updated 4/2/2008 10:55:33 AM ET 2008-04-02T14:55:33

Guests: Eugene Robinson, Jay Carney

DAVID GREGORY, HOST:  I‘m David Gregory.  There are consequences to a long campaign.  Without the actual results, the candidates start looking for new ways to create momentum.  That is why Hillary Clinton now compares herself to Rocky Balboa.  It‘s not April Fool‘s.  The RACE FOR THE WHITE HOUSE rolls on. 

Welcome to RACE FOR THE WHITE HOUSE, your stop for the fast pace, the bottom line, every point of view in the room.  This hour, why oh why is the Clinton campaign still trying to clarify Bosnia?  Can Obama have foreign policy without the experience?  And whose side is Nancy Pelosi on, really?  Watch your e-mail. 

The foundation of the show, of course, is a panel that comes to play, and with us tonight, host of the “Rachel Maddow Show” on Air America, Rachel Maddow, “Washington Post” columnist Eugene Robinson, both are MSNBC political analyst, “TIME” magazine‘s Washington bureau chief, Jay Carney, and “MORNING JOE” himself, host of MSNBC‘s “MORNING JOE,” Joe Scarborough. 

We begin, as we do every night, with everyone‘s take on the most important political story of the day, it‘s “The Headlines.” 

Gene, get us started here tonight.  What‘s your headline? 

EUGENE ROBINSON, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  My headline, opening in theaters today, “Rocky 7” starring Hillary Clinton, as Rocky Balboa and Barack Obama as Apollo Creed. 

Let‘s watch the trailer. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D), ‘08 PRESIDENTIAL HOPEFUL:  Senator Obama says he‘s getting tired of the campaign.  His supporters say they want it to end.  Well, could you imagine, if Rocky Balboa had gotten half way up those art museum stairs and said, “Well, I guess, that‘s about far enough.”  That‘s not the way it works. 

Let me tell you something.  When it comes to finishing the fight, Rocky and I have a lot in common.  I never quit.  I never get up. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBINSON:  (INAUDIBLE) The trainer and the corner guy, the Burgess Meredith role.  And instead of yelling, “Yo, Adrian,” this time Rocky yells, “Yo, Florida.  Florida.” 

GREGORY:  But what is the real point to this, Gene?  I mean she‘s making the argument that she‘s in it just to be in it all the way to the end.  But there‘s still a result that she needs.  She needs a big blowout in Pennsylvania.  We‘re spending all this time talking about rules of the party, why she would want to stay in it.  She needs a solid victory and not just a squeaker in Pennsylvania, right? 

ROBINSON:  Yes, she needs to win big in Pennsylvania.  And look, I think the Rocky analogy was probably inevitable, because, you know, she, like her husband before her, loves to portray herself as the comeback kid, you got the steps of the—art museum there, use them. 

GREGORY:  Right. 

ROBINSON:  So. 

GREGORY:  But the point is—but Rocky didn‘t win.  Rocky did not win in Rocky 1 and he wanted to.  

ROBINSON:  No. 

GREGORY:  .persevere just to show that he could go the distance.  I don‘t think anybody really doubts that about Hillary Clinton.  The question is: what‘s the impact of it all? 

Rachel Maddow, your headline tonight. 

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  The Democratic powers that be are starting to coalesce around the idea of a decision before Denver.  Check out what Nancy Pelosi had to say about this today. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D), HOUSE SPEAKER:  The superdelegates voting their conscience, but paying attention to the will of the people will come to resolution long before July. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  I have said many times before, and I think a lot of us have agreed, that there‘s no single figure in the Democratic Party who has the stature to make the candidates do anything they don‘t want to do.  There‘s nobody who can weigh in and say, “I‘m the adult here.  I‘ll tell you what to do.”  But I think we‘re starting to see a consensus among the various Democratic powers that be, but the—superdelegates cannot wait until Denver before they make their preferences known. 

GREGORY:  But Rachel, here‘s my question.  Now there‘s a lot of talk about wouldn‘t it be unfair if the party establishment figures steal this away from Barack Obama?  Well, this is the point.  Who in the party establishment is saying anything other than we want quick resolution?  Who‘s out there in the establishment saying, really backing up Hillary Clinton for her idea of keeping it going? 

MADDOW:  You‘re starting to hear it a little bit in the blogosphere. 

You‘re starting to hear a little bit from pundits, but in terms of people. 

GREGORY:  Yes. 

MADDOW:  .who have actual weight in the Democratic Party, there seems to be a consensus now.  Nancy Pelosi, I think, is maybe the most recent manifestation of that.  But among heavy hitters. 

GREGORY:  Yes. 

MADDOW:  .there is a consensus, that it‘s got to be before Denver. 

GREGORY:  All right.  Jay Carney, welcome.  What‘s your headline? 

JAY CARNEY, TIME:  My headline is, with friends like these, Clinton‘s climb gets steeper.  Listen to this. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. EMMANUEL CLEAVER (D), MISSOURI:  If I had to make a prediction right now, I‘d say Barack Obama is going to be the next president.  I will be stunned if he‘s not the next president of the United States. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARNEY:  OK.  That is Congressman Emmanuel Cleaver from Kansas City.  He thinks Barack Obama will be the next president of the United States.  No problem with that, except that he is a Clinton supporter.  He endorsed Hillary Clinton for president.  It‘s a sign of how rough Clinton‘s road is right now to the nomination that even her named superdelegates are predicting that her opponent will win. 

