updated 6/17/2008 11:06:00 AM ET 2008-06-17T15:06:00

Guest: Lynn Sweet, Tanya Acker, David Corn, Brad Blakeman

DAN ABRAMS, HOST:  We have got breaking news tonight. 

Any moment, former Al Gore is expected to take the stage with Barack Obama in Detroit, Michigan to officially endorse him for president. 

Gore has pledged to do whatever he can to help Obama get elected, which presumably could include stumping for him across the country.  Also, for the first time tonight, he‘s asking members of his Web site to contribute to a political campaign. 

So, as we await Al Gore and Barack Obama taking the stage, you‘re seeing there, the governor of Michigan on the stage as we wait for Obama and Gore to step up.  It‘s our first issue in tonight‘s Obama versus McCain, win, lose or draw edition of on their trail. 

It is no surprise that Gore is endorsing Obama.  But if Gore is stumping for him across the country, could that make a real difference for Obama? 

And remember, we are going to be dipping in at any moment when Al Gore begins to speak. 

But here now, David Corn, Washington bureau chief for “Mother Jones” magazine, Democratic strategist Tanya Acker, Republican strategist Brad Blakeman, and Lynn Sweet of “The Chicano Sun-Times,” also the Washington bureau chief there. 

Lynn, let me start with you.  How big a deal if Al Gore stumps for Barack Obama? 

LYNN SWEET, CHICAGO SUN-TIMES:  Hi.  I hope you can hear me, first of all.  Can you? 

ABRAMS:  Yes, I can. 

SWEET:  OK, good.  I thought there was a little communication—mike problem. 

ABRAMS:  How big a deal? 

SWEET:  It is a big deal.  It‘s a big deal, Dan.  This is the consummate voucher.  It‘s a resume gap filler and Gore is real good at helping Obama raise money.  He appeared at a fundraiser already in Detroit before he‘s going on stage.  So in effect, endorsements already have been done because they‘ve already appeared together, you know, in a Detroit hotel. 

Don‘t underestimate the need for Obama to be needing this kind of scene—this gravitas.

ABRAMS:  Yes. 

SWEET:  . from Gore who has international reputation.  You know, so, this will be a very good resume plugger for him. 

ABRAMS:  Barack Obama and Al Gore now approaching the stage in Detroit, Michigan together.  Al Gore has been a wildcard in this campaign, of course.  Not surprising that he‘s now endorsing Barack Obama, but when it was Obama versus Clinton, many had been asking what will Al Gore do. 

Now, again, hardly surprising that Al Gore is appearing on stage with Barack Obama, formally endorsing him.  But the question we‘ve been talking about, is whether—if Al Gore decides to get out there and start stumping for Barack Obama, could that really help? 

Tanya Acker, what do you think? 

TANYA ACKER, POLITICAL ANALYST:  I think it will help.  I think that Senator Gore—Vice President Gore is really one of the senior statesman of the Democratic Party.  I think that he‘s right now at the height of his popularity, not just amongst Democrats but amongst the country in general and that‘s largely because of the incredible initiatives that he is making on clean energy. 

I think this is a huge win for Senator Obama.  I think it‘s a really, really big win. 

ABRAMS:  I guess the question is, David, whether he‘ll be able to sway

I mean, look, there‘s no surprise here that Al Gore is endorsing Barack Obama.  The question is, if he gets out there and he‘s stumping for Obama, would Gore be able to help sway—for example, the Hillary Clinton voters? 

DAVID CORN, MOTHER JONES:  Well, listen, I think the Hillary Clinton voters are going to be voting for Obama in the fall no matter what.  I don‘t think they‘re going for ant anti-choice Republican who wants to stay in Iraq. 

I disagree slightly with Tanya and Lynn in that I don‘t think it‘s such a big deal.  It‘s obviously not a surprise.  I don‘t think stumping with him is going to make a big difference for Obama. 

But one way it will help is, remember, John McCain is one of the few Republicans with any sort of resume when it comes to climate change and global warming.  Doesn‘t go as far as most environmental activists want to see, although scientists call for, but John McCain has pushed legislation in the past as a lone Republican in the Senate on climate change. 

With Al Gore out there talking about Obama and obviously saying that Obama‘s policies are better, you know, it will really hurt John McCain if he tries to play even with Barack Obama on that very important issue. 

SWEET:  Hey, here‘s just one important thing, I think, to remember about Al Gore that will be this incredible help for Obama. 

AL GORE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT:  I will never forget it. 

ABRAMS:  Let‘s dip in here, let‘s listen to Al Gore. 

GORE:  Congratulations, Detroit, on the Red Wings victory in the Stanley Cup finals. 

I speak to you this evening as a citizen of the United States.  I speak to you also as a citizen of the world because the outcome of this election will affect the future of our planet. 

For America to lead the world through the dangers we‘re facing to seize the opportunities before us, we‘ve got to have new leadership. 

(CHEERS)

GORE:  Not only a new president, but new policies.  Not only a new head of state, but a new vision for America‘s future. 

I want it to begin with a few words to my fellow Democrats.  We have just concluded a historic contest among the strongest field of candidates any political party has ever offered for the presidency of this country. 

