updated 3/26/2008 11:15:42 AM ET 2008-03-26T15:15:42

Guests: Marc Lamont Hill, Roy Sekoff, Lanny Davis, Margie Romero, Leslie Sanchez

DAN ABRAMS, HOST:  Tonight: Hillary Clinton says, Reverend Wright, quote, “would not have been my pastor.”

Many in the media obsessing over when she said, what about what she says?

Clinton‘s bigger problem: The delegate map.  Now, team Clinton is talking about trying to get pledged delegates to switch sides—the latest in team Clinton‘s efforts to redefine winning.

And John McCain‘s media free pass continues but not here.  He‘s now missed more votes than any other healthy senator.  When will political reality start to stick to Teflon John?

VERDICT starts now.

Hi, everyone.  Welcome to the show.

Hillary Clinton finally took aim at Barack Obama over his controversial former pastor today in a rare press conference.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  I think given all we have heard and seen, he would not have been my pastor.  We don‘t have a choice when it comes to our relatives.  We have a choice when it comes to our pastors and the churches we attend.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  The Obama campaign immediately fired back saying, quote, “After originally refusing to play politics with this issue, it is disappointing to see Hillary Clinton‘s campaign sink to this low in a transparent effort to distract attention away from the story she made up about dodging sniper fire in Bosnia.”

Look, that may be true.  Clinton may finally be addressing Reverend Wright‘s to mute coverage of the Bosnia story—a story that in my mind, has received a disproportionate amount of coverage.

On Friday, we addressed this issue On Their Trail, saying Clinton inaccurately claimed she had to run for cover after landing in Bosnia in ‘96.  Video from that time shows a quiet tarmac, welcome for Clinton with local dignitaries.

But what about the substance of what Clinton said about Obama‘s former pastor?  And is a response to the Bosnia story so horrible?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLINTON:  I made a mistake.  And, you know, I had a different memory.  And my, you know, my staff and others have, you know, all kind of come together trying to sort out—so I made a mistake.  That happens.  It proves I‘m human which you know, for some people, is a revelation.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  So many now focusing on the timing of her remarks about Reverend Wright more than the substance, and why so much attention to this Bosnia story?

Joining me now, former Clinton adviser, Lanny Davis; professor of American Studies at Temple University, Marc Lamont Hill; and Roy Sekoff, editor of the Huffington Post.

All right.  Thanks to all of you for coming on.  I appreciate it.

Professor Hill, first, let‘s talk about this comment about Obama‘s pastor.  Is what Clinton said so terrible?

MARC LAMONT HILL, TEMPLE UNIVERSITY:  No.  It‘s not a terrible comment.  I think it‘s a little disingenuous considering how the Clintons have historically manipulated the religious responsibilities of black people.  But, I think the issue here is the fact that she‘s raising it today when she‘s on the hot seat for her ridiculous comments about Bosnia.

ABRAMS:  But, what‘s the big deal?  Let me ask Roy this.  I mean, what is the big deal?  And everyone‘s focusing on the timing.  Let‘s agree and Lanny may not agree.

But let you and I, Roy, let‘s agree for a minute that she did this because she thought it was the right time politically to talk about it.  OK.  She now makes this comment about Reverend Wright because it‘s politically the right time to talk about it.  So what?

ROY SEKOFF, HUFFINGTON POST:  No, she has every right to talk about it.  But don‘t forget, that for 10 days, they‘ve been saying, you know, that‘s for Obama to deal with.  That‘s for the voters to decide, not for us.

You know, I‘m not really a fan of the daily gotcha politics, Dan.  But I think that this is a clear attempt to get the focus off of Bosnia, she‘s like going, no I like it better when you were focusing on him.

I have to disagree with you, Dan, for a minute because I do think that Bosnia story is significant.  Because it cuts right to the heart of the fact she is trying to make this claim that she is ready to lead from day one.  She has all this experience, you know.

And here it comes.  She tried to—it is sort of like when George Bush put on the flight suit to land on the Abraham Lincoln.  This was her, you know, putting on the flight suit.  Again, that said, then, it turns out to be her macaca moment.

ABRAMS:  All right.  Lanny, I‘m going to get to you in a minute.  But to explain to me, then, Roy, how it‘s so different from Barack Obama saying the following, “We should pass legislation I put forward with my colleague Chris Dodd to create meaningful incentives for lenders to buy or refinance existing mortgages.”

It turns out, of course, that Dodd agreed.  That Obama did not.  Let me finish.  That Obama only supported the bill but he said, but he could not offer pride of authorship to Obama.

OK.  So, Obama made a mistake about whether he offered a bill.  Why is that not equally sort of—the media horrified about this Bosnia thing, why isn‘t that equally horrible?

SEKOFF:  It wasn‘t the center—it‘s not the centerpiece of his campaign.  The centerpiece of her campaign is that she has crossed the commander in chief threshold which she‘s saying he hasn‘t.

So, here she is.  She‘s building up this big thing and it turns out it‘s not just a misstatement.

It‘s an utter lie and it‘s not because she was sleep deprived.  She did it in her book.  She did it in prepared statements.  And when the reporters questioned her on it, she was very familiar.  I remember it clearly.  That‘s why.

ABRAMS:  Here‘s the problem, Professor Hill, is all the people who hate the Clintons always talk about the fact that nothing they say is not thought out.  Nothing they say is by accident.  OK?

Is the notion that Hillary Clinton did not know that someone was going to be able to figure out that her account might not have been accurate?

