updated 6/12/2008 12:18:11 PM ET 2008-06-12T16:18:11

Guests: Greg Eastdale, Chrystia Freeland, Tucker Carlson, Nancy Giles, Roy Sekoff, Jeff Gardere, Lisa Boesky

DAN ABRAMS, HOST:  Tonight: John McCain says that it‘s, quote, “not too important” when American troops start return home.  And Obama‘s vice presidential vetter is forced to resign.  The general election is on—

Obama v. McCain.  Who won and lost today?

Tucker Carlson, Chrystia Freeland, and Huffington Post‘s Roy Sekoff are with us.

And a brand new NBC News Poll shows that Hillary Clinton on the ticket could help Obama against McCain.  How much should that matter?

VERDICT starts now.

Hi, everyone, welcome to the show.

First up tonight: Obama and McCain on the attack, pouncing on what could be the first major blunders of the race.  Team Obama is hammering McCain for a comment he made this morning about the war; and the McCain camp questioning Obama‘s judgment as the man leading his V.P. search is forced to step down.

We‘re On Their Trail tonight, assessing the day‘s winners and losers on all of the key issues from campaign trail today.

First up: McCain under fire over this comment about what is, quote, “not too important.”  He said it this morning on THE TODAY SHOW.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “TODAY”/NBC)

MATT LAUER, TV HOST:  Do you know have a better estimate of when American forces can come home from Iraq?

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (D) PRESUMPTIVE PRES. NOMINEE:  No, but that‘s not too important.  What‘s important is the casualties in Iraq.  Americans are in South Korea.  Americans are in Japan.  American troops are in Germany.  That‘s all fine.  American casualties and the ability to withdraw.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Not surprisingly, the Obama camp pounced immediately sending out Senator John Kerry to lead the charge.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN KERRY, (D) OBAMA SUPPORTER:  It is unbelievably out of touch and inconsistent with the needs and concerns of Americans, in particularly the families of the troops who are over there.  To them, it‘s the most important thing in the world when they come home.  And it‘s the most important thing in the world that we have a commander in chief who understands how you can bring them home.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Roy Sekoff, how big a loss from McCain on this one?

ROY SEKOFF, THE HUFFINGTON POST:  You know, normally, I would say it‘s not that big a deal.  But it fits this larger pattern of him seeming cavalier about the troops and what I remember he said, it wouldn‘t bother him if we stayed there for 100 years.

So, it stays on top of that kind of pattern and it allows the Democrats like we just saw with Kerry to build this growing pile.  He didn‘t know that - you know, Iran wasn‘t training al Qaeda.  That there‘s not 155,000 troops, it‘s 130,000.  So, it‘s this ongoing pattern that he‘s not this great leader that he‘s presenting himself as.

ABRAMS:  Now, Chrystia, look, you‘d just heard the question and answer.  I want to play what John McCain said about this because he‘s claiming that this was taken out of context.  We heard a question and answer.  I want you to listen to McCain and then I want to talk about it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCAIN:  Instead of the sound byte, instead of taking someone‘s comments out of context and flashing it around on the cable shows, why don‘t we hear complete answers and complete thoughts.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  OK, fair enough.  But has it been taken out of context?

CHRYSTIA FREELAND, FINANCIAL TIMES:  Actually, I don‘t think it has.  And I think this is a difficult moment for McCain.  I‘m not sure that I would agree precisely with Roy that the problem is he seems cavalier.  I think there is a real policy difference here and what John McCain reiterated today is consistent with what he has said before.

For him, America‘s involvement with Iraq is not something which can be ended swiftly.  He sees this as a long term engagement and it‘s absolutely consistent and perfectly reasonable policy for him to say—look, my goal would be to bring down the casualties and to create a situation where maybe we have a long term presence in Iraq as we have been in South Korea, as we have been in Japan.

I think the difficulty for John McCain is, it doesn‘t look like a lot of Americans think that‘s viable.

ABRAMS:  And the problem is, Tucker, words matter, OK?  And this, in politics, words matter even more.  And when you say the words “not too important” about a timetable from Iraq, you‘re going to get into trouble, isn‘t it that straight forward?

TUCKER CARLSON, MSNBC SENIOR CAMPAIGN CORRESPONDENT:  It‘s that straight-forward.  I mean, intent matters.  What you meant to say is significant and you are to take that in account.  McCain probably shouldn‘t have said this, I agree with that.

I do think though, it‘s going to be pretty hard to make the case that John McCain doesn‘t care about the troops.  A lot of things you could say about McCain, that‘s ludicrous and no one is going to buy it.

Moreover, the differences in policy between McCain and Obama on Iraq are not so stark.  Both of them would leave thousands of American combat troops in that country to train Iraqi forces, to fight al Qaeda, and to protect American installations there.  So, there‘s nobody running for president right now in either party who‘s saying we‘re going to have everybody out in a year.  Nobody is saying that.

SEKOFF:  Tucker, I‘m not saying he doesn‘t care about the troops.  But there is this sort of ongoing pattern.  He‘s always talking about honoring the sacrifice and yet, when ¾ of the Senate voted for the new G.I.Bill, he wasn‘t on that side.  So, I think it does feed (ph) a pattern like that.

CARLSON:  But hold on, wait a second.  I mean, maybe he didn‘t think it was a good bill.  You know what I mean?

SEKOFF:  Right.

CARLSON:  But to imply that somehow he doesn‘t care about the

troops -

SEKOFF:  I didn‘t say he didn‘t care.  He has a cavalier attitude about ending the war.  There‘s a difference between saying—I don‘t care if we‘re going to be there 100 years.

CARLSON:  Well, look, you can honestly disagree -

SEKOFF:  You know, it doesn‘t matter it‘s not that important.

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  Hang on, let me let Tucker respond and I‘ll let you get in Chrystia.  Go ahead.

