updated 7/15/2008 2:09:48 PM ET 2008-07-15T18:09:48

Guest: David Shuster, Joe Watkins, Kevin Madden, Tanya Acker, Craig Crawford, Shanna Moakler

DAVID SHUSTER, INTERIM HOST:  Tonight: Why is the Obama campaign so worried about slurs and false charges?

The “New Yorker” magazine has been friendly to the Democrats and says this cover is intended to ridicule the right-wing, not thrash the Obamas but the Obama campaign‘s reaction has been extremely harsh.  What‘s fueling that?

We‘ll ask Kevin Madden, Tanya Acker, and Craig Crawford.

Plus, scratch him off the list.  The top McCain supporter and possible running mate is unable to come up with a single distinction between McCain and President Bush on economic policy.

And this has got to hurt.  Miss America slips at the Miss Universe contest the second year in a row.  Our Miss America has stumbled.  Conspiracy theorists unite.  We talked to a former Miss USA.

VERDICT starts right now.

And, welcome to the show, everybody.  I‘m David Shuster in for Dan Abrams.

Tonight: A controversial magazine cover has touched a nerve with Barack Obama‘s campaign.  The campaign is calling this “New Yorker” magazine cartoon, quote, “tasteless and offensive.”

As you can see, the artist drew the Obamas in the Oval Office with Barack wearing a turban and his wife Michelle in fatigue, sporting an assault weapon over her shoulder.  In the fireplace, an American flag is burning.  On the wall, there is a portrait of Osama bin Laden.

“New Yorker” editor David Remnick defended the cover and it‘s intended message.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVID REMNICK, NEW YORKER MAGAZINE:  It is not a satire of Obama. 

It‘s a satire about the attacks and rumors about Obama.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHUSTER:  Even if that was the intent, the cover may reinforce the misconceptions and slurs about Obama that are raging across the Internet and sticking with some voters.  So are falsehoods and lies, and now, John McCain, the biggest threat to an Obama victory in November?

Here to talk about it: Former press secretary for the Mitt Romney campaign, Kevin Madden; Democratic analyst, Tanya Acker; and, MSNBC analyst and columnist for CQPolitics.com Craig Crawford.

All right, the Obama campaign response to all this was harsh, especially when you consider it came after they spoke with “New Yorker.”  And here it is, quote, “The “New Yorker” may think, as one of their staff explained to us, that their cover is a satirical lampoon of the caricature Senator Obama‘s right-wing critics have tried to create.  But most readers will see it as tasteless and offensive.  And we agree.”

Kevin, for the campaign to react this strongly, doesn‘t it show the magazine hit a nerve with the Obama campaign and what exactly is that nerve?

KEVIN MADDEN, FMR. MITT ROMNEY PRESS SECRETARY:  Well, I do.  I think, David, it‘s emblematic of just how worried the Obama campaign is about, again, generating either a conversation or more controversy about a lot of these rumors that had been out there about Barack Obama, that he‘s not patriotic enough, that he may have been—that he wasn‘t—you know, brought up as a Muslim.

So, you know, the Obama campaign they lashed out very quickly and very decisively against the magazine because they want to stop in it in its tracks, any more of that conversation among the American electorate about those rumors.

SHUSTER:  And, Kevin, there is some new polling from “Newsweek” that underscores Obama‘s potential problem.  Twelve percent think he‘s a Muslim and 12 percent say he used the Koran for a Senate swearing in ceremony, 39 percent believe he attended an Islamic school in Indonesia, while 26 percent think he was raised a Muslim.  None of those are true.

Craig Crawford, how, in your view, should Obama address this?

CRAIG CRAWFORD, MSNBC ANALYST:  I think, you know, when he looked at this cartoon, it might have been easy to laugh it off, and maybe join in on the joke the “New Yorker” was trying to make and say, “Yes, that is how ridiculous some of these views of me are.”

You know, any time though, you have to explain a joke, as the “New Yorker” editor tried to do about this supposed satire, it might not be a very good joke.  It might have worked better to have maybe Limbaugh or conservative on the cover painting this picture to better make their point.

But, as far as the percentages of people believing he‘s a Muslim, he‘s got time, he‘s just got to keep making the case, putting those speeches out there, and talking about his faith, and trying to deal with it.  I‘m not sure a lot of this people actually believe this.  I think they just don‘t like him and don‘t like to say it.

SHUSTER:  But, Tanya, it‘s a problem nonetheless, right?

TANYA ACKER, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST:  Absolutely, it‘s certain a problem.  And I think Craig‘s right, because if it were clear that it was satire, or rather if the Obamas didn‘t so often have to address a lot of the rumors that were here being satirized, then it would be much funnier, and I think it would be much easier to embrace it as the joke that it was intended to be.

But the problem is that, too much of the country still has a misperception, but I shouldn‘t say too much of the country, there are too many people who still have a misperception about who he is, about their background, about their religion and their patriotism.  And, I think, that given that, it certainly hit a nerve and it‘s hard to embrace it as the joke that it was intended to be.

SHUSTER:  Kevin Madden, take us into the parts of the country where this is happening.  I mean, after all, there are some McCain supporters who always refer to Barack Obama by his middle name, Hussein.  What‘s driving this on the right?

MADDEN:  Well, look, I think, this has more to do, David, with the unknown than it does with what we know about Barack Obama.  I think any time there‘s an x-factor in a politician, where he‘s new on the scene, and there‘s so much that everybody is still learning about Barack Obama, critics will always try and fill in what they don‘t know about a certain person with what they don‘t like or what they perceive are the vulnerabilities or criticisms that are warranted against somebody.

