updated 7/1/2008 12:04:30 PM ET 2008-07-01T16:04:30

Guest: General Wesley Clark, Tara Wall, Roy Sekoff, Brian Wice, Nicole DeBorde, Tucker Carlson.

DAN ABRAMS, HOST:  Breaking tonight: General Wesley Clark with us live for his first interview since he ignited a major controversy yesterday by questioning the relevance of John McCain‘s military service as a POW in Vietnam.

The question: How significant is it in this campaign?  The McCain camp jumped on the comments by Clark who‘s now an Obama supporter, linking them to Obama‘s campaign saying, quote, “Obama‘s words don‘t really match up with the way he‘s running the campaign.”

Joining me now is General Wesley Clark.

General Clark, thanks very for joining us.  We appreciate it.  You set off quite a firestorm here with both the McCain and Obama coming out and rejecting your comments.  First, let me play the comments at issue from CBS yesterday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “FACE THE NATION”/CBS/SUNDAY)

GEN. WESLEY CLARK, OBAMA SUPPORTER:  I certainly honor his service as a prisoner of war.  He was a hero to me and to hundreds of thousands and millions of others in the armed forces as a prisoner of war.  He has been a voiced on the Senate Armed Services Committee and he has traveled all over the world but he hasn‘t held executive responsibility.

That large squadron in the Navy that he commanded, it wasn‘t a war- time squadron.  He hasn‘t been there and ordered the bombs to fall.  He hasn‘t seen what it‘s like when diplomats come and say, “I don‘t know if we can get this point through or not.  If you want to take the risk, what about your reputation, how do we handle it publicly?  He hasn‘t made those -

BOB SCHIEFFER, CBS HOST:  Well, general, could I just interrupt you.

CLARK:  Sure.

SCHIEFFER:  I have to say, Barack Obama has not had any of those experiences either nor has he ridden in a fighter plane and gotten shot down.  I mean -

CLARK:  Well, I don‘t think riding in a fighter plane and getting shot down is a qualification to be president.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  All right.  That‘s the one that ended up being the real zinger, general.

And as a result, a lot of response here: Admiral Leighton Smith has said, “General Clark is way off base on this one.”  Lieutenant Commander Carl Smith says, “It reflects, quote, ‘extremely bad judgment‘.” Senator Warner saying he was shocked.  Former Reagan National Security adviser, Robert McFarland saying, “It maybe part of a larger gamut.”  Bob Dole said you should have stayed in bed on Sunday.

What‘s your response?

CLARK:  Well, first all, Dan, thanks for having me on and I don‘t want to do anything to take away from this very important week when Barack Obama, the man I support to be president, is talking about patriotism and service.  But I do appreciate the chance to be on.

Now, I wasn‘t representing the Obama campaign in anything I said yesterday about John McCain.  Those are comments I said for some weeks now, they‘ve been repeated many times, I think, once, previously, on your show, perhaps.  But I have said them on many occasions and I think it‘s an important point that we understand that this is an issue about the qualifications to be president.

National security is going to be a very important element of this campaign and people are going to be asking who can best protect America.  But I want to assure you, I would never, never diss someone‘s service. 

When people chose to serve in uniform, I honor it.

And, Dan, I came home from Vietnam on a stretcher.  I was shot, I took a burst of AK, I got four rounds.  I was in three different hospitals and finally got home and eventually recovered and went on to serve.  So, I think I know a little bit about what it‘s like to honor men and women who serve in uniform and I do and I never would dismiss somebody.

So, I think, you know, there‘s a lot of tempest here, but I think we need to get on with the major issues of the campaign and I think we need to listen to Barack Obama as he defines patriotism and talks about the big issues facing this country.

ABRAMS:  You mention that you said it before, we‘d actually gone back to see if you‘ve said it on our show before, I think that the part that has really gotten people—which I don‘t think you said before—was the part about riding in a fighter plane and getting shot down, effectively is not a qualification for president.  I think that‘s the line that has been the most controversial.  Are you sorry you said it?

CLARK:  It‘s a great line.  I didn‘t make it up.  It was given to me by the interviewer.  And I don‘t think it‘s a great line in terms of conveying.  You know, it‘s too bad that I wish people hadn‘t misinterpreted that and lost sight of the important point.  But, I think, you know, we need to get on to the important point here about what are the qualifications to be president.

Serving the armed forces is a great thing.  It‘s a great gift to the country and it shows commitment.  And particularly if you‘re in combat it can show courage.  And John McCain showed all of that.

On the other hand, it depends on what your position was in the armed forces and what you did there as to how relevant that service is to the strategic decision-making that is the essence of protecting the United States as president.  And that was the point I was making.

ABRAMS:  Does it show anything, though, about John McCain‘s character that he had the opportunity to leave and he didn‘t, that he gave himself for his country and refused to go home when he had an opportunity?

CLARK:  Well, I honor John McCain‘s characters and I said in the show, he has been one of my heroes for a long time.  I like John McCain.  He‘s been over to my house and everything.  This is about qualifications to be president.  That‘s what this is about.

And, by the way, it‘s also a little bit about the nature of American politics today that a comment like this could be taken out of context the way it was and create such a hullabaloo.  I think we ought to get back to the campaign.

But I want to make clear where I stand on honoring men and women and I don‘t care what their politics are, honoring men and women who serve our country.  And I do.

