updated 5/28/2008 11:12:16 AM ET 2008-05-28T15:12:16

Guests: Tucker Carlson, Ed Rendell, Adam Smith, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, David Iglesias, Paul Rothstein, Kim Serafin, Tanya Acker

DAN ABRAMS, HOST:  Breaking night: In the past five minutes, John McCain has just appeared after a fundraiser with a man you‘d think he‘d want to avoid on the campaign at all costs.  A man he is going to fight to distance himself from during the general election.  Yes, John McCain just stopped for a brief photo-op, every so brief with President Bush on the Phoenix airport tarmac.

The McCain camp has gone to great lengths to avoid pictures with the president.  They even changed the venue from the Phoenix Convention Center to a private home to avoid the White House policy on media access in public places.

So, was it really worth it?  Did he need the money that badly?

Before we go on, joining me now, Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell;

Democratic Congressman Adam Smith; and, MSNBC senior campaign correspondent, Tucker Carlson.

Let me start with you, Governor Rendell.  I mean, this has got to tell you, he‘s got to appear with President Bush, the man he‘s going to try to distance himself with so significantly, that he needs money pretty badly.

GOV. ED RENDELL, (D) PENNSYLVANIA:  Sure he does.  You know what,

Keith?  Sorry, Dan.  You know what?  The American people are a whole lot

smarter than that.  They know that George Bush is the president and he is a

Republican.  They know that John McCain is running for president and he‘s a

Republican.  So, if they run into each other and they have a photo

together, the American people aren‘t going to say -

ABRAMS:  But this isn‘t running into each other.  I mean, let‘s be quite specific about this.  Representative Smith, let me play, Barack Obama talked about this today.  Let‘s play that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  He‘s holding a fundraiser with George Bush behind closed doors in Arizona.  No cameras, no reporters and we all know why.  Senator McCain doesn‘t want to seen hat in hand with the president whose failed policies he promises to continue for another four years.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  But again, they were forced in a way, Representative Smith, to have this moment on the tarmac.  It was so quick.  It was as if they were running away from each other.

REP. ADAM SMITH, (D) WASHINGTON:  Yes.  There‘s going to be a lot more of the running away from each other.  Yes, the money thing is funny.  When I first got elected to Congress back in 1996, I noticed an odd thing in Washington, D.C.

The basic philosophy back there is—almost no matter the circumstances when it comes to campaign fundraising, the philosophy is, take the money and take the hit because the money is better than whatever negative stuff that comes with it.  Now, I never bought into that philosophy.  First, I think you‘ve got to be careful about where you raise your money and under what circumstances.

And certainly, when John McCain is trying to distance himself as much as possible from President Bush‘s policies, this is a connection that just plays up the central theme of, you know, particularly Senator Obama‘s campaign that this is really going to be a third term for President Bush and our country can‘t afford that.

ABRAMS:  Tucker, look, I get that this happens all the time in politics and this is the way politics are done, et cetera.  But as someone who‘s not inside Washington, I look at this and say—my goodness, you know, if I were John McCain, I would be doing everything I could to avoid even that moment with President Bush.

TUCKER CARLSON, MSNBC SENIOR CAMPAIGN CORRESPONDENT:  He‘s trying hard.  He is doing everything he can.

Look, the governor is right.  You know, the president is the head of his party.  You‘re going to run into him from time to time.

The answer here for both Senator McCain and for Senator Obama is to follow their own self-righteous, pompous promises from earlier in the year, and take public financing.  And they won‘t have to go through all of this stuff.  Neither one is going to do it, I don‘t think.

Both of them ought to live up to their own self-described ideals.  But instead, they‘re going to continue to raise money privately, they‘re going to see more stuff like this, but there is no way around it.

ABRAMS:  And this is according to—the “Phoenix Business Journal” says, “Sources familiar with the situation said the Bush-McCain event was not selling enough tickets to fill the convention center space and they were concerns about more anti-war protesters showing up outside the venue than attending the fundraiser inside.”

So, governor, explain to us—why have that moment at all?  Why not literally just do it in private and have no Bush-McCain moment on the tarmac at all?

RENDELL:  Well, it would have been the right thing to do.  But, again, I think you‘ve got to give the American people a little more credit.  They know that Bush is a Republican.  They know that McCain is a Republican.  And I think the big question is—why John McCain has locked himself into the two major tenants of the Bush presidency, the war and the tax cuts? 

That‘s a whole lot more important than appearing -

SMITH:  Absolutely.

ABRAMS:  But it‘s related to the same point.  I mean, you know,

there‘s no question that those -

RENDELL:  But how can you run away from a guy whose policies, the two basic policies you‘ve embraced?

ABRAMS:  Look, I don‘t know how someone is going to run away from it.  Tucker, maybe you can tell us how someone is going to try to run away from it.  But there‘s no question, he‘s going to try.  I mean, the lengths they went today, to avoid these photos tell you how important it is to John McCain to avoid being seen with the president.

Let me get a final thought on this, Tucker, and we go to other breaking news.

CARLSON:  Well, I think, McCain‘s case is going to that his job as president will be to clean up Bush‘s mess.  That‘s the implied message he‘s giving.  He said—look, I‘m the one who can get our troops out of Iraq within four years or whatever the timetable he set out is.  That‘s his message.  He‘s the guy with, you know, the whisk broom who‘s going to clean up after the Bush circus.

