updated 7/2/2008 1:49:18 PM ET 2008-07-02T17:49:18

Guest: Eugene Robinson; Michelle Bernard; John Harwood; Jay Carney

RACHEL MADDOW, HOST:  Tonight on RACE FOR THE WHITE HOUSE, Senator Obama announces his support for faith-based programs while insisting he is still a true believer in the separation of church and state. 

Senator McCain jets to South America, of all places, with a parting shot at Obama that uses the phrase, “Child rapists.”  Wow.  This is supposed to be the lull in the campaign?  Doesn‘t feel like it. 

THE RACE FOR THE WHITE HOUSE rolls on. 

And welcome to THE RACE FOR THE WHITE HOUSE.  I‘m Rachel Maddow, in today for David Gregory. 

We‘re happy to have you here, your stop for the fast-paced, the bottom line and every point of view in the room. 

Tonight, on the day the last combat brigade that made up the surge starts to mobilize to come home from Iraq, John McCain heads off in a very different direction, to South America, to plead the case for free trade. 

General Wesley Clark defends his assertion that McCain‘s military service was heroic, but not relevant as leadership experience for the White House.  Inside the War Room, we‘ll ask whether either campaign sees an advantage now in prolonging that particular fight. 

The bedrock of our program, as you know, a panel that always comes to play.

With us tonight, Jay Carney, Washington bureau chief for “TIME” magazine; Michelle Bernard, president of the Independent Women‘s Voice, and an MSNBC political analyst; Eugene Robinson, associate editor and columnist for “The Washington Post,” also an MSNBC political analyst; and John Harwood, CNBC‘s chief Washington correspondent and a political writer for “The New York Times.” 

We begin as we do every night, with everyone‘s take on the most important political story of the day.  It‘s “The Headline.”

My headline tonight is “Slapping Down the Left.”

Everyone knows that candidates run toward their political base during the primaries and then tap back to the center for the general election.  It‘s Politics 101, right? 

Well, Senator Obama‘s recent right turns are not unexpected, but there sure are a lot of them.  It‘s not just the warrantless wiretapping issue, it‘s also the support he announced today for a faith-based program office in the White House.  It‘s his announced support for the Scalia majority in the recent Supreme Court guns case.  It‘s this overt slap at the liberal group moveon.org in his patriotism speech yesterday. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Often our policy still seems trapped in these old threadbare arguments.  A fact most evident during our recent debates about the war in Iraq, when those who opposed administration policy were tagged by some as unpatriotic.  And a general providing his best counsel on how to move forward on Iraq was accused of betrayal. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  The conservative base has long been better organized and had better press than the liberal base in this country.  But if Obama keeps up this furious pace of slapping down the left, we may yet learn exactly how many slaps it takes before the left decides to slap back. 

All right.  John Harwood, you‘re up first tonight with your headline. 

JOHN HARWOOD, CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, CNBC:  Well, it goes to your issue, Rachel.  My headline is a question.  “Will the Surge Shift Obama?”

The Democratic nominee is already courting the center on economics, terror surveillance and social policy, but Iraq is the big one for a candidate who made his name by having opposed the war in the first place.  Now that the surge is nearly complete, with reduced violence to show for it, will Obama moderate his views on pulling troops out?  And when?

So far he hasn‘t.  But war supporter John McCain believes the politics of Iraq could turn back in his favor, and this issue will give us a fascinating window into Obama‘s commitment and political instincts—

Rachel. 

MADDOW:  Interesting point, John.  And I think it also factors into whether or not Afghanistan becomes a real overt issue in this campaign.  It will be interesting to see that unveil. 

Michelle Bernard, what‘s your headline tonight? 

MICHELLE BERNARD, PRESIDENT, INDEPENDENT WOMEN‘S FORUM:  Rachel, my headline tonight is: “Message to the NRA: The War is Over.”

You know, as you mentioned earlier, Rachel, today, the Supreme Court made a historical decision last week striking down the District of Columbia‘s gun ban.  And in that decision, the Supreme Court, for the first time in our nation‘s history, analyzed the Second Amendment and ruled that an individual has the right to bear arms unconnected to a militia. 

That is the law of the land.  But what we have seen today is that the NRA, it is being reported, is going to spend up to $15 million campaigning against Barack Obama despite the fact that the Supreme Court made this decision last week by saying that Barack Obama is going to nominate anti-gun judges to the Supreme Court if he‘s elected president of the United States. 

But the little dirty secret here is that Barack Obama‘s position on the Supreme Court decision is very nuanced because a lot of the voters that he has to go after and that have become disaffected with Barack Obama, at least when we look at demographic groups, are pro-gun people.  So, you know, he‘s taken a nuanced position, and I think he‘s going to be very quiet on this issue.  And the NRA is basically fighting a battle that has already been won. 

MADDOW:  It may be a big one-sided war between the NRA towards Obama with him not fighting back.

BERNARD:  Absolutely. 