ABRAMS:  Let me read you from Bill Burton, the Obama campaign spokesperson, “As he said many times before, Senator Obama honors and respects Senator McCain‘s service, and of course, he rejects yesterday‘s statement by General Clark.”

CLARK:  Well, I agree with Senator Obama.  I honor and respect John McCain‘s service as well and I think language of this type is—and this kind of discussion really shouldn‘t be part of the campaign.

ABRAMS:  All right.  So, do you reject the statements of General Clark?

CLARK:  I reject the idea that you take something like this and swift boat it all out of proportion which is exactly what happened.  In fact, Dan, just as a side light, you might know that one of the people who organized the conference call for McCain with the reporters is one of the people who was very active in the swift boating campaign against John Kerry.

So, what you got here is a political gambit.  It‘s the tactic by the McCain campaign.  And It obscures the real issues of this election, which is—which candidate is better qualified, which candidate has the judgment to be president of the United States.

ABRAMS:  Look, I think that‘s a fair point that in terms of the big issues in this campaign, this is not going to be one of them, but when you have the campaign spokesperson for the Obama camp, coming out and rejecting your statements, that says something, doesn‘t it?

CLARK:  Well, I think it says, first of all, I wasn‘t representing any part of the Obama campaign in that discussion with John McCain.  I want to make that perfectly clear.  That‘s something I‘ve been saying for weeks before Obama clinched the nomination.  I was still saying that or I was beginning to say that then.

I said this about John McCain‘s qualifications for a long time.  I‘ve been in war; I commanded that strategic level, as well as having commanded at the tactical level.  I paid the personal price in bloodshed and I know what it‘s like to order men and women into combat and to pray for innocent people that they won‘t be hurt.

And so, what I‘m suggesting is that there‘s a difference in the two levels of war and the levels of responsibility.  And you can honor a person‘s service, but still ask, “OK, what‘s the, what‘s the real weight of that service in terms of qualifications for judgment that‘s required in the office of the commander in chief.

ABRAMS:  Well, let me ask you that.  Is there anything about John McCain‘s service that you think is relevant in his effort to become president of the United States?

CLARK:  Absolutely.  I think anybody who serves in uniform, who serves their country, especially in wartime who has gone through the kind of privations and hardships of John McCain, should be honored for his character and courage.  And I certainly do.

ABRAMS:  But you say honored for their character and courage, and, yet, when I‘m asking you specifically about, do you think that it‘s relevant in his effort to become president, yes or no?  Do you think that is a qualification that gives John McCain an edge on that particular issue?

CLARK:  I think people look for character and courage in their presidents, but I don‘t think you have to have been at war to show character and courage.  I think you can find character and courage in other candidates.  I think you can find them in Barack Obama‘s life, for example.  So, I think that, you know, the voters have to make their own minds up on what constitutes the essential elements of character and courage.

But here, we‘re talking about how experience leads to judgment.  And I think on that issue, that‘s what I think has to be clarified because where it leads to national security experience and we‘re talking about keeping America safe, the American people are going to have to make a judgment—which candidate has the judgment, the best judgment to keep America safe in a troubled world?

ABRAMS:  So, I‘ve got to ask you, though, this follow-up question though.  Do you stand by your comment that you don‘t think riding in a fighter plane and getting shot down is a qualification for president, do you stand by that?

CLARK:  I stand by the comment that when you talk about someone‘s war-time experience, you have to put that in the context of the level of their service, what that service consisted of, and how it matches up to the requirements of the job of the presidency of the United States.

ABRAMS:  So, does that mean, again, that you don‘t think riding in a fighter plane and getting shot down is a qualification for president?

CLARK:  I think it‘s an incredible testimony to John McCain‘s courage that he endured the privations and hardship he did.  And I think that the American people have always been impressed by that, as I have been impressed by that.

But I‘m supporting Barack Obama.  I think he has judgment, I think he has character, and I do think he has courage.  I think he‘ll be a great commander in chief.  Despite the fact that he didn‘t serve, I think he is a patriot in the truest sense of the word.

ABRAMS:  I want to play you a piece of sound from John McCain talking about this issue and then I want to ask you to respond.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, ® PRESUMPTIVE PRES. NOMINEE:  I know that many—that General Clark is not an isolated incident.  I have no way of knowing how much involvement Senator Obama has in that issue.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Now, you‘ve said that the Obama camp did not send you out to make this comment.  Did you have any conversations with the Obama camp before you made this statement?

CLARK:  Absolutely not.  As I said, that statement has been made for a long time about John McCain‘s war-time experience and its relevance to the office of the presidency.  I‘ve been saying that for months now.  So, there‘s no news in that, whatever.  And it had no connections with the Obama campaign and, you know, and I certainly agree that we shouldn‘t be dissing someone‘s military service, and I haven‘t done that.

ABRAMS:  Have you called the Obama campaign since this became quite a story to either apologize or clarify your statement?

CLARK:  Well, I certainly talked to the Obama campaign.

ABRAMS:  I mean since then to say, “Look, here‘s what I meant or I‘m sorry that I said it,” or what did you say to them?

CLARK:  Well, I‘ve talked to the Obama campaign but I‘m here tonight to talk to you and the other people who are watching your show, Dan.  And I want to make it very clear that I respect people who served in uniform, especially those who served in war-time and were wounded in action.

I was one of those people and I also served later.  So, I think I understand the difference between courage and commitment.  As an officer or sergeant or soldier at war, or a pilot and someone who‘s making strategic decisions such as the president of the United States will have to make.