(CHEERS)

GORE:  An inspiring group of men and a woman with experience and vision, confidence and boldness.  Their vigorous competition has attracted record number of voters in every part of America, reinvigorated our democracy, and helped to rekindle the spirit of our country. 

And, now we‘ve made our choice. 

(CHEERS)

GORE:  As the general election begins, let us remember our obligation to honor the highest values of our democracy and conduct this campaign in a spirit of respect for the Republican nominee. 

No, no.  In that case, I‘m glad I brought it up.  Because as Senator Barack Obama has said, John McCain is deserving of that respect.  He has demonstrated bravery in war and as a prisoner of war and has served in the House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate for many years. 

Moreover, he has demonstrated a willingness to debate some critical issues, including the climate crisis that many Republicans have refused to discuss at all. 

But even as we acknowledge his long experience, we must and we will make our case that America simply cannot afford to continue the policies of the last eight years for another four. 

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

GORE:  And we all know that a long tenure in Washington, D.C. is not the same as judgment, wisdom and vision.  Nevertheless, the other party seems to think that age and experience are factors that will work in their favor during this campaign. 

But our shared—our shared experience as a nation tells us otherwise. 

I remember when one prominent Republican wondered out loud whether the Democratic nominee, and I quote, “really is grown up enough to be president.”  Another used the phrase, quote, “naive and inexperienced.”  Yet another said, quote, “The United States cannot afford to risk the future of the free world with inexperience and immaturity in the White House,” end quote. 

Who are they talking about?  Every single one of those quotations came from the campaign of 1960, when the Republicans attacked John Fitzgerald Kennedy for allegedly lacking the age and experience necessary to be president. 

Richard Nixon‘s slogan in that campaign was “Experience counts,” to which John F. Kennedy responded, and I quote, “To exclude from positions of trust and command, all those below the age of 44 would have kept Jefferson from writing the Declaration of Independence, Washington from commanding the continental army, Madison from fathering the constitution, and Christopher Columbus from even discovering America.” 

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

GORE:  On January 20th, 1961, as a 12-year-old boy I stood in the snow in front of the capital as John Fitzgerald Kennedy took the oath of office.  I know what his inspiration meant to my generation and I feel that same spirit in this auditorium here tonight, building all over this country this year. 

I feel your determination after two terms of the Bush/Cheney administration to change the direction of our country. 

In looking back over the last eight years, I can tell you that we have already learned one important fact since the year 2000. 

Take it from me, elections matter. 

(CHEERS)

GORE:  If you think the next appointments to our Supreme Court are important, you know that elections matter.  If you live in the city of New Orleans, you know that elections matter.  If you or a member of your family are serving in the active military, the National Guard or Reserves, you know that elections matter. 

If you‘re a wounded veteran, you know that elections matter.  If you lost your job, if you‘re struggling with your mortgage, you know that elections matter.  If you care about a clean environment, if you want a government that protects you instead of special interest, you know that elections matter. 

If you care about food safety, if you like a “T” on your BLT, you know that elections matter.  If you bought toys and lead-filled toys from China or adulterated medicine made in China, if you bought tainted pet food in China, you know that elections matter. 

(CHEERS)

GORE:  After the last eight years, even our dogs and cats have learned that elections matter. 

And this election matters more than ever because America needs change more than ever.  After eight years of lost jobs and lower wages, we need change.  After eight years of incompetence, neglect and failure, we need change.  After eight years in which our constitution has been dishonored and disrespected, we need change. 

After eight years of the worst, most serious foreign policy mistakes in the entire history of our nation, we need change. 

In September of 2002, I argued strongly that the invasion of the country that had not attacked us would be a mistake and would divert attention, resources and resolve from the effort to track down and capture those who had attacked us. 

I argued that the occupation of Iraq would be dangerous and harmful for our country.  And I will remember how few elected officials were willing to take that position in favor of protecting our national security by remaining focused on the right objectives. 

But I remember that an eloquent legislator in Springfield, Illinois named Barack Obama spoke up boldly and clearly with the force of reason and logic to join in opposition to that blunder. 

To those who still do not understand that the withdrawal of troops from the search of bin Laden in order to launch a misguided invasion of Iraq was a mistake, it‘s time to say we need a change. 

(CHEERS)

GORE:  To those who want to continue making that same mistake over and over again indefinitely, it is important for us to say loudly and clearly with our votes, this November, we need change. 

We intend to have change. 

AUDIENCE:  We need change!  We need change!  We need change!  We need change!  We need change!  We need change!  We need change! 

GORE:  To those who want to continue borrowing money from China to buy oil from the Persian Gulf and burn it in ways that destroy our planets‘ environment, it‘s time to say we need change. 

Barack Obama knows that we are too dependent on foreign oil and carbon fuels and has proposed a plan to create millions of good new jobs in renewable, green energy, conservation and efficiency. 

Here in Detroit, you know we need to revitalize our automobile industry with a commitment to plug-in hybrids and low-emission vehicles to solve the climate crisis and create the jobs of the future. 

The future is ours, not to predict, but to create.  But make no mistake, we need to change our policies on climate. 

