updated 5/16/2008 9:57:39 AM ET 2008-05-16T13:57:39

Guests: Chris Matthews, John Larson, Jonathan Alter, Cliff May, Catherine Crier, Contessa Brewer, Tanya Acker, Kevin James

DAN ABRAMS, HOST:  We have got breaking news tonight: The chairman of the House Judiciary Committee has threatened to have Karl Rove arrested, at issue whether Rove will testify about the prosecution of Alabama‘s former Democratic governor, Don Siegelman.  What role if any did Rove play in bringing down the popular Democrat?

Thus far, Rove has refused to testify and the committee has given him another week or they say they‘ll subpoena him.

If he still refuses, Politico.com reporting that John Conyers, chairman of the Judiciary Committee said today, quote, We‘ll do what any self-respecting committee would do.  We‘d hold him in contempt.  Either that or go and have him arrested.  We‘re closing in on Rove,” Conyers said.

Joining us now is former judge, Catherine Crier.  Catherine, the congressman has been getting very serious about this.

CATHERINE CRIER, FORMER JUDGE:  It‘s about time.

ABRAMS:  Tell me why.

CRIER:  I‘m serious because we‘ve got - well, there was the Harriet Miers, there have been several individuals if you go back throughout this Bush administration that haven‘t responded.  Now, they‘ve got Karl Rove in the Siegelman affair and he has refused repeated offers to compromise, to give him an opportunity to testify and it‘s finally to the point where you say—either this third branch has power or it has been completely a masquerade.

ABRAMS:  Because up to now what they‘ve been saying is—we‘ll like you to come in voluntarily and testifying.  So far, he‘s been saying—we‘ll answer questions in writing, we‘ll come in and talk but there can‘t be a transcript.

CRIER:  Can‘t be under oath.

ABRAMS:  Not under oath, et cetera.  And now it sounds like Congress is getting a little tired of it.  This is Congressman Wexler, also a member of this committee, on this program last night.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. ROBERT WEXLER, (D) FLORIDA:  And if he refuses to honor the subpoena, then the full House of Representatives must hold Mr. Rove in contempt of Congress and then we must ask the attorney general to enforce the contempt of Congress subpoena or citation.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Inherent contempt—what does that mean?

CRIER:  Well, here‘s the way this plays out.  If the full House issues the contempt citation, then it‘s supposed to go to the Department of Justice.  And they‘re supposed to take it to a grand jury, they‘re supposed to enforce this.  Well, they‘ve already—the Bush administration says—no, through executive authority we‘re saying privilege—they‘re not going to enforce it.

You might then try the federal courts.  The federal courts are liable to say it‘s a political question but the Constitution gives Congress the inherent power to issue contempt and then to prosecute on this.

ABRAMS:  On their own?

CRIER:  They can send the sergeant of arms out into the countryside, arrest, haul somebody in and in days gone by use to literally hold them in the basement of Congress, an impromptu jail and then they could have a trial.  That is still their power today.

ABRAMS:  Unlikely to happen here but it does sound like they‘re getting ready to move forward with something here.

CRIER:  Well, unlikely to happen in the sense that they might not jail them in the basement any longer.  But at this point in time, if you look at the DOJ, it has already basically said—we are not going to do what we‘re supposed to do.  They must take it to a grand jury.  So no (ph), executive privilege, we‘re not going to act.  The courts probably won‘t.

So, it will—if the full Congress asserts, if the full House votes, then they will have to try this case themselves which means issue the arrest warrant and try them.

ABRAMS:  Again, final question on this, executive privilege—with Karl Rove has said that he didn‘t talk to anyone in the White House about it.  So, what‘s the potential executive privilege?

CRIER:  Well, he‘s making the claim and that assertion I don‘t think will go anywhere.  It might be something a federal court will go with.  But right now, the Department of Justice has given no indication that they will—that they will go out and serve those subpoenas issued by Congress.

ABRAMS:  Are you surprised Conyers is using language like arrested?

CRIER:  At this point?  No.  I‘m a big rule of law.  This has nothing to do with politics for me.  It is respecting the rule of law, regardless of Democrat or Republican.  And at this point in time, if they don‘t show backbone then there are not three branches of government in this country.

ABRAMS:  And we should say again, the subpoena has not been issued yet.  So, we shall see what happens if and when the subpoena is issued and I‘ll continue to follow this case.

Catherine Crier, you‘re going to stay with us.

Moving on, Republicans are targeting Michelle Obama.  Today, the Tennessee GOP launched an attack ad going after Michelle‘s comments about pride in America.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, GOP CAMPAIGN AD)

MICHELLE OBAMA, SEN. OBAMA‘S WIFE:  Let me tell you something—for the first time in my adult lifetime, I‘m really proud of my country.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I‘m proud of this country each and every day for the freedom and our Democratic form of government, unlike other countries around the world that don‘t enjoy our system.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I‘m proud of my country because of freedom of religion, so if my pastor goes on a wild political tirade I can just walk out.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  The Obama campaign has fired back calling a shameful attack saying quote, “If the Tennessee Republican Party has a problem with Senator Obama maybe next time they‘ll have the courage to address him directly instead of attacking his family.”

Is she—is this fair game?  Is Michelle Obama really going to be this kind of issue as we head to the general election?

Here now: “Newsweek” columnist and NBC analyst, Jonathan Alter; political analyst, Tanya Acker; and, Cliff May, president of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.

Jonathan, are we going to see more of this?

JONATHAN ALTER, NEWSWEEK:  Well, you should really ask Cliff May that question.