HILL:  I mean, that‘s a reasonable question.  I think she‘s asleep at the wheel right now.  I mean, there‘s no way she could not have known that these major networks will be tracking her.  At the same time, there‘s no way that she thought that she was ducking sniper fire when she‘s in fact, singing songs and holding hands and singing kumbayah.

So, clearly, something has to give here, and I‘m more inclined to think that she made a tactical error than to think that she imagined this fantastic story.

ABRAMS:  All right.  Lanny, look, I know you want to talk about the Bosnia thing.  But first, let me ask you about Reverend Wright, all right?  The claim is that this is based on the timing.

Will you concede that she chose to do—she says it‘s because I was asked about it today.  Look, the campaign has been asked about it for days now.  She chose to say it now because she wanted to get it out there politically now?

LANNY DAVIS, FMR CLINTON ADVISER:  Well, personally, I don‘t know the answer to that question, Dan.  I haven‘t talked to anybody in the campaign.  I‘m here in Orlando at the Universal Studios with my family.

So, the answers I wouldn‘t be surprised but she did formulate her answer very carefully which I don‘t think you have really adequately pointed out and I think you‘ll agree with me.  And she says what I say.

It‘s up to Senator Obama to decide whether a minister who says that 9/11 are chickens coming home to roost, that Israel has been responsible for being a terrorist state and that blames white America in the generic fashion.  It‘s up to Senator Obama whether he wants to stay a member of that congregation.

She didn‘t judge his decision.  I actually wrote that I respected his decision (INAUDIBLE).

ABRAMS:  All right.  But here‘s the point.

DAVIS:  She says this is what I would do.

ABRAMS:  The problem here is that -

DAVIS:  This is what—Dan, let me finish.

ABRAMS:  But Lanny, you‘re going on and on.  All right.

DAVIS:  She said this is what—I‘ll give you one more sentence and I‘m done.  She said this is what I would have done.  She didn‘t judge Senator Obama, she said, it‘s up for you to decide.

ABRAMS:  Roy, here‘s the problem.  It sounds like people like you believe the Bosnia story is so big we got to keep talking about it.  But Reverend Wright?  You know what?  Hillary Clinton should stop talking about Reverend Wright tomorrow.

SEKOFF:  Dan, talking about --- are you down there in Orlando in fantasy land with Lanny?  Are you kidding about me?  We‘ve been talking about Reverend Wright on an endless loop day after day after day.  This is the first day that we‘ve been talking about the Bosnia story.

ABRAMS:  No, let‘s be clear.

(CROSSTALK)

SEKOFF:  You reported about it on Friday.

ABRAMS:  That‘s right.

SEKOFF:  This is finally breaking now.  She‘s finally having to address it and I think it is a legitimate story.

ABRAMS:  Let me give you a sense of the media coverage of the Bosnia

story, right?  I‘m going to play a few clips.  You‘re telling me the Bosnia

again, this is about Hillary Clinton making a mistake.  And here‘s the sort of coverage we‘ve seen.

HILL:  It‘s not a mistake.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  This is embarrassing for Senator Clinton because she has campaigned hard on the notion of her strength and experience.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  It‘s like a fish story where the fish grows every time you tell the story.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Hillary Clinton under fire for embellishing her claims of experience.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  In the end, doesn‘t this really come down to a matter of can you trust what she said?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  I mean, Professor Hill, these are all the evening news programs are leading with this story.  As if it is one of the great—whether they‘re leading with it or not leading with it.  It‘s in major evening news programs.  It‘s all over cable.  And the bottom line is, Hillary Clinton made a mistake or even misstated.

HILL:  No.  To say that she misstated is an extravagant understatement.

ABRAMS:  What about Obama saying that he was—putting forward legislation that he didn‘t put forward?

HILL:  That was also dishonest.  I don‘t disagree with that but the difference is Barack Obama‘s campaign doesn‘t hinge upon that claim.  Hillary Clinton‘s whole key here is that she has more experience, she has foreign policy experience.  That she is the bona fides to win this thing.  She doesn‘t have it.

DAVIS:  May I please speak?  The double standard along side the words honest mistake is what your program is about tonight.  Honest mistake was made by John McCain when he said al Qaeda was being trained in Iran.  Honest mistake made by Obama when he claimed credit for a bill that didn‘t pass.  Honest mistake when Hillary Clinton said that she heard sniper fire.

\

This is a report from the scene that you really should hear.  This is a reporter now in March 26th, 1996, “Protected by sharp shooters, Hillary Rodham Clinton swooped into a military zone by a Blackhawk helicopter.”

So, honest mistake and double standard.  You‘re shouter from the Huffington Post thinks that rhetoric is better than facts.  The fact is, he‘s using a double standard.  Barack Obama based his campaign on being straight and he made a mistake.

ABRAMS:  Roy, how do you know it wasn‘t an honest mistake by Hillary Clinton?  How do you know?

SEKOFF:  I‘ll tell you exactly how.  And, Lanny, I don‘t mean to be shouting.  It‘s just, you know, I‘m dodging the sniper fire here in the studio.  But here‘s my point, it‘s not an honest mistake when you repeat it again and again and again.  McCain did on (INAUDIBLE) show.

DAVIS:  How do you know that?

SEKOFF:  He did it in Jordan and he did it again.  Hillary did this,

you know, in the speech -

DAVIS:  How do you know that?

SEKOFF:  I‘m telling you.  She did it in her book.  She did it in her speech.  Wait a minute.  And then when Sinbad, it was—you have to shout when somebody talks over you.

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  Roy, focus on the question which is how do you know it wasn‘t honest?  Even if it was repeated, even if she made the mistake again and again, how do you know that wasn‘t an honest mistake on Bosnia?

