updated 6/19/2008 12:11:39 PM ET 2008-06-19T16:11:39

Guest: Roy Sekoff, Chrystia Freeland, Kevin Madden

DAN ABRAMS, HOST:  Tonight, be afraid of Obama.  John McCain enlists Rudy Giuliani to blast Obama on terrorism, the same Giuliani who McCain ripped for having no real foreign policy experience.

And: President Bush calls for ending the ban on offshore drilling just a day after McCain did.  Is Bush doing it just to make McCain look like “Bush III”?

Kevin Madden, Chrystia Freeland, and the “Huffington Post‘s” Roy Sekoff, are with us.

And: Michelle Obama after being demonized by the far right co-hosts “The View” and takes on her critics.

VERDICT starts now.

Hi, everybody.  Welcome to the show, coming to you from Washington tonight, where Tim Russert was remembered at a funeral this morning and memorial service this afternoon.

Barack Obama and John McCain paid their respects at Tim‘s funeral this morning.  The two rivals sat side-by-side.  We‘ll have much more on that later.

But first, it was a brief rest as both quickly returned to Tim‘s favorite 2008 battleground.  Tonight, as always, we assess who won and lost on this contentious day out on the trail.

The first issue: Former Republican presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani emerging as a McCain attack dog.  It came in response to Obama adviser, Richard Clarke, talking about what would happen if Osama bin Laden was captured and brought to Guantanamo Bay.


RICHARD CLARKE, OBAMA ADVISOR:  First of all, they haven‘t found him, they haven‘t located the guy in seven years, because they turned their attention to Iraq.  But if he were to be brought back, for us, the Supreme Court ruling holds on the right of habeas corpus.


ABRAMS:  Team McCain commissioned Giuliani to respond in a conference this morning, where he slammed Obama for what the McCain camp calls his “September 10th mindset.”  Giuliani said, quote, “He takes so much softer approach, a defensive approach to terrorism.  The idea that Osama bin Laden if taken to Guantanamo, would have access to habeas corpus gives you a sense of how their instincts in developed positions are very, very different when dealing with terrorism.”

So, is this a winning issue for team McCain?

Here now: Roy Sekoff, founding editor of the “Huffington Post”;

Chrystia Freeland of the “Financial Times”; and, Kevin Madden, former press secretary for the Mitt Romney campaign.

Chrystia, let me start with you.  It seems the McCain camp certainly thinks that this is a big win for them, an important issue.  Is it really that big of a win for them?

CHRYSTIA FREELAND, FINANCIAL TIMES:  I think that experience and foreign policy could be a win for them.  But I think this particular corner of the issue is a win for Obama.  I think habeas corpus, and talking about the rule of law, and if you‘ll permit me in international perspective, this idea of restoring America as a country which stands for democracy and human rights, that‘s something Obama has not been afraid of talking about and of standing up for.  I think that people are ready to listen to that.

ABRAMS:  Chrystia, don‘t speak -

FREELAND:  Particularly given that the war in Iraq has not been spectacularly successful.

ABRAMS:  I know.  Chrystia, I was just going to make a joke - I was going to say you‘re speaking about—now we‘re viewed internationally - horrors (ph).

FREELAND:  Don‘t you guys care about the world?

ABRAMS:  No, I‘m mocking the people who view internationally as some sort of irrelevant joke.

Kevin Madden, you were shaking your head as she was speaking.

KEVIN MADDEN, FMR. ROMNEY PRESS SECRETARY:  Well, look, I think I have to disagree with Chrystia on this because voters don‘t worry about the international perspective.  They care about the American perspective and the idea that Richard Clarke was pushing which is that habeas corpus would apply to someone like Osama bin Laden, it is an argument that even if there is merit there in a legal perspective, it doesn‘t sit well with the American public.

So, again, it puts the issue of national security front and center, which is always John McCain‘s strongpoint, and allows him to be very strong against terrorists and paint Obama as weak and not being strong against terrorists.

ABRAMS:  Roy, I‘ll tell you, as someone who‘s covered the legal stories all my life, I know how hard it is sometimes to translate these stories.  I mean, saying to someone, don‘t worry, habeas corpus is effectively a last-ditch effort.  All they‘re saying is, that they can file a brief in a U.S. court.  Osama bin Laden‘s not getting habeas corpus.

But with that said, is there any concern that many Americans will interpret it the way that Kevin said it, which is, it‘s simple—that‘s what the McCain camp is trying to do—it‘s simple, they‘re willing to give access to the U.S. courts to Osama bin Laden?

ROY SEKOFF, HUFFINGTON POST:  Look, it‘s like Colin Powell said, “We shouldn‘t be afraid to be able to defend our detention.  And we‘re going to be able to defend it on bin Laden.”

But let‘s consider the source here.  We‘ve got Rudy Giuliani.  It‘s the return of noun, verb, 9/11.  And we saw what that got him, $50 million and one delegate.

So, I‘m not really concerned about Rudy Giuliani coming out, the guy who decided to put the command post in the twin towers—great decision, Rudy.  And this is also the guy who wanted to make Bernie Kerik, the head of Homeland Security.  So, getting, you know, terrorism advice from Rudy Giuliani is kind of like getting cooking advice from Cindy McCain.  I don‘t think it‘s (INAUDIBLE).