ABRAMS:  Also breaking tonight, the former Bush press secretary Scott McClellan has just, quote, “come clean” in a scathing tell-all memoir.  Just obtained by Politico.com tonight, McClellan, who was one of Bush‘s longest-serving advisers, accused the Bush administration of relying on propaganda to sell the war.  He said the White House Press Corps went too easy on the administration during the runup to the war, and alleges that Karl Rove and Scooter Libby held a secret west wing meeting to get their story straight about the CIA leak case and Rove and Libby.

All right.  So, the question here, again - and let me go to you, Representative Smith.  The notion that he is saying that the media, the liberal media wasn‘t hard enough on him and the administration is a stunningly claim.

SMITH:  It is.  Let me—I want to touch briefly on what Tucker said about Senator McCain.

ABRAMS:  Let‘s stay to this.  Let‘s stay on this, Representative Smith, if we can.

SMITH:  OK.  I‘m going to cheat.  I don‘t think it‘s Senator McCain‘s

position to be out of Iraq in four years.  I think that‘s going to be

central point in the fall campaign.  As far as McClellan‘s comments it is a

little surprising and shocking because McClellan seemed -

ABRAMS:  Little?

SMITH:  OK, a lot.  He seemed much more loyal to President Bush and I think it just points out and I think the most damming thing in the whole thing that I saw, was where McClellan describes the obsession with sort of politics posturing and spin over hard truths, honesty and policy.

And of the many things that were wrong with the way the president has run this country in the last seven years, that obsession with the political spin instead of the honest truth, whether it was on Iraq, on economics, on the Valerie Plame scandal, on issue after issue, we got away from the truth and we got into - OK, how do we spin our way out of this.

That‘s the way of policy that we need to leave behind.

ABRAMS:  “Bush and his advisers confuse the propaganda campaign with the high level of candor and honesty so fundamentally needed to build and then sustain public support during a time of war.”

SMITH:  Very well said.

CARLSON:  Wait a second.  Wait, hold on.

ABRAMS:  Go ahead, Tucker.

CARLSON:  Who was selling those lies?  It was Scott McClellan.  This hurts Bush.  But McClellan‘s been hurting Bush for a long time.  Maybe the lamest press secretary in American history, a beneficiary of that weird Bush affirmative action program for the extremely loyal, of which he was one.

It seems to me, he‘s implicated in everything he says.  If Bush was telling lies through whose lips are those lies coming?  Scott McClellan.  He ought to be in ashes and sackcloth.

ABRAMS:  Here‘s what he said.  He said, this is in number five, this is, “I had allowed myself to be deceived into unknowingly passing along a falsehood.”  This is regarded to one falsehood.

McClellan writes, “It would ultimately prove fatal to my ability to serve the president effectively.  I didn‘t learn that what I said was untrue until the media began to figure it out almost two years later.  Neither I believe, did President Bush.  He, too, had been deceived and therefore became unwittingly involved in deceiving me.  But the top White House officials who knew the truth - including Rove, Libby and possibly Vice President Cheney allowed me, even encouraged me, to repeat a lie.”

I mean, look, Governor Rendell, apart from the specifics on its broadest level, this is frightening stuff that‘s happening in government.

RENDELL:  Dan, let me start up by saying I‘m shocked I agree with everything Tucker said.  First of all, I don‘t buy for a minute that this guy was totally deceived.  He is a guy trying to sell a book and he is stabbing his former employers in the back.  And it‘s typical of what goes on in Washington.  That‘s number one.

Number two - is anybody surprised that the Bush administration did this stuff?  I think the American people know by the now they were deceived.  They were deceived and lied to deliberately.  And the problem is, Senator McCain wants to continue what is a campaign of misinformation about our chances of doing anything beneficial in Iraq.  That‘s the central issue as it relates to what is going on now.

Do you think the American people are surprised by any of this stuff?

ABRAMS:  Well, you know, I think by the level, Representative Smith, I think by the amount of the, let‘s say the level of the aggression towards President Bush and towards the administration, I‘ll tell you, I was surprised at reading—we knew that this book was going to be hard on the administration.  But reading the language, let me read you another clip from this that just come out on Politico.

“‘I frequently stumbled along the way,‘ McClellan acknowledges.  ‘My own story, however, is of all importance in the broad historical picture.  More significant is the larger story in which I played a minor role: The story of how the presidency of George W. Bush veered terribly off course.  I still like and admire President Bush but he was terribly ill-served by his top advisers.”

You know, look, am I surprised that someone believes this?  No.  Am I surprised that President Bush‘s press secretary is saying this?  I have to say I am a little.

SMITH:  Yes, absolutely.  It‘s not the information here, it‘s the source of the information that‘s surprising.  And well, Tucker is right.  I mean, this certainly doesn‘t reflect that well on Mr. McClellan.  He is really not the point.

The point is the way the Republicans ran the White House.  And that‘s the issue that go certainly, has impact for what policies we implemented, Iraq being one of the biggest ones, but these economic issues as well and many others.  And going forward, do we want something different?

I mean, this, one of the things that attracted to me to Senator

Obama‘s campaign in the first place is his call for just a fundamental

change in the way we do business in Washington, D.C. precisely because of

this.  Because it is so accepted, precisely, I guess, because to some

degree as the governor says, it‘s not altogether that surprising even if

the source of the accusation -

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  Tucker (INAUDIBLE), go ahead, yes.

CARLSON:  May I make one small point.  Let me just make a small but I think important point.  I listened to Scott McClellan almost everyday for a number of years.  He was, maybe, the only person in America less articulate than the president himself.  There is no way he put together those words by himself.  Complete sentence after complete sentence after complete sentence, I don‘t believe he‘s capable of it.

