updated 6/10/2008 11:18:23 AM ET 2008-06-10T15:18:23

Guests:  Roy Sekoff, Maria Cardona, Brad Blakeman, Susan Filan, Kim Serafin, Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida, Roy Sekoff, Lynn Sweet, Maria Cardona

DAN ABRAMS, HOST:  We have got breaking news tonight: Former White House press secretary, Scott McClellan, has agreed to testify in front of the House Judiciary Committee.  At issue, whether the vice president and others ordered to him make misleading statements.

Now, McClellan just confirmed it moments ago on COUNTDOWN with Keith Olbermann.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, COUNTDOWN)

SCOTT MCCLELLAN, FORMER WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY:  The House Judiciary Committee reached out to me.  They invited me to come and testify, and as I‘ve said before, I‘m glad to share my views and I told them I was glad to and I‘ll share what I know about the Valerie Plame leak episode.  So, I will be going before the committee a week from Friday on the 20th of this month.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  The question, of course, whether the administration retaliated against certain critics by leaking the name of a CIA operative.

Joining me on the phone is House Judiciary Committee member, Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida, and Roy Sekoff of the Huffington Post.  Thanks for both of you for coming on.  Appreciate it.

Representative, let me start with you.  What are you hoping to get from Scott McClellan?

REP. DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ, (D) FLORIDA (through phone):  Well, what we‘ve been trying to get to the bottom of for a very long time and that is to basically see what the depth of the deceit was in the Valerie Plame case and how high up it goes and how high up it went in this administration.

There‘s a lot that we do, that we can learn about Scott‘s communications with Karl Rove, with the vice president, with Scooter Libby and the others, and it‘s going to be incredibly important for us to open up some of those big questions we‘ve got.

ABRAMS:  Here‘s another piece of sounds from McClellan from COUNTDOWN just moments ago, confirming that he will be testifying in front of the House Judiciary Committee.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, COUNTDOWN)

MCCLELLAN:  The letter that they sent to me said specifically about the Valerie Plame leak episode and the potential concern that there might have been a cover-up, I think, is the way that Chairman Conyers phrased it in a letter.  But, you know, if they get in to other questions, we‘ll just have to go from there.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Representative, what about other questions?  Are there other questions that you intend to ask him beyond the Valerie Plame episode?

SCHULTZ:  Well, whenever someone comes in front of the judiciary committee to testify, you know, they are subject to, you know, a whole range of possible questions.

One of the things that I really want to ask him about is the runup to the Iraq war, and I know he‘s described in the book that there was quite a bit of planning and shaping the runup for the Iraq war, that did not line up with the facts that the administration reported to the American people.  So, that‘s a really deep concern that we‘ve had for a long time and it‘s something I want to ask him about.

ABRAMS:  Roy Sekoff, how big a deal is this?

ROY SEKOFF, THE HUFFINGTON POST:  Dan, it‘s a very big deal.  I‘ve always said that the Plame-gate case is worst than Watergate ever was.  Nobody died as a result of Watergate, 4,000 American soldiers have died as a result of the cover-up, about the lies that led to that war.  And that‘s what this is about.

I mean, McClellan said that Bush asked him to go out and exonerate Libby.  It was about covering up all the information that‘s coming out now in the phase two we just saw from the Senate.  They didn‘t want that coming up in 2003 and that‘s what this whole case was about.

ABRAMS:  Representative, I‘ve got to ask you this, as you know, the White House has refused to allow Karl Rove to testify, so they claim.  And there‘s been some suggestion that maybe they could step in here and invoke executive privilege.  That a concern?

SCHULTZ:  Well, you know, from what I understand, Scott submitted his book to the White House before it was published and they asked him to excise certain portions under the claim of executive privilege (ph).  He rejected their assertions and so, now, we‘ve been down this road before.  And we don‘t believe the White House is going to be able to prevent his testimony in any way.

ABRAMS:  Roy, do you expect that the White House is going to step in?  I mean, Dana Perino made a reference to it today.  Do you expect that they‘ll step and say he‘s not allowed to testify?

SEKOFF:  They‘ve tried to do it every step of the way.  I wouldn‘t be surprised.  But as you‘d said, the congresswoman had said that, you know, he did vet the book with them.  So, that should be an interesting showdown.

ABRAMS:  All right.  Congresswoman, thanks for coming on the program.  Appreciate it.

We, of course, are going to stay on this story as it continues.

From presidential scandal, let‘s turn to presidential politics and whether Hillary Clinton has earned a place as Barack Obama‘s pick for vice president.  Even if she hasn‘t earned it, should she be on the ticket?

Today, Obama campaigns for the first time as the unequivocal nominee for the Democratic Party, but one question hovers over the campaign—after Hillary Clinton unambiguously endorsed Obama on Saturday, will he be able to win over her 18 million—many of them very passionate Clinton voters?

Senator Dianne Feinstein has an idea about how he can pull it off, by adding Hillary Clinton to the ticket.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “THIS WEEK WITH GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS”/ABC)

SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN, (D) CALIFORNIA:  I looked at every other possible candidate.  No one brings to a ticket what Hillary brings.  Eighteen million people are committed to where she‘s going.  Trust me, there is a movement and it‘s formed from a number of different perspectives.  I would have to say the head of the moment are women.  Women who were really invested in this candidacy and they believe she got treated poorly.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  A new CNN/Opinion Research Poll seems to support Feinstein‘s theory.  When Clinton supporters were asked, how they would vote in the fall if Obama doesn‘t pick Clinton for V.P. -- 22 percent said they wouldn‘t vote at all, 17 percent said they‘d switch over to John McCain.