FREELAND:  Dan, if I could respond to Kevin, could I?

ABRAMS:  But hang on one second.

I want to play this because I want to follow up with this thought about Rudy Giuliani from a figure from September 2007.  It‘s McCain blasting Rudy, “I think the nation respects the mayor‘s leadership after 9/11, but I don‘t think it translates necessarily into foreign policy or national security expertise.  I know of nothing in his background that indicates that he has any experience in it.”

Kevin, a problem at all?

MADDEN:  Well, look, I think any time this is an argument between surrogates whether it‘s Joe Biden and Rudy Giuliani back-and-forth, you know, it probably lost on a lot of people and Joe Biden‘s probably going to win that argument, given the fact that he has a lot of national security experience, a lot of foreign policy experience.

But when it comes down to the attributes and the issues, where the two candidates at the top of the ticket stands, again, Dan, any time that this debate focuses on national security, the attributes of strength and experience with John McCain, he‘s going to win that debate.

ABRAMS:  Chrystia, I‘m going to let you -

SEKOFF:  I think Obama is showing that he‘s not going to be John Kerry.  He‘s going to come back hard.

ABRAMS:  Before I play an Obama, a piece of sound from Barack Obama today talking about this - just go ahead, Chrystia, real quick.

FREELAND:  I‘d just want to quickly come back to Kevin‘s point about Americans and the world.  I guess I give Americans more credit.  I think that Americans understand the world as a very complicated place right now and I think they care passionately about how America is perceived and whether America is perceived as a good place.

MADDEN:  Well, look, I‘ll tell you, Chrystia, I‘d been in Iowa, I‘d

been in New Hampshire, I‘d been in Florida, I‘d been in California, and

people don‘t sit around talking about what you described as the

international perspective.  They talked about the American perspective -

FREELAND:  I‘m not saying people sit around talking about it, but I don‘t think people sit around talking about habeas corpus either.  But I think they want to be proud of their country.  They want to be proud of their country.

MADDEN:  And they don‘t see any shame and they don‘t think that you can‘t be proud of your country when you‘re very harsh on terrorists and you don‘t afford those rights in American courts.

SEKOFF:  They care about the rule of law.

ABRAMS:  Speaking of the rule of law, here‘s Barack Obama today, talking about this very issue.


SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESUMPTIVE PRES. NOMINEE:  I have confidence that our system of justice and that our traditions of rule of law are strong enough to deal with terrorists.  Senator McCain does not.  That is not the same as suggesting that we should give detainees the full privileges that are afforded American citizens.  I never said that.  The Supreme Court never said that.  And I would never do that as president of the United States.

So, either Senator McCain‘s campaign doesn‘t understand what the court decided or they are distorting my position.


ABRAMS:  All right.  Before I ask you all for a final ruling on this one, Roy, but isn‘t that the distinction that‘s hard for Obama to explain to Americans?  I mean, I think that‘s Kevin‘s point, which is that it‘s hard to get people to understand the distinction between getting access to the courts and actually being able to get tried by the courts.

SEKOFF:  But you know, in 1994, Rudy Giuliani himself, when they convicted the trade center bomber said, “We have shown that we have something more powerful than violence, we have the law.”  And I think that‘s what Obama‘s standing for.

ABRAMS:  But again, Chrystia, I mean, but, let me ask you again, following up on the question I just asked—do you think there is a concern that, as Kevin puts it, the American public isn‘t listening to the details on habeas corpus and, instead, they‘re simply saying, “Wait a sec, isn‘t he the guy saying that terrorists get access to the courts and not distinguishing that from getting tried, as there is a huge and importance distinction between getting tried in American courts?

FREELAND:  Well, Dan, you‘re obviously right that it‘s always a risk for a politician not to pander and to try to present sophisticated arguments to people.  But I think right now, given where we are in Iraq, given America‘s really declining role in the world, I think that it‘s really refreshing.

ABRAMS:  All right.  I need a final call.  Roy, win, lose -


ABRAMS:  Do you say it‘s a win, Chrystia, for Obama this issue?


ABRAMS:  All right.  Kevin, win, lose or draw?

MADDEN:  Lose.  Lose for Obama.


SEKOFF:  I give it a draw.

ABRAMS:  Yes, I‘m going to give it a draw also.  I think, look, I think this is dangerous ground for Obama, but McCain is on record attacking, you know, Giuliani‘s national security credentials.  You know, it makes it a little bit harder for him to put him out there, but I think that Obama has to be very careful about how he phrases this issue, because I think it has the potential to backfire on him, but I‘m calling it a draw now.

Next up: Brand-new polls are out today from Quinnipiac reveal some surprising results in what could be the key battleground states in November.

First, Florida—Obama now holds a four-point lead over McCain in that crucial state.  In Ohio, Obama maintaining a six-point lead there, and in Pennsylvania, Obama now there is ahead by a surprising 12 points.

I mean, look, Kevin, we cant talk about national polls, et cetera—the key is going to be the battleground states and this has got to be scaring team McCain, I would think, no?

