updated 3/24/2008 11:00:15 AM ET 2008-03-24T15:00:15

Guests: Richard Goodstein, Lawrence O‘Donnell, Cliff May, John Ridley, Danny Bonaduce

DAN ABRAMS, HOST:  Tonight: Is Bill Richardson‘s endorsement of Obama today the beginning of the end for Clinton?

The pledged delegates are almost insurmountable and now, she loses a key super delegate who was Bill‘s Energy secretary and Super Bowl buddy this year.

And John McCain has what may have been his worst week ever, with gaffes spanning (ph) the globe and yet, none of it seems to stick in the media.  Our segment Teflon John is back.

And today: We‘d learn that the State Department contractors snooped on the passport records of all three presidential candidates.  It‘s tonight‘s Why America Hates Washington.

VERDICT starts now.

Hi, everyone, welcome to the show.

Former presidential candidate and long time Clinton ally, Bill Richardson, turned his back on the Clintons today and endorsed Barack Obama.  But maybe more important than the endorsement itself, is what it says about the increasingly insurmountable odds Clinton is now facing.

Richardson had served in two cabinet positions in Bill Clinton‘s administration is precisely the type of superdelegate Clinton would need to win over to even have a shot with revotes almost certainly not happening in Michigan and Florida.  Clinton‘s only realistic hope seems to be to win over more of the superdelegates, the party insiders who will likely have the final say.

Including the superdelegates who‘d pick (ph) a candidate, Obama now leads by a total of 120 delegates.  There are 10 more contests with 566 delegates at stake.  This means that Clinton needs to win the remainder of the contest by 64 percent or so, to take the pledged delegate lead.  That is almost impossible.

Politico.com reporting today that even Clinton advisers admit that Hillary has, quote, “no more than a 10 percent chance of winning.”  If she can‘t win over long-time political allies like Richardson, I don‘t see how she can win.

Here now: Political analyst Lawrence O‘Donnell; Huffington Post contributor John Ridley; and Democratic lawyer and Clinton adviser Richard Goodstein.

All right.  Richard, I mean, these numbers and this endorsement today, together, seem to me to be almost an insurmountable problem.

RICHARD GOODSTEIN, DEMOCRATIC LAWYER:  No.  Let me tell you what

the strategy is for Hillary to win this.  First, somehow, rather, at the

end of this process, ideally she will be behind by 50 some delegates, let‘s

say, pledged delegates, close or ahead in the number of votes actually

cast.  In which case, superdelegates, who unlike Bill Richardson, most of

them were hanging back right now will say -

ABRAMS:  Wait a sec.  Richard, wait a second.  I mean, since February the 5th, and look, I‘ve been the one who‘s been everyday saying that the media unfairly counts out Hillary Clinton.  But look, there are realities that have to be dealt with now, all right?  And that is that since February the 5th, Barack Obama has gained 48 superdelegates, Hillary Clinton has lost five.  Her strategy now is, I got to convince the superdelegates.

How do you convince superdelegates when Obama is the only one gaining them?

GOODSTEIN:  I‘ll tell you exactly how.  Look at all the polls in the RealClearPolitics.com and what you‘re starting to see with each passing day, starting about a week ago is that Hillary is putting distance between herself and Obama in matchups against McCain in Ohio, in Missouri, in Minnesota, nationally, and superdelegates more than anything else want to win.

And if, at the end of this process in June, most of them, you know, Obama and Clinton both need superdelegates to win.  So, it‘s not that she‘s the only one that needs them and they‘re smart, they want to win, too, and if they see that she can have a much better chance, they‘ll go with her and that‘s not a tough call for them.

ABRAMS:  Yes, but again, Lawrence, I mean, that‘s the big issue.  I mean, if they can convince the superdelegates that she‘s got a better chance, I mean, again, Richard talks about the tracking polls.  It‘s fair point.  The polls show today that Clinton is at 47 percent to Obama 45 percent.  This is just among Democrats.

Yesterday, Clinton was 48 to Obama‘s 43, Clinton 49 to Obama‘s 42.  I mean, she‘s still ahead it seems, nationally in these polls.  But I don‘t see how she escapes the numbers?

LAWRENCE O‘DONNELL, POLITICAL ANALYST:  Well, a two-point lead in any poll is not a lead.  The margin of error is bigger than that.  So, they‘re tied in those polls.  And you‘re not going to be able to make a case based on polls because there‘s so many methodology issues in how any individual poll is run unless the polling gaps they are showing are large, double digit polling gaps which it does not look (ph) like we‘re going to see.

ABRAMS:  But, John, to me, Bill Richardson is reflective of a bigger problem.  I mean, this is a guy who was a cabinet member for Bill Clinton, a guy who Bill Clinton watched the Super Bowl with this year.  And the strategy is, oh, we‘re going to win over the superdelegates?

JOHN RIDLEY, HUFFINGTON POST CONTRIBUTOR:  Yes, I don‘t know how that works and I don‘t know that polls matter.  I mean, if we were going to simply go by the polls, meaning, a year ago, Rudy Giuliani and Senator Clinton would have been president.  And I don‘t think you can go to the American public and say, look, this is how you voted, we don‘t really care, we‘re going to project by these polls the way things should be.