Not too many years from now, the next generation will look back at the decisions we make this coming November and the policies we put in place in January of next year. 

Were we to ignore the warnings of the scientists around the world and look the other way as the entire North Polar icecap melts before our eyes and the consequences we—been warned about unfolded.  Our children might then well ask, what were they thinking? 

Why didn‘t they act?  Why didn‘t they choose change when they had a chance? 

It is my deep hope that they will ask another and very different question.  I want them to look back on this historic year and ask, how did Americans in 2008 find the moral courage to rise and successfully solve a crisis that so many said was impossible to solve. 

How did they find the strength to change? 

As Americans, we know that our democracy often moves very slowly.  But we also know that when we must, we can shift gears quickly and suddenly pick up the pace to respond boldly to a great challenge.  That‘s what the greatest generation did to win World War II and then came home to start the marshal plan, unify Europe, create the United Nations and create the basis for peace and prosperity for decades. 

Many people have waited for some sign that our country is awakening once again. 

How will we know when a massive wave of reform and recovery and regeneration is about to take hold and renew our nation?  What would it look like if such a change were beginning to build? 

I think we might recognize it as a sign of such change if we saw millions of young people getting involved for the first time in the political process. 

(CHEERS)

GORE:  I think we might just recognize that if we saw that new generation casting aside obsolete and hurtful distinctions and reaching out to one another across the ancient divisions that have frustrated action in the past. 

I think we would know this change was coming if a new generation rejected the special interest politics of the past and the big money that fueled it and, instead, used the Internet to get small donations and unite Americans in a common effort to realize our common destiny. 

If we saw it coming, we‘d recognize it by the words hope and change.  Perhaps we would recognize it if we heard a young leader rise up to say we‘re not a red-state America or a blue-state America, we are the United States of America. 

We would know that change was on the way if that young leader reached out, not only to the supporters of the other candidates in his party, but also beyond partisan lines to Republicans and independents and said to us all, America, our time has come. 

I think we would recognize it.  In a candidate who, in response to those doubting our ability to solve the climate crisis and create bright future, inspired millions to say, yes, we can. 

We have such a nominee.  We have such a leader.  Yes, we can! 

Ladies and gentlemen, the next president of the United States of America, Barack Obama. 

ABRAMS:  The 45th vice president of the United States, Al Gore, at the Joe Lewis Arena in Detroit, Michigan, formally endorsing Barack Obama. 

Michigan, of course, a key state in this general election, a state that team Obama would love to have in their column. 

Let me go to Lynn Sweet from the “Chicago Sun-Times.” 

Lynn, look, we‘ve already talked about the significance of an Al Gore endorsement.  Are there any particular states, though, you think where Al Gore could really help Obama? 

SWEET:  Well, absolutely.  And in the words of Tim Russert, the great leader meter here who everyone mourns, of course, I‘m going to just quote him and say, “Florida, Florida, Florida.” 

When Al Gore talked right now about how every vote counts, if Vice President Gore just goes and plants himself in Florida in a few visits, that alone, you know, could bring in a big state that team Obama desperately needs, especially if they don‘t want to be just, you know, chained to the old-time electoral map of big states and they want to expand the map, Dan. 

I think that‘s just the big one for him. 

ABRAMS:  David Corn, we‘re getting in a report that says Obama said Gore advised him during the primary.  A pool report says that he asked, is Al Gore endorsing the Obama?  That‘s great, it means a lot, obviously. 

And then asked whether the—former vice president had been helpful in the primaries, Obama said yes.  He said we‘ve had ongoing conversations about a whole host of issues, a lot of them revolved around climate change and energy and the environment. 

He said that Obama did—that did, he believed, have conversations with others, as well. 

Can we read into anything, the fact that Gore and Obama were speaking? 

CORN:  That doesn‘t surprise me.  I do expect that Al Gore would have taken phone calls and many of the major candidates to talk about the issues that he cares so passionately about. 

You know watching him there another thought occurred to me.  And that is there is no better reminder of what might have been than Al Gore.  I mean, right now 82 percent of the country believe we‘re on the wrong track.  Who‘s been in charge for the years that have led to this wrong track number?  George W. Bush. 

So every time Al Gore speaks and—is a reminder that there was another way this country could have gone.  It was 50/50.  It was a couple of court decisions that did this.  Imagine what the world would have been like if Al Gore had been elected president. 

I think most Americans now, if not many, would say that would have been the better outcome.  So by having him there, it‘s another reminder that, you know.

ABRAMS:  Right. 

CORN:  . that McCain is a continuation of the Bush years that most Americans really don‘t appreciate and don‘t like. 

ABRAMS:  I am going to take a break and when we come back we‘re going to have our win, lose, or draw Obama versus McCain.  How did each do on the campaign trail today. 

Coming up as we continue our coverage. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  It‘s time for tonight‘s “Beat the Press,” our daily look back at media hypocrisy agendas and the amusing perils of live TV. 

First up, FOX News contributor Cal Thomas, who‘s part of a discussion about Michelle Obama, this weekend and offered this pearl of wisdom about angry black women. 