(LAUGHTER)

ABRAMS:  All right.  Hold on, Jonathan.  Let me ask him.

Cliff May, are we going to see more of this?  Is this fair game?

MAY CLIFF, FOUNDATION FOR THE DEFENSE OF DEMOCRACIES:  I‘m only guessing, but I would think yes, and yes it‘s fair game.  If she‘s out making speeches about America, about politics, if she‘s out saying—I haven‘t been proud of my country my whole life, not when I went to Harvard, not when I became a millionaire, not when I got a job paying hundreds of thousands of dollars, I think it‘s OK.

Is there any criticism that has been made of Obama or his wife that wasn‘t an attack as shameful?  Is there anything we‘re allowed to say about these people or should we only say they‘re just wonderful, they bring hope, they promise change and I‘m so delighted that they‘re ordained to run for president?

ABRAMS:  Let me play, I mean, because this is the problem, and I‘m going to go to you, Tanya, it‘s been—but Michelle Obama explained the comment later.  And here‘s what she said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

M. OBAMA:  What I was clearly talking about was that I was proud in how Americans are engaging in the political process.  I mean, everybody has said what I‘ve said which is, we haven‘t seen these record numbers of turnouts, people who are paying attention, going to rallies, watching the debates.  I mean, for the first time in my lifetime, I‘m seeing people rolling up their sleeves in a way that I haven‘t seen and really trying to figure this out.  And that‘s the source of pride that I was talking about.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Tanya, this is the same group that has put out an attack ad in February that showed Obama in that Kenyan outfit and the title - anti-Semites for Obama.  They referred to him as Barack Hussein Obama, et cetera.  I mean, look - the bottom line though—is Michelle Obama going to become the target?

TANYA ACKER, POLITICAL ANALYST:  Well, we‘ve already seen her become a target.  And you know, with all due respect to my friend Cliff, it‘s preposterous to suggest that Michelle Obama has never been proud of her country.  In this ad, I‘m sure I‘m going to date myself here, Dan, but it reminds me of that 80s song, desperate but not serious.  I mean, that‘s absurd.

Look—the entire context of what she said was hope is making a comeback.  And you know, there was a poll not very long ago, people have been talking about it incessantly, and it said, 85 percent of Americans are unhappy.

And right now, we‘ve seen a record engagement in the political process, and they try to parse through that statement and come up with this absurd analysis - oh, this woman has never been proud of her country.  It‘s just ludicrous.  It‘s almost laughable except for the fact that they do these things over and over again.

ABRAMS:  But Jonathan...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  Let me get Jonathan.  Jonathan, is this setting the tone for what we‘re going to see in the general election?  Is it - everyone is saying—oh, it‘s not going to get ugly.  I mean, we‘re now talking already about Obama‘s wife getting attacked?

ALTER:  Well, look, it was always going to get ugly on YouTube.  The question is: Will this get into the mainstream of the debate?  And I thing the answer is no.  And the reason it‘s no is that it doesn‘t work.

I mean, you talked about this last night on your show, we just had a great example in Mississippi where in a district that went overwhelmingly for President Bush four years ago, the Republican loss on Tuesday in a special election where most of the ads by the Mississippi Republican Party were about Obama, Reverend Wright, they threw the “kitchen sink” at him.  They could have done a Michelle ad.  It didn‘t work.

And so when things don‘t work in politics, they then become limited circulation and a YouTube ad.  So, yes, maybe some people click on to this but it‘s really going to have a big effect.

MAY:  The point is, as you played the clip and what she said very clearly, Tanya didn‘t heard it perhaps is, I was never before proud of my country.  She has the right to say that but I think other people have the right to roll their sleeves and disagree.

ACKER:  That‘s not what she said.  She said...

MAY:  Play the clip, Dan, what she said, “I‘ve never before been proud of my country.”  Then when she tried to explain it, she said - yes, yes.

ACKER:  She said—for the first time in my life and it‘s something that I think that perhaps you may not (INAUDIBLE) this.

MAY:  For the first time in my life what?

ACKER:  But sometimes in the excess of emotion, sometimes...

(CROSSTALK)

MAY:  I agree with you.  Tanya, I agree with you.

ABRAMS:  Hang on one second.  What Jonathan just said, Cliff, and this my last question—isn‘t he right though that this feels sort of like old, it‘s sort of - it‘s worn.  It‘s the kind of tired political attack that people are going to roll their eyes and say, oh, come on?

MAY:  I think you certainly will, Dan.  Look, I think the fact of the matter is that presidents and people who run for the presidency and their spouses who make speeches, what they say is fair game for criticism.  It‘s not off-limits in a free country.

ABRAMS:  All right.

ALTER:  I certainly agree with that.

MAY:  Get out of kitchen.

ABRAMS:  Everyone is staying with us.

Coming up: We‘ve got President Bush jumping into the presidential campaign, seemingly comparing Obama‘s foreign policy to that of Nazi appeasers, and then, John McCain backs up what Bush said.  What happened to distancing himself from the president?

And one of the Democrats is speaking up for Obama—Hillary Clinton.  Is she making nice so she can get that V.P. nod?  I still think he has to at least offer it to her.  And a new poll shows 60 percent of Democrats agree.

Plus: Some Republicans upset that polar bears have been declared an endangered specie—another reason Why America Hates Washington coming up in 60 seconds.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Tonight‘s edition of Why America Hates Washington: Politicians who put financial interest above the health and welfare of huggable polar bears.  The Bush administration‘s decision to list polar bears is threatened under the Endangered Species Act has unleashed the wrath of Alaska‘s political elite.  Senator Ted Stevens is blasting out, calling the decision, quote, “An unequivocal victory for extreme environmentalists who want to block all development in our state.”

