updated 6/3/2008 10:50:28 AM ET 2008-06-03T14:50:28

Guests: Chris Matthews, Craig Crawford, Maria Cardona, Roy Sekoff, Brad Blakeman, Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, Wayne Slater

DAN ABRAMS, HOST:  Tonight: Is Hillary Clinton planning to drop out of the race tomorrow tonight?  And is her team hinting that they want the V.P.  nod?

And: Obama leaves his controversial church—a smart move?

Chris Matthews, Craig Crawford, and Maria Cardona are among our guests.

And: Vice President Cheney makes an incest joke about West Virginia. 

Shocker: it was not funny and the residents of that state not happy.

VERDICT starts now.

Hi, everyone.  Welcome to the show.

Will Hillary Clinton ends her campaign after the final primaries in South Dakota and Montana?

There is mounting evidence she will.  That evidence—her schedule officially after Wednesday—empty.  Her advance teams have been told to stop planning events beyond tomorrow night.  Major donors and backers have been asked to attend her speech in New York tomorrow.

She spoke last night with Obama—and according to one report on the Huffington Post—agreed their staff should negotiate after what to do after Tuesday.

And today, her husband, a man who does not accept defeat easily seemed to acknowledge it‘s over.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL CLINTON, FORMER UNITED STATES PRESIDENT:  I want to say also, that this may be the last day I‘m ever involved in a campaign of this kind.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  But if Hillary Clinton is conceding any time soon, you wouldn‘t know it by some of her comments as she continues with many of her arguments.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON, (D-NY) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  I‘m ahead in the popular vote, Senator Obama is ahead in delegates.  Senator Obama two months ago said this will come down who has the popular votes and the delegates because they‘ve never been separated before.

One thing about superdelegates is that they can change their minds.  This party has never nor has any other party in recent electoral history nominated someone who didn‘t win the popular vote.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Joining me now, the host of HARDBALL, the great Chris Matthews.

Chris, thanks for coming on.  Appreciate it.

All right.  Bottom line question, you like HARDBALL, let‘s play hard ball.  Within 36 hours, is she out?

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST OF “HARDBALL”:  Yes.

ABRAMS:  Definitely?

MATTHEWS:  Well, I think because as (INAUDIBLE) used to say, there‘s such things as new facts and the new facts are there are no more events, there‘s no more events to take your advance team to, no more speeches to give, no more audience.  The only audience left are the superdelegates.

And those people are making up their minds, even as we speak, Jim Clyburn today of South Carolina, a big force.  And Ed Rendell of Pennsylvania is saying—sure, you lost four votes in Michigan at the RBC committee but that‘s not worth fighting when you‘re way behind -- 170 behind.  Vilsack—these are all possible V.P. nominees all saying the game is over.

ABRAMS:  So then, why would Clinton be putting out these new ads or relatively new ads in South Dakota and Montana, again talking about how she‘s won the popular vote?

MATTHEWS:  Everything between now, Dan, and tomorrow night at the close of the polls in South Dakota and Montana, is about those people out there.  She‘s still hoping to pick one off.  If she can end this campaign on a high note, winning in South Dakota, out west where he‘s done so, well, she could have a number of options.  She can very grandly concede at that point, having won one of the last events of the campaign, pulling an upset.

Can you think of anything more dramatic or gracious or magnanimous to say—I won again tonight?

I won in Puerto Rico, but I‘m walking away because just like in

Solomon‘s story in the Old Testament, in the Bible, I‘m not going to cut

the baby in half.  I‘m going to give the other guy the baby because I‘m the

true mother.  I am the true leader of this party and I‘m going to prove it

by giving this thing to Barack Obama.

It‘s very biblical.  It would be very dramatic if she can pull it off.

ABRAMS:  All right.  Bu then, what is Harold Ickes is doing after the

ruling for the DNC Rules Committee -

MATTHEWS:  He‘s Geronimo.  He‘s Geronimo.

ABRAMS:  On Michigan and Florida -

MATTHEWS:  I‘m sorry, the battle, although the big harm was in Montana.  He‘s Geronimo, he‘s a crazy horse.  He‘s just wants a fight.

ABRAMS:  He‘s saying that we may take this to the credentials committee.  The translation: We may take this another month or two.

MATTHEWS:  He‘s just too tough.  I mean, you know how you get in—you watch a guy in television in this business, you and I, we‘re interviewing people, having these tough interviews, or watching Andrea do an interview, and then you happen to be in the makeup room with the same guy.  And you didn‘t say a word.  I said I‘d just bumped into your family the other day, how are things going?

He didn‘t want to talk.  I mean, he is really in a game face right now.  And as I said, the game face will last until tomorrow night.  And then I think there‘s going to be an opportunity for Hillary Clinton to be incredibly gracious, show her political talent, and move towards helping Barack Obama win the nomination and win the election.

ABRAMS:  Do you think that right now there are people in her campaign saying—don‘t do it, don‘t give up, let‘s not end this, we don‘t need to end this now?

MATTHEWS:  Oh, yes.  Let‘s get some names here—Ann Lewis, Sidney Blumenthal, Harold Ickes, I know the wild cases, I know the hard liners.  I mean, I like these people in a certain way, I‘m on their side occasionally, but they are the holdouts.

They are the hard people.  They believe in fighting to the last second.  The Michael Whouleys (ph), I know he isn‘t in the campaign anymore.  But you know, people like that, you know, they are just fabulous people to have around you if you‘re fighting, aren‘t they?