You know, there is a small statistical outside possibility Senator Clinton could get the popular vote.  Still, very small, outside possibility.  Then maybe, she can go and say, look, by popular vote, there‘s still a chance for me or reason for to be the nominee.  But outside of that, I mean, the Democrats are already having enough problem with Florida and Michigan.  Are they going to everyone else to vote and we don‘t care, we‘re going to let (ph) the superdelegates decide?

GOODSTEIN:  Well, you know what, my answer to that -

ABRAMS:  Go ahead.

GOODSTEIN:  I think the Clinton answer to that is if superdelegates were simply to ratify, what pledged delegates we net (ph), we could use the machine.  We won‘t actually need human beings to make that choice.  But that‘s not what the rules said.

ABRAMS:  I know, but Richard look, that‘s a nice talking point, but the reality is, when they get in there, are they going to be able to justify to Democrats around the country that they have decided to overrule, effectively.  And you can make arguments about caucuses or not necessarily reflective, I know.

But the bottom line is, people won‘t hear that.  What they‘ll hear is if Obama comes in with a lead in pledged delegates, Obama comes in with a lead in the popular vote, you got superdelegates like Bill Richardson now flocking to Obama.  I mean, I don‘t see, it‘s getting to the point where I almost see that they can‘t argue anything.

GOODSTEIN:  Yes, I think the popular vote is the one variable there where you‘re assuming something that I think, frankly, let‘s wait until June before we can kind (ph) of make that call.

And, I think, frankly, again, it‘s not - I think, yes, it‘s true, you can‘t extrapolate from the polls and project into November but if you‘re starting to see that daylight open up, not two points not three, but something in battleground state after battleground state, where Hillary is running evidently better against McCain than Obama does, superdelegates cannot and should not ignore that.  Democrats want to win.

ABRAMS:  Yes, I know, but, Lawrence, I mean, these Democrats want

to win, I mean, I get it.  I know that‘s why they‘re there.  But it just

seems to me that when you lose Bill Richardson, you know, it‘s like, you

know that old saying -

O‘DONNELL:  Bill Richardson follows a long line.  There have been some very serious, you could call personal political betrayals of the Clintons here.  Jay Rockefeller, the little notice endorsement (ph), senator from West Virginia, there was no one closer to Hillary Clinton when she was running her health care crusade through the United States Senate than Jay Rockefeller.  It‘s same thing with Ted Kennedy.  Bill Richardson takes his place among many who‘ve been very tight with the Clintons in the past.

ABRAMS:  What I think that Richardson is doing in part, is not just betraying the Clintons, I think what he‘s doing a political calculation.

O‘DONNELL:  Absolutely.

ABRAMS:  He‘s looking at the numbers.

O‘DONNELL:  Every single superdelegate has made a political calculation already.

ABRAMS:  But that‘s my point is that if you‘re losing Richardson who‘s making the political calculation, you know what?  It‘s time.

O‘DONNELL:  Right.  And Richardson, notice how long he sat on the fence to very carefully make this political calculation.  This thing that is most important here is that Hillary Clinton cannot get the popular vote lead unless there‘s a complete bottoming out of the Obama campaign.  He‘s going to have to drop by 20 points from where he is now in these polls in order for her to get a popular vote lead.

ABRAMS:  All right.  Let me play a piece of sound from Bill Clinton from today.  It seems that this could be a new subtle strategy, last minute strategy on the part of the Clintons.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL CLINTON, FMR. UNITED STATES PRESIDENT:  I think it‘d be a great thing if we had an election where you have two people who love this country and were devoted to the interest of the country and people could actually ask themselves who‘s right on these issues instead of all these other stuff that always seems to intrude itself on our politics.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  John, is that a subtle swipe at Barack Obama?

RIDLEY:  Well, you know, the Clintons have been guilty as anyone else of injecting things into the discourse that are different from the real policies that are facing people.  I mean, to me, it sounds like sort of a last minute effort to quell any of the talk that has nothing to do - that‘s been a distraction and controversy (ph) for the last few weeks.  I appreciate that.

I wish they would have made a stronger case earlier.  But, again, I don‘t know what they can say or what they can do.  And by the way, personally, I have respect in the world (ph) for Bill Clinton and even Senator Clinton.  But I just feel like there‘s an air of desperation that‘s creeping in because Obama, again, as everyone has been saying, these polls are moving marginally, not significantly.

And by the way, what do polls say now, what they‘ll say in November are two completely different things.  We know that.

ABRAMS:  But there is a bottom line, Lawrence.  And that is—it‘s

the point that Richard made and that is that Clinton has been up in polls

lately.  That after the Reverend Wright stuff, Clinton has come up in the

polls, now ahead of Obama.  Now, often doing better than Obama against

McCain depending on which poll you look at.  I mean, doing much better but

it may not be the -

O‘DONNELL:  But let‘s remember the number one duty of the superdelegates.  The number one duty is not to pick a winner in a presidential election.  The number one duty is to preserve the party from exploding apart and dissolving.

And if the superdelegates say to the Obama voter, yes, more of you voted for him than her.  Yes, he has more delegates than she does but she gets the nomination.  This party comes apart permanently.

ABRAMS:  I got to tell you, I can‘t state enough how important I think the Richardson endorsement is, not because Bill Richardson is going to shift votes, but for what it reflects and what it means for Hillary Clinton.