The polar bears are also being blamed for possibly affecting construction of a natural gas pipeline and other oil and gas projects.  Some Alaskan politicians in Congress dispute that the polar bear population is in need of protection.  Still, you take a position against polar bears and you got to say, it‘s another reason Why America Hates Washington.

Coming up: Our call for Hillary Clinton, should she be named, at least to be given the choice to be Obama‘s running mate?  Coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Welcome back.

Senator Obama is cashing in on John Edwards big endorsement yesterday, picking up five of Edwards pledged delegates, along with four more superdelegates and a large labor union.  Many now are asking whether Edwards might want a spot on the ticket as V.P.

But what about Hillary Clinton, put aside whether she‘s, quote, “earned it,” isn‘t she the best choice for that party?

I know how much some Obama supporters hate her.  But a new Quinnipiac Poll says the majority of Democrats, 60 percent, want Obama to pick her as his running mate if he gets the nomination.  And today, she sure seemed like a team player defending Obama when President Bush took a jab at him, seemingly comparing Obama‘s willingness to meet with Iran‘s leader to Nazi appeasers.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  President Bush‘s comparison of any Democrat to Nazi appeasers is offensive and outrageous, especially in light of his failures in foreign policy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  So, is she campaigning for it?  And I ask again, should reluctant Obama supporters swallow their pride and say—let‘s offer Hillary Clinton the V.P. spot?

Our panel is back.  “Newsweek” columnist and NBC analyst, Jonathan Alter; political analyst, Tanya Acker; and Cliff May is with us as well.

Tanya, why not offer it -- 60 percent of Democrats want Hillary to get the nod, she‘s got has almost half, will it end up being 46 percent, whatever it is, of the delegates, why shouldn‘t Obama at least offer her the V.P. job?

ACKER:  Well, as between Hillary and john Edwards, I think that she would be a better choice.

ABRAMS:  But forget about John Edwards, just in general, why not Hillary Clinton over anyone else?

ACKER:  I‘d like a little more regional diversity on the ticket.  I think that, I mean if you were to ask me who I would like to see on the ticket, I‘d like somebody like Jim Webb who served in Vietnam, who‘s got a son in Iraq, who was Reagan‘s secretary of the Navy.

Would I be distressed if Hillary were on this ticket?  Absolutely not.  She ran a great campaign, she‘s a magnificent force for the party.  I‘d be happy to see her on the ticket.

ABRAMS:  But Jonathan, it‘s about unity—isn‘t it about Democratic unity at this point?

ALTER:  Well, it‘s very important and that would be the argument for putting her on the ticket if there was no way to unify the party without doing it.  And it may be that her millions of supporters have the effect of kind of jamming Obama a bit and almost forcing him to offer it to her.

However, I‘ve heard from inside the Obama campaign that they‘re not in the mood to get jammed.  They see it as a test of their ability to make independent decisions without being manipulated.  You know, the hypocratic oath in medicine, you know, first, do no harm, that‘s the way most people think in politics about the vice-presidential candidate.  They don‘t want that candidate distracting attention from the nominee.

Now, think about how Bill Clinton distracted attention from Hillary during this primary campaign and then imagine both Bill and Hillary very possibly distracting attention and that being team players with Obama and it‘s not realistic.

ABRAMS:  But we‘re talking, but—distracting attention, team player, I mean, isn‘t the point about winning?  I mean, isn‘t that the issue?

ALTER:  Yes.  That distracts from the idea of winning if you have to use, you know the Yiddish, all of mish gosh (ph) that comes with the Clintons, all the complications that come with having them on ticket could get you off message, especially when your message is turning the page from past.  So, there are reasons to put her on and there are other reasons to not put her on.  And they‘re going to weigh those in the weeks ahead.

ABRAMS:  See but that‘s - my theory is that the Obama supporters simply hate Hillary Clinton so much that she‘s got no shot—there‘s no question, Tanya.  I hear it every day from Obama supporter that they feel that it would infect the message of change of Obama, it antithetical to everything he stands for.  They‘re not looking at it in terms of winning or losing, they‘re looking at it in terms of a message issue.

MAY:  Dan, look—Dan, if I can get a word in here.  The fact of the matter is, Dan, that historically who you have as your running mate doesn‘t make a whole lot of difference to the winning ticket.  So, frankly, and I find myself in the odd position of defending Obama, if he is the candidate, it‘s his call, it‘s his choice.

He needs to feel comfortable about who he‘ll be running with and then he needs to be comfortable about who he‘ll be serving with.  And if he had Hillary as his vice president, and didn‘t want to say—hey, by the way I need you in Uzbekistan next week for a funeral and that‘s not the kind of vice president he should have.

ABRAMS:  Go ahead, Tanya.

ACKER:  And let me jump in, and Cliff, you should stay with that notion of defending Obama, I like it.  But going back to your point, Dan, you know, I don‘t think this is about people hating Hillary.

ABRAMS:  They do, oh, I promise you they do.

ACKER:  They hate the campaign.

ABRAMS:  I promise you.

ACKER:  Hang on for one second, it‘s been a really heated campaign, it‘s been a very heated campaign.  I personally am not convinced that she‘d be the best choice, I don‘t think that‘s about hating her—I think that‘s about Senator Obama right now, taking stock of the landscape of great Democrats there are out there and making a good choice.