CARLSON:  No, I mean, let me just say—there are many things to disagree with about McCain‘s position.  I, myself, disagree with some of them.  But to stay that they‘re not thought out, that they‘re thoughtless, you sort of tosses them off.  I mean, that‘s absurd.  That‘s just—no one is going to believe that because it‘s so obviously not true.

ABRAMS:  But, Chrystia, go ahead.

FREELAND:  No, I was essentially going to agree with Tucker.  I don‘t think the real weakness in the statement today is because it‘s going to make people think that John McCain who has this incredibly distinguished record of service, a family tradition of service, doesn‘t care about American troops.  I think it‘s more fundamental than that.  He has a different view on what Americans -

ABRAMS:  All right.  But they are mischaracterizing what happened today, OK?  Because McCain‘s camp is saying this: “John McCain was asked if he had a better estimate for a timeline for withdrawal.  As John McCain has always said, that is not as important as conditions on the ground and the recommendations of the commanders in the field.  Any reasonable person who reads the full transcript would see this and reject the Obama campaign‘s attempt to manipulate, twist and distort the truth.”

I mean, it is what he said.  He said - look, you can say what he should probably say is—I didn‘t mean it that way, I‘m sorry.  You know, I didn‘t mean to say that it‘s not important.  But that‘s what he said.

CARLSON:  But can we take three steps back here?  Do you really think that this is a conversation that in the end benefits the Obama campaign?  When we‘re talking about foreign policy, protecting the United States, entanglement and the field of war -

ABRAMS:  Well, yes, actually Tucker, I‘ll tell you -

CARLSON:  Is Obama in a better position to argue those?  Those points—no.

ABRAMS:  I actually do think when it comes to withdrawing and John McCain saying that a timetable for withdrawal is “not too important” is right in the Obama sweet spot.  I mean, do you disagree with me, Tucker?

CARLSON:  I think this.  I believe sincerely that McCain sometime very soon will begin to make the case that he, in fact, is the one who‘s qualified to draw down troops more rapidly.  McCain will be the candidate saying -

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  That may be true.

FREELAND:  (INAUDIBLE) that case, then he has to be a lot clearer on saying he wants to withdraw.

ABRAMS:  Yes, that‘s right.  Right.  You can‘t say it‘s not - that‘s not too important.  I mean, this is—I‘m going to call this a clear loss for John McCain today.

Next up, one of the people leading Obama‘s search for a vice president forced to step down.  Obama V.P. vetter Jim Johnson‘s ties to the mortgage company linked to the subprime mortgage mess led to his resignation today.

Earlier this week, Obama said Johnson was just a volunteer.  They‘re to collect information on possible picks.  But today, the campaign released a statement saying, quote, “Jim did not want to distract in any way from the very important task of gathering information about my vice presidential nominee, so he‘s made a decision to step aside that I accept.”

The McCain camp jumped saying it, quote, “raises serious questions about Barack Obama‘s judgment.  Selecting the vice presidential nominee is the most important a presidential candidate can make and even Barack Obama has said ‘will signal how I want to operate my presidency.‘”

I‘ll be honest.  I don‘t much care about Jim Johnson, they can replace him easily.  The question is—whether these broader attacks from McCain on this will stick, Chrystia?

FREELAND:  I don‘t think so.  I think today is a loss for Barack Obama because clearly Jim Johnson was not the right guy to have leading his V.P. search.  But I think he cut his loss very quickly and I think that by the time we get to November, people are going to have a hard time remembering who Jim Johnson was.

ABRAMS:  Tucker?

CARLSON:  Boy, you know, I‘d feel lot better if there were a lot more Jim Johnsons on the Obama campaign.  Obama‘s problem is—he has a very thin resume, and getting people who‘ve been around, done a lot of stuff to understand how Washington works so government operates, that‘s a good thing.  He needs Jim Johnson.  He‘s setting an awfully high moral bar.  If you‘re not ready to go to heaven, you‘re not ready to work on the Obama campaign.  I don‘t think he can sustain that.

SEKOFF:  I mean, they are not going to remember in November, they‘re not going to remember it tomorrow.

CARLSON:  That‘s right.

SEKOFF:  I mean, this is going way, way down the roster.  That‘s like saying - you know what, I‘m not going to invest in Apple because their HR guy is a bit of a jerk.  It‘s no, it‘s a non-story, Dan.

ABRAMS:  All right.  I‘m going to say this one goes down as a day of lose for Obama.  I don‘t think in the end it will matter.  But, I think, even Roy you would agree, it doesn‘t help him today.

SEKOFF:  It‘s not a good day.

ABRAMS:  OK.  Fair enough.

Next up: John McCain out with his first new TV ad since Obama wrapped up the nomination and it‘s not about the economy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, MCCAIN CAMPAIGN AD)

MCCAIN:  Only a fool or fraud talks tough about or romantically about war.  When I was five years old, my father left for war.  My grandfather came home from war and died the next day.  I was shut down over Vietnam and spent five years as a POW.  Some of the friends I served with never came home.  I hate war and I know how terrible its costs are.

I‘m running for president to keep the country I love safe.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  All right.  Look—this is clearly a strong point for McCain.  He‘s an equivocally an America hero.  But, Roy, right ad at the right time?

SEKOFF:  I don‘t think so.  I mean, John McCain, I‘ve got to say, the warriors always say, you know—only a warrior can really hate war, and then they turn around and start another war.

McCain is always saying—my friends, I hate to tell you there‘s going to be more wars.  There‘s going to be more wars.  I think he‘s got an unnatural order (ph).  He reminds me of, you know, the general in the “Dr.  Strangelove,” who say—and I‘m not going to get our hair moss (ph), we‘re going to have 5 to 10 million killed.  And I think he comes across like that sometimes.

ABRAMS:  Tucker?

CARLSON:  Well, that‘s absurd.  I think the ad is good.  I mean McCain is not deranged, he‘s not a crazed warmonger.  You know, he‘s lucky (ph), there‘s no question about it.  I think the ad is solid.