And I hope the American people will see past the firestorm of the swift boating that‘s being attempted in this story and look at the issue—which candidate has the judgment to be the better president of the United States?

ABRAMS:  Are you surprised at how big a deal this has become?

CLARK:  Well, no, I‘m not surprised by politics today.  I‘ve been in it for a while, but I think it‘s important, this is an important time to recognize that people‘s qualifications are important.  And what I‘d like to do, Dan, is, make sure that the American people understand that I, as a retired officer, have tremendous respect for everyone who served and I think we ought to get on and let the candidates have their say on these issues.

ABRAMS:  Well, look, General Clark, I‘m going to ask you to stand by, because, look—some people simply think what you said is true and that there should be no back-tracking at all.  Others would say, as you heard all the comments that were made, that this is a statement that never should have been made, but there is, there are definitely two sides to this issue.

So, if you don‘t mind, if you could stand by for a minute, I want you to join our panel in a minute.

And also coming up: John McCain gets some help combating attacks on his military record from one of the vets responsible for swift boating John Kerry.  Yes, the same swift boater McCain once criticized.

Plus: As Americans struggle with $4 a gallon gas, Congress votes to make today “National Corvette Day.”  Another reason Why America Hates Washington is coming up in 60 seconds.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Tonight‘s edition of Why America Hates Washington: Congress can‘t tackle sky-high gas prices, so, instead, they name a day after a car that is not particularly fuel-efficient.  Republican Congressman John Shimkus and dozens of his colleagues in the U.S. House, spent time late last week passing a resolution declaring today, “National Corvette Day.”

The resolution provides several key reasons for the designation, among them is the corvette is “truly a symbol of American pride.”  One that in our current economy most Americans can‘t afford to have, much less buy gas for.

Celebrating hot rods in Congress: another reason Why America Hates Washington.

We‘re back with more with General Wesley Clark and those controversial statements in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  We‘re back.

Before we get back to our panel, welcome back, Wesley Clark.  I was going to ask one question before we thank you for sticking around.  General Clark, of course, is usually an MSNBC analyst, tonight, a newsmaker here on the program.

General Clark, final question.  I‘ve asked it to you a couple times, I‘m not sure, I know what the answer is.  Are you sorry you made the comments you did?

CLARK:  Well, Dan, I‘m not backing away from anything I said.  I think there‘s a very important issue here, that this is an election that‘s going to be about change in America.  But one of the critical aspects will be who can best protect America.

And so, the voters will look at the qualifications of the candidates, and I hope they‘ll look past the fact that one candidate has an outstanding record of service as a pilot and as a prisoner of war, and look, instead at the judgment of the two candidates.  So, if all this brouhaha helps focus the issue past the fact that one served in the military and one didn‘t, and into the relevant qualities of judgment of the two respected candidates, then I‘ll be satisfied that it accomplished something.

If it was just a brouhaha and the press, and swift boating, in an effort to steal the headlines back for John McCain, then, shame on all of us for getting wrapped up in it.

ABRAMS:  General Clark, as always, thanks very much for coming on. 

Good to have you on, appreciate it.

CLARK:  Thank you.

ABRAMS:  Joining me now is Roy Sekoff of “Huffington Post”; Tara Wall from “The Washington Times”; and, MSNBC‘s senior campaign correspondent, Tucker Carlson is with us, as well.

All right.  So, you know, the question here, in part is, should General Clark have made these comments?  How big a deal is it to the campaign?  But isn‘t there also the question of whether what he said is true and we face this issue very recently with Charlie Black on part of the McCain camp, making a comment about—if there‘s a terror attack that that could actually end up helping John McCain—also got him in trouble but also a statement that might be true.

Tucker, are we playing gotcha here with both sides?

TUCKER CARLSON, MSNBC SR. CAMPAIGN CORRESPONDENT:  Well, I mean, I‘m all for saying unpopular but true things and facing the consequences for saying those things.  I think General Clark is now making a separate argument.  He was originally—he was, in fact, dissing McCain‘s service in the military by saying it was irrelevant.  He said so, point blank.

I think this is both factually untrue, also tactically not very smart.  This is exactly the conversation the McCain campaign wants to have—about military service and Barack Obama‘s lack of it.  In fact, lack of any relevant life experience that pertains to being president and, of course, McCain has been in the Congress since 1982, working on foreign policy issues.

So, just the fact that he brought this up in the first place, shows, I think, a profound lack of judgment or at least an episode of really bad judgment.  Everything about this helps McCain and everything about it hurts Barack Obama.

ABRAMS:  Roy, do you agree?

ROY SEKOFF, HUFFINGTON POST:  Yes, I do.  I mean, I think the general was trying to make a nuance point in a sound byte atmosphere.  But the problem is, any time we‘re talking about what John McCain did in Vietnam instead of what he‘s going to do in Iraq, it‘s a lose for Barack Obama.  We don‘t want to have the discussion about Vietnam.  Obama is supposed to be the post-Vietnam candidate.  We don‘t want to have the Kerry campaign again.

ABRAMS:  But, Tara, as a silver star and purple heart recipient, doesn‘t General Clark have sort of some of the same leeway that John McCain has, to discuss military service?