So, I think, it has much more to do with the fact that Barack Obama still remains largely an undefined figure.  So, therefore, opponents, people who don‘t like him, people who are on the opposing side of him, either politically or ideologically, will always try to fill that with negative information, quite frankly.

SHUSTER:  But, Kevin, wouldn‘t you agree that some of this stuff and putting aside the “New Yorker” for a second, that some of this stuff that‘s coming from the right is simply inappropriate?

MADDEN:  Well, sure.  I think, there is inappropriate levels of discourse in politics as far back as we can remember.  And I think that one of the best things that the campaign can do is fight back at that.

I think it comes from the right; I think it comes from left; I think at the end of the day, the more informed voters are, and the most informed voters make their decisions based on the true facts, the policies that are really important in moving this country forward rather than this rumor, innuendo, and, quite frankly, a lot of these slimy tactics that you‘ll always see.

SHUSTER:  Tanya, I want to ask you about the “New Yorker” cartoonist, Barry Blitt, and he defended the Obama cartoon today, he said, quote, “I think the idea that the Obamas are branded as unpatriotic, let alone as terrorists in certain sectors is preposterous.  It seemed to me that depicting the concept would show it as the fear-mongering ridiculousness that it is.”

Your reaction?

ACKER:  I have no doubt that that‘s what he intended to do.  And, you know, I enjoy and appreciate satires as much as the next person.  Again, I think the problem is that, it still plays into the stereotype that the right is trying to portray of Obama.

And, you know, I want to go back to another thing Craig said.  If the cartoon made clear that this was a right-wing, this was the right-wing machine at work, you know if Rush Limbaugh was painting that cartoon, it would have been much funnier, I think we would have gotten it.  But, I think, that as it is, it‘s just too close to the rumors that are being spread.

And one last quick point.  You know, Kevin spoke to a lot of the unknowns about Barack Obama.  It‘s true he‘s new on the scene, that‘s absolutely correct, but I think that people do know that he‘s somebody who is very patriotic.  They do know he‘s a Christian and I think that what the right done and what this cover, unfortunately, remind people of, is a lot of the rumors out there that are unsubstantiated and absolutely false and, frankly, to some extent, very, very racist.

SHUSTER:  Craig Crawford, doesn‘t Barack Obama need to address directly?  I mean, we‘ve seen the statements by his campaign.  Barack Obama said he would have no comment, but at a certain point in this general election especially in place like Florida where you‘re from.  Doesn‘t Barack Obama need to make it absolutely clear—he is not a Muslim, he was not educated in madrasa, he does not have any sort of ties to terrorists that some conspiracy whack jobs on the right want to suggest?

CRAWFORD:  And he‘s done it some.  It‘s just going to be done by repetition and keep getting that message out.  Again, I still say a lot of these people don‘t really believe that.  I think a lot of these people who are telling pollsters that just don‘t like him and enjoy making that accusation, although some probably do, I‘m sure.  But I think a lot of those voters won‘t vote for him anyway.

SHUSTER:  Kevin Madden, if Mitt Romney during the primaries have faced this sort of a caricature or cartoon on the cover of a magazine, that sort of poked fun at his Mormonism, how would you, as the campaign communication director, have advised Mitt Romney to deal with it?

MADDEN:  Well, look, we endured during our campaign because there was, again, an x-factor about the governor‘s faith.  We endured a lot of these similar rumors, not to the extent where it was on the cover of the “New Yorker,” but, you know, a lot of things that were unknown about the LDS Church were out there.  There are people who are trying to propagate a lot of lies and misinformation about his faith.

And what we had to do every single time was to make very clear that the governor had unifying themes in his campaign.  He was not about being divisive about his faith, but, instead, he was about moving the country forward.  He cared about the big issues.  He cared about bringing the Republican Party together so that we could good defeat the Democrats in November and, it had not much to do with all these rumors and innuendo about his faith, but instead, about the unifying vision that he wanted to bring to the country.

SHUSTER:  Doesn‘t that cry out, then, for Barack Obama, in this case, himself, to lay out his background and say, “Here‘s what my background is, here is what it is not”?

MADDEN:  I think—I‘m going to disagree with you on that.  I do think it‘s very important for Barack Obama to have a very proactive message, to go out there and fill the void, tell voters exactly what he cares about, and how he wants to bring the country together.

But I don‘t think that you ever want to define your candidacy and I don‘t think you ever want to define your personal, your personal motives by what you‘re not or who you‘re not against.  It has to be proactive and it can‘t be about negative declarations.

SHUSTER:  Kevin, Tanya, and Craig, are all sticking with us.

Coming up after this, the right and left are criticizing Barack Obama for staking out the center.  But isn‘t Obama‘s move just a smart, general election strategy?

And, Arnold Schwarzenegger says he‘s ready to serve in an Obama candidate even though he, Schwarzenegger, endorsed John McCain.  Win, Lose or Draw is coming up.

Plus, a GOP consultant caught on tape offering up meetings with Dick Cheney and Condoleezza Rice in return for a donation to the Bush library.  Another reason Why America Hates Washington, that‘s coming up in 60 seconds.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHUSTER:  Tonight‘s edition of Why America Hates Washington.  Money cannot buy happiness but a couple hundred thousand dollars can apparently buy face time with the secretary of state or even Vice President Dick Cheney.  A lobbyist with close ties with the Bush administration was caught on tape, offering a foreigner access to top White House officials in exchange for donations to the Bush library.