GREGORY:  Jay, isn‘t it also an issue that more than an argument, she needs an actual victory here?  That‘s the only way to really resonate—have an argument resonate with the superdelegates? 

CARNEY:  Well, she needs a victory and more than that, I think.  She needs several victories and she needs something more bad to happen to Barack Obama.  I think that the Reverend Jeremiah Wright controversy. 

GREGORY:  Right. 

CARNEY:  .gave some—the superdelegates pause about his electability in November, and for Clinton to prevail, I think, something else has to—sort of another shoe has to drop. 

GREGORY:  And one of the things that‘s on the blog tonight, talking points memo, all this talking about the fact that this issue of Jeremiah Wright is really starting to become a major topic that the Clinton campaign is bringing up with these superdelegates.  So this conversation continues. 

Morning Joe, what‘s your headline tonight? 

JOE SCARBOROUGH, “MORNING JOE” HOST:  Well, I‘ll tell you what, and that is being brought up also, the polls are getting a little bit closer on the Democratic side.  So we don‘t know how that‘s going to play out.  But one thing we do know, that since 1992, every single political candidate has loved to echo James Carville‘s line, “It‘s the economy, stupid.”  We heard Hillary Clinton talk about it this week.  We heard John McCain talk about it.  We heard Barack Obama talk about it. 

This morning, we woke up to British headlines talking about the Great Depression with America in soup lines.  But soup lines were replaced by a soaring stock market that went up almost 400 points.  This ain‘t 1981.  It ain‘t 1987.  This is not an economy that‘s in full scale collapse.  It‘s a very diverse economy.  That‘s why the Dow Jones today went up almost -- 400 points.  This in spite more massive write-downs.  Many people believe. 

GREGORY:  But Joe? 

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes. 

GREGORY:  Let me—I want to challenge you at this point, because I get it, that the market is responding.  Maybe there‘s a bottom to the market.  But you cannot deny that with historic drops in housing prices, where middle-class Americans are losing billions of dollars all told on the most important asset which is their home, combined with fuel prices that people do not feel that the economy is what really matters to them. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, I can because—because, look, the unemployment rate is below 5 percent.  Inflation still historically is at low prices despite the fact gas prices are astronomical.  Oil is really high.  Right now, most Americans are suffering their losses on paper.  The value of their home is down.  There are a lot of people that are being hurt and a lot of people are being squeezed.  But again, this isn‘t like we‘re suffering seven, eight, nine percent unemployment or 21 percent inflation, which we had under Jimmy Carter. 

GREGORY:  All right.  A lot more to come. 

Coming up, why won‘t team Clinton just let her Bosnia gaff go away?  Former staffers are now weighing in.  Shouldn‘t they just keep quiet at this point? 

And later, it‘s your time to have a play date with the panel.  Call us 212-790-2299.  you see the e-mail there, Race08@MSNBC.com

We‘re coming right back. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

GREGORY:  Here‘s the news for you.  Ultra conservative James Dobson appears to be warming up to John McCain.  Will other conservatives follow suit?  And could this be a turning point to McCain‘s RACE FOR THE WHITE HOUSE? 

We‘re coming right back. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

GREGORY:  Back now, going “Inside the War Room” where we look behind the curtains of the campaign war rooms in the ‘08 RACE FOR THE WHITE HOUSE, see which strategies are working and which are not.  Back with us, Rachel Maddow, Eugene Robinson, Jay Carney and Joe Scarborough. 

First up, now this was not an April Fools joke today.  The Clinton campaign actually got back to advancing the Bosnia story today in a “New York Times” op-ed.  Two staff members arguing their journey to Tuzla with the former first lady, was in fact no trip to the beach. 

Go to the quote board.  “We flew in a C-17 cargo plane,” they write, “because it was capable of steep descents and ascents into and out of areas of conflict.  And the first lady and Chelsea Clinton were in fact moved to the armored cockpit for the landing.  Armored vehicles were placed around the tarmac and Apache helicopters hovered overheard.  These facts explain why many of us were worried about sniper fire and were prepared to rush off the tarmac when we landed.” 

Why, Jay Carney, are they getting back into this? 

CARNEY:  My gosh, I have no idea.  I mean being prepared to run off the tarmac is not quite the same as running off the tarmac.  And you know, this—it reads like a piece that was, you know, written back when the story first broke and then it didn‘t make it to print until after the story should have been dead already.  I can‘t imagine why they want to bring this back.  I think that the Bosnia gaff has hurt Hillary Clinton far more than she ever expected and in fact, that I expected.  I knew it was bad, but it‘s turned out to be much worse than I thought. 

GREGORY:  Joe, the issue is why—you know, as James Carville said, if you‘re explaining you‘re losing.  I mean they‘ve already suffered the damage on this.  They had a chance for it to be done and now they‘re talking about it some more, trying to just. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, yes.

GREGORY:  .tie it up. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes, maybe they‘re trying to tie it out.  Maybe they‘re trying to put the period on this entire thing.  Of course, a couple of days ago, when this article was probably written, it looked a lot worse for them.  The Gallup Poll had them down 10 points.  Of course, that poll was taken right after the Bosnia blowup.  We‘re going to find out tomorrow that the lead is back down to 3 percent.  So this is a warning sign to campaigns.  Don‘t overreact.  Don‘t overreact to Reverend Wright. 