I‘d like to know who his ghost writer is.  It‘s just appalling.  I mean, it‘s just terrible thing.

ABRAMS:  Well, it maybe.  But more appalling, I think, is the substance of what‘s in the book.

CARLSON:  Yes, maybe.

ABRAMS:  I mean, maybe?  I mean, come on, we‘re talking about he‘s saying that the country was falsely led into a war.

CARLSON:  How are you going to hurt a president whose approval rating is under 30?

ABRAMS:  But you‘re viewing through a political -

CARLSON:  There‘s no person who doesn‘t know this already.

ABRAMS:  Tucker, you‘re viewing from a political prism.  I‘m looking at it through a moral prism.

CARLSON:  But everybody knows this.  But it‘s conventional wisdom.

(CROSSTALK)

RENDELL:  Again, do you think that the Bush administration -

ABRAMS:  I get it.  I get it but hearing it from the press secretary is a little bit different.  We can all say this isn‘t a big deal.  It is a big deal that the president‘s own press secretary is saying all of these awful things about the way our government is run.

Go ahead, Governor Rendell, final word.

RENDELL:  But do you think that anybody thinks that the Bush administration hasn‘t tried to manage and spin the news from the beginning of the campaign when they only let people into rallies, who have people who are supporting them.  I mean, they try to manage and spin everything.

ABRAMS:  Everybody is staying with us.

Coming up, after her now infamous comments about Robert Kennedy‘s assassination, did Hillary Clinton just kiss any chance of being Obama‘s V.P. goodbye?  We‘ll ask another of Obama‘s possible picks, the governor himself.  He may not want to characterize that way.

And Karl Rove speaks out after he was subpoenaed to testify in front of Congress about the prosecutions of former Democratic governor, Don Siegelman.  Rove avoided the question but did not deny talking to the Justice Department about it.

Plus, the secretary of Veterans Affairs suggests concerns over traumatic brain injuries among Iraq veterans are overblown.  He compares it to football.  Another reason Why America Hates Washington coming up in 60 seconds.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Tonight‘s edition of Why America Hates Washington: The secretary of Veterans Affairs downplaying the concern over post-traumatic stress disorder among returning vets.  VA Secretary James Peak was asked about mental health problems facing Iraq veterans.

According to the “Anchorage Daily News,” quote, “Peak suggested some of the concern about post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury has been overblown.  Many of the brain injuries are serious but some are akin to what anyone who played football in their youth might have suffered, Peak said.”

Meanwhile, numbers just released by the army today show almost 14,000 vets were diagnosed with PTSD last night year, a 46 percent increase since 2006.  In all, more than 38,000 vets have been diagnosed since 2003.

The VA secretary diminishing the serious health risks facing our troops by comparing their injuries to football: Another reason Why America Hates Washington.

We‘re back with more on Hillary Clinton.  Has she kissed her V.P. long shot prospects goodbye with the RFK comment?  In a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Welcome back.

Has Hillary Clinton torpedoed any shot she had to be offered the vice presidency?  She set off that political firestorm over the weekend after referencing the date of Robert Kennedy‘s assassination during an answer about why she‘s staying in the race into June.  Clinton quickly apologized for the comment but it didn‘t take long for some on her side to blame Obama camp for the dustup.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, FOX NEWS SUNDAY)

TERRY MCAULIFFE, CLINTON CAMPAIGN CHAIRMAN:  It‘s unfortunate.  A hyped up press over Memorial Day weekend, the Obama campaign enflaming it, tried to take these words out of context.  She was making a point merely about the timeline.

In Friday, they were all part of this process, the press secretary came out and attacked Senator Clinton and got to go on so that story would be around for three days.  It‘s nice to get a story going and then, you know, let it go for three days over the weekend and say—oh, she didn‘t mean anything about it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  The question tonight, was Clinton‘s RFK gaffe the final straw?  Has she irreparably damaged her chances of getting an already super long shot offer to be Obama‘s V.P. candidate?  And would she have been better off if she pulled out of the race after the North Carolina or Indiana primaries earlier this month?

Our panel is still with us.

Representative Smith, you‘re an Obama supporter.  What do you make of Terry McAuliffe‘s comments basically saying that the Obama campaign is to blame for building this up?

SMITH:  I don‘t think that‘s helpful nor do I think that Senator Clinton‘s comments meant anything other than what has since been explained.  Now, certainly, it was a jarring way of putting it.  I guess she was simply saying that there is nothing unprecedented about having the Democratic nominating process go into June.  And I think that‘s true.

There‘s a lot of issues that go in to who the V.P. is going to be.  I don‘t think this is going to be one of the biggest ones.  I do not think it‘s helpful however to now turn around and blame the Obama campaign for this.  And I also think that it‘s really important that both campaigns accept the Democratic process that has led to this nomination as fair, to the degree to which Clinton supporters seemed to imply that they were somehow cheated out of this.

That, I think, is particularly unhelpful and I don‘t think it‘s true.  It‘s been a very close process with two very, very good candidates.  At the end of the day, one of them has got to win.  To call it unfair, I think, is wrong.

ABRAMS:  Here‘s Bill Clinton saying actually what you talked about.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, SUNDAY)

BILL CLINTON, FORMER UNITED STATES PRESIDENT:  I can‘t believe it.  It is just frantic the way they‘re trying to push and pressure, and bully all these superdelegates to come out.  Oh, this is so terrible.  The people may want her.  Oh, this is terrible.  She‘s winning the general election and he‘s not.