MADDOW:  Thanks Michelle. 

All right.  Jay Carney, what do you have for us tonight? 

JAY CARNEY, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, “TIME”:  Rachel, my headline is, “Stop Calling Me Names!”

I think it‘s like round 13 now of the outrage wars here, as Wes Clark, retired general Wes Clark‘s comments about John McCain‘s military service keep reverberating.  He stood by what he said again today, which, of course, caused the McCain campaign to have a conference call to attack Wes Clark, and to suggest that the Obama campaign and the Democrats are out slandering Senator McCain. 

The sad part about all of this is that both sides are wrong.  There‘s actually been fairly low levels of negative scurrilous attacks from either side.  Certainly either side at the Republican or Democratic level or the campaign level. 

And what was supposed to be or hoped to be a noble, elevated campaign is turning into a schoolyard taunt match.  And it‘s getting very tiresome indeed.  I bet the voters are probably getting sick of it as well. 

MADDOW:  We‘re going to get into some of the tactical decisions both campaigns are making about this Wes Clark fight a little later on in the War Room as well.

At this point, to me it feels like I can‘t tell to whose advantage this is playing out, but we‘re going to get into it.

Gene Robinson, round out our lineup for us here tonight. 

EUGENE ROBINSON, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  My headline tonight is a question.  “Is it Post-Partisanship or Plain Old Triangulation?”

I think everyone‘s instinct when we heard Barack Obama talk about the faith-based programs yesterday and put it together with his view of the Second Amendment and other recent statements, the instinct was to say he‘s triangulating, he is moving to the right for the general election campaign, as candidates do.  That‘s the way you get elected.  I think there‘s another possibility. 

I think this—that what we are seeing is an expression of the Barack Obama of the beginning of the campaign who talked about post-partisanship, who talked about a political landscape in which Democrats didn‘t say, well, we can‘t support any of those policies because Republicans support them and we‘re Democrats.  And people we like support them, therefore we have to stay on our side of the fence and Republicans have to stay on their side of the fence.  The Barack Obama who talks and still talks constantly about moving past the “us versus them” politics of the ‘60s, getting over the Vietnam argument. 

And I wonder if the Barack Obama who talks about faith-based programs as important to a potential Obama White House might not just be the real Barack Obama. 

MADDOW:  Point taken, Gene.  That said, if you had asked me a year ago whether the Democratic presidential candidate would be unveiling his own office of faith-based programs, I would have booked you on my radio show just for the pleasure of mocking you.  Of course, I would have been wrong. 

ROBINSON:  A year ago we wouldn‘t have thought it was Barack Obama either, so... 

MADDOW:  That‘s exactly right.

HARWOOD:  Rachel, I don‘t believe that about you.  You wouldn‘t really do that. 

CARNEY:  No.

MADDOW:  I‘ve been wrong about so much in this race, I‘m sure that would have been one of the many things I‘d be wrong about.  It‘s been quite unpredictable.

We‘re going to get into Barack Obama‘s faith-based proposal and the politics behind it when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  We‘re back.

Pack your bags.  Leave a crumb trail.  We are heading deep inside the ‘08 campaign war rooms. 

Who‘s making good tactical decisions?  Who‘s making bad ones? 

Oh, yes, and did you hear Barack Obama and Bill Clinton are suddenly on the verge of becoming best friends?

Back with us, Jay Carney, Michelle Bernard, Eugene Robinson and John Harwood.

OK.  First up, the Wesley Clark comments day two.  Here‘s Clark‘s original comment in context on “Face the Nation” with Bob Schieffer.  This includes Bob Schieffer‘s question, so you can decide if you think Clark‘s comments were unfair.

Check this out.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEN. WESLEY CLARK (RET.), U.S. ARMY:  He has been a voice 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 air in the Navy that he commanded, it wasn‘t a wartime squadron.  He hasn‘t been there and ordered the bombs to fall. 

BOB SCHIEFFER, “FACE THE NATION”:  I‘d 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)

MADDOW:  Clark clarified his remarks again today on MSNBC.  Take a look. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLARK:  I answered a direct question.  So let me explain why I think this is an important issue and why I think it‘s important that our viewers understand.  That there‘s a distinction between having shown your courage and commitment as a soldier, sailor, airman, Marine in the United States armed forces.  And having learned from that, the judgment that will make you a better president. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  So this was originally widely seen as a gaffe by General Clark, but he is not backing down, and in fact, he has now started a debate about how military service relates to presidential experience. 

McCain himself in ‘03 said he doesn‘t believe that military service inherently makes someone better equipped to be commander in chief.  So the question, was this actually a misstep by Clark?  Should the McCain campaign be responding to this differently? 

John Harwood, what do you think?

HARWOOD:  Yes, it was a misstep by Clark which is why he‘s clarifying it today.  Look, there‘s no experience that is like being president except being president. 

MADDOW:  Yes.