Plus, a recent Gallup Poll shows Clinton could literally help boost Obama against McCain.  It showed Obama and McCain tied at 45 percent.  When you added Clinton to Obama‘s ticket, the Democrats beat McCain 50 to 45.

So, as much as some don‘t want her on the ticket, isn‘t it becoming increasingly clear she is V.P. is the best way for Obama to win?

Joining me now: Maria Cardona who‘s been the senior advisor to the Clinton campaign; Roy Sekoff, again, from the Huffington Post; and Lynn Sweet, who covers the Obama campaign for the “Chicago Sun-Times.”  Thanks to all of you for coming on.  Appreciate it.

All right.  Now, Roy, look, you have been outspoken on this program many times in opposition to the idea of a Clinton-Obama or Obama-Clinton ticket.

SEKOFF:  Right.

ABRAMS:  With these new polls showing 30 - what was it 9 percent of Clinton voters saying—if she‘s not on the ticket, I‘m not going for Obama, doesn‘t that make you say—geez, wait a second, maybe we‘ve got to put her on?

SEKOFF:  Trying to pick a vice president through polls like this is like deciding who to marry by asking your ex-wife‘s in-laws.  You know what I mean?  They‘ve just come out of the thing, they‘re just have the bad break up.

ABRAMS:  But it‘s still condescending to them - it‘s so condescending to Clinton supporters to say—don‘t worry, they‘re going to change their minds, they‘re just very upset right now.

SEKOFF:  No, it‘s not condescending, they‘re passionate about their issues and when the issues are made clear, they‘re not going to vote for John McCain, a guy who‘s had a 25-year history of radical positions against women‘s health issues and reproductive rights.  I can‘t see it.  I just can‘t see it happening.

ABRAMS:  All right.  Maria, look, these Clinton voters are coming out and they‘re saying—we supported Hillary Clinton, we want her—at least a good percentage of them effectively saying—we want her on the ticket.  What do you think?  Do you think some of them will say—look, you don‘t put our candidate on the ticket and we‘re not going to vote for you?

MARIA CARDONA, CLINTON CAMPAIGN SR. ADVISOR:  Look, is it a dream ticket for a very many number of Democrats that are out there?  Absolutely, I mean, the polls show that.  And I think that ultimately, what Obama has to do is—it is the most important choice that he‘s going to make before he becomes president.

And I don‘t think that it‘s absolutely necessary for him to put her on the ticket in order to have party unity.  I think the most important thing for him to do is to passionately and from the heart, go after her voters with the issues that they cared most about, the same way that she did.

ABRAMS:  But look, they agree on most of the issues.  Let‘s be quite clear on that.

And let me got to Lynn Sweet on this because, Lynn, look—when we use the term party unity, it just seems so vague to me, I never know exactly what it means.

But, look, the polls say, at least as of right now, the majority of the Democrats want to see Hillary Clinton as the V.P., let‘s put up the latest Gallup Poll -- 52 percent.  Now look, the numbers have range from 52 to something like 60 as to what percentage of Democrats want to see Obama pick Hillary Clinton.  So, 52 percent of Democrats want to see Obama pick Clinton.  You‘ve got these polls talking about Clinton supporters‘ unwillingness to vote for Obama, doesn‘t that have to have an impact, Lynn?

LYNN SWEET, CHICAGO SUN-TIMES:  It could.  It‘s too early to be determinative right now, Dan.  But it shows how much work Obama has to do.  It also shows that if the Clintons are very serious about wanting to try and get Senator Clinton on the ticket, they have to be able to show that the persuadables those who are leaning, you know, to Obama, that they can deliver them.  I don‘t know -

ABRAMS:  How do they show that?

SWEET:  OK.  One, Hillary Clinton has to go out and start, I guess, without being asked and just say this is what needs to happen if we elect a Democratic president, you got to go, it‘s not about me.  The other thing that Clintons have to be ready to do is to participate fully in a vetting process which means mainly that former President Clinton has to be able to share information about who his donors in the Clinton library and the Clinton foundation—big first step to take.

ABRAMS:  All right.  But if he does that, Roy - I mean, is your position—no way, no how, it‘s just the wrong pick no matter what happens?

SEKOFF:  Yes.

ABRAMS:  Nothing could change your mind.

SEKOFF:  Well, listen, she‘s a tremendous candidate.  And Dianne Feinstein is right, but this is the Hillary paradox.  She is certainly the second most popular, certainly has this 18 million people, but it injures the Obama brand and I think the negatives—here‘s the interesting thing—she gave a fantastic speech on Saturday.  This is the second half of the paradox, I think the speech actually hurt her chances of becoming vice president because she showed that she‘s going to come out there full force and passionately support Obama without having her on ticket.

So now we can have the benefit without having the downside.

ABRAMS:  But, again, I think that that presumes, Maria, that the flock of Hillary Clinton supporters are like lemmings where they‘re necessarily just going to go.  I mean, they‘re going to be individuals, where going to say—wait a second here, I want X, Y, or Z.

Even if, let‘s say look, you are a senior Clinton adviser, you are not taking the position that Hillary must be on ticket.  But there may be Hillary supporters who feel differently than you do, who simply say—you‘ve got to have her on the ticket.