I personally think it would be more fruitful to run ads attacking Democrats for proposing raising the gas tax.  I think the question of rising gas prices could potentially be a winner for the Republicans if they were smart enough to leverage it.

ABRAMS:  So, Tucker, with that in mind, this is first ad that McCain has put out since Obama has become the unequivocal presumptive nominee—wrong ad, do you think?

CARLSON:  I‘d hit him on gas now.  It‘s the right ad, wrong time.

ABRAMS:  Chrystia?

FREELAND:  I think it‘s a strong ad.  The thing I like about it actually is it is McCain telling his story to America and really telling us the strongest story of his life.  He is a hero.  And that‘s something that is worthy of knowing about him.

But, I do agree with Tucker that he really needs to develop an effective economic narrative and we haven‘t heard anything coherent from him on the biggest issue for the country.

ABRAMS:  Yes, look, I‘m going to call this a draw.  I mean, I think that it‘s not going to hurt McCain but I don‘t see it as helping McCain.

The panel is going to stay with us.

Coming up: Obama e-mailing with movie star Scarlett Johansson, while his campaign talks with J. Lo.  Hollywood has burned Democrats in the past, is it different this time?

And: The far right is setting their sights on Michelle Obama, hoping to bring down Barack‘s wife.  Will that back fire?

Plus: The Pentagon awarding tens of millions in contracts to a businessman indicted by the Justice Department.  Another reason Why America Hates Washington is coming up in 60 seconds.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Tonight‘s edition of Why America Hates Washington: The military is giving a multimillion dollar contract to a guy who‘s been indicted by the Justice Department.  Yes, the military awarded the $80 million contract to supply jet fuel to U.S. bases in Afghanistan to a company owned by Saudi businessman, Git Faron (ph).  That‘s 80 million on top of the 40 million awarded to the same company in 2007.

The problem is that Faron is wanted in connection with a failed bank in the savings and loan scandal which costs U.S. taxpayers 1.7 billion.  French investigators are even looking into a possible link between Faron and money transfers to terror groups.

The military giving contracts to a wanted man: another reason Why America Hates Washington.

We‘re back with McCain trying to stick it to Obama by bringing back the “bitter” comment in Pennsylvania.  Back in a minute.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Welcome back.

We‘re On Their trail tonight assessing the winners and losers of today‘s battle: Obama v. McCain.

Here now is social commentator, Nancy Giles.  Still with us is Tucker Carlson, Chrystia Freeland from the “Financial Times,” and Huffington Post‘s Roy Sekoff.

Next up: John McCain stumping in Pennsylvania today, trying to bring “bitter” back, revisiting Obama‘s comments at a San Francisco fundraiser that some in small towns, quote, “clinging to guns and religion because they are bitter.”  Those remarks may have helped Hillary Clinton in Pennsylvania.  Now, McCain apparently is trying to revive it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCAIN:  We‘re going to go to the small towns in Pennsylvania and I‘m going to tell them, I don‘t agree with Senator Obama that they cling to their religion and the Constitution because they‘re bitter.  I‘m going to tell them they have faith and they have trust and support the Constitution of the United States because they have optimism and hope and are the strength of America.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Tucker talk about misquoting religion and the Constitution to changing the word guns to Constitution.  What do you make of the argument?

CARLSON:  Well, I think he‘s referring to the amendment -

ABRAMS:  I know, I understand.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON:  Look, your McCain, you‘re up against a guy who has outraised you by more than three to one, he‘s raised $250 million.  You got the statement.  I mean, you‘ve got to flag it for what it‘s worth.  I mean, it‘s a legitimate statement.  I‘d certainly use it if I were McCain.

NANCY GILES, SOCIAL COMMENTATOR:  Well, I‘d get it right, Tucker, don‘t you think?  I‘d leave that Constitution part out, you know.  People are bitter about the Constitution are bitter because it‘s not being followed, you know.

ABRAMS:  But, Chrystia, will this comment, reviving this comment, do you think, will this be an ongoing issue for McCain and the campaign and will it work?

FREELAND:  Well, I think McCain definitely hopes that it will work.  And I think that a real line of attack for the McCain campaign has to be to try to portray Barack Obama as elitist and out of touch with small town America.  Now, what I think Barack Obama has going for him is that first of all, his actual background is much more humble than that of Senator McCain and his wife.

And the other thing, which I think we often missed when we‘re looking at the campaign is—this is 2008.  And Barack Obama might not connect that well with people from small town Pennsylvania, but he is great at connecting with the new America—the America of the new economy, young Americans.

So, in a way, part of what I think we‘re going to be seeing is America circa 1990 versus America circa 2008.

ABRAMS:  Real quick, Roy.

SEKOFF:  You know, I think - well, first of all, I want a royalty because this is our story.  We broke the “bitter” story.  So, you know, by bringing it back.  But the other thing that I want to point out is people forget that after, Pennsylvania polls show that people had a more positive reaction to Obama‘s explanation of that than they did a negative reaction to the original statement.  But now, it‘s a lose (ph).

ABRAMS:  Was that people among Democrats or was that people in general?

SEKOFF:  I think that was people in general but you know, probably leaning towards the Democrat.

ABRAMS:  All right.  Because the next issue, I think, is related to this one.  And this one—it‘s all related to this elitism stuff.  So, I‘m going to say this one goes to the draw.  I just don‘t know that this sort of cultural issues are going to matter the way it did in other recent elections.

But next up, remember the scene from HBO show, “Entourage.”

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “ENTOURAGE”/HBO)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  So, where are we at with Scarlett Johansson?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Where are we at?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes, where are we at.  I told you I wanted you to hook me up with her.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I told you I don‘t know her.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  The fact that I remember that scene makes to this such that there‘s something wrong with me.  Barack Obama did not need his manager to get the number.  She came to him.  She says they have been trading e-mails for months now.