HARWOOD:  This is true of service in the military, or work as a community organizer.  It was not a well-advised thing for Clark to do though, to be seen criticizing John McCain for what every American regards as heroic service during the Vietnam War, even if the statement he was making was true.  It actually was true—being a prisoner of war does not make you qualified to be president, but nothing else does either. 

MADDOW:  Michelle Bernard, do you see a way that the McCain campaign should have pushed back differently or reacted to this differently? 

BERNARD:  You know, I think the McCain campaign really reacted properly to this.  I think that Wes Clark is really doing Barack Obama a disservice, because when—you know, I think time and time again when you push on this issue and people see those old pictures of John McCain as a prison of war, John McCain will always win on this issue. 

And what Wesley Clark has really done has sort of pushed out to the forefront Senator Obama‘s lack of military experience.  And I think that the McCain camp is really responding properly, but I do think that this also will have a short life cycle and that, you know, Wesley Clark needs to stop the comments.  And I think the McCain campaign, it‘s time to begin tamping down the anti-Wesley Clark rhetoric on... 

(CROSSTALK)

MADDOW:  Watching the timing on this will be key.

CARNEY:  Rachel?

MADDOW:  Yes, John—or Jay?

CARNEY:  Rachel, I just have to tell you something. 

I ran into Bob Dole today in Washington.  And I asked him, I said, “Senator Dole, does John McCain have a chance of winning this election?”  His response, “If Wes Clark keeps helping him, he‘ll win.”

(LAUGHTER)

CARNEY:  And you know, we all love Bob Dole‘s sense of humor, but I think he has a point.  I agree with Michelle.  I think the Obama campaign must be collectively pulling their hair out and desperate to give them a hook, because this doesn‘t help.  And that‘s why the McCain campaign and, you know, excessive umbrage is reacting the way it is.  It‘s trying to get that right back in the center of the voters‘ consciousness, that John McCain served his country and suffered for it. 

MADDOW:  Of course, Bob Dole, himself a symbol of a heroic wartime record.  Not necessarily being a political ace in the hole, but obviously the point from Dole well taken there. 

CARNEY:  Right.

MADDOW:  OK.  Moving on, Obama expands a key Bush program, delivering a speech in Ohio today on faith-based initiatives in the White House. 

Let‘s listen. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  President Bush came into office with a rally or a promise to rally the armies of compassion, establishing a new Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives.  Well, I still believe that it‘s a good idea to have a partnership between the White House and grassroots groups, both faith-based and secular, but it has to be a real partnership, not a photo-op.  And that‘s what it will be when I‘m president.  I‘ll establish a new council for faith-based and neighborhood partnerships.  It will be a critical part of my administration.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  Obama went on to say he believes deeply in the separation of church and state, and he sees way to fund faith-based programs without violating that separation.  Clearly, Obama is moving right for the general election.

Gene might disagree.  But at some point, does Obama jeopardize the sense that he would be a clean break from Bush?  Can he make infinite right turns without running the risk that he starts sounding like a Republican? 

Gene, what do you think? 

ROBINSON:  I think, sure, there is a risk there.  Look, let me put on my opinion columnist hat for a second and say, I‘m not wild about this policy. 

I covered Hurricane Katrina in the aftermath, and for weeks afterwards, the only organizations that were getting anything done on the ground were faith-based organizations.  But it shouldn‘t have had to be that way.  The government should be able to do more than—and be more competent than it has been, certainly in the Bush years and in previous years as well. 

So, that‘s what I would prefer to have my president concentrating on.  But again, I just ask the question, you know, in all that we talked about Barack Obama‘s church, we didn‘t talk a lot about his faith. 

That kind of got drowned out by talking about the pastor.  So maybe we ought to go back and take a look at his faith and the depth of it and whether or not, again, this is the real Barack Obama, this is something that he sincerely believes. 

MADDOW:  Maybe start to adjust our expectations here.

BERNARD:  Rachel, can I...

MADDOW:  Sure, Michelle.  Go ahead.

BERNARD:  Rachel, I just want to add, I‘m also looking at this a little bit like Machiavelli.  I think that this is a strategic move on Barack Obama‘s part for a couple of reasons. 

A couple of years ago, I attended a meeting at the White House that President Bush held with African-American leaders, most of whom were African-American ministers.  I would say the vast majority of them were Democrats.  But they firming supported President Bush, and they did so because of this Office of Faith-Based Initiatives. 

And I think from a strategic point of view, this is Barack Obama‘s way of reaching out to black evangelicals, as well as white evangelicals, whose vote he is really going to need, particularly any African-American Democrats that are ministers in the congregations that started to support President Bush no matter how—no matter how minute the number might have been.  He needs to get those people back on his side, and I think that is one of the reasons why we‘ve seen him do what he did today. 

MADDOW:  OK.

Next up, the debate over judicial nominations is on.  Or at least the McCain campaign is trying to make it on.  McCain spoke before the Sheriffs Association in Indianapolis today.  He got the endorsement of former “CHiPS” actor Eric Estrada.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Ooh.

