updated 6/2/2008 11:20:43 AM ET 2008-06-02T15:20:43

Guests: Eugene Robinson, Rachel Maddow, John Harwood, Pat Buchanan

DAVID GREGORY, HOST: Tonight, the fallout from Scott McClellan‘s book gets more furious as the Democrats gear up for their final act, as THE RACE FOR THE WHITE HOUSE rolls on.

Welcome to THE RACE.  I‘m David Gregory.  Happy to have you here, your stop for the fast-paced, the bottom line and every point of view in the room. 

Tonight, Obama‘s new pastor problem; Bob Dole‘s finger in the eye to Scott McClellan, with a nasty note to follow; and in “Three Questions,” why John McCain is saying never again. 

The bedrock of the program, as you know, an all-star panel that always comes to play. 

And with us tonight, Pat Buchanan, former presidential candidate and author of the just released “Churchill, Hitler and the Unnecessary War,” a little something provocative from Pat Buchanan.  “How Britain Lost its Empire and the West Lost the World.”  Rachel Maddow, host of “The Rachel Maddow Show” on Air America.  Gene Robinson, columnist and associate editor of “The Washington Post.”  All three MSNBC political analysts.

And John Harwood, chief Washington correspondent for CNBC and political writer for “The New York Times”.  He‘s also the co-author of a new book, “Pennsylvania Avenue: Profiles in Backroom Power.”

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

I‘ll get us started here tonight. 

My headline, “More Pulpit Politics.”  Barack Obama again has to answer for a faithful friend embarrassing him and his campaign from the pulpit. 

First, the Jeremiah Wright.  Now the reverend Father Michael Pfleger, a guest preacher at Trinity United Church of Christ and a former adviser to the Obama campaign.  Last Sunday, he brought down the house at Trinity by taking on Hillary Clinton. 

Watch. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FATHER MICHAEL PFLEGER:  We must be honest enough to expose white entitlement and supremacy wherever it raises its head. 

When Hillary was crying and people said that was put on, I really don‘t believe it was put on.  I really believe that she just always thought, this is mine. 

(APPLAUSE)

Bill‘s white, I‘m white, and this is mine.  I‘ve just got to get up and step into the place.  And then out of nowhere came, hey, I‘m Barack Obama. 

And she said, oh, damn!  Where did you come from?  I‘m white!  I‘m entitled!  There‘s a black man stealing my show! 

(APPLAUSE)

She wasn‘t the only one crying.  There was a whole lot of white people crying! 

I‘m sorry.  I don‘t want to get you in any more trouble.  The live streaming just went out again.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GREGORY:  Well, Obama wasted little time responding.  He didn‘t seek to explain Father Pfleger, and the Illinois senator was not in church at the time.  He did release a statement.  He said this: “I‘m deeply disappointed in Father Pfleger‘s divisive, backward-looking rhetoric which does not reflect the country I see or the desire of people across America to come together in common cause.”

Reverend Pfleger—Father Pfleger, rather—apologized as well, but Senator Clinton wants more.  She issued a statement saying this: “Divisive and hateful language like that is totally counterproductive in our efforts to bring our party together and have no place at the pulpit or in our politics.  We are disappointed that Senator Obama didn‘t specifically reject Father Pfleger‘s despicable comments about Senator Clinton and assume he will do so.”

So, how big a deal is all of this?  Well, it‘s  unlikely to hurt Obama much now that the primary is on the verge of completion.  But as the general election campaign rolls on, it will again raise the issue of Obama‘s tie to this congregation, that has repeatedly been a hotbed of controversy and incendiary rhetoric.  What is this community that he was part of for 20 years?

More immediately, Obama‘s association in this case may make it more difficult to bring his party together and will do little to dampen the view among Clinton‘s female supporters that she has been treated unfairly in this race. 

Pat Buchanan, your headline tonight?  You‘re thinking about the same thing.

PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  I sure am.

What in the name of heaven is going on in Barack Obama‘s church?  Look, this Father Pfleger‘s apology is preposterous, it‘s ridiculous.  He knew exactly what was saying.

It was a long, extended speech.  It is radical socialism being preached from the pulpit of Reverend Wright‘s church.  Here‘s what else he had to say about us white folks. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PFLEGER:  You have enjoyed the benefits of what your ancestors did.  And unless you are ready to give up the benefits, throw away your 401 fund, throw away your trust fund, throw away all the money that‘s been put away in the company you walked into because your daddy and your granddaddy and your—unless you‘re willing to give up the benefits, then you must be responsible for what was done in your generation, because you are the beneficiaries of this insurance policy! 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BUCHANAN:  Barack Obama cannot be oblivious to what‘s being preached from the pulpit of that church of his.  This is radical socialism, this is exhibit D in the case that Barack Obama has got one foot at least in the hard left camp of the Democratic Party. 

GREGORY:  All right.

Moving on, Rachel, you‘re thinking about the war and John McCain tonight. 

Your headline? 

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  I am, although I have to say I‘m looking forward to talking to Pat more about that later on this hour. 

But my headline tonight is on a different subject.  “McCain‘s Strong Suit Maybe is Not So Strong.”