Oh, my goodness.  We have to cover this up.  Somebody might actually feel that, you know, if you notice there hasn‘t been a lot of publicity on these polls I just told you, has it?  It‘s the first time you‘ve heard it, didn‘t it?  Why do you think that is?

Why do you think - don‘t you think if the polls were to reverse and he were winning the Electoral College against Senator McCain, and Hillary was losing it, it would be blasted on every television station in America.  You know it, would you?  It wouldn‘t be a little secret.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Governor, look, we‘ve talked about those polls on this program.  But he said - he‘s sounding a little batty in those comments, isn‘t he?  I mean, these conspiracy theories?

RENDELL:  I‘m not sure there‘s conspiracy theory but I would say the Quinnipiac Poll that came out on Friday about Texas, excuse me, about Ohio, Florida, and Pennsylvania, if I were a superdelegate, I would shake my eyeteeth.  Hillary Clinton is clearly the strongest candidate we can field in the fall election.  She‘s carrying Ohio and Florida, Senator Obama isn‘t.  She‘s winning Pennsylvania by twice as big a margin as Senator Obama is.

Now, having said that, do I think if Senator Obama‘s the nominee that he‘s ruled out Senator Clinton because of these remarks?  No.  It is very interesting over the weekend, Senator Obama quoted from the Doris Kearns Goodwin book, “Team of Rivals,” that what a great thing it was the Lincoln put his bitterest rivals into the cabinet and made them part of the government based on confidence.

I think there is a message there and I think that people who are watching this vice presidential sweepstakes should think about that because that‘s exactly what Lincoln did.  His bitterest rivals he made part of the team.

ABRAMS:  Look, I‘ve said, Tucker, from the beginning, I think that Obama has to very seriously consider Hillary Clinton.  And I think that a lot of people in the Obama camp don‘t even want to think about her because they simply don‘t like her.

CARLSON:  Right.

ABRAMS:  But with all of that said, there was a lot of pressure, it

felt like, last week as Hillary Clinton did better in some of these states

than some expected, in Kentucky and West Virginia, et cetera.  It was

getting me that this -

RENDELL:  Yes, better?

ABRAMS:  This is better than many expected.  Yes.

RENDELL:  It‘s stunning, astounding.

ABRAMS:  Yes, look.  She was expected to win by a lot.  She won by even more, otherwise known as better than expected.  I mean, yes.

RENDELL:  Astounding margin.

ABRAMS:  She did better than expected in those states, Tucker.  And I thought there was a lot of pressure that was building on the Obama camp, to even if they didn‘t want to to consider her, do you think these RFK comments relieve some of that pressure?

CARLSON:  Well, I mean, she spanked him in those states.  And I agree with Governor Rendell.  That tells you something potentially important about the general election.

Look, I don‘t think there is any chance they‘ll pick Hillary Clinton, the Obama camp because it turns out that Obama‘s base is sort of uptight good government NPR listeners.  And they‘re offended by the very idea of Hillary Clinton.  She‘s not pure enough for them.  I think you‘d see a revolt of his ranks if he did that.

And by the way, to the congressman‘s point that this has been an entirely fair process, it certainly has not been.  I mean, the voters of Michigan and Florida haven‘t had their votes counted and won‘t in a legitimate way.  Each vote will not count.

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  I don‘t want to get to the Florida-Michigan debate again.  I

know, just -

SMITH:  I got to get in there a couple of times.  First of all, you can cherry pick a lot of polls.  If you look at the Real Clear politics average—Obama versus McCain, Clinton versus McCain—Obama on average of all the polls is still ahead of McCain.

ABRAMS:  But this regardless of states, go ahead (INAUDIBLE).

RENDELL:  It‘s Electoral College.

SMITH:  He‘s ahead in Ohio, he‘s ahead in polls in Pennsylvania.  You can cherry pick polls, but right now, at best, it‘s even.  As far as Michigan and Florida is concerned, I agree that process has been messed up.  But it hasn‘t advantage one candidate over the other.  The rules were the rules for both candidates, and for the most part, they adhered to them.  And this is all we know (ph).

ABRAMS:  And you know the system is skewed when Tucker Carlson becomes

the spokesperson for the Clinton campaign in -

CARLSON:  I‘m not the spokesperson.  Nobody reviles the Clintons more than I.  I‘m just being honest.  I‘m being sincere in this.  I don‘t have an emotional attachment either way.

ABRAMS:  All right.  I got ask -

RENDELL:  I‘m ready to resign as governor, because I have agreed with everything Tucker said tonight.  I can‘t believe it.

ABRAMS:  Well, speaking of resigning as governor, the “Weekly Standard” says, quote, “It doesn‘t take a flight of fancy to imagine Vice President Rendell‘s functioning effectively with President Obama.  He‘s a smart, tough, and respected politician who would no doubt embrace Obama eagerly, fully, and loyally.”

Sir, what say you?

RENDELL:  Well, tell them to read my reviews from my 2000 year as Democratic national chairman working for somebody else.  I don‘t think I‘d be a good number two guy.

ABRAMS:  So, you wouldn‘t take it if you were offered?

RENDELL:  I just don‘t.

ABRAMS:  You wouldn‘t take it if you were offered?

RENDELL:  If Barack Obama came to me and talked to me, I would try to talk him out of it for a lot of reasons.  But that‘s not going to happen.  Look, I think that the “team of rivals” remark is something that you are all missing.  Why would he have mentioned “team of rivals” (INAUDIBLE) so much for doing that?