MADDOW:  Ooh.

And then he used a controversial Supreme Court ruling on the death penalty last week to launch this attack on Barack Obama.  Check this out. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  It‘s a peculiar kind of evolution that disregards the Democratic process.  And (INAUDIBLE) solely to the benefit of child rapists.  My opponent may not care for this particular decision, but it was exactly the kind of opinion we could expect from an Obama court.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  What‘s odd here is that both McCain and Obama came out against the ruling McCain is talking about here.  But still, the implication is there—Obama will pack the court with advocates for child rapists. 

Is this how you start a Supreme Court argument that is not about Roe v. Wade?

John Harwood, what do you think? 

HARWOOD:  Well, it‘s pretty striking language by McCain.  And it‘s especially unusual for the reason that you mentioned, which is that Barack Obama came out and embraced the decision, and—or embraced McCain‘s position on this decision.  And so it‘s pretty hard for McCain to turn around. 

On the other hand, it‘s true.  Justices appointed by Barack Obama are going to be to the left on social policy and almost every other policy to those appointed by John McCain. 

MADDOW:  All right.  Up next...

ROBINSON:  But...

MADDOW:  Yes?

ROBINSON:  But this decision required justices who are Republican appointees...

HARWOOD:  That‘s right.

ROBINSON:  ... to—you know, to go on with the majority, so... 

MADDOW:  It‘s a very strong attack... 

HARWOOD:  Liberal Republicans. 

MADDOW:  ... given that they ended up on the same side of the ruling. 

But the broader argument obviously is what he‘s getting at there. 

OK.  Up next, “Vetting the Veeps.”  Does kajillionaire and newly-retired Microsoft cofounder Bill Gates have a spot on John McCain‘s long list of potential running mates?  It depends on who you ask.

We will control-alt-delete, reboot his chances, when THE RACE returns.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  And we‘re back with veepstakes, the wildcard edition. 

Microsoft founder Bill Gates is making politics news today.  But, will he make the candidates‘ short lists?  Let‘s put it to our short list—

Jay, Michelle, Eugene and John.

All right.  Bill Gates—politico.com asked more than a dozen insiders for their dream running mate, and the Microsoft mogul was apparently mentioned by several Republicans and some moderate Democrats.

On the resume, he founded Microsoft, of course.  He founded the largest charitable foundation in the world, The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which has a nearly $40 billion endowment, and he‘s currently the third richest man in the world. 

Must be nice. 

Off the resume, but also maybe important here, he gave $1,000 to a McCain PAC in ‘06 and $2,000 to a McCain organization in 2003. 

Jay Carney, do you think this is an even remote possibility? 

CARNEY:  Well, I think John McCain might entertain it.  I‘m not sure it‘s the best idea, unless he can then propose a gift to every American man, woman and child in the country if they win, courtesy of Bill Gates, because Bill Gates, if nothing else, is charisma-challenged. 

I mean, he‘s obviously brilliant and a great businessman, and doing wonderful things with his charitable donations.  But there‘s no indication that he has any real policy expertise, even on economic policy, that he would necessarily be a great adviser. 

So, unlike, say, Michael Bloomberg, who in addition to being a successful, although not quite as successful businessman, does have some policy experience as mayor of New York.  I think Gates was probably not the greatest choice. 

HARWOOD:  Rachel...

MADDOW:  Michelle—yes, John.  Go ahead.

HARWOOD:  I think that might be one of the all-time risks in presidential politics, to take somebody who‘s not been in an environment he can‘t control personally for a couple of decades now and put him out on the campaign trail.  Not going to happen, I don‘t think. 

And I cannot resist one postscript to that faith-based discussion you had a moment ago.  Barack Obama‘s move is very smart politically, very substantively defensible, and on your question that you asked earlier, I don‘t care if Barack Obama wears cowboy boots every day for the rest of the campaign or buys a ranch in Crawford.  He is in no danger of looking like George Bush ever, and that‘s a big asset for him in the campaign. 

MADDOW:  Literally, he‘s in no danger of looking like George Bush.  But sometimes if you squint, he‘s around the corner. All right.

Coming up, most, a little bit short of all, Americans think John McCain is too much like President Bush, John.  How dangerous will this be come November?  We‘ll get numerical on John McCain‘s biggest political liability when we come back. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWS BREAK)

MADDOW:  Welcome back to RACE FOR THE WHITE HOUSE.  We‘re happy to have you with us.  The numbers game, ad wars and a lobbyist problem that just won‘t go away.  Throw that all up in the air and what do you get?  A session in the war room.  Back with us, Jay Carney, Washington bureau chief for “Time Magazine,” Michelle Bernard, president of the Independent Women‘s Voice and an MSNBC political analyst, Eugene Robinson, associate editor and columnist for the “Washington Post,” also an MSNBC political analyst, and John Harwood, cNBC‘s chief Washington correspondent and a political writer for the “New York Times.” 