We shall see.  You know, this race is not over.  I‘m not like

Politico saying it‘s done.  But it is getting harder and harder

Richard Goodstein, Lawrence O‘Donnell, John Ridley, they‘re going to stay with us.

Coming up: Teflon John is back.  It‘s been an awful week for John McCain.  Gaffes during his big trip overseas, a staffer suspended, now a new controversy in connection to a controversial televangelist.  But, it seems nothing sticks.

If either Obama or Clinton had this type of week, it would have been devastating.  Our new segment: Teflon John is coming up.

And: We‘re On Their Trail.  Obama and Clinton are trading more charges and cheap shots.  We‘ll tell you who issued more of them.

Plus: We now know that State Department employees snooped on all three presidential candidates‘ passport files.  One accessed both Obama and McCain, and is still working there.  It‘s today‘s edition of Why America Hates Washington in just 60 seconds.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  It‘s time for tonight‘s edition of Why America Hates Washington.  State Department employees were snooping through private passport records.  Today, we learned that nosy government workers pulled up not just the passport files of Senator Obama, but of Senators Clinton and McCain as well.

In Clinton‘s case it was a trainee during a class last summer.  How can a trainee have access to that information?  And the same State Department who accessed the Obama‘s file this month also peeked at McCain‘s and still has a job.

The State Department‘s invasion of privacy is another reason Why America Hates Washington.

Speaking of McCain, we‘re back with our new segment: Teflon John, in a minute.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  We‘re back.  If Obama or Clinton had the kind of week McCain has had, either one of would be reeling,  but not the candidate we like to call, Teflon John.

On Sunday, the “New York Times” magazine is publishing an interview with controversial televangelist John Hagee saying, quote, “It‘s true that John McCain‘s campaign sought my endorsement.”  Hagee referred to the Roman Catholic Church as the great whore and a false cult system, and if true it would mean his campaign sought out, the man who this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN HAGEE, TELEVANGELIST:  All hurricanes are acts of God because God controls the heavens.  I believe that New Orleans had a level of sin that was offensive to God.  There was to be a homosexual parade there on the Monday that the Katrina came.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, ® PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  I‘m honored by Pastor John Hagee‘s endorsement today.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  And Hagee is just one reason why some are calling this McCain‘s worst week ever.  Yesterday, his campaign suspended or refused to fire a staffer for putting out a video linking Obama to Reverend Jeremiah Wright, titled: Is Obama Wright?

While traveling in the Mid-East, McCain mistakenly said that al Qaeda terrorists from Iraq are being trained in Iran, four different times.  In one instance, Senator Lieberman corrected him whispering in his ear, quote, “I‘m sorry, the Iranians are training extremists, not al Qaeda.”

While in Israel on Wednesday, McCain compared to Jewish holiday, Purim to Halloween.  The Purim holiday although a joyous one commemorates that Jews being saved from mass execution.

Yet, his poll numbers continue to rise.

My VERDICT: It‘s the result of soft media coverage of McCain. 

While Clinton and Obama are getting scrutinized and bust (ph) when Clinton

blasts Obama, we cover it, when she blasts McCain, just a passing

reference.

       

Here now: Cliff May, president of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies; and still with us, is Lawrence O‘Donnell.

All right.  Cliff, let me ask you this question.  All the things I‘d just laid out, all of them together, if this had happen to either Clinton or Obama, this could have changed that race, don‘t you agree?

CLIFF MAY, FOUNDATION FOR DEFENSE OF DEMOCRACIES:  If it happened to Clinton or Obama you wouldn‘t have reported them that all that way.  These are all false convalescences (ph) and these are all things that really don‘t even amount to gaffe.

Let‘s take the idea that al Qaeda and Iran had connections.  The fact of the matter is they do.  There‘s ample evidence of that, we don‘t know the extent of that.  I have the paper here, I‘ll leave it for you.

ABRAMS:  But why did John McCain correct himself?  Wait, Cliff, if that‘s the truth, the bottom line is John McCain corrected it.  Whether it‘s true or not, John McCain admitted a mistake.  Politics 101, when you admit a mistake, you got to deal with it.  You‘re now saying he shouldn‘t have apologized, he did.

MAY:  I don‘t know that he apologized, he probably didn‘t want to explain the extent of evidence that we have of al Qaeda‘s connection to Iran.

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  Look, you can argue that all you want.  John McCain doesn‘t agree with you.  John McCain and Joe Lieberman don‘t agree with you.  As a result, they had—I mean, John McCain, and it‘s not just Iran and Iraq, it‘s all about all the other things I laid out.  The media saw on the straight talk express.

MAY:  OK, let‘s take another one, Purim and Halloween.  Halloween, people dress up in costume.  Purim, people dress up in costume.  It‘s not the same holiday, I know, he didn‘t suggest it was, the more important point is where John McCain was, he was Sderot, the city in Israel that has been rained on with missiles for more than two years.  What other politician that‘s have the courage to go there and stand with the Israelis against terrorism?  What other?

ABRAMS:  Look, I know how much people, whenever a politician makes

a gaffe that the answer always is but there‘s bigger context.  But, there‘s

something else here.  The bottom line is -

MAY:  No, I‘m saying it‘s not a gaffe to say Purim.

ABRAMS:  It‘s not a gaffe when you compare.  Come on.  I mean, you‘re going to say that comparing that Purim holiday to Halloween.  I mean, you would agree, he shouldn‘t have said it.  It was a mistake, I get it.  It‘s not a big deal.  But the point is, he‘s getting the softball treatment.