CARDONA:  Well, absolutely.  There‘s no question that there are a lot of Clinton supporters that absolutely feel that way.  But, I think, ultimately, I mean, I do think Roy is right.  That ultimately, these are smart voters, these are people who understand what is at stake here and ultimately the differences between Senator Clinton and Senator Obama pale compare to Clinton or Obama, and McCain.

ABRAMS:  Yes.  But there may be a lot of people though who are somewhere in the middle, who say—you know what, I was ready for Hillary Clinton and if she‘s on the ticket as V.P. that makes me feel better unlike the thoughts of the former President Jimmy Carter.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

JIMMY CARTER, FORMER UNITED STATES PRESIDENT:  I think it would be the worst mistake that could be made.  I think that would just accumulate the negative aspects of both candidates.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  And look, Lynn Sweet, that is the chief, you know, one of the chief arguments against this.  But I got to ask you this, Lynn, look, you know how this stuff works, you‘ve been covering it for a long time—do the polls matter?  I mean, we‘ve just laid out all these polls that show that Hillary Clinton has got a good argument today based on the poll that say she ought to be V.P.

Let‘s assume that these polls show similar results in a month from now.  Is that going to make or break it?

SWEET:  No.  First of all, Obama has to have chemistry and feel comfortable with the person.  And that means a lot.  And that‘s right, you know, pretty early, the break-up, you know, just happened and feelings are going to be raw.

So, real quickly, he‘s got to have chemistry, the vetting has to work and, you know, when Jimmy Carter—let‘s put a little context here—Jimmy Carter was not welcome in the Clinton White House during all those years.  So, you take a little grain of salt with it.

ABRAMS:  There‘s no suggestion that somehow the word of Jimmy Carter is going to be gospel, here maybe not even to Roy Sekoff.

SEKOFF:  Of course not.

CARDONA:  Dan, you know what else?

ABRAMS:  Yes, real quick.

CARDONA:  You know, I haven‘t talked to Senator Clinton about this myself, but everybody is assuming that she is dying to get the V.P. slot.

ABRAMS:  She wants it.  Come on.

CARDONA:  For all intents and purposes, Dan she was already V.P. for eight years.

ABRAMS:  I understand, but you talk to other senior Clinton advisers, almost all of them are saying she wants this.

SWEET:  Yes, at this point, there were ways (ph), so, she really wouldn‘t want to do it their way (ph), because it could have been nipped in the bud by now.

ABRAMS:  Yes, she wants it.

Everyone is staying with us.  What do I know?

Coming up: The D.C. pundits gave Hillary Clinton rave reviews for endorsement of Obama this weekend, even Roy did, but don‘t many of those same pundits owe her an apology for all of their sky is falling talk after her comments Tuesday night.

Then actress Gina Gershon says she did not have sexual relations with that man, Bill Clinton that is, she is speaking out for the first time since “Vanity Fair” reported rumors of some source of relationship.

And next up: The Republican political operative accused of stealing more than $500,000 to fix up his house, it‘s another reason Why America Hates Washington.  We‘re back in 60 seconds.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Tonight‘s edition of Why America Hates Washington: An officer of the National Republican Congressional Committee allegedly remodeling his home with your donations.  The former treasurer of the NRCC, Christopher Ward is now accused of stealing more than $500,000 from the committee over five years to help remodel and pay the mortgage on his swank Bethesda, Maryland home.

Now, Ward admits to forging audits of the committee‘s books but is yet to respond to these latest allegations and he has not been charged with any crime.  Right now, the government is just trying to cease his home.

A Republican Party official, at the least, grossly mismanaging donations is another reason Why America Hates Washington.

Coming up: Hillary Clinton is out of the race, did the media play a role with its obsession about getting her out quickly?  Coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, SATURDAY)

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON, (D) FMR. PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  I congratulate him on the victory he has won and the extraordinary race he has run.  I endorse him and throw my full support behind him.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  What a difference a big speech makes.  The inside D.C. pundits suddenly heaping praise on Hillary Clinton after she dropped out of the race on Saturday and endorsed Barack Obama.  It‘s a sharp shift in tone after so many blasts at Clinton on Tuesday night and Wednesday for not pulling out immediately after Obama secured enough delegates to win.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JEFF TOOBIN, POLITICAL ANALYST:  That rather graceful speech yesterday alienated the Obama campaign.  I don‘t think it burnished her reputation at all.  If she‘s just leaving 72 hours later, why didn‘t she do it in the first place?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  On the night your party‘s nominee gets the most delegates you still argue that you‘re a stronger candidate?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  In the speech that she gave, this was no concession speech by me measure.  She said, she‘s still making the case she‘s the strongest candidate.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  She‘s taken the spotlight away from him.  It should have been his incredible day.  It‘s all about her.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  All right.  Look, I said before, I too was troubled by some of what she said, but not by the fact that she waited.  Today, one of Clinton‘s high profile backers Gloria Steinem took it to another level.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “AMERICAN MORNING”/CNN)

GLORIA STEINEM, WOMEN‘S MEDIA CENTER:  Clearly, part of the problem is misogyny and the culture at large and especially in the media.  I mean, you know, no candidate in history has been asked to step down by the media.  She was.  The average time that it takes for a loser to endorse a winner in this situation is four months—four months.  She did it in four days.  And look how she was criticized for not doing it the very same night.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Well, look, I am not convinced that it was sexism, but there is no question many in the inside D.C. media and pundits sure seemed obsessed with getting Clinton out of the race, would that have been better for the Democratic Party?  Maybe.  But why did so many in the inside D.C. media seem so invested in getting her out?

