updated 5/23/2008 11:18:26 AM ET 2008-05-23T15:18:26

Guests: Pat Buchanan, Stan Goldman, Michael Isikoff, Don Siegelman, David Iglesias, Jesse Ventura, Jonathan Alter

DAN ABRAMS, HOST:  Breaking tonight: Congress subpoenas Karl Rove to testify.

The official document reads and I quote, “By authority of the House of Representatives of the Congress of the United States of America to Mr. Karl Rove.  You are hereby commanded to be and appear before the Committee on the Judiciary and you‘re not to depart without leave of said committee.”

The committee demanding answers from Rove, about whether he played a role in the prosecution of the former governor of Alabama, Democrat Don Siegelman—sentenced to seven years last summer for corruption.  As you see, he‘s with us.

Rove‘s lawyer, Robert Luskin had told us Rove would testify if subpoenaed and the committee cited that assertion in its letter to Luskin today.

But now, Rove, his attorney, and the White House appeared to be saying something very different.  His lawyer cited executive privilege and said the White House would have to make the decision and just hours ago, the White House made it pretty clear—they have no interest in having Rove testify, saying, quote, “They know he can‘t answer but they want political theater.”

Can‘t answer or won‘t answer?  Committee chair John Conyers has threatened to have Rove held in contempt and arrested if he refuses.  So, is that where this is heading—the arrest of Karl Rove?

Joining me now is Governor Don Siegelman; investigative correspondent for “Newsweek” magazine, Michael Isikoff; and law professor, Stan Goldman, from Loyola Law School.

All right.  Stan, let‘s talk law here for a minute, it is pretty clear the White House is saying—we don‘t Rove to testify.  Rove‘s lawyer is making it pretty clear he doesn‘t want Rove to testify.  And yet, Congress is subpoenaing him, saying—legally, you must testify.  So, what happens?

STAN GOLDMAN, LOYOLA LAW SCHOOL:  Well, the typical thing that would happen is that if he doesn‘t come, they‘d inform the U.S. Attorneys Office and U.S. Attorneys Office would bring a contempt citation in the U.S.  district court in Washington, D.C.  The Justice Department basically, by way of the president of the United States has already informed us, they don‘t appear to be particularly interested in bringing that action.

So, the Democrats will probably first try to go to court, force the Republican administration and executive branch to bring these charges against him of contempt if he doesn‘t show up.  The question is: What happens if the court agrees that the executive branch doesn‘t have to do what Congress wants if they want to do?  And that‘s going to be the interesting question.

ABRAMS:  But Stan, there‘s—Stan, there‘s something called inherent contempt, all right?  And let me read from that, “Under the inherent contempt power, the individual is brought before the House or Senate by the sergeant-at-arms, tried at the bar of the body and can be imprisoned in the Capitol jail.”

Now, John Conyers - look, I don‘t know if he was saying it off the cuff, but he has threatened to go and have Rove arrested.  They could do that beyond the Department of Justice, right?

GOLDMAN:  Well, you know, nobody has done this for almost ¾ of a century, but I checked it out, 85 times in our history this inherent contempt power was use.  But after about 1935 or so, they decided they sort of didn‘t need it anymore because they have subpoena power that could be enforced by way of criminal or civil contempt in the courts.

Now, if the administration is telling the Congress that you no longer have this power when it comes to anybody who ever worked for the executive branch, then it may very well be that Congress might at least think about the idea of exercising its inherent contempt powers which means it literally sends the sergeant-at-arms out to find Karl Rove, arrest him and bring him in to be tried.

Now, the reason why they stopped doing it after about 1935 was also, typically, they try these things in front of the full House.  In other words, the House basically has to shut down its business while they‘re trying them.  But I don‘t read any reason why they have to do that.

As I read the law, I think they can just try him in front of a committee and have the committee‘s findings sent to the full Congress, and then the Congress make a decision as to whether he in fact will be held in contempt.  And theoretically, you‘re right, he could be locked up in the basement of the Congress until this term of Congress is over come January.

ABRAMS:  Michael Isikoff, look, before we get to the broader questions about the political prosecutions, et cetera, let me just get a sense from you—how angry do you sense that the Democrats are on Capitol Hill about this?

MICHAEL ISIKOFF, NEWSWEEK:  They‘re pretty angry.  I mean, Conyers is.  Certainly, some of the Democrats in the judiciary committee, but to take the—it‘s quite a leap from there to imagine that anything like use of this inherent contempt power is going to be used.

Remember, they‘ve already subpoenaed former White House officials. 

Harriet Miers was subpoenaed in the U.S. attorney investigation.  The White

House refused, the House took the White House to court and it‘s now tied up

in the courts, being litigated -

ABRAMS:  There‘s something different here.  There‘s something different here and that is that Karl Rove had said he had no conversations with the White House about the Siegelman case.

ISIKOFF:  Right.

ABRAMS:  So let me ask—go back to Professor Goldman.  Doesn‘t that make a claim of executive privilege?  I mean, executive privilege in theory is supposed to say—to protect the conversations that the closest White House advisers have with the president.