According to Politico.com: “Johansson is somewhat shocked that he keeps up their back-and-forth correspondence.  ‘You‘d imagine that someone like the senator who is constantly traveling and constantly ‘on‘ -- how can he return the possible e-mails?”

A fair question.

And now reports that Jennifer Lopez recently visited Obama‘s Senate office amid rumors that she‘s writing him a song.

All right.  So, yes—look, is this a potential problem?  I mean, you know, the left always gets build—and Tucker, I guarantee you, raring and ready to go on this.

GILES:  Got the Hollywood (INAUDIBLE).

ABRAMS:  Yes, on the Hollywood thing.

(CROSSTALK)

SEKOFF:  He‘s the first Internet president and the fact he‘s returning e-mails, I think, is a very positive thing.  You know, as long as he‘s e-mailing Scarlett Johansson—OK.  If he starts ironing (ph) Adam Sandler—trouble.  Yes.

GILES:  True.  And he‘s not meeting her face to face.  And the people who did grow up on the e-mails and stuff which I‘m not one of, they can do that really quickly and it doesn‘t have as much meaning as it might.  Stop making those faces (ph), Dan.  Come on.

ABRAMS:  I‘m just got to believe that he gets a lot of e-mails every day.  Yes.

GILES:  I‘m sure.  I know.  Scarlett - I know.

ABRAMS:  I don‘t know.  Tucker, is this going to become an issue this time around?

CARLSON:  I mean, you know, you just couldn‘t make it up.  I mean, look, like everybody, he‘s impressed by Hollywood celebrities.  I‘m not a Hollywood hater at all.  I like Hollywood.

But this - I mean, this is like a parody of a stereotype.  You know what I mean?  It‘s like Barbara Streisand for secretary of state.  Britney Spears head of Amtrak.  I mean, if you‘re a Democrat - look, if you‘re a Democrat, just stay away from people like Scarlett Johansson.  And if you do have contact with them, tell them not to tell the Politico about it.

(LAUGHTER)

GILES:  Well, you know what - you got to say, you‘ve got to say, Scarlett Johansson and J. Lo are a lot hotter than Chuck Norris.

SEKOFF:  Yes.

GILES:  Sorry, I mean -

ABRAMS:  Are you saying Chuck Todd or?

(CROSSTALK)

GILES:  Chuck Todd is a hottie.

SEKOFF:  Yes, very hot.  Politico is right there.

(CROSSTALK)

GILES:  Hottie (ph) is Chuck Todd.  No, I mean, you know that - he was very good on his walker Texas Ranger.  I mean, that has a lot -

ABRAMS:  But, Chrystia, let me ask you somewhat seriously.  I mean, is the right going to try and stamp this, use this as an example to say—you know, what is Barack Obama doing e-mailing with Scarlett Johansson and why is Barack Obama so enamored?  I remember doing the O.J. Simpson trial, Judge Ito (ph) got slammed because he had all these stars come back into his chambers and he got slammed by everyone for it.  Does Obama risk that, Chrystia?

FREELAND:  Well, Dan, I think that you‘re absolutely right to see the enamored element as a danger.  I think it all really depends on Barack Obama on how he handles this.  I don‘t think anybody minds if young attractive popular stars think Barack Obama is great.  But if he seems too enraptured by Hollywood and too much wanting to be part of that celebrity culture, then that become -

SEKOFF:  Did it hurt JFK that he hung out with Sinatra and Angie

Dickenson (ph)?  I mean -

(CROSSTALK)

GILES:  I know but I don‘t think he‘s going to carry that aspect of the Camelot.  I don‘t believe that part of –

ABRAMS:  But, Roy, you guys solicit celebrities to blog on your Web site all the time.

SEKOFF:  Yes, absolutely.

ABRAMS:  Right?  I mean -

SEKOFF:  Scarlett, please, you can blog anytime.  You know, J. Lo, we want to hear what you have to say.

GILES:  You know, Dan, there is that thing where everybody is just so enamored by anything that a celebrity does, good or bad.  I mean, I‘m glad -

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  But a lot of Americans don‘t like it.  I mean, but a lot of Americans don‘t like it.

SEKOFF:  But Scarlett Johansson read elite to you?  I‘ve never know she‘s elitist.

(CROSSTALK)

GILES:  Has anybody thought of that—J. Lo Hispanic vote or female vote.

(LAUGHTER)

CARLSON:  Let me ask you a quick question, Nancy.  Do you think a voter whose vote is swayed by the fact a candidate is talking to J. Lo should vote in the first place?

GILES:  Absolutely.  I agree with you, Tucker.

(CROSSTALK)

FREELAND:  On the point of voters being swayed, if you look at the political science, celebrity endorsements in general don‘t make a great deal -

(CROSSTALK)

SEKOFF:  I mean, it‘s certainly not going to help, but, you know, he‘s not going to get him votes but it‘s not going to hurt.

GILES:  I think Tucker is right.  You‘re right.  Everybody that would be swayed by that is questionable.

ABRAMS:  Look, I‘m going to say this has to go as a win for Obama.  I know, politically, it‘s probably a lose.  The right is going to jump all over him.  But I want to be pals with Scarlett Johansson.

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  So, how can I call him a loser if I want to be pals with her, too.

GILES:  Oh, you guys.

ABRAMS:  It gives us a final score of one win and one lose for Obama, and one lose for McCain.  Thank you to Nancy, Roy, Tucker, and Chrystia.

Coming up: A brand new NBC Poll out tonight with some good news for Obama in the women‘s vote.  This as far right seems prepared to attack Michelle Obama.  Will that work?

Plus, FOX‘s Bill O‘Reilly, the show to watch for swingers and drugees (ph) and topless teens—all topics he tackled last night.  That‘s in Beat the Press.

What‘s your VERDICT?  E-mail us at Verdict@msnbc.com.  Your e-mails during the P.O.‘ed box at the end of the show.   Please include your name, where you‘re writing from.