DAVIS:  And given the context that I just read, I want to hear that answer.

ABRAMS:  Hang on.  Lanny, stop.  Go ahead, Roy.

SEKOFF:  Well, there‘s a huge difference between, you know, ducking ago way from sniper fire and actually saying very emphatically, there was no greeting ceremony.  We have pictures of her with this 8-year-old girl kissing her on the cheek and giving her flowers.  It‘s a lovely thing.

ABRAMS:  The coverage of this, though, has been so, I think, unfair.

(CROSSTALK)

HILL:  The coverage has given her the benefit of the doubt.  The coverage says that she misspoke.  You know, the coverage of this is very gentle compared to Jeremiah Wright, flying out racist, the biggest debacle of recent political history.  You talk about hyperbole, Jeremiah Wright was surrounded by hyperbole.  Hillary Clinton‘s gotten the benefit of the doubt of her when she‘s clearly lying.

ABRAMS:  But she hasn‘t got any benefit of any doubt.  I mean, the point is that everyone has gone after her over this Bosnia thing.  She‘s now admitted she got it wrong.  You can say it was a lie, you can say it was misstatement.  You can call it whatever you want.  But the point is, you can‘t compare it to Jeremiah Wright.

HILL:  I agree.

ABRAMS:  You‘re the one who just did that.

HILL:  No.  I‘m saying they‘re not comparable because the media came

at Jeremiah Wright with a level of intensity that is not coming after

Hillary Clinton.  No one is suggesting -

ABRAMS:  You‘re actually saying, professor, it‘s the equivalent to say that the man who Obama said is part of his life, who‘s made comments that you on this program have denounced, you felt that they were horrible, awful comments, and you think that that is comparable to either mistake or lie about what happened in 1996 on a trip to Bosnia?

HILL:  Actually.  No.  I think they‘re not comparable because Hillary Clinton‘s claim to fame here is that she has foreign policy experience and she‘s had experience in all these places.  She doesn‘t have it.  And so, to me that is more critical.

No, let me finish.

ABRAMS:  Wait, her foreign policy experience whether she got shot at? 

That‘s the foreign policy experience?

HILL:  It‘s limited regardless.  But she is appealing to this expertise.  She‘s appealing to the experience that‘s justify her claim as a foreign policy candidate.  She doesn‘t have it.  That is more central to her candidacy than Jeremiah Wright to Barack Obama.

DAVIS:  Can I make just one quick comment?

ABRAMS:  Ten seconds.

DAVIS:  Right now the American people care about losing their homes from foreclosures.  This nonsense and the Barack Obama campaign‘s personal attack on Hillary Clinton is not consistent with what Barack Obama says his campaign is all about.

ABRAMS:  All right.  Roy Sekoff, thanks a lot.  Lanny and Professor Hill are going to stick around.

We would like to know your VERDICT about the Clinton-Obama clash.  Email us at Verdict@msnbc.com.  Tell us what you think.  Be sure to include your name, where you‘re writing from.  I‘m guessing, there‘s a lot of very, very passionate feelings on this one.  That‘s why we call it the P.O.‘ed box.

Coming up: Hillary Clinton moving the goal post again, is now saying that pledged delegates who are supposed to be representing the voters of their states can really vote for whoever they want.  I guess, team Clinton now really wants to say goodbye to the will of the people.  I‘m taking on the Clintons in the next segment.

And we‘re On Their Trail: Obama releasing his tax return today.  Clinton won‘t be out for a couple weeks.  That didn‘t stop the Clinton campaign from calling Obama‘s personal finances, quote, “opaque.”

Tonight‘s cheap shots, misstatements and blunders are coming up.

Plus: Congress giving more than $2 billion to colleges and universities for pet projects among the pork, nearly $200,000 to find ways to reduce pig and poultry emissions.  It‘s today‘s edition of Why America Hates Washington.

VERDICT is back in 60 seconds.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  It‘s time for tonight‘s edition of Why America Hates Washington.  Your tax dollars at work: Congress giving out a record of $2.3 billion in pet projects to colleges and university this is year, some of it for seemingly idiotic research.  Among the projects your tax money is funding, $196,000 to find ways to reduce swine and poultry odor emissions, $372,000 to research a potato worm, and $968,000 on dairy research.

Spending your money is another reason Why America Hates Washington.

We‘re back more with Hillary‘s desperate delegate grab in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Welcome back.

Senator Clinton in what seems like a desperate move is now suggesting she might go after pledged delegates, not talking about the party insiders known as superdelegates.  No, the delegates Obama presumably won in the caucuses and primaries.

In an interview with the editorial board of “Philadelphia Daily News,” Clinton said, quote, “Pledged delegates in most states are not pledged.  You know, there is no requirement that anybody vote for anybody.  They‘re just like superdelegates.”

It seems there‘s a new rational every day from Clinton or her supporters to change the rules, the metrics, change whatever is needed to try to figure out some way to be seen as the winner.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TERRY MCAULIFFE, CLINTON CAMPAIGN CHAIRMAN:  We‘re heading to big states, big, big states.

DAVIS:  Senator Obama has not been able to win big states.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  We decide the presidency not by a popular vote. 

We decide it by the electoral vote.

BILL CLINTON, FMR. UNITED STATES PRESIDENT:  She will have more popular votes.  She will be the nominee of the Democratic Party.

SEN. EVAN BAYH, (D) CLINTON SUPPORTER:  Who carried the states with the most Electoral College votes is an important factor to consider.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  From big states to Electoral College to switching pledged delegates, it seems the Clinton campaign is pursuing their own kitchen sink strategy to find a new path to victory.