They report, you decide. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CAL THOMAS, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR:  Look at the image of African-American women who were on television.  Politically, you have Maxine Waters of California, liberal Democrat.  She‘s always angry every time she gets on television.  Cynthia McKinney, the former congresswoman from Georgia, was another angry black woman.  And who are the black women you see on the local news at night in cities all over the country?  They‘re usually angry about something. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  I believe Cal was trying to make the point that it‘s an image issue but I‘m guessing Cal is going to have some explaining to do. 

Next up, remember when Pastor John Hagee suggested that Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans as punishment from God?  Well, it seems that FOX‘s Bill O‘Reilly and Megyn Kelly also believed that God punishes those FOX News disagrees with. 

Here they are discussing a conservative judge from a federal court of appeals that has generally been liberal, found to have had ugly porn shots on his work computer. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL O‘REILLY, FOX NEWS HOST:  You know, this is why I believe in God.  The Ninth Center Court of Appeals doing a tremendous amount of damage to the country.  This is no accident.  This is a little.

MEGYN KELLY, “AMERICA‘S NEWSROOM” HOST:  Hey.  The Lord. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Finally, a CNN reporter covering the floods in Iowa explained that officials are asking residents to conserve water because they may need it to help fight fires. 

That seemed to really confuse CNN anchor Betty Nguyen. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEAN CALLEBS, CNN CORRESPONDENT:  If people keep using water even for flushing toilets then at some point, we‘re going to have a fire and there may not be enough water to handle it.  Sort of an ironic situation.  If you look around here, you see water...

BETTY NGUYEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT:  Wait, how does that work?  Causing a fire by flushing a toilet?  How does that work? 

CALLEBS:  You‘re not going to cause a fire by flushing a toilet, but you‘re going to have difficulty fighting the fire because every time you flush the toilet there goes five gallons of water. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Come on, Sean, you got to keep it simple here. 

Need your help “Beating the Press,” you see anything right, wrong, amusing or absurd, go to our Web site, Verdict.MSNBC.com, tip of the box and include the show and the time that you saw the item. 

Coming up, our win, lose or draw.  Obama versus McCain.  On the campaign trail today, who had a better day? 

And later, Tim Russert was not just one of the great minds in Washington, but also a lawyer.  He was the public‘s advocate.  His courtroom, the “Meet the Press” studio.  A tribute, a look back at our favorite cross-examination moments. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Welcome back.  We‘re with our “Win, Lose or Draw” edition of “On Their Trail.”  Obama versus McCain - how did they do on the campaign trail today? 

We‘re joined again by David Corn, from “Mother Jones” magazine;

Democratic strategist Tanya Acker; Republican strategist Brad Blakeman. 

Next up, John McCain continuing his big push for women voters today.  McCain held a virtual town hall meeting with Democratic voters over the weekend and continued to butter up Hillary Clinton and her supporters. 

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESUMPTIVE REPUBLICAN NOMINEE:  I respect and admire the campaign that she ran.  As Carly said more eloquently than I can, every place I go, Sen. Clinton - I‘m told that Sen. Clinton inspired millions of young women in this country.  I just want to assure you, I want to assure you with confidence, at the end of my first term, you will see a dramatic increase of women in every part of the government of my administration.  I am looking in the eye (INAUDIBLE).

(END AUDIO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  OK.  You understand what he was saying.  During an interview with ABC tonight, Obama says he‘s not convinced McCain is going to have much luck. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESUMPTIVE DEMOCRATIC NOMINEE:  I think John McCain is going to have trouble making the case when on almost every single issue that‘s important to women, he‘s been on the wrong side. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Blakeman, how important is this for John McCain and do you think he will have some success? 

BRAD BLAKEMAN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST:  I think it‘s a win for John McCain to court the women because we know that so many of them have been disfranchised with Obama and the fighting that‘s going on these 16 months between Obama and Clinton.  So I think he‘s got a real shot.  I think women will take to John McCain, those security moms that Bush won against Kerry in 2004.  So, it‘s a real possibility and he should do it. 

ABRAMS:  I don‘t - David, how many security moms are still out there? 

DAVID CORN, “MOTHER JONES” MAGAZINE:  You know, I‘m glad we got the

spin here.  The latest polls already show that Obama is ahead of McCain in

women and it‘s only been two weeks since Hillary lost to Obama.  And when

it comes to -

BLAKEMAN:  Who did the poll?  Who did the poll? 

CORN:  And I think ...

BLAKEMAN:  The poll wasn‘t done by a respected group.  Come on.

TANYA ACKER, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST:  The NBC-Washington Post poll. 

CORN:  The NBC-Washington Post, Brad.  You can look it up on the Internet.

BLAKEMAN:  No, but my point is ...

ABRAMS:  Look, the NBC-Washington Post poll shows - there‘s no question - shows that Obama is significantly ahead of McCain.  Here it is.  This is the Wall Street Journal-NBC poll that the battle for female voters, all women, Obama 52, McCain 33.  Among white women 46 to 39.  Suburban women - that‘s where McCain has the edge at 44 to 38. 