Back in a minute.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

First up: CNN covered the massive floods in Wisconsin today but reporter Susan Roesgen seemed a lot more interested in treasure hunting than in covering the damage and pain the floods inflicted.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “CNN NEWSROOM”)

SUSAN ROESGEN, CNN REPORTER:  For the possible pirate booty that you can find on the bottom of this basically muddy lake bed.  I found this.  This is a bottle of inglenook white zinfandel (ph), still full, circuit 2003.  I might have get a metal detector out here and see what I can find, you‘ll never know.  It might be a diamond ring out here for somebody who‘s going to come and look.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Yes, somebody like maybe the person who maybe it belonged to, who lost everything in the flood?

Next up: FOX‘s Bill O‘Reilly claims to be the culture warrior.  But if you listen to his show last night, it‘s clear that it‘s a little more—it‘s a little bit hard to take seriously.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “THE O‘REILLY FACTOR”/FOX NEWS)

BILL O‘REILLY, FOX HOST:  Fourteen and 15-year-olds have been suspended for distributing topless photos of their classmates.  A baby is shown being slapped on the Internet.  And a Florida swinger‘s club in big trouble.  Drug addicted singer Amy Winehouse in a racist diatribes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:   Topless underage teens, a baby being slapped and Florida swinger‘s club and drug addicted singer—thank goodness O‘Reilly is there to protect our culture.

Finally: Sometimes press secretaries can seem so much like the person he or she represents that careless members of the media confuse them as was the case last night with former Mitt Romney press secretary, Kevin Madden.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, LAST NIGHT)

ABRAMS:  Democratic strategist Tonya Acker and former Romney campaign press secretary Mitt Romney.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  It wasn‘t Mitt Romney, I should say Kevin Madden, I got it wrong.

Up next, the new NBC News/”Wall Street Journal” Poll just out tonight, the first since Obama became the presumptive Democratic nominee.

And later: The claws are out.  The right is now focusing on demonizing Michelle Obama.  Will it back fire?  Coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWS BREAK)

DAN ABRAMS, HOST:  We‘re back.  The first NBC poll since Barack Obama became the presumptive Democratic nominee and Hillary Clinton left the race.  It‘s really first major poll.  Obama up six points over John McCain, 47 to 41, a slight bump since April when Obama had a three-point lead.  But look what happens if Obama names Clinton VP in a match-up with a John McCain-Mitt Romney ticket, the Democrats win by nine points, 51 to 42. 

Back with us, Chrystia Freeland, Tucker Carlson, Nancy Giles and Roy Sekoff. 

All right.  Tucker, what does this tell us?  I mean this is - first of all, are you surprised by the size of the bump one way or the other ...

TUCKER CARLSON, MSNBC SENIOR CAMPAIGN CORRESPONDENT:  No.

ABRAMS:  ... and by the fact that Hillary can help?

CARLSON:  I‘m not surprised add all.  Look, the math is really simple this year.  If you‘re the Democrat, all you have to do is unite your party and you win.  There are a lot more Democrats than there used to be.  There are more Democrats than are Republicans.  If every Democrat votes Obama, Obama wins, period. 

And so uniting the party would seem to me to be task one and bringing Hillary in, as unsavory as that is to every intellectual, every person on cable news, it would work.  The problem is Obama has set this ludicrously high moral bar we saw today with Johnson, you know what I mean?  If you‘ve had any contact with any lobbyist ever, you‘re barred from the holy Obama campaign and that disqualifies Hillary.  He‘ll never pick her.  But if he did, he‘d win.

ABRAMS:  Well, let me ask you this.  Nancy, if the numbers show, if it‘s close by the time he has to make the decision, and the numbers show in the polls that Hillary could make the difference, would that make the difference to you? 

NANCY GILES, SOCIAL COMMISSION:  No.

ABRAMS:  You‘d still say it‘s worth losing over.  

GILES:  No, it‘s not worth losing over because I don‘t think he‘ll lose.  But I have a slightly different take than Tucker.  I don‘t think his attitude has been holier-than-thou, Obama‘s.  I think he was smart to just let that guy resign and go on to something else.  I think it would be a real liability. 

But his whole campaign is new - change not old politics.  And Hillary

Look, if he gets Hillary as his VP, he‘s got to hire somebody to be the official presidential taster because you don‘t know what‘s going to be in your food.  You don‘t know what could happen.  I literally feel that way.

ABRAMS:  Chrystia, do you think - I mean look, I think this is the sentiment on the part of some Obama supporters which is, even if we risk losing, we don‘t want her on the ticket.  Go ahead. 

CHRYSTIA FREELAND:  Well, it‘s not the Obama supporters who will pick the vice presidential candidate.  It‘s going to be Barack Obama.  And I think that -

ABRAMS:  But he‘s not going to make it in a vacuum.  He‘s not going to pick it in a vacuum.

FREELAND:  I think that he is a lot more pragmatic than that.  I think that if Barack Obama believed that it would take having Hillary on the ticket to win, he would put her on there in a heartbeat.  And even if he believed that having her as his vice presidential running mate gave him a significantly increased chance of winning, I think he would do.  He is a pragmatist and that‘s what pragmatic leaders have to do. 

ABRAMS:  Another poll - another piece of this poll was the battle for female voters.  I think this was interesting, that McCain and Obama, head-to-head, Roy - all women, 52 percent for Obama; 33 percent for McCain.  White women, 46 percent for Obama; 39 percent for McCain. 

Suburban women - that seems to be the one area that he has a weakness, suburban women, 38 percent for Obama 44 percent for McCain.  But these are pretty good numbers, are they not, for Obama when it comes to women? 

ROY SEKOFF, FOUNDING EDITOR, “HUFFINGTON POST”:  Well, that‘s exactly my point.  This is why I don‘t think he should pick Hillary.  Because I think the trend is he‘s doing well with all the areas that there were that only Hillary would be able to buttress.  And that‘s why I don‘t think that he should pick her because she does hurt the brand.  