TARA WALL, THE WASHINGTON TIMES:  Well, the distinction being and with all due respect to General Clark, we all admire his service, but with the distinction of being he is actually a surrogate and speaks for the Obama campaign whether he was saying he was speaking for them at the time, he is a surrogate.  And quite frankly, Obama himself said that we should not devalue our servicemen and women.

Look, there are just, you know, unspoken rules, if you will.  I mean, I‘m not for being the thought police and going after every little nugget and word that everybody says and analyzing that, this is a campaign.  But at the same time, you know, number one, you don‘t talk about someone‘s mama and you don‘t, you know, sit there and tear apart someone who just was fell in a plane, became a POW for, you know, just to play political football.

I think, and the very least, the difference between he and Charlie Black, Charlie Black has, at least, the common sense to apologize for what he said were a poor choice of words.  General Clark could have at least, at the very least, admitted that it was a poor choice of words.

SEKOFF:  How can you say that he was him apart when he said, “I honor him, he‘s one of my heroes, his the heroes of thousands of us”?  I mean, that‘s what he said.  So, let‘s not take it out of context and say, “It wasn‘t the subject.”

WALL:  No one took anything out of context.

CARLSON:  Wait.  Let‘s take seriously what he said.  He kept claiming he was being swift boated, whatever that is, as if he was somehow being attacked unfairly or with something that was untrue.  He was merely hearing his own words quoted back to him.

His argument, if you take it seriously is this—only people in command, high level flag officers get credit at the presidential level for having served and the average guy touting the rifle, or dropping the bombs, gets no credit because he‘s not in a decision-making position.  That may be true.

You really want to make that argument in public, that you know, the average guy who dies serving his country, his service isn‘t germane to being president?  That‘s insane.

SEKOFF:  Tucker, it was a question of credit or whether that really makes it a qualification?  I mean, that‘s really the point that he‘s trying to make.

CARLSON:  I don‘t know.  You want to have that conversation, Roy? 

Have a great time.

(CROSSTALK)

SEKOFF:  Let‘s not take it to the next level and say that he was trashing him.  He wasn‘t trashing him.

ABRAMS:  All right.  But the point is, Tucker, you‘re usually the guy, Tucker, who‘s saying, “Look,” even if it‘s not politically expedient you‘re calling people out and saying, “Look, it‘s true in certain cases.”  I‘m not saying in this particular case.

CARLSON:  And look, I think you could make an intellectually serious argument that only the guy on the bridge of the ship or at the Pentagon back in Washington, really is gathering life experiences that are germane to running the country.

I mean, if you want to make that argument, in other words, Eisenhower had the perfect war-time experience prepared him be president.  John Kerry and John McCain, the guys actually taking the fire didn‘t.  Wes Clark was a grunt in Vietnam.  By his argument, that experience is irrelevant to being president.  You can make that argument, I‘m just saying—I don‘t think you want to.

SEKOFF:  A big mistake.

ABRAMS:  Yes.  Except that, I guess, General Clark would say that he eventually became a general and, as a result, therefore, he had the kind of experience, the decision-making.

WALL:  And General Clark is not the candidate, Barack Obama is the candidate here.  I mean, with all due respect, yes, he served, he served well.  We respect that.  But at the same time, if Barack Obama himself is asking us to raise the level, raise above all the rhetoric and, you know, work to have a more tempered campaign, well, we‘re not lobbying bombs, I‘m not saying that General Clark was out there necessarily, you know, to dig into Senator McCain -

ABRAMS:  Tara, what more do you want from the Obama campaign?  They came out and they rejected the statement by General Clark.

WALL:  Well, listen, I think at the very least again, General Clark owes Senator McCain an apology and for—at the very, at the very least using poor choice of words.

And I think that Barack Obama certainly is going to say that this is not the tone we should take.  We should respect our veterans.  I think he should take it a step further and encourage General Clark and he may have in that conversation and that‘s why we‘re seeing General Clark step off a little bit and claim he was taken out of context.

I don‘t think he was taken out of context at all.  I think that he‘s stepping away from what he said, and then he should apologize, at the very least, for using poor words.  He won‘t say that again, I bet.

ABRAMS:  Look, I think you‘re right that he wasn‘t taken out of context, but I also don‘t think that he‘s backing off what he said.  I mean, that‘s the amazing thing, I think, about the interview we just did.  He didn‘t back off at all.

WALL:  Well, yes, he didn‘t apologize.  He‘s saying he doesn‘t what he said.  I think that, at the very least, he should admit to the fact that he used poor word use.  I mean, he just used poor words altogether and he wouldn‘t frame it that way going forward.

ABRAMS:  All right.  Our panel is going to stay with us.

Coming up: John McCain turns to one of the swift boat vets who attack John Kerry, to help with attacks on his own record, one of the same vets that McCain attack in 2004.  Win, Lose or Draw is coming up.

And: Bill O‘Reilly, again, quizzes a colleague on history and for the second time in a week, gets the basic facts wrong.  That‘s next in Beat the Press.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

First up: CNN interviewed a body language expert to analyze Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama‘s meeting on Friday.  In another context, her comments might have seemed like she was talking more about body and less about language.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “LARRY KING LIVE”/CNN/FRIDAY)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  He does this gesture like this; he talks about the American dream.  This is an inch; this is not the American dream, the American is this big.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  That maybe the American dream but all of this, how uncomfortable.

Next up: FOX‘s Bill O‘Reilly gets the facts wrong for the second time in a week while quizzing a colleague on the air.  On Tuesday, he foolishly chastised two fellow FOX anchors who correctly answered the Alamo had been a fort.  Two days later, he quizzed another colleague and got it wrong, again.