But, David, let‘s get back to the point, though.  I mean isn‘t this - there‘s still some room there, isn‘t there, for McCain to make progress?  Isn‘t this a smart strategy on McCain‘s part? 

CORN:  Well, if he‘s going after Democratic female voters who supported Hillary, I don‘t think that‘s a smart strategy.  I think on the issues, they‘re not going to come out for McCain.  They‘re on Obama‘s side and by the time the general election rolls around, everything will be made nice between Obama and Hillary Clinton and she will be campaigning hard for him. 

It‘s amongst those women who you saw in that screenshot there on the poll, you know, suburban, Republican women where McCain has a shot.  So any day that he‘s playing up to the Hillary Clinton voters is a day lost from the McCain campaign. 

ABRAMS:  But Lynn Sweet isn‘t there - go ahead, Lynn.  Go ahead.

LYNN SWEET, “CHICAGO SUN TIMES”:  Go ahead, Dan.  Well, my point is, you know, David, you know I love you, but this is not an unreasonable strategy.  McCain is going to make an appeal, at least in the early days when there‘s time, to the Clinton voters.  She is not to be seen for a few days, so it‘s not like she can pop up in an interview and say, “No, no, no.  Don‘t do that.”   

OK.  Just as Obama is looking for moderates and Republicans ...

ABRAMS:  Yes.

SWEET:  ... McCain is doing the same thing. 

ABRAMS:  Look -

SWEET:  The only thing is, he just doesn‘t have any (UNINTELLIGIBLE) on this one. 

ABRAMS:  I think this is a win for McCain.  He may not win over that many of Clinton supporters, but it‘s a smart move for him to at least try.  

SWEET:  Yes.  Nothing lost.  No downside to this.

ABRAMS:  Next up, the Obama camp hires an old hand from Hillary-land.  Former Clinton campaign manager Patti Solis Doyle has been tapped to serve as chief of staff to Obama‘s future vice presidential running mate.  The problem?  Doyle was fired from the Clinton campaign halfway through the primaries and this hire is now being seen by many as a signal from the Obama camp that Clinton isn‘t going to be the VP. 

The “Washington Post” reporting, quote, “Solis Doyle is no longer on speaking terms with much of the Clinton inner circle, including the senator herself.  Not exactly a signal that Obama is considering Hillary Clinton for the job.” 

And a sampling of reaction from Clinton insiders, “It‘s a slap in the face.  It‘s a message.  We get it.”  Another saying, “Who can blame Obama for rewarding Patti?  He would never be the nominee without her.” 

All right.  So Tanya Acker, isn‘t this - the question is, is it too early to send this signal to Hillary Clinton that, “You aren‘t in the game?”

ACKER:  It might be a little early.  But, look, I don‘t know - I‘m not prepared to do some mind reading here and suggest that she‘s completely out of it.  It‘s not a good sign for her.  It‘s looking good that Sen. Clinton is the nominee.  But certainly it isn‘t a good for - and, but you know?  At some point, we‘re going to have to get our heads around the notion that somebody else may be his vice president and it may not be Hillary Clinton. 

ABRAMS:  Yes.  But Brad -

ACKER:  You know, it‘s not a good sign for her.  But you know, I don‘t think it‘s too early to start sending that signal.  

ABRAMS:  Brad? 

BLAKEMAN:  More trouble in paradise.  It looks like those two are not getting along as well as people had hoped.  And I think it‘s the height of arrogance as well to hire somebody to be the chief of staff to a nominee you haven‘t announced. 

ACKER:  Oh, no.  No.  That‘s not how it looks.

BLAKEMAN:  And if I were the nominee, I wouldn‘t want my chief of staff given to me by the campaign.

ACKER:  That‘s just not how campaigns work.  Brad, Brad -

CORN:  Brad, that‘s pretty thin.

BLAKEMAN:  I have been involved in a lot of campaigns, and having the chief of staff given to you is not the way it works. 

ABRAMS:  Lynn, go ahead. 

SWEET:  Look, the Obama campaign ...

BLAKEMAN:  Maybe for the Democrats -

SWEET:  (UNINTELLIGIBLE) way behind in general election.  You know, getting ready for it because of this prolonged season.  You know, Patti Solis Doyle has to get a schedule in place, advance person-to-press, the whole shebang.  And one quick thing on why I think she was picked, huge comfort factor because David Axelrod and the guys from Chicago know her.  Her brothers are Chicago alderman and I think there is going to be a trust factor there that has nothing to do with whoever is the vice presidential candidate, per se.  That they - you know, she‘s part of that club.  

ABRAMS:  But David, of all the positions to give her -

CORN:  Yes. 

ABRAMS:  Her.  You have to give her, this woman who is not on speaking terms with the Clinton campaign, the position of chief of staff of the vice presidential candidate? 

CORN:  You know, I agree with Tanya.  We shouldn‘t engage in mind reading, but in terms of signal reading, it‘s really hard to interpret this any other way.  Now, maybe there is some belief that Patti and Hillary could patch things up if he wanted Hillary on the team.  But if I was Hillary Clinton now, I would not be thinking about moving back into the White House. 