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  Wait, hang on.  Let me ask you, Jonathan.  Did she get nothing for the fact that almost half of the Democrats out there want her very passionately particularly with particular interest groups, particularly when you‘re talking about women or lower income folks, that they really want Hillary Clinton passionately?

ALTER:  Yes, she should be on the short list and Obama has said she‘s definitely on the short list.  But he has to assess is: Will a lot of those women, particularly older women who went for Hillary, will they stay home or will they make good on their threats to stay home or vote for McCain?  If they assess that that‘s a real danger, then that would tilt toward Hillary.

If on the other hand, they‘d say—look, this election, like so many others, is going to be determined by who does best with the 30 percent of Americans who are independent—if you look at that time that way, she doesn‘t do real well with independents.

ABRAMS:  All right.  Let me—final question to you, Cliff, and I‘m going to make this quick.  Do you think that Hillary Clinton on the ticket will somehow affect those sort of “Reagan Democrats” so to speak, or the more liberal Republicans as to whether they would vote—a lot of people have said, people hate Hillary Clinton so much it would galvanize Republicans to come out against Hillary Clinton.  Do you believe that as their (ph) number two pick if that would be impact?

MAY:  To be honest, I think she‘d be stronger candidate than Edwards because she‘d be perceived as more middle of the road.  But I also not sure you‘re right, Dan, I‘m not sure she really wants it.  I think she might rather have the opportunity to run four years from now or stay on the Senate and maybe be the majority leader than be Obama‘s number two.

ABRAMS:  Don‘t get me wrong.  I‘m not saying she wants it.  I‘m saying...

ALTER:  She always takes it.

ABRAMS:  I‘m saying I think that she ought to be offered it.  We shall see.  Thanks to the panel.  Appreciate it.

Coming up: President Bush jumps into the presidential race with sure sounds like a slam against Obama, comparing him to politicians who appease the Nazis, then, John McCain agrees with the president, a president with one of the lowest approval ratings ever.

And in a rare TV moment tonight: Chris Matthews actually proves that one of those know-it-all radio talk show hosts actually do not know what he, in this particular case, was talking about.  Beat the Iress is next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  It‘s time for tonight‘s Beat the Press.  It is a special edition of Beat the Press tonight because it‘s not very often in television news when a host actually proves that a guest does not know what he‘s talking about.

But tonight, Chris Matthews did just that.  After a couple of minutes of debating President Bush‘s comments about the dangers of appeasement when speaking in Israel, Matthews showed us what HARDBALL is all about.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “HARDBALL”)

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MNSBC HOST:  Let me ask you, what did Chamberlain do wrong - Neville Chamberlain do wrong in 1939, what he‘d do wrong?

KEVIN JAMES, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST:  It all goes back to appeasement.

MATTHEWS:  No, what did he do?  Tell me what he—you have to answer the question.  What did he do?

JAMES:  It‘s the same thing.  It puts him all - he‘s talking about appeasement.

MATTHEWS:  What did Chamberlain do wrong?

JAMES:  His action.  His actions and Neville Chamberlain does legitimize, it‘s the exact same thing, Chris...

MATTHEWS:  I want you to - stop.  Kevin, I‘m not going to continue with this interview unless you interview what that thing is.  What did Chamberlain do in 1939?  Tell me.

JAMES:  Chris, it‘s the exact thing.  All right?

MATTHEWS:  In 1938.  What did he do?

JAMES:  What -- ‘38, ‘39, Chris, what year do you want?

MATTHEWS:  I want you to tell me what did Chamberlain do?

JAMES:  He‘s talking about appeasement.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  All right, Chris.

MATTHEWS:  What did Chamberlain do?  Just tell me what he did, Kevin.  What did Chamberlain do you didn‘t like?  What did he do?

JAMES:  Look—what Chamberlain did that I didn‘t like—what the president was talking about, you just said the president was talking about, you just said the president was talking about Barack.  Look...

MATTHEWS:  No, I want you to tell me, mister, you‘re making a reference to the days before our involvement in World War II when the war in Europe began.  I want you to tell me now as an expert, what did Chamberlain do wrong?

JAMES:  Look, you‘re not going to box me in here, Chris.  President Bush is making that.  I‘m glad the president...

MATTHEWS:  You don‘t know what Neville Chamberlain did, do you?

JAMES:  Of course, what Neville Chamberlain - yes, he was an appeaser, Chris.  And it energized and it legitimized...

MATTHEWS:  Kevin James, what did he do?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Chris, may I try to answer?  Chris, can I answer it?

MATTHEWS:  He doesn‘t know.  You (INAUDIBLE) me.  Your are talking about a very critical point in American history of European history and you can‘t tell me what Neville Chamberlain did in Munich, what did he do in ‘38 or ‘39?

JAMES:  Chris, I wasn‘t the one that raised the Hitler comment.  My point is - my point is, what President Bush has done as he has taken the shot across the back...

MATTHEWS:  You don‘t know what you‘re talking about, Kevin.  You don‘t know what you‘re talking about.  Tell me what Chamberlain did wrong.

JAMES:  Neville Chamberlain was an appeaser, Chris.

MATTHEWS:  What did he do?

JAMES:  Neville Chamberlain was an appeaser, all right?

MATTHEWS:  What did he do?

JAMES:  Neville Chamberlain—his policies, the things that Neville Chamberlain supported, energized and legitimized - energized and legitimized and made it easier for Hitler to advance in the way he‘s advanced.

MATTHEWS:  What, OK - I‘ve been sitting here asking for five minutes asking you to say what the president was referring to in 1938 at Munich.

JAMES:  I don‘t know.

MATTHEWS:  You don‘t know.  Thank you.