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

BILL O‘REILLY, FOX HOST:  Are you a student of history?

TERRY KEENAN, FOX CORRESPONDENT:  I think so.

O‘REILLY:  All right.  Do you know what happened in France when Louis XIV and Maria Antoinette were eating cake and everybody was eating sewer rats?

KEENAN:  France‘s revolution.

O‘REILLY:  Right.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  No, actually, wrong.  Louis XIV was dead 40 years before Marie Antoinette was even born.  She married Louis XVI.  An interesting note here: O‘Reilly and the king of whom he referred have something in common.  Louis was known as the “Sun King” because, apparently, he believed France revolved around him.  Enough said.

Finally: Sometimes you have to wonder what producers in the control room were saying to anchors, as was the case with two of the folks I like over at FOX.  My old pal, Gregg Jarrett and Julie Banderas, watch Julie‘s laptop, and try to guess what someone in the control room might have said in her ear.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “AMERICA‘S ELECTION HQ”/FOX NEWS/SATURDAY)

JULIE BANDERAS, FOX HOST:  Oh, no.

GREGG JARRETT, FOX HOST:  He‘s saying he‘s better off.

BANDERAS:  He‘s OK.

JARRETT:  What a hangover.

BANDERAS:  Oh, I once saw one of those just running along the highway.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Julie, can you push that laptop down some more because we need to see a little more lap?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JARRETT:  I almost got hit by one in Davenport.

BANDERAS:  Really?

JARRETT:  Coming down the street in Iowa.

BANDERAS:  I get so sad when I see dead deer on the side of the road.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  You‘ve got to love FOX News.

Up next: John McCain has pledged to run a clean campaign, but today, he set up his own “truth squad” and turn to one of the men responsible for swiftboating John Kerry for help.  Is this just clever cover to start playing dirty politics?  That‘s in “Win, Lose or Draw.”

And protests erupt after a grand jury clears a man who shot two suspected burglars outside his neighbor‘s house, despite a 911 operator warning, don‘t do it.  We have the 911 tape and a debate coming up. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWSBREAK)

ABRAMS:  Welcome back.  John McCain enlists the help of a former Swift Boat Veteran for Truth after bashing that group just four years ago.  We‘re continuing our “Win, Lose or Draw” edition of on their trail assessing who won the day out on the trail, Obama or McCain.  First up, the McCain camp takes a page from Obama and launches a truth squad to combat any unfair attacks, in this case on John McCain‘s military record.  Among the people McCain enlisted to help:  fellow Vietnam POW, Bud Day.  Bud may be familiar to some.  He was a member of the Swift Boat Veteran for Truth back in 2004 and appeared in a TV ad attacking John Kerry‘s military record. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUD DAY, SWIFT BOAT VETERAN FOR TRUTH:  How can you expect our sons and daughters to follow you when you condemned their fathers and grandfathers? 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Back in 2004, McCain said about Bud Day‘s group, “I deplore this kind of politics.  I think the ad is dishonest and dishonorable.” So, the question is, is this a lose for McCain? 

Roy Sekoff, from the “Huffington Post,” what do you make of it? 

SEKOFF:  Yeah, I mean, McCain‘s brand is about being the straight shooter.  So, when it seems that he expediently forgets what he said in 2004 about the Swift Boat Veterans, the guy who called John Kerry “Benedict Arnold,” yeah, I think it hurts him. 

ABRAMS:  Tucker? 

CARLSON:  I think it was absurd for him to announce the ad in the first place.  A lot of those Swift Boat Veterans for Truth guy had a lot more standing to talk about Vietnam than John Kerry ever did, including Bud Day, who‘s the recipient of the Medal of Honor, one of the most highly decorated living servicemen, literally a legend in the armed services, and one of McCain‘s closest friends. 

He never should have never said that about the ad, those guys, again, had a point of view, they had evidence to back it up and I hate the distortion of history that allows people to use a phrase “swift boating” to apply to things that are untrue.  And in fact, the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth should have been taken seriously.  They were serious people who where there, unlike the press. 

ABRAMS:  And Tara, though, I will say that—this is from the “New York Times” in 12 pages, you know, this was a 42-page affidavit in response to Boone Pickens saying that, you know, prove to us anything was wrong with the swift boat ads that they “identified not just one, but 10 lies in the group‘s campaign against Mr. Kerry” and Pickens then said that he was only talking about paying off if somebody produced evidence about the ads not the book, et cetera.  But, is this a big deal, I mean, the fact that McCain has had him join his team? 

WALL:  No, I think it‘s a win and, I mean, you go after the best when you want to get the job done.  The line was drawn in the sand.  Remember, I mean, John McCain is a veteran, he‘s a war hero and you know, he‘s going out all guns blazing, fighting.  So, what does he do?  He picks one of the most successful ad campaigns in history and gets the folks that are in charge of that and goes for—I mean, who else is he going to use to lead this effort? 

SEKOFF:  When the top item on your resume is that you‘re the group that said John Kerry wounded himself to get a Purple Heart, I don‘t know if that says Mr. Credibility. 

WALL:  Look, I mean, everyone evolves their positions and at the time, you know, that was the position, that was the political position, you know, for John McCain and whether you agree whether he said the right thing or did the wrong thing, look, listen... 