MAY:  He said this is their version of Halloween because people dress up in costume for Halloween and for Purim and maybe somebody could think, oh, there‘s something similar there.  And there is, they dress up in costume.

ABRAMS:  I understand that.  But look, you can make that argument about every gaffe.  That yes, there‘s some reason for it, there‘s some explanation for it but the bottom line is, Lieberman again, had to come out and apologized.  Lieberman said, it was my fault, I mistakenly told him.  For you to deny that this was an awful week for John McCain, I mean, I think that the strongest argument on the other is—go ahead.

MAY:  I‘m saying it wasn‘t even a gaffe.  I‘m not even sure it was gaffette (ph).  It was such a tiny thing that he said on Purim, people dress up in costume.  On Halloween, people dress up in costume.  I see a similarity.  I don‘t expect him to get into the theology of Jewish holidays.

ABRAMS:  Yes.  I don‘t think there‘s been a candidate, Lawrence, who has had this many bad things happen in one week.  I mean, you got the Hagee thing coming out and saying, oh, you know what, he sought out our endorsement.  You‘ve got the Iran, Iraq, there‘s no other way to view, apart from being a major, four times he says it and then, Lieberman has to correct him.   The Israeli, for the Israel Purim thing, is a small thing.  Staffer suspended for putting, again, small thing.

But four different things, I mean, there‘s been no other candidate who‘s had this kind of week that we‘ve seen.

O‘DONNELL:  Each one of them would have been enough for a 24-hour news cycle of their own and you have to ask yourself: Where would John McCain be today if he didn‘t have Joe Lieberman standing by him all week, correcting everything he said wrong?  You know, and if Cliff May wants to argue that well, it wasn‘t a mistake, I guess, you‘re then arguing that Joe Lieberman was wrong and that the correction Joe Lieberman whispered into John McCain‘s ear was wrong.

But you know, the Purim thing and the Halloween thing shows you how much John McCain does not know about religion in general, which is how he got in trouble with Hagee.  John McCain is not of the religious right, he doesn‘t understand those people, his campaign was just grabbing around for anyone from that side of the world who would endorse him and he went with this guy who is, you know, a nuclear bomb in terms of an endorsement.

The difference between Hagee and Jeremiah Wright, just for media purposes is, you don‘t have videotape.  You have to show a still photograph of Hagee speaking on audiotape very calmly and very easily about something that is clearly insane.

ABRAMS:  I only got a few seconds left, final word, Cliff.

MAY:  Yes, the difference is that Hagee is supporting McCain, but for 20 years Obama has been supporting Jeremiah Wright while he went up there and told people the terrible lie that whites are creating AIDS in order to commit genocide against black people and Obama never said to his friend and adviser don‘t say those things.

ABRAMS:  But the difference is, Cliff, the difference is Obama suffered enormously because of Wright and McCain hasn‘t suffered one bit.  That‘s the bottom line.

MAY:  Lawrence is correct that John McCain may not know a lot about religion, what he obviously does know about is national security and foreign affairs which is really what‘s important right now.

ABRAMS:  Well, fine, he‘s got to brush (ph) up on the foreign affairs, it seems a bit, too.

MAY:  Let‘s have a whole discussion of that connection.

ABRAMS:  Teflon John is going to be an ongoing discussion because, I think, that the media is soft peddling around McCain, the straight talk express, the whole thing.  If we stay on Obama, we stay on Clinton On Their Trail, we‘re staying on McCain‘s trail as well.

Well, Cliff May, thanks a lot for coming up.  Thank you.

MAY:  Appreciate it.

Coming up: Obama v. Clinton.  We‘re On Their Trail assessing the biggest misstatements, blunders and cheap shots.  The Obama camp is now attempting to link Reverend Wright to the Clintons.  Cheap shot or blunder?

And: The civil war at FOX News escalates.  Earlier this week, it was O‘Reilly v. Hannity.  This time, FOX‘s Chris Wallace tried to talk some sense of fairness into the FOX morning team.  They didn‘t want to hear it.  That‘s coming up in Beat the Press.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  It‘s time for tonight‘s Beat the Press.

First up: It is getting ugly inside FOX News.  Earlier this week, Bill O‘Reilly and Sean Hannity duking it out over who created the Obama pastor controversy, even though it was really ABC News that broke the story.  Then this morning, FOX anchor Chris Wallace went after colleagues at “FOX & Friends” accusing them of Obama bashing.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(CROSSTALK)

CHRIS WALLACE, TV HOST:  It‘s a little more complicated than what we‘ve been portraying.

STEVE DOOCY, TV HOST:  Right.  We‘ve actually read of the complete sound byte three times so far.

BRIAN KILMEADE, TV HOST:  So, we‘ve been debating that back and forth to the point where we eat up two other talking points and they were telling us to move on.  Did you get that excerpt (ph) of the conversation?

WALLACE:  Well, I must say, I missed your saying that during the time that I was doing 20 hits tonight.  I was unhappy with what you were doing today.

DOOCY:  Well, in all fairness to the “FOX & Friends” show, you did 20 some odd hits and obviously you missed a lot of our dialogue.

WALLACE:  Well, I heard enough of it.

DOOCY:  OK.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  And to make it worse for the gang, Chris Wallace received from appreciation from the Obama camp today for taking them to test (ph).