GREGORY:  Right. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Don‘t overreach to Bosnia.  This tracking polls are going to move because it‘s a very fluid election on the Democratic side.  I think they may overreacted. 

GREGORY:  All right.  Let me move on here.  The focus now on family founder - Focus on the Family founder James Dobson, is he softening now on John McCain?  In a recent interview, he said he had problems with all three candidates but doesn‘t intend to sit out this election. 

Watch. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAMES DOBSON, FOUNDER, FOCUS ON THE FAMILY:  We have a God-given responsibility to vote.  I‘ve expressed my disagreement with all three of the leading candidates and certainly the Democrats.  And I have my problems with John McCain, too, but I‘m really not prepared tonight to go farther than what I‘ve said already. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GREGORY:  Gene Robinson, not an endorsement there, but where are they going to go?  They don‘t want to sit this election out, do they? 

ROBINSON:  No, they don‘t.  I think as the election gets closer, they realize they‘re at that peril and if you sit it out, you start to look kind of irrelevant.  They‘re going to go with McCain, but perhaps not, you know, with a great deal of enthusiasm, but I don‘t see Focus on the Family going with Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton in this election.  I don‘t see them sitting on their hands. 

GREGORY:  Rachel, I actually see a lot more danger in the Democratic Party of some voters sitting out this campaign out of peak, out of anger over how this thing has gone, more than you see it on the conservative side. 

MADDOW:  I think that‘s right.  It may be all about the timing.  It may depend on how much time the Democratic nominee has to reunify the party after the Democrats finally make their decision.  But what we‘re seeing with James Dobson, left, right, liberal conservative, Democrat, Republican, everybody has the same calculus about these things.  In the primary, you vote with your heart, and in the general election, you vote with your head.  He voted with his heart when he made all those threatening comments during the Republican primary.  But now that the Republicans have settled on someone, he, of course. 

GREGORY:  Right. 

MADDOW:  .will line up his followers then. 

GREGORY:  And Joe. 

SCARBOROUGH:  And let—yes, I‘m sorry, go ahead, David. 

GREGORY:  No, you go ahead.  Go ahead. 

SCARBOROUGH:  I was just going to say let this be a lesson that the Democrats are crying and saying it‘s the end of the world. 

GREGORY:  Right. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Nobody could have been tougher on John McCain than James Dobson.  Nobody was—is more powerful in the evangelical movement than James Dobson.  He could sit this out if he wanted to. 

GREGORY:  Yes. 

SCARBOROUGH:  You guys wanted the same is going to happen on the Democratic side as soon as Democrats find out who‘s their nominee is going to be in Denver. 

MADDOW:  Yes, but on the Democratic side, if the election is only, you know, seven weeks long, it may not make a difference. 

SCARBOROUGH:  They can coalesce very fast. 

MADDOW:  The Republicans are benefiting from it right now. 

CARNEY:  You know what?  You know, I want to disagree with something here.  I think that—first of all, James Dobson‘s power and influence is overstated and I think that was shown by the failure to stop McCain.  And I think that if James Dobson endorses McCain in the fall, it will have a negligible effect in terms of exciting social conservatives for McCain. 

GREGORY:  Right.  Well. 

CARNEY:  I mean, in the end, in the end, I think people will vote, if they feel the passion to vote and for McCain.  But if they have real problems with him on social conservative issues, they‘re not going to go with him in the fall. 

SCARBOROUGH:  I‘m just going to say, as the guy that‘s run in the Republican primary, there‘s nobody more powerful among evangelicals than James Dobson.  That hasn‘t change. 

GREGORY:  All right. 

MADDOW:  But why didn‘t he get (INAUDIBLE) in the primary. 

GREGORY:  I want. 

(CROSSRALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  This is the subset of evangelicals. 

GREGORY:  This is tailor made right here for Joe Scarborough. 

Finally, Hillary Clinton with an April Fool‘s joke of her own. 

Listen. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLINTON:  Today, I am challenging Senator Obama to a bowl off.  It‘s time for his campaign to get out of the gutter and allow all of the pins to be counted.  And I am prepared to play this game all the way to the tenth frame.  So happy April Fool‘s Day, everybody. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GREGORY:  Finally, Joe, a little bit of levity here to break this up. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes, a little bit of levity with a sharp point.  I mean. 

GREGORY:  Yes. 

SCARBOROUGH:  .if I were running against the guy that was to Altoona, Pennsylvania was a dainty bowler, scored a 37, yes, I‘d be making jokes about that, too.  I‘d just keep jabbing and jabbing. 

MADDOW:  Dainty.  Dainty. 

ROBINSON:  No, he was dainty.  I‘m sorry.  He shouldn‘t have. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes, Gene, (INAUDIBLE) here.  He looks dainty. 

ROBINSON:  They should have taken him to a bowling alley first and taught him the first rule, if you don‘t know how to bowl well, fling the thing down the lane with some authority. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes, don‘t hold it. 

ROBINSON:  Playing it down the lane.  Don‘t just kind of—just put it there. 

GREGORY:  Right. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes. 

ROBINSON:  Not good. 