OK, first up, a new Gallup poll shows 49 percent of voters are very concerned John McCain will continue the policies of George W. Bush; 19 percent say they are somewhat concerned.  Add that up, and that‘s 68 percent who say they are worried, to a certain extent, that McCain is too close to Bush.  Smelling blood, the DNC is now running another ad linking McCain and Bush, this time on Social Security.  Check it out. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  We also have the responsibility to make the system a better deal for younger workers.  The best way to reach the goal is through voluntary personal retirement accounts. 

MCCAIN:  I‘ve heard this demagoguery about, quote, privatization.  Without privatization, I don‘t see how you can possibly, over time, make sure that young Americans are able to receive Social Security benefits. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  Is Social Security another issue on which we should expect McCain to try to put some distance between himself and Bush?  Does McCain need a few more issues on which he can say, look, I disagree with the president?  Gene, what do you think? 

ROBINSON:  I don‘t know how he can do it on Social Security at this point.  He‘s taken the position that private accounts would be necessary to save the system.  That‘s really one of the traditional electric third rails of politics.  I can‘t imagine that that stance is really going to do McCain a lot of good, either in trying to distance himself from George Bush or simply in trying to get elected president. 

HARWOOD:  Rachel, there is something he could do.  He could renounce privatization.  There‘s been some ambiguity between McCain and his advisers on exactly what he supported, whether he‘s going to back Bush‘s route.  Look, even if you support privatization, it‘s plain, it was plain under a Republican Congress, it‘s plain now that the Democratic are in control and are going to have a bigger majority, that‘s not going anywhere.  What John McCain could do, in a bold stroke, is renounce it, say I‘ll do this on benefits.  I‘ll do this on taxes.  Let‘s come together and make a deal across party lines.  That would be a dramatic stroke that might help. 

MADDOW:  I think we‘re starting to hear a little bit of that from him, in the way he has distanced himself from the word privatization, even while saying that he is still in favor of private accounts.  I think we may be seeing a crack, a sort of crack in the door there, as he opens the door to a third way on Social Security. 

Next up, McCain on route to Columbia now to stress his support for a free trade agreement that Bush wants Congress to approve by the end of the year.  It‘s a policy that Barack Obama opposes.  The trip comes as the McCain camp rolls out a new web ad focussing on free trade.  Here‘s that. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCAIN:  We can‘t go back on our word on free trade promises with Mexico, Canada, Central America or anyone else.  We must encourage more trade agreements to create more jobs on both sides of the border.  That‘s why I‘m behind the Colombian Free Trade Agreement. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  On this free trade trip, it‘s a clear policy difference for McCain to highlight with Obama.  Jay, do you think he should expect to reap some new business support from this? 

CARNEY:  I think he‘s got business support.  I think what he does do is draws a distinction with Obama on an issue that‘s clearly popular, for the most part, among the Republican base, but also among potential independent supporters of Barack Obama.  For all of the Democratic party‘s shift against free trade, a lot of it‘s important support out of California, among young professional, young entrepreneurs that are very much supporting Obama right now, are not people who would support a clamp down on free trade.  I think that‘s a big opening and important opening for Obama—I mean for McCain, I‘m sorry. 

HARWOOD:  I‘m echoing what Jay said.  I think this is why—even though if you look at the polls, free trade doesn‘t poll very well.  Elites within both parties, including the Democratic party, including a lot of Barack Obama‘s supporters, actually believe in free trade, think McCain is right on this and Barack Obama is wrong.  When John McCain talks about this, he puts a little pressure on Obama. 

CARNEY:  Rachel, this will be the issue, if Barack Obama is elected president, that I think his supporters on the left will howl the loudest about if he abandons them.  In order to win the primaries, he felt he needed to move further toward economic populism and anti-trade stances.  But it‘s not entirely clear that‘s where his heart is.  If he doesn‘t pursue that in office, I think he‘ll face a real problem on the left. 

MADDOW:  One of those issues where it‘s not just the liberal base, not the intellectual base, but also blue collar voters in the rust belt states that are going to be so key in this election, like they have in all the recent elections.  Because of this Columbia trip, back under the microscope now is McCain‘s campaign adviser Charlie Black, whose lobbying firm has represented Colombian oil interests.  Black isn‘t going with McCain to Columbia, but McCain choosing this trip to this country ensures more headlines about the Charlie Black and about the lobbyists and ex-lobbyists who are in McCain‘s inner circle. 

Michelle, do you think McCain thinks the lobbyist controversy has blown over, that it‘s too complicated an issue to do him any real political harm? 

BERNARD:  I think he probably would have thought that until this program aired tonight, Rachel. 

MADDOW:  I‘m here to help. 