Karl Rove and his lawyer have both said in no—there‘s no ambiguity in the terms they‘ve used that Karl Rove did not speak with the White House about it.  So, what is the executive privilege claim?

GOLDMAN:  Well, it‘s a pretty tough executive privilege claim if you take Karl Rove at his word.  I mean, preliminarily, he basically said “No, there were no conversations here,” therefore, there‘s no executive privilege.

On the other hand, in many ways, what the administration, although they‘re saying executive privilege, may really be arguing is separation of powers.  He belongs to me, the Justice Department belongs to me.  Congress, you can‘t order us to do anything about one of our people.  And in fact, we‘re just going to say no.  If you want to enforce this contempt, don‘t go through the executive branches, Justice Department, do it yourself.

And I think that‘s a pretty big step for Congress to take.  And it might be will (ph) indeed, maybe not.

ABRAMS:  Congressman Linda Sanchez was on this program last night and she is spearheading the subcommittee that is investigating this.  And she talked about this issue of the claim of executive privilege.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. LINDA SANCHEZ, (D) HOUSE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE:  Because executive privilege covers communications with the president when you‘re advising, and if Karl Rove, in fact, didn‘t have any of those conversations with the president about Don Siegelman or any of these other cases, then, there could be no really worthwhile assertion of executive privilege.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Let me to go Governor Siegelman.  Governor, what do you make of today‘s development?

FMR. GOV. DON SIEGELMAN, (D) ALABAMA:  Yes.  Well, what I make of it is that it‘s a historic step forward in seeking the truth.  But, in listening to you and the discussion, I was thinking, why not bring before the committee those people who cannot claim executive privilege like Karl Rove‘s business partner in Alabama, Bill Canary, whose wife is the U.S.  attorney in Alabama who prosecuted me.

And I can guarantee you this, if you put them under oath and bring them before the committee, one of them is going to throw the other under the bus, because they‘re not both going to go to prison for over this.  So, you know, we‘ve got the governor‘s son, Rob Riley, who part of this conspiracy according to Dana Jill Simpson.

You know, subpoena Rob Riley and bring him before the committee because these people are not going to stand the heat.  They are going to either talk and tell the truth about Karl Rove, or Karl Rove will point the finger at them.

But one way is by going after those people and subpoenaing those people who cannot claim executive privilege.

ABRAMS:  All right.  Now, I should say that we invited both Karl Rove and his attorney to come on the program tonight.  They denied—they rejected that invitation.

Here‘s Congressman Wexler, also, a leading member of the judiciary committee on this program last week, talking to us about what happens if Karl Rove refuses to testify after he‘s subpoenaed.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. ROBERT WEXELR, (D) HOUSE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE:  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 -

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  So, look, they sound like they are, you know, getting serious about this.  All right, Michael Isikoff, let‘s talk more broadly about this.  This goes beyond just Governor Siegelman.  I mean, this is an ongoing issue that the Congress has had with Karl Rove, in particular, and the suggestion is, the allegation is that Rove was behind political prosecutions, right?

ISIKOFF:  Correct, right.  And -

ABRAMS:  Yes, go ahead.

ISIKOFF:  Well, look, first of all I‘d just want to say I thought that the Governor Siegelman did make an important point here which is the way you get information, the way you develop - do investigations is to develop from the ground up, from the witnesses who are closest to the case.  You don‘t go for the top target like Karl Rove from the get-go.  That‘s not the way any experienced investigator gets.

So, you know, it is perfectly right that to say that the real way of Congress, if the judiciary committee wanted to get to the bottom of this, would be to do a thorough investigation of all the principals.

Now, it‘s also worth pointing out that the principal allegation against Karl Rove comes from the witness who said she was part of this conference call in which Bob Riley referenced Karl Rove.  Riley, my understanding, has in an affidavit, denied that.  So it may not be that calling Riley is going to get—get the Democrats what they want either.  But it certainly is much closer to the facts that are on the table than going straight to straight to Rove.

ABRAMS:  Let me, this is—go ahead.  You want to get going?

ISIKOFF:  Yes.  I‘m just adding that the larger point here is the

politicization allegations that have been coming out for, you know, since

the U.S. attorney scandal began well over a year ago.  And -

ABRAMS:  And Rove‘s attorneys are basically saying—this is the same thing.  We‘re already told you before, he‘s not going to testify.  It‘s what the White House is saying.

Here‘s how Congress distinguishes this one, all right?  This is in the letter that they have just sent to Luskin with the subpoenas attached.

“Here, as we have made clear from the outset the Siegelman case is a principal focus of our request for Mr. Rove to testify.  In addition, unlike Harriet Miers, Mr. Rove has made a number of on-the-record comments to the media about the Siegelman case and the U.S. attorney firings, extending far beyond general denials of wrong doing.”

Professor Goldman, why is that important legally?

GOLDMAN:  Well, it‘s important legally perhaps because he‘s already waived it in a sense.  I mean, how can he claim an executive privilege about things he‘s already been, you know, blabbing about on the networks?

But, let me say one thing about those other potential witnesses.  I agree.  If they want to call other people who‘d never worked for the executive branch, then, I don‘t think there‘s an executive privilege here, but it clearly wouldn‘t be there.  On the other hand, if you want to hold them in contempt because they refuse to come before Congress, you‘d still have to go to the Justice Department if you follow the standard procedures.