Senator McCain has made another gaffe on what is supposed on the his strongest suit in this election, the war in Iraq.  Here he is speaking in Wisconsin yesterday. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  I can tell you that it is succeeding, I can look you in the eye and tell you it‘s succeeding.  We have drawn down to pre-surge levels. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  The Obama campaign went after McCain on this today, pointing out that, actually, our troop numbers are nowhere near pre-surge levels in Iraq.  Democrats are putting this gaffe in context of McCain‘s mix-up of Sunnis and Shia, his confusion about Iran and al Qaeda, his widely ridiculed claims about the peacefulness of marketplaces in Baghdad. 

The problem for the Democrats with all this, though, is that this critique is not sinking in.  A Rasmussen poll out today says voters trust McCain over Obama on the issue of Iraq by a 12-point margin, yet further evidence that the Democrats have not as all started to dent McCain‘s public image.   

GREGORY:  All right.  A lot to go on that as well.  We‘ll do a general election War Room tonight.

Gene, you‘re thinking about McCain and the McClellan book and what the DNC is doing to try to connect the two. 

EUGENE ROBINSON, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  That‘s right, David.  But first of all, I can‘t wait to talk to pat about Reverend Pfleger either. 

(LAUGHTER)

ROBINSON:  But my headline tonight is “DNC Wastes No Time in Linking McClellan and McCain.”

Already the DNC, the Democratic National Committee, has come out with an ad that links John McCain to some of the more startling revelations in Scott McClellan‘s book about how we were sold this bill of goods on Iraq and all the stuff that he came out with.  It is another step forward in the Democrats‘ attempt, successful, I think, thus far, to tie John McCain with George W. Bush. 

GREGORY:  All right.

John Harwood, your headline tonight? 

JOHN HARWOOD, CNBC CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT:  My headline is “Division Time,” David.

The looming end of the Democratic primary campaign means the beginning of the general election, and that means in response to Gene‘s point, a much more aggressive attempt by John McCain to distance himself from President Bush on the management of the Iraq war, on torture, on spending, on energy, on stem-cell research.  And the Bush White House, which now sees John McCain has the protector of its priorities on Iraq and tax cuts, says knock yourself out, John McCain, that‘s just fine with us. 

GREGORY:  All right.  We‘ve got a busy opening round here.

When we come back, more on this new pastor problem for Barack Obama.  And guess what?  Everybody gets to talk to Pat about his take on this new pastor problem.  That‘s coming up right after this break. 

RACE FOR THE WHITE HOUSE comes right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

GREGORY:  We‘re back and we‘re inside the War Room talking about the Obama camp‘s new pastor problem.  A little bit of damage control now scrambling to manage Father Pfleger‘s inflammatory comments about Senator Clinton as the campaign heads into this decisive final weekend. 

So, how does the Obama camp respond?  Pat has some things to say about this.

Rachel, you want to get into this.  How big of a problem is it? 

MADDOW:  I think that this is going to be as big of a problem as the media makes it out to be.  I think that these are absolutely inflammatory statements.  The guy has a very dramatic style.

The reason that I mentioned that I wanted to get into this with Pat is that, Pat, I‘m interested in your take on this, but I am surprised to hear you say that the problem here is radical socialism.  You can disagree with a lot of the things the guy said, but I think calling it commie is a little bit wacky.  I don‘t think that‘s the way most people are going to react to this.

Essentially, if you strip away his inflammatory style, his intensity here, what he‘s saying is part of the way racism works in this country is that white people think they‘re entitled to all the best stuff in the country, and there‘s a general freak-out when a non-white person takes what is seen as a white person‘s job. 

That doesn‘t seem like all that controversial a statement.  It‘s something that you exploited, a great political effect for many years before I was born, Pat. 

BUCHANAN:  Look, Rachel...

MADDOW:  It‘s not socialism here.  That‘s the issue.

BUCHANAN:  Look, this may not be radical stuff on Air America, but let me tell you, the guy talks about dispossessing white people, and you‘ve got all these things by virtue of entitlement.  It is anti-white, it is leftist. 

What is he doing preaching from the pulpit of Reverend Wright?  It is the same, hard, leftist ideology, afro-racism.  All the rest of it.  I mean, what else do they preach there?  The only time they mention God‘s name is to damn America, it seems out there.

ROBINSON:  Pat...

BUCHANAN:  And this is the church Barack Obama went to for 20 years. 

GREGORY:  Hey, Gene, I want to give you—hold on, Gene.  I want to give you a comment, and then I want to move on to the weekend. 

ROBINSON:  Well, no, I just want to point something out.  When we were talking about Reverend Wright, Pat, you and others said, well, he was his pastor, he was a pastor for 20 years.  How could his pastor say such a thing?

This wasn‘t his pastor.  Well, he—Obama heard all these inflammatory things.  Obama wasn‘t there. 

Are we going to hold every candidate responsible to anything that‘s ever been said anywhere they have ever been?  This is absurd. 

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN:  The point is...

ROBINSON:  It would be like saying, Gene Robinson, how could you sit there while Pat Buchanan says all that crazy stuff? 

BUCHANAN:  This is—the problem is...