MADDOW:  I love that they think it‘s a great masculinity challenge for Barack Obama.  It‘s not that he‘s rail thin.  It‘s not that he‘s not—he‘s being tough enough in his division, it‘s that he doesn‘t throw the bowling ball hard enough. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Hey, you know what?  He‘s the one that put himself in that position. 

(CROSSTALK) 

SCARBOROUGH:  .a score of 37. 

GREGORY:  Jay, this is the real deal, though.  This is a different kind of retail politics for Barack Obama where—you know, this inch—three yards of caught of dust could actually matter here in terms of how he‘s perceived, not by all of us, but how about in some of the local coverage in Pennsylvania. 

CARNEY:  Oh absolutely.  I mean, look, when Michael Dukakis got in that tank and looked ridiculous back in ‘88. 

GREGORY:  Yes. 

CARNEY:  .it reinforced an impression that he was soft on defense.  When Barack Obama looks terrible bowling, it could reinforce the impression that he‘s the candidate of elites and not of working-class, regular Democrats.  And I think. 

GREGORY:  Right. 

CARNEY:  .that‘s a problem in Pennsylvania. 

GREGORY:  And this. 

CARNEY:  And it‘s potentially problem in the fall that the Republicans could exploit. 

GREGORY:  Right.  And this is the big question: if a call comes in at 3:00 in the morning, and your bowling team is short, is Barack Obama prepared to takes out. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Stay away from him. 

GREGORY:  We‘ll take a break here. 

CARNEY:  (INAUDIBLE) will not take him. 

ROBINSON:  He‘s a quick (INAUDIBLE). 

GREGORY:  Going to take a break here.  Coming up, are the calls for Hillary Clinton to drop out of the race sexist?  Our “Smart Takes” coming right up. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

GREGORY:  “Smart Takes” time.  Here‘s the idea here.  We are reading through the newspapers, the blogs, watching TV, looking for the smartest, most provocative takes that are going to capture your attention and your interest on the RACE FOR THE WHITE HOUSE. 

Here again with us, Rachel, Eugene, Jay and Joe. 

Our first “Smart Take” Marie Cocco of “The Washington Post” is call for Hillary Clinton to drop out of the Democratic race are sexist? 

To the quote board.  “Now Clinton‘s methodical, dogged history of work for the Democratic Party is treated just like methodical, dogged histories of so many women in the workplace.  Having come this far, she must not go too far.  She must step aside to take the smaller officer with the lesser title and the lower pay to make room for the younger guy with the thinner resume.  And please, would she just go quietly like a good girl?” 

Rachel, on the face of this, this is provocative, but I don‘t get the argument, I don‘t buy the argument, do you? 

MADDOW:  I think if those types of arguments were being made, if that was the grounds on which Hillary Clinton were being nudged out of the race by Democrats, then women voters would have a right to be up in arms about that, as would anybody who‘d be offended by that.  I just don‘t—I personally don‘t read the sentiment among Democratic voters that way.  We know anecdotally that Democratic women have rushed to Hillary Clinton‘s defense in New Hampshire and other places when they feel that she‘s been attacked unfairly. 

I just don‘t think there‘s anything gendered or unfair about powers that be in the Democratic Party and pundits and all the rest of us, saying that it‘s dumb for Democrats to write off Clinton in the general election. 

GREGORY:  Yes, but to be honest about this, Joe, Bill Clinton himself is pushing this idea.  Bill Clinton is pushing the idea that it‘s easy to gang up on a girl and that they just want to kind of throw her aside.  I don‘t really think that‘s what‘s driving these calls for her to step aside.  And she may have a perfectly good argument that she shouldn‘t give up the fight.  But is it really about this? 

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, you know what really matters is what the Hillary Clinton supporters believe.  A lot of women who support Hillary Clinton believe she‘s being treated differently because she‘s a woman.  I can tell you this, I still agree with Gloria Steinem‘s column right before New Hampshire, where Gloria Steinem said, no woman would be allowed to enter the United States Senate, serve for one year, and then run for president of the United States. 

I do buy that.  So if we‘re focusing on how these candidates got into the race, instead of how Hillary Clinton may be pushed out of the race, then I do that there‘s some sexism there.  But again, what I think doesn‘t matter.  What matters is, Hillary Clinton‘s voters, are they going to believe she was treated badly by the Democratic Party and are they going to dessert her in the fall? 

GREGORY:  All right.  Our second “Smart Takes” now shifts the focus to foreign policy. 

Bret Stephens of “The Wall Street Journal” wonders if Obama understands defeat. 

To the quote board.  “What distinguishes Mr. McCain‘s foreign policy from Mr. Obama‘s is not about the nature of America‘s commitments in the Middle East.  It is about their understanding of the consequences of defeat.  Mr. McCain seems to have some.  It‘s not clear whether Mr. Obama does.  Mr. Obama noted that there was o point trying to best Mr. McCain in matters of experience, that what counted was good judgment.  Very true.  How can one have the latter without the former is the question for the rest of us to consider.” 

Jay Carney, “Smart Take”? 

CARNEY:  Well, interesting take.  I think on the second point, you know, there‘s a strong argument to be made that you can have good judgment without foreign policy experience.  You can have good judgment about these issues.  I think that arguing that McCain understands defeat and the consequences of defeat is sort of a slippery slope.  I mean McCain still is one of those passionate Vietnam veterans who believe that, you know, we should have stayed in and won and could have won in Vietnam. 