Lanny Davis is still us with, and Democratic strategist Margie Omero joins us now as well.

All right.  Lanny, it seems like every day there is some new metric to judge by somehow to make the Clinton campaign look like they‘re winning.

DAVIS:  You know, I‘m really shocked that the Clinton campaign is saying that if a pledged delegate sees Barack Obama losing to John McCain by 30 percent when the convention comes that he can‘t vote for Hillary Clinton because Dan Abrams would be offended.

ABRAMS:  Because the people of the state voted for that person will be offended.  Because the goal is you pick these pledged delegates who are supposed to represent the will of the people in that state.  And you‘re saying—you know what, let‘s just forget about that.  Let‘s just make it a big game.

DAVIS:  Here‘s all I ask you, one of my favorite all time fair minded journalist, is to apply the same standard to Barack Obama.  And you‘re great at that.  That‘s why I love your program.

So, Barack Obama talks about all the Democrats following the will of

the people.  But he actually opposed letting Florida and Michigan revote by

mail ballot even though his campaign said -

ABRAMS:  But, I did, Lanny.  I supported the revote in Florida and Michigan.  It didn‘t happen.

DAVIS:  I know you did.  So, let me give you one other example.  Ted Kennedy and John Kerry lost their state by 15 percent.  Are they supporting as superdelegates to Hillary Clinton?  Bill Richardson just endorsed him.  So, the fact is both sides are using the same standard.

ABRAMS:  No, they‘re not.

DAVIS:  They‘re nominating a president who can beat McCain not student

body president.  The delegates end up deciding -

MARGIE OMERO, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST:  We‘re talking about pledged delegates.

ABRAMS:  Look, here‘s the problem.

DAVIS:  End up deciding that Obama or Hillary are not electable. 

Under the rules to vote for any -

ABRAMS:  Margie, I‘m going to give you a little ammo and then, I‘m going to let you tee it up, all right?

OMERO:  OK.

ABRAMS:  A Clinton spokesman, Phil Singer said on February the 19th, we have not, are not, and will not pursue the pledged delegates of Barack Obama.  And, yet, it seems based on Hillary Clinton‘s latest statement that well, you know, we‘re not so sure.  Go ahead, Margie.

OMERO:  Well, there are a couple issues, right.  There is that inconsistency which voters can take as sort campaign tactics shifting where they can look at it and evaluate it differently.  But there is not just, can the pledged delegates change our mind.  They have to vote on good conscience the way for the candidates for whom they‘ve been pledged.

Certainly, they‘re not going to be hauled off to jail if they change their mind.  But the question is: Can she convince them to change their mind?  That is one issue.  And then, what‘s the cost to campaigning for pledged delegates to switch?

For every campaign to find that one delegate who‘ll switch, there may be other delegates turned off by that process and may switch the other way or a superdelegates who have already moved.

ABRAMS:  But see, I‘m more concerned about the faith in the system.  That the bottom line is, let‘s say Hillary Clinton is successful in convincing Obama delegates to switch sides.

Lanny, I mean, you may argue that, look, that‘s the best thing for the party.  And that‘s the system.  And they believe that he has a better chance against McCain in—excuse me, she has a better chance against McCain in the general election.

OK.  But what are all the Democrats who voted going to think?  They‘re going to say this system is so corrupt.

OMERO:  We had such high turnout.  We had such high turnout. 

Democratic -

DAVIS:  Let me respond by -

ABRAMS:  Let me Lanny respond and I‘ll get to you Margie.  Yes.

DAVIS:  Let me respond by shocking both of you.  I think you both made fair points.  And at the end of the day, the pledged delegates are probably going to vote for the state that—the results of their states.  And that‘s s a political reality.

But I also am saying that if we‘re going to talk about opportunism and going after delegates and using double standards, let‘s talk about Obama.

ABRAMS:  All right.  Marjorie, what do you want to—Lanny is saying that double standard.  I don‘t agree with it.  What do you make of it?

OMERO:  Well, the superdelegates—the pledge delegates have to vote

their good conscience, the standard of conscience for the candidate for whom they‘re pledged.  While, the superdelegates are free.  That is sort of the point of the superdelegates.

And so, it‘s not surprising that some superdelegates have all kinds of different criteria that they‘re using.  So, I don‘t think it‘s a double standard.  There‘s two different types of delegates.  And they both have two different types of decision making.

ABRAMS:  I‘ve got to wrap it up.  Yes?

DAVIS:  I actually agree with that.  Superdelegates should be independent.  So, we end up with an agreement on that.

ABRAMS:  All right.  Lanny Davis, as always, great to have you on the program.  Appreciate it.

DAVIS:  Thank you, Dan.

ABRAMS:  Margie is going to stick around and she joins us later.

Coming up: Senator John McCain has missed more days in the Senate since January 2007 than any other healthy senator, including Clinton or Obama, but there was no media coverage of that?

Our news segment: Teflon John is back.

And next: Rush Limbaugh lashes out at me again today.  This time for talking about possible voter fraud charges for Ohio Republicans who lied to corrupt the Democratic primary.  He even invokes my own father.

Time to put Rush in his place which I will do after this break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

This afternoon, Rush Limbaugh spent about 10 minutes going after me.  I took him on yesterday for encouraging Republicans to corrupt the Democratic primary by voting to cause chaos, as he puts it, voting in the Democratic primary.