And if that takes place, then the question becomes: Is the Justice Department going to be willing to pursue them for contempt if this is the subject matter?  And that will be very interesting.  It won‘t be Karl Rove, it‘ll be another witnesses.

ISIKOFF:  Right.  But I think the question here is: Is the purpose of this political theater to get to put somebody in inherent contempt in jail or is to develop information about the core issues?  And I think, you know, the goal shouldn‘t be to put somebody in jail, it should be to get to the facts as to whether or not there‘s anything to the allegations.

ABRAMS:  But isn‘t there, but, Mike, isn‘t there something about the fact that Rove is putting up - I mean, put aside—I have no idea what Karl Rove knows or doesn‘t know about this case.  What I do know though is that it sounds bogus to say—we‘re citing executive privilege and yet to also say we have no conversations with the White House about this.

ISIKOFF:  Right.  Yes, you make a good point.  But also, in quoting to the letter, you actually—that Conyers sent, you used the very language that I think Bob Luskin, Rove‘s very able lawyer, is seizing on to keep him from testifying because it refers to the U.S. attorney firings.  And that - there is a claim of privilege and it‘s being litigated in the court right now.

ABRAMS:  Right . Well, let‘s talk about that - we‘ll talk about that in a minute.  Well, also, his able lawyer told us, in no uncertain terms, Rove would testify.  So, the question is going to be: How could that play?

Coming up: One of those U.S. fired attorneys is here to react to today‘s subpoena of Rove.  He joins us live and joins the panel.

And Barack Obama now has a V.P. search committee.  This is Bill Clinton reportedly says Hillary should at least be offered the slot.

New polls in swing states suggest she really could help Obama beat McCain.

Jesse Ventura, Pat Buchanan, and Jonathan Alter join us.

Plus: Members of Congress head to Europe for Memorial Day on a taxpayer funded boondoggle to Europe.  Why America Hates Washington is coming up in 60 seconds.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  It‘s time for tonight‘s edition of Why America Hates Washington: Congress in vacationing over Memorial Day weekend on the taxpayer dimes.  Representatives who signed up for a meeting on Transatlantic issues in Slovenia‘s capital, will have lots to do in between official business with their European colleagues, attended, by an itinerary, includes an excursion to Lake Bled, a short walking tour of the old city, and then there‘s a fact finding mission to Venice, boat rides and optional trip to the glass blowing factory, will help the blowing work a bit more bearable.

To be fair, they‘re doing important work there as well but this stuff is another reason Why America Hates Washington.

We‘re back with more on today‘s breaking news of Karl Rove being subpoenaed by Congress up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  We‘re back.

Continuing our coverage of the news breaking today, that the House Judiciary Committee has subpoenaed Karl Rove, ordering him to answer questions about allegations of political prosecutions in the Bush administration Justice Department.  The focus of the investigation in Congress now is the prosecution of former Democratic Governor Don Siegelman of Alabama and whether he was targeted by the Bush department and Rove because he‘s a Democrat.

Joining the panel now is former U.S. attorney, David Iglesias, one of the nine U.S. attorneys who were fired, allegedly, for not being partisan enough in their prosecutions.  He‘s the author of the book, “In Justice,” which is about that scandal.

Thanks very much for joining us.  We appreciate.

All right.  So, how significant do you think it is that they are now subpoenaing Rove in connection with the Siegelman case, but also, more broadly, about the firings of the U.S. attorneys which included you?

DAVID IGLESIAS, FMR. U.S. ATTORNEY:  Well, I think it‘s about time. I mean, clearly, Rove‘s fingerprints have been all over the scandal.  I‘ve stated all roads leave to Rove repeatedly, and I believe there‘s tremendous circumstantial evidence that he was involved both to his eyeballs, not only in our firings but other illicit partisan political activities at the Justice Department.

ABRAMS:  How would you summarize the key evidence?

IGLESIAS:  Key evidence—well, at least in my case, there is evidence by the state party chairman here, who had a conversation with him regarding me, and Rove confirmed he‘s gone—meaning me—before it became public.  So, Rove knew that I was on a list to be fired.

The other states, lots of circumstantial evidence related to now voter fraud prosecutions or investigations or prosecutions of key Republicans.  Put all that together, it‘s a very disturbing national pattern.

ABRAMS:  And Governor Siegelman is that part of the reason that you‘re so convinced that Karl Rove was behind your case?

SIEGELMAN:  Well, you know, this is not a matter of connecting the dots, the dots are connecting themselves.  You know, we‘ve got Karl Rove whose business partner of some 25 years and political associate, Bill Canary‘s wife was the U.S. attorney who prosecuted me.

Come on.  I mean, this is not difficult.  It‘s not rocket science to put this together.  But we need to subpoena Bill Canary now and get him before the committee to see how he has to say.

ABRAMS:  But I want you to look at this more broadly for a minute.  We‘re talking also because they are talking in this subpoena and in the letter, also more broadly about the political prosecutions and I know, for example, you filed a brief today in your case with the federal court of appeals where you‘ve also cited the U.S. attorneys firings as further evidence to you, of Karl Rove‘s general involvement with the Justice Department.

