updated 8/7/2008 11:58:18 AM ET 2008-08-07T15:58:18

Guest: Mike Barnicle, Margaret Brennan, Andrea Mitchell, Dee Dee Myers, Doris Kearns Goodwin, Joan Walsh, Michelle Bernard, Clarence Page

MIKE BARNICLE, GUEST HOST:  Everything‘s going right for Barack Obama, so where‘s his big lead in the polls?

Let‘s play HARDBALL.

Good evening.  I‘m Mike Barnicle, in for Chris Matthews.  Welcome to HARDBALL.  Leading off tonight: Stuck in neutral.  President Bush‘s ratings are hovering around 30.  The war is unpopular.  The economy is a mess.  So why isn‘t Barack Obama running away with this election?  If anything, the race seems to be getting closer.  There are a lot of theories out there, but you might want to try this one.  Maybe John McCain is a better candidate than you thought.

Also, if watching potential running mates is your thing, today is your day.  Barack Obama was with Indiana‘s Evan Bayh.  Michelle Obama meets later with Virginia‘s governor Tim Kaine.  And then there was this today from Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. TIM PAWLENTY ®, MINNESOTA:  People want to follow hopeful, optimistic, civil, decent leaders.  They don‘t want to follow some, you know, negative, scornful person.  So you know, say what you will about Barack Obama—and I say a lot of negative things about him—we need leaders, and John McCain is positive, as well.  People gravitate when you got something positive to say.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  And we have plenty positive to say.  The thing is, Pawlenty is a Republican, supposedly on John McCain‘s short list.  So we‘re going to find out what‘s up with that, if anything.

Plus: See if you can square this circle.  First Bill Clinton refuses to say Barack Obama is ready to be president.  Then Hillary Clinton makes plans to campaign for him.  So what are the Clintons thinking, and what do they really want to happen this fall?  Do they want Barack Obama to win?

Also, coming to a pro-Obama car near you, this bumper sticker.  It‘s the Democratic National Committee‘s answer to those gas gauges the McCain campaign has used to ridicule Obama‘s energy policy.  More on that in tonight‘s “Politics Fix.”  And you can‘t see this often enough, Paris Hilton with her deep thoughts on celebrity and the presidential campaigns.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PARIS HILTON, CELEBRITY:  Hey, America.  I‘m Paris Hilton, and I‘m a celebrity, too.  Only I‘m not from the olden days and I‘m not promising change like that other guy.  I‘m just hot.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BARNICLE:  That‘s a response to McCain‘s Paris Hilton-Britney Spears celebrity ad.  But believe it or not, the McCain campaign people say the new Hilton video proves their attacks are sticking.  All that on the HARDBALL “Sideshow.”

But first: Why isn‘t Barack Obama further ahead in the polls?  We‘re joined by NBC‘s Andrea Mitchell and Clarence Page of “The Chicago Tribune.”  Clarence, you wrote about this issue today in “The Trib.”  Let me read a portion of what you wrote, to get this started.  “Obama‘s lead has mostly evaporated.  Why?  I think a big reason is McCain‘s refusal to be cast as scary or outrageous.  He has maintained enough of his maverick image to resist Democratic efforts to rebrand him as Bush‘s third term.”

So is it perhaps, Clarence, that John McCain, we‘re finding out he‘s not George Bush, he‘s not Dick Cheney, and to many, many Americans, he‘s not scary?

CLARENCE PAGE, “CHICAGO TRIBUNE”:  Definitely not scary.  To paraphrase Paris Hilton, he‘s that adorable gray-haired guy that reminds us all of maybe a nice uncle or something.  I know McCain has always been affable in that way.  But where he really hurts himself is when he does attach himself to George Bush, but he can‘t help but do that because he‘s got to the appeal to his party‘s base that still doesn‘t trust him.

But Barack Obama is the new kid on the block still.  And for those undecided voters out there, I don‘t think they‘re going to make up their minds until after Labor Day, when this kind of thing usually happens.  In the meantime, we‘re going to see these polls stay very close.

BARNICLE:  Yes, Andrea, you know, the point that Clarence just raised about John McCain‘s base—and we talked about this, I think, either last night or the night before—John McCain has already—always brought a sense of honor to everything he‘s done, in the Senate, during the course of the primary campaigns, various primary campaigns, 2000 and earlier this year.  And some of the ads have been kind of tough.