And I think that‘s an argument that can be a hard sell and especially if you‘re linking it to Iraq and saying we have to stay in as a matter of honor because we can‘t lose.  And so many people in America feel like this war can‘t be won, that that argument might ring hollow for them. 

GREGORY:  All right.  Coming up next, has the Clinton campaign finally figured out the right role for Bill?  Is it advance math?  We‘re going to answer that and two other big questions when the ‘08 RACE comes back. 

Plus our viewers want to know, with seven until the presidential election, will global warming ever take center stage?  We‘ll hear from you coming up.  Don‘t go away. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWS BREAK)

GREGORY:  We‘re back on RACE FOR THE WHITE HOUSE.  I‘m David Gregory. 

Glad to have you.  Time now for three questions. 

Still with us, host of the “Rachel Maddow Show” on Air America, Rachel Maddow, “Washington Post” columnist Eugene Robinson, both MSNBC political analysts.  “Time Magazine‘s” Washington bureau chief is here, Jay Carney.  And “MORNING JOE” himself, host of MSNBC‘s “MORNING JOE,” Joe Scarborough. 

First of three questions tonight; Barack Obama has been compared to American legends Martin Luther King Jr. and Presidents Lincoln and Kennedy.  Now, author Alice Walker has added this, who wrote “The Color Purple,” of course, says, Obama could, in fact, be America‘s Nelson Mandela. 

In the British newspaper “The Guardian,” Walker writes the following -

to the quote board—“he is, in fact, a remarkable human being, not perfect, but humanely stunning, like King was and like Mandela is.  He is the change America has been trying desperately and for centuries to hide, ignore, kill, the change it must have if we are to convince the rest of the world that we care about people other than our white selves.”

Mandela, of course, became South Africa‘s first black president, after successfully leading the fight to abolish Apartheid, spending 27 years in prison and winning the Nobel Peace Prize.  Our first question tonight: has the Obama mythology gone a little bit too far?  Gene? 

ROBINSON:  I think Alice Walker went a little too far.  Look, Doctor King and Nelson Mandela were two of the most important, most effective, world changing leaders of the 20th century.  To compare Barack Obama to either of them, at this point, makes no sense to me.  It‘s apples and oranges or apples and tiny little atoms at this point. 

These are historical figures.  You know, we will see if he gets to be president, if does something transformative as president, then maybe this is a discussion that can be had.  Not now. 

GREGORY:  Rachel, one of the things that her argument makes me think about is the ideal that—almost the appeal that to exercise white guilt that you have to turn to Barack Obama.  Is that going to play? 

MADDOW:  Well, yes.  The rest of that parallel is that you need martyrs to deal with that sort of guilt and to deal with that sort of social transformation.  Nelson Mandela‘s 27 years in prison is central to his leadership skills and to what he meant to South Africa and to the world.  Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated.  Their martyrdom is central to their role as leaders.

If the idea is that you assuage guilt and that you move on through the blood and pain of your martyrs, I‘m not sure that‘s where you want to put any politician, let alone one who has served one term in the Senate and is running for president.  It‘s an impossible thing to put him up against. 

SCARBOROUGH:  If he‘s elected president of the United States, I think that will be an even greater achievement than Nelson Mandela finally being elected president of South Africa in a majority black country.  Of course, he suffered in ways that Barack Obama could never imagine suffering, but African-Americans have suffered enough in this country. 

ROBINSON:  He had to do something Obama doesn‘t have to do, though. 

MADDOW:  Over-turning Apartheid, yes.   

CARNEY:  Barack Obama will have become president because of everything that‘s happened before him.  It will be the country‘s achievement more than Obama‘s, in many ways. 

SCARBOROUGH:  It will be standing on the shoulders of giants like Martin Luther King, who dreamed of this moment.  As the guy that took us into Egypt or Israel, I guess -- 

ROBINSON:  Yes, wrong way, Joe. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes, wrong way.  Don‘t take us back to Egypt.  We don‘t want to go there.  Still, he‘s a transformative figure. 

GREGORY:  Let me move on to the next question.  John McCain, the 100 years in Iraq, the presumptive GOP nominee, still being criticized for saying that he would be willing to keep U.S. forces in Iraq for, quote, 100 years.  McCain made the comment at a campaign stop in Derry, New Hampshire nearly four months ago and Democrats have been pounding him for it ever since.  Just yesterday, Barack Obama brought it up during a campaign stop in Pennsylvania. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  John McCain—we can run the Youtube spot—has said that we will stay there as long as it takes.  If it takes another 100 years, he‘s up for that commitment. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GREGORY:  The Obama camp later issued a statement acknowledging that McCain was actually talking about a peacetime commitment, not 100 year war.  Democrats are not likely to let it go.  Are they, Jay? 

CARNEY:  No, of course they‘re not.  This is what campaigns are made of.  When a statement like that, while it can be over-simplified, when it resonates with a greater fact, I think it has affect, as it has in previous campaigns.  The fact is: the distinction between McCain and the Democrats is that he is pro-Iraq war.  He is willing to run on that. 

He does envision an American presence in Iraq for a long time.  The reality is, you can think about it being a South Korean style presence, but Iraq is a long way from being a Korea-like situation. 