So, I ask you, does your commitment, the fact that you‘re so convinced that Karl Rove is behind your prosecution, is that also related to the fact that the evidence that Mr. Iglesias has just laid out?

SIEGELMAN:  Well, yes.  I mean, David said all roads led to Rove.  My point is, if you—we‘ve got the Alabama case and then got him at the scene of the crime here in Alabama with sworn testimony from a respected Republican lawyer, Dana Jill Simpson.

So, we need to call those people who can further develop this case because this case will also expose Karl Rove‘s involvement in the firing of David Iglesias and the other U.S. attorneys, as well as other scandals that have deeply hurt the American people.

ABRAMS:  Yes, but I guess, I think that they‘re going to need to rely on more than Dana Jill Simpson here.  And Michael, I‘ll let you - yes.

SIEGELMAN:  Well, that‘s why we need to call Bill Canary and Rob Riley, the governor‘s son because they were also named in this criminal conspiracy that was concocted involving Karl Rove and the Department of Justice to bring me down.

ABRAMS:  Again, I‘m going to read this letter and I‘ve read it on the air many times before.  This is a letter that—an e-mail we sent to Karl Rove‘s attorney on April 7th.

We said in following up and then series of questions.  “Sorry.  Let me be more clear: Will Karl Rove agree to testify if Congress issues a subpoena to him as part of an investigation into the Siegelman case?”

Robert Luskin said: “Sure.  Although it seems to me that the question is somewhat offensive.  It assumes he has something to hide, even though Governor Siegelman‘s uncorroborated assertions aside—there‘s literally no credible evidence whatsoever to substantiate his charges.  I would hope you‘d get around to mentioning that fact.”

And Mike Isikoff, now, the judiciary committee is citing this assertion from Luskin to us, saying—look, you said you would testify.

ISIKOFF:  Right.  Well, I didn‘t realize it was your e-mail that was

the lever that was being used by the committee here.  But - look, that‘s

also not the first time the able Mr. Luskin has reversed his public course

and his statements.  He has - there‘s a long track record on that.  I

should say -

ABRAMS:  Real quick, Michael.

ISIKOFF:  Yes.  There was actually something else that came out today in the correspondence that was interesting, that the Justice Department‘s Office of Professional Responsibility confirmed that it, itself, is investigating allegations of politically motivated persecutions including the Siegelman case and a number of others.

That‘s the first time we heard of that and it‘s this, at least, some indication that at least some quarters in the Justice Department are taking this seriously.

ABRAMS:  It‘s a great point.  It‘s something we should have mentioned earlier.  We‘re going to continue to follow this case.  We‘re going to follow that investigation.

Thanks to all of you, Governor Siegelman, David Iglesias, Stan, and Mike, thanks a lot.  I appreciate it.

Coming up, new polls show Hillary Clinton beat John McCain in several key swing states.  While in two of three, Barack Obama would lose.  This as Bill Clinton reportedly says Obama should at least ask Hillary to be his V.P.  Might he need her to win?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

First up: Sometimes, there are perils of live TV, and other times, there are the perils of doing a live TV show from in front of murder suspect, Drew Peterson‘s home.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “ON THE RECORD”/FOX NEWS/WEDNESDAY)

MARY FRANCE BRAGIEL, REPORTER:  Right now it appears we‘ve got a car behind me and the alarm is going off for this interview here.  So, I don‘t know if he‘s doing that from inside the house or if a neighbor is doing that or what.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX HOST:  My money is on it that Drew has hit the key and sounded the alarm.  That‘s a riot.

BRAGIEL:  So, here you go.  It‘s off.

VAN SUSTEREN:  All right.  Well, you know, what—I got to give him credit, sort of fun anyhow he punked us.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  He did it again during another interview later in Greta‘s show.

Next up, Shep Smith over on FOX interviewed the leader of an apocalyptic cult who‘s been charged with bigamy and forcing children to work.  But after 10 minutes of listening to his blabber, Shep said what I think most viewers were thinking.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “STUDIO B”/FOX NEWS/WEDNESDAY)

SHEPARD SMITH, FOX HOST:  I think that our having you on today is irresponsible.  You‘re facing charges coming up.  You‘re telling people that a nuclear baby is coming, that the end of the world is near and that sexually transmitted diseases caused global warming, and that‘s all a load of crap.  Thank you for coming.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  So, I‘m a big Shep Smith fan, I‘ve got to say.

Up next: As Obama conducts a not so secret search for a V.P., Bill Clinton reportedly pushes for his wife to fill the spot.

Our all-star panel is here including Jesse Ventura, to debate whether she could actually help Obama win.

And the Reverend Hagee, we‘ve got more information on that.  And John

McCain -

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWS BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Welcome back, new details tonight about Barack Obama‘s top secret search for his vice-presidential running mate which apparently is not so top secret any more.  Democratic officials admitting tonight that Obama has brought in John Kerry‘s VP vetter, Jim Johnson, to help conduct the search.  And one name that will almost certainly come across Johnson‘s desk is Hillary Clinton. 