ABRAMS:  You think it should be Hillary?

RENDELL:  I think that they should discuss it among the two of them.  No staffs because the staffs get to hate each other, but the candidates, and I think there is respect between the two candidates because they both have been through a lot.  They should talk it out together.

ABRAMS:  I agree.

All right.  Governor Rendell, good to have you on the program.  Representative Smith, as always, to you Tucker, thanks a lot.  This has been fun.  Appreciate it.

RENDELL:  Tucker was amazing tonight.  He‘s amazing.

ABRAMS:  Coming up: Karl Rove speaking out for the first time on camera since he was subpoenaed by Congress to testify.  Rove avoided the key question but did not deny contacting the Justice Department about the prosecution of former Democratic governor, Don Siegelman.

And a lot of people have confused the names of Barack Obama and Osama bin Laden.  But not the way one FOX News contributor did.  She tried to turn it into a joke.  Ha ha.

Beat the Press is next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

First up: A number of folks have confused the names of Barack Obama and Osama, as in bin Laden.  Most people correct themselves, not so for FOX News contributor, Liz Trotta.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “AMERICA‘S ELECTION HQ”/FOX NEWS/SUNDAY)

LIZ TROTTA, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR:  Now we have what some are reading as a suggestion that somebody knock off Osama, Obama, well, both, we could.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Trotta later apologized for her, quote, “lame attempt at humor.”

Next up: On CNN, Lou Dobbs had a guest from Media Matters who‘d confront to Dobbs about his show reporting certain myths like about a secret plan to create a NAFTA superhighway four football fields wide from Mexico to Canada.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “LOU DOBBS TONIGHT”/CNN/THURSDAY)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  You have actual evidence that there is a plan that is going to take this all the way from Mexico to Canada.  What is the evidence there?

LOU DOBBS, CNN HOST:  What is the evidence?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes.

DOBBS:  The evidence is straight forward.  It is the reporting - you know, if you really don‘t, you know, I‘m not going to get into.  We don‘t have enough time for this.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Of course you don‘t, Lou.

Finally: The polygamy story can be as confusing as it is disturbing who‘s related to whom.  Not to Larry King when he asked how one of the mothers was doing?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “LARRY KING LIVE”/CNN/THURSDAY)

LARRY KING, CNN HOST:  How is she doing?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I think she‘s pretty grateful, too.  I think she‘s talking to “Larry King Live” in Los Angeles.

KING:  Oh, you‘re—I knew we had a guest appear.  I didn‘t know she was your wife.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Up next: Karl Rove speaking out for the first time since Congress subpoenaed him to testify.  He sure avoided the key questions, but didn‘t deny contacting the Justice Department about the prosecution of the former Democratic governor, Don Siegelman.

Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz from the committee that subpoenaed Rove is with us.

And later: Is it possible Oprah is suffering in ratings in magazines sales because she endorsed Obama, that some are saying?  Coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWS BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Welcome back.  Karl Rove on camera talking about congress‘ subpoena of him.  It‘s an update on our “Bush League Justice” series.  At issue, whether Rove played a role of prosecution of former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman, a Democrat. 

Last week, Rove was served a subpoena by the House Judiciary Committee, and so far, Rove has refused to testify.  Well, he‘s got until July 10.  On ABC, Sunday morning, he was asked whether he contacted the justice department about the Siegelman case.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)  

KARL ROVE, FORMER DEPUTY CHIEF OF STAFF TO PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: 

I read about it.  I‘m going to simply what I said before which is I found about Don Siegelman‘s investigation and indictment by reading about it in the newspaper. 

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, HOST, “THIS WEEK WITH GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS”: 

But that‘s not a denial. 

ROVE:  You know, I heard about it, read about it, learned about it for the first time by reading about it in the newspaper. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Heard about it, learned about it - that is not exactly an answer leading to more questions and answers. 

Joining me now is Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a member of the House Judiciary Committee.  Thanks very much for coming on.  We appreciate it. 

All right.  So far, Karl Rove has basically said that he is not going to testify.  He is citing executive privilege, et cetera.  The chairman of your committee, Rep. Conyers is threatening to have him arrested.  Is that a real possibility? 

REP. DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ (D), FLORIDA:  Well, it‘s certainly avoidable if Karl Rove makes the right decision and comes before the House Judiciary Committee to testify, because he is asserting executive privilege where it is inappropriate.  It was clear from what we have been able to learn so far that the president himself had no communication on this issue with Karl Rove and that this was a case where Karl Rove appears to have acted alone.  And there is no executive privilege available to him in this case. 

So he just needs to be forthright, come to the judiciary committee and talk about what he knows because we‘ve got to hold the imperial presidency that President Bush conducted accountable. 

ABRAMS:  Look, we‘re going to debate the legal side of the executive privilege in a minute.  But as a practical matter, the White House has made it pretty clear they are not going let him testify.  Rove‘s lawyer has now cited executive privilege.  Rove is making it clear, I think, implicitly that he is not going to testify although he hasn‘t specifically stated that thus far. 

What happens if he doesn‘t testify?  They say, “Look, executive privilege, executive privilege, executive privilege.  We don‘t want him to testify.”  His lawyer says, “I don‘t want him to testify.”  What do you guys do? 

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ:  Well, I think we‘ll pursue it, you know, to the maximum extent possible as Chairman Conyers said. 

ABRAMS:  Arrest him? 