MADDEN:  Well, I don‘t think it‘s scaring team McCain.  I think, look, you know, polls are snapshots in time.  And right now, this is probably emblematic of a lot of the good coverage that Barack Obama has gotten about the historic nature of his candidacy.

I expect that the McCain campaign probably is prepared to see Barack Obama go up anywhere between eight to 12 points.  But it does show a certain level of strength with Obama against the argument that he can‘t win places like Pennsylvania, he can‘t win places like Ohio, because there‘s too many rural lunch pail voters there that he hasn‘t made the deal with.

And the simple fact that he‘s very competitive there and the fact that he has the resources to compete there, it just goes to show how close this is going to be.  But we‘ve got four months to go, there‘s still a lot of movement in those polls.

ABRAMS:  Agreed.  But this is significant because you‘re talking about two states where Obama was behind.  I mean, let‘s go through, these numbers are important here.  You had John McCain up in Florida 45 to 41.  You had John McCain up in Ohio, 44 to 40.  And you had Obama up 46 to 40 in Pennsylvania.

Now - that was from May 13th.  Now, you have Obama up in Florida, 47 to 43.  You‘ve got Obama up 48 to 42 in Ohio.  And you‘ve got him up by 12 points in Pennsylvania.  I mean, look - go ahead.

MADDEN:  I think you‘d had—the polls were taken somewhere between the 6th and 16th of June, right after Barack Obama had clinched the nomination.  So, you‘re essentially talking about 10 days to two weeks of really positive coverage about Barack Obama where, especially, John McCain wasn‘t in the news.  So, it‘s probably reflective of a lot of the information flow.

ABRAMS:  All right.  But, Kevin, you would concede that there was a

lot of talk -

MADDEN:  I would concede there‘s (ph) a good place.

ABRAMS:  Right.  But, no.  There was a lot of talk and there was no bounce for Barack Obama.  You would concede that this is, has to go down as a bounce for Barack Obama, correct?

MADDEN:  I think it goes down as a bounce and yes, and it shows that coming out of that clinched nomination, that he‘s in a lot stronger place than he was before it.

ABRAMS:  All right.

SEKOFF:  And, Dan, once we get down—this is all we‘ve been saying -

once we get down to Obama versus McCain, I think things are going to get a lot clearer, he‘s doing better with women, which was the big worry.  So, unless, this is, you know, (INAUDIBLE) day here on VERDICT, this is a big win for Obama.


ABRAMS:  Real quick, Chrystia, do you agree?

FREELAND:  I absolutely do.  And I think, look, if this were a lab experiment, whoever the Democrat is would win this year.  There‘s the economy, there‘s a war in Iraq, there‘s the anti-incumbency, historical trend.  So, this election is Obama‘s to lose.

ABRAMS:  Well, that may be -


ABRAMS:  Kevin probably wouldn‘t even disagree with that.

MADDEN:  No, all that overconfidence plays right into the Republicans hands.

ABRAMS:  All right.  This has to go down.  This one, I think, goes down as a win for Obama, but we are not done with Win, Lose or Draw.  Everyone‘s sticking around.

Coming up, the Obama campaign forced to apologize after not allowing two Muslim women to sit behind Obama at a campaign event because they were wearing head scarves.  Is that a win for McCain?  And who won the day?

And Obama goes after McCain for not for preventing people from attacking Michelle Obama, trying to make her a campaign issue.  That is Michelle guest hosts “The View.”

Plus, a congressman under indictment after the FBI found $90,000 in his freezer, he‘s running for re-election.  Another reason Why America Hates Washington is coming up in 60 seconds.


ABRAMS:  Tonight‘s edition of Why America Hates Washington: A congressman who won‘t let anything, even a federal indictment to keep him off the campaign trail.  Louisiana Democrat William Jefferson, the subject of that infamous FBI raid in 2006 that turned up $90,000 in his freezer, was indicted for everything from corruption to money laundering to racketeering.  Despite all that and the fact that three of his immediate family members were also indicted on separate charges, he‘s running for re-election again this year, saying that he‘s the target of quote, “an overzealous prosecution.”

Maybe true, but still, elected official accused of massive corruption clinging to his powerful position and unwilling to give it up: Another reason Why America Hates Washington.

We‘re back with more On Their Trail: Win, Lose or Draw, McCain v.

Obama, in a minute.


ABRAMS:  Welcome back to Win, Lose or Draw—assessing who won on the campaign trail, Obama v. McCain.  Right now on my scorecard, I have one win for Obama and one draw.

Our panel is back with us as we get into our next issue—President Bush injecting himself back in a 2008 race today, just a day after John McCain brought high gas prices front and center, announcing he‘s now in favor of drilling for oil off the coast of states like Florida and California, a reversal of his previous position.

President Bush chimed in announcing he, too, favors offshore drilling.


PRES. GEORGE W. BUSH, UNITED STATES:  My administration has repeatedly called on Congress to expand domestic oil production.  Unfortunately, Democrats on Capitol Hill have rejected virtually every proposal.  And now, Americans are paying the price at the pump for this obstruction.