ABRAMS:  What do you make of the 34 uncommitted superdelegates, now NBC reporting, planning to come forward after the votes in Montana and South Dakota and declare they are for Barack Obama?  OK.  We know what that means, what though are the superdelegates doing, Hillary Clinton got two superdelegates today - what are they saying?  What is their message?

Are they saying I don‘t want Obama?  Are they saying I don‘t want to cross the Clintons?  Why are superdelegates still coming forward for Clinton?

MATTHEWS:  I think you‘d just ventured into the truth.  Whose enemy enmity do you want, hostility for the rest of your life?  I think most members would like to have the following the scenario.  Barack Obama gets the 2,118.  He needs two days later, they announce where they stand when nobody is watching.  That would be the idea of political move.

ABRAMS:  Chris Matthews, good to see you.  Thanks for coming on.

MATTHEWS:  Thanks, Dan.  OK.

ABRAMS:  Joining me now: Roy Sekoff, founding editor of the Huffington Post, they had a history about Obama and Clinton reaching some sort of agreement; Maria Cardona, senior advisor with Hillary Clinton campaign; and, Craig Crawford, MSNBC political analyst and columnist with “Congressional Quarterly.”

All right.  Maria, since you‘re actually with the Clinton campaign, I‘m going to start with you.  Look, you heard Chris Matthews there, it does seem that all the indications are that Hillary Clinton is going to pull out sometime in the next 48 hours, put aside whether it will be tomorrow night or Wednesday, but isn‘t it fair to look at the signs and listen to Bill Clinton and say—my goodness, you know, this is ending in the next 48 hours?

MARIA CARDONA, CLINTON CAMPAIGN SR. ADVISOR:  You all just love to prognosticate on this, don‘t you?

ABRAMS:  Are we wrong?

CARDONA:  She is not ready to pull out.  Look, we don‘t have a nominee yet.

ABRAMS:  I know we don‘t.  That‘s why I‘m asking you about 48 hours. 

I didn‘t say this hour, I said 48 hours.

CARDONA:  Well, let‘s see.  You know, let‘s end this process, which is what Senator Clinton has committed to do.  Tomorrow is the final primaries that take place in South Dakota and Montana.  She is in New York tomorrow.

There should be no indication other than this is where she started the process, this is where she‘s going to end the process.  She wants all of her backers there with her.  She‘s run a terrific campaign in the last three months.  She‘s actually won more contests, more votes, more delegates than Senator Obama.  She‘s going to continue making these arguments to the superdelegates.

ABRAMS:  And assuming, Maria, for a moment, that our reporting is accurate, that 34 superdelegates are going to come out tomorrow, after the polls close, in support of Obama, would you then recognize and agree that it‘s over?

CARDONA:  If he has the actual number of delegates?

ABRAMS:  Right.

CARDONA:  We‘ll see what happens.  But he is not there yet.  And even if 34 come out tomorrow, I don‘t think he will be there yet.

ABRAMS:  Well, I think, actually, let‘s put up the numbers because even if they - you know, right now, he‘s favored in Montana and South Dakota.  But even if they split them, all he needs at this point is 39.5 delegates and if 34 come out in his favor and they split the 31 or so that are up tomorrow, he‘s going to easily have the number needed.

So, let me ask—Craig Crawford, let‘s me ask you now, look, this is official—Maria has given us, I think very eloquently, the official position of the Clinton campaign.  But as a practical matter, what‘s going on behind closed doors, Craig?

CRAIG CRAWFORD, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  I sense a balancing act going on where they‘re sort of easing into the slow lane, knowing that that exit ramp is coming up.  But, at the same time, they want an opportunity to make a final argument to superdelegates, privately probably, but to make that final argument.

And they wanted to reduce the pressure that, I think, the weekend with the DNC Rules Committee really heated things up and a lot of superdelegates were getting angry that the Clintons were going to blow up the party and take it to the convention.  They‘re trying to ease that concern and show that she‘s winding down the campaigning but asking for an opportunity to make those final arguments like we‘d just heard.  I think that is what they want to do, is make that final argument, give us that one last hearing.

And the fact that these superdelegates aren‘t announcing that before the vote on Tuesday for Obama, you know, every campaign, every election, every primary going back to the Ohio primary, the Obama campaign has told us - we‘ve got 30, we‘ve got 50 superdelegates coming up in the next couple of days and we‘re going to claim victory and it doesn‘t happen.

I think, and last week, that‘s what they‘re saying is going to happen this week.

ABRAMS:  All right.  Yes.  But this time around, Roy, it seems to me that the reporting on this is pretty firm.  And this isn‘t just, hey, we might et cetera.  I mean, NBC News looking at 34 superdelegates expected to come out for Obama.  Tell me about that Huffington Post report that you guys had today about this agreement between the camps.

ROY SEKOFF, HUFFINGTON POST:  Right.  Well, I mean, Dan, we spoke to a number of the big fundraisers, major donors to Hillary and they got the e-mail asking them to come to New York, and they‘re not coming to New York, you know, to see “Cats” because they got a good table at Novo (ph).  There‘s a reason they‘re being asked to come to New York and reason is that, you know, she‘s going to endorse Obama and do what she should do.

ABRAMS:  Maria, are you saying that simply not going to happen or are you saying that it‘s not certain it‘s going to happen?

CARDONA:  I‘m saying that today is today and tomorrow is tomorrow and

this is not the end of the process yet.  Senator Obama does not have the

superdelegates, the whole delegate number that he needs to claim the

nomination.  There is still a chance for her and -

(CROSSTALK)

CRAWFORD:  But you know, Dan, the problem with the scenario for Obama right now, what they had wanted to do is get enough superdelegates before the polls closed tomorrow so that when he goes over the top, he goes over the top with actual voters in South Dakota and Montana.  Now, it looks like he‘s going to do it with press releases from superdelegates.