GREGORY:  That‘s exactly the point, Joe.  This presupposes that there‘s a level of stability in Iraq going forward that we had after World War II.  Isn‘t that McCain‘s real potential vulnerability? 

SCARBOROUGH:  Perhaps.  Korea wasn‘t so stable in 1953, 1954 either.  So it is misleading, and the Obama campaign knew that they had stepped into territory they didn‘t want to step into, because he was talking about that peacetime commitment.  He‘s not talking about a 100 year war.  If the Democrats want to go around talking about what John—the bottom line is the Democrats have enough to differentiate themselves from John McCain in Iraq and Iran and the use of military force without having to wretch his words from the proper context. 

MADDOW:  The proper context here ought to be understood.  John McCain has said that if our troops are not incurring casualties, then they can stay for 100 years, 1000 years, whatever.   

SCARBOROUGH:  It‘s not 100 year war, though. 

MADDOW:  But he‘s also said our troops cannot leave if they are incurring casualties.  So John McCain‘s properly contextualized remarks on this actually in either case means our troops can‘t come home. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Are we at war in Germany and Korea? 

MADDOW:  No.  You talk about—

(CROSS TALK ) 

MADDOW:  We over turned that government and we did so in such a way that requires us to stay 100 years to ensure stability.  Talk about not understanding the consequences of defeat? 

(CROSS TALK)

GREGORY:  Eugene, final point on this. 

ROBINSON:  My point on this is when does Iraq become Korea?  How many years?  Is it ten years, is it 20 years, is it 30 years?  It‘s a bunch of years.  It‘s disingenuous to say, I was just talking about a Korea style deployment when that isn‘t going to happen.   

GREGORY:  The question is: will Americans support a long engagement in Iraq, provided that security is under control.  We‘re not talking about losing troops on a daily basis, but in a true a presence where we are invited and we are trying to keep some calm.  That debate goes on. 

Pop quiz now, who does the most campaign events in a day, Clinton or Obama?  It is, after all, a trick question because the answer Clinton, but not the candidate, her husband.  Bill Clinton is campaigning at a break neck pace, visiting six states in the past week.  He‘s doing four events in Montana today, another four in Indiana tomorrow.  NBC‘s own First Read reports the former president will soon head to Puerto Rico, that is before his wife, Senator Clinton, gets there. 

Third question now, is Bill Clinton the most effective person as being Hillary Clinton‘s advance man?  Jay, is that his role? 

CARNEY:  It‘s a better role than he‘s had at other times during this campaign, when I think he‘s hurt Senator Clinton‘s efforts to reach out.  Yes, Bill Clinton remains, for all intents and purposes, the head of the Democratic party.  He‘s a two term president.  He‘s still enormously popular. 

While he hurt himself with some constituencies in the Democratic party during this primary season, he‘s a huge draw.  I think they‘ve worked out a relationship where he‘s not delivering one liners that get him in trouble or the campaign in trouble, but he‘s being effective. 

GREGORY:  I would also make this argument, Rachel, that Bill Clinton still stands to be more effective than Hillary Clinton in having some sway with these super delegates. 

MADDOW:  I think that‘s probably a good case.  Super delegates need to be moved in great numbers if things are going to happen for the Clinton campaign any time in the next few months, certainly heading into November.  I think the main thing Bill Clinton is doing for the Clinton campaign right now is that he‘s floating controversial stuff.  He‘s still out there ahead of her making arguments, advancing arguments, seeing how they go over, and leaving Hillary Clinton enough distance from them to be able to disavow them if need be. 

GREGORY:  Is it a problem, though, Joe?  Is it too big a distraction for her? 

SCARBOROUGH:  He was a distraction in January.  He was a distraction in most of February.  My gosh, she owes Texas and this campaign—the fact that this campaign moves forward, she owes it in large part to what Bill Clinton did in Texas.  I say that as a guy that just trashed Bill Clinton in January and February.  They really figured out the formula when he went down to Beaumont, Texas and said, my wife has to win Texas or this campaign will be over. 

GREGORY:  Isn‘t that the point, Joe, that he whips up the base here. 

He really is a grass roots weapon. 

SCARBOROUGH:  He is.  As long as he doesn‘t get in trouble by words he says, that‘s fine.  The closest he‘s come was when he was called out as being the Democrats‘ answer to Joe McCarthy.  The response was so over the top by the Obama campaign that that didn‘t even draw any blood in the long run.   

MADDOW:  David, I would point out, a brief footnote on the Texas issue, of course, it‘s now turned out that Barack Obama is the one who won Texas, in terms of getting the most delegates out of it. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Not in the popular vote though when it counted.   Hillary Clinton is still alive because she won the popular vote.  We all reported that she won Texas until right now. 

CARNEY:  One wonders.  There‘s a lot of what ifs in this.  Had they figured out how to use Bill Clinton more effectively earlier on and some other if they had and should they have done things, the Clintons might have run a much more effective campaign overall.  I think you‘re right.  What he‘s doing now and what he‘s done since Texas has been very effective for Hillary. 

GREGORY:  All right, let me get a break-in here.  Coming up next, time for our panelist predictions.  Jay has a big warning for Hillary Clinton.  By the way, not too late to play with the panel.  Call us, 212-790-2299. 