The White House denies it would be influenced by such donations and now Congress is going to investigate.  Selling access to the White House for a hefty donation to the president‘s future library is another reason Why America Hates Washington.

We‘re back with Obama alienating the right and the left with his move to the middle.

That‘s next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHUSTER:  Welcome back.

New polls are showing Barack Obama‘s lead over John McCain is slipping just as Obama is seen moving to the center.  The latest poll from “Newsweek” shows Obama up by just three points, that‘s down from his 15-point lead last month.

One source of the slip could be independents where Obama‘s lead has vanished.  In last month‘s “Newsweek” Poll, he was beating John McCain among independent voters, 48 to 36, but now, McCain is ahead by seven points.

The “Washington Post” David Broder weighing in on Obama‘s shift to the center saying, quote, “Obama‘s making it hard for the Republicans to figure out how to attack him.  The risk for him is if he also frustrates those voters‘ need to understand what makes him tick.  They don‘t elect enigmas to the Oval Office.”

So, was Obama‘s strategy smart in the long run or will a general election run to the center backfire in the end?

Joining us now: MSNBC analyst and columnist for CQPolitics.com, Craig Crawford; and, MSNBC political analyst, Joe Watkins.

Joe, most presidential nominees move to the center in the general election, isn‘t it smart for Barack Obama to do it now before most general election voters are paying any attention?

JOE WATKINS, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Well, so, you would think, but at the same time, one of the reasons why so many independents and undecideds and even people who had never before been involved in politics got excited about him, it‘s because they thought that this was a guy who said what he meant and meant what he said.  They like the fact that he was an original.  He wasn‘t somebody who would be the same old kind of politician who would do things for political expediency and that‘s why his numbers early on were so large.

Now, as he begins to change his positions and move to the center and reverse himself on issues like public finance and taxes, and FISA—he‘s finding out that he‘s losing some of that support.

SHUSTER:  Craig Crawford, I want to read for you what David Broder said over the weekend which, I think, underscores the very point.  Broder wrote, “There have been few occasions when Obama‘s professed beliefs can be tested against his action because his personal credibility was such a key to his success in the primaries and remains so—the changes now occurring in his positions have a significance far beyond themselves.”

Doesn‘t Broder and Joe, for that matter, underscore that Obama‘s got a special problem here giving that voters don‘t know him very much?

CRAWFORD:  He certainly does and, you know, I haven‘t seen it as much as moving as I have filling in the blanks, as the campaign goes along and he gets more specific.  And that‘s naturally going to be more polarizing.  I think it‘s been a little surprising for some of his early primary supporters on the left to discover what he actually believes about some things.

You know, I compare him to Vanna White in the early days of the “Wheel of Fortune” when she never said anything.  She just turned the letters and became a national phenomenon.  Then when she started talking and singing and writing a book, she wasn‘t as popular any more.  And that‘s just kind of a natural process.

SHUSTER:  Craig Crawford, I love you dearly, but tell me what‘s similar between Vanna White and these Obama flip-flops?

FISA: Obama opposed immunity for phone companies involved in the warrantless wiretap program, then he voted for a bill that included immunity.  On gun control: He supported D.C. handgun ban but after it was struck down by the Supreme Court, he spoke in support of that decision.  On abortion: His positions on restrictions for late-term abortions have varied.  On Iraq: He has now backed away from a firm 16-month withdrawal plan he had when he declared for president.

That doesn‘t sound like Vanna White to me.

CRAWFORD:  You know, I don‘t mind flip-flopping in politics, that‘s what being a politician is all about.

(LAUGHTER)

CRAWFORD:  I wrote a book called “The Politics of Life,” and one of the rules of my book is, you know, when circumstances change, never keep your word.  I mean, that‘s what—but Joe makes a good point, I mean, people didn‘t think he was a politician.  There‘s kind of a parallel to McCain in a way.  We saw this with McCain early on.

WATKINS:  Reverend Wright was the first to point that out, Craig. 

He was the one that said, you know, this guy -

CRAWFORD:  Yes, he said, “He‘ll be the man.”

WATKINS:  That‘s right.

(CROSSTALK)

SHUSTER:  But seriously, Craig Crawford, I mean, given that Obama‘s record is essentially that he‘s a new kind of politician, that he‘s firmly against the Iraq war, that he sort of whatever Democrats with however they want to fill in the blanks and now that Obama is filling it in for them, isn‘t that a problem, though, for Barack Obama at this point in the campaign?

CRAWFORD:  Yes, I think Obama is still trying to master the techniques that Bill Clinton was so good at, particularly the ‘92 campaign, which is sounding really specific and saying practically nothing.  And I think Obama is still working at that.

SHUSTER:  Now, Joe Watkins, you‘re not going to join us here and say that John McCain hasn‘t had his flip-flops, are you?

WATKINS:  Well, I think John McCain—you know what John McCain has done?  He has distinguished himself over the course of 26 years by showing that he‘s willing to put his own personal and political ambitions behind his love for country. I mean, here‘s the guy who has taken on his own party at several points.

And certainly, on the issue of immigration, he defied a lot of Republicans and fashioned the bill with the Democrat, why?  Because he thought it was best for America.  He was willing to risk his own political career for those things, for the sake of America.