GILES:  Hey, where is the statistics for black women?  I‘m kind of curious.  It was like white women, all women, suburban women.  Where‘s black women?

ABRAMS:  I don‘t know.  

GILES:  Yes, I know. 

ABRAMS:  But is there really - do you think that there‘s really going to be an issue?  I mean, I think Obama is going to be able to hold ...

GILES:  No, but - Well, I‘m just saying -

ABRAMS:  ... maybe holding 99 percent of black - I mean -

(CROSS TALK)

GILES:  I‘m saying it for selfish purposes, because again, I feel like certain types of women have been almost raised -

ABRAMS:  But wait -

GILES:  The importance has been raised to this level where - but I want to know like how does McCain -

ABRAMS:  There are more white - There are more white women, right?

GILES:  I guess there are. 

TUCKER:  May I explain this?

GILES:  But you know - Wait, Tucker.  I just want to finish this one point blank.  Where are the statistics on how McCain‘s vote measures with black women? 

ABRAMS:  But you‘re just trying to do that for the purposes of making a point as opposed to actually figuring out who‘s going to win the election.  

GILES:  Well, but if my - you know, the black vote could be -

ABRAMS:  I‘m not minimizing it.  I‘m not -

GILES:  (UNINTELLIGIBLE) 

ABRAMS:  He may be able to get out more, the same way that Bush was able to galvanize the rights. 

GILES:  Thank you.  Absolutely.

ABRAMS:  Obama may be able to get more (UNINTELLIGIBLE).  Tucker, go ahead. 

Let me let Tucker talk.

GILES:  OK.

CARLSON:  This is the problem with bloc voting.  When virtually every single member of the group votes in a certain way, that group tends to be ignored because its vote is taken for granted.  So Obama is getting upwards of 90 percent of black voters.  Do you think the Democratic Party is going to pay attention to black voters when they don‘t have to work for votes?  Of course not.  I mean that‘s the problem.  

ABRAMS:  We are moving on.  We are learning more tonight about the GOP strategy that hit Sen. Obama close to home.  The “Los Angeles Times” reports today, “Conservative voices are energetically taking on Michelle Obama.” 

And on the east coast, “New York Times” columnist Maureen Dowd says that since Hillary Clinton is no longer around, “Republicans can turn their full attention to demonizing Michelle Obama.  Mrs. Obama is the new, unwilling contestant in round two of the national game of ‘kill the witch.‘”  Is Michelle Obama fair game?  Will it work?  Chrystia?

FREELAND:  Well, I think she‘s fair game because those are the rules in American politics right now.  But I have to say, I think American politics is much poorer because of the prominent role that spouses are given.  That‘s partly self-inflicted by the campaign, but it‘s partly our fault. 

And if you look at any other country on earth, people understand that you elect the person who is running.  You do not elect their family.  That‘s how business operates.  That‘s how politics should operate too.  

SEKOFF:  But let me tell you this, though.  If that‘s the question, if it‘s going to be Michelle Obama on the line, bring it on. 

GILES:  I can hear you well.

SEKOFF:  I mean she has a phenomenal story -

GILES:  I know.

SEKOFF:  And she is a phenomenal speaker.  I‘ve gone to a number of events with her, and she is spectacular.  And she has a great American story.  Bring that one on.  And Cindy McCain?  I think that is not as good a story.  

GILES:  Not going to be the same at all.

ABRAMS:  Look, Tucker -

SEKOFF:  Wait a second.  I mean, two things - you keep referring to, quote, “the far right.”  It‘s the Hillary Clinton camp that began the rumors about Michelle Obama.  I know that for certain.  

ABRAMS:  Look, let -

(CROSS TALK)

Hang on.  Let me read you this, Tucker.  Rush Limbaugh, “She‘s a lovely and angry wife.”  Michelle Malkin, “Obama‘s bitter half.”  “National Review,” “America‘s unhappiest millionaire.”  So I mean that‘s where I‘m quoting from just yet.

CARLSON:  I agree with Chrystia that I‘d rather - I don‘t even interview candidates‘ wives because it makes me uncomfortable.  The Obama campaign ought to take her out of the rotation as its cheap surrogate if it doesn‘t like the attacks on her.  By the way, Michelle Obama has been really helpful to that campaign with certain groups.  Well, certain voters love Michelle Obama.  Michelle Obama‘s a big problem for Barack Obama‘s campaign with other groups, that‘s just a fact.  

GILES:  Like what groups, Tucker? 

(CROSS TALK)

CARLSON:  I don‘t think Republicans ought to weigh in on this.  I don‘t  think the John McCain campaign will mention Michelle Obama‘s name.  They‘d be foolish to do that -

GILES:  Tucker, what group?

CARLSON:  It only allows Obama to give lecture.  Look, Michelle Obama is a polarizing figure.  It‘s not an attack on Michelle -

GILES:  Why? 

CARLSON:  Because she says things that are controversial like, “I‘ve never been so proud of my country.”  I mean -

GILES:  That‘s not what she said.

(CROSS TALK) 

SEKOFF:  Laura Bush said that that was a nonstarter, and Condoleezza Rice said the same thing.  So we have Laura and Condoleezza backing up.  That was not going to fly.

(CROSS TALK) 

CARLSON:  I‘m saying I‘m not attacking - I‘m not attacking Michelle Obama.  I‘m merely saying she is polarizing.  That‘s a fact.

GILES:  Well, I just have to correct you because the actual quote was,

“I‘ve never in my adult life,” which is a perfectly reasonable -

CARLSON:  OK.  Whatever.

GILES:  No, no.  I don‘t think whatever, Tucker, because it‘s a whole different thing. 

CARLSON:  But you‘re carrying water for her.  I‘m just - I‘m making an analytical point.