ABRAMS:  All right.  Kevin Madden, former press secretary for Mitt Romney.  Bring us into the McCain camp as President Bush goes out the day after John McCain has said this.  Is the McCain camp saying, “No, please, why?  Why did you have to do it?”

MADDEN:  Well, look.  Yes, look, unfortunately, at a time where the McCain campaign is really in earnest trying to offer a separate identity to voters, this doesn‘t help.  Unfortunately, I support the president, but, unfortunately, his poll numbers are out of place right now, and he‘s not doing well with the American public when it comes to answering the questions on whether or not they would be able to -

ABRAMS:  Anything?

MADDEN:  On whether or not they‘d be able to move forward on policy. 

So, this doesn‘t help.  So, this doesn‘t help.

SEKOFF:  And especially, Dan, this is one of the issues that McCain has desperately (ph) to say that “I‘m different.”  You know, five years ago I disagree would him on global warming.  This kind of like, you know, Al Pacino in “Godfather III,” every time he tries to separate himself, they pulled him back in.

FREELAND:  Yes, I agree.

ABRAMS:  All right.  But, Chrystia, what about the fact that you want to ask Americans what they‘re thinking about every day.  They‘re thinking about how much their gas costs.  I mean, that is one of the most important issues to Americans right now.  Do you think there‘s a possibility that people will say, “You know what, I don‘t care what his previous position was, I don‘t care what George Bush thinks about it, I‘d just want a situation where oil prices are going to go down”?

FREELAND:  Sure.  I mean, I think that‘s why this issue, Dan, is actually a draw for McCain.  I think on the one hand, as being portrayed as “Bush mark III” is really dangerous for him.  I think being portrayed as a flip-flopper is also really, really dangerous because being a straight talking, authentic person is essential to the McCain brand.  But, if he can come up with a coherent vision of saying, “I feel your pain on oil prices and I have a solution,” people would buy that.  I‘m not sure that this or the gas tax holiday is that coherent vision.  But he gets some points for trying.

ABRAMS:  But is there any risks?

SEKOFF:  Chrystia, the problem though, it was only three weeks ago, it was only three weeks ago that he said, “You know, this is not a short-term solution.  This is not going to help us in the short term.”  So, it‘s only three weeks ago.  So, it‘s not just, you know, changing position, it‘s changing position just yesterday.

ABRAMS:  All right.  Roy—Win, Lose or Draw, Roy?

SEKOFF:  For McCain?


SEKOFF:  That‘s a loss.

ABRAMS:  Chrystia?


ABRAMS:  Kevin?

MADDEN:  Unfortunately, I think this is a lose for McCain.

ABRAMS:  I‘m going to call this a lose for McCain because of the link to Bush on this.  I‘m not so certain as a matter of policy that he‘s going to lose on this with the American public, but I think when President Bush comes out the next day and says, “Me, too, me, too,” that‘s not good news for John McCain.

Next up: The Obama camp forced to apologize today for discriminating against two women at a Detroit rally.  The scene was Detroit‘s Joe Louis Arena, Monday night, remember when Al Gore was set to endorse Obama, legions of Obama volunteers, not paid campaign staffers, went into the crowd to find supporters to sit behind Obama and Gore for the event.

Two Muslim women in the crowd were prevented from sitting behind Obama because they were wearing Muslim head scarves.  A friend of one of those women told Politico.com, quote, “The volunteer explained to me that because of the political climate and what‘s going on in the world and what‘s going on in the Muslim Americans, it‘s not good for my friend to be seen on TV or associated with Obama.”

The Obama camp issued an apology to the women saying, quote, “This is, of course, not the policy of the campaign.  It is offensive and counter to Obama‘s commitment to bring Americans together and simply not the kind of campaign we run.  We sincerely apologize for the behavior of these volunteers.”

Chrystia, how big a deal?

FREELAND:  I think a medium big deal.  I think that they were right to apologize right away, but, particularly, given how strongly Barack Obama emphasized that he is going to be authentic, he‘s going to be a different kind of candidate, it‘s not going to be politics as usual, I think it‘s really bad for his volunteers to be seeing (ph) to this stage, managing the event and discriminating against a particular group of Americans.

ABRAMS:  Roy, what do you make of the fact that the next day the Obama camp put out a photo of Obama next to a woman—let‘s show it—with a head scarf in the picture.  I mean, you know, I don‘t know if that‘s really going to resolve the issue, though.

SEKOFF:  Dan, Monday night was not a good event.  I mean, first of all, we had the booing of Hillary and now the banning of the head dress.  And here‘s the other tip off to the Obama campaign, if you‘re going to do this, don‘t do it to a woman who‘s a lawyer.  It‘s not good.  It‘s going to cause you some problems.

ABRAMS:  All right.  Kevin, you want to hit the spin ball.

MADDEN:  Yes, look, it serves as a real distraction for the Obama campaign.  I mean, it‘s also counter to their whole message of tolerance and bringing people together.  But, also, you know, again, it shows that they‘re very sensitive to a lot of these rumors out there about Barack Obama and that is going to, again, continue to be a distraction.  You can tell they‘re very sensitive about it and they‘re not playing from a position of strength on this one.