SHUSTER: But then, how do you explain things like—if it‘s best

for America for John McCain eight years ago to say that Jerry Falwell and

others are agents of intolerance, and now, he‘s essential in bed with Jerry

Falwell—how does that -

WATKINS:  Well, Reverend Falwell has passed on.  You know, God rest

his soul.  He was -

SHUSTER:  But the point, John McCain was willing to take on the right, which, arguably, I think a lot of people would say, “You know, that was the best thing for America” eight years but now he‘s in bed with the right.  So, how can that be the best thing for America?

(CROSSTALK)

WATKINS:  I don‘t know if the poll numbers suggest that just yet.  I mean, it would very, very nice if that were true.  But I think what Americans appreciate about John McCain and the reason why he has such incredible traction, even though he wasn‘t the most monied Republican candidate running, it was because people believe that he‘s a straight shooter and he‘s willing to change if he has to, if he believes he‘s made a mistake and now it‘s right.

You know, that‘s the thing that people like about John McCain.  He‘s willing to say, “You know, I was wrong, I made a mistake and I‘m going to change.”  That‘s a good thing.  That‘s a good quality.

SHUSTER:  Yes, go ahead, Craig.

CRAWFORD:  David, you know, I think there‘s an interesting parallel between Obama and McCain.  Obama‘s sort of on that path that McCain has been down for a while.  McCain lost his virginity with independents after the 2000 campaign when he was so popular with them as a maverick, as you point out, when he started catering to the evangelicals and now, independents wavered.

I think there is sort of the same process now going on with Obama, as independents learn, this really is a politician who we can‘t always count on his positions.  And so, both of them by the fall, will probably be pretty much the same spot and just going to be almost a coin toss and what the (ph) independents are going to decide.

WATKINS:  John McCain has a much longer track record than Barack Obama.  The reason why Barack Obama is seeing some erosion right now is not because he is not gifted as a speaker, but because of the fact that he hasn‘t been around that long.  And the people that he‘s losing are not the core supporters, not African-Americans certainly.

Where he‘s losing out are on those people who don‘t know him very well but who were initially excited about his candidacy and now they‘re wondering, “Maybe, this guy is just like the other politicians because he‘s changed on all these issues and we thought he was so better (ph) sure about that.”

SHUSTER:  Well, the fact of the matter is that John McCain is as interested in political expediency as Barack Obama is, but the other fact of the matter is that, yes, there is a longer record and at least the Americans tend to think that they know John McCain and know his core principles and, I think, so many Americans are still trying to figure out what the core principles are for Barack Obama.  In any case, well said.

CRAWFORD:  Yes, McCain has a lot more experience at flip-flopping. 

He‘s got a hell lot more practice.

SHUSTER:  All right.  Craig Crawford and Joe Watkins, thank you, both.  Appreciate it.

WATKINS:  Thanks, David.

SHUSTER:  Coming up: John McCain may claim he‘s not the same as Bush, but one of his top supporters couldn‘t come up with one reason why McCain‘s economic plan is different than the president.  Win, Lose or Draw.

And FOX News reporting on people going crazy in the workplace with video they found on YouTube.  But is it real or was FOX News punk‘ed?  That‘s next in Beat the Press.

And what‘s your VERDICT?  E-mail us at: Verdict@msnbc.com.  Be sure to include your name and where you‘re writing from.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

First up: Most elementary school kids are taught the difference between a city and a state, but apparently not those kids working at FOX News.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “THE FOX REPORT”/FOX NEWS/THURSDAY)

SHEPARD SMITH, FOX HOST:  Tracy Byrnes, the best in business, FOX Business Network, who‘s getting hit the hardest here, Tracy?

TRACY BYRNES, FOX BUSINESS NETWORK:  Unfortunately, its the same state, Chicago, Las Vegas, Arizona, Florida.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHUSTER:  The states of Chicago and Las Vegas?  Huh?  Talk about state of confusion.

Next up: CNN did an hour on people in Texas who claimed to have witnessed UFOs and CNN set up a live camera in a Texas cow pasture but underscoring the perils of live TV, when a guest mentioned cows, the shot referring (ph) to that live shot, just in time to see something that was, indeed, a close encounter, but of the animal kind.

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

UNIDENTIFIED MALE GUEST:  And I wanted to see if this was just a cow town down there, where a lot of red necks driving around in pickup trucks maybe having too many Coors.  So, I went down to Stephenville and I found just the opposite.  This is a slice of Middle America.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHUSTER:  Whoa.

Finally: If you‘ve been on YouTube, you‘ve probably seen the clips of people going crazy in the office.  Are the videos real surveillance tapes or was the action staged?  Apparently, FOX News couldn‘t be bothered to find out.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “YOUR WORLD”/FOX NEWS/FRIDAY)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  High gas prices fueling—look at this—office rage.  Is it getting out of control?  More videos to come.  Gas prices are they fueling what you‘re looking at now?  Desk rage.  High gas prices fueling a whole new set of problems.  That road (ph) rage, desk rage, right here.  So, we‘ve seen these videos on YouTube.  Don‘t act like a little brat like this idiot on the desk.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHUSTER:  The problem, of course, is that the rage wasn‘t over gas prices and it wasn‘t even real.  The entire video was staged.  We report, you decide.

Up next: Is Arnold Schwarzenegger ready to jump to an Obama administration?  Stick around for that in tonight‘s edition of Win, Lose or Draw.

And later: Do you have to know how to surf the Web to be president?  If so, John McCain might be in trouble after saying in an interview, he‘s, quote, “learning to get online.”  By the way, McCain doesn‘t e-mail either.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWS BREAK)

DAVID SHUSTER, HOST:  Coming up, John McCain says he‘s, quote, “learning to get online.”  But don‘t worry, he thinks he‘ll be able to get on the Internet all by himself soon. 