Next up: And staying with that FOX morning show, Gretchen Carlson woke us up yesterday with a bit of spring time cheer but her excitement probably wasn‘t shared by folks in the Midwest.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GRETCHEN CARLSON, TV HOST:  If you‘re just waking up, good morning, everyone.  I‘m Gretchen Carlson and here is the news you may have missed while you were sleeping and it‘s happening for you right now.  Guess what?  It‘s the first day of spring.  Whoo-hoo (ph).  It‘s not so great for some people in parts of the country.  Heavy rains has swollen rivers and streams across the Midwest, 13 people have lost their lives.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Whoo-hoo (ph).  Thirteen people are dead.

Finally: Nancy Grace is reporting on Eliot Spitzer‘s alleged hooker Ashley Dupre and the number of downloads of her song, “What we want” when she gave us her version.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NANCY GRACE, TV HOST:  Have you heard that song?  I know what you want.  I‘ll give you what you want.  I know what you want.  I‘ll give you what you want.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Please.  Stop.

Up next: We‘re On Their Trail again tonight.  Barack Obama is securing a major endorsement today of New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson.  Richardson also served in Bill Clinton‘s cabinet.  The Clinton campaign today is saying, it‘s not a significant get (ph).

Both Bill and Hillary reportedly called Richardson this week to ask for his support.  The cheap shots and blunders are coming up.

And later: The week‘s Winners and Losers.  Yes, both Eliot Spitzer and his alleged prostitute made the cut.

VERDICT will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DAN ABRAMS, HOST:  Welcome back to VERDICT.  Obama and Clinton continue to slug it out on the campaign trail.  So as always, we are on their trail, assessing the day‘s misstatements, cheap shots and blunders.

Here to help separate fact from fiction, cheap shot from fair game, political analyst Lawrence O‘Donnell and John Ridley. 

All right.  First up, the Obama camp now reportedly trying to defuse the controversy surrounding Pastor Jeremiah Wright by linking him to the Clintons. 

Today, the “New York Times” says the Obama camp provided them with this photo of then-President Bill Clinton meeting Wright at the White House in 1998.  The Clinton camp firing off an immediate response saying, quote, “The Obama campaign put this photo out?  How pathetic.” 

I‘m calling this one an Obama cheap shot.  Obama said in his speech that Wright is a part of who Obama is.  He was a member of one of Obama‘s religious committees.  Not so for Clinton, who met many religious leaders at the White House.  Sending a snapshot of Clinton, in my view, is a cheap shot by Obama.  John, do you agree? 

JOHN RIDLEY, “HUFFINGTON POST” CONTRIBUTOR:  I‘m going to have to disagree

this time.  You know, I mean, look.  The Clinton camp put up that picture

of Sen. Obama when he was in Kenya and Somalia -

ABRAMS:  That‘s wrong.  If they did that, then that‘s wrong too. 

RIDLEY:  But you know what?  Here‘s what I think.  If you‘re involved in politics and that‘s what politics is and the Clinton camp said, “Hey, what‘s so shameful if he‘s wearing Somali clothes?  What‘s wrong with that?” 

If Clinton was OK to - if President Clinton was OK to meet Jeremiah Wright when he was in office, what‘s so bad about Sen. Obama knowing the guy?  I think it‘s fair, and I think the way that the Clinton camp has pushed this - There‘s nothing wrong with showing that this guy knew a lot of people and a lot of people did not have a problem with him until about two weeks ago. 

ABRAMS:  I called it a cheap shot when I saw the Clinton campaign was saying, “Oh, what‘s the big deal.  He‘s in - you know, he‘s in native garb.  Who cares?”  I gave them a cheap shot.  I mean, this is cheap.  I mean it‘s cheap play.  You can say it‘s politics, but it‘s a cheap shot. 

LAWRENCE O‘DONNELL, POLITICAL ANALYST:  That‘s what I‘m going to say.  More forward thinking, Dan.

ABRAMS:  I look at this like a lawyer.  It‘s a cheap shot.

O‘DONNELL:  It is politics and it is cheap, but what it is, is professional communication with the superdelegates because of the setting in which that photograph was taken.  That photograph was taken in possibly the single most fraudulent use of religion in the history of the White House. 

That was at the prayer breakfast that Bill Clinton convened with a bunch of ministers after he was forced to admit that “Yes, indeed, I did have sexual relations with that woman, Lewinsky.”  And he was begging them to help him find his way back to salvation. 

And that‘s what the Obama campaign wants the superdelegates to think about, which is when you‘re talking about I‘m not vetted enough, remember how vetted Bill Clinton has been and remember what he may be capable of in the future. 

ABRAMS:  I feel like a politician saying to both of you, “I‘m not willing to accept politics as usual.”  This one goes against Obama, giving him our first strike of the night. 

Next up, Barack Obama securing a big endorsement today.  New Mexico governor and former presidential candidate, Bill Richardson.  Pretty significant coup for Obama considering Richardson services as energy secretary, U.N. ambassador.  I‘ve talked about this before.  That‘s pretty significant, unless you ask the Clinton campaign today. 

Senior strategist Mark Penn talking to “Wall Street Journal,” quote, “The time he could have been effective has long since passed.  I don‘t think it‘s a significant endorsement in this environment.” 