“Time” reporting today, quote, “In Bill Clinton‘s view, she has earned nothing short of an offer to be Obama‘s running mate, according to some who are close to the former president.  Bill Clinton is pushing real hard for this to happen,” end quote. 

And brand-new polls out today show Clinton clobbering McCain in three key swing states, Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania, while Obama is only beating McCain in one of those states, Pennsylvania, in that poll.  So it‘s becoming increasingly clear she wants it.  But doesn‘t this also show Obama may have to at least offer her the VP spot?

Here now, the former governor of Minnesota, Jesse Ventura.  He‘s the author of the new book “Don‘t Start the Revolution without Me.”  MSNBC political analyst and former presidential candidate, Pat Buchanan, and “Newsweek” and NBC‘s Jonathan Alter. 

Jesse, don‘t they have to at least offer it to her? 

JESSE VENTURA, FORMER GOVERNOR OF MINNESOTA:  I don‘t know.  You‘re asking an independent what the rules of the Democratic Party should be.  You know, they talk about unity and they push that real hard.  It would depend, I suppose, if Obama feels comfortable enough to put her a heartbeat away ultimately.  

ABRAMS:  Pat, what do you make of it?  I mean the polls are showing that Obama is having trouble in those swing states.  Bill Clinton wanting it.  I guess it isn‘t a big surprise.  But isn‘t it getting to the point where the evidence is mounting that Obama may need Hillary Clinton? 

PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  He may need Hillary Clinton.  Look, if he doesn‘t need her and the polls show him up by ten points going into the convention, he won‘t offer it to her because she will take it. 

I do think this - the Clintons are playing a smart game.  And I do believe Barack Obama has got to sort of hold out the offer to her because she‘s got an army of 17 million as large as his.  She has done a tremendous job.  She has certainly earned it.  And if he doesn‘t, he will be blamed quite frankly for alienating her folks and he will be blamed for his own defeat for not taking her.  So they are setting him up.  

JONATHAN ALTER, “NEWS WEEK”:  I‘ve heard from the Obama people, they are not in a mood to get jammed and manipulated into putting her on the ticket if they don‘t want to.  They haven‘t decided not to, but they don‘t want to be forced into making the decision. 

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  When you have half of the votes though ...

ALTER:  You‘re entitled to it?

ABRAMS:  No, not entitled.  But don‘t you have the power to start jamming a little bit even if they don‘t want it? 

ALTER:  That‘s what they are doing.  And they are trying - you can see

that very clearly in the last few days.  They‘ve got the threat hanging

over their heads of taking Michigan and Florida, that question all the way

to Denver in late August, have a whole summer of arguing over procedure

which would be very, very distracting for the Obama campaign.  So that‘s

their weapon that they have.  Basically what the Obama people are saying -

ABRAMS:  They don‘t want her.  They don‘t want her, Jonathan.

ALTER:  If we submit to this - they don‘t want her, you say.  If we submit to this, we don‘t deserve a new president who is so weak.  

ABRAMS:  Well, Jesse -

BUCHANAN:  No.

ABRAMS:  Let me ask Jesse - Jesse, look.  You ran as a candidate for change when you ran.  You‘re basically saying, “I‘m tired of old Washington.  I‘m tired of the way politics is done.”  That‘s along the lines of what Barack Obama has been saying.  Does it mute that message for him to then put Hillary Clinton on the ticket? 

VENTURA:  Well, it all depends how badly they want to win.  If Hillary brings things to the table that can ensure a victory for the Democratic Party, let remember something, both parties will sell out anything to get the victory, you know, that bad.  I don‘t think that is an arguable position. 

They are going to do whatever it takes to try to win because the end justifies the means in their eyes.  They don‘t stand up for anything else.  So it‘s all about winning.  And so, if Obama feels that Hillary can bring victory, Hillary will be on the ticket and she‘ll become the first female vice president.  She‘ll still break new ground.  

ABRAMS:  But see, Pat, I‘m not so sure that‘s the way the Obama camp is looking at it.  

BUCHANAN:  Well, look, I agree with Jesse.  Obama will do and should do what‘s in best interest to be president because he can‘t bring change unless he‘s president. 

But let‘s look at it from Hillary‘s standpoint.  She‘s got a gigantic army.  In the old days, you would naturally uphold these two together.  And if he goes and offers the vice presidency to someone else, he is passing her over; he‘s really kicking her over the side.  He‘s removing her from really the mainstream of history on to a great role, vice president in the historic administration.  She‘s got a right to fight for it.  

ABRAMS:  I think one of concerns should be on the Obama camp side is that they are not thinking about this in terms of winning.  They‘re thinking about the fact that a percentage, a good percentage of the Obama supporters simply disdain Hillary Clinton.  And as a result, they will say, “No way, no how.  We don‘t care if it helps or not.”  

ALTER:  I think they are nor more rational than that.  But look, you have to look at it in terms, do they need her in order to unify the party?  You have to have a unified party going into a general election.  Their calculation may be, look, by the time we get to Denver, there‘s going to be so much excitement about the first African-American to head a ticket.  Obama is an exciting figure.  We don‘t need her to unify the party.  Then comes question number two that Jesse and Pat raised, who helps the most in winning?  Which is what this is about.  She doesn‘t help that much with Jesse Ventura independents.  Maybe Jesse has a better view of that.