BERNARD:  Otherwise, he would not be taking this trip right now.  This is the issue that will not go away, frankly, for Senator McCain or for Senator Obama.  It is very difficult to get away from people who have not been lobbyists in some capacity what so ever.  I‘m a free trader, personally.  I think what happened with the Columbia Free Trade Agreement this year was a problem, and I understand why Senator McCain has decided to take this trip at this time.  But there‘s an argument to be made that Charlie Black‘s relationship with the Colombian government or Colombian oil company that you mentioned is sort of analogous to Mark Penn representing the country that he was representing, that sort of brought down another demise or another problem in Senator Clinton‘s campaign.  I think that the McCain campaign is going to try to stop talking about the problem with lobbyists as much as possible, and hope that‘s an issue that will go away. 

MADDOW:  That Mark Penn connection was actually Columbia in the Colombian Free Trade Agreement as well.  Gene, do you think there‘s a hard political difference between Obama and McCain on the issue of lobbyists?  Do you think it‘s a liability for McCain at this point, or is it something that he‘s put past him? 

ROBINSON:  Well, you know, the real problem is these are the two candidates who have painted themselves as the advocates of a new style of politics that‘s free from undo influence by special interests.  So, you know, they don‘t want to take money from lobbyists, don‘t want to have lobbyists working for them.  So, it becomes that much more an embarrassment when somebody points out, well, actually, there‘s this lobbyist who is working for you and he has represented Columbia and this and that. 

Is there anything inherently wrong with it?  I don‘t think necessarily, unless there‘s undo influence.  Is there a huge difference between McCain and Obama on this score?  I actually doubt it.  By the way, the Colombians are getting a raw deal on the free trade pact.  They have done everything they were asked to do.  They ought to get the pact.  But I don‘t see how it makes political sense for John McCain to highlight this at this moment. 

MADDOW:  That‘s probably why the ad is a web ad and an ad that only made it to television by virtue of this program tonight at this point.  Finally, following a, quote, great conversation between Barack Obama and Bill Clinton yesterday, Terry McAuliffe talked about what‘s in store for the former president on CBS‘ early show.  Check it out. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TERRY MCAULIFFE, FORMER CLINTON CAMPAIGN ADVISER:  This is personally important to President Clinton to continue those legacy items he had. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Going to do what he has to do.  Thank you very much. 

MCAULIFFE:  He‘ll do whatever it takes.  We‘re all there, one big happy, unified family.  It‘s a love fest, Maggie. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  It‘s a love fest, Maggie.  There was a lot of bad blood between the campaigns during the primaries.  Are people really going to buy the whole love fest idea?  Will Democrats willingly suspend their disbelief here and decide this is all water under the bridge for the don‘t cross me Clinton‘s?  John?

HARWOOD:  Before too long, they will, as long as you have the principals.  That‘s Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama talking, relating, having meetings together.  Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, doubtless, will have dinner soon.  I think that sends a cue to all those in the party who are walking around feeling all bitter and angry about what happened in the primaries.  Everybody realizes in a couple of months, they have a general election to fight.  I think that will come together just fine. 

MADDOW:  Jay, are you seeing Democratic unity, really? 

CARNEY:  Yes, I do see that.  I think even at the principal level, it‘s not just—they‘re not having their arms twisted here, Bill and Hillary Clinton.  I think they do not want to be, in any way, responsible for Barack Obama‘s loss in the fall.  This is an historic campaign, a very meaningful campaign for the Democratic party, as well as the nation.  I do believe, in the end, that Bill and Hillary Clinton will do whatever it is the Obama campaign asks them to do to help in this election. 

MADDOW:  Coming up next, the money wars.  Are the money wars really just about which candidate has more commas and more zeros following the dollar sign, or can we learn something important about the state of the race by following the campaign‘s money back to its source?  We‘ll check it out, when we come back. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  We‘re back with THE RACE.  One isn‘t enough, five is too many, so we‘re settling on three.  The three biggest questions in the ‘08 race.  Still with us, Jay Carney, Michelle Bernard, Eugene Robinson and John Harwood.  OK, first up, two money stories making headlines today.  Wall Street gets bullish for Obama and Bush donors are not feeling all that generous, at least yet, towards John McCain.  Wall Street has thus far gone nearly two to one for Obama, Contributing 9.5 million bucks to his campaign, compared to 5.3 million for McCain. 

McCain is also not feeling the love from Bush‘s biggest donors.  As of June 1st, only 43 percent of the president‘s elite donors have given to the new GOP nominee.  Our first question is about what the money race reveals about the overall state of the race.  If not now for McCain and Bush donors, Michelle, when do you think that the Bush donors come to McCain? 

BERNARD:  That‘s an excellent question, because it also—what it makes me think is whether or not the big Bush donors will ever go for McCain.  All throughout this primary process, we have talked about the fact that the Republican party is splintered.  There are many people in the Republican party who are disaffected.  For that reason, you can really think that Senator McCain and Senator Obama are almost going after the same voters, Reagan Democrats, independents, moderates, people who are maybe slightly right of center and slightly left of center.  If you look at the Evangelicals, for example, who really, really, really supported President Bush, I think a large number of those people are supporting John McCain, but not necessarily with their dollars. 