Come on.  According to “Politico.com,” quote, “Bill and Hillary” both called Richardson to ask for his endorsement March 13 according to a source familiar with the conversations.”  Clinton cheap shot, Lawrence. 

O‘DONNELL:  Well, yes.  I mean this is an endorsement they both desperately wanted.  I actually think it may be the single most important endorsement of the campaign so far because this was the week when Obama was trending down.  This was the worst week of the campaign for him.  He desperately needed a change of story in this campaign.  Now, the passport situation provided that, but nothing‘s provided it better than Bill Richardson. 

ABRAMS:  John, look.  This is politics too.  You play the game.  You pretend you don‘t need it.  I‘m also going to call them on it.  I mean it‘s a total cheap shot. 

RIDLEY:  Well, I think it‘s ridiculous to claim that you didn‘t need this endorsement.  That‘s why when a girl goes out with your best friend you really didn‘t want to date her anyway.  I almost think it makes it worse.  It‘s one thing to say, “Look, we lost this endorsement, but we‘re going to continue on.  And we‘re sorry we lost it.”  Another thing to pretend that this endorsement now doesn‘t matter.  It really makes them look like they‘re not understanding their situation. 

ABRAMS:  This one goes against Clinton, putting us at a tie of one strike each. 

O‘DONNELL:  By the way, I do think that‘s what they should have said about it.  As soon as they lost it, they should say it doesn‘t matter. 

ABRAMS:  And I will say it‘s a cheap shot.  Yes.  Next up, Sen. Clinton sounding a familiar theme on the trail this week, touting her foreign policy experience by relaying a harrowing tale of a trip she took to Bosnia as first lady. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  I remember landing under sniper fire.  There was supposed to be some kind of a greeting ceremony at the airport.  But instead, we just ran with our heads down to get into the vehicle to get to our base. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  The problem, there is no evidence to support her version of the story.  I‘m calling this a Clinton misstatement.  Because, in fact, there appears to be photographic evidence disproving her account. 

This is the greeting ceremony at the airport that Clinton claims never happened.  And according to the “Washington Post,” quote, “A review of nearly 100 news accounts of her visit shows that not a single newspaper or television station reported any security threat to the first lady.”  Lawrence, if she had been running with sniper fire at the first lady, it would have been reported. 

O‘DONNELL:  Yes, I think we would have heard about it and we absolutely would have - There is no politician in America who would have ducked sniper fire and not rushed on to this network and every other one to tell you about it immediately. 

So I just wish she wouldn‘t try to have this resume as first lady.  She has some valuable experiences as first lady.  But what the campaign is about is, how do you finance social security?  How do you finance Medicare?  I wish Obama and Clinton would both be looking forward on this stuff. 

ABRAMS:  This one goes against Clinton, giving us two strikes for Clinton and one for Obama, going into the break.  Everyone‘s going to stick around.  We‘ve got more “On Their Trail,” up next. 

Obama says the controversy over his pastor reminded him his odds of getting elected have always been lower than other candidates.  The Clinton campaign interprets that to mean he‘s admitting she‘s more electable.  The cheap shots keep coming.

And later, “Reality Bites,” the Fox show, “Moment of Truth” makes it seem like there are not that many decent people left in America.  What an awful show.  Coming up next. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Now to “Reality Bites,” a dose of reality caught on tape.  Tonight, it doesn‘t get much tackier than the Fox show, “Moment of Truth,” where contestants are hooked up to lie detector test pitted against members of their own family, pushed to answer painful, personal, embarrassing questions.

Earlier this week, the show put up a daughter against her mother.  It wasn‘t pretty.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARK WAHLBERG(ph), HOST, “MOMENT OF TRUTH”:  Would you be happy to look like your mother when you‘re her age?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE CONTESTANT:  No.

WAHLBERG(ph):  No, you would not be happy to look like your mother when you‘re her age.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  That charming young woman left the show with nothing but bad memories.  We‘ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  We‘re back on their trail tonight, assessing who‘s guilty of more misstatements, cheap shots and blunders.  Right now, Clinton is behind on tonight‘s scorecard.  She has two strikes against her; Obama has one. 

Next up, Obama‘s called in to Philadelphia talk radio station yesterday.  It‘s getting a lot of attention today.  He spoke about his white grandmother, who he says made racially charged comments in the past, expanding on the comment he made in his speech on race.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

OBAMA:  The point I was making was not that my grandmother harbors any racial animosity.  She does not.  But she‘s a typical white person, who - If she sees somebody on the street that she doesn‘t know, you know, there‘s a reaction that‘s been bred into our experiences that don‘t go away. 

(END AUDIO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  You‘ve got to give Obama a blunder on this.  Look, some are making far too big a deal out of this.  The context here is important.  But with that said, a typical white person?  Even in a context, he‘s got to know that sort of phrase is bound to get him in trouble.  For that matter, a typical - any person, it‘s, I would think, going to get him in trouble.  John Ridley?

RIDLEY:  Yes.  I would have to say there‘s nothing typical about white people, Dan.  You‘re a wonderful and diverse race and we should embrace you.  I mean, look.  The reality is - you‘re absolutely right.  If you talk about race at some point, you are going to put an adjective in front of some racial group and it‘s going to sound horrible.  Same with Geraldine Ferraro, “lucky” in front of black or around black men. 