ABRAMS:  Look, here‘s why I‘m going to call this a lose for Obama, because I think it sends a clear signal that Hillary not in the running for VP.  Now, whatever you think about her as VP, I think it‘s too soon to send that signal when you‘re still trying to win over her supporters, as he should be.  Look, I think he will succeed with the vast majority of them, but I don‘t think there‘s not any need to send that kind of signal at this point.  So I‘m going to call that a lose for Obama. 

CORN:  You‘ve convinced me, Dan.  

ABRAMS:  All right.  I‘ve convinced David Corn.  You know -

Next up, Obama promising to fight fire with fire if he‘s attacked unfairly by Republicans in the coming months.  Obama told donors at a private fundraiser in Philadelphia, Friday night, quote, “If they bring a knife to the fight, we bring a gun.  From what I understand, folks in Philly like a good brawl.” 

The McCain camp fired off this statement, quote, “Barack Obama‘s call for ‘new politics‘ is officially over.  In just 24 hours, Barack Obama attacked one of America‘s pioneering women CEOs, rejected a series of joint bipartisan town halls, and said if there‘s a political knife fight he‘d bring a gun.” 

All right, Brad.  Look, let‘s talk about the last part of this statement.  Are you really going to suggest that that is Barack Obama saying that he‘s going to change the politics?  He‘s saying, “Look, if they‘re going to bring a knife at me, I‘m going to fight back and I‘m going to fight hard.”  What‘s the big deal? 

BLAKEMAN:  Look, here‘s the big deal.  The guy is all talk and no action.  This guy says, “I will debate McCain any time, any where, any place.”  So McCain says, “OK.  Let‘s do 10 town hall meetings,” shows up in New York; Obama is no where to be seen.  This guy talks a good game, but that‘s the end of it.  This guy is an empty suit. 

(CROSS TALK) 

ABRAMS:  Go ahead, Tanya. 

ACKER:  I‘m so confused by how you get there.  You know, look, the

McCain campaign has this completely humorless response to Sen. Obama.  I

actually think it‘s kind of funny, frankly, and I think that -   

BLAKEMAN:  It‘s not funny.  

ACKER:  ... his approach on these issues - I thought it was funny.  Maybe you don‘t have a good sense of humor.  Laugh a little bit more.  But seriously, I think the point is that we have seen Obama be targeted by these smears over and over again, and now he says, “I‘m going to fight back.”  John McCain, when asked whether or not he was going to try to control the Republican smear machine said, “You know, can‘t help you.  I can‘t.  I can‘t be responsible for all those folks out there are saying.”  Here you got Sen. Obama.

(CROSS TALK) 

ABRAMS:  Wait a minute, hang on. 

ACKER:  One second.  Just let me finish. 

ABRAMS:  Yes.  Go ahead, Tanya. 

ACKER:  So now, all you have is Sen. Obama saying that he‘s going to fight those attacks.  And I think it‘s perfectly appropriate and he made me laugh when he said it.  

ABRAMS:  All right.  Lynn, go ahead.

SWEET:  Well, I just think why we might want to score this as a lose for Obama, why it‘s a plus that he shows himself as a fighter, and you know, gets all that - I think any time you drop with a gun - bad choice of words if he was in Philadelphia.  He should have used the Rocky fist fight.  

ABRAMS:  All right.  I want to get one more in.  So I‘m going to call this a lose for the McCain camp.  I think it‘s ridiculous for them to try to make a big deal out of this. 

All right.  Next up.  The McCain camp caught in a controversy today over a tongue-tied Texas fund-raiser.  At issue, McCain supporter Clayton Williams, scheduled to hold a fundraiser for McCain at his house today.  Team McCain pulled the plug on it after being reminded that yes, Williams once compared rape to the weather, saying in 1990, quote, “As long as it‘s inevitable, you might as well lie back and enjoy it.” 

The McCain camp initially postponed the fundraiser, then canceled it outright, but said they‘ll still accept the $300,000 that Williams raised for them.  McCain himself was grilled about it today. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCAIN:  First of all, my people were not aware of a statement that he made 16 or 18 years ago.  I have forgotten how many years ago it was.  People are contributors - supporters of mine, not supporters of his. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  David Corn, what do you make of it?

CORN:  Well, you know, John McCain famously said not too long ago, “I don‘t know how to use a computer.”  If anyone had Googled Clayton Williams, they would have come up with this remark.  So his campaign doesn‘t really seem to care too much about who brings in the money and you know, it doesn‘t matter whether a party is being held or not. 

As you know, Dan, he‘s still taking the $300,000 that Clayton Williams raised for him.  So, this - you know, any time you‘re talking about rape and a campaign, and it not about putting rapists in jail, it has to be considered a loss.  

ABRAMS:  Brad, blunder here, right? 

BLAKEMAN:  It is a blunder and it‘s a self-inflicted wound and it‘s inexcusable.  In this day and age, this should have been discovered in about two seconds and turned off.  But let‘s not demonize the people who gave the money.  They‘re not the problem here.  There‘s one individual who‘s the problem, who‘s made it a problem now for John McCain.  That‘s inexcusable. 

ABRAMS:  Tanya, real quick and then I‘ve got to wrap it up.