In terms of the big corporations that supported President Bush, if they haven‘t come along yet, they may not do so, or maybe they are waiting to hedge their bets see if they really think McCain can pull this thing out. 

MADDOW:  John, do you think that big Bush donors are deciding that they need to be wooed to support McCain?  Do you think they are sitting on their hands and they just don‘t feel enthusiastic about the race at all?  Or do you feel like they might actually be potentially available to Barack Obama? 

HARWOOD:  I think the vast majority will not be available to Barack Obama.  But remember, a lot of these big donors were big Bush donors in 2000 when John McCain was ripping into George W. Bush and almost knocking him off.  There‘s some hard feelings there.  Pile on to that this general lack of enthusiasm within the party, which is a real problem for John McCain.  And Barack Obama has the opposite.  He‘s getting the donations high with Wall Street, as you just mentioned, also low, from the grass roots.  A lot of affluent Baby Boom liberals are jumping on this train to go with those 25 and 50 dollars checks that Barack Obama is getting over and over.  Very powerful financial juggernaut for him. 

MADDOW:  Next up, another wild card in the ‘08 race, the so called 527s, the independent outside groups.  In the right corner, Newt Gingrich‘s American Solution, a conservative 527 making a splash with its drill now campaign.  The 1.2 million signatures on their petition has some asking today whether there‘s finally a Republican version of MoveOn.org.  The Drill Now folks join traditional right centered power houses like the NRA, which Michelle mentioned earlier.  They today announced they‘re going to spend millions on the fall campaign. 

On the left, MoveOn itself is already running its first ad against McCain, even as Obama criticized the groups‘ ad against General Petraeus years ago in a speech yesterday.  Our second question today, Obama and McCain Have talked a good game about clean campaigning.  How far should they go to stop the outside groups?  Jay, how far can they go? 

CARNEY:  I think they can do a lot.  I don‘t think they can stop them.  But they can certainly—if there are appalling accusations made on either side by some of these outside groups, I think it‘s incumbent on Barack Obama and John McCain, in order to uphold their reputation, to criticize and call for the end of those kinds of attacks.  They won‘t get them all, but I think they both are required to do that because of how they have portrayed themselves as above that kind of politics. 

MADDOW:  Gene, do you see the candidates as able to give instructions to these groups just by doing it publicly, even if they‘re not formally affiliated with the campaigns? 

ROBINSON:  They can give instructions informally, of course.  If it‘s a 527 group, they can‘t give any instructions legally or coordinate at all.  But it‘s up to the groups to decide whether or not they are going to listen.  I don‘t think they will in most cases.  In the case of egregious, unfair attacks, I think the candidates might be able to stop those, if and when they occur.  But, I think we will have 527s and PACs and other outside groups on both sides participating in this election and I don‘t think that‘s going to be diminished. 

MADDOW:  They can put pressure on them with their public comments.  John?

HARWOOD:  Right, and Rachel, the stronger the candidate and the more genuine his or her feelings that the behavior is illegitimate, the more likely they are going to have to be able to make that stop.  Just to be clear, all of these 527s aren‘t necessarily bad.  If you attack somebody‘s character with something slimy and scurrilous, that‘s one thing.  If you have a straightforward campaign saying we ought to drill for more oil, I don‘t see anything wrong with that, as long as Gingrich‘s group can prevent people from thinking it‘s some sort of dentist office, which might not work too well. 

Also, Drill Now points for being straight forward.  Finally, rocking the Christian vote.  The Obama campaign is planning to throw dozens of Christian rock concerts this summer as part of an aggressive outreach to young Evangelicals.  Nearly a fifth of all Evangelical and born again Christians in America are under the age of 30.  A recent Pew survey shows they are increasingly declaring their independence from the Republican party. 

Just 40 percent of young Evangelicals identify themselves as Republicans.  That‘s down 15 points from 2001.  A third say they are independents.  About 19 percent identify themselves as Democrats.  So our third question today, Michelle, will Obama‘s appeal to young voters help him bridge the religious divide?  Could young Evangelicals swing to Obama in the fall? 

BERNARD:  I think that there‘s an excellent possibility that Barack Obama is going to do very well with young Evangelical voters, as he has done with young voters all throughout the nation.  What we are seeing, I think, for the first time in many, many years is that young people, whether they are Evangelicals or not, are energized about this election.  They are energized about the country.  They are energized about the possibility of change and having a real impact in the way that this country is run.  For that reason, I think Barack Obama is being very smart about this.  Just as he might have a difficult time with older, white women, he might have a difficult time with older Evangelicals.  So why not hone in on where he knows he has done very, very well.  Again, that is with young voters throughout the nation. 

MADDOW:  John Harwood, ten seconds. 

HARWOOD:  The Bono Evangelicals have different concerns than traditional Evangelicals.  They‘re in play for Barack Obama.  He‘s going to go for them. 