So yes, it‘s a misstatement.  It‘s unfortunate.  There are bigger issues, but I think Obama is done with race.  He made a wonderful speech.  Get off the topic. 

ABRAMS:  Lawrence?

It is one of those examples of how tricky it is if you‘re speaking extemporaneously in this subject area.  What‘s wrong with the quote is one word and he tripped.  He‘d love to have that back, I‘m sure. 

ABRAMS:  Obama gets a strike here giving us two strikes for Clinton, two for Obama, going into the final round. 

On Wednesday night, Obama reflected on the controversy created by his former pastor, Jeremiah Wright. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  In some ways, this controversy has actually shaken me up a little bit and gotten me back into remembering that the odds of me getting elected have always been lower than some of the other conventional candidates. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  The Clinton campaign jumped on that, firing off a memo proclaiming, quote, “Sen. Obama says Hillary is more electable.”  Clinton cheap shot.  Look, there‘s spin and then there‘s spin.  I mean, Lawrence, this is a complete distortion.  This takes gall for them to say that you‘ve got to give them some points for creativity.  But it takes gall to send out a press release saying Obama says Hillary more electable.

O‘DONNELL:  Well, it is one of those things that has an air of desperation to it.  Look, he was talking about conventional.  The most conventional candidate running this year was Joe Biden.  He‘s the right age.  He has the right resume.  He‘s from the right place.  Everything about him is perfect.  Conventional doesn‘t mean electable.  Joe Biden has proven it.  Hillary has proven it because she‘s not conventional.  And Obama has proven it.

ABRAMS:  What are they doing, John?  Proclaiming that - I mean is no one calling them on this stuff?  Is there no fear that we‘re going to look stupid if we say this? 

RIDLEY:  Again, where they are now, Dan, I think that the Clintons have to say whatever they think they have to say and do whatever they have to do to get the votes that are out there. 

And again, to me, that statement sounds like they translated it from one language into another.  When I hear Obama talking, to me, he sounds, in some ways, reinvigorated or realistic about how hard it is and that the Obama mania was that mania.  It doesn‘t mean that he‘s giving up.  It doesn‘t mean that the voters are going away.  There‘s a realism about this election and I think that‘s good for everyone to understand.  But you‘re absolutely right.  To me, this is a cheap shot. 

ABRAMS:  And he‘s certainly - he‘s certainly not saying that Hillary is more electable. 

RIDLEY:  I did not hear that. 

ABRAMS:  All right.  Clinton gets the strike on this.  Giving us a final score of three against Clinton and two against Obama on tonight‘s scorecard. 

Lawrence O‘Donnell and John Ridley, thanks for your help throughout the program. 

Up next, will tonight‘s big winner or loser be Heather Mills whose dark side was revealed by the judge in her divorce case?  O.J. Simpson, whose dark side was revealed a long time ago?  But now, Barack Obama is coming out against him. Or Eliot Spitzer, who gets an offer to reveal his dark side for “Playgirl” magazine.  Danny Bonaduce joins us to weigh in on the week‘s “Winners and Losers.”  And the “P.O.‘d Box” is coming up too. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  It‘s Friday, so it‘s time for the week‘s “Winners and Losers” for this third week of March, 2008.  Our first loser, Eliot Spitzer‘s alleged prostitute, Ashley Dupree who has become a lot less valuable after the producers of “Girls Gone Wild” discovered she‘s already gone wild on tape four years ago in Miami.  They rescinded a million-dollar offer to her.  They are now selling the tapes and say, “Ashley won‘t see a dime of those profits.” 

Loser - Heather Mills.  Yes, she won nearly $50 million in her divorce from Paul McCartney.  But not only did the judge bash her for being less than honest, the ruling also shows that she likely didn‘t donate to charity all of her earnings from “Dancing With The Stars” as she promised.  And now, “The Sun” reports that while she flies first class, her four-year-old daughter, who she claims the lawsuit was all about, flies with the regular folks in coach. 

But our big loser of the week, O.J. Simpson.  Because this week, we learn, even Barack Obama thinks he did it. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  I‘m somebody who was pretty clear that O.J. was guilty.  And I was ashamed for my own community to respond in that way. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Our big winner of the week?  Former Governor Eliot Spitzer.  Yes, his political career is looking for him.  But things are looking up for him.  “Play Girl” magazine has offered a, quote, “very attractive offer” to show the world the full Spitzer.  And while I‘m sure he won‘t end up there, he made the cover of “New York” magazine this week. 

And according to the “New York Post,” he may be ready to take on his demon saying, quote, “Spitzer has gone into therapy and as part of the therapy, we‘ll explore whether he has an addiction to sex.”

Joining me now to reflect on the week that was, a man who has bared all for a recent “Penthouse” spread and has battled his own addictions in the past, Danny Bonaduce.  He‘s also the host of the new VH1 show, “I Know My Kids a Star.”  

All right.  Danny, first of all, the spread.  You were not offered the kind of money that Eliot Spitzer is being offered?  You spent a lot of time on your body.

DANNY BONADUCE, HOST, “I KNOW MY KID‘S A STAR”:  I posed fully naked in “Penthouse” magazine.  My name was on the cover.  I didn‘t get a penny.  So I would like to go on record as Danny Bonaduce, loser of the week.  Not a dime. 

ABRAMS:  You did it for free? 