ABRAMS:  Roy, final word on this, yes.

SEKOFF:  I think the tell-tale sign is what Chris was saying about Harold Ickes, right?  In public, he‘s raging and raging, but in private, he had a conference call and he was very, very consolatory towards Obama.  And it seemed pretty clear that, you know, the bluster was just for the public.

ABRAMS:  All right.  Well, look, everyone is going to stay with us.

CARDONA:  That‘s not true.

ABRAMS:  Maria gets the final word.

SEKOFF:  Going down, going down.

(LAUGHTER)

ABRAMS:  Let me tell this (ph), less is always more.  I love it.

Coming up: Whether Hillary Clinton gets out tomorrow or not, it sure sounds like she‘s angling to be V.P.  Will her big win in Puerto Rico help that case?

And Obama quits his church after a second pastor makes controversial comments there.  But does leaving now really help him?

Plus: Bill Clinton comes out swinging after a “Vanity Fair” article alleges he hurt his wife‘s campaign with his questionable friends.  The former president calls the reporter, quote, “sleazy and dishonest.”  It‘s on tape.

And a congressman secures federal funds to build a road in front of the condo development he owns.  Another reason Why America Hates Washington coming up in 60 seconds.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Tonight‘s edition of Why America Hates Washington: An Ohio congressman directing federal funds for new roads may have paved his way to gold.  The Cleveland “Plain Dealer” reporting today that Republican Representative David Hobson got almost $2 million in federal funds to widen the road in front of a condo development he co-owned at the time.  Hobson sold off the condos in 2006 and says news of the street improvement did not make him any more money in the deal but millions in road improvement sure sounds like a good selling point.

A member of Congress using tax dollars to spruce up roads where he happens to own property: Another reason Why America Hates Washington.

We‘re back with the Clinton camp—are they effectively saying they want Hillary as V.P.?

Coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “THE EARLY SHOW‘/CBS)

TERRY MCAULIFFE, CLINTON CAMPAIGN CHAIRMAN:  We‘ve said we‘ll keep all of our options open.  What is clear here is she has now won more votes than any candidate ever running for president.  Senator Clinton has earned the right to—whatever happens—to have a key role in this thing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Whatever happens to have a key role in this thing.  That sure sounds like possible V.P. talk to me.

Yesterday, Clinton scored another blowout victory in Puerto Rico beating Obama by 36 points.  This win comes just weeks after huge Clintons wins in West Virginia and Kentucky.

Don‘t these blowout victories coming after the media and most of public already counted her out, tell us that Obama may have to at least offer her the V.P. job?

We bring back our panel: Roy Sekoff, Maria Cardona, and Craig Crawford.

Craig, don‘t you see - I mean, first of all, do you agree with me,

Craig, that the Clinton camp is sending out messages saying she has earned

I hate that word - but that‘s what they are saying, she has earned the right to be the V.P.?

CRAWFORD:  Some of her supporters have been coming up, the chairwoman of the Florida Democratic Party today, has came out for that, for her as running mate; Senator Diane Feinstein some time ago.

I mean, I don‘t know that there‘s really much, officially coming out of the camp that we can pin that on.  But there is an argument there.  I mean, she has won 600,000 more votes in the last three months, 13 contests than Senator Obama.  She comes into it with the momentum.

Plus, what about the whole Democratic Party opposition to the principle of “winner-take-all,” proportional rewards?  Democrats believe in proportional rewards, even the loser gets something—right—in the Democratic Party.  Why doesn‘t that apply to the nomination and the running mate?  The runner up should automatically be in line for running mate.

SEKOFF:  Dan, that may be the case, but you know, actually we‘re hearing from insiders—not Maria, she wouldn‘t want to say that that‘s the case—but hearing from insiders that she doesn‘t want to be asked because she doesn‘t really think that he‘s going to win and she doesn‘t want to be the John Edwards of 2012.

ABRAMS:  Oh, come on.  I don‘t believe that.

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  Yes.  That seems like non -

CRAWFORD:  There are a lot of factions in both camps and when you quote one group insiders you‘re not necessarily quoting the candidate.

ABRAMS:  Yes.  That sure sounds like non - you know what, Roy?  That sure sounds like to me, you know, people trying to stir trouble with you guys.  I mean, look, Maria.

SEKOFF:  Dan.

ABRAMS:  Come on, Roy.  The notion that Hillary Clinton is saying—I

don‘t want to get offered the V.P. position because I‘m so convinced that

Barack Obama is going to lose, I mean, that just seems to me to be

practically (ph) -

SEKOFF:  That seems completely out of (INAUDIBLE), complete impossibility.

ABRAMS:  Yes, absolutely.  To me, yes.  I don‘t know.

Let‘s ask Maria, she‘s with the Clinton camp.

I mean, Maria, it seems to me, and I know you don‘t want to talk V.P.  too much because you‘re still focusing on trying to win this.  But for a moment, let‘s take it as a possibility in your mind that if she didn‘t win, this issue of V.P., is anyone you‘re talking to in the campaign suggesting that Hillary Clinton wouldn‘t want it because she thinks Obama is going to lose?

CARDONA:  That has never been said in the campaign at all, at least in terms of what I know.  And you know, like you said, right now, she‘s focused on trying to get this nomination.

ABRAMS:  Yes, I know, I know.  I want to keep focus here because -

CARDONA:  You know my argument.