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ:  Well, if that‘s what it takes.  I mean we really cannot allow the co-equal branch of government, the legislative branch, to be trampled upon by the executive branch.  The founding fathers established three branches of government.  We are a co-equal branch, and this is an administration that essentially has ignored and disrespected the role of the legislative branch for far too long. 

And because we need to make sure that we preserve congress‘ role as a check over the administration in future presidencies, we can‘t just let this go.  It is a matter of the constitution. 

ABRAMS:  Here is Karl Rove on Sunday morning basically saying he has offered the House a lot of opportunities to talk to him about it.  Let‘s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROVE:  The White House has offered and my lawyer offered several different ways in which if the house wants to find out information about this, they can find out information about this.  And they refused to avail themselves of those opportunities. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  What do you make of that? 

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ:  You know, if their offer is anything like the offers of previous White House officials, it means that we would get very little information out of them.  They aren‘t willing to testify under oath.  They aren‘t willing to be deposed in a way that we can make sure that we get the information that we need.  They don‘t get to pick and choose. 

ABRAMS:  He said he would answer - you know what he said, right?  He said he would answer questions from the committee but there could be no transcript taken ...

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ:  Right.  I mean—

ABRAMS:  ... and it wouldn‘t be under oath.  He says he‘d answer written questions, et cetera.  But that‘s really beside the point.

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ:  That is not accountability. 

ABRAMS:  Yes.

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ:  Yes.  I mean, Dan, you know that.  That is not accountability.  That is picking and choosing the information that they would like to provide.  We have no ability to independently verify the information, no ability to go back and make sure that we can check the facts.  That is not the role that the founding fathers envisioned for the congress. 

The Judiciary Committee, our role is to make sure we can keep the administration in check when there has been an abuse of power.  And there‘s a big question mark here, so much so that the Office of Professional Responsibility in the Department of Justice is investigating what has occurred.  And we are waiting for them to come back to us with that report.  But it was not within Karl Rove‘s options to refuse to testify or assert executive privilege here.  We are going to make sure we bring him in front of the committee. 

ABRAMS:  Representative, thanks for taking the time to come on the program.  We appreciate it.

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ:  Thanks so much for having me. 

ABRAMS:  So the issue of executive privilege is at the heart of Karl Rove‘s refusal to testify.  Here‘s what Rove said about it on Sunday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROVE:  This is really about a constitutional question of separation of powers, congress, the House Judiciary Committee, wants to call presidential aides on its whim up to testify violating the separation of powers.  Executive privilege has been asserted by the White House in similar incidents in the senate.  It will probably be asserted very quickly in the House. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  But since Rove has said he didn‘t talk to the White House about the Siegelman case, what is the executive privilege. 

Joining me 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.  And Professor of Constitutional Law at Georgetown University, Paul Rothstein.  Thanks to both of you.

All right.  Mr. Iglesias, I mean what is the argument here that says you have to testify even if you are citing executive privilege? 

DAVID IGLESIAS, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY:  Well, Dan, this is America.  We believe in the rule of law.  You can‘t just ignore a subpoena.  If a court or congress gives you a subpoena, you‘ve got to show up and then claim the privilege.  What Rove is saying, like Myers(ph) and Bolton before him is we can just ignore it.  There is no legal - or somebody once famous who said there is no controlling legal authority for that. 

ABRAMS:  Professor, I‘ve got to tell you, the congresswoman we just talked to and Chairman Conyers, both have talked about the possibility of actually arresting Rove if need be.  They‘re serious about this. 

PAUL ROTHSTEIN, PROFESSOR OF CONSTITUTIONAL LAW, GEORGETOWN

UNIVERSITY:  Well, yes.  As much as it pains me to say this because I think these guys in the administration have been trying to politicize the Justice Department from top to bottom and it‘s unprecedented in the history of this country so I would like to see them brought to justice.  But at least at the present time, it seems to me as I read the precedent that the president and Karl Rove have executive privilege here. 

There are two things that militate in favor of executive privilege here.  One is that Karl Rove is such a high adviser to the president and the second one is that this is an inquiry into the president‘s control over the Justice Department and after all the Justice Department is in the executive branch which the president heads.  So at least at the present time until something more develops, some good evidence of real illegality here, I think there is executive privilege. 

There are some other options open to congress.  For example, they can get information from people in the Justice Department about what was going on here.  They also have a procedure where instead of asking the president to have his Justice Department prosecute Karl Rove for contempt, congress has its own contempt power ...

ABRAMS:  Well, that‘s right.

ROVE:  ... or they could send a representative of congress to civil court to get a declaration. 

ABRAMS:  But look, what I don‘t understand is you are saying that it depends on if we learn about more illegality.  Let‘s take Karl Rove out of this for a minute, all right?  Let‘s just talk about someone close to a president committing illegal acts or whatever the standard would be.  You‘re saying no matter what they do they can always say executive privilege, executive privilege and refuse to testify? 

ROTHSTEIN:  No.  If there is a fairly strong case of evidence of clear illegality, not just something that could be political, could be illegal, then the executive privilege would not apply. 

(CROSS TALK) 

ABRAMS:  Mr. Iglesias, why don‘t you make the case?

IGLESIAS:   Pardon me? 

ABRAMS:  I‘m going to let Mr. Iglesias make the case.  Go ahead.

IGLESIAS:  Dan, I have to respectfully disagree with the professor. 