GILES:  I‘m not carrying water.  I like her.  I think she‘s dynamic and smart.  I think it made be hard for some -

ABRAMS:  But Chrystia, as the objective observer here, does Tucker have a point that whether even if you love her, she‘s going to be seen on the macro level as divisive or not? 

FREELAND:  Well, I think, as Tucker said, actually, it depends on which group.  And I do think, you know, as Nancy was suggesting, a potential way in which Michelle Obama is divisive is she‘s different.  She presents herself differently from Barack Obama as he has written in his autobiographies. 

Very early in his life, he developed a strategy for neutralizing the possible fears and the possible concerns that white people might have about African-Americans.  And he‘s very good at that.  He is very good at coming across as post-racial.  That is not the way Michelle Obama presents herself

... 

CARLSON:  Exactly.

GILES:  Well -

FREELAND:  ... which may be absolutely fine.  It is absolutely fine.  But it may not play as well politically depending on what your views are.  

GILES:  And there are a lot of different ways to be post-racial.  I just have to add that.  I mean Barack has great skills at that and Michelle, without notes, can be very, very down to earth and real.

ABRAMS:  But that‘s not - the question is, politically, though - Roy, politically, is she a potential liability for Obama or will these far right attacks in particular backfire? 

SEKOFF:  I think they‘ll totally backfire.  I really think they‘re going to backfire.  I think she‘s smart.  I think she‘s articulate.  I think she‘s charismatic.  I think she‘s a big plus for him.  

ABRAMS:  Chrystia Freeland, Tucker Carlson, Nancy Giles, Roy Sekoff, thanks a lot. 

Up next, the oldest daughter in the case of that woman raped by her own father has awakened from her coma and seen daylight for the first time in her life.  This as her incest father and grandfather has received 200 love letters in jail. 

And a woman takes a dive from a segue.  “Reality Bites” is in 60 seconds. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Now to “Reality Bites,” a dose of reality caught on tape.  Tonight, the transporter once touted by “Time” magazine as the engineering marvel that can transform the way people get around is instead tripping people up.  These women look pretty confident on the segue moments before one of them took a nasty spill.  She couldn‘t be too embarrassed, not even the leader of the free world was able to avoid a tumble on one of these.  Be right back. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Welcome back.  The oldest daughter in that horrific sex dungeon case has woken from her coma.  Kirsten Fritzl, the 19-year-old daughter and granddaughter of Josef Fritzl, imprisoned in an underground bunker beneath the family home for her whole life, was reunited with her family this week and is expected to make a full recovery. 

It was her urgent need of hospital care which led to her father‘s incestuous relationship being exposed to the world.  Kirsten, who recently saw the daylight for the first time, is the eldest of the seven children born to Elizabeth Fritzl, held against her will by her father for 24 years and forced to father seven of his children.  Three of them were also held in the secret bunker that Fritzl built.  Greg Eastdale with our British partner ITV has the latest.  

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GREG EASTDALE, ITV REPORTER:  For 19 years, this was the only world she knew, a cellar at the bottom of her father‘s Austrian home where she never saw the sun.  Kirsten Fritzl was one of seven children fathered by Josef Fritzl with his daughter Elizabeth.  The family‘s dark and disturbing secrets only revealed to the world when Kirsten was taken to a hospital in April, suffering from organ failure. 

But with medical care, she‘s now been brought out of a coma and has been reunited her mother and the three brothers and sisters who lived upstairs while she was held captive below.  

DR. BERTHOLD D. KEPPLINGER, ARMSTETTEN-MAUER HOSPITAL (through a translator):  The meeting between Kirsten and the family a couple of days ago was a very touching moment for all of us.  Kirsten‘s surprising recovery was a great relief.  

EASTDALE:  It emerged Kirsten is also anxious to start doing some of the things ordinary teenagers want to do.  

DR. ALBERT REITER, ARMSTETTEN-MAUER HOSPITAL:  (through a translator):  She would like to go to a Robbie Williams concert.  She was in bed listening to Robbie Williams until 3:00 in the morning. 

EASTDALE:  Seventy-three-year-old Fritzl meanwhile, a man whose story has horrified people around the world, remains in prison pending prosecution.  Greg Eastdale ITV news.  

(END VIDEOTAPE) 

ABRAMS:  And he‘s getting love letters in prison.  We‘re going to talk about that in a moment. 

Joining me now, clinical psychologists Jeff Gardere and Lisa Boesky. 

Thanks to both of you.  Appreciate it. 

All right.  Dr. Gardere, let me start with you first on the issue of reacquainting a 19-year-old who has never seen sunlight in her life with the regular world.  How do you do it?

DR. JEFF GARDERE, CLINICAL PSYCHOLOGIST:  Well, you have to have her get that exposure in very limited amounts, of course.  You have to follow her wishes, what it is that she wants to see, what she wants to do.  We know about the Robbie Williams concert.  She wants to take boat rides. 

The exposure not only has to be careful, but it has to have feedback - feedback that she‘s giving to say, “Yes, this is what I want.  This is what I like.”  And finally, she has to be with loved ones, people that she trusts while she is exposed to these various venues.  

ABRAMS:  Dr. Boesky, I‘ve got to ask you about these love letters that this guy is getting.  I mean there is, you know, sort of no greater monster than this guy, and yet he‘s received 200 love letters, 5,000 letters in all. 

Some of the women say he‘s good at heart and misunderstood.  Others believe he wanted to keep his daughter out of trouble so he kept her a prisoner for most of her life in a bunker and forced her to father seven children.  What is the psychological state of the women who are sending this guy these letters? 

DR. LISA BOESKY, CLINICAL PSYCHOLOGIST:  Well, it‘s crazy when you think about it because there‘s nothing even slightly attractive about this guy.  He is evil inside.  He‘s unattractive outside. 