Roy, why were you so invested in getting her out early, was it just because it was good for the Democratic Party?

SEKOFF:  No.  First of all, you and Gloria Steinem were saying that we asked her to get out.  We‘d told her to get out—no, no.  We were asked if we think it was a good idea, and that was the point.  This is a typical question.  If the boxer loses the match, what‘s the first thing you ask, are you going to retire champ?

I mean, you know, this is what—it‘s a typical - and by the way, she said it‘s never happened in history.  I think she has a very short memory, go back to February, as soon as Super Tuesday was over, all the questions to Huckabee—when are you getting out.  How can you be not getting out?  Are you going to be the V.P.?

ABRAMS:  But there‘s no comparison, Lynn, to me between where Huckabee stood and where Hillary stood.  The difference is Huckabee wasn‘t close, Hillary Clinton was.

SWEET:  Right.  With all due respect, Roy, just consider this, that Obama did have—did lose a lot of the end races.  The race was close no matter how you count it.  The delegate race was—she was a viable contender up until the end if you knew he wasn‘t going to win.  You don‘t cut—her view was that, you know, even though a baseball team might be losing you play the nine innings and see what happens.

SEKOFF:  We never said that she should get out and that was never the point.  We always said stay in.  But the question was—what was she waiting for.  We‘re just looking at the numbers, and the numbers were clear for a pretty long time that she just couldn‘t do it.

SWEET:  OK.  And I‘ll be quick on this.  I think she wanted to know what the final number was for whatever satisfaction it gave her.  You know, let‘s do a little political psychology here.  And if she had shown any signal before the votes for South Dakota, which she won, she wouldn‘t have had that number.

I think it was just important here to know, when this is over, what was her tally, she knew it and she didn‘t feel like being pushed out by commentators last Tuesday night.

ABRAMS:  But look, but she—I mean, look, Maria, it does stun me though that you‘d hear all these—oh, Hillary Clinton she was terrific on Saturday, I mean, Roy would probably say—greet speech, this and this and that.  And these are the same people who were outraged on Tuesday that she didn‘t get out.  I mean, the point is, who cares if it was four days later?

CARDONA:  Oh, I‘m completely with you.  I think that the way that she was treated on Tuesday night was just horrendous, because at the same time that he was getting the number of delegates that he need to clinch the nomination, she was winning South Dakota and it was one win in a string of wins that she had had in the last three months, 18 million voters, more votes than he got.

So, you now, I think that she at least deserved to take some time and to try to figure out how to move forward and, in fact, even more than she needed it, her supporters needed it.  I think it‘s still good for the Obama campaign.

ABRAMS:  All right.  Let me ask you this, Roy, do you think any of the people who were so harsh on her on Tuesday night about the issue of whether she should concede should say—oh, you know what, maybe we overstated it a little bit, she got out four days later, maybe it‘s not that big a deal.

SEKOFF:  I don‘t think the issue on Tuesday was—why didn‘t she get out.  I think the issue was the tone.  It was so tone deaf.  Teri McAuliffe - ladies and gentlemen, I give you the next president of the United States.

ABRAMS:  Right.  I agree with you on that.  I agree with you on that.

SEKOFF:  And as tone deaf as that was, that‘s how pitch perfect it was on Saturday.  It‘s just like saying—that was the strike out; that was a homerun.  I don‘t see that that‘s a problem.

ABRAMS:  But there were some people who are going well beyond just the tone deafness of it, they were simply saying—why is she staying in this.  She‘s out.

SWEET:  I think there is a whole point of people wanting the storyline to move on because of this overextended primary season and sometimes, you know, that plays a factor in how the media - you know, we‘re all individuals, collectively.  I think there is just an effort to have a tidy ending and have it faster (INAUDIBLE).

ABRAMS:  I agree with you.  I think that there was this weird obsession on the part of some in the media and particularly some of the pundits to simply just get her out—just go already.  We‘re tired of this thing, just go, go.

Anyway—Maria Cardona, Roy Sekoff, and Lynn Sweet, thanks a lot.

Coming up: The general election is here and so is the new edition of Win, Lose, or Draw.  Tonight, a prominent McCain supporter in the Senate talks about how McCain‘s policies will be an extension of Bush‘s.  Was that supposed to help McCain?

And the Obama fist bump is now being imitated by dorky news folks around the country, but, of course, FOX News figures out a way to link it to terrorism.  That‘s next in Beat the Press.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

First up: Let‘s be clear, most of us in the news business are dorks, I don‘t know how else to say it.  When the Obamas gave each other a fist bump, it was cool.  When my colleagues in the news business tried to relive the moment, it‘s just tough to watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE REPORTER:  All right, everybody, give me a little pound-pound, a simple fist bump.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Warren (ph), I‘m not cool enough to grasp this.  So, tell me, is this what all brothers do? Gloria Borger, Nick Tapper (ph).

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  There you have, good job.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Good ahead, you can do it.  There we go.  All right, good work.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Please, stop.  Stop.

But, of course, over at FOX News, if it‘s Obama, it must be something far more sinister.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “AMERICA‘S PULSE/FOX NEWS/FRIDAY)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE ANCHOR:  A first bump, a pound, a terrorist fist jab, the gesture everyone seems to interpret differently.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Yes, a handshake or terrorist fist jab, everyone just interprets it differently.