If you go to the landmark case, United States versus Nixon, 1974 U.S.  Supreme Court case, it talks about communications between the president and his advisers.  Right now, it‘s beyond dispute that President Bush had nothing to do with the Siegelman prosecution according to the words of Rove and others.  So that communication doesn‘t apply.  They are waving it about like a magic incantation and it doesn‘t work that way.  Rove has to show up.  He‘s got to testify, and if he has a legitimate privilege, he‘s got to raise it at that time. 

ABRAMS:  Yes.  And final word for the professor.  The disputed - Rove says he didn‘t have conversations with the White House, and that makes it very hard to say, “I need to protect the conversations I had with the White House even though I didn‘t have any.” 

ROTHSTEIN:  The District of Columbia Court of Appeals since the Nixon case said that this privilege covers not only communications with the president but communications amongst his top advisers in view of presidential business. 

So - and anyway, it‘s not Karl Rove‘s to waive by saying, “Oh, I didn‘t have any communications.”  First of all, we don‘t know if that‘s true.  It wasn‘t under oath or wasn‘t subject to penalty for perjury.  You can say anything you want to the press. 

ABRAMS:  Yes.

ROTHSTEIN:  So it seems to me - and by the way, there are many

instances -

ABRAMS:  Then we are dealing with more dishonesty if that‘s the case. 

But anyway we -

ROTHSTEIN:  Well, it might be.  There are many instances where in the law people can stay off the stand.  They don‘t have to come to court just to point privilege.

ABRAMS:  Let‘s remember congress can deal with this in their own way if they so choose.  There is a little jail, a little holding cell in the bottom of the congress if they decide.  I don‘t think they are going to do that.  But anyway - David Iglesias, Professor Paul Rothstein, thanks a lot.  Appreciate it. 

ROTHSTEIN:  Thanks, Dan.

ABRAMS:  Up next, Oprah‘s ratings and magazine circulation falling.  Now, some saying it‘s because she endorsed Obama?  And sucker punch after a game could lead to assault charges for a little leaguer.  “Reality Bites” coming up in 60 seconds.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Now to “Reality Bites,” tonight, a little league player who will never get a post game cheer.  Watch what happens after the game.  All the players have shaken hands.  This kid takes the opportunity to throw a sucker punch at an opposing team member.  The player who was punched had to go to the emergency room for stitches.  The sucker puncher is being investigated on a possible assault charge.  We‘ll be right back. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OPRAH WINFREY, HOST, “THE OPRAH WINFREY SHOW”:  Because we only get to choose one president, I came out here tonight to tell you I believe that choice should be Barack Obama. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Campaigning for Barack Obama in December at a campaign rally in Iowa.  Obama went on to win Iowa which belongs to his campaign.  But what about Oprah?  She hasn‘t been doing as well and new ratings figures show the “Oprah Winfrey Show” has lost almost two million viewers over three years, down seven percent this year alone.  Oprah‘s magazine has lost readers, too, almost 300,000 since 2004. 

So is it fair to say that Oprah‘s recent decline is a result of her support of Barack Obama?  Joining me now Kim Serafin, senior editor of “In Touch Weekly,” political analyst Tanya Acker, and MSNBC senior campaign correspondent Tucker Carlson. 

Tucker, is it fair? 

TUCKER CARLSON, MSNBC SENIOR CAMPAIGN CORRESPONDENT:  Well, think about what the show is about.  This is program whose unifying theme is, “Men have done you wrong but you survived and prevailed.”  Basically, the people who watch “Oprah,” that‘s Hillary‘s base.  I mean that is who is voting for Hillary Clinton.  So, of course, it is alienating. 

ABRAMS:  Tanya? 

TANYA ACKER, POLITICAL ANALYST:  Well, first off, I‘m not even going to get into what a ludicrous characterization that is of the queen of all media show. 

CARLSON:  That‘s true. 

ACKER:  But on a serious note, I think we should be clear about what it means to say that Oprah‘s ratings have fallen off.  She still has the number one daytime talk show.  Her ratings are still about a third higher than the number two show, “Dr. Phil,” which is also, by the way, her creation. 

Did she take a hit for being so out there in public about a political candidate?  Perhaps, and I know that there was a lot of very gendered criticism with women saying that she should be supporting a woman.  You know, but look, I mean that is unfair as saying that black people shouldn‘t support Sen. McCain or Sen. Clinton for that matter.  So you know, she took a hit but she‘ll be fine.

ABRAMS:  Yes, without making a judgment on her, Kim, I mean the bottom line is Oprah‘s unfavorability ratings have gone up.  You look at January 2007, favorable, 74 percent; October 2007, 66 percent.  Unfavorable, up from 17 to 26. 

KIM SERAFIN, SENIOR EDITOR, “IN TOUCH WEEKLY”:  She definitely took a

hit.  I mean obviously, a lot of her core audience are the people that are

supporting Hillary - middle aged white women, obviously.  But I think with

Oprah, the thing she does best is she knows how to connect with her

audience.  And I think Oprah would be the first person out there to talk

about her mistake, to correct her mistake.  I mean you know -

ABRAMS:  She is not going to say, “I made a mistake.” 

SERAFIN:  No, no.  But you notice that she has not been on the campaign trail with Obama since December.  You also have to look at that the ratings have declined in the past three years.  It hasn‘t been since just since the rallies she was at.  I mean this is something - and all TV in general has declined.  I mean a lot of the broadcast networks have been losing viewership. 

ABRAMS:  But Tanya, it‘s definitely true that Oprah has not been as visible - Kim‘s right - in the Obama campaign since her initial support. 