JAMES:  I don‘t know what the president was referring to.

MATTHEWS:  Let me help you out of here.  I know you don‘t know anything.  You don‘t know what you‘re talking about.  Your problem, Kevin, is you don‘t know what you‘re talking about.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Wow.  Apparently Kevin James wikipedia page is already been updated with that performance.

Up next: It sure sounds like President Bush joined John McCain in piling on Barack Obama.  Speaking of which, comparing him to politicians who appease the Nazis, that conversation.

And later: A long time New York anchor women, the newest YouTube sensation after she got the F-bomb on the air, she‘s not alone - no, Bill O‘Reilly went on to defend on tape, that tape just showed up.  Tonight: We look back at other anchor flubs and figure out how the heck does it happen?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DAN ABRAMS, HOST:  Welcome back, President Bush injects himself into the ‘08 race after promising for months to stay out of it.  Bush sure sounded - seemed to be blasting Barack Obama while in Israel today, comparing Obama‘s foreign policy approach to that of Nazi appeasers. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, UNITED STATES PRESIDENT:  Some seem to believe that we should negotiate with the terrorists and radicals as if some ingenious argument will persuade them they had been wrong all along.  We‘ve heard this foolish delusion before.  As Nazi tanks crossed into Poland in 1939, an American senator declared, “Lord, if I could only have talked to Hitler, all of this might have been avoided.”  We have an obligation to call this what it is, the false comfort of appeasement which has been repeatedly discredited by history.  

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  See, it was Eli Wiessel, the holocaust survivor, sitting in the audience there.  Democrats assail Bush‘s remarks today starting with the Clinton remark we played earlier.  

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  President Bush‘s comparing any Democrat to a Nazi appeaser is both defensive and outrageous.  

SEN. JOE BIDEN (D-DE):  It‘s outrageous what he had to - when implied and what you have is rhetoric masquerading as a policy here.  

NANCY PELOSI, SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES:  I think what the president did in that regard is beneath the dignity of the office of president and unworthy of our representation. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  What about John McCain, who repeatedly said he wants to campaign with no unfair attacks?  McCain chose to embrace the president‘s words.  

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  I think that Barack Obama needs to explain why he wants to sit down and talk with a man who is head of a government that is a state sponsor of terror that is responsible for the killing of brave young Americans and wants to wipe Israel off the map, that denies the holocaust.  That‘s what I think that Sen. Obama ought to explain to the American people.  

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  The question tonight, is this a smarter strategy for McCain for 2008?  Back with us is “Newsweek‘s” Jonathan Alter, former Judge Catherine Crier and Cliff May from the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies. 

All right.  Jonathan, here‘s the problem in my view of what McCain just said.  Is it Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has talked about engaging Iran and let me, quote, “We need to figure out a way to develop some leverage and then sit down and talk with Iran.  If there‘s going to be a discussion, then they need something too.”  Jonathan, it seems I don‘t understand - is McCain embracing the Bush policy on this or not?

JONATHAN ALTER, “NEWS WEEK”:  Well, you know, Condi Rice - they talked to other pretty nasty states like North Korea, Libya.  I mean, look, the point is neither Obama nor McCain or anybody else wants to negotiate with Hamas, with terrorist organizations. 

But when you have nation states, you have to reach out to them.  And if you don‘t, you can‘t ever make any progress, even if they are mouthing disgusting things the same way that communist Chinese used to say the most awful things about the United States.  But Richard Nixon engaged with them, just to reinforce a very, very important point (UNINTELLIGIBLE). 

ABRAMS:  I want to bring us back to the politics, though.  Cliff, let me ask you about the politics for 2008, all right?  Is this a smart move, do you think, on McCain‘s part to embrace Bush‘s comments?

CLIFF MAY, FOUNDATION FOR DEFENSE OF DEMOCRACIES:  McCain is not trying to play politics on issues of national security as important as this one, Dan. 

ABRAMS:  No one would do that.

MAY:  What the president said is that some people believe we can negotiate with terrorists and convince them they‘re wrong. 

ABRAMS:  Who?

MAY:  Why wouldn‘t Obama - He didn‘t mention Obama‘s name. 

ABRAMS:  But of course, he‘s referring to Obama.

MAY:  And why did Obama say, “I agree with that.”  Who?  How about Jimmy Carter who juts the other day -

ABRAMS:  Fine.  That‘s fine.  But ...

(CROSSTALK) 

Look, let‘s not make this about Jimmy Carter.  Let‘s not pick straw men here.  Let‘s talk about 2008.  We‘re talking about.  

MAY:  Excuse me, some - Dan, it‘s some ...  

ABRAMS:  There‘s no - Look, he told reporters - his people told reporters on background that he was referring to Obama.  There‘s no question he‘s referring to Obama.  You‘re not going to fake it, are you?

MAY:  Obama obviously thinks - Obama obviously thinks he heard a description of his foreign policy.  The problem is that Ahmadinejad is a terrorist leader.  We know that.  Now, I‘m not saying that you should never, under any circumstances, negotiate with Iran.  On the contrary, what you shouldn‘t do because it‘s naive is send the president to sit down and do a kumbaya session.  What you need to know if you‘re going to talk to Ahmadinejad is what you‘re willing to offer him and what you are prepared to threaten him.  Until you know that, the sensitivity transition that has no value whatsoever. 

JONATHAN ALTER, “NEWSWEEK”:  Dan, the problem that McCain has politically, if you want to focus on the politics ...

ABRAMS:  Yes.