ABRAMS:  I know your argument because here - look, Harold Ickes was asked about this, a leading member of the Clinton campaign, Andrea Mitchell asked him this very question today on our air.  Let‘s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  When this is all over, if he is the nominee, do you think she should be on the ticket?

HAROLD ICKES, CLINTON CAMPAIGN SENIOR ADVISOR:  That‘s a question that way be of my pay grade—that will be between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.  I will say this, that she has proven, Andrea, in the last set of primaries, starting certainly with Ohio that she has a breadth and depth on constituencies that are critical to winning these key swing states that we need to reach 270 electoral votes—and Ohio, or a Florida, or of New Mexico, et cetera.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Craig, breadth, depth, critical.  I mean, those seem to me all to be key words saying that Barack Obama ought to want Hillary as his V.P.

CRAWFORD:  I think he should if you look at the numbers in this race.  I mean, this is unprecedented.  We haven‘t had a situation where the runner up in a nomination race may go to the convention commanding 45 percent of the delegates.  And that is a real factor that‘s got to prey on Obama‘s mind.

I mean, I‘ll tell one thing, I remember back in the day and there was a day when we thought Obama might be the one to end up in the close second.  And his supporters were saying he was would have earned (INAUDIBLE).

ABRAMS:  Roy, why are you guys, why are you so opposed to the idea of Hillary Clinton as a possible V.P. pick?

SEKOFF:  Oh, I‘m not opposed to it all.  I think she‘s formidable candidate.  She‘s run a great race.  But it‘s a very personal decision and the question isn‘t whether she‘s earned it, but how do they go together, is that a good mix?  You know, I‘d just don‘t see it being a good mix.  As I‘ve said before, I think it hurts the brand, I think it‘s the guy from Apple saying, suddenly saying—sure, get a PC.

CRAWFORD:  Well, there are a lot more PCs in the world.

SEKOFF:  We don‘t like them as much.

CARDONA:  Dan, the argument that Harold Ickes was making is actually a critical argument that we‘re continuing to make to the superdelegates, because she does put together the electoral math much easier than Senator Obama does.

ABRAMS:  Maria, you‘re one of the greatest, I love you as a guest, you‘re such a wonderful guest.  Really, you‘re smart, you‘re articulate, I love it.  But you know as well as I do, she‘s done, she‘s finished.  I know you don‘t want to say it and can‘t say it, I know it.  But she‘s done.

CARDONA:  She‘s not, Dan.  It‘s not over until it‘s over.

ABRAMS:  I mean, look—I‘m one of the only ones talking about her as V.P., so many people are counting her out.  They‘re just talking about her going away.

CARDONA:  Dan, not at all.

SEKOFF:  It‘s a fallacy to say it because she won Pennsylvania, Obama will be able to win Pennsylvania.

ABRAMS:  I know, I agree with you.

SEKOFF:  Ed Rendell said that Obama would win Pennsylvania, so -

ABRAMS:  Roy, look.  I called her out on comment that somehow because

she won the swing state, what you‘re not taking into consideration is polls

like the one in Michigan which said that if she‘s the V.P. candidate, it

helps her beat McCain when she wouldn‘t otherwise.  So -

SEKOFF:  But then, there‘s same poll that says when it‘s McCain and Romney, she doesn‘t help him as much and the only one who does is Edwards.  So, your poll seems that‘s my poll.

ABRAMS:  No, no, no.  I‘m talking about that exact poll, Roy.  You‘re absolutely wrong.  When it was Romney and McCain versus Hillary and Obama she helped enormously when it was just McCain versus Obama, he lost.

SEKOFF:  Right.  By one point.

ABRAMS:  Yes.

(CROSSTALK)

CARDONA:  We‘re not saying -

ABRAMS:  Look, I got to end this.  Hang on.

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  Everyone, I‘ve got to stop.  I‘m going to give Maria 10 seconds and then I got to wrap it.  Maria?

CARDONA:  The Clinton campaign is not saying that he will not win these states.  What we‘re saying is that she will more easily win the states.  Do we really want to spend $20 million in Pennsylvania?

ABRAMS:  That sounds like V.P. talk, Maria.  Oh, Maria sounds like V.P. talk.  Be careful.

CARDONA:  By V.P., you mean president, then yes.

ABRAMS:  I‘m just kidding.

Roy, Maria, Craig, thanks a lot.  Appreciate it.  I got to wrap it up.

Coming up: Bill Clinton calls a reporter a, quote, “scumbag,” after he writes in article saying the former president hurt his wife‘s campaign.

And: John McCain goes after Obama again, for offering to talk to Iran‘s president, but it turns out, most Americans don‘t agree with McCain on this.  A special Win, Lose, or Draw edition is coming up.

Plus: A civil war brewing inside CNN.  After Wolf Blitzer interviewed Scott McClellan, Anderson Cooper then claimed that night to have outdone his own colleague.  That‘s next in Beat the Press.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

First up: Former White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan made the rounds on Friday.  He talked to CNN‘s Wolf Blitzer on Friday afternoon.  But that night, Anderson Cooper promised this about his interview.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST:  It‘s one of the toughest interview McClellan has so far faced.

My in-depth interview with Scott McClellan like no other you‘ve seen before.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Like no other you‘d seen before, huh?  I guess he was saying his interview was tougher than Wolf‘s.  The problem—they sure did sound a whole lot alike.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, CNN/FRIDAY)

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST:  Do you owe the American people an apology?

COOPER:  Do you think you owe an apology to the American people?

BLITZER:  The “Salt Lake City Tribune” reports in the paper today -

COOPER:  We learned today according to the “Salt Lake Tribune” -

BLITZER:  That President Bush was at a fundraiser there yesterday.  He is going to work to forgive you.