I also called it un-American and now in Ohio it may also be illegal.  Officials there are investigating it as possible voter fraud.  One of my guests suggested prosecutors might even have a case against Rush for aiding and abetting.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST:  Dan Abrams of PMSNBC also known as DMC-TV, his show is back to doing legal things.  In his show, it is called VERDICT.  You know, Dan, I mean, your dad is a great constitutional scholar and lawyer.  Floyd Abrams is Dan Abrams dad.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  All right.  Besides his clever nickname for MSNBC, it‘s true we are covering legal stories as well as the big political stories.  My dad is a great scholar and lawyer.

Rush gets into trouble when he starts talking about an official document these Republicans signed to vote in the Democratic primary.  You know, the one where Rush encourages them to lie.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LIMBAUGH:  If you want to look into the legality, Dan, of pledging allegiance to a party, you sign a loyalty oath, Dan.  What are we, you guys turning your party into the old Soviet Union Politburo?

What are we doing here?  Loyalty oaths?  Go ahead, Dan.  I want you encourage people to bring on the investigation.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  OK.  I will encourage the officials in Ohio to bring it on.  Well, the concept of honesty on a registration form may be problematic for you, Rush.  This is not a loyalty oath this time.  This is a primary.

No one is telling people how to vote.  Just to be honest.  But alas, now that Rush is facing his own potential legal quandary, he offers up this nugget of wisdom.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LIMBAUGH:  Dan, check this one out.  I don‘t know if Dan is listening.  Folks, those of you in Pennsylvania, too late to save you in Ohio, you apparently under investigation along with me, but here‘s how, a way to make your vote legal.  The Democrats love it, accept it, and count it in Pennsylvania.  That is going higher (ph) and illegal alien to show up as you and vote.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Yes.  I heard about it, Rush.  And, Rush, you‘re in enough trouble already for encouraging people to lie under oath.  El Rushbo, the architect of voter fraud, you‘re on notice.

We will follow the legal situation in Ohio.  And the trouble you may have caused for the most loyal of your listeners.

Up next: As always, we‘re On Their Trail.  Clinton adviser James Carville keeping up his attack on Bill Richardson for endorsing Obama after comparing him to Judas.  Today, he said that he wanted to make sure Richardson‘s act was branded properly like cattle. 

And later, as much of the media continues to only focus on the Clinton-Obama race, we keep an eye on John McCain.  He‘s been absent from his day job in senate more than half the time since January of last year, far more than any other candidate for a healthy senator for that matter.  “Teflon John” is coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWS BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Welcome back.  Hillary Clinton‘s comments on Rev. Wright and her gaffe on Bosnia became the buzz words of the day on the campaign trail.  The Democratic candidates are also slugging it out on everything from tax returns to teaching experience.  As always, we‘re on their trail, assessing the day‘s misstatements, cheap shots and blunders. 

Here to help separate fact from fiction, cheap shot from fair game, once again, is Marc Lamont Hill.  He‘s here with us.  And Republican strategist Leslie Sanchez joins us as well. 

All right.  First up.  They battled it out today over tax returns.  Obama released seven years‘ worth of personal tax returns on his Web site today, demanding Clinton do the same.  When asked about that during today‘s press conference, Clinton pushed Obama to go further. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  I‘m pleased that Sen. Obama has released his tax returns.  I think that‘s a good first step.  Now he should release his records from being in the State Senate. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  I‘m calling this one a Clinton cheap shot.  Now, it may be

fair to call for Obama to release his state records.  But it‘s a good first

step?   The Clinton camp calling Obama‘s filings opaque?  

                This is a campaign that‘s only released tax returns from the time

Bill Clinton was in office, and now says they won‘t release the current tax returns until three days before the Pennsylvania primary?  Leslie, do you agree with me, cheap shot? 

LESLIE SANCHEZ, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST:  Completely.  I think a lot of us would call on somebody to release more tax returns when you won‘t release your own.  That is one for the political play books.  I‘ll put it there.

ABRAMS:  All right.  You agree, Marc? 

MARC LAMONT HILL, ASSISTANT PROFESSOR, TEMPLE UNIVERSITY:  I agree.  Classic Clinton sleight of hand.  Hide them in the last seven years and focus on the previous 20 that nobody cares about.  

ABRAMS:  This one goes against Clinton, giving her our first strike of the night. 

Next up, Clinton adviser James Carville already in hot water for New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson to Judas for endorsing Obama.  Today, he defended those remarks and even took it a step further. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAMES CARVILLE, CLINTON CAMPAIGN ADVISER:  I think a cattle ranch in

eastern New Mexico or advertising executive on the east side of Manhattan

would agree that proper branding is important.  And I want to be sure that

-

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE NEWS ANCHOR:  Branding? 

CARVILLE:  Sen. Richardson‘s act was branded properly.  I wanted his act to be remembered for what it was and it will be. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  All right.  I‘m calling this another Clinton cheap shot.  He is just clearly trying to bait Richardson and the Obama camp into saying more nasty mudslinging.  I‘ve got to believe the Clinton camp knows what he‘s up to.  But I guess that is the question, Professor Hill.  He‘s not officially part of the campaign.  Is it fair to brand - for me to give him a brand, a cheap shot on Carville? 

HILL:  Oh, absolutely.  He is a Clinton (UNINTELLIGIBLE) this is what he does.  He come out and takes the dirty shots and keeps - allows Hillary to keep her hands clean.  But we all know this is transparent.  We all know what they‘re doing.  This is ugly and bitter. 

ABRAMS:  Leslie, he‘s good at it. 

SANCHEZ:  It is completely - I mean look at what is happening.  This is the Clinton strategy, to bring out this cast of characters that basically can justify any lie or rationalize any fault.  And that‘s what James Carville does better than any of them. 