ALTER:  ... is that he‘s in danger in several of different areas of being seen as a hypocrite.  I mean here he is, he‘s supporting the idea of Gates and Rice reaching out to Iran to talk to them, to try to make some progress in terms of what‘s going on in Iraq.  He‘s for that kind of diplomacy out of one side of the mouth.  And out of the other side of his mouth, he‘s comparing Obama to Neville Chamberlain.  The problem is Neville Chamberlain made ... 

(CROSSTALK) 

ALTER:  The mistake that Chamberlain made ...

MAY:  Excuse me ...

HAMMER:  Hang on.  Cliff, hang on a second.  

ALTER:  The mistake that Chamberlain made was not going to Munich.  It was that he gave away Czechoslovakia

ABRAMS:  I don‘t want to have a debate about Neville Chamberlain here.  Let‘s leave that to Chris Mathews and Kevin James, his esteemed guest, that we saw a minute ago.  All right.  But let me ask you, Catherine Crier.  This is about McCain embracing Bush on the same day that he started talking about we don‘t want this type of politics, et cetera.  Here‘s what John McCain said.  

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCAIN:  For too long now - too long - Washington has been consumed by hyper-partisanship that treats every serious challenge facing us as an opportunity to trade insults, disparage each other‘s motives and fight about the next election. 

For all the problems we face, if you ask Americans

what frustrates them most about Washington, they will tell you they don‘t think we‘re capable of serving the public interests before our personal and partisan ambitions.  That we fight for ourselves and not for them.  Americans are sick of it and they have every right to be. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Catherine - and then, hours later, he embraced these comments where Bush is effectively comparing Obama‘s policy to Nazis‘.

CRIER:  And he needs to be called on it.  Both sides do when they engage in this sort of thing, because it is pure politics as you just said.  Gate, Condi Rice, Kissinger - he said talked to Iran.  James Baker, Former Secretary of State - he‘s said diplomacy is not appeasement.  These are very different concepts and they are being melded as one.  They need to be called on this because it‘s pure politics.  No one - no Democrat has said they want to sit down and give away Czechoslovakia, give away anything to the Iranians.  They want to talk and there is a distinction.

(CROSSTALK) 

ABRAMS:  Cliff, let me ask you a question.  Rather than McCain saying, “You know, Obama really has some explaining to do.”  If he‘s going to live by that motto we just heard, shouldn‘t he say, “You know what?  I don‘t think that Barack Obama‘s policies are comparable to the Nazis, but I do think, X.”  That‘s not what he‘s saying.  He‘s playing insult politics, isn‘t he?

MAY:  No.  Look, for more than 60 years, America‘s policy -the one thing we took out of World War II is that you don‘t appease terrorists, you don‘t appease people who want to kill you ...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  But is Obama talking about that?

CRIER:  It‘s different.  Cliff, you know darn well.  

(CROSSTALK)

MAY:  Let me explain, Catherine, please.  Catherine, that doesn‘t mean you have no diplomacy.  It does mean the president doesn‘t go over and embrace the terrorist leader unless he knows exactly what he‘s going to do. 

ABRAMS:  Is Barack Obama talking about embracing - what terror leader is Barack Obama talking about embracing, Cliff. 

CRIER:  No Democrat has ...

MAY:  Let me ask you this. 

ABRAMS:  Wait.  Answer this question, Cliff.

CRIER:  Catherine, let me ask you this.  

ABRAMS:  Cliff, answer the question.  What terrorist leader ...

MAY:  Ahmadinejad.  

ABRAMS:  ... is Barack Obama talking about embracing him?  He‘s talking about embracing him?  

MAY:  Ahmadinejad.  You say he should shake hands with Ahmadinejad (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

ABRAMS:  Then you tell me why Secretary of State Gates talking about negotiating with Iran.  

MAY:  You can negotiate through back channels.  You can negotiate to the Europeans.  You can go through the ambassadors ...  

ALTER:  OK.  So Richard Nixon should not have shaken hands with Mao Tse-Tung who was one of the biggest killers in world history.  He should not have shaken hands with him in Beijing.  Look, these people run big countries and we have to deal with that in one form or another. 

MAY:  So you ...

ALTER:  And Cliff, you know that Arthur Vandenberg - we have this tradition.  We‘re talking about a 60-year tradition of American foreign policy.  Politics ends at water‘s edge when you‘re abroad.  You don‘t engage in politics on foreign soil as the president of the United States did today.  It was reprehensible for him to do that.  I was in violation of 60 years of American foreign policy. 

ABRAMS:  I‘ve got to wrap it up.  You‘ve gotten seconds, Cliff.  Ten.

ALTER:  Disgusting performance for the president.

MAY:  Jonathan, I totally agree with you about politics stopping at the water‘s edge which never mentioned Obama.  Obama associated himself ...

(CROSSTALK) 

ABRAMS:  No, it wasn‘t Obama.  That is not true.

(CROSSTALK) 

ALTER:  It was one of the worst speeches by an American president in my memory.

(CROSSTALK) 

ABRAMS:  Got to wrap it up.  Jonathan, Catherine, Cliff - all right, thank you. 