BONADUCE:  I did.  I did it - somebody caught a naked picture of me that was published online.  And it was very cold that day.  And I felt the need to redeem myself, so I posed for “Penthouse” magazine. 

ABRAMS:  And you also, on a somewhat more serious note, were actually treated for a sex addiction.  A lot of people say they don‘t buy it, this idea that people go in and are actually addicted to sex. 

BONADUCE:  Well, first all, when you talk about sex and say, “I don‘t buy it,” then you‘re probably not addicted.  What it is, is when I checked into rehab for alcohol abuse, they asked me how many partners I‘d had.  And I wrote down my number, and they said and talked to me for a while about it.  And they said, “We don‘t think that alcohol is your primary addiction.  We believe that your primary addiction is actually sex.  You are a sex addict.  When you cannot fulfill that particular addiction, you move to your secondary addiction, alcohol.  Which is weird because if I have enough of my secondary addiction, I can‘t actually accomplish my first addiction.” 

ABRAMS:  What did you make of the Spitzer thing?  I mean, first of all, when you heard about it, and now the notion that, you know, maybe he‘ll go in and try and treat his demon, so to speak.

BONADUCE:  Well, I think that treating your demon is a very interesting idea.  First of all, I personally don‘t like to treat my demons.  I like to fight them.  I think dealing with them is interesting and I make a career out of it. 

He‘s a politician and needs to get his life together and get straight. 

Whether he will get cured of an alleged disease is one thing or another.  But he will claim that he has found the spirit, the spirit has moved him and he is back once with the people. 

ABRAMS:  Do you think the media - this thing we‘ve been talking about.  Do you think the media has been glorifying prostitution as a result of this?  Sort of making it seem like sort of this high end, sort of a different world than the kind of the lower end of prostitution? 

BONADUCE:  Well, certainly, I happen to know a little bit about both.  And if you‘re going to glorify the one, I‘d go for the one on the yacht and can, rather than on suites at Sunset Boulevard.  One is  a tad more glamorous than the other. 

ABRAMS:  You really are the perfect guest to talk about all aspects of the Spitzer case.  You‘ve touched on every aspect of the case in your own personal way.  

BONADUCE:  I‘ve actually been offered to touch on Spitzer and I will do it for enough money. 

ABRAMS:  All right.  Final question - O.J.?  Are you surprised that Barack Obama came at it?

BONADUCE:  I‘m surprised that that makes O.J. the loser, that at this day and age, Obama has decided that O.J. actually did it.  I heard Obama recently also said that there‘s a chance there might be trouble brewing in the Middle East.  And maybe, he‘s heard rumors that the Beatles are going to breaking up.  What kind of news is that, Obama?

ABRAMS:  Danny Bonaduce, good to see you again. 

BONADUCE:  Always a pleasure. 

ABRAMS:  Thanks for coming in.

BONADUCE:  Thanks for having me. 

ABRAMS:  Time for the “P.O.‘d Box,” your chance to tell me what you hate or love about the show.  Why do I get the feeling you may have some thoughts about that segment.

First up, our coverage of Sen. Barack Obama‘s security breach after State Department workers accessed his passport file three times this year. 

Gregory from Rosemount, Minnesota writes, “Wasn‘t Mrs. Clinton not long ago talking about comparing passport credentials with Barack?  Couldn‘t someone from their camp have also been the one who reached out to the contractors and had them go into his passport files?  I‘m not a big conspiracy theorist, but it does seem odd.”

Come on, Gregory.  He‘s talked extensively about his travels and there‘s not a scintilla of evidence to suggest that somehow Hillary Clinton might be behind this particular incident. 

All right.  Danny, we‘re running out of letters here.  So let me just take one more moment with you. 

BONADUCE:  Well, actually, I wanted to ask you something.  I heard that Heather Mills makes her daughter ride in coach so she can ride in first class.

ABRAMS: Yes. 

BONADUCE:  If there is anybody who does not need more leg room, it‘s Heather Mills.  Why is she not riding in the back? 

ABRAMS:  All right.  All right.

We‘ve got one more.  We‘ve got one more.  Sam from St. Louis, “Why do you always load up your show with people who obviously hate Clinton?  On your cheap shot section, you seem to only invite pundits who are anti-Hillary?”

Come on.  You mean like former Press Secretary, Deedee Meyers who we had on our “On Their Trail,” who seemed supportive of the Clintons on every topic on Wednesday?  I gave Clinton a blunder for suddenly acting shocked that the Michigan primary vote isn‘t going to count. 

Wanda, from Paris, Illinois says, “Thank you, Dan, for accurately pointing out Sen. Clinton‘s obvious and blatantly public dishonesty in trying to get the Michigan and Florida delegates seated.  Can‘t anyone else see this?” 

Thanks, Wanda.  My problem isn‘t with Clinton trying to get the delegates seated.  I said all along, I think Michigan and Florida should have re-votes.  For her to suddenly feign outrage and say it‘s un-American after accepting the DNC‘s decision last year to me feels totally disingenuous. 

That‘s all the time we have for tonight.  You can E-mail me about tonight‘s show at verdict@msnbc.com. Please include your name and where you‘re writing from.  Have a great weekend.  See you next week.

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 MSNBC.  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 MSNBC and Voxant, Inc.‘s copyright or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.

transcript

Watch Verdict with Dan Abrams each weeknight at 9 p.m. ET

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,