESS:  The answer is let the free market work.  Give me a fair shot at Rush Limbaugh and I will beat his ass 24 hours a day. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  All right, go Bill. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GEIST:  Beat his ass 24 hours a day.  Them‘s fighting words, David Shuster.

SHUSTER:  Willie, are we allowed to say that on this family network?   

GEIST:  I don‘t believe we are.  I can‘t believe we played it again. 

I called Rush Limbaugh‘s office to get a response from this.  Rush is actually off today.  He is on vacation, wasn‘t on the air today.  They didn‘t want to go on the record, but let‘s say the tone of the conversation was bring it on, I guess is how I would summarize it. 

SHUSTER:  I don‘t know, Willie, I think Rush is afraid of Bill Press and that is why he is on vacation. 

GEIST:  That‘s right.  They also alluded to the idea that maybe today would have been the day that Bill Press could have beaten him because Rush wasn‘t there.  Anyway, Rush is ready if Bill Press is.  So let‘s get it on.  Let‘s get it on.

Well, it‘s very exciting, David, we‘re four minutes away right now from utter pandemonium at book stores across the United Kingdom.  When the clock strikes midnight there, Harry Potter fans will spill in to stores to get their copies of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows,” the last book in the series.  It‘s like New Year‘s Eve with less booze and more nerds. 

Many fans braved the rain in London and camped outside to be among the first to get the book.  If they are like me, they will flip to the end to see if Harry died.  How could you help it?  Well, we still have five more hours to wait here in the United States.  Neither the “New York Times‘” premature review nor the pirated copies that have popped up on the Internet have squelched enthusiasm for the book. 

How crazy are people for Harry Potter?  Here‘s how crazy: an Oregon couple is getting married tonight.  And after the reception, a limousine will rush the bride and groom, scene here at the rehearsal, to the local Barns & Noble so they can buy the book.  The store has arranged for the newly weds to be the first in line at midnight. 

The groom says he has not read any of the Harry Potter books and this was all the bride‘s idea.  Welcome to marriage, my good man. 

SHUSTER:  Willie, how can you cut out of your copy the part about the end of book that Harry Potter dies.  I‘m just kidding.

GEIST:  Advanced copy?  We‘re still two minutes from midnight.  You can‘t do that.  They‘re going to come.  J.K. Rowling will find you.  That wedding thing though—you are a newly wed, David.  That‘s a dangerous precedent.  You can‘t allow yourself to be steam rolled on the wedding night. 

SHUSTER:  I am going to hear about it tonight just for suggesting Harry Potter dies. 

GEIST:  All right, David, let‘s do a quick marketing survey.  If you needed to have your grass cut, would you prefer it be done by a bunch of sweaty dudes in cut off jean shorts, or by hard working young women in bikinis?  If you live in Memphis, you have that choice.  A landscaping company called Tiger Time Lawn Care employs ladies who mow, trim, weed whack and edge while wearing two piece bathing suits. 

The company‘s owners says many of his clients sit on their porches and drink beer while appreciating the landscapers craftsmanship.  They say they are going to rake leaves in the fall—that gets a little bit less sexy—and shovel driveways in the winter.  What are you going to wear, snow suits?  Totally defeats the whole purpose.

SHUSTER:  Willie, I noticed in the video there—nothing against Tennessee.  But we did not see any close ups of their dental work.  Sorry.

GEIST:  I don‘t judge women boon her dental work, David.  My eyes are elsewhere. 

Finally, President Bush will undergo a routine colonoscopy at Camp David tomorrow.  He left the White House this afternoon, gave his traditional handshake and photo op to boxing great Sugar Ray Leonard—I have no idea what‘s going on there—and boarded Marine One to head to the presidential retreat. 

Since the president will be under anesthesia during the procedure, he will sign over his responsibilities for about two and a half hours.  Yes, that means this man will be president of the United States for 150 chilling minutes. 

Get well soon, Mr. President.  Like, really soon.  Now, David, if I‘m the nation of Iran, I just baton down the hatches tomorrow for about two and a half hours because god only knows what is coming. 

SHUSTER:  Willie, you are the best.  I‘ve got to say, if it‘s a colonoscopy, we have to end with puns, like this is the end of our segment. 

GEIST:  Oh, you said it.  I didn‘t. 

SHUSTER:  Willie Geist, you are the best.  For more of Willie, check out Zeit Geist video blog at ZeitGeist.MSNBC.com.  That does it for us.  Thanks for watching.  Up next up, “HARDBALL” with Mike Barnicle.

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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