And little accident on the way to the ATM.  Oops.  Better get ready to drain that bank account - “Reality Bites.” 

Plus, a Miss USA contestant falls flat but ends up a winner anyway.  Former Miss USA Shanna Moakler will be to tell us how tough competing in a pageant can be. 

Welcome back, everybody.  I‘m David Shuster, in for Dan Abrams.  The McCain camp is blasting Barack Obama over an editorial he wrote in today‘s “New York Times” and the Obama camp is now crying poor, warning Democrats if they don‘t pony up some cash, the GOP could overtake them in November. 

As always, we‘re on their trail, making the call on who won or lost the day, Obama or McCain.  Still with us, former Mitt Romney press secretary, Kevin Madden; Democratic analyst, Tanya Acker; and MSNBC political analyst, Craig Crawford. 

First up, Iraq takes center stage on the campaign trail today as Barack Obama pens an op ed in today‘s “New York Times” and gets blasted for it by team McCain.  Obama wrote today, quote, “Ending the war is essential to meeting our broader strategic goals starting in Afghanistan and Pakistan.  Iraq is not the central front in the war on terrorism and it never has been.  On my first day in office, I would give my military a new mission: ending this war.”

That editorial unleashed a firestorm on both sides with the McCain camp accusing Obama of wanting to lose in Iraq. 

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

SEN. LINDSAY GRAHAM R-SC:  The Democratic Party had built a strategy politically around us losing in Iraq. 

RANDY SCHEUNEMANN, MCCAIN ADVISER:  Sen. Obama seems to think losing a war will help him win an election. 

(END AUDIO CLIP)

SCHUSTER:  The question tonight, who wins when Obama and McCain debate Iraq?  Kevin, I want to start with you.  There was that argument that Barack Obama is playing on McCain‘s turf.  But every time Americans are reminded of the lingering war, doesn‘t that hurt John McCain? 

KEVIN MADDEN, FORMER MITT ROMNEY PRESS SECRETARY:  I don‘t think so.  What helps John McCain here is that he‘s always dealt with this issue with clarity.  Look, even when we were going through the debate over whether the surge was going to work and whether or not the surge was the right policy, John McCain was so resolute in his belief that the surge was exactly the right policy that was going to help bring about a greater degree of success in Iraq. 

So he‘s always dealt with this with a very clear policy directive, whereas Barack Obama now seems to be trying to make the argument to voters with a lot of nuance.  I mean, very simple fact that he had to write that editorial today was a loss for Obama.  He had to go out there and basically relitigate his position. 

SHUSTER:  Tanya, how can it boost Barack Obama politically if the security situation is improved and there is Barack Obama having to write that op-ed today and having to give a big speech tomorrow? 

TANYA ACKER, DEMOCRATIC ANALYST:  Well, look.  I mean, certainly there have been some improvements on the ground in Iraq.  I think everybody celebrates those and we were pleased about that.  But we need to look at the big picture strategy here.  And I think that when Americans look at the fact that John McCain is in favor of having some sort of permanent American presence in Iraq, of the sort that we‘ve got in South Korea, they don‘t want that.  And I think they need to be reminded of the fact that Barack Obama has a way to get us out.  I think that, you know, just - I want to hearken back to Kevin‘s point because perhaps it is a more nuanced position.  But I dare say that simply being resolved and clear about a bad policy is not good for the United States. 

MADDEN:  Well, you know, Tanya -

ACKER:  We went in on bad information.  We mismanaged - Hang on one second.  We mismanaged the war and I think that Barack Obama has said that we need to get out as carefully as we got in carelessly.  And the fact that we need to take a more nuanced view of the conditions of the ground, the fact that this administration has no idea about the conditions on the ground, about the history of the Iraqi people, which suggests that they really have no national identity now. 

You know, it suggests to me that I want somebody who knows all the facts and, you know, some of those facts may be good and some of those facts may be bad, but I want to see the whole picture in terms of figuring how it is we move forward. 

MADDEN:  Well, I think the judgment that a lot of voters are going to be making is that Barack Obama still learning about a very crucial national security issue.  You know, he‘s showing right now a very political immaturity, so to speak.  He‘s still only learning about these facts on the ground whereas when you look at presidential campaigns which are exactly a war of attributes, so to speak, a contest of attributes, John McCain‘s resolute and the way he‘s dealt with this issue with clarity versus Barack Obama who always seems to be shifting, learning - not quite sure, that is where I think this is really a loss for Barack Obama. 

SHUSTER:  Craig Crawford, what did you learn today from Barack Obama‘s op-ed? 

CRAIG CRAWFORD, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Not much.  It wasn‘t very different than what he said.  I think the point was well made that he was relitigating it.  I think to some extent, wanting to repeat that language of, “We must end the war,” to shore up those voters on the left who got a little disillusioned with some of the vague words he had been using lightly. 

But you know, when you talk to experts - military and foreign affairs experts who aren‘t in the political process, they really don‘t like this use of these terms of winning a war, losing a war or even ending a war.  They‘re almost irrelevant, really, to the situation in Iraq. 

And my final point would be when I really look at the positions of McCain and Obama and even the White House, there‘s really less difference between all their positions in terms of the long-range plans for getting out than there seems to be in the heated rhetoric that they use. 

SHUSTER:  Yes.  I think this is a draw for both Barack Obama and John McCain.  But let‘s move on. 