SEKOFF:  This is a truth squad, Tara. 

WALL:  You‘re right, it is a truth squad and he should be ready, willing and able and have the best people in charge to be able to defend himself and present an offense on some of these attacks.  I mean, when you have someone like General Clark playing political football with John McCain‘s status as a war hero and saying, you know, he‘s not... 

SEKOFF:  What did General Clark say that required truth—a truth squad, it was an opinion, but it wasn‘t a factual basis of whether it was true or untrue, it was just an opinion. 

WALL:  It is totally legitimate. 

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  Go ahead, Tucker.

CARLSON:  One of McCain‘s problems is his tendency to parrot conventional wisdom and pander to the media, to the popular view of the moment.  And the popular view of the moment four years ago was that these Swift Boat Veteran for Truth guys were beyond the pale, they were pig farmers and snake handlers from middle America, they were somehow disgusting and all smart, well educated people found them disgusting and John McCain put himself on the side of that conventional view, but the deep truth, is these are legitimate people.  They may not have been entirely right about everything, but you had to listen to them if you‘re a serious person, and McCain made a mistake then, and I think he‘s absolutely now to be on Bud Day‘s side.  And by the way, Bud Day is a legitimately close friend of his.  He was with McCain in ‘99 when I first starting covering McCain, they‘re friends, for real. 

WALL:  And you may disagree with at the time—you may disagree with how or, you know, how they go about their campaign, but I think philosophically he understands that when you have someone who is smart strategically, that can lead you in a direction and carry that message, you‘re going to go with the best of the best. 

ABRAMS:  Look, I don‘t think this is going to be a huge deal.  I think this is almost the equivalent of the VP search committee that Obama had where they had problems and then someone—they get rid of someone and who cares.  But, I think on the day, in terms of the reception of this, I‘m going to call this a slight loss for McCain on my book, but, again the same way Obama has to be accountable for who he puts on his VP vetting team. 

All right, next up, Obama speaking in Independence, Missouri today, taking on attacks from the right about patriotism. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Throughout my life, I‘ve always taken my deep and abiding love for this country as a given, it was how I was raised, it is what propelled me into public service, it‘s why I‘m running for president.  And, yet, at certain times over the last 16 months, I found, for the first time, my patriotism challenged. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  This comes as a group of Obama supporters, like this one, taking on Obama‘s middle name, Hussein, as their own.  Their efforts make it to the pages of the “New York Times,” but does Obama really need his middle name in the headlines? 

I  mean, Roy, look, you know, you got this whole group of people, young people primarily, who are saying, I want to take the middle name Hussein to show it‘s not a big deal—people like Joe Jones changing their name to Joe Hussein Jones, whatever.  But, doesn‘t this just—these are Obama supporters, aren‘t they revisiting an issue that Obama would probably just like to put into the background? 

SEKOFF:  Yeah, it‘s a lame, ridiculous point of view and anybody who is not going to vote for Barack Obama because his middle name is Hussein is not going to be swayed by the FaceBook crowd, you know?

ABRAMS:  But, I mean, and look, their goal, I guess, Tucker, is sort of long-term acceptance, but I would say—I said to someone today:  I think if they want long-term acceptance they should begin that in November and proceed through the end of, through the end of the term. 

CARLSON:  Well, what does it say about that?  I mean, first of all, it‘s totally unfair to hold a guy‘s middle name against him.  You don‘t choose your middle name and I think reasonable people would never hold his middle name against him.  I hope not.  But to take his middle name as your own such a cult-like move, such a Jonestownian thing to do, that it really makes you wonder about the nature of some of the Obama support?  I mean, these are like wide-eyed fire breathers who believe every banality that falls from his lips. 

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON:  Like they really believe it.  Like all these Starbucks baristas who like buy all this crap, he‘s talking.  I mean, just sad, actually, I think. 

SEKOFF:  Well, I mean, they‘re college kids, you know, they use to eat goldfish, now they‘re changing their name to Hussein. 

CARLSON:  Exactly, it‘s pathetic.

SEKOFF:  But here‘s the thing, the ones on the right who don‘t care that it‘s not enough that his middle name is Hussein, they‘re now spreading the rumor that it‘s Hussein Mohammed Obama. 

ABRAMS:  Well yeah, and then there was the other rumor that he—supposedly his real middle name was Mohammed, he changed it to Hussein.  That was my favorite one.

SEKOFF:  Exactly.

ABRAMS:  All right, anyway, I want to go around the horn, Tara, I‘m going to get to you on this one, too.  I just want to find out, who do you think won the day based on everything that happened, today:  Obama or McCain?  Tara, let me start with you, who won the day? 

WALL:  Well, I would say that certainly Obama‘s leading.  I mean, I think his speech on patriotism and condemning some of the remarks, although he didn‘t call out General Wesley Clark in particular, some of the remarks about not devaluing our soldiers and our veterans, I think... 

ABRAMS:  A slight win, you say, for Obama.  All right, a slight win. 

All right, Tucker?  Who won today? 

CARLSON:  I thought Obama did a fine job with the patriotism speech.  I think, however, any day you‘re talking about Vietnam and foreign policy experience and service in the military service, McCain wins, just by the nature of the conversation. 

ABRAMS:  Roy?

SEKOFF:  Yeah, I mean, I don‘t know if you can have two sister soldier movements in the same day, you know, with both MoveOn and with Wes Clark, but I thought it was a good speech, so, I‘ll give a draw. 