Next up, a term I have never used in my whole life, somehow became the go-to adjective to describe how Hillary Clinton should endorse Barack Obama.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  She has to issue a full-throated endorsement and in full throated way endorse this guy‘s candidacy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  It‘s up to you to show full-throated enthusiastic support for me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  But an unambiguous full-throated support.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT:  Yes, I mean it was pretty full-throated -

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  I mean poetic maybe, Keith‘s (ph) use the term.  I‘ve never heard Obama used it recently.  But I‘ll admit, I‘m uncomfortable.

Finally: My pal, CNN‘s Rick Sanchez interviewed a 13-year-old who had campaigned for Hillary Clinton and asked her this question.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “CNN NEWSROOM”/SATURDAY)

RICK SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR:  Now that Hillary Clinton has bowed out and we‘re left in the Democratic side with Barack Obama, and we‘re left on the Republican side with John McCain, who are you going to vote for?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Well, I probably—I really haven‘t studied either of their issues.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  She‘s 13.  She can‘t vote.  Not even close—the best political team on television.

Up next: The debut of our general election version of Win, Lose, or Draw: On Their Trail.  Laura Bush stands up for Michelle Obama and possibly takes an attack line away from John McCain.  Is that a win for Team Obama?

Then the movie star and the ex-president:  Gina Gershon goes public today to deny that she had any kind of relationship with Bill Clinton.  She says she hardly knows the guy.  That interview is coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWSBREAK)

DAN ABRAMS, HOST:  Welcome back.  Laura Bush injects herself into the ‘08 race and defends Michelle Obama?  And McCain and Obama face off on prime time TV to win over the viewers of army wives.  It could only be found in a “Win, Lose, or Draw” edition of “On Their Trail.” 

Still with us is Roy Sekoff from the “Huffington Post;” Clinton campaign adviser Maria Cardona; and joining us once again, Republican strategist Brad Blakeman. 

First up, Michelle Obama finding an unlikely ally in the White House.  Some far right-wing groups are already attacking Mrs. Obama for a comment she made about it being the first time in her adult life she‘s really proud of her country.  But doesn‘t it make it harder to blow up that comment when Laura Bush is defending Michelle Obama as she did this morning on ABC?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LAURA BUSH, FIRST LADY:  I think she probably meant, “I‘m more proud,” you know, is what she really meant.  You have to be really careful in what you say, because everything you say is looked at and many in cases, misconstrued.  

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Brad Blakeman, what do you make of it? 

BRAD BLAKEMAN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST:  I don‘t think Laura Bush is reading her talking points. 

(LAUGHTER)

But really, I think the first lady was being very gracious.  I think this is a draw.  Certainly, the American people know what Mrs. Obama said.  More importantly, they know what she meant, and that‘s for them to decide.

ABRAMS:  Well, they know what she meant.  But you know, Maria, it would seem that you couldn‘t have - if you said to me, who out there - and you name anyone in the country that you want to defend Michelle Obama.  If you‘re the Obamas, I would probably say - Laura Bush?  I mean, seriously? 

MARIA CARDONA, CLINTON CAMPAIGN ADVISER:  Absolutely.  I think this is a huge win for the Obama campaign.  I mean, come on, the only likable person from the Bush administration is coming out and defending you?  Huge win for the Obama campaign.  Huge loss for McCain.

ROY SEKOFF, FOUNDING EDITOR, “HUFFINGTON POST”:  Well, we saw, you know, last week, Condi Rice said, “Finally, we the people, means all of the people in reference to Obama winning.”  So, you know, Laura and Condi obviously drank a little bit less of the Kool-Aid than the rest of the people in the administration.  

ABRAMS:  You know, I was going to call this a win for Obama.  But I think that any time we‘re talking about these comments from Michelle, it may not be good for Obama.  So I‘m going to call this instead a lose for team McCain.  It may help blunt this type of attack on Michelle Obama and I think you‘re going to hear again and again, “Well, did you listen to Laura Bush?  Did you hear what Laura Bush said on the issue?  We feel the same way.” 

All right.  Next up, Obama and McCain face off on prime time television.  Yes, you‘ve seen them pander for votes on “American Idol” and the daytime talk shows.  But now, they are taking their case directly to the viewers of “Lifetime‘s Army Wives.”  Yes, both candidates took the opportunity to praise the troops and their families and also not so convincingly attempt to proclaim themselves to be followers of the show.  

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESUMPTIVE REPUBLICAN NOMINEE:  “Army wives” has a lot of great twists and turns.  I know because Cindy makes me watch with her and we‘re looking forward to Season Two.  

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESUMPTIVE DEMOCRATIC NOMINEE:  I know you all are waiting to see what happens this season on “Army Wives.”  But I just want to take a moment to honor the people this show is about.  

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  All right.  Look, I respect the fact they wanted to go on and honor the troops.  But do you believe, Roy, that either of them had ever watched “Army Wives.”  I mean, look at them both referring to their - well, you know, Cindy.  I mean, “Lifetime” - I guess it‘s for women, but -

SEKOFF:  But once we saw all three of them go on the WWE and Hillary said, “From now on, you can call me Hillrod(ph), there‘s only - you can only go up from there.  

ABRAMS:  Here is the program, and Maria since you‘re the sole woman on this particular panel, I‘m going to play now for you and for all of us ...

CARDONA:  OK.

ABRAMS:  ... a clip from the program that they were fighting to get the viewers on.  

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS:  So how many women have you been with? 

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR:  You really want to know? 