ABRAMS:  Jesse, does she? 

ALTER:  It‘s 30 percent of the public.

VENTURA:  Well, you know, it‘s a situation.  Who knows what will happen.  I mean let‘s remember when Ronald Reagan was basically forced to take George Bush as his running mate.  They despised each other during the campaign and yet, they ended up teaming up.  So stranger bed fellows with Democratic and Republican has happened before.  And I would thing that the Democrats would rejoice at a ticket that combines them both.  

ALTER:  Jesse, here‘s my basic question for you, though.  You‘ve got 30 percent of the electorate that are independents.  Would they be more likely to vote Democratic if you had Jim Webb, say, on the ticket with Obama, or Hillary Clinton on the ticket?  That‘s I think where the question is going to go. 

VENTURA:  Well, maybe so, but for me it won‘t matter either way because I refuse to vote for either of these two parties and I never will.  So as far as me as an independent, it doesn‘t matter. 

ABRAMS:  Jesse, are you running for senate in Minnesota? 

VENTURA:  I don‘t know yet.  I‘ll decide in July because I believe that you shouldn‘t run for an office until you can actually file for it.  Imagine that concept.  

ABRAMS:  Everyone is staying with us.  Pat, hang on.  We‘ll come back to all of this in a moment because coming up, we have got the Ellen DeGeneres interview confronting John McCain on her show about gay marriage. 

And McCain confronts the issue of evangelical leader John Hagee whose endorsement he sought, now on tape heard saying the holocaust was Hitler‘s way of fulfilling God‘s will.  McCain rejected his endorsement today.  The panel weighs in on whether that‘s enough. 

Plus, Jay Leno points out that Hillary‘s message must be getting old if she‘s getting responses like that guy on the right.  “Reality Bites” coming up in 60 seconds.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Now to “Reality Bites,” a dose of reality caught on tape.  Tonight, Jay Leno points out how incredibly bored one of Hillary Clinton‘s supporters was at one of her speeches.  Look for the older gentleman to the right of your screen. 

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: 

I was determined to knock on every door and sign up every voter I could find. While we may not have won that election ... the outcome of our elections should be determined by the will of the people - nothing more, nothing less. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) deplorable violations.  It will ensure that every eligible voter can vote (UNINTELLIGIBLE) in our nominating process. 

JAY LENO, COMEDIAN:  Now the big finish. 

(END VIDEO CLIP) 

ABRAMS:  We‘ll be right back.  

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  We‘re back with the all-star panel, Jesse Ventura, Pat Buchanan and Jonathan Alter.  Sen. John McCain appeared on Ellen DeGeneres‘ show today.  And she confronted him on the issue of gay marriage.  

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ELLEN DEGENERES, HOST, “THE ELLEN DEGENERES SHOW”:  I‘m obviously excited, and to me this is only fair and only natural and what are your thoughts? 

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Well, my thoughts are that I think people should be able to enter into legal agreements.  And I think that that is something that we should encourage, particularly in the case of insurance and other areas - decisions that have to be made.  I just believe in the unique status of marriage between man and woman, and I know that we have a respectful disagreement on that issue.  

DEGENERES:  There is this old way of thinking that we are not all the same.  We are all the same people, all of us.  You‘re no different than I am.  Our love is the same.  To me - to me, what it feels like, just - you know, I will speak for myself.  It feels when someone says you can have a contract and you still have insurance and you‘ll get all of that, it sounds to me like saying, “You can sit there but you can‘t sit there.”  

MCCAIN:  We just have a disagreement, and I along with many, many others wish you every happiness. 

DEGENERES:  Thank you, so you‘ll walk me down the aisle.  Is that what you said? 

MCCAIN:  Touche.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Pat Buchanan does this become an issue in 2008? 

BUCHANAN:  Yes, I think it will because of the California Supreme Court decision which was a foolish decision, frankly, from the standpoint of the Democrats.  The Massachusetts Supreme Court decision in 2003-2004 put the thing on the ballot in 13 states and homosexual marriage lost by 58 percent to 85 percent in Mississippi in all 13 and it killed Kerry.  It won‘t be as big but it‘s an issue Barack Obama will say, “Marriage should be between a man and woman.”  He will run away from it.  

ABRAMS:  Jesse, you‘re shaking your head.  

VENTURA:  Well, first of all, I made a statement when I was governor and stand by it today.  Love is bigger than government.  Who the hell are we as a government to tell people who you can fall in love with?  I think it‘s absurd that fact it‘s even being debated. 

We can solve the problem simply.  Government only acknowledges civil unions then you don‘t have to put your sex down.  Let the churches acknowledge marriage.  They are the private sectors.  If they don‘t want to acknowledge it, they have every right to do so.  How on earth can we even entertain the fact that government should have the ability to tell you as an individual who you can fall in love with?  Ridiculous.  

ABRAMS:  Jonathan, real quick.  Is this going to be an issue? 

ALTER:  Let me disagree with Jesse.

ABRAMS:  I want to - Let me say, get Jonathan, because I want to move on.  I mean in 2008, this is going to become an issue.   