A prominent McCain surrogate struck out why trying to explain exactly how the presumptive GOP nominee is different from President Bush on the economy.  The Obama camp has been hammering McCain for months now, saying his policies would just be an extension of President Bush. 

And yesterday, on CNN, when McCain‘s supporter in South Carolina, Gov.  Mark Sanford was given a golden opportunity to dispel that criticism, well, let‘s just say he didn‘t exactly knock it out of the park. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WOLF BLITZER, HOST, “LATE EDITION”:  Are there any significant economic differences between what the Bush administration has put forward over these many years as opposed to now what John McCain supports? 

GOV. MARK SANFORD (R-SC), MCCAIN SUPPORTER:  Yes, I mean, for instance, take, you know - take for instance the issue of - I‘m drawing a blank.  I hate it when I do that, particularly on television. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHUSTER:  Ouch.  Now, Sanford finally mustered up an answer about NAFTA and earmarks.  But Craig Crawford, was the damage already done by that? 

CRAWFORD:  When your mind goes blank, you still have to say something.  And I think, this is clearly, clearly a loss for McCain.  And you know, the problem is, this campaign - the McCain campaign - is not dealing with the Bush third term arguments that are being made against them.  Best evidence by the fact that they had no talking points for this man to help him answer a question. 

SHUSTER:  Well, never mind that.  Kevin, how can you possibly consider now putting Mark Sanford on the ticket after that? 

MADDEN:  Look, it will be very tough.  If you had to ask me right now for an answer, affirmatively, I‘d be stumped here on national television. 

SHUSTER:  Tanya, how long before this ends up in a Democratic attack ad? 

ACKER:  Tomorrow?  Look, I mean, Democrats should be jumping on this right away.  It‘s not as if - I will be clear. Look, I felt very badly.  This was hard to watch.  I mean this is painful.  But it‘s not as if he forgot somebody‘s name.  I mean he was asked to specify how different a McCain economic policy would be from a Bush economic policy.  That occurred within the same week that one of McCain‘s chief advisors has indicated that when Phil Graham said we‘re a nation of whiners and the recession is all in our heads, this right after IndyMac has failed.  I mean this is not the sort of story that the McCain camp needs to put forward about what his administration would do for the American people. 

SHUSTER:  I agree.  I think it‘s a loss for McCain and even bigger loss for Mark Sanford.  I don‘t think the governor of South Carolina needs to worry about any possible move to Washington. 

Next up the Obama campaign crying poor after John McCain posted his best fundraising month yet for the month of June.  Obama campaign manager David Plouffe posted this video warning Obama supporters if they don‘t dig into their wallets, they could be out of luck come November. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVID PLOUFFE, OBAMA CAMPAIGN MANAGER:  And we know how they‘re going to spend that money, running untrue negative ads all across the country.  We can‘t count on anybody else.  We can‘t wait for a cavalry out there.  The cavalry does not exist.  We are responsible for defending ourselves against these attacks. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHUSTER:  Tanya, why on earth is the Obama campaign using scare tactics against their own people? 

ACKER:  That was nicely put.  I think that there‘s a risk in this election given the enthusiasm that there is around Sen. Obama.  There‘s a risk of overconfidence amongst Democrats.  I think the Democrats are far more enthused about Sen. Obama than a lot of Republicans are about John McCain.  And I think that we have taken that as some sort of suggestion that there might be - I heard too many people suggest that it‘s going to be an easy road to the White House for Sen. Obama.  And I think that we need not believe that.  The RNC has always had an outrageously impressive fundraising capability, and I think it‘s important to remind Democrats of precisely that fact. 

SHUSTER:  Kevin, win, lose or draw on the Obama camp crying poor today?

MADDEN:  Look, this is a win.  I‘ve gained a lot of respect for David Plouffe during this campaign.  The man - he‘s good.  He can convince people that Barack Obama doesn‘t have any money, he‘ll have earned his pay. 

Look, I‘ve never met a campaign manager who has sent out a notice to donors or potential organizers saying that, “Hey.  Everything‘s fine.  We have all the money we need.  Sit back.  Don‘t worry.  This campaign‘s in the bank.”  They‘re always going to make sure that voters know that they need just a little bit more money to get things done. 

SHUSTER:  Craig Crawford? 

CRAWFORD:  Hey, you know, you don‘t give money to a homeless guy in a suit.  They‘re going to cry poor and I‘ve got to wonder though if the Obama campaign might find price resistance at some point.  If some these folks they keep going back to for more money, for Hillary Clinton and for the convention, which is having trouble raising money.  If at some point, they‘re going to regret not taking those federal bucks that they‘re going to pass up after the convention (UNINTELLIGIBLE). 

SHUSTER:  Well, my view is they need to be careful about when they ask for this money.  But in any case, one more here.  California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is now suggesting he may be willing to serve in Barack Obama‘s candidate.  Arnold has already endorsed John McCain but he appeared on ABC yesterday and seemed to suggest that he‘d be open to a President Obama. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, HOST, “THIS WEEK WITH GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS”: 

“Newsweek” reported that he might want you to be his energy and environment czar.  Would you be interested? 

GOV. ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER (R-CA):  It‘s hypothetical.  I mean, you know, I‘m always ready to help in any way I can.  I will help in any way. 

STEPHANOPOULOS:  If he were president and he called, you‘d at least take that call? 

SCHWARZENEGGER:  I‘d take his call now and I‘d take his call when he‘s president.  Anytime. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHUSTER:  Craig Crawford, win, lose or draw, when one of your most high profile supporters seems to be receptive to your opponent become president? 