ABRAMS:  That is why I‘m calling this a lose for Obama.  I think it shows how afraid they are on this issue.  So, that gives you, on my final scorecard, tonight one win for Obama, one loss for Obama and one loss for McCain and a draw.

All right, so, the question is, I want to get everyone‘s view real quick.  Who won the day, Win, Lose or Draw, in terms of the day?




SEKOFF:  I give it a win to Obama.

ABRAMS:  Kevin?

MADDEN:  I‘m going to give it a win to Obama because of those poll numbers.  It‘s helping solve a lot of - answer a lot of questions that people have about his candidacy.

ABRAMS:  Yes.  I‘m going to call it somewhere between - I‘m going to

call that, I think, a draw day.  But I do think those poll numbers are

very, very -

SEKOFF:  Wait.  You‘ve got the Republican saying, “Win for Obama,” I go back to draw.


FREELAND:  You can‘t change your mind, Kevin.  You voted already.

SEKOFF:  I was so happy.


ABRAMS:  I want honest brokers.  Kevin, that‘s why I like you.

You know what?  But Roy did the same thing.  Roy was very honest in the times when he ruled against Obama and, Kevin, you‘re ruling against McCain at times.  I want honest brokers on this program and that‘s why Roy Sekoff, Chrystia Freeland, Kevin Madden, I thank you.

FREELAND:  Pleasure.

SEKOFF:  Good to be here, Dan.

ABRAMS:  Coming up: Obama defends his wife again.  This time he goes after McCain for not trying to stop Republicans from making her a campaign issue.  This is Michelle Obama co-hosts “The View.”

And CBS‘s Lara Logan back from Iraq, and dishing on her network news‘ coverage.  Let‘s just say I can‘t imagine her colleagues are going to appreciate what she had to say on Jon Stewart show.  That‘s next in Beat the Press.

And 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.  We‘re back in a minute.


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

First up: For those of you who don‘t watch the FOX Business Network and that would be just about everyone, you may have not known that their idea of business news is sometimes more about giving female anchors vividness (ph).


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  We have a story about botox tomorrow.  Have you

heard about this?  They‘re now injecting it into -

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  No, I‘ve not heard about it.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  And your breasts are supposed to perk up.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  How do I find out more information?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Oh, please.  You‘re not going to need that, Rebecca (ph).

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Eye contact, eye contact.



ABRAMS:  Sexual harassment on live TV—great stuff.

Next up: CNN continues to treat its viewers like they‘re tuning in to watch “Dora, The Explorer.”  Here they used scary dragons and sword fighters to help us understand that the economy is in trouble.


TOM FOREMAN, CNN HOST (voice-over):  The economy itself is going up in flames.  .  Congress, don‘t count on that army to save you.  Lawmakers spent much of the week working on an extension of unemployment benefits, what‘s a voter to do?  But watch Washington fiddle while the dragon roars.


ABRAMS:  Dragon.

Finally: Last night, CBS News chief foreign correspondent, Lara Logan was on “The Daily Show” for some reason I don‘t think her colleagues at CBS are going to appreciate her take on their work.


JON STEWART, TV SHOW HOST:  Do you watch the news that we‘re watching in the United States?


STEWART:  Do you see what we‘re hearing about the war?


STEWART:  So, we might actually know everything.

LOGAN:  If I were to watch the news that you‘re hearing in the United States, I‘d just blow my brains out because it would drive me nuts.

STEWART:  Really?



ABRAMS:  Good luck back at CBS headquarters.

We need your help Beating the Press: if you see anything right, wrong or absurd go to our Web site: Verdict.msnbc.com, leave us a tip in the box, please include the show and time you saw the item.

Up next: Michelle Obama co-hosted “The View” today as her hubby blasted McCain from not doing enough to stop Republicans for making her a campaign issue.

And I‘m in Washington tonight for the memorial for Tim Russert, our friend and colleague here at NBC News.  Coming up, we‘ll share some of the highlights.


ABRAMS:  Welcome back to Washington, DC.  Tonight, Barack Obama asking Republicans and John McCain to lay off his wife.


SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  I think families are off limits.  I would never consider making Cindy McCain a campaign issue.  And if I saw people doing that, I would speak out against it.  And the fact that I haven‘t seen that from John McCain I think is a deep disappointment.


ABRAMS:  This, as Obama tries to fight back against the right-wing attack machine and Michelle Obama co-hosted ABC‘s “The View” today for the full hour.  She tried to clarify that comment that continues to fire up her opponents.  The one about being proud of her country for the first time in her adult life.


MICHELLE OBAMA, BARACK OBAMA‘S WIFE:  Just let me tell you of course I am proud of my country.  Nowhere but in America could my story be possible.  When I talked about it in my speech, what I was talking about having a pride in the political process.  People are just engaged in this election in a way that we haven‘t seen in a long time and I think everybody has agreed with that.


ABRAMS:  I think Barack and Michelle Obama are almost certainly striking back at attacks like these.


SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS:  Michelle Obama doesn‘t seem to have many nice things to say about America.  And she even sounds really bitter.