ALTER:  I think it‘s not going to be like 2004 because it‘s not going to be on the ballot in nearly as many states and in California where obviously it‘s going to get very hot. 

ABRAMS:  Because there‘s an economy to worry about and -

ALTER:  There are a lot of more important things.  But I did think it was interesting that, you know, John McCain looked here like he had taken a trip to Ellen the orthodontist - very, very uncomfortable.  Even though his position is the same as Obama and Clinton‘s, but they are just more fluent in discussing it in ways that sort of bridge the gaps on this.  

ABRAMS:  Pat, final thought? 

BUCHANAN:  Well, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) marriage is a cinderblock of society.  Historically, it‘s between a man and a woman.  It ought to be set aside for a man and a woman.  If government wants to set up civil unions and benefits for people like that, it ought to be done by elected legislators and not by un-anointed judges who are behaving more like tyrants imposing their values on us.

VENTURA:  Let me throw something out.  You can‘t take a civil rights issue and put it up to a vote.  If you did that, we might still have slavery if it was allowed to be voted on.  

BUCHANAN:  Jesse what about -

(CROSS TALK) 

VENTURA:  (UNINTELLIGIBLE) civil rights and let people vote on it.  

BUCHANAN:  Well, Jesse, what are you talking about?  The Civil Rights Act 1964 was voted on.  The Voting Rights Act of 1965 voted on by congress. 

The Open Housing Act of 1968 was done by LBJ, first went to demonstrations

by Martin Luther King.  These were done by representatives -

VENTURA:  Exactly.

BUCHANAN:  Not by these un-elected judges.

VENTURA:  Well, and not by populace itself, Pat.  If the elected officials stand up for what‘s right and do what‘s right for civil rights like they did back then, I fully agree with you.  But you can‘t put a civil rights issue on the general ballot in a state and let people vote on it because if do you that, in the southern states before you can bet, they would have voted to continue slavery.  

ABRAMS:  John McCain has bigger problems than Ellen DeGeneres.  Today the senator rejected the endorsement of controversial evangelical leader John Hagee, whose endorsement John McCain had sought, after a new audio recording surfaced from the pastor, claiming that Hitler was doing God‘s work, and the Holocaust was Hitler‘s way of fulfilling God‘s will.  

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

PASTOR JOHN HAGEE, EVANGELICAL LEADER:  Then God sent a hunter.  A hunter is someone who comes with a gun and he forces you.  Hitler was a hunter.  How did it happen?  Because God allowed it to happen.  Why did it happen?  Because God said, “My top priority for the Jewish people is to get them to come back to the land of Israel.  

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  That was on top of the fact that Hagee called the Catholic Church the great whore and claimed that God sent hurricane Katrina as punishment for a New Orleans gay pride parade.  Jesse, has he done enough quickly enough with Hagee in rejecting the endorsement today?

VENTURA:  Well, first of all, I thought we separated church and state when it came to politics.  Why do we continue to bring up who, what a minister says in a church, when there‘s supposed to be a separation between the two?  I don‘t care where Barack Obama goes to church.  I don‘t care where John McCain goes to church.  I care how they govern and how they act when they are running my government and don‘t bring church into it. 

But yet the media, this is great stuff, so again, here comes the church.  How - not only that, how can a church person endorse a candidate?  Shouldn‘t they lose their tax exempt status then if they are doing it officially as a minister?  

ABRAMS:  All right.  Jonathan, let me read to you what Sen. McCain said about the Hagee endorsement and he‘s taking a swipe at Obama in the process - “I said I do not believe Sen. Obama shares Rev. Wright‘s extreme views.  But let me also be clear Rev. Hagee was not and is not my pastor or spiritual advisor, and I did not attend his church for 20 years.  I have denounced statements he made immediately upon learning of them as I do again today.”  

ALTER:  Best defense is a good offense.  He‘s engaged in sensible damage control on this by separating himself further from Hagee.  The problem is if they want to have any Republican sponsorship of Rev. Wright ads this fall, Democrats are going to be right back at them with Hagee, with Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell saying that 9/11 was God‘s retribution on America.  And then McCain going down the Liberty University to (UNINTELLIGIBLE) up to them.  So if it‘s descended to this, I don‘t think it‘s actually particularly good for McCain - try to put it behind him.

ABRAMS:  Pat, can he run away from this? 

BUCHANAN:  Sure, I think he can.  Because, look, McCain -he didn‘t

even know this guy.  I think -

(CROSS TALK) 

ABRAMS:  He sought his endorsement. Well, then he‘s a bad leader for seeking and receiving this endorsement.

BUCHANAN:  Dan, let me talk, all right.  Look, he went and got his endorsement.  It proved to be a foolish thing.  He got rid of it.  Nobody thinks there‘s any real close connection between McCain and Hagee.  The problem with Obama is here‘s a guy that introduced him to the Lord.  Here‘s the guy that baptized his children.  Here‘s his religious mentor.  Here‘s a guy whose church he attended for 20 years.  Where did he get all these (UNINTELLIGIBLE) from.