ABRAMS:  Yeah, I think it was a draw today, as well.  I think were some good things for Obama, the speech, I think, worked in his advantage, but I think it got overshadowed by the Wes Clark comments, which I think make it—take away what I would have thought would have been a win.  Roy Sekoff, Tara Wall and Tucker Carlson, thanks a lot. 

SEKOFF:  You bet. 

ABRAMS:  Up next, a Texas grand jury clears a man of all charges, get this, after he shot two men he believed were breaking into his neighbor‘s home, even though a 911 operator told him not to do it and the men were shot in the back. 

And surveillance cameras show bears doing what bears apparently do in the woods.  That‘s coming up in 60 seconds.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Now to “Reality Bites,” a dose of reality caught on tape. 

Tonight we head to bear county, Glacier National Park in Montana.  Surveillance cameras show, we now know what bears do when they have an unbearable itch, they rub up against a tree.  Biologists say they may also do this to leave their scent to warn enemies or to find a mate. 

Be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  A Texas man shoots and kills two men he suspected of burglarizing his neighbor‘s home.  It happened while he was on the phone with 911.  Today he was cleared of all criminal charges.  Here‘s how it happened. 

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

HORN:  I‘ve got a shotgun, do you want me to stop ‘em?

DISPATCHER:  Nope, don‘t do that.  Ain‘t no property worth shooting over, OK? 

HORN:  They just stole something.  I‘m going after them, I‘m sorry...

DISPATCHER:  Don‘t go outside.

HORN:  I ain‘t letting them get away with this (expletive).  They stole something.  They got a bag of something.

DISPATCHER:  Don‘t go outside the house,

HORN:  I‘m doing it.

DISPATCHER:  Mr. Horn, do not go outside the house.

HORN:  I‘m sorry, this ain‘t right, buddy. 

DISPATCHER:  You‘re going to get yourself shot if you go outside that house with a gun, I don‘t care what you think.

HORN:  You want to make a bet?

DISPATCHER:  OK?  Stay in the house.

HORN:  They‘re getting away!

DISPATCHER:  That‘s all right.  Property‘s not worthy killing someone over, OK?

HORN:  (expletive) it.

DISPATCHER:  Don‘t do out the house.  Don‘t be shooting nobody.  I know you‘re pissed and you‘re frustrated, but don‘t do it.

HORN:  They got a bag of loot.

DISPATCHER:  OK.  How big is the bag?  (INAUDIBLE) Which way are they going?

HORN:  I can‘t—I‘m going outside.  I‘ll find out.

DISPATCHER:  I don‘t want you going outside, Mr. Horn.

HORN:  Well, here it goes, buddy.  You hear the shot gun clicking and I‘m going.

DISPATCHER:  Don‘t go outside.

HORN:  (Yelling) move, you‘re dead!

(sound of shots being fired)

(END AUDIO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Both men were shot in the back and died, but even with that evidence, a grand jury chose not to indict on any charges.  Here now from Houston, attorney, Brian Wice and defense attorney, Nicole DeBorde. 

All right, I‘ll admit it, guys, I‘m torn on this one.  I need one of you to convince me.  Texas law allows you to shoot an intruder in certain circumstances, I guess even on your neighbor‘s property, but in the back while 911‘s telling you not to do it?  Nicole, convince me why he should not have been charged.

NICOLE DEBORDE, DEFENSE ATTY:  Well, in Texas, the law gives you the right to shoot a person even when they‘re fleeing from a property crime and to kill them, and deadly force is what the grand jury determined was appropriate and not illegal, so that‘s why he was not charged because he did not break the law. 

ABRAMS:  Brain, is right?  You can be fleeing, someone could be running away, not even on your property, on your next door neighbor‘s property, neighbors you don‘t even know and you‘re not committing a crime? 

BRIAN WICE, ATTORNEY:  Well you know, Dan, there‘s a difference between the letter of the law and the spirit of the law, and something called the “Cowboy Code.” But, look at the end of the day everybody knows that Joe Horn walked out of his house for one reason and one reason only, and that was to make residential burglary a death penalty offense.  And we know that if he listened to that dispatcher from central casting and stayed in his house those two hood rats would be doing long stretches in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.  My concern is that Joe Horn allegedly got the bad guys this time.  What about next time, Dan, when he kills a kid getting off the school bus or a postman or the undercover cop who comes in to stop that burglary? 

DEBORDE:  The man has the right to be in his yard.  The man has the right to be in his yard.  Joe horn had the right to be where he was. 

WICE:  And I appreciate that, Nicole, but at the end of the day, we all know the penal code says you can‘t provoke the difficulty, you can‘t use self-defense as a hunting license to be some lower case wannabe Charles Bronson... 

(CROSSTALK)

Let me finish, Nicole.  To be some Charles Bronson, “Dirty Harry” wannabe when who takes matter into his own hands.  And again, self-defense, has never meant in Texas... 

DEBORDE:  His own yard. 

WICE:  It‘s never been a hunting license and I am sorry that we somehow made it back to the days of the Wild West. 

ABRAMS:  Nicole, I mean, there‘s been a lot—and I‘m going to play a little bit more of the 911 tape in a second.  But Nicole, there has been a lot of allegations these two guys since they were illegal immigrants, that there was a lot of sentiment on the part of people there, it‘s a white guy, shooting a couple of illegal immigrants, a lot of protests, et cetera, people saying the only reason this guy‘s getting away with it is because they‘re immigrants. 