COOPER:  The president told a crowd last night and he was going to work to forgive you.

BLITZER:  You wrote a book blasting the administration, you railed against him.  I‘ll play a little clip of what you‘ve said back then about Richard Clark.

COOPER:  It‘s exactly the way that you attacked others who wrote books.  When Richard Clark came out with his book very critical of the White House, here‘s what you said.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  We‘re big Anderson fans, but the toughest interview like no other.  Please.

Finally, Phil Keating over at FOX is covering the NASA Space shuttle launch on Saturday when he had a surprise reunion with an old intern on the air.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “FOX & FRIENDS”/FOX NEWS/SATURDAY)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I don‘t know if you remember back to your days in Denver, I interned under you.  One time, I went out on a couple of stories with you as a young sports intern.  You probably wouldn‘t remember but it‘s good to see you again.

PHIL KEATING, FOX NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  You know, I‘m still waiting for that coffee.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Keating is one of my favorites.

Up next: Obama calls it quits with a Chicago church after his latest pastor problem.  Will that really help him now though?  That‘s coming up tonight in the Win, Lose, or Draw edition of On Their Trail.

And later: Scott McClellan says he thought Karl Rove should have been fired and “The New York Times” lead editorial today follows up on our reporting about Rove on the case of Alabama Governor Don Siegelman.  Since Rove has been talking to or advising McCain about his campaign, could this negative press about Rove hurt McCain?

Coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Welcome back.  Barack Obama cuts ties with his church of 20 years.  Is it too little too late?  Bill Clinton goes on a tirade against what he calls an attack piece in the latest issue of “Vanity Fair.”  It‘s time for our “Win, Lose or Draw” edition of “On Their Trail.” 

Still with us is “Huffington Post” founding editor, Roy Sekoff;

Clinton campaign adviser, Maria Cardona; and joining us is Republican strategist Brad Blakeman. 

First up, Obama cuts ties with his Chicago church of more 20 years.  Just when he thought he put the Rev. Wright controversy behind him, Obama was hounded last week with more questions about another pastor who presented another controversial sermon at the church, this time about Hillary Clinton. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FR. MICHAEL PFLEGER, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST:  “I‘m Bill wife.  I‘m white.  And this is mine.  I just got to get up and step into the plate.”  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!”

(END VIDEO CLIP) 

ABRAMS:  Well, that was apparently the last straw for Obama.  On Friday, he wrote a letter to Trinity United Church announcing that he and his wife Michelle are leaving the congregation.  And on Saturday, he said this.  

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  It‘s clear that now that I‘m a candidate for president, every time something is said in the church by anyone associated with Trinity, including guest pastors, the remarks will be I imputed to me, even if they totally conflict with my long-held views, statements and principles.  

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Roy Sekoff, I think he‘s right.  But if something controversial comes out of this church over the next few months, won‘t it still get tied to Obama?  I mean was it worth alienating supporters of his church, et cetera?  

ROY SEKOFF, FOUNDING EDITOR, “HUFFINGTON POST”:  I think this one comes out as a draw, Dan.  I mean I think on upside, it gives him a little bit of distance the next time some preacher who things he‘s gotten lost on the way to the “Last Comic Standing” auditions, comes in and says something outrageous, you know.  He‘s got to look out for the preacher eruptions.  Bill Clinton had the bimbo eruptions; he‘s got the preacher eruptions.  But on the downside, his brand is all about authenticity, and I think this feels a little bit - there‘s a little whiff of political convenience.  

ABRAMS:  Brad, in terms of political analysis here, if you were advising Obama, would you advise him to cut ties? 

BRAD BLAKEMAN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST:  Well, he should have cut ties a long time ago.  Look, it‘s better to do it now than three months from now when there are a couple of more incidents coming out of this church from other pastors that he has had a past association with.  It‘s clear that he knew what these people were capable of.  He sat in sermons where he‘s heard this kind of rhetoric and he should have done this a long time ago.  

ABRAMS:  Again, this kind of rhetoric becomes one of those vague terms that is hard to define.  Maria, a quick final thought on this.

MARIA CARDONA, CLINTON CAMPAIGN ADVISER:  Yes, I agree with Brad.  I do think that it is something that he should have done a long time and needed to do it politically so that was a win politically.  Personally, I think it was a loss.  So overall, I think it‘s a draw.

ABRAMS:  I‘m going to call this one a draw.  In the end, this is probably something Obama had to do politically.  I don‘t think, though, it‘s going to stop his critics from trying to tie anything that goes on in this church to him anyway. 

So next up, John McCain hammers Barack Obama again today over his willingness to meet with foreign leaders.  Speaking to the pro-Israel conference in Washington today, McCain took direct aim at Obama over the issue of negotiating with Iran.  

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  We hear talk of a meeting with the Iranian leadership offered up as if it were some sudden inspiration, a bold new idea that somehow nobody has ever thought of before.  Yet, it‘s hard to see what such a summit with President Ahmadinejad would actually gain, except an earful of anti-Semitic rants and a worldwide audience from a man who denies one holocaust and talks before frenzied crowds about starting another.  

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  He may be right about Ahmadinejad.  The problem, according to a new Gallup poll, the American people and almost half in his own party, don‘t agree.  Seventy-one percent of Democrats, along with 58 percent of independents and even 48 percent of Republicans say the U.S. president should meet with Iran‘s president.  So again, Brad, as a political matter, does this hurt McCain? 

BLAKEMAN:  No, it helps him.  Let‘s go back -

ABRAMS:  Really?  How, politically?  What about those polls? 