ACKER:  No question.  I mean look, I dare say that Oprah probably doesn‘t regret having been so vocal in support of senator Obama.  But I think it is also probably fair to suggest that she didn‘t expect the backlash to be as fierce as it was.  I mean for women to suggest that she was a traitor for supporting a political candidate was both unfair and unfounded but it was there.  There was that sentiment there.  So I wouldn‘t be surprised if she was going to tone it down from here and out.

ABRAMS:  Tucker, go ahead.

CARLSON:  If she didn‘t expect that, then she is not as smart as she seems.  Politics is about division.  It‘s about dividing people.  I know all the rhetoric is all about inclusion, but that‘s not true. 

In real life, politics sets people against one another.  Of course, you like this candidate.  I like that candidate.  We are at loggerheads by definition.  Oprah is the ultimate mass market entertainer.  She is a genius at it and she succeeded by including people.  So the two goals getting a specific candidate elected and being the most popular person in the world are mutually exclusive, and she should have known that.

SERAFIN:  But she also, I mean -

ACKER:  Her show is not a political show.  I‘m sorry to interrupt. 

Here show is not a political show.

SERAFIN:  And she hasn‘t talked about Obama on her show.  I mean

that‘s the thing.  This is different outside - 

ABRAMS:  Right.  But I think that Tucker‘s point, Tanya, is that she‘s made her show political - an apolitical show political I think is his point.  Or her persona political. 

ACKER:  I think that‘s his point but I would disagree with it to the

extent that, you know what?  If she were a political person and took this

very public stance in favor of somebody, I could see the backlash.  She‘s

got a very - she‘s taken a public stance -

ABRAMS:  But if you are a political person, you expect it, though. 

Right, Tanya?  I mean  if you‘re a political person, you expect it.

ACKER:  You may expect it, but, look - but when she goes on the air every day to talk to people about, you know, self-improvement or home makeovers, I mean I dare say that she should be able to have a political opinion and that somebody shouldn‘t hold that against her when she‘s talking about buying a new sofa. 

ABRAMS:  I‘m not making a judgment.  I‘m just saying that it seems that it has had an impact.  I think everyone agrees that it has had some an impact.

SERAFIN:  But I don‘t think people think of her as a political person now.

CARLSON:  Well, wait a second.  Hold on.  The idea where -

ABRAMS:  I‘ve to wrap it up, Tucker.  Five seconds. 

CARLSON:  To be able a political opinion and no one can hold it against you?  Come on this is adult politics. 

SERAFIN:  No, I didn‘t say that.

ABRAMS:  Kim, Tanya, Tucker.  Got to wrap it up.  Thank you.

Up next, will tonight‘s big winner or loser be Bob Barr who won the Libertarian Party presidential nomination but still has to overcome Borat?  A French sky diver who lost his balloon but still has hopes for a world record?  Or “Sex and the City, The Movie” which has won the most free press in New York and didn‘t have its real premier here.  Your E-mails in the “P.O.‘d Box” when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  It‘s time for tonight‘s “Winners and Losers.”  Our first loser, French sky diver Michel Fournier whose dream of breaking the record for longest free fall was deflated earlier today after the multimillion dollar balloon that was to take him all the way up broke away, leaving the 64-year-old and his capsule on the ground. 

Loser, the Spokane Chiefs, winners of the Canadian Hockey League‘s Memorial Cup, but losers after the game when captain Chris Burton handed the trophy over to his teammate.  It broke into two, fell to the ice in several pieces.  Don‘t worry.  It was just a replica.  The Chiefs will still get their real and fully intact trophy.

Our big loser, “Sex and the City, The Movie.”  Hysteria for the film reached its pinnacle with the premiere of the movie being held across the street from us tonight at Radio City here in New York.  So why are they losers?  Because it‘s about New York and they already had, quote, “premieres” in London and Berlin.  But I‘m still convinced.

Our big winner of the bay, Bob Barr.  The Libertarian Party picked him as its presidential candidate yesterday.  The former Georgia Republican congressman could become John McCain‘s, quote, “Ralph Nader” in the general election.  But first he will have to overcome the Borat effect.  

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SACHA BARON COHEN, ACTOR:  We are good friend, Bob Barr, yes? 

BOB BARR, LIBERTARIAN PARTY PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  I hope so.  

COHEN:  It is custom to have cheese at the start? 

BARR:  Thank you.  

COHEN:  And my wife, she makes this cheese.  

BARR:  Very nice.  

COHEN:  She makes it from the milk from her (DELETED). 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Oh, it‘s time for the “P.O.‘d Box,” your chance to tell me what you hate or love about the show.  First up, many still weighing in on the idea of an Obama-Clinton ticket. 

Richard MacLean from Syracuse, “I truly feel that if the Obama people put action to their words, then they would ask Sen. Clinton to be the VP for the good of the Democratic Party.  But the Obama supporters are acting like spoiled little rich kids, who if they don‘t get their way, are going to take their baseball and go home.”

Angela writes, Obama supporters have been watching this campaign since Iowa.  We don‘t like her.  We cannot stand her.  She is too polarizing and we don‘t want her on his ticket.”

Abby Grove, “I know that an Obama-Clinton ticket will result in an Obama-Clinton-Clinton White House.  Obama will not be able to function as president with the Clintons in the background, undercutting everything that he is working for.”

ABRAMS:  I guess the first question, Abby, is who will help him best win the presidency? 

That‘s all the time we have for tonight.  You can E-mail us about the show at verdict@msnbc.com.  Please include your name and where you‘re writing from.  Our Web site is Verdict.MSNBC.com.  Thanks for watching.  See you tomorrow.

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

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