CRAWFORD:  Well, let‘s not forget the governor‘s wife endorsed Obama in the primaries - Maria Shriver.  And I actually think Schwarzenegger might be playing some sort of game here for the future.  I think he‘s beginning to look down the road past his governorship.  He‘s got that little constitutional problem to deal with.  And we‘ll be looking for a job in Washington in some capacity in the cabinet or the senate or something like that. 

SHUSTER:  Kevin, I want to get your reaction to something else Arnold Schwarzenegger said and this is regarding flip-flopping.  Watch. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SCHWARZENEGGER:  Let me tell you something.  Flip-flopping is getting a bad rap because I think it is great.  I mean, someone has made a mistake.  I mean, someone has for 20 or 30 years been in the wrong place with his idea and with his ideology and says, “You know something?  I changed my mind.  I‘m now for this.”  As long as he‘s honest or she‘s honest, I think that is a wonderful thing. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHUSTER:  Kevin, did you think it was a wonderful thing in the primaries when your guy Mitt Romney was accused of flip-flopping? 

MADDEN:  No, of course not.  It made my job very hard.  But look, I think there‘s a lot of truth to what he says.  You know, one of the most important things that we did during the campaign with Gov. Romney was explain that on a very crucial issue like abortion that the governor did change.  He admitted it.  He changed in the right direction.  He tried to explain that evolution and how he got there and why he was a very important pro-life advocate going forward. 

When you can do that and when you can do so with a degree of authenticity, I think voters do respect it because the job of politics is to try to change people‘s views.  It‘s to try to get them to get them to see your viewpoint in a way that helps grow more support for that particular issue. 

SHUSTER:  All right, I agree.  Everyone is staying with us.  And up next, more “Win, Lose or Draw.”  John McCain in there - he doesn‘t know how to go online by himself and doesn‘t use E-mail.  Are these job requirements for president?  Who won the day, next. 

And this is what happens when your truck is too tall for the drive through.  “Reality Bites” coming up in 60 seconds.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHUSTER:  Now to “Reality Bites.”  Tonight, times are tough for vans, but this one literally had the roof cave in on it.  A truck hauling a trailer clipped the corner of the van‘s awning as it was looking for a place to park.  The whole structure collapsed.  Authorities say the driver and his passenger escaped unharmed.  We‘ll be right back. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), REPUBLICAN PRESUMPTIVE NOMINEE:  I ask you, what should we be looking for in our next president?  Certainly, someone who is very, very, very old. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHUSTER:  And that was John McCain joking about his age earlier this year on “Saturday Night Live.”  But his age is definitely an issue and this probably will not help. 

In a recent interview with “New York Times,” McCain admitted that he is unable to access the Internet on his own, doesn‘t E-mail and relies on his wife and aides to get him online.  He says, quote, “I‘m learning to get online myself, and I will have that down fairly soon.  I don‘t expect to be a great communicator, I don‘t expect to set up my own blog, but I am becoming computer literate to the point where I can get the information that I need.”

So this has underscored enough that McCain is perhaps too old and perhaps too out of touch to be president?  Our panel is back with us.  And Craig Crawford, what does it say to you? 

CRAWFORD:  I give him credit for that; he‘s learning.  And, after all, I mean, presidents can‘t shy away from E-mailing anyway because so many of the people that he would write could be subpoenaed.  And I don‘t think we want a president running chat rooms or anything, or getting on video games.  But I do think it does play into the image that he‘s out of touch with younger people, I suppose. 

SHUSTER:  Tanya, is he out of touch? 

ACKER:  I think there are two different questions.  I think being too old and being too out of touch are two very, very different things.  I‘ve never been comfortable with the, you know, “he‘s too old to be president” argument.  Interestingly enough, though, my mother who is exactly his same age and I think a lot of - you hear a lot of that criticism from people who are his age.  She‘d be the first person to say that a 71-year-old person doesn‘t have business being president.  I don‘t buy that. 

Now, am I concerned about the fact that he doesn‘t get some of the mechanics about how people operate or work or get information?  Yes, but I‘m not worried about whether or not, John McCain is going to learn to how to get on the Internet.  I think (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

SHUSTER:  Well, Kevin, given not so much of the Internet now, it is about John McCain, particularly “Drudge Report,” I mean take a look at what McCain said about getting a little help from his friends, “Brooke and Mark show me ‘Drudge.‘  Everybody watches for better or worse, ‘Drudge.‘  Sometimes I look at ‘Politico,‘ and sometimes ‘RealPolitics.‘”  Your reaction?   

MADDEN:  Can I register a vote in favor of candidates who don‘t E-mail when they do.  I‘d like to keep the contact universe around candidates as small as possible.  But look, I do think Mark and Tanya have a good point.  I mean this reinforces a lot of what people think that, you know anytime you are marveling at price scanners or you are talking about learning to get online, it reinforces that you may be out of touch and you‘re not up to speed with the technology. 

I think probably most importantly, it cuts him off from that younger group of voters who really want to see somebody who is technologically savvy, who want to see somebody who is going to help grow the economy from a technological standpoint into the future.  But with older voters, it‘s probably not going to really matter to a lot of folks. 