ABRAMS:  Clinton gets a strike on this one, too, giving us two strikes against Clinton, none for Obama.  Next up, the Clinton camp in full damage control mode today over Sen. Clinton‘s misstatement over the perils she faced in Bosnia, firing off a memo accusing Obama embellishing his accomplishments too.  Among them, they say, quote, “Sen. Obama consistently and falsely claims that he was a law professor.” 

Look, I‘m going to rule this one is totally petty but accurate.  According to the “Chicago Sun Times” in 2004, quote, “Several direct mail pieces issued for Obama‘s senate primary campaign said he was a law professor at the University of Chicago.  He‘s not.  He‘s a senior lecturer now on leave at the school.”

Look.  Is this total minutia?  Absolutely.  But words matter and accuracy does matter, and there is a difference.  I don‘t think it‘s politically smart for the Clintons to be going after Obama on such a small issue.  But Professor, you‘re a professor - the bottom line there is a difference between being a lecturer and being a full professor. 

HILL:  Well, it depends on whether you use professor with a capital P or a lowercase P if we‘re being precise.  Professor is job title.  If you‘re a lecturer, you are a professor.  If you use a capital P, you‘re saying a full tenured professor.  That is something different.  I agree with you.  I think it‘s petty.  I think it‘s silliness.  We need to be talking about the issues.  But she‘s right.  Maybe.

ABRAMS:  Leslie? 

SANCHEZ:  (UNINTELLIGIBLE) For somebody - she herself embellishes her resume more than probably any other candidate.  So really, for her to say, you know, she opposed NAFTA when she didn‘t, you know, variety of different things.  To be focusing on something so petty is really an indication of her character. 

ABRAMS:  All right.  I‘m ruling this a - who knew that we were going to have so many - the tag team against Clintons here as our guests. 

HILL:  I can‘t believe it.  

ABRAMS:  I‘m ruling this a - I‘m not part of it.  I‘m ruling this a fair attack.  Nobody is getting a strike here. 

Next up, some unfortunate irony coming back to bite the Obama campaign relating to last week‘s passport gate scandal.  Remember three state department employees found to have improperly accessed Obama‘s passport file?  We later learned McCain and Clinton were snooped on as well.  The Obama camp had come out firing, saying, quote, “This is an outrageous breach of security and privacy.  We demand to know who looked at Sen. Obama‘s passport file, for what purpose, why it took so long for them to reveal the security breach?” 

This week it was reported that the CEO of the firm that employed those state department contractors is actually an Obama foreign policy and intelligence adviser.  I‘m calling this one an Obama blunder.  Professor, you‘re not going to disagree with me on that, are you? 

HILL:  We are on the same page.  This is a major blunder.  I mean they were right to be outraged and they should have been notified sooner.  But the bottom line is you can‘t screen who did this and then find out you did it.  This looks bad. 

ABRAMS:  I mean look, you got to say this is bad luck for the Obama campaign.  But it‘s a blunder.  

SANCHEZ:  No, it‘s not bad luck; it‘s bad judgment.  You know, with age comes experience.  And then with that, perhaps they‘ll know next time to reserve his judgment until he knows the facts.  

ABRAMS:  Obama gets the strike on this one, giving us two strikes against Clinton and one against Obama going into the final round.  As we talked about earlier, Clinton finally wading into the Obama Rev. Wright controversy today.  Now, we covered the subject this one earlier in the show and I defended much of what Clinton said.  But I‘m taking issue with this comment from Clinton today. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLINTON:  I answered a question in an ed board today that was very specific about what I would have done.  And, you know, I‘m just speaking for myself and I was answering a question that was posed to me. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  I‘m calling that a cheap shot.  Her campaign has been asked about this Wright scandal for days now.  The idea she only decided to talk about it today because she was responding to a question, Leslie, is impossible to believe. 

SANCHEZ:  It is impossible.  Nothing like throwing gas on the fire.  You know, that is one way to get the people to talking about the issue again.  There is no doubt about that. 

ABRAMS:  Is there any chance - Marc and I already talked about this earlier.  But Leslie, any chance that Clinton is just straight on the facts here which is she was asked about it directly and today she decided it‘s time to answer the question because “I was asked about it and I was asked personally what I would do?” 

SANCHEZ:  Absolutely.  That has got to be the truth.  And really, at all those other times, she just ignored the question. 

HILL:  Her ears are still ringing from the sniper fire, aren‘t they?

SANCHEZ:  Exactly. 

ABRAMS:  All right.  Clinton gets the strike here giving us a final score tonight, three strikes again Clinton, one against Obama.  We should point out, though, Obama has been on vacation in the Virgin Islands this week, greatly limiting his ability to commit great misstatements or cheap shots himself. 

HILL:  He still gets a strike on vacation. 

ABRAMS:  Marc Lamont Hill, thanks a lot.  Leslie‘s going to stay with us.  So what is your verdict on my calls?  E-mail us at verdict@msnbc.com.  Tell us what you think.  Be sure to include your name and where you‘re writing from.  The “P.O.‘d Box” is coming up at the end of the show. 

Up next, our segment, “Teflon John.”  Now, we‘re learning John McCain has missed a huge amount of senate business.  He‘s missed more votes than Hillary or Obama by a lot, in fact, more than any other healthy senator.  So why isn‘t the media covering it?  And “Reality Bites” for Chelsea Clinton asked today about her mother and Monica Lewinsky.  That is coming up in 60 seconds.  