BLAKEMAN:  Let‘s go back to last year when McCain was carrying own bags through the airport.  Everybody said John McCain is wrong on the surge.  It‘s never going to work.  John McCain was principled.  He said, “Yes, it will.”  Sure enough, the surge is working and Gen. Petraeus says it is.  

SEKOFF:  The surge is not working.  

(CROSS TALK) 

ABRAMS:  Brad, look.  I don‘t want to have a debate about the surge. 

I‘ll tell you what, though.  You definitely changed the subject on me.  Because I‘m not talking about the surge and I‘m not going to let you change the subject on me.  So I‘m going to come back to the question.  I love Brad, but he changed the subject.  So the question is, again, Maria, on this question of the polls - I was surprised by these polls showing that so many Americans want to have that sort of conversation.  

CARDONA:  Well, I think a lot of Americans understand what‘s at stake.  I think it might have been a win for McCain in that room, but I think overall, a lot of people understand the importance of diplomacy and importance of keeping the lines of communication open in terms of dealing with world matters.  

ABRAMS:  Yes.  Real quick, Roy, then I‘ve got to move on.

SEKOFF:  It‘s a big loss.  It‘s a big loss.  This is the same policy Bush has had and what has it led?  It has led to Iran getting much more powerful in the region.  Big loss.

ABRAMS:  Look, I was going to call this a draw, because I think, look

-

SEKOFF:  But I convinced you.  

ABRAMS:  Well, yes.  But when Roy Sekoff speaks, I listen and to the polls also.  So I‘m going to call it a lose for McCain. 

Bill Clinton lashes out today against what he calls a tawdry attack in this latest issue of “Vanity Fair.”  The nearly 10,000-word article features former advisers and aides close to the former president who slam him for hurting Hillary Clinton‘s campaign and surrounding himself with questionable friends. 

Among the anonymous quotes in the article, quote, “He surrounds himself with people sometimes who are really good or really bad, and rarely in between.  He just shows poor judgment for someone who understands political calculations the way he does.  Bill‘s anger has not served Hillary well.  That side of him feeds the worst side of Hillary.”

Bill Clinton‘s office fired off an angry memo, attacking the piece of shoddy journalism.  And tonight, Clinton erupted during an interview with the “Huffington Post,” calling the article‘s author, a, quote, “sleazy, slimy scumbag.”

All right.  So before I‘m in - Look, Roy is from the “Huffington Post,” but let me ask you first, Maria, what do you think make of this?  

CARDONA:  I think Bill‘s right.  I mean I think that the former president has a reason here to be upset.  It‘s bad journalism.  It‘s not going to stand up in terms of journalistic standards. 

ABRAMS:  But is this the way he should be dealing with this?  But as a former president, I mean isn‘t this a lose for Bill Clinton because he‘s dealing with it in a way that seems kind of un-presidential.  

CARDONA:  I think it‘s a win for “Vanity Fair.”  Did you see the cover? 

SEKOFF:  That‘s right.  

ABRAMS:  Roy, was this an interview with one of your - how does this come about that he said this stuff? 

SEKOFF:  Yes.  It‘s an event in South Dakota and she was on the line and she asked Clinton about the article, and he just went off, you know.  I mean he was talking, throwing all kinds of invectives about this writer, but even more, he then pivoted and attacked the entire media, including - and then he said Obama, you know, had this preacher slime Hillary intentionally.  

ABRAMS:  Really? 

SEKOFF:  I mean it was - we‘re going to have the audio soon.

ABRAMS:  He said that?  He said that they tried to slime Hillary intentionally?

(CROSS TALK) 

SEKOFF:  He said the preacher slimed Hillary and that‘s what they do. 

They have other people do it.  

ABRAMS:  Right.  So the suggestion was the Obama camp had -

SEKOFF:  Absolutely.  The Obama camp had set it up so that they would slime him and he gets some distance from it.  And then only left the church because he thought it would look bad in the McCain ad in the future.  

ABRAMS:  Brad, this is just red meat for you, no matter how you cut it up.  Go ahead.  

BLAKEMAN:  Sounds like part of a vast right wing conspiracy to me, Dan.  I mean, after all, this guy is married to Dee Dee Myers.  What‘s with the press secretaries?  I don‘t know what‘s going on.

ABRAMS:  I think this has to go down as a lose for at least Bill Clinton.  I don‘t know about Hillary. 

Brad Blakeman, Maria Cardona, Roy Sekoff, thanks a lot. 

Up next, former White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan says Karl Rove should have fired over the CIA leak case.  The “New York Times” now echoing my call for Rove to testify in front of the congress after he was subpoenaed.  With all these negative press about Rove, is he a liability for John McCain?  And never before seen video of Marilyn Monroe video, a behind-the-scenes shooting of the last film she finished.  It‘s up for auction.  That‘s up in 60 seconds. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Now to “Reality Bites, a dose of reality caught on tape.  Tonight, you‘re looking at never-before-seen footage of Marilyn Monroe and it‘s up for grabs.  Stanley Kilarr, an extra on the set of the movie “The Misfits,” shot the video in 1960, and it‘s been in his family the last 50 years. 

But now, Kilarr‘s great niece is putting it up for auction.  “The Misfits” was the last movie Clark Gable made before he died, and the last one that Monroe finished.  The footage is expected to go for around $40,000 when it‘s auctioned - I bet more - later this month.  How do I know.  We‘ll be right back. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Welcome back.  John McCain may be doing everything he can to keep his distance from President Bush, but what about all the recent news about Karl Rove?  Once, one of President Bush‘s most powerful and high-profile advisers, he admits he‘s been talking with the McCain campaign. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC CORRESPONDENT:  Karl Rove - of course, he was President Bush‘s former deputy chief of staff and political strategist and informal adviser to John McCain‘s campaign.  You just started today.