What we typically see with women who do these types of things is two things.  One, they have a hard time meeting men in their own life so they create this fantasy world that they‘re going to save this guy behind bars and he is someone who actually looks forward to her. 

But we also see with some women who want to make sure they know where their man is.  He‘s not going to be cheating on her.  The weird thing about this is, he‘s not a young attractive guy.  He‘s an older man and he‘s done heinous horrible things, not just to strangers, but to his own family.  

ABRAMS:  I mean Dr. Gardere, you know, look.  In a lot of high profile cases I‘ve covered, we see this.  You see it with O.J. Simpson case, but you know, he was a celebrity before.  Even Scott Peterson, someone who wasn‘t a celebrity before.  Women who see him say he‘s so attractive.  Maybe they even believe he‘s innocent after watching the case or reading about it every day. 

There is nothing to suggest that this guy is innocent, meaning he has confessed, as far as we know, to doing it.  DNA has confirmed that he is the father.

GARDERE:  That‘s right.

ABRAMS:  And we have pictures of the bunker, et cetera, and he‘s probably going to plead insanity, et cetera.  So it makes it a lot harder to think, even sort of in a very warped mind, why a woman would want to write this guy a love letter.  

GARDERE:  Well, these women, and as Lisa has pointed out, these are women

who have psychological issues.  These are women -

ABRAMS:  That‘s an understatement, right? 

GARDERE:  Yes.  Yes, but psychological issues where they have continual issues that they‘ve never been able to get over as far as their fathers, as far as being with controlling men and you can bet your bottom dollar here, Dan, that these women who are in damaged relationships right now.  They don‘t know how to be in healthy relationships and so it plays out through their adult life.  

ABRAMS:  But Dr. Boesky, they seem to be buying into his explanation as to why he did this where he‘s saying, “Well, initially I did it because I just wanted to prevent her from, you know, getting in trouble.”

BOESKY:  Well, that‘s one thing if you‘re saying that you called the police on your teenage daughter because you were afraid she was going to get into trouble.  What he‘s done is so heinous, not just locking up his daughter, but raping his daughter, fathering children with his daughter and then keeping them in a dungeon.  It‘s unbelievable that any woman would actually find anything remotely attractive about this man and be literally spending her energy and time writing him letters.  

ABRAMS:  All right.  An insider said she‘s determined to ensure her father, who may claim he‘s too old to go on trial, does not escape justice. 

Jeff Gardere, Lisa Boesky, thanks a lot. 

GARDERE:  A pleasure.  Thank you.

ABRAMS:  Up next, will tonight‘s big winner or loser be a hot-tempered high school senior who will now always have his cap and gown mug shot.  Hulk Hogan whose Ultimate Grill has been recalled because it gets too hot.  Or Congressman Anthony Weiner who is doing his part to make sure hot models can come to America legally. 

Your E-mails - we call it the “P.O.‘d Box” is coming up next.  Will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  It‘s time for tonight‘s “Winner and Losers.”  It‘s graduation season and our first loser is high school graduate Joseph Shore, who will always have this graduation photo, cap and gown, in a mug shot.  The 18-year-old from Arab, Alabama was arrested in his graduation ceremony and charged with disorderly conduct for allegedly cursing at his family and flipping off the crowd while on stage accepting his diploma.  I wonder if Mr. Shore is somehow related to Pauly Shore. 

Another graduation loser, officials in Rock Hill, South Carolina who arrested students and their loved ones at commencement ceremonies for cheering.  Yes, arrested.  Last weekend, cheering violators were not only escorted out of the graduation ceremony but carted off to jail and charged with disorderly conduct.  The school officials asked for the police to be there and defend their actions claiming they wanted everyone‘s name to be heard.  Whatever happened to the threat of summer school? 

Our big loser, Hulk Hogan - no, not because his wife left him or son is in jail, but because the Hulk Hogan Ultimate Grill has been recalled by the Consumer Product Safety Commission for bursting into flames if cooking oil or sprays were used on the device. 

Our big winner of the day?  Congressman Anthony Weiner, doing his part to make sure more hot women can legally come to America.  The Democrat from New York introduced a bill that would create a thousand new visa spots for foreign models.  In the past, fashion models had to compete with high-tech workers trying to immigrate to the U.S.  But under Weiner‘s bill, they would be classified in the same category as entertainers and athletes.  How could anyone who brings beauty to our shores not be a winner? 

Time for the “P.O.‘d Box,” your chance to tell me what you hate or love about the show.  Last night, we discussed the far right‘s attempts to smear Obama through Webb rumors.  Now, some publications asking Obama‘s camp for documents to disprove them. 

Valerie writes, “Why are you getting into the game of Barack‘s info? 

If you don‘t believe it, why publicize it?  You‘re wasting your time. 

Don‘t buy it and move on, Dan.”

Jackie Dierks-Walker from Flagstaff, Arizona, “Keep covering these ‘stupid‘ allegations against Barack Obama.  Someone credible has to debunk this stuff.” 

And Rob Walton, “Some of your panelists said maybe they should not even be talking about Internet rumors.  I disagree.  In the real world, believe this stuff. It will affect the election, and anything that will affect the election is sure worth talking about.” 

We do have to be careful about giving some of this nonsense credibility.  When the “National Review” is demanding a birth certificate from Obama, I think it has to be exposed. 

Finally, some sharp reactions to the former mayor of Cincinnati being on the show last night.  Lawrence Bouett says, “Are you out of your freaking mind?  Jerry Springer?  The man has zero credibility, not to mention an utter lack of political credentials.  Not a good choice.” 

We got lots of similar E-mails to that one and then this one.  Ernest Haggard from Cincinnati, “I appreciate seeing our former Mayor Jerry Springer on your panel tonight.  I remember the years he did excellent commentary on Cincinnati‘s top rock station as well as his own program.”  I thought he was fun, but you are as alone as you are earnest.  Everyone was upset. 

That‘s all the time we have for tonight.  You can E-mail us about the show at 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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