GREGORY:  Guys—hold on, guys.  I don‘t want to talk a lot of talking over each other.

I want to get in here and say to John Harwood, the issue here is a question of, this was a community that he was part of for 20 years.  No, he was not here for this.  But the point that Pat brings up, which is a lot of Americans, a lot of voters are being introduced to this community, maybe it‘s an incomplete picture.  They‘re being introduced to a community that‘s not talking a lot about God, it‘s talking a lot about politics. 

HARWOOD:  Well, look, if the United States electorate comes to believe that Barack Obama believes all the things that Reverend Pfleger—or Father Pfleger said in that clip that you showed, that‘s bad for Barack Obama.  That is not going to be popular rhetoric. 

But on the other hand, I‘m sympathetic with Gene‘s point.  This was not anything that Barack Obama said.  I mean, pretty soon we‘re going to be talking about, you know, somebody in the children‘s choir gives somebody else a wedgy and they blame Barack Obama for it. 

(LAUGHTER)

BUCHANAN:  Let me talk briefly.  By their friend shall you know them.

You‘ve got Bill Ayers.  You‘ve got Reverend Wright.  You‘ve got Pfleger at the same pulpit.

What is going on in that church?  This is the church to which he belongs. 

HARWOOD:  Yes, but Pat, there‘s a lot of funky stuff that gets said at conservative churches.  But if it‘s not said by John McCain, how far down that road do we want to go? 

BUCHANAN:  Here‘s how far you go.  If John McCain was in Reverend Hagee‘s church for 20 years, I‘d say, you‘ve got to explain exactly why you sat there and listened to this for 20 years. 

GREGORY:  OK.  Let me—let me move on.

ROBINSON:  He listened to Reverend Wright.  He didn‘t listen to Reverend Pfleger. 

GREGORY:  This debate is going to continue, but I‘m going to move on.

Next up, the Clinton campaign going to the Rules and Bylaws Committee meeting tomorrow with a clear plan of attack to demand that all the delegates in Florida and Michigan are seated.  Really the final argument here.

Take a look at the number of delegates at stake.  Michigan, a total of 157.  Clinton one 55 percent of them.  Obama not on the ballot there, which translates into 73 delegates for her. 

Now, Florida has 211.  Clinton won 50 percent of those, translating into 105.  That means the most that Clinton can hope to take home tomorrow is 178 delegates.  But the most likely number is much lower, somewhere between 19 and 28. 

So, how does the Clinton camp get this resolved?  If they ask for too much, could that hefty demand backfire on them, leaving them with nothing? 

Rachel, how do you see this now, the final act? 

MADDOW:  I think the whole point is that the demand is unreasonable.  And it is unreasonable in a technical sense. 

The Democratic Party‘s lawyers this week have said that the Rules and Bylaws Committee doesn‘t even have the power to issue—to seat the entire delegation from both of those states.  The point is that this demand cannot be met, and therefore they must appeal it, and therefore it must go to the Credentials Committee, because Credentials Committee decisions don‘t get resolved until the convention. 

GREGORY:  Yes.

MADDOW:  This is a way to stay in the race. 

GREGORY:  John Harwood, a lot of talk about a 50/50 split, which ultimately is not determinative of anything.  Now there‘s a question of, how much passion, how much fire do you show outside of this Rules and Bylaws Committee? 

We know that the Clinton camp is going to have a big protest in place.   Obama says, no, we‘re not going to do that.  But at the click of a mouse they could. 

How does that play?

HARWOOD:  Well, first of all, David, I think that when you say Clinton won those delegates in Michigan and Florida, I think the proper term is “one,” with the little finger quote marked, because there was no contest in either state. 

GREGORY:  Right.

HARWOOD:  Second of all, Barack Obama‘s campaign is smart to try to turn down the volume, turn down the heat on this protest.  They don‘t want a big fight in the streets over these delegates.  They want to calm this—they want to placate Hillary Clinton‘s forces...

GREGORY:  Yes.

HARWOOD:  ... make them feel they got a concession.  They‘re going to go more than halfway and try to move on and get to Tuesday, when they can be done with this Democratic primary.

BUCHANAN:  David...

GREGORY:  A quick comment, Pat.  Then I take a break.  Go ahead.

BUCHANAN:  David, Hillary wants to make a demand that he knows they will not meet.  They want confrontation, they don‘t want resolution.  They want to carry this forward. 

GREGORY:  OK.  We‘re going to take a break here.

Coming up next, “Smart Takes.”  Harshest criticism yet for Scott McClellan courtesy of Bob Dole. 

Stick around for that.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

GREGORY:  We‘re back on THE RACE.  Time now for “Smart Takes,” the most interesting, the most thoughtful, most provocative takes on the ‘08 race.  We find them so you don‘t have to. 

And here again, my guests, the panel: Pat, Rachel, Gene and John. 

All right.  First “Smart Take” tonight, Geraldine Ferraro again defending her controversial comments that Barack Obama is “lucky to be a black man in this race,” and “the country is caught up in the concept of electing a black president.”

Today in “The Boston Globe,” Ferraro says it is Obama who‘s playing the race card.

Go to the quote board.