You see the e-mail, RACE08@MSNBC.com.  THE RACE comes right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

GREGORY:  We‘re back.  Enough about us.  Let‘s let you in the picture here.  Time to play with the panel. 

Still with us, Rachel Maddow, Eugene Robinson, Jay Carney and Joe Scarborough.  Lance in Maryland thinks this could be the ninth inning for the Democrats.  Listen. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  After eight catastrophic years of the Bush presidency, were Obama or Hillary Clinton not to win the election this fall, will we ever see a Democratic president again. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GREGORY:  Gene, I have to think it‘s a question a lot of Democrats are worried about.  Not like forever and the rest of time, but if they can‘t win this year, how bad is the come down?  

ROBINSON:  Poor Lance.  Put your arm around the guy and say, it‘s going to be OK, Lance.  We‘re going to get through this.  This is a golden opportunity for the Democratic party, given the Bush record over the last eight years.  One would hope that professional politicians who make a living at this could win this election, but nothing is guaranteed in politics.  We have a contest that we hadn‘t anticipated, going on longer than had been anticipated. 

Events could intervene.  So it‘s possible that the Democrats could lose, but I do believe the Democrats would go on.  I think Lance, it‘s going to be OK.

SCARBOROUGH:  As we say in the south, or the Redneck Riviera, this is as easy as shooting cat fish in a barrel.  This is a Democratic year.  For Lance to predict the end of the Democratic party when the tide is as high as it gets is funny. 

CARNEY:  It‘s funny, but, David, he‘s right.  If the Democrats lose this—I remember the despair and the hand wringing in the day after John Kerry lost, when he raised a lot of money.  He had the war record.  Iraq was unpopular, and he lost.  There was a lot of sense, what do we have to do to win this race.  If they can‘t win now, I think the Democratic party is in real trouble. 

MADDOW:  The morning after the ‘04 results came in, being on the air on Air America radio, and people are going, war hero, DUI male cheerleader, war hero, DUI male cheerleader.  How did this happen?  Sometimes elections feel like they ought to be unlosable.  So the prospect of losing an unlosable election does seem really dire. 

GREGORY:  Moving on.  Margaret in Ohio thinks it‘s time to put out a political amber alert.  She asks the following: “why hasn‘t the media talked about Michelle Obama lately?  Is she in hiding with Reverend Wright?” 

I think not.  The issue is that she‘s had a lower profile, I thin, of late.  No, Gene?

ROBINSON:  She has had a lower profile of late.  I think she‘s succeed in staying out of the news and in continuing to campaign for her husband, and also during breaks to take care of their two daughters when she gets a chance to.  So, no, I think this is a success.  She‘s on the campaign trail, but she hasn‘t been in the headlines. 

GREGORY:  One of the things that‘s real here, Jay, is it got glossed over at the time.  It shrunk as an issue, but when she made comments about finally being proud for the first time in her life of America because of the response to Barack Obama, and then with the Reverend Wright issue, that is something that they want to try to minimize? 

CARNEY:  It is.  I think that‘s why we‘ve seen less of her in the headlines.  It‘s a conscious effort.  That was a disastrous comment that—you‘ll recall that the McCain campaign put Cindy out with a talking point to take a hit at Michelle.  It compounded with the Reverend Wright controversy.  I think we‘ll see both of them appear in the fall, if Obama is the nominee.  But she was saved a little bit by Wright from being the focus of the controversy. 

GREGORY:  Moving on.  Zach in Maryland wants to know what happens to the maverick when he stops rebelling.  Listen. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  As the campaign process continues, will John McCain be able to effectively cater to the right while staying true to his own beliefs? 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GREGORY:  Joe, what do you say?

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, he certainly didn‘t cater to the right during the primaries.  He didn‘t cater to the right.  Nixon always says that you run conservative, then go to the middle in the general election.  He didn‘t do that.  He stayed true to himself in the primaries, even campaigned around Florida, in a closed Republican primary, when he hadn‘t won a closed Republican primary, with Joe Lieberman. 

So, this guy, he dances to his own drummer, and he really doesn‘t care what the hardcore conservative base thinks.  In fact, I think he likes sort of poking at them.  So, no, he‘s not going to change. 

MADDOW:  I couldn‘t disagree more. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Because you know so much about the Republican base, Rachel. 

MADDOW:  You‘re right, I should just shut up and let you talk about it. 

SCARBOROUGH:  No, you talk about the Republican base and I‘ll talk about the Democratic base. 

MADDOW:  Let me just tell you the way I saw John McCain campaign.  I saw John McCain saying, you know what, I used to say about thinking that the Bush tax cuts benefited the rich.  I don‘t care about that anymore.  Now, I want them to be made permanent.  You know what I used to say about Jerry Falwell being an agent of intolerance?  I don‘t care about that anymore.  Now, I‘m going to go speak at a commencement address.

You know what I used to say about thinking that war is a horrible thing that we ought not rush into as a country?  I‘m now going to sing a Beach Boys tune about bombing Iran.  I just don‘t see him running real far from the right wing of the Republican base in this case. 

SCARBOROUGH:  You‘re taking a bad joke to be made on the campaign stump four, five, six months ago.  I guess it‘s probably more than a year ago.  If that‘s all you have against John McCain, he‘s in good shape. 