JOHN MCLAUGHLIN, GUY ON TV:  You don‘t think she‘s a black militant?

ANNOUNCER:  This week Michelle Obama still sounds angry.

HANNITY:  Does she really believe as she‘s quoted of saying twice, America is a downright mean country in 2008?


ABRAMS:  Joining me now, Hannity‘s brother in arms, radio talk show host Lars Larsen, Democratic strategist Tanya Ackers and back with us is Roy Sekoff and Kevin Madden.  Lars, look, today you have Barack Obama saying, look, lay off my wife, John McCain should be out there denouncing these attacks, shouldn‘t he?

LARS LARSEN, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST:  No, absolutely not.  She‘s fair game.  She‘s out on the campaign trail and she‘s making speeches on behalf of her husband.  She‘s fair game.  You can‘t have it both ways.  If he wants his wife out on the campaign trail, he has to be able to take the attacks, as well.  The fact is, Sean is wrong.  She didn‘t say it twice, she said it four times.  Quoted in “The New Yorker,” “America is a place that is just downright mean where the average person can‘t get ahead.”  She‘s full of baloney on that.

SEKOFF:  I find this phenomenal.

ABRAMS:  Tanya?  Hang on, I want to let Tanya respond.

TANYA ACKERS, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST:  First of, I think his right-wing cohorts are what is wrong with this the country and why it‘s so uncivil that we can‘t say, Cindy McCain, Michelle Obama, they are completely off limits and not crafting policy, they‘re not setting the national agenda and these women are simply off limits.  You could have had, you can have honest, passionate, really intense discourse amongst two candidates without going after one other.  I bet Tip O‘Neill didn‘t do it to Ronald Reagan.  I bet Ronald Reagan didn‘t do it.  But there is something that‘s wrong culturally .

ABRAMS:  I want to stay focused on the wife.  Roy, you want to chime in and then I‘ll let Lars in?

SEKOFF:  Dan, I think this is really phenomenal.  This shows just how shameless the Republicans attack machine is.  Just think about this, if my candidate was a man who had abandoned his first wife after a horrible disfiguring accident and married a woman who then had a horrible drug addiction and stole from her own charity, I don‘t think I‘m going to make my opponent‘s wife the issue.

LARSEN:  Dan, you can‘t say you‘re trying to raise the discourse and then make those kind of attacks.

SEKOFF:  I didn‘t say that.  I said it‘s amazing that they‘re trying to do it.  What they‘re trying to do is smear Michelle Obama with ridiculousness, these are facts.

LARSEN:  That‘s a smear in itself.  Doing analysis of another smear.  That doesn‘t help anybody.

SEKOFF:  Those are facts.

LARSEN:  You can‘t put your wife out on the campaign trail with a message.

ABRAMS:  Well, but, again .

ACKERS:  I‘m sorry.  But there‘s a difference between.  There‘s a difference between having a message.  What you‘re telling me that if Michelle Obama goes out and shares passionate opinions about her country and what she wants to happen for her country and her children, it‘s OK for her to be the subject of right-wing lies and attacks?  To distort the things that she said?

LARSEN:  It‘s not lies and attacks.  Listen, it‘s not, it‘s not lies, it‘s not lies that you say Michelle Obama appears to hate her country.  She says it‘s a downright mean country where people can‘t get ahead that is full of cynics and sloths.

ACKERS:  That is a smear and a mischaracterization of everything she said.

ABRAMS:  So, what she said on “The View” today you say she doesn‘t like her country so, the bottom line is when she talks about how much she loves her country on “The View” today, that doesn‘t matter?

LARSEN:  She‘s trying to rehabilitate her image.

ABRAMS:  At least even admit that through your prism, even in the best-case scenario for you, you‘re playing gotcha with her.

LARSEN:  No, I‘m not.

ABRAMS:  Come on.

LARSEN:  No, listen, what I‘m saying, we‘re going to take people.  We‘re going to take people at their word.  When they say mean-spirited things about their country, we‘re going to remember it.

SEKOFF:  Let‘s look at what Laura Bush said.  Laura Bush looked at it the right way and said she knew what Michelle Obama was really saying and when they gave Cindy McCain to take the high road, she wouldn‘t do it.

LARSEN:  Why should she?  She doesn‘t agree.

ABRAMS:  Here‘s what Michelle Obama said about that issue.

ACKERS:  She doesn‘t have the good judgment that Laura Bush does.

ABRAMS:  Here‘s Michelle Obama talking about how she appreciates what Laura Bush said about it.


M. OBAMA:  I was touched by it.  That‘s what I like about Laura Bush.  Just calm, rational approach to these issues.  I‘m taking some cues.  There‘s a balance, there‘s a reason why people like her.  It‘s because she doesn‘t sort of fuel the fire.


ABRAMS:  Tanya, let me ask you a political question.  Putting aside right or wrong here for a minute, is there a political danger here, do you think, for Barack Obama in all of these attacks that are being levied on Michelle?