KARL ROVE, FORMER DEPUTY CHIEF OF STAFF OF GEORGE W. BUSH:  I wouldn‘t go that far - informal adviser, no way.  

STEPHANOPOULOS:  Oh, you pass on information to them.  You give them your advice.

ROVE:  Chit chat.  

STEPHANOPOULOS:  Chit chat?  OK, I think that justifies it, qualifies as informal.  

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Informal or not, Rove is talking to them, and that may be not good news for McCain.  Yesterday on “Meet the Press,” former Bush Press Secretary Scott McClellan said President Bush should have dumped Rove because of Rove‘s role in the CIA leak case.  

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SCOTT MCCLELLAN, FORMER BUSH PRESS SECRETARY:  I think he should have stood by his word.  I think the president should have stood by the word that we said, which is if you were involved in this in any way, then you would no longer be in this administration, and Karl was involved in it.  The president said he was going to restore honor and integrity.  He said we‘re going to set the highest of standards.  We didn‘t live up to that.  When it became known that his top adviser had been involved, then the bar was moved.  

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  But that‘s not all.  As we‘ve been reporting on this program for months, the former governor of Alabama, a Democrat has charged that Rove played a role in what Gov. Don Siegelman calls a political prosecution.  Now, congress has subpoenaed Rove to testify in front of congress.  Rove has thus far refused to do so. 

Bu now, today, the “New York Times” in its lead editorial, echoing our call, “The House Judiciary Committee has subpoenaed him to testify.  It should do everything in its power to see that he does and that he answers all of its questions.”

So with all this new negative press about Rove, could even informally advising McCain be a political problem for him? 

Joining me in a moment, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, member of the House Judiciary Committee.  But first, the author of “Bush‘s Brain: How Karl Rove Made George W. Bush,” Wayne Slater of the “Dallas Morning News.”  And Republican strategist Brad Blakeman is back with us.

All right.  Wayne, is this a potential political liability for McCain?

WAYNE SLATER, “DALLAS MORNING NEWS”:  I think the furor over this book is going to go away by the time we get to November.  The real problem is whether this House Committee forces Rove to testify or some other development in the Siegelman case really puts Karl right, front, and center in the spotlight, and that‘s not good. 

And it‘s not good because there are two people who want to you think that Karl Rove is associated with the McCain campaign, and one of those is Karl Rove.  He wants to say he‘s inside the circle in some informal way.  The other is Barack Obama, because what Obama is going to do is push at every turn to suggest that a McCain election means a third Bush candidacy and having Bush‘s brain along for the ride is not helpful to McCain in that argument.  

ABRAMS:  Brad?

BLAKEMAN:  Certainly, Karl knows his role.  Karl does not have a formal role with the McCain campaign.  This is a very incestuous town, Republicans and Democrats, with political advisers.  One day, you‘re working with a team, and the next day, they are your opposition.  So Karl has a lot of friends in the McCain campaign, as we all do.  And from time to time, he talks to them. 

ABRAMS:  But Brad - go ahead.

BLAKEMAN:  But the Democrats see Karl as the bogeyman.  He is to blame for everything.  It‘s not going to work.  

ABRAMS:  Look at how hard the McCain camp is going to distance itself from President Bush.  I mean they are holding fundraisers and then on the tarmac, they are literally running away from each other ...

BLAKEMAN:  Oh, come on.

ABRAMS:  So that they can‘t be linked at all.  So the question is, is there a risk in having Rove tied to McCain, even - whatever you want to call it, chit-chatting, talking, informally advising, whatever it is.  

BLAKEMAN:  Look, the Democrats are going to try and paint John McCain as the third coming of George Bush.  It is not going to work.  And they can try all they want and put every adviser known under the sun to have some link to John McCain, and the American people are not going to buy it.  They don‘t see John McCain as a link to Bush.  But, look, let them try.  Good luck.  

ABRAMS:  Wayne? 

SLATER:  Well, in a sense I think Brad is right.  I think it will be difficult to suggest that McCain is the third coming of George W. Bush.  But I think clearly that‘s what Barack Obama wants to do.  And let‘s make no mistake about this.  Karl was instrumental in advising McCain, McCain‘s folks, informally or otherwise, in the last few months. 

When McCain went off on his biographical tour, that was something that Karl had recommended in advance of that tour.  It was real good advice.  McCain may not want to be publicly associated with Karl ...

ABRAMS:  Yes.

SLATER:  ... and let me tell you, personally, he doesn‘t have much use for him personally.  But Karl is a brilliant political strategist, no matter what.  And I think inside the beltway, I think they would like to have his advice.  

ABRAMS:  Let me bring Rep. Wasserman-Schultz in.  Let‘s talk - look, I‘m not going to ask you to do political prognostications here on whether Karl Rove is going to hurt or help McCain unless you want to.  But I want to talk to about the subpoena issue.  Have you heard anything more?  I mean, you guys issued a subpoena weeks ago now for Karl Rove.  The sentiment on the part of his lawyer was that he was going to invoke executive privilege, even though he said that he didn‘t have any conversations with the White House on this.  Have you heard again from his attorney on this?  

REP. DEBBIE WASSERMAN-SCHULTZ (D-FL), MEMBER OF THE HOUSE JUDICIARY

COMMITTEE:  We haven‘t been in session since I was last with you.  We are going back into session tomorrow.  But the one thing I can assure you ...