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS:  Yes.  

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR:  Well, five, including you.  So what‘s this about? 

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS:  Artichokes, do you want any more kids? 

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR:  Not now, but I like to practice.  So come on, babe, what is this about? 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SEKOFF:  You notice he had to count with his fingers?

ABRAMS:  All right.  Maria, can you picture Barack Obama and Michelle or John McCain and Cindy sitting down for a good night of “Army Wives” together.  

CARDONA:  Hey, it‘s riveting TV, what are you talking about?  I want to see the rest of that clip.  Look, I think that there is - there are certainly audiences that you can reach out to with this, but I do think you‘ve got to be careful with the goofiness factor.  If it‘s not - if it doesn‘t look sincere, you know, I think people are going to understand that it‘s not sincere.

ABRAMS:  Yes, Brad, look, this has been a very successful show, and I‘ve got nothing against the show.  You know, I hear good reviews of it, et cetera.  But it‘s not exactly like going on “Oprah.” 

BLAKEMAN:  No, it isn‘t and I think for both of them, it‘s kind of awkward for them to be put in that position.  Supporting the troops is one thing; supporting the show is another.  And I don‘t see any value in it at all.

ABRAMS:  All right.  I‘m going to give them both a lose on this.  The pandering during this campaign season is now reaching new heights. 

Next up, with Hillary Clinton now officially out of the race, the mad dash begins to win over her 18 million supporters.  But the Obama camp may have gotten off on the wrong foot with at least some of them.  Up until this afternoon, Clinton supporters who have visited Obama‘s Web site would have been treated to this little nugget about their favorite candidate, quote, “Barack Obama‘s presidential campaign is funded entirely by grassroots supporters like you.  Unlike Hillary Clinton, Sen. Obama does not accept money from special interest groups and Washington lobbyists.” 

The Obama camp has since removed that mention of Sen. Clinton on the Web site.  Maria, how big a deal for hard-core Clinton supporters that two days after she endorsed him, he still had comments like that on the Web site?

CARDONA:  Well, if they went to the Web site and they saw it, it doesn‘t help, you know.  I think that, unfortunately, it was something they should have been a little bit more careful about, especially if they‘re very, very serious about reaching out to Hillary supporters.  It doesn‘t help.  I don‘t think it‘s going to have long-term effects especially if now they really do make an effort to reach out to her supporters.  But not a good way to start out on the right foot.  

ABRAMS:  Before I check in on why Brad is smirking, I can just imagine - Roy?  

SEKOFF:  This is a rare misstep for Obama online.  I mean he‘s had the best online, you know, presence ever.  But it‘s not a win for McCain either because his big thing today, to try to go after Hillary supporters, was to say he‘s a big fan of Abba, and that his new theme song is going to be, “Take a Chance on Me.”  Is that really the message that we want to give?  

ABRAMS:  And believe that McCain‘s Web site still had some attacks Hillary up as well. 

SEKOFF:  Yes.  The B-word.

ABRAMS:  Yes, they have, exactly, the B-word.  Brad, do you want to just pass on this one? 

BLAKEMAN:  Well, look - No, no.  Oh, no.  When we were at the White House, we didn‘t have W keys, certainly the Obama people could invest in the delete key - their sloppiness at best.  And I think it‘s just another added thing for those who don‘t like Obama and the Hillary supporters to say that it should have been done earlier.  

ABRAMS:  All right.  This has to go down for a lose for Obama. 

Next up, from Sen. Obama getting no help on his Web team to Sen. McCain getting no helps from surrogates.  Sen. Lindsey Graham appeared on ABC‘s “Sunday Morning” and apparently didn‘t get the memo that Sen. McCain is not -I repeat - is not an extension of George Bush‘s presidency. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, HOST, ABC‘S “SUNDAY MORNING”:  You said the tax policy and the healthcare policy were essentially - Sen. Graham, John McCain is calling for an extension or maybe even enhancement of the Bush policies.  So that -

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC), MCCAIN SURROGATE:  Absolutely.  He wants to lower corporate tax rates.  We have the second highest corporate tax rate in the world. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Brad, this was an opportunity to distance himself, was it not?  Don‘t your talking points say, “Do not refer to McCain in any way, shape or form as an extension of the Bush presidency?”

BLAKEMAN:  No, they do not.  But -

ABRAMS:  Really? 

BLAKEMAN:  No.  Look, as a fundamental principle, Republicans believe that we should lower taxes and Americans should have more money in their pocket.  So if that‘s an extension of Bush‘s policies so be it.  That‘s a Republican fundamental principle.  

ABRAMS:  But either Brad is not getting the talking points, Roy or - Brad I did not mean to suggest they do not send you the talking points.  You are on the show too often for me to not to think you‘re not getting the talking points.  

SEKOFF:  This is a very big loss for McCain because this is one of the main messages of the campaign -is the third term thing.  He‘s aggressively trying to put them away and then to have one of his key supporters come out and say that. You know, it hurts to straight talk and mean it.

ABRAMS:  I‘m calling this a lose for McCain, that gives us a final score of three losses for McCain, two losses for Obama, no wins tonight.  

CARDONA:  Hey, Dan, you didn‘t ask me about that one.  

ABRAMS:  All right.  I‘m out of time, Maria.  You‘ve got ten seconds.  What have you got.

CARDONA:  I think you just saw the next DNC commercial.  

ABRAMS:  All right.  So you agree, it was a loss.  

CARDONA:  Huge loss for McCain.  