Up next, on a much lighter note, a long time news anchor drops the “F” bomb on the air, becomes a YouTube sensation overnight.  We‘ve all been there.  Well, not quite.  Sort of.  Coming up, some of the biggest news anchor mess-ups, including one of my own.  And a pilot jumps out of a plane over the alps, wearing a jet powered wing.  “Reality Bites” is coming in 60 seconds.  That‘s real. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Now to “Reality Bites,” a dose of reality caught on tape.  Tonight, incredible footage of this Swiss pilot who strapped on a special jet powered wing to fly over the Alps.  Forty-nine-year-old Yves Rossy jumped out of a plane, fired up his jets and - that looks like it‘s a fake movie set - and took off on the flight of his life.  He landed safely after nine minutes of flight.  Be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) 

ABRAMS:  Welcome back.  It is the latest reminder for me, be careful what I say because you never know who is listening and where it might ends up.  Earlier this week, long time New York anchor Sue Simmons had a slip up on the air.  And an old video of Fox‘s Bill O‘Reilly has surfaced showing him blowing his stack.  We‘ll speak to MSNBC Contessa Brewer in a minute about the perils of live TV.  But first, here‘s NBC‘s John Larson. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOHN LARSON, NBC CORRESPONDENT:  We‘ve all seen TV reporter outtakes and we really shouldn‘t laugh.  

But what happened Tuesday night with New York City anchor Sue Simmons, live, bears further discussion.  

SUE SIMMONS, NEWS ANCHOR:  At 11, paying more at the grocer but getting less.  We‘ll tell you how to get the most.  What the (EXPLETIVE DELETED) are you doing.  

LARSON:  She was talking to her co-anchor and thought she was off air.  But she was live.  Oops.

SIMMONS:  I‘m truly sorry.  It was a mistake on my part and I sincerely apologize.  

BROOKE GLADSTONE, WNYC, “ON THE MEDIA”:  You know, there‘s a contract that news anchors have with their audiences, but every once in a while, there‘s a crack.  

LARSON:  But conservatives point out there is no place for profanity on the air.  

BILL O‘REILLY, HOST, “INSIDE EDITION”:  And that is it for us today -

LARSON:  Oh, well, he‘s not pointing out anything right here. 

O‘REILLY:  Whatever it is, it is not right on the teleprompter.  

LARSON:  But you‘d like to think that Bill O‘Reilly would have something to say on the subject of profanity if they had just gotten that prompter to work.  

O‘REILLY:  I can‘t read it.  There‘s no words on it.  

LARSON:  Actually, this is an off-air outtake which just surfaced on the Web this week of O‘Reilly trying to tape “Inside Edition” years ago, frustrated by off-camera instructions.  

O‘REILLY:  Tomorrow.  And that is it for us today and we will leave you with a - I can‘t do it.  

LARSON:  He bravely soldiers on but oh, boy.  

O‘REILLY:  We‘ll do it live!  (EXPLETIVE DELETED)  Do it live!  I‘ll write it and we‘ll do it live.  (EXPLETIVE DELETED)

LARSON:  His words are bleeped out, of course, but trust me, they would make Sue Simmons (EXPLETIVE DELETED) in her (EXPLETIVE DELETED). 

GLADSTONE:  O‘Reilly is a famous bully.  We like to see bullies get their comeuppance.  So hurray for all of us to get to see it, and derive a kind of schadenfreude that has been owed to us for so long.  

LARSON:  Schadenfreude is not a swear word.  It‘s the guilty pleasure we all feel at someone else‘s expense.  Sort of like this.  Oh, I‘m sorry I‘m so (EXPLETIVE DELETED) dead.  For today, John Larson, NBC News, Los Angeles.

(END VIDEOTAPE) 

ABRAMS:  I mean ask someone who has had her share of YouTube moments, but has always been able to laugh them off, very own Contessa Brewer.  Contessa, before we show some of your outtakes, et cetera, that were on the air - some mistakes and et cetera.  Let me ask you first just about being an anchor, being on television.  Are there times when you‘re not sure whether you‘re on or off the air?

CONTESSA BREWER, MSNBC ANCHOR:  Yes, but in those times that I‘m not sure, I start behaving myself.  I mean, honestly, there are times I‘m in a commercial break and all of a sudden I see myself pop up, and you stop whatever you‘re doing because you don‘t know if you‘re on or not.  But one thing I‘ll say is, the first thing they taught me in journalism school, and the thing that sticks with me to this day is always believe that your mic is live and don‘t swear around it.  

ABRAMS:  Yes.  I had a big argument with my producers on an election and I‘m glad it didn‘t end up on the air.  

BREWER:  Because all it takes is one person to pop up that little button in the back and you have no control over it, and all of a sudden what you‘re saying -

ABRAMS:  Now, there are other times and we‘ll play a few pieces of sound of you on our air slipping up, making mistakes -

BREWER:  Me?

ABRAMS:  Here it is, Contessa Brewer‘s greatest hits.  

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BREWER:  Right now, the latest MSNBC/McClatchy poll of Iowa Democrats shows Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama in a sta-testicle (ph) dead heat -

UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER:  That is unprecedented for a Giuliani event.  We also see because this is an airport hangar.  We also see TSA - transportation security administration -

BREWER:  Well, it was an inadvertent wardrobe selection that I made this morning.  I will say I must compliment Mrs. Vitter on her choice of dresses there.  

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  So you were wearing the same outfit.  

BREWER:  For all intents and purposes -

ABRAMS:  But you know what?  Isn‘t the key in those particular cases to try to laugh it off?

BREWER:  No, I mean the whole lip gloss thing wasn‘t funny because we were in the middle of a serious story.  The makeup lady was out here.  She didn‘t get to me in time.  And I was like, “Just give me that thing, I don‘t have time.  I‘m very important.  My time -“  I tried to swipe it while we‘re looking at the video and everything.  Well, then it makes you look like a bimbo.  I hate that.  

ABRAMS:  What about the sta-testicle(ph) dead heat?