“Since March, when I was accused of being racist for a statement I made about the influence of blacks on Obama‘s historic campaign,” Ferraro writes, “people have been stopping me to express a common sentiment.  If you are white, you can‘t open your mouth without being accused of being racist.  They see Obama is playing the race card throughout the campaign and no one calling him for it as frightening.  They are not upset with Obama because he‘s black, they‘re upset because they don‘t expect to be treated fairly because they are white.”

“It is not racism that is driving them,” she writes.  “It is racial resentment, and that is enforced because they don‘t believe he understands them and their problems.”

Gene, take it on.

ROBINSON:  Well, you know, in that same op-ed piece she said some things about sexism that I thought were interesting and valuable. 

On the race issue, I wish Geraldine Ferraro would give it a rest.  I don‘t think people were saying she was racist when she made her earlier remarks.  What people were saying was she was talking nonsense. 

And if—you know, she has a perfect right to say that there‘s some intrinsic value or value added or advantage, I guess, in being a black man in American society running for the presidency, when there has never been an African-American president, male or female, if she sees some sort of advantage there, she has a perfect right to say it.  I just don‘t think it‘s borne out by history or the facts. 

GREGORY:  Rachel, is the idea that there‘s been a chill on discourse that‘s been basically put out by the Obama campaign? 

MADDOW:  I have heard Geraldine Ferraro argue that many times, and she has not convinced me of that.  I don‘t see them playing the race card, I don‘t see them attacking people on the basis of their race for what they can and cannot say.  I don‘t see it.

And I‘m frustrated, as I think Gene is as well, when I hear him saying that she‘s asserting that this is the way she sees it and it cannot be argued with.  I feel like the only person who‘s trying to shut down discourse is Geraldine Ferraro, who‘s saying, I see it this way and that‘s the way it is.  And if you don‘t see it this way, it is because you are racist or sexist.  And I just—I don‘t identify with it.

GREGORY:  Let me move on.

Second “Smart Take,” former Republican presidential candidate Bob Dole lashes out at Scott McClellan over his new tell-all book, “What Happened,” his memoir about working at the White House as press secretary.  It‘s part of a personal e-mail that Dole sent to McClellan, obtained and put online by The Politico. 

This is what Dole wrote: “There are miserable creatures like you in every administration that don‘t have the guts to speak up or quit if there are disagreements with the boss or colleagues.  No, your type soaks up the benefits of power, revels in the limelight for years, then quits and, spurred on by greed, cashes in with a scathing critique.  When the money starts rolling in, you should donate it to a worthy cause, something like biting the hand that fed me.  Another thought is to weasel your way back into the White House if a Democrat is elected.  That would provide a good setup for a second book deal in a few years.”

“You‘re a hot ticket now, but don‘t you deep down feel like a total ingrate?”

(LAUGHTER)

GREGORY:  Pat Buchanan, what we didn‘t put here, there was a postscript to that which is, Are you available for brunch on Sunday? 

What do you think of that? 

BUCHANAN:  Mildly overwritten, but fundamentally there‘s validity.  When you—really, when you take the king‘s schilling, you do the king‘s work, and this fellow, to turn around and bite the president of the United States, who elevated him from virtually a nobody press secretary, and turn around and undercut and really attempt to discredit his credibility the way he‘s done, I don‘t know whether it‘s true or false what he said, but what he did I these was reprehensible. 

GREGORY:  Let me ask you this, John Harwood.

ROBINSON:  You know what this reminds me of?

GREGORY:  Hold on one second.

GREGORY:  John Harwood, what Peggy Noonan wrote today was the idea that we need more first person accounts like this.  We can have the debate about whether he did it at the right time or whether these things are true, but that firsthand accounts matter. 

BUCHANAN:  Let me say this—look...

GREGORY:  Hold it.  That was for John.  That was for John.

BUCHANAN:  Oh, I‘m sorry.

GREGORY:  That‘s all right.

HARWOOD:  Well, they do matter.  I will say, I thought Bob Dole had mellowed since the days of Democrat wars and “Stop lying about my record.”  But look, I understand those strong feelings, I hear those from people in the White House.

It‘s a little bit slippery, some of the things that Scott is saying in this respect. 

GREGORY:   Yes.

HARWOOD:  He says that the administration manipulated the truth and that, you know, tried to arrange the facts to their advantage.  I mean, you can also call that spin.  That‘s what every White House does. 

GREGORY:  Got to take a break.  We‘ll come right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWS BREAK)

GREGORY:  We are back on RACE FOR THE WHITE HOUSE.  I‘m David Gregory, happy to have you here.  Time now for a second edition of the war room.  We‘re looking ahead to the general election in November, just five months away.  Back with us, Pat Buchanan, former presidential candidate and author of the just released, “Churchill, Hitler, and the Unnecessary War, How Britain Lost Its Empire and The West Lost The World,” Rachel Maddow, host of the “Rachel Maddow Show” on Air America, Gene Robinson, columnist and associate editor of the “Washington Post,” all three MSNBC political analysts.  Also here John Harwood, chief Washington correspondent for cNBC, political writer for the “New York Times.”  John is also the co-author of a new book, “Pennsylvania Avenue Profiles in Back Room Power.” 