ACKERS:  I think they‘ve become a distraction and I think that to the extent that the campaign becomes overly distracted by what is going to be an unapologetic uncivil, these attacks on Michelle where she was taken out of context and turned into a distraction of this angry black militant which is what Lars and his buddies like to do.  I do think it becomes a distraction of the Obama campaign and they need to try to put that distraction aside and stay focused on the issues that American people care about.


ABRAMS:  Yeah, go ahead, Lars.

LARSEN:  Listen, “The New Yorker” followed her around and watched four speeches in a row.  She is quoted far more than saying being proud for the first time.  This woman has awful things to say about a country that gave her a first class Ivy League education.  She got a $300,000 year do-nothing job at a hospital.  No, she did.  And her salary tripled after her husband became a senator.

ACKERS:  She earned it.

LARSEN:  Earned it?  What, outreach and diversity?  It‘s a B.S. job.  You know it‘s a baloney job.

ACKERS:  Now, you‘re getting to the real issue .

LARSEN:  It‘s a .

ABRAMS:  Lars .

ACKERS:  Hang on a second.  I got to say this because now you‘re getting to the crux of what the right-wing attack is.  You want to turn on this caricature of the lazy, black militant who has everything handed to her.

LARSEN:  I did not say lazy I said it‘s a do nothing job.

ACKERS:  That‘s exactly what you just did.  This time we‘re going to be just as smart as you guys.  And we‘re going to answer every smear quickly.

ABRAMS:  Hang on one second.  Let me bring in Kevin Madden because he‘s not a right-wing radio talk show.

MADDEN:  I‘m trying to referee this thing.

ABRAMS:  So, Kevin, isn‘t there a danger of people like Lars and Sean Hannity out there supposedly representing people in this fight.  There‘s no question that Lars, what you‘re doing is smearing Michelle Obama.  No question to me.

LARSEN:  Dan, let me answer that.

ABRAMS:  Not saying you don‘t think it‘s true.

LARSEN:  No, let me answer that.

ABRAMS:  I have to let Kevin in first.

LARSEN:  Let me separate the two.  You have to separate the campaign tactics from the public debate.  The public debate what Lars and Hannity and the other right-wing radio, the liberals label it right wing radio, they‘re having a conversation with their listeners, they‘re having a conversation with the American public, but the campaign on the other hand is not going after Michelle Obama.  They would be wise to not go after her and, instead, talk about the big issues.  And .

ABRAMS:  Wait a sec.  Barack Obama called on McCain today to say, you have to denounce it and McCain isn‘t denouncing it, is he?

MADDEN:  I think John McCain is going to take every single opportunity.  Tanya, just for a second.  I think John McCain will take every opportunity to make this about the issues.  He will make it between the world views between him and Barack Obama and not between spouses.

ABRAMS:  I have to wrap it up.  I think this is a dangerous, dangerous area for the right to go.  Lars and Sean can do it all they want, but, Kevin, guys like you that will have to prevent this from making it out beyond them.

MADDEN:  Hopefully guys like me pounding the table inside campaign offices tonight.

ACKERS:  Go, Kevin.

ABRAMS:  Tanya Ackers, Lars Larsen, Roy Sekoff, Kevin Madden, great panel, thanks a lot, appreciate it.

LARSEN:  Great to be with you, Dan.

ABRAMS:  Today here in Washington and, really, an amazing memorial for our friend and colleague Tim Russert.  Coming up some of the highlights from it.  We‘re back in 60 seconds.


ABRAMS:  I‘m here in Washington, DC., for the memorial of Tim Russert. 

We‘ll play some highlights coming up in a minute.


ABRAMS:  Bruce Springsteen performed today as part of the memorial to Tim Russert.  Welcome back, I‘m here in Washington, DC, tonight where I attended the memorial for our leader here at NBC.  Today John McCain and Barack Obama sat side-by-side chatting until the service began.  And at the memorial, closest friends and family celebrated a life that brought them so much life and laugh through the years.


TOM BROKAW, NBC NEWS:  Tim would look out on this gathering and say it‘s wild, wild.  My family, my closest friends from near and far, the powerful, the ordinary and the largest contingent of all in this room, those who think that they should be his successor on MEET THE PRESS.

LUKE RUSSERT, TIM RUSSERT‘S SON:  Earlier today I delivered my father‘s eulogy and I‘d like to share a few excerpts.  I‘m sorry to break the news to every charity group and university and club that he spoke to, but he had the same speech for all of you.  He would just tinker it a little bit depending on who exactly he was talking to.  So, I would like the do the same thing from what I said earlier.

If there was one philosopher that my father couldn‘t quote enough, it was the great Yogi Berra.  One of his favorite Yogiisms was always go to everyone else‘s funerals otherwise they won‘t go to yours.

MARIA SHRIVER, FIRST LADY OF CALIFORNIA:  Not too long ago he called me when he heard my daughter was interested in applying to Boston College.  He said, look, Maria, it‘s competitive at Boston College.  You need to know people in Boston.  You need to know people—yeah.  Yeah, he said you need to know people in the Catholic Church.  You need me if you want your daughter to get into B.C.  I thanked him profusely and said, oh my God, you are so right.  I grew up in the Cape and I don‘t know a person in Boston and I grew up in Catholic schools and I don‘t know anybody.  Please, make sure my daughter gets into Boston College.  She didn‘t.