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Time for “Reality Bites” a dose of reality caught on tape.  Tonight‘s “Reality Bites” goes on the campaign trail to Butler University where Chelsea Clinton was campaigning for her mom.  During a question and answer session, a student asked Chelsea about Monica Lewinsky.  Here is her response. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHELSEA CLINTON:  Wow.  You‘re the first person, actually, that‘s ever asked me that question in the - I don‘t know - maybe 70 college campuses that I‘ve now been to.  And I do not think that‘s any of your business.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  “Reality Bites.”  Be right back with “Teflon John,” our effort to end John McCain‘s free ride in the media, coming up. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  We‘re back with tonight‘s edition of “Teflon John” where we end John McCain‘s media free ride.  As most of the media continue to focus only on the Obama-Clinton race, we‘re keeping on eye on Teflon John. 

Hillary Clinton has slammed Obama over not holding subcommittee hearings in the senate while he‘s campaigning for president.  Forget about holding hearings, what about not even showing up? 

John McCain has been absent for over half the votes in the senate since January of last year.  That‘s more than any other senator except for Sen. Tim Johnson from South Dakota who is recovering last year from a brain hemorrhage. 

Hillary Clinton has been absent 27 percent of the time; Barack Obama 37.  McCain has missed 56 percent of senate votes since January of last year.  McCain has missed votes on everything from consumer product safety to the economy to defense to aid to injured vets.  And yet, the media just seemed to let it pass as they obsess only over Obama and Clinton. 

Joining me now, Republican strategist, Leslie Sanchez, and Democratic strategist Margie Omero.  I mean, Leslie, it seems that - no matter what McCain does, no matter what new information comes out like this, he gets a pass. 

SANCHEZ:  God, I would argue that Barack Obama gets a pass.  I mean a lot of this - look at the facts.  You‘re talking about he missed 37 percent of the vote; that‘s almost a third of his time that he‘s been in the senate.  He is still trying to find his way to the men‘s room.  Come on. 

ABRAMS:  Wait a minute.  You‘re actually trying to change the subject to Barack Obama when McCain has missed 56 percent. 

SANCHEZ:  I just think you cannot make a statement that John McCain is getting a free pass when you have somebody like Barack Obama when the media has consistently given him a free pass.  I think the Hillary campaign would appreciate that. 

ABRAMS:  Well, look - and Margie, look, Margie, on this show, regularly, I was talking about the fact that I thought the media was anti-Clinton.  But the bottom line is the media is also extremely pro-McCain. 

I mean the fact is that if this had been Clinton or Obama, and this is the way we phrase this question, Margie.  Can you imagine if Clinton or Obama came forward and we learned that they were the number one senator to have missed votes with more than half of them?  This would be a huge campaign issue. 

MARGIE OMERO, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST:  Right, especially since McCain - what makes it ironic is McCain talks about his experience.  So what experience does he have from the last year or so - I mean the last two years? 

He‘s not serving the people of Arizona.  He‘s not brushing up on

the economy.  He just said about two weeks ago that he doesn‘t - he‘s not

smart enough for this whole mortgage business.  And he‘s not brushing up on

the conflict in the war that we‘re on in Iraq - 

SANCHEZ:  OK -

OMERO:  And the parties in Iran.  So what exactly - he‘s not raising money for his campaign either.  So what exactly is his experience in the last two years? 

SANCHEZ:  OK, first off, he is getting ready for the campaign.  I don‘t think can you justify anybody missing those votes.  I think there is an expectation all across the border Republicans and Democrats that folks running for congress are going to miss some votes. 

But that being said, look at the context.  You cannot compare a legacy, a lifetime of actual public service that John McCain has had versus a maybe miniscule portion of Barack Obama. 

OMERO:  I‘m comparing somebody running for president -

SANCHEZ:  You‘re comparing the last year -

ABRAMS:  One at a time -

(CROSS TALK)

OMERO:  While ((UNINTELLIGIBLE) recession that he‘s not smart enough to understand what‘s going on. 

ABRAMS:  Hang on, Leslie, let me make it clear.  You said -

SANCHEZ:  Yes, that happens. 

ABRAMS:  Leslie, let me ask you about a comparison you said you can‘t compare.  Can I compare what McCain said on the economy on January 10th when he said, “I don‘t believe we‘re headed into a recession.  I believe the fundamentals of this economy are strong.  And I believe they will remain strong,” with what he said about the economy today? 

He said, “I‘m hopeful the worst is over.  I‘m hopeful we have seen the worst of this dramatic in the words of Alan Greenspan, one of the worst economic situations since World War II.”

So on January 10th, he said he believes the fundamentals of this economy are strong.  Today, he says that this is the worst economic situation since World War II.  And, yet, no one is covering it. 

SANCHEZ:  No.  Well I think there are a couple things.  I‘m not going

to defend that statement.  I think that is truly one of the things John

McCain has to overcome is the statement he made in January.  That being

said, he -

(CROSS TALK)

SANCHEZ:  Not at all.

ABRAMS:  Hang on, Margie.  Let her finish. 

SANCHEZ:  Let‘s put it in perspective. 

ABRAMS:  Yes.

SANCHEZ:  Let‘s put it in perspective.  He‘s talking about housing and

the mortgage crisis state, talking about securing that.  He is making

fundamental change -

ABRAMS:  Yes, but -

SANCHEZ:  And he‘s talking an economic message.  And you cannot compare going back to this issue of votes of one year which unfortunately is probably a third of Barack Obama‘s senatorial experience to a lifetime and a legacy of commitment and public service. 

ABRAMS:  Margie, go ahead.