DEBORDE:  Well, the reality is, is that Joe Horn was in his house and he never left his own property.  He was in his yard when these two habitual criminals came on to his report and threatened him and Joe Horn felt he had no choice, but to act with deadly force and he did. 

ABRAMS:  But they were next door, though, right?  I mean, you said they threatened him.

DEBORDE:  No, they were actually, according... 

ABRAMS:  But, I thought they came on his property when he went outside.

DEBORDE:  Well, when he went outside into his own yard, into his own yard, which is his own property, he has right to be there. 

ABRAMS:  Here‘s more of the 911 call. 

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

DISPATCHER:  I want you to listen to me carefully, OK? 

HORN:  Yes?

DISPATCHER:  Got officers coming out there.  I don‘t want you to go outside that house.  And I don‘t want you to have that gun in your hand when those officers are poking around over there. 

HORN:  I understand that.  OK?  But I have a right to protect myself, too, sir, and you understand that and the laws have been changed in this country since September the 1st and you know it and I know it.  I have a right to protect myself.

DISPATCHER:  I‘m...

HORN:   And a shot gun is a legal weapon, it‘s not an illegal weapon. 

DISPATCHER:  No, it‘s not.  I‘m not saying that.  I‘m not wanting you to...

(END AUDIO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Brian Wice, quick final thought on this mad new law, at least, in Texas? 

WICE:  Absolutely.  But look, whether or not his conduct was reasonable, Dan, whether or not he provoked the difficulty, are classic questions of fact that should have been heard by a trial jury and the crucible of cross-examination, and not by a grand jury behind closed doors. 

ABRAMS:  Well, grand jury decided not to indictment him and so this case is over.  Brian Wice, Nicole DeBorde, thanks a lot. 

DEBORDE:  Thanks for having us. 

ABRAMS:  Up next, will tonight‘s “Big winner or Loser” be singer, Amy Winehouse who hit a fan while performing on stage, Nevada‘s brothel getting hit by high gas prices or the Los Angeles Dodgers who didn‘t get any hits and—that‘s not it—and still won the game? 

Plus, your e-mails in the “PO‘d Box.” I‘ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  It‘s time for tonight‘s “Winners and Losers” for this 30th day of June 2008.  Our first loser, Amy Winehouse; while singing her song “Rehab” to a crowd of 80,000 in England, she appears to punch a fan for allegedly touching her.  She also reportedly spit gum into the crowd.  Nice. 

Our second loser, the Bush legal team.  In a just-released portion of Federal Appeals Court opinion, the D.C.  Court with a panel of two Republicans and one Democrat compared the administration‘s argument about the rights of Guantanamo detainees to a dim-witted character in a Lewis Carroll poem.  A character in the poem says, “I have said it thrice, what I tell you three times is true.” The court rights “Lewis Carroll notwithstanding, the fact that the government has said it thrice does not make an allegation true.”

But, the big loser of the day, Nevada‘s brothel.  Sex usually sells, but apparently not when gas is over $4 a gallon.  Business down 25 percent across the state, but have no fear, the Bunny Ranch has solutions for all of your aches and pains.  They‘re offering a deal called “double your stimulus.” Customers get double what they pay for when they use a government stimulus check.  Get it, double your stimulus?  Another brothel is giving away gas cards. 

Our winner of the day, the Los Angeles Dodgers who beat the Anaheim Angels this weekend without a single hit.  They won 1-0 purely based on errors without getting any clean hits.  A win is a win, I guess. 

Time for the “PO‘d Box.” A chance to tell me what you hate or love about the show.  Last week I argued against the Supreme Court‘s decision to overtone the D.C.  handgun ban. 

Dan Rider from Orangeville, California goes after me:  “The Second Amendment really does say “The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed,” even if you do want it to.  The dependent clause concerning the militia does not say you must be a member of the militia to have a gun.  It simply notes that a well regulated militia is essential to a free state.”

Oh Dan, so as far as you‘re concerned, the first line of the Second Amendment, that a well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, it‘s just a notation.  And I never said you have to be a member of the militia to have a gun.  I said, you have to be part of a well regulated militia to claim it‘s a constitutional right to have a gun. 

Mark Erickson:  “You‘re getting a little hysterical over this ruling.  You‘re assuming everyone in the district is going to go out and buy a handgun.”

No actually, Mark, I never said anything about whether gun control laws made sense.  I just said there‘s no constitutional right for everyone to have a gun. 

Kevin Mandigo agrees with me:  “Every adult in the country has a right to keep and bear arms by volunteering to serve their country in the National Guard.  This fills a role that militias performed during the time that the constitution was written.”

And finally, Mary Will:  “I don‘t understand how you are showcasing the Supreme Court gun decision as if guns became legal and everyone‘s rushing out to buy one.  Guns are legal in millions of homes already.  All of these what ifs sound ridiculous and sound like a high school debate.”

Look, if you view the constitution as irrelevant, then you‘ve got a good point.  I don‘t. 

That‘s all the time we have for tonight.  You can e-mail about the show at verdict@msnbc.com.  Please include your name and where you‘re writing from. 

And, General Clark, who was just on this show for his first interview, he‘s going to be on with Andrea Mitchell tomorrow 1:00 p.m. Eastern, so make sure to tune in then.  See you tomorrow.  Thanks for watching.

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

END   

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