MADDOW:  When we come back, your turn to play with the panel here on

RACE FOR THE WHITE HOUSE.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  Welcome back to THE RACE.  I‘ve had my fun in David Gregory‘s anchor seat, but now you‘re in charge.  It‘s time for you to play with the panel.  Back with us, Jay, Michelle, Eugene and John.  Let‘s start with Shirley in California, who has a question related to the McCain/Clark dust up.  Shirley says, “the media always does stories about what is fair game or not fair game when it comes to Obama and race issues.  But does John McCain play the ace card and get away with it?” 

Gene Robinson, I‘m not sure what it is to get away with the ace here. 

But, do you think that Shirley has a point? 

ROBINSON:  I‘m not sure what the point is to tell you the truth.  I guess the ace card—I read it the other way.  I guess that refers to his service as a flying ace in the Vietnam War. 

MADDOW:  Yes. 

ROBINSON:  It‘s history.  He gets to play it.  That‘s certainly fair. 

MADDOW:  All right.  I think that‘s a fair answer, but a fair assessment of what Shirley was getting at there.  Janice in Indiana writes to us about Obama tacking to the center; “Moving to the center now won‘t lose votes for Obama.  However, Obama isn‘t just counting on the votes of left of center Democrats and independents.  He‘s counting on them to bank roll his campaign.  I, for one, will vote for him.  But after his cave in on FISA, he will get no more dollars from me.  I have to wonder how many other supporters share my view.”

Jay Carney, even if Obama is still going to get liberal votes, could he feel liberal ire in the form of fewer donations?   

CARNEY:  I think if there‘s a real diminution of enthusiasm on the left, I think that‘s a problem for Barack Obama.  I don‘t expect it to happen because, as you said earlier, he‘s a far cry from George Bush or John McCain.  He represents real change.  I think we‘ll see in the June—once we get the June reports on fund raising and maybe the July reports.  My guess is he‘ll raise a lot of money and a lot of it from liberals. 

HARWOOD:  Rachel, that ire on the left will feel really good to Barack Obama.  It will probably offset any loss of small donor contributions with support he‘s going to get in the center of the electorate.   

MADDOW:  You think that with the shot at MoveOn.org, the sort of Sister Souljah stuff that he‘s doing, that he‘ll be touting that anger from anger from the left as a sign of his own centrism? 

HARWOOD:  I think anything that he has that will allow himself to demonstrate to voters who haven‘t been paying close attention, who don‘t know much about him or aren‘t that into the Democratic party, that he‘s not a far left Democrat is good news for Barack Obama. 

MADDOW:  All right, B.J. in New Jersey has Veep-stakes question.  He says, “as an independent, I was interested if there was any chance that McCain would choose Lieberman as his running mate.  Everyone says that McCain needs to have a conservative running mate.  But isn‘t the more to gain with an independent VP?  Aren‘t conservatives going to vote against Obama no matter what?”

Michelle, do you think the Connecticut for Lieberman is the secret weapon here in this campaign? 

BERNARD:  It‘s an excellent question.  Here‘s the problem—there are positives and negatives to selecting Senator Lieberman as the running mate.  The biggest problem is that John McCain is really selling himself as the national security foreign policy president.  Should he select Mr.  Lieberman, we will always see those ads of Senator Lieberman whispering in his ear the difference between Sunni and a Shia and al Qaeda and who was doing what in Iraq.  That could be a pretty significant problem for Senator McCain, should he choose Mr. Lieberman as his running mate.   

CARNEY:  Rachel, that‘s a great point.  I would also suggest that John McCain look at the video tape of Senator Lieberman in his vice presidential debate in 2004 (sic).  I think that will end any chance that Lieberman will get the nod. 

MADDOW:  Gene, we do keep hearing reports that if John McCain got to pick purely on the basis of his own feelings about potential running mates, Lieberman would be his first choice.  Is it possible that he could just make that sort of maverick decision despite all the advice? 

ROBINSON:  I think anything is possible with John McCain.  That‘s an excellent point.  He goes with gut instinct.  Personal relationships are very important to him.  So he may not follow the traditional political calculus and triangulate his running mate.  He may go with the person he‘s most comfortable with.  But he really ought to watch the film of that debate though.  He really ought to watch that. 

CARNEY:  In 2000, I meant.  Yes. 

MADDOW:  Yes, and if he‘s still trying to shore up his bona fides among Republicans, picking somebody who was a vice presidential nominee for the Democrats, even if he‘s now an independent Democrat, might take some explaining.  Thanks to a great panel tonight.  You can play with our panel every week night here on MSNBC.  E-mail us about RACE08@MSNBC.com, or call us at 212-790-2299. 

That just about does it for RACE FOR THE WHITE HOUSE.  I‘m Rachel Maddow.  Thanks to you for watching tonight.  We‘ll see you back here tomorrow night, same time, 6:00 p.m. Eastern on MSNBC.  Stay right here, “HARDBALL” with Chris Matthews starts right now.

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

END   

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