OK, second war room, first up, Scott McClellan‘s book brings Iraq back to front and center status.  Both Obama and McCain camps now leveraging the Iraq war to their advantage.  McCain today hammered Obama for not visiting the region since 2006.  Watch. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCAIN:  He has no fundamental understanding of the entire situation that warranted the surge. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GREGORY:  Today the “Washington Post” framed what the debate on Iraq will look like on the trail.  To the quote board, “both campaigns now think the Iraq debate will work to their advantage.  McCain and the Republican party will use it to paint their likely general election opponent as a foreign policy naif, too weak to defend the country.  Obama and his Democratic allies will turn the war into a proxy for their efforts to portray a McCain victory as a third term.” 

Pat, how do you see it playing? 

BUCHANAN:  I think this is to the benefit of John McCain, whether you agree that the war is a good idea or bad idea, foreign policy, national security, who should be commander in chief in a time of war.  That‘s McCain‘s strong suit.  That‘s where he wants to fight his battle out.  He‘s got a good gimmick, if you will, in the fact that Barack Obama hasn‘t been to Iraq for two years.  They will hammer him and hammer him and hammer him, I predict that between now and November, Barack Obama will be in Baghdad. 

GREGORY:  And if he goes, Rachel, what does he use that opportunity to do? 

MADDOW:  He‘s already essentially said that he‘s planning on going to Iraq once he wraps up the nomination, that‘s been on the books for a while.  I think if he goes, he tries to look presidential.  The Congressional delegations to Iraq have been a little bit of an embarrassment politically.  Honestly, John McCain‘s own history of these Congressional delegations, those are the place where has made some of his most embarrassing gaffes, confusing Sunnis and Shiias, as I said, the infamous situation where he‘s standing there in the Baghdad marketplace with a battalion of Marines protecting him, with a half dozen attack helicopters hovering over him.  He‘s wearing body armor.  He‘s says, oh, it‘s just like any American marketplace.  It‘s safe as houses.

Those Congressional delegation trip have been derided by people like Jim Webb as dog and pony shows.  Barack Obama has implicitly bought into that by saying, your judgment is any better because you‘ve been on theses trips.  He‘s going to have to make his trip look different and more presidential. 

GREGORY:  Next up, is the U.S. beating al Qaeda in the war on terror?  CIA director Michael Hayden now reporting near strategic defeat of the terrorist group in Iraq.  This is the “Washington Post” reports on its interview with Hayden, the post paraphrasing here.  To the quote board, “Osama bin Laden is losing the battle for hearts and minds in the Islamic world and has a largely forfitted his ability to exploit the Iraq war to recruit adherents.  Two years ago, a CIA study concluded that the U.S.-led war had become a propaganda and marketing bonanza for al Qaeda, generating cash donations and legions of volunteers.” 

The question, John Harwood, will this be seen as a Bush administration success and how does it influence the debate on the war on terror as we go forward? 

HARWOOD:  Well, General Hayden says it‘s good news if it proves to be correct.  The American people believe that the Iraq war has not made us safer, but the diminution of violence that we have seen since the surge is certainly good news for John McCain and will make it easier for him to sell the argument that General Hayden was just pushing.  And if he can do that, he diminishes the tooth ache that the war and it‘s duration represents and he can capitalize on some of those advantages that Pat Buchanan just talked about on national security and as commander in chief. 

GREGORY:  At the same time, Gene, you‘ve got John McCain who‘s reminding people that Osama bin Laden is still on the loose that, says he will track him to the gates of hell, when what General Hayden is saying is that there‘s a success story here to be told. 

ROBINSON:  There‘s a success story against al Qaeda in Iraq, certainly.  Al Qaeda in Iraq didn‘t exist in Iraq before the U.S. invasion, but never mind, there is certainly a success story there.  The question is there really a larger success story about al Qaeda in Pakistan and Afghanistan, which just a few months ago our intelligence agency said there was no success story, that in fact that al Qaeda, which is the al Qaeda that attacked us is—has more potential of launching major attacks than at any point since 2001. 

GREGORY:  But Rachel, the U.S. has not been attacked since 2001. 

MADDOW:  Absolutely and lots of people can try to claim credit for that and explain that away.  And whoever does that to the best political effect will benefit from that.  The analogy that I‘ve always felt about the al Qaeda in Iraq thing is that we had an illness and we took a medicine that was the wrong medicine and we had an allergic reaction to it.  Defeating al Qaeda in Iraq is us defeating our allergic reaction from to that medicine.  We still have the same ailment.  It‘s been a distraction.  It‘s something that might have made the original ailment worse.

While it is good news to get over this horrible rash we have grown ourselves with al Qaeda in Iraq, it‘s a distraction from the original fight. 

GREGORY:  Let me move on.  Next up, the Obama camp gearing up to close this weekend, close the campaign, while avoiding giving the appearance that they‘re pushing Senator Clinton out.  New poll results show that the Obama camp has some major work to do when it comes to winning over Clinton‘s base of white female supporters.  According to the Pew Research Center, 49 percent of white women view Obama unfavorably.  That‘s up 13 percent since February.  And 43 percent said they had a favorable opinion of Obama, down 13 percent from 56 percent back in February. 