MARK BARNICLE, MSNBC COMMENTATOR:  So, let me tell you about Tim and the summers of his life.  I see him on a fishing boat in Nantucket, the great fly caster from Holy Family Parish in South Buffalo.  A man who would need hand grenades to get fish out of the ocean.  I see him in Connecticut with Maureen, the love of his life running Luke‘s third birthday party the way he ran the Washington bureau, efficiently, kindly, generously, listening to everyone with a Rolling Rock in one hand and helium balloons in the other.

BROKAW:  Big Russ you may remember about a dozen years ago you sent me this.  This is a mug from the American Legion Post 721 in South Buffalo.  And for every morning since that time, it has been my first companion as I brush my teeth.  But now I‘m going to set this mug aside and I‘m going to save it for Election Night and I‘m going to fill it with his Rolling Rock that I pilfered just today from Tim‘s cooler here in Washington.  I‘ll fill the mug with Rolling Rock and I hope that a call will come, “Tommy B., what‘s happening?  This is wild.”

BRIAN WILLIAMS, NBC NEWS ANCHOR:  Tim spent a fortune on his hair.  Everyone up here who knows him knows the truth.  He spent a sizable amount of money on his hair and on the day when he got it done, he looked outstanding for 60 to 90 minutes afterwards.  And then just gradually after exiting that salon and going about his day in the course of the day something happened.  And the truth is, he just went back to being Tim.

SHRIVER:  And every time Tim would come over my mother would say when he left, now, that‘s the kind of jolly Irish Catholic boy I thought you would marry.  What happened?

L. RUSSERT:  So I ask you this Sunday, in your hearts and in your minds to imagine a MEET THE PRESS special edition live from inside St.  Peter‘s Gates.  Maybe Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr will be on for the full hour debating.  Perhaps JFK and Barry Goldwater will give their two cents about the 2008 election.  We could even have Teddy Roosevelt for the full hour talking about the need for a third party.


ABRAMS:  That music was played by Tim‘s brother-in-law.  I was honored to be at Tim‘s memorial.  It is an event I will always remember for a man who is so memorable.

Coming up today‘s winners and losers and your e-mails


ABRAMS:  It‘s time for tonight‘s winners and losers.  Our first loser, Lindsay Lohan who followed in Katherine Heigl‘s footsteps by withdrawing her name from any contention.  She‘s a loser for dissing her writers, saying the material in “Gray‘s Anatomy” was not Emmy-worthy, Lohan may have been insulting the Emmy voters suggesting she might get an Emmy for a guest role on “Ugly Betty.”

Loser, father-to-be Matthew McConaughey, his girlfriend set to give birth to his first child next month?  So where‘s he?  He‘s bar hopping solo in Nicaragua.  He reportedly got so drunk he passed out in a ditch.  Witnesses say he was hitting on all the women and he denies that but admits he was drunk.  Look, on the bright side, his child will have these TMZ pictures to remember what daddy was doing while mommy was eight months pregnant.

Our big loser, Fox News.  After Tennessee Democratic Party executive committee member Fred Hobbs blamed them for him saying this about Barack Obama,  Hobbs said, “I‘m not sure we know enough about him.  He‘s got some bad connections.  And he may be terrorist-connected for all I can tell.”

So where did he hear that nonsense?  In his apology he said, “My comments did reflect questions I had after what I had seen reported on Fox News.  But I should have taken some time to check the accuracy of what I saw on television before speaking publicly.”  They report, he decided to actually listen.  Our big winner of the day, former Mets manager Willie Randolph unceremoniously fired in the middle of the night earlier this week.  Despite their historic collapse last season and their less than banner season this year, he wins tonight because of the backlash against the Mets management.  The New York media slamming them for having Randolph fly out west and firing him only after he won the game that night.  They‘re throwing him out of the park gets him a P.R. home run.

Time for the P.O.‘d box.  It seems my point in last night‘s win, lose or draw when I called Obama‘s comments following the Gitmo ruling a “lose” were misunderstood.

First up, Hope Miller.  “Dan, you totally missed the point on the Gitmo and Supreme Court ruling.  Obama is totally correct on this point.  We are a nation of laws that should apply to everyone, even suspected terrorists.”

I‘m sorry, Hope, I think you missed my point.  I agree with Obama on the Gitmo ruling.  But one of my guests was suggesting that Obama meant that anyone captured on the battlefield should come back and be tried in a regular U.S. courtroom.  Obama isn‘t saying that and neither aim.

Finally Matt Ahrens, “Dan, you‘re falling into the trap of putting words into Obama‘s mouth.  He did not say we need to treat Gitmo prisoners as criminals.  He said that we can fight terrorism within the framework of the Constitution.”

Matt, you‘re right but he compared Guantanamo prisoners to terror suspects tried in federal court and jailed in U.S prisons.  It opened him up to attack.  That‘s all I said.  I didn‘t put any words in his mouth.  Thanks for your feedback.  You can e-mail us verdict@msnbc.com.  Thanks for watching.  See you tomorrow night.



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