SHUSTER:  Oh, I think the thing that hurts him is not so much technology, but maybe even just the sort of perception that he is sort of old.  And that‘s sort of underscored when McCain described himself as older than dirt.  Watch this. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCAIN:  I‘m not the youngest candidate in this race, you know that.  But I am the most experienced.  I‘m older than Frankenstein.  I‘ve got a few scars and older than dirt, and I‘ve got more scars than Frankenstein.  Screwed up that line.  But I have been around. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHUSTER:  And again, that‘s exactly my point.  He screwed up the line.  There‘s a sort of a perception that John McCain doesn‘t always have it together, that he sometimes gets lost.  And to me, at least, I think that‘s perhaps even a bigger issue than not using the Internet. 

But in any case, who won the day, Obama or McCain?  Let‘s go around the horn with our panel.  And Kevin, let‘s start with you. 

MADDEN:  Well, I think the major debate today took place on the most familiar terrain for John McCain, and that‘s national security.  Any time that we can move that debate to national security, foreign policy, experience, the readiness to be president, John McCain wins. 

SHUSTER:  Tanya? 

ACKER:  I think in light of the IndyMac failure, in light of Phil Gramm‘s very insensitive comments, and now Governor Sanford doesn‘t know the difference between a McCain and Bush economic policy, I think Barack Obama won. 

SHUSTER:  Craig Crawford, who won?

CRAWFORD:  I‘ve got a slight tip of the balance to McCain simply because it was a day where we talked more about McCain than the Clintons. 

SHUSTER:  OK.  Craig, Tanya and Kevin, thank you all very much. 

MADDEN:  Good to be with you, David. 

SHUSTER:  And now - you‘re welcome.  And now, an update on the story we brought you last week.  An army official is now launching an investigation into the firing of an Arlington National Cemetery employee. 

Last week, we heard from Gina Gray, the former public affairs director of Arlington.  Gray told us she was fired for refusing to limit media access to soldiers‘ funerals when the families agreed to open the ceremonies to the press. 

This weekend, “Washington Post” reported that Army Secretary Pete Garin said he wants an internal review of Gray‘s firing.  We talked to Gray‘s lawyer tonight.  He says they haven‘t heard anything from the Army but that Gray welcomes any further investigation. 

Up next, will tonight‘s big winner or loser be - Miss USA who took a tumble at last night‘s Miss Universe pageant; Brad and Angelina‘s twins could bring in a bundle of cash for charity; or “Grey‘s Anatomy” star, Katherine Heigel who grumbled about the show writers and now may be kicked off the show. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHUSTER:  Time for tonight‘s “Winners and Losers.”  Our big loser, “Knocked Up” star Katherine Heigel who is reportedly about to get knocked off of “Grey‘s Anatomy.”  According to “E! Online,” the show producers are still infuriated the actress would not allow herself to be nominated for an Emmy because she was upset with the material written for her.  So, according to the reports, the producers are now considering killing off Heigl‘s character, Izzie Stevens. 

Our first winner tonight, Brangelina‘s new twins.  Pictures of the boy and girl, born to parents Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie over the weekend in France are in such demand that the first photos will reportedly be worth $20 million.  All the proceeds, according to Pitt and Jolie‘s publicists will go to charity. 

Our big winner of the day, however, is Miss USA Crystle Stewart. 

Sure, Miss Venezuela actually won the Miss Universe pageant last night.  But it was Miss USA who had everyone talking when she graciously got back up after stepping on her dress and falling during the evening gown competition.  And incredibly, this was the second year in a row Miss USA has taken a tumble at the pageant.  Last year, the fall was by contestant Rachel Smith. 

Our next guest knows something about the pressures of walking in one of those dresses - Shanna Moakler.  Shanna Moakler was Miss USA in 1995.  Thanks for joining us.  Should we just add a new category and that is have all these contestants walk in these dresses and make sure they can? 

SHANNA MOAKLER, MISS USA IN 1995:  Yes, you would think, you know, when you are going to Miss Universe competition that you would probably practice walking around in your dress a little bit.  But, you know, I‘m sure she was really nervous, and what she did was beautiful.

SHUSTER:  Have you ever fallen? 

MOAKLER:  I haven‘t fallen in competition, but I have fallen at red carpet events, and it‘s pretty humiliating. 

SHUSTER:  Is it the dress?  Is it the nerves?  Is it the shoes?  What usually contributes there? 

MOAKLER:  I think it is a combination of nerves and in her case, I definitely think it was the dress.  And you can actually see her kind of holding her dress up after because I think it was just really difficult for her to walk in.  I think she said it was like being on roller skates. 

SHUSTER:  Yes.  Miss USA said there was no conspiracy or anything.  Nobody left marbles on the floor.  It was just her.  But yes, it does seem like this will feed the conspiracy theorists who wonder about that floor? 

MOAKLER:  Yes.  I don‘t think it was a conspiracy and I definitely don‘t think, you know, she did it on purpose because she didn‘t think she would do well.  She won Miss Texas.  She won Miss USA.  She‘s a very beautiful, confident young woman.  I really think it was just her evening gown.  And, you know, she collected herself. 

SHUSTER:  And finally, Shanna, yes or no - have you ever seen anybody sabotaged? 

MOAKLER:  Have I?  I had my earrings stolen at Miss USA, but that‘s really it. 

SHUSTER:  Oh, no! The earrings stolen!  Oh, my gosh!  Oh, my gosh!

MOAKLER:  Yes.  That‘s it. 

SHUSTER:  Thank you, Shanna Moakler.  We appreciate your insights.

MOAKLER:  Thank you so much. 

SHUSTER:  That is all the time we have for tonight - You are welcome.  Dan will be back tomorrow.  I‘m David Shuster.  Good night, everybody.  Again, Dan Abrams is back tomorrow night.  Thanks. 

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

END   

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