ACKER:  I have to second that. 

ABRAMS:  Yes.

ACKER:  I think that it‘s completely inexcusable and I think this guy should be off of the McCain trail. 

ABRAMS:  You know why I want to stop?  Because any time Tanya can second Brad, when I hear those words, I say, “It is time to call it.”  I‘m calling this one a lose for John McCain.  I think that David‘s right; he could have Googled it and saved themselves a lot of trouble.  And John Hagee , too, for that matter.  Anyway - all right.  Thank you David Corn, Tanya Acker, Brad Blakeman and Lynn Sweet. 

Coming up, Tim Russert the lawyer.  His courtroom was the “Meet the Press” studio.  We look back at some of his great cross-examinations.  Back in 60 seconds.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Time for “Reality Bites,” a dose of reality caught on tape.  Tonight, shark invasion, a pack of them swarmed into shallow water on this Hawaiian beach, coming within inches of, look at this, of swimmers.  Last year, there were seven unprovoked shark attacks on humans in Hawaii, more than 70 incidents worldwide.  These people were lucky, no one was hurt.  Be right back. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Welcome back.  For the past few days, the country has mourned the death of Tim Russert, our friend and leader here at NBC.  Eloquent and powerful memorials have been seen and heard from his son, Luke, his friends and colleagues like Mike Barnicle, Tom Brokaw and Andrea Mitchell, the president of the United States and the current presidential candidates.  He was that memorable, that influential, that inspiring, that big a force. 

But in addition to being a great father, journalist, political analyst and leader, he was also a lawyer.  In fact, it appears his New York law license was still active when he died.  And every week, he dazzled us with that legal intuition and know-how as he cross examined the most important figures in the country about the most important of issues with the skill and finesse of the finest of trial lawyers. 

“Meet the Press” was his courtroom, but he never played judge or jury; he was the public‘s advocate.  We, all of us, were his clients.  Once a guest entered the Sunday witness box, he or she was confronted with facts, just the facts.  And hopefully you, we, were then in a far better position to render judgment.  Here now some of our favorite moments of Tim Russert, the tough inquisitor. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) 

TIM RUSSERT, FORMER HOST, “MEET THE PRESS”:  Sir, who are - what manufacturers are the three biggest employers in the state of Louisiana? 

FMR. REP. DAVID DUKE (R-LA):  We have a number of employers in our state.  

RUSSERT:  But who are the three biggest manufacturers, who are the biggest employers in the state of Louisiana? 

DUKE:  I couldn‘t give you their name right off, sir.  

RUSSERT:  You don‘t know who the biggest employers are in the State of Louisiana? 

DUKE:  Well, I don‘t have the statistics of front of me.  

RUSSERT:  Sir, you are talking about economic development and you

don‘t know who -

DUKE:  I‘ll tell you what.  The State of Louisiana is the biggest employer in our state.  And because it‘s so big and there‘s so many employees and there‘s so much waste and inefficiency and  there‘s so many selling of positions, and there‘s so much corruption in government, it‘s hurting every business in the State of Louisiana.  That‘s the biggest employer.

RUSSERT:  Mr. Duke, let me get back to -

DUKE:  I couldn‘t get you the exact rank from the others.  

RUSSERT:  I am not asking you for rank.  I asked you for any three names of the largest employers.  Let‘s me ask you now that - Let me as you, now that - Mr. Edwards, just a second.  We‘ve got - Mr. Duke, please. 

All right, in terms of economic development, the condition of your state, how many people in your state live below the poverty line? 

DUKE:  A great percentage, sir.  We have the highest per capita percent in the country just about - about the last five states of the country. 

RUSSERT:  How many? 

DUKE:  I don‘t have the exact numbers in front of me, sir.  I don‘t

carry around an almanac with me.  I could guarantee you -

RUSSERT:  Sir, if I told you it was 25 percent of your state that lived below the poverty line, would you believe me?  

DUKE:  I could believe you.  Yes, sir.

RUSSERT:  Aren‘t these the things the governor should know - who the largest employers are, how many people live below the poverty line?

The primary rationale given for the war in Iraq was Saddam had weapons of mass destruction.  On August of 2002, this is what you told the VFW.  Let‘s just watch it. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DICK CHENEY, UNITED STATES VICE PRESIDENT:  Simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

RUSSERT:  In fact, there is grave doubt because they did not exist along the lines that you described, the president described and others described.  Based on what you know now, that Saddam did not have the weapons of mass destruction described, would you still have gone into Iraq? 

CHENEY:  Yes, Tim, because what the reports also showed while he did not have stockpiles, clearly, the intelligence had said he did was wrong.  That was the intelligence all of us saw.  That was the intelligence all of us believed.  

RUSSERT:  You voted to authorize war.  The resolution you voted for, Robert Byrd said, was a blank check for George Bush; Ted Kennedy says was a vote for war.  James Carville and Paul Begala said anyone who says that vote wasn‘t a vote for war is bunk.  

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D-NY), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Well, Tim, if I had a lot of paper in front of me, I could quote people who say something very differently.  So I know you‘re very good at and I respect it.