OMERO:  Look, McCain - it‘s not just one statement.  We‘re - first of all, McCain seems slower to grasp facts than President Bush which is not something that you can say very often about a lot of people.  But that‘s true here. 

You have so many - it doesn‘t - it didn‘t just happen last week that all of a sudden people feel economically anxious about the situation.  So for the fact that McCain says to really wait so long to really get with the program shows it‘s consistent with all his many, many statements saying, “I‘m not smart enough.  I don‘t understand it.” 

(CROSS TALK)

SANCHEZ:  You know, there is no way -

ABRAMS:  And to me -

SANCHEZ:  That an American hero like John McCain who has defended this

country, who‘s a true patriot, who understands national security -

OMERO:  And admits he can‘t understand economics.

SANCHEZ:  And our economic security is somebody who can lead this country. 

ABRAMS:  All right.  The bottom line is - look, you can debate - you can debate whether McCain is - knows a lot about the economy.  You can debate why he‘s been missing on all the senate votes. 

SANCHEZ:  I take him for his word.

ABRAMS:  That‘s fine.  But the bottom line is if Obama or Clinton had made this kind of flip-flop on the economy, this would be the story plastered everywhere.  And almost no one is talking about it. 

Leslie Sanchez and Margie Omero, thanks a lot. 

SANCHEZ:  Thank you.

OMERO:  Thank you.

ABRAMS:  Up next, will tonight‘s big winner or loser be major league baseball for throwing out the first pitch in the new season at 6:00 a.m.  Eastern Time?  John McCain whose pitch to fundraisers may need to include which team they‘re playing for?  Or Britney Spears who hit it out of the park on a TV appearance last night. 

Your E-mails in the “P.O.‘d Box,” your chance to tell me why I blew it.  Coming up. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  It‘s time for tonight‘s “Winners and Losers” for this 25th day of March, 2008.  Our first loser - Hulk Hogan, now being sued by an Iraq war vet injured in a car crash involving Hulk‘s son Nick.  The suit claims that former wrestling star bought his 17-year-old son alcohol the day of the crash and that his soon to be ex-wife Linda encouraged street racing.  Hogan has not yet responded to the suit. 

Our second loser - major league baseball.  They kicked off the 2008 season in Tokyo, Japan, this morning.  To catch the season opener between the Red Sox and the A‘s, fans had to be up at 6:00 a.m Eastern.  That‘s 3:00 a.m.  out west.  That‘s the American sleep time, not pastime.  For the vast majority of fans that were not up, the Red Sox won 6 to 5 in 10 innings. 

But the big loser of the day - John McCain.  Last month, McCain raised only $12 million compared to Obama‘s $57 and Clinton‘s $36 million.  Maybe the most troubling for McCain, according to the “Arizona Republic,” many of McCain‘s largest contributors actually gave more to his opponents than to him.  Some of those opponents were Democrats. 

Our big winner of the day - Britney.  Her cameo role as Abby, the receptionist on last night‘s episode of “How I Met Your Mother.”

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BRITNEY SPEARS, POP STAR:  Oh, wow.  Thank you.  That‘s so nice. 

You‘re like a knight. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  She seemed cogent and sober.  Critics even praised her performance.  And her appearance gave the show its highest rating ever.  Seems Britney has still got it. 

Time for the “P.O.‘d Box,” your chance to tell me what you love or hate about the show.  Last night, I went after Rush Limbaugh for encouraging Republicans to vote in Democratic primaries to pollute the process. 

Tim Nantz writes, “So are you saying that a Republican can‘t decide there is a Democrat they would rather have and vote for that person?  And then, if that Democrat doesn‘t win the nomination, they can‘t go back and vote for the Republican in the general election?”

No, I‘m not saying that at all, Tim.  I‘m saying it‘s despicable to vote for a candidate you don‘t want to win just to undermine the system.  And at least in Ohio, it could also be voter fraud.  

Ben Hill says, “People have the right in the voting booth to vote for anyone they see fit for any reason, period.”

It‘s true, Ben, they do.  But before they can, they can‘t lie if they have to sign affidavits talking about a party.  It‘s a felony. 

But Hamish Todd from Vashon Island, Washington writes, “I think Rush Limbaugh should face charges for aiding and abetting for his role in promoting voter fraud.”  I don‘t think that‘s likely. 

And in last night‘s “On Their Trail,” I gave the Clinton camp a blunder after Hillary admitted she was wrong about the level of danger on her trip to Bosnia as first lady. 

E. Willis from Oklahoma City, “Actually, everything Hillary said about taking sniper fire, keeping her head down and running for cover is true.  However it didn‘t happen in Bosnia.  The incident took place on the White House lawn during Monica-gate.”  Nice. 

In last night‘s “On Their Trail,” I gave the Obama camp a cheap shot for surrogate Gordon Fisher‘s low blow about Monica Lewinsky‘s infamous blue dress. 

Kevin Perlow from Bridgewater, New Jersey, “Dan, I don‘t think it‘s fair to give Obama‘s campaign a strike for the “blue dress” remark.  Obama does not have the same connection with a co-chair in Iowa who posts on his blog.”

It‘s true, Kevin.  He‘s major player in the campaign and if they‘re going to claim they‘re above personal attacks, they need to keep their surrogates in check. 

That‘s all for tonight.  You can E-mail me about tonight‘s show at verdict@msnbc.com.  Please tell us where you‘re writing from and your name.  Remember it‘s called the “P.O.‘d Box” for a reason.  You can also check out our Website at Verdict.MSNBC.com.  Leave us a tip at “Beat the Press.”  See you tomorrow.  

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

,