So Pat Buchanan, is it something that the Obama campaign can fix in the short-term or is it a longer term process? 

BUCHANAN:  I think this is a real weapon for Hillary Clinton.  They have got to treat her gracefully and that‘s why I think she will push this to the limit and may be thinking of going all the way to the convention.  I think she can win Puerto Rico. 

HARWOOD:  You wish, Pat. 

GREGORY:  Listen, I think she may go to that convention.  The thing is, this is a real problem in the general election because women are the largest share of the electorate.  And if you‘ve got 49 percent of white women, or 80 percent of all American women voters with a negative view of Obama, that is very serious news and that‘s a problem he‘s got to address. 

GREGORY:  The polls bear this out, John Harwood, but we know anecdotely or what the Clinton campaign is saying, how angry are they at Obama or how angry are they at the political class and journalists? 

HARWOOD:  The heat of the moment polls in the middle of a primary campaign where he‘s about to close out the—the person who would be the first female president in history is not the best time to measure sentiment among white women Democrats toward Barack Obama.  This campaign, once it gets partisanized, once we get to the fall, I think when they, white women Democrats put John McCain up against Barack Obama, I think I know where they‘re going to come down.  I think it‘s not with John McCain. 

GREGORY:  Got to take a break here.  When we come back, Scott McClellan says there‘s a lesson to be learned from his memoir, “What Happened,” but what is it?  We‘ll answer that question when RACE FOR THE WHITE HOUSE returns.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

GREGORY:  Back now on THE RACE, from McClellan to McCain to President Bush to al Qaeda, we‘re asking the three biggest questions in the ‘08 campaign.  Still with us, Pat Buchanan, Rachel Maddow, Gene Robinson and John Harwood. 

First up, Scott McClellan‘s new tell all book about the Bush White House has re-opened the discussion about how the U.S. got into Iraq.  The Obama camp is using the opportunity to remind voters that John McCain, unlike Barack Obama, supported the decision to go to war.  A new Democratic National Committee web ad goes even farther, accusing McCain of, in the words of a DNC spokesman, playing a key role in what McClellan calls the administration‘s propaganda campaign.  Watch. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCLELLAN:  As we accelerated the buildup to the war, the information that we were talking about became a little more certain than it was.  The caveats were dropped.  Contradictory intelligence was ignored. 

MCCAIN:  I believe that Saddam Hussein presents a clear and present danger. 

DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  We will, in fact, be greeted as liberators.

MCCAIN:  We will be welcomed as liberators. 

I believe that we can win an overwhelming victory in a very short period of time. 

CROWD:  Four more years, four more years.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GREGORY:  First question then, Pat Buchanan, how big is McCain‘s McClellan problem, does he have one? 

BUCHANAN:  I don‘t think McCain‘s got a McClellan Problem, but I do think—what McClellan‘s done, and frankly I agree with it, he‘s indicated that they did use a lot of propaganda.  They emphasized WMDs when the real cause was this democracy crusade to change the whole Middle East.  I think fundamentally his beliefs and statements are true.  When they came to him, I don‘t know.  They raise questions about his own credibility. 

But John McCain, look, he‘s all for the war.  He was for it before we went in.  He likes the idea of democracy.  We went after WMD.  I don‘t really think he has a problem because he has no doubts about the wisdom of what we did and he‘s willing to fight out on that turf.   

GREGORY:  John Harwood, the idea that the DNC is doing that, there were plenty of Democrats who also backed the administration, who voted for the war, who cited Saddam Hussein has a clear and present danger, the Clinton administration and Clinton himself believed that there were weapons of mass destruction.  The intelligence was shared worldwide.  There was consensus on the threat, just not consensus about what to do about the threat. 

HARWOOD:  Exactly so.  I think that‘s a clever ad, smart for the DNC to provide some specific counter points to what McClellan is saying to things that John McCain said.  But I agree with Pat in the sense that I think it‘s a limited problem coming from Scott McClellan.  These are arguments that are familiar, that have been out there, and John McCain is so well identified with the war already, I thing this is going to make that much difference. 

GREGORY:  Yes, you know, it‘s a question for me, Rachel, which is, to what extent do people want to re-litigate the war.  I‘m not saying it‘s not important to do that, and history is going to keep churning on this.  But in terms of a choice, to the extent that people have really stopped listening to this president on the war, and have tuned out the war, made a judgment on it and are looking on; it seems to me that the choice will be between future visions of the Middle East that each of these candidates present and of course the status of U.S. troops there. 

MADDOW:  I think that in general that‘s been the way that things are trending.  But what we‘re seeing now is that there is a trip here for John McCain and that is that he‘s making the case that he has shown the best judgment about Iraq, that he‘s the wise man on Iraq, that he‘s the one that‘s been right and who understands it and who really gets it.  That‘s why I‘ve been sort of hammering on these gaffes that he has been making.