RUSSERT:  I want to bring you back to Thursday in an exchange we had here.  Here‘s a question I asked you and your response.  Let‘s watch. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUSSERT:  Sen. McCain, you have said repeatedly, quote, “I know a lot less about economics than I do about military and foreign policy issues.  I still need to be educated.”  Is it a problem for your campaign that the economy is now the most important issue, one that, by your own acknowledgment, you are not well-versed on? 

MCCAIN:  Actually, I don‘t know where you got that quote from.  I‘m very well versed in economics. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

Now, I know where you got the quote from.  Now, I know where you got the quote from.  

RUSSERT:  I will show you where I got the quote from.  I got it from John McCain, and here it is.  McCain is refreshingly blunt when he tells me, quote, “I‘m going to be honest.  I know a lot less about economics than I do about military and foreign policy issues.  I still need to be educated.” 

When you announced your candidacy back in February of ‘07 in Springfield, the same place Abraham Lincoln announced his candidacy and we‘re showing it there on the screen.  Rev. Wright was going to give the invitation.  He was dis-invited.  He told the “New York Times” that you said to him, quote, “You get kind of rough in the sermons, so we decided best for you not to be out there in public.” 

Then, you cited a “Rolling Stone” interview where he said that one of the essential facts about the U.S. is, quote, “We believe in white supremacy and black inferiority and believe it more than we believe in God.”  Now, that is so contrary to a speech I heard you give yesterday about one nation, one people. 

OBAMA:  Right.

RUSSERT:  So you knew in ‘07 this guy is a problem.  I have to keep him out of the spotlight involving my campaign.  Why didn‘t you just say then, ‘You know, Reverend, we‘re going on different paths because this country does not believe in white supremacy and black inferiority. 

OBAMA:  Well, my commitment, as I said to him, is to the church, not to a pastor.

RUSSERT:  You‘ve been on “Meet the Press” 63 times which is more than anyone else in history.  On this program, have you ever told the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth? 

FMR SEN. BOB DOLE (R-KS):  Probably not. 

(END VIDEOTAPE) 

ABRAMS:  I have to tell you it was really hard to choose among those various clips.  And if we do our jobs well, a piece of Tim will remain with all of us.  We‘ll be right back with the day‘s winners and losers and some of your thoughts on the loss of Tim Russert.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  It‘s time for tonight‘s “Winners and Losers.”  Our first loser, Leona Helmsley‘s dog, Trouble who is still a rich bitch but not nearly as rich as she was.  The so-called Queen of Mean who died last year shocked family and friends when she left her dog $12 million while two of her grandkids got nothing and now the a judge has reduced the nine-year-old Maltese‘s inheritance to by $10 million, leaving the pooch only $2 million to get by on.  Helmsley‘s two grandchildren now get $6 million in scraps.

Loser, Cindy McCain.  Two months ago, the candidate‘s wife was accused of plagiarizing several recipes word for word from the Food Network.  She blamed it on a campaign intern.  Maybe the same intern is at work again, because Cindy‘s recipe for Oatmeal Butterscotch Cookies, appearing in next month‘s “Family Circle” magazine, suspiciously similar to a recipe found on the Hershey Chocolate Company‘s Web site.  She claims she got the recipe from a, quote, “good friend.”  And while the recipe does have some very minor changes, the question, is her good friend the Hershey Company? 

Our big loser, Jeb Bush who got the endorsement of a politician he may want to distance himself from - his brother.  When asked if this is the end of the Bush dynasty, President Bush said, “Well, we‘ve got another one out there who did a fabulous job as governor of Florida, and that‘s Jeb.  He‘d be a great president.”  Said one of the most unpopular presidents in history. 

Our big winner of the day, coffee lovers, both drinkers and sniffers - yes, sniffers.  Two recent studies say a cup of Joe can be a good thing.  Spanish study says drinking coffee every day can have health benefits.  While Korean scientists, concluded simply inhaling the aroma of coffee can positively alter the activity of some genes in the brain with no drinking required. 

Many people across the nation wrote to us over the weekend, touched by the loss of our friend and colleague, Tim Russert.  So today, no “P.O‘d Box,” just an opportunity to share your thoughts on Tim‘s death.  

Don Clay from Winston-Salem, North Carolina, “I have cried the death of public figures three times in my life: In 1962, the death of William Faulkner, in 1963, the death of John F. Kennedy, and last weekend, the death of Tim Russert.  At first, I was surprised.  I was so moved by it.  But as the time went on, I realized that, more than anyone, he was the ultimate transmitter and interpreter of political information to me.”

Rachel Williams from New Jersey, “I can‘t imagine watching the coverage for this election in the future without him.”

Rachel, I think many of us feel exactly the same way.  You can continue to send us your E-mails at verdict@msnbc.com.  Please include your name, where you‘re writing from.  We‘ll see you tomorrow night.  Thanks for watching.

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

END   

Content and programming copyright 2008 MSNBC.  ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.  Transcription Copyright 2008 Voxant, Inc. ALL RIGHTS  RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material other than for research. User may not reproduce or redistribute the material except for user‘s personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon MSNBC and Voxant, Inc.‘s copyright or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.

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