ABRAMS:  Pat, wait.  To Jesse‘s point, McCain made a political choice

a political choice to go after Hagee.  So, if you want to actually make a argument about sort of what is more relevant to leadership.  Isn‘t there an argument to be made that McCain made a political choice to go after Hagee and Obama has a past with Rev. Wright but didn‘t make a political choice to go after him? 

BUCHANAN:  Right, right, right.  Look, McCain is guilty of bad just judgment in not vetting this guy.  What we‘re asking about Barack Obama is, is Rev. Wright representative of the deep views of him and his family ...

ALTER:  ... that‘s a bogus question, though.

BUCHANAN:  ... and those have come out in the words of his wife.  This is what disturbed people all through Appalachia. 

ALTER:  It does disturb people but not rightly so.  That‘s what people have to get past. 

VENTURA:  You know what else is interesting?

ALTER:  There‘s nothing that Barack Obama has said ...

BUCHANAN:  Politics -

ALTER:  ... that in any way - you‘re right politically, Pat.  But

we‘re heart to partly sort out the wheat from the chaff.  And on the merits

of this, the actual history of Obama‘s relationship, you don‘t see the

statements there.  He hasn‘t said anything -

(CROSS TALK) 

ABRAMS:  Go ahead, Jesse.  Hang on.  Let me let Jesse get in here. 

Jesse, go ahead.

VENTURA:  Am I wrong?  But what I‘ve heard about this is Rev. Wright is saying a lot of same things that Martin Luther King said way back in the ‘60s? 

(CROSS TALK)

There was question then where king called it a moral war, Vietnam and all this stuff.  And the point being is that it doesn‘t have any bearing on Barack Obama.  It doesn‘t.  

BUCHANAN:  You know, Jesse is right.

ABRAMS:  May have just created an attack ad to yourself if you run for senate in Minnesota, Jesse.  Thank you Jesse Ventura, author of the new book, “Don‘t Start the Revolution without Me.”  And as always, Pat Buchanan and Jonathan Alter, I appreciate it. 

We‘ll be back with today‘s “Winners and Losers” and your E-mails in the “P.O.‘d Box” in a minute. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  It‘s time for tonight‘s “Winners and Losers” for this 22nd day of May, 2008.  Our first loser, Simon Cowell who is dead wrong about who should be the “American Idol.”  He had praised runner-up David Archuleta and blasted the winner David Cook, who won by 12 million votes last night.  Last night, he apologized to Cook.  

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SIMON COWELL, JUDGE, “AMERICAN IDOL”:  David, I will take this opportunity to apologize because I think I was verging on disrespectful with you.  

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Loser - fringe right-wing radio host Michael Savage who mocked Sen. Ted Kennedy after news broke of his brain tumor.  The right-wing radio host played a bizarre montage featuring Arnold Schwarzenegger from “Kindergarten Cop” and a song of liberal fascism by the band “The Dead Kennedys.”  Savage has yet to apologize. 

But the big loser of the day, long-time John McCain adviser and lobbyist Charlie Black, who lobbied for the wrong people, including ruthless murders, dictators such as Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos and Mobutu Sese Seko of Zaire.  Charlie Black also assisted the countries of Somalia and Kenya. 

Our winner of the day, Raymond Shiver, a junior at Baldwin High School in Baldwin, Florida, who took his 38-year-old mom to the prom.  Why?  Because mom, Kathy, didn‘t go to the prom because she didn‘t go to high school.  So her son gave her the chance to go back in time and attend the prom. 

Time for the “P.O.‘d Box,” your chance to tell me what you love and hate about the show.  A lot of comments after last night‘s show when I asked why Hillary is suddenly using sexism, at least in part, to explain her predicament in the Democratic race. 

First up, Mary from Chicago, “Has sexism played a part in the primary campaign?  Seriously?  You have to ask?  There was the coverage on Hillary Clinton‘s pre-New Hampshire, teary-eyed moment.  During the television debates, Sen. Clinton was met with many more difficult questions.”  I don‘t know about that part, Mary. 

But J.C. Young Thompson from Rocky Point, North Carolina, “When the press fell in love with Obama at the beginning of his presidential run, you were the only one who called your co-workers to task.  But your refusal, now, to see the prejudice that has been leveled at Hillary Clinton because she is a woman disturbs me.”

J.C., as I said last night, there‘s no doubt gender played a role in this election, as did race.  But I‘m suspicious of Clinton for suddenly bringing the issue front and center now.  That‘s all I‘m saying. 

Kevin Jones, “Is sexism the reason the Clinton campaign is $20 million in the hole?  Is sexism the reason the campaign had to relieve not one but two campaign heads early on?  Is sexism the reason for the infamous ‘white people‘ comment?”

Finally, Jacquelyn Coven from Valparaiso, Indiana, “Sexism certainly has had a big influence in the Democratic primary race.  It is probably the biggest reason Clinton has as much support as she does.  Many women are blindly supporting her simply because she is a woman.”

That‘s all the time we have for tonight.  You can E-mail me about the show at verdict@msnbc.com.  Please include your name and where you‘re writing from.  The website - verdict@msnbc.com.  I won‘t be here tomorrow, so have a great weekend.  See you next week.

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

END   

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