It‘s also true when you look back at re-litigating the war and how we got there, John McCain did say we‘re going to be greeted as liberators, it will be an easy fight; I don‘t anticipate that this will be a difficult thing for us.  His judgment calls on Iraq; in a lot of cases, he has tried to make them seem in retrospect better than they were, but when you go back to the tape, they‘re not good.  So that may undermine his claim that he ought to be trusted on Iraq now. 

GREGORY:  At the same time, there‘s also some things missing from this attack, which is that he wanted more troops all along.  He was the first one to be critical of Rumsfeld, all part of the debate. 

MADDOW:  David, I want to say, he‘s over-stated the Rumsfeld thing though.  He has made it try to seem that he was calling for Rumsfeld‘s head.  He never called for Rumsfeld to be fired. 

GREGORY:  That‘s right.

HARWOOD:  Wait, wait a minute, he said he lost confidence in him. 

GREGORY:  No, that‘s true, but he said that it was Bush‘s decision ultimately about whether he should be fired. 

Gene, you‘re up next here, but I want to get to this next question; lessons for the future.  McClellan could have waited until President Bush left office to release this memoir, but he believes the story of the Bush administration concerted a cautionary tale for the current campaigns.  Watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCLELLAN:  Senator McCain just a few weeks ago talked about the importance of ending the permanent campaign and changing politics as usual.  You have Senator Barack Obama talking about changing the way Washington works, a message that was very similar to the one the president ran on in 2000 when he talked about being a uniter not a divider.  It‘s timely for us to look at these issues and learn the lessons from these experiences so that we can make better decisions in the future. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GREGORY:  Yes, Dan Balz writing in the “Washington Post” today say that some of the stalwarts in both of the campaigns should read this book.  The second question has to do with this; what is the lesson to be learned from the memoir of what happened by Scott McClellan, Gene? 

ROBINSON:  Well, the lesson to be learned, I guess, is to be true to the intelligence, to not cook it so that you can invade a country that you really shouldn‘t be invading.  I think the lesson really is in his basic account of what happened.  Perhaps there‘s a lesson about what happens inside the bubble of the White House. 

I will tell you one thing, I went out to actually purchase a copy of McClellan‘s book this afternoon, the first couple of book stores I went to were out.  They were ordering a couple hundred copies apiece.  They will be in on Monday.  I don‘t see how this is a good thing for John McCain. 

GREGORY:  I want to move on, because I want to get some time to this final question; McCain‘s foreign policy.  Jeff Goldberg, a provocative new interview with McCain; it‘s available on Atlantic.com, on his blog, where they discuss McCain‘s view on Iran, Israel and the Holocaust.  We‘re going to show you a portion of it here, Goldberg asking “why should America have a military option for dealing with Iran when the threat is mainly directed against Israel? 

McCain responds, “the United States of America has committed itself to never allowing another Holocaust.  That‘s the commitment that the United States had made ever since we discovered the horrendous aspects of the Holocaust.  Goldberg later asks about McCain‘s Holocaust comment, “do you have an absolute commitment to stop genocide wherever it occurs?  McCain says, “that has to be the fundamental goal but it has to be tempered by the idea that you have to be able to do it, that you can succeed.  And Goldberg says “it sounds like you‘re talking about Iraq.  McCain responds, “we haven‘t talked about the four years of mishandling of this war, which has been devastating in particular to the families.” 

The question I want to ask here, what do we learn from this exchange, which I thought was provocative, from this interview about McCain‘s foreign policy.  Rachel, what do you think?

MADDOW:  I‘m glad that somebody‘s finally pinning him down on these bigger philosophical questions.  I think, in some ways, we‘re heading into a really post-partisan place in American foreign policy, where Americans left, right and center don‘t have an ideological place to go in terms of  when we intervene, in terms of when get involved.  When you look at Rwanda, and you look at Bosnia and you look at Iraq and you look at Afghanistan, there isn‘t an obvious partisan way to go here.  I think him phrasing it that way sort of reflects that. 

I don‘t hear a lot of difference in what he‘s saying there than what, for example, Barack Obama is saying.  That‘s potentially a really fruitful interesting place for this debate. 

GREGORY:  It‘s interesting, Pat, do you hear McCain saying that when it comes to Israel, there is no question that we go in there and if there‘s an existential threat to Israel, we act.  When it comes to other parts of the world, we have to be realistic about this and make a determination about whether we can pull it off.  He brings this up in the context of Darfur, for instance.  

BUCHANAN:  Let‘s say Cambodia was a horrible Holocaust.  We didn‘t do a thing about the it.  We didn‘t do a thing about Mau‘s Holocaust in China.  But there clearly is a moral commitment that presidents feel.  I was in the Nixon White House in 1973 when Nixon called up all the armed forces and sent everything over there.  He raised the Def Com and sent all this equipment over there to save Israel during the Yom Kippur War, and that was not in response to a treaty.  It was sort of A, a moral obligation, and B, a the fact that in the Cold War, he couldn‘t let Brezhnev, who was moving troops and things like that. 

So I think there is a moral commitment in the country, which the country agrees with, that they will not let Israel be destroyed or another Holocaust happen in the Middle East. 