CARNEY:  John McCain is not—I have to agree with Joe.  John McCain‘s never going to be the conservatives choice.  While he made some compromises on his road to the nomination, he did a lot of things that continue to alienate the conservatives.  I think he‘s past the time when really needs to go out of his way to suck up to conservatives.  He‘ll highlight the positions—

ROBINSON:  Last month, he did vote against a bill that would have kept the CIA from committing torture.  He voted against it.  This is a man—

GREGORY:  I also think—let me make a last point.  I actually think the rationale for his candidacy now is to remain a maverick.  If he has real crossover appeal here—I think conservatives understand that there‘s a consequence here.  They realize the party is in trouble, as it is, that McCain may be their best chance to go up against a brand like Obama, who has cross over appeal, in and of himself. 

SCARBOROUGH:  He puts the southwest in play because of it.  He aggravated conservatives on immigration, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, Colorado, in play. 

MADDOW:  He dialed himself back on immigration, don‘t forget. 

(CROSS TALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  He refused to tell Tim Russert that he made a mistake. 

He was one of two Republicans that voted against Bush‘s tax cuts.  Conservatives will tell you the two things Bush did right—he hasn‘t changed his mind.  He told Tim Russert on “Meet The Press” in New Hampshire, when his political life was on the line, that he made the right call.  He was glad he voted against them. 

MADDOW:  Now, he wants them to be permanent.  He is pandering to the right and it defies the media happy talk that they like about John McCain.  How else do you explain going after the John Hagee endorsement, going after the Rod Parsley endorsement, changing his mind on torture, changing his mind on the tax cuts.  I‘m sorry that the facts don‘t meet your storyline here, but the storyline ought to change to conform to the facts, rather than denying the facts. 

SCARBOROUGH:  If you compare—let me say this, compare the rigid ideological views of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton with the Democratic party, the most progressive people in the Democratic party, compare that to what John McCain did with the Republican party; there is no comparison.  McCain has gone more towards the middle over the past four years than either of those two.  That‘s just the bottom line. 

GREGORY:  We‘ll leave it there.  You can play with your panel every weeknight here on MSNBC.  It doesn‘t get any better than that, folks.  E-mail us at RACE08@MSNBC.com.  Call to 212-790-2299.

One quick programming note, be sure to check out “HARDBALL” with Chris Matthews tomorrow at 7:00 p.m. Eastern.  Barack Obama will be stopping by the “HARDBALL” College Tour in Philadelphia.  We‘ll have coverage as well here on THE RACE right afterwards. 

Coming up, Rachel is reading her tea leaves.  She has some dirt on John McCain.  That‘s her prediction.  Coming right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

GREGORY:  Final whip around tonight; it‘s prediction time, the panel‘s chance to look into the future and tell us what they see.  Here again, Rachel, Eugene, Jay and Joe.  Gene, you‘re up first, hit me. 

ROBINSON:  The Democratic super delegates are going to really start feeling the heat, not so much from Howard Dean or Nancy Pelosi, but from their constituents.  A lot are elected officials and they report to their constituents.  Democrats really are worried about the prospects of possibly losing an election that they should win and about the impact of this long drawn out fight on the party. 

GREGORY:  A lot more pressure, especially with a lot of talk about deadlines by the first of July.  Jay, your prediction tonight? 

CARNEY:  My prediction is that if Barack Obama continues to out spend her on advertising in Pennsylvania by a ratio of five to one, as he did last week, Hillary Clinton‘s lead in Pennsylvania will disappear.  It‘s a state that favors her, but money matters.  It‘s a big state.  He‘s killing her on the air waves. 

GREGORY:  Big question is whether anything less than ten points is victory for Obama, if he loses by that little. 

CARNEY:  I think if it‘s down five, it‘s a win for him. 

GREGORY:  All right, Rachel, you‘re up.  Prediction.

MADDOW:  Tomorrow, John McCain‘s red corvette past is revealed.  With the luxury of having no real opponent yet, John McCain gets to continue on his bio tour.  He‘ll be down in Joe Scarborough‘s stomping grounds tomorrow, talking about his flight school day.  Expect to see lots of archive footage of John McCain as a young hunk, who drove a very fast red Corvette, and we‘ll have lots of great stories to tell about it. 

GREGORY:  Joe, predictions.

SCARBOROUGH:  Everybody has a John McCain story in Pensacola.  They all love him there.  My prediction is, whether you are a Republican or a Democrat or an independent, if you‘re a politician and you‘re in office, your approval ratings are going to be going down over the summer.  Bill Clinton always got it right, when it comes to the economy, people focus on their wallet.  And what hits them?  Gas prices.  Those gas prices are going to continue to go up over the summer.  As those prices go up, politicians numbers will go down, and it could affect a couple of incumbents this fall. 

GREGORY:  It‘s a good point about right track, wrong track.  Do you think the country is off on the right track or the wrong one?  That could really influence votes.  Thanks to a great panel.  I‘m David Gregory.  That does it for RACE FOR THE WHITE HOUSE for tonight.  Thanks for watching.  We‘re back here tomorrow night at 6:00 p.m. Eastern on MSNBC. 

Don‘t go anywhere, “HARDBALL” is coming right at you, right here.

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

END   

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

Transcripts

Watch Race for the White House each weeknight at 6 p.m. ET

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,