ABRAMS:  In terms of letters - yes.

SCHULTZ:  No.  To my knowledge, we haven‘t gotten any additional communication, but one thing I can assure you that we are committed to and that‘s using every tool in the tool belt that is available to the House Judiciary Committee to ensure that he testifies.  And we have a variety of tools available to us.  

ABRAMS:  Let me read you the “New York Times” editorial, “He was drumming up political prosecutions in the Justice Department and talking about it with operatives in Alabama.  Those conversations ware not privileged.  And if there is any privilege to be protected - such as a conversation with the president that did not involve illegality - he would still need to show up in congress and plead the privilege to specific questions.”

ABRAMS:  I mean this is the lead editorial.  Look, as you know, we‘ve been covering the story on this program for months now.  But the fact that it‘s now leading to the lead editorial in the “New York Times,” it seems that the heat is really being put on Rove here.

SCHULTZ:  The pressure is going to continue to increase and I can tell you that this administration has stepped on congress‘s last nerve.  I mean we are really done with the disrespect that has been shown by this administration to the legislative branch of government.  The way to invoke executive privilege is to come before the judiciary committee and invoke it at that time. 

ABRAMS:  Yes.

SCHULTZ:  He just claim it and then not show up.  It doesn‘t work that way.

ABRAMS:  But he‘s going to claim it and he‘s not going to show up.  I mean isn‘t that the practical reality here? 

SCHULTZ:  You‘re right.  You‘re right.  Procedurally, he‘s going to attempt to do that and we are going to use the tools available to try to bring him in front of our body.  

ABRAMS:  And do you think, honestly, you‘re going to be successful?  I mean it seems - let me ask you, yes.  You think you‘re going to be successful?

SCHULTZ:  I think we are slowly going to turn up the pressure.  The contempt process is traditionally used as a means of coercion and I think that the higher that we turn up the heat, the higher the heat goes, the more uncomfortable it‘s going to be for Karl Rove to avoid coming before us.  And we are going to turn it up as hot as it needs to get in order to bring him in front of us to answer those questions, because this is a matter of significant importance, nationally. 

We have somebody who has been tinkering around with literally deception at the highest levels of office.  I mean we have a press secretary who has implicated him in lying to the president.  I mean there are question that need to be asked and need to be asked in public, and we intend to ask him. 

ABRAMS:  And now you want to call him in now about that as well? 

SCHULTZ:  I think when he comes in front of us, like every other person who testifies in front of the judiciary committee, there won‘t be any holds barred.  

ABRAMS:  Yes, well, good luck getting him here.  But we‘re going to continue talking about it, Representative Wasserman-Schultz.  Thanks very much.  Appreciate it. 

SCHULTZ:  Stay tuned.

ABRAMS:  Wayne Slater and Brad Blakeman - we shall.  Up next, will tonight‘s big winner or loser be actress Tatum O‘Neal, free tonight after being arrested for trying to score some drugs?  K-Mart trying to score points by promoting abstinence for young girls, but on the rear end of scantily clad hot pants?  Or Dick Cheney who scored another blunder with a crass incest joke about West Virginia?  Your E-mails, we call it the “P.O.‘d Box,” are coming up as well.  Be right back. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  It‘s time for tonight‘s “Winners and Losers.”  Our first loser, K-Mart, the retail chain is selling these pants for teens that promote abstinence for young girls.  The problem?  The words, “True love waits,” are plastered across the rear end of this small tight hot pants for teens. 

Loser, Tatum O‘Neal, released today after being arrested last night for allegedly trying to buy cocaine.  The Oscar-Winning actress said she was researching a role for a part after cops found two bags of cocaine and a pipe in her pants. 

Our big loser, Vice President Dick Cheney after this incest joke about West Virginia. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Too much Cheneys on both sides of the family and we don‘t even live in West Virginia.  But, you can say those things when you‘re not running for re-election. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Yes, offending Americans who in theory you represent is irrelevant when you‘re not running for office, right? 

But our big winner of the day, Army Private First Class Ross McGinnis, who today was awarded the nation‘s highest honor posthumously.  The soldier died in 2006, after shouting a warning and jumping on a grenade that saved the lives of four of his comrades.  Today, President Bush presented his family with the Medal of Honor.  He was 19.  

Time for the “P.O.‘d Box,” your chance to tell me what you hate or love about the show.  A lot of opinions about our ongoing discussion of a possible Obama-Clinton ticket.  First up, C. Cole from Sacramento, “Hillary Clinton as Obama‘s VP?  Absolutely not.  Sen. Obama would be undermined by Sen. Clinton throughout his presidency.  So, Dan, please stop bringing this up already!”

I‘m not going to stop!  I don‘t think it will happen but I increasingly believe he should offer her the spot.

Tina from Kansas, “I‘m a loyal and fervent Obama supporter who has grown to distrust and really dislike Hillary over the course of this campaign.  I‘m willing put my personal disgust of Clinton aside to ensure that McCain doesn‘t become president.”

Finally, Bipin Dalmia from Chapel Hill, “If he‘s convinced that choosing her would marginally increase his chances of winning in November, he would prove to me that he would do the same in other big decisions, that is, let politics, convenience, expediency, intimidation, i.e., the same old rules dictate his presidency.”

Bipin, look, if you‘re saying that you‘d be willing to risk it even if means McCain would win, then I have no problem with your position.  It‘s intellectually honest. 

You can E-mail me about the show at verdict@msnbc.com.  See you back here tomorrow night for a special after-hours coverage of the primaries starting at midnight.  You know, the jazz band and everything.  See you then.

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

END   

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