ABRAMS:  Roy Sekoff, Brad Blakeman and of course, Maria Cardona, thanks a lot.  Appreciate it. 

CARDONA:  Thanks, Dan.

ABRAMS:  Up next, actress Gina Gershon speaks out for the first time about the suggestion that she and President Clinton had been, quote, “visiting.”  And flood waters sink a house in Wisconsin.  That is unbelievable.  Coming up in 60 seconds. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Incredible pictures out of southern Wisconsin.  Weekend storms broke a dam, allowing water from a man-made lake to gush into the Wisconsin River.  The floodwater swallowed a two-story home, carrying the massive structure down river like a water raft.  Two other homes suffered a similar fate.  Heavy rains have been blamed for at least eight deaths in the Midwest.  We‘ll be right back. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Welcome back.  Today, for first time, actress Gina Gershon publicly responded to the “Vanity Fair” article linking her to President Clinton.  The article referred to the repeated tabloid reports about the president‘s female friendships.  And it mentioned quote, “high-end Hollywood dinner party gossip” that quote, “Clinton has been seen visiting with the actress Gina Gershon in California.”  Now, it‘s hard not to think that there‘s some suggestion there of a sexual relationship between the two.  And that is what Gershon so steamed as she responded this morning on “Live with Regis and Kelly.”

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)   

GINA GERSHON, ACTRESS:  It is such a crazy, outrageous lie that really has nothing to do with me at the end of the day.  You know, it‘s more -

REGIS PHILBIN, CO-HOST, “LIVE WITH REGIS AND KELLY”:  Do you know him?  Is he a friend of yours?

GERSHON:  I‘ve met him three times at, you know, events at the White House or, you know, different places.  But the thing is, you know, you‘re so used to celebrity gossip and people say stuff, like whatever.  It‘s part of, you know, the world being used to deflect what‘s really going on with things. 

KELLY RIPA, CO-HOST, “LIVE WITH REGIS AND KELLY”:  This somehow seems serious.  

GERSHON:  You know what?  This disturbed me on so many other levels that I kind of felt like I had to stand up for myself and speak the truth.  

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  In a letter to “Vanity Fair,” Gershon‘s lawyer says they didn‘t do any fact finding.  They demanded a retraction and they threatened to file a lawsuit. 

Joining me now is MSNBC legal analyst, former prosecutor Susan Filan, and Kim Serafin, senior editor at “In Touch Weekly.”  All right.  Susan, let‘s just deal with the legal issues real quick.  I think it‘s going to be a tough case if they file one for Gina Gershon.  I wouldn‘t expect they are going to file one.  What do you think?

SUSAN FILAN, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST:  It‘s not a great case but it‘s not a complete dead duck.  There is some colorful claim that they could make.  If it‘s true, she‘s toast.  But if it is untrue, the fact that the “Vanity Fair” article calls it a rumor and hides behind that, isn‘t going to save them.  Of course, she has to show damages and she could end up showing she‘s actually been bettered off by this because look at the publicity she‘s getting.  

ABRAMS:  Well, but the term visiting, I mean, what does that mean?  I mean they‘ll be able to say, look all they said was they were visiting and she admits that they have met each other.  And we didn‘t mean to suggest - in fact in their statement, “Vanity Fair” says, “Todd Purdum‘s article does not indicate that former President Clinton had an improper relationship with Gina Gershon.  The story merely examines the concerns of some of Clinton‘s aides about reports of his behavior.  We don‘t believe that any correction is warranted.”  

FILAN:  Yes, but that claim is the same as saying, “I‘m not saying, but I‘m saying.”

ABRAMS:  Yes, I mean, look.  Again, I think legally, they have a tough claim here.  But what do you make, Kim, of Susan‘s point that maybe this has been in a weird way, good for her?  Is that possible?

KIM SERAFIN, SENIOR EDITOR, “IN TOUCH WEEKLY”:  Well, it certainly doesn‘t hurt her.  I mean, she has not been doing so many movies lately.  She has appeared in “Curb Your Enthusiasm” and “Ugly Betty” and now she does have this big show Broadway, “Boeing-Boeing.”  So it is putting her name out there in the spotlight again, which it probably hasn‘t been in a long time. 

On the other hand, this is not the kind of publicity that any actor really wants.  You know, you really want to be known for your work, not necessarily rumors, although it is among high-end Hollywood dinner party gossip.  So I guess that‘s a good thing.  But you know, it is getting her out there.  And I think the way she handled it certainly this morning was very good.  

ABRAMS:  All right.  Here‘s another piece of sound from Gina Gershon this morning.  

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GERSHON:  The thing is journalists today - it‘s so scary because they take these rumors and hearsay.  They put it in the story then that story goes around the world in a about a minute, courtesy of the Web.  And people read this, they perceive it to be the truth, so therefore lies are the new fact.  

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  All right.  She‘s got, look, Susan, as a matter of PR here, she‘s got a pretty good case to make.  I mean if you were advising her, Susan, as her lawyer and she said, “Should I go on this program?  I don‘t think we‘re actually going to sue,” you‘d advise her to do it, wouldn‘t you, Susan?

FILAN:  Yes, first of all, she is getting the publicity.  And second of all, she‘s getting a spree shot at clearing her name.  But I would lose the Mother Teresa act, like, you know, “I‘m doing it for the greater good to save journalism.”  But the question is she saying she‘s defamed because they‘re saying she‘s an adulteress.  Because if she‘s an adulteress, she did it with Bill Clinton as opposed to somebody like George Clooney.  