BREWER:  Do you know how similar, ah and ih are -“Statistical” “Sta-testicle(ph).”  I mean it‘s one little vowel.  And all of a sudden, you said something that is cracking everybody.  It‘s been seen on YouTube thousands of times.  And there it is. 

ABRAMS:  Do people come up to you and say, “I saw you on - did you - “

BREWER:  When?  Out on the streets?

ABRAMS:  Yes.  When they (UNINTELLIGIBLE) 

BREWER:  No, people don‘t say that to me.  

ABRAMS:  This is one of the many times I‘ve got -

BREWER:  You screwed up?  OK.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS (on camera):  It‘s time for tonight‘s “Winners and Losers” for this third day of - It‘s not the 23rd day of May - It‘s the 23rd day of May - of April.  Beat the press on me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  See, that‘s a mild -

BREWER:  You got to go through and pick one that wasn‘t really even a big deal.  I mean that‘s a day in the life on “Daytime MSNBC.”  

ABRAMS:  I know, I know.  It‘s true, it‘s true.  I don‘t know if - Do we have time to play one more of them?  All right.  We don‘t really.  Let me play number three.  This is one is one of my favorite ones with the weatherman getting mad at the anchors.  Let‘s play it.

UNIDENTIFIED WEATHERMAN:  Filled in with some air about this lower -

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE ANCHOR:  Chad, Chad.  Chad.

UNIDENTIFIED WEATHERMAN:  Let me talk, Carol.  

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE ANCHOR:  Translate that for us.  I don‘t know what that means.  What does that mean.

UNIDENTIFIED WEATHERMAN:  Well, if you would let me talk.  

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE ANCHOR:  OK.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Have you ever lost your top on the air?

BREWER:  You know, in small market TV, when this mistakes usually happen, when (UNINTELLIGIBLE) telling the guy, “Roll up the prompter.  Why aren‘t you rolling up the prompter?”  And then I get caught.  And it looks like I‘m going like this. 

ABRAMS:  Yes.

BREWER:  No, I‘m not - I‘m nice to everybody. 

ABRAMS:  Rob is nodding. 

BREWER:  You can say it out loud.  

ABRAMS:  Yes, Rob is nodding.

BREWER:  You don‘t have to be quiet about it.  Gee.

ABRAMS:  Contessa Brewer, this is why you are so good at what you do, because you can laugh about it.  You can have a good time.  And you‘re an authentic person.  

BREWER:  I give myself lots to laugh about.

ABRAMS:  Contessa Brewer, thanks a lot.  Appreciate it.  

Up next, we‘ve got tonight‘s “Winners and Losers” and your E-mails in the “P.O.‘d Box,” coming up. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  It‘s time for tonight‘s “Winners and Losers.”  Our first loser, actor Jack Black on the “Today” show this morning, sitting next to Angelina Jolie, inadvertently made the announcement that she was pregnant with twins.  

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JACK BLACK, ACTOR:  They are going to have as many as Brady Bunch when you have this, right?

NATALIE MORALES, REPORTER, THE “TODAY” SHOW:  Is that confirmed, that it‘s two?

ANGELINA JOLIE, ACTRESS:  Yes.  Yes, we‘ve confirmed that already.  

BLACK:  Oh, man.  I‘m glad I didn‘t -

JOLIE:  Well, Jack just confirmed it, actually.

BLACK:  Is that true?

JOLIE:  I think you did.  

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Nice.  Congratulations, Angelina.  

Loser - actress Anne Heche, who, despite making $65,000 per episode on her show “Men in Trees” for 25 episode, claims because the show was canceled, she can‘t afford to pay the $15,000 in child and spousal support to her ex-husband and six-year-old boy.  Alas, the downside of breaking up with Ellen.  

Our big loser, former NBA star Charles Barkley, who faces criminal charges if he doesn‘t pay back $400,000 in gambling debts to the Win Hotel in Vegas.  Barkley says it was an oversight and that he‘ll gladly pay back the money.  

Our big winner of the day, 15-year-old Detroit Girl Scout Jennifer Sharp, who sold an astonishing 17,328 boxes of Thin Mint Samoas and Do-Si-Do cookies.  She‘s believed to have broken the record for the most Girl Scout cookies ever sold to raise enough money for her entire troop to go on a ten-day trip to Europe this summer.  

Time for the “P.O.‘d Box,” your chance to tell me what you hate or love about the show.  Apparently, many of you hate the idea of an Obama-Clinton ticket. 

Nina Mazzarelli, “You ask, ‘Doesn‘t she deserve the VP spot?‘  Don‘t you get it, Dan?  The vice presidency of the United States is not a consolation prize.  She lost.”  There‘s no second place. 

Nina, I‘m not saying Obama should pick her to compensate.  I agree there‘s no such thing as deserving the VP slot.  I‘m saying she has a huge constituency and I fear Obama supporters don‘t want her just because they don‘t like her. 

Sarah doesn‘t like Clinton‘s comments about Obama, “Her statement that both she and McCain are qualified they have years of experience, while Obama has a speech.  Can you imagine how the Republicans will use this in the general where she is the running mate?”

Sarah, that‘s the case any time primary opponents come up, you know, in the general election together.  Clinton-Gore, Reagan-Bush. 

Finally, Becky McGinty, “I do not like her.  I do not trust her.  However, I believe Clinton would be the best candidate for vice president with the additional votes she would bring to Obama.”

See, that‘s a sensible way to look at it. 

You can E-mail me about the show at verdict@msnbc.com.  Please include your name and where you‘re writing from.  I will see you here tomorrow.  

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

END   

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