GREGORY:  I got to take another break here.  What I find interesting about this exchange is that we get some sense of what is the next chapter that is going to be written about how to deal with big threats particularly in this region.  It gets even more complicated.  And I thought in that answer there was some stuff to pick apart, but there was some nuance.  And I think that‘s something that Americans are going to have to struggle with.  There‘s some ambiguity here.  There are things to struggle with.  I think people are going to have to wrestle with that to make up their mind.  We‘ll take a break here. 

HARWOOD:  David we know that Barack Obama is not going to argue with him about that on Israel. 

GREGORY:  Yes, that‘s true.  We‘ll take a break here.  Come back, predictions from the panel, as the pressure‘s on them as we come back. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

GREGORY:  We‘re back, our remaining moments.  It‘s been a while since we have done that, asked the panelists to break out their tarot cards and tell us what they see in the future.  It‘s prediction time.  With us, our panelists, Pat, Rachel, Gene and John.

OK, Gene, get us started, what is your prediction on tomorrow‘s DNC meeting?  What‘s going to happen? 

ROBINSON:  David, I predict that if the Clinton camp is not reasonable tomorrow, the super-D dam will break.  I agree with Pat that the Clinton campaign is making demands that it doesn‘t really expect to have met.  Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi have been spelling it out for the super delegates that, look, if this thing is ugly, if they‘re not going to be reasonable, you‘ve got to move.  And I expect we‘ll see that start to happen, super delegates moving in some numbers toward Obama if there‘s a big blowup tomorrow. 

GREGORY:  I predict Pat Buchanan will be down in Puerto Rico asking for a Mai Tai, what do you see happening there. 

BUCHANAN:  Puerto Rico is it.  That‘s the ball game.  Here‘s what happens in Puerto Rico, Hillary wins a big victory in the popular vote.  She takes the lead in popular votes and on Monday she declares herself the candidate of the people, and Barack Obama is the candidate of the delegates.  And eat your heart out, Gene, she‘ll be right. 

ROBINSON:  (INAUDIBLE)

GREGORY:  You know the other place where she‘s making some inroads is in South Dakota.  She‘s working the Indian reservations, a lot of small towns.  She got endorsed by the paper out there today.  There‘s some feeling she could make a real stand there. 

BUCHANAN:  If she does, quite frankly, look, she‘s had a tremendous streak.  After that Bad February—she‘s been the winner since February, no doubt about it.  She‘s got the momentum. 

HARWOOD:  Like that North Carolina result for her, Pat? 

BUCHANAN:  No, I didn‘t like that much. 

GREGORY:  All right, John, tell me how you see the end game here. 

What‘s your prediction on next week for the Democrats? 

HARWOOD:  My prediction is decision time, Democratic politicians see the most favorable political environment of their lifetime and they‘re now officially nervous about blowing it.  Whatever happens in the rules and bylaws committee, the pressure on those 200 remaining super delegates to commit will be enormous and it will be effective.  So a week from now, give or take a few days, Barack Obama is going to be widely recognized as the Democratic nominee, including by Hillary Clinton. 

GREGORY:  Rachel, what about you?  What do you see on the Clinton campaign‘s agenda? 

MADDOW:  I‘ve been hammering on this for a long time.  I feel like it‘s suddenly becoming the common wisdom.  I‘m uncomfortable voicing it now that is the common wisdom, but I have felt it for a long time.  I think no matter what the rules and by laws committee decides tomorrow, the Clinton campaign‘s goal is to keep the Michigan and Florida dispute unresolved as long as possible.  They‘re going to try to get this issue kicked upstairs to the credentials committee.  In the way the Democratic Party committee system works, that means it prolongs this fight until the convention. 

The point is not to seat those delegates but to have something unresolved so she has a reason and a rallying cry to stay in. 

GREGORY:  It is a question about what she gains by doing that.  The longer this can possibly go on, she gets more maneuver room to negotiate something, whatever that something is. 

MADDOW:  I think that she‘s trying to buy herself three more months of campaign time.  Three more months of staying in and a chance that anything could happen politically.  And once you‘re at the convention, really anything can happen.  In either convention, that‘s the way those things work.  She doesn‘t have any chance if she doesn‘t go there.

GREGORY:  The Democratic elders are making it very clear that by the middle of next week, they want this done. 

HARWOOD:  They do, David.  David, look, her—if she decided to try to take this to the convention, she would be risking her entire political future on the idea that she could somehow turn around this nomination.  I don‘t believe that she thinks that at the end of the day this is going to be successful for her.  And as a result, I do not think she‘s on a kamikaze mission. 

BUCHANAN:  I don‘t think it‘s kamikaze, but I do think she‘s going to go to the convention.  She wants to be counted out.  I don‘t think she‘s going to damage him.  But she wants to go there and be there, and she‘s going to make it difficult to compromise because she doesn‘t want compromise.   

HARWOOD:  By definition, she damages him if she goes to the convention. 

GREGORY:  What she‘s got to lose? 

GREGORY:  We‘re going to leave it there.  Thanks to the panel, terrific night tonight.  Thanks for watching, have a peaceful Friday night, a restful weekend.  Stick around, HARDBALL is coming your way next.  I‘m David Gregory.  Good night.

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

END   

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