ABRAMS:  I think what she‘s saying is she‘s claiming - right Kim - that she really hardly even knew him, that she only met him a couple of times.  

SERAFIN:  Right.  I mean she was so specific in this denial thing.  She‘s only met him three times.  It sounds to me like she‘s telling the truth on this or she just has people that are advising her that are not very good.  Because, you know, when you‘re that specific, people can come back at you.  So I think she handled it really well in getting out there and on a program like “Regis and Kelly,” where they‘re not going to ask really hard follow up questions, you know.  Two of her co-stars from “Boeing-Boeing” were on “The View.”  She wasn‘t on with them.  There, she might have had some more pointed questions - follow-up questions, but here she really had the floor to speak her mind.  And I thought she handled that really well.

ABRAMS:  Susan, what about, Bill Clinton?  Unfair to him? 

FILAN:  Yes, it‘s unfair to him.  But you know, he has put himself in this position from prior acts and he is in the spotlight.  And it is unfair to him but he‘s got to take his lumps.  He has absolutely no claim whatsoever in my opinion.

ABRAMS:  We‘re not going to see a lawsuit filed by Bill Clinton against “Vanity Fair?”  

FILAN:  I would say leave it alone, especially if that leads to depositions about what other activities he might have been involved in.  

ABRAMS:  Remember, this of course is the article that led him to go on the tirade against the reporter with the profanity, et cetera, against Todd Purdum, so anyway -

Susan and Kim, thanks a lot.  Appreciate it.  

FILAN:  Good night, Dan.

SERAFIN:  Thanks, Dan.

ABRAMS:  Up next, will tonight‘s big winner or loser be Pat O‘Brien who couldn‘t save his anchor chair after heading back to rehab.  “Rehab” singer Amy Winehouse trying to save her career after a home video emerges of her singing a racist song.  Or former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee proving this weekend, he literally knows how to save a life.  Plus, your E-mails, we call it the “P.O.‘d Box.”  We‘ll be right back. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  It‘s time for tonight‘s “Winners and Losers,” for this 9th day of June 2008.  Our first loser, Pat O‘Brien, who was a co-host of the tabloid TV show, “The Insider” until today.  He lost his anchor title after heading to rehab a second time earlier this year.  The first time, of course, after this voice mail was released.  

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

PAT O‘BRIEN, FORMER ANCHOR, “THE INSIDER”:  Hire a hooker.  Let‘s get crazy, get some coke.  So when you get this message, if you agree with this, just look at me and say yes.  

(END AUDIO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Loser, British singer Amy Winehouse who‘s also been in and out of rehab.  But her latest antic may actually be a career killer.  In a just released video reportedly shot last year at the Grammy‘s.  Last year, the Grammy winner sung a take on a children‘s song loaded with racial epithets.  Winehouse apologized for that video, says she‘s not a racist.

Our big loser, the poor besieged tomato.  Today, the Center for Disease Control says the red fruit/vegetable is responsible for putting at least 23 people in 16 states into the hospital due to salmonella poisoning.  And now, many food chains including McDonalds and Taco Bell took most tomatoes off their menus.  I love tomatoes, hoping they‘ll come back soon. 

Our big winner of the day, Mike Huckabee.  The former pro-life presidential candidate showed he knows how to save a life when he administered the Heimlich maneuver to a choking diner over the weekend. 

Robert Pickinger, a Republican running for lieutenant governor in North Carolina, had a piece of food jammed in his throat.  Lucky for him, Huckabee had once undergone emergency medical training and helped out. 

Time for the “P.O.‘d Box,” your chance to tell me what you hate or love about the show.  Clinton‘s concession has some asking whether the media is to blame for her loss. 

First up, Christy from Florida writes, “Dan, the race is over.  When are you going to stop blaming the media for the Clintons‘ madness?  Shut up, Dan.  It‘s over.”

There‘s plenty of blame to go around, Christy.  Diane Greenwald writes, “Thank you for publicizing the negative bias towards Hillary Clinton by the media during the primary season.  I am sure that many voters were influenced by this.  Why didn‘t you report this earlier while the voting was still going on?”

Diane, I did, for a while.  Josh Abeles, “I‘m not saying sexism determined the result of the campaign, but you hit the nail on the head in at least addressing the question, where others have either ignored it or pretended it wasn‘t even worthy of analysis.”

Josh, look, I think it was less about sexism and more of the fact that many in the mainstream media just plain dislike the Clintons.  But don‘t get me wrong.  In the end, Obama ran a better campaign.  That‘s the headline. 

John from Miami says, “She was the frontrunner fro the majority of the campaign and Obama‘s 13-state win streak put the nomination out of her reach mathematically.  Also, Obama‘s come-from -behind victory is just a better story than the Clinton juggernaut taking the prize.  What motivation would the press have for building up Obama while tearing down Clinton, in your mind?”

John, I think you just answered your own question, that some would say Obama winning is the better story, particularly for many who have long despised the Clintons.  But again, this isn‘t meant as some sort of diss on Obama. 

Finally, Julie Haddad from Glencoe, Illinois writes about Friday‘s “Winners and Losers,” I‘ love the geeky way you sat with your converse tucked underneath and the jeans and the bit and the self-deprecating humor.  You‘re the perfect dweeb!”

Thanks for all of your feedback.  You can E-mail us, verdict@msnbc.com.  See you tomorrow.

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

END   

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