But do you think there‘s an element in the McCain campaign, the candidate himself, who at some point wants to go toward the middle, and yet he‘s a little leery of alienating a base that isn‘t really in love with him to begin with?

ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC CORRESPONDENT:  Yes.  I think that John McCain is trying to straddle this right now.  He‘s in—as I said, I think, the other day, that he‘s in a bit of a bubble.  So he‘s got these new handlers.  Some have come from—you know, Steve Schmidt (ph) and others—from Karl Rove‘s shop at the George W. Bush White House, not exactly an easy fit with John McCain.

And I think he‘s trying to figure out how to please the base, and the best way to figure out what his final decision is, is whom he chooses for vice president.  If he goes with his heart, he could choose Tom Ridge.  He‘s already told our friend and colleague Chris Matthews back in Villanova at the college tour he wouldn‘t choose Tom Ridge because of his position on abortion rights.  So you know, if he wants Pennsylvania, which would be a deal breaker, conceivably, for the Democrats if they were to lose Pennsylvania, the popular former governor, Tom Ridge, and former cabinet secretary, would be a pretty smart choice.  That‘s the Mike Murphy choice, if you will, Barnicle.

But if he goes a more conservative route, goes toward Mitt Romney, who is far more conservative than John McCain on some issues, might please the conservative wing of the party and is not that congenial with John McCain.  Tim Pawlenty, of course, is someone he knows well and seems to like a lot, and that might be an easier fit, as well.  But we saw that he was a little off message today, Pawlenty was...

BARNICLE:  Yes.  Yes.

MITCHELL:  ... and not attacking—not being the attack dog that the vice presidential nominee is supposed to be.

BARNICLE:  Yes, when I heard that, I was wondering if someone whispered in Governor Pawlenty‘s ear last night that he wasn‘t going to get it, and so he decided to, you know, be the nice Governor Pawlenty—not that he‘s not always nice.

But Clarence, a couple of those issues that Andrea raised, in addition to the vice presidential selection.  Back to Barack Obama and your piece this morning.  Do you think it‘s possible that there hasn‘t been a whole lot of separation between the two candidates at this time—forget that it‘s the middle of the summer.  Is it possible that Obama has received too much coverage, that people are saying, you know, Enough‘s enough, slow down here?

PAGE:  Yes.  I think it‘s possible.  Again, that‘s something that can be relieved through the dog days of August.  But yes, sometimes I find myself coming on the TV and saying, Oh, my gosh, it‘s Barack again.  You know, it‘s like—one always has to be wary of that.

But at the same time, he needs to expose himself in areas of the country where they don‘t know him—you know, West Virginia, parts of Ohio, Pennsylvania, as Andrea mentioned, places where he was weak in the primaries and needs to attach himself to Hillary Clinton supporters out there and build up some support in those areas.  So we‘re still going to be seeing quite a bit more of Barack, I expect.

BARNICLE:  Andrea...

MITCHELL:  And you know...

BARNICLE:  -there‘s a new “Time” magazine poll, Andrea, out today.  Excuse me for interrupting you.  It has Barack Obama holding a 5-point lead over John McCain.  And as you know better than most, that lead, whatever lead he has had, has remained pretty much in that range, 4, 5 points.  So the question is, you know, as this campaign gets going as it is—get going in the middle of the summer, something we alluded to at the top of this show—are we in the media just completely underestimating John McCain, thinking about George Bush‘s negative ratings, thinking about the economy, people‘s angst over gas prices?  Are we underestimating John McCain?

MITCHELL:  I don‘t think we‘re underestimating John McCain because I think it‘s going to be a very competitive race.  I think that despite the -you know, the down side of George W. Bush, of the economy, and of, you know, all the other issues that we know are out there against—generically against Republicans, John McCain is a very attractive and strong candidate.  And despite the age deficit, which some say is a strong argument against him, he does represent reassurance and experience to a lot of people, a lot of voters out there who are really concerned, are anxious about their lives.

And when you contrast him with Barack Obama—and the best contrast will be in those debates that are now—you know, now all scheduled, when you see them side by side, that‘s going to be a real test.  Debating was not always Obama‘s strength during the primaries, not always, you know, John McCain‘s strength.

So there you‘re going to see a real contrast between two guys who are not natural debaters.  And whether or not they go after each other or whether or not they figure out the right balance between being tough and not so tough, that‘s going to be the contrast that I think is going to sell a lot of voters when people really start paying attention to this—and of course, their conventions.

By the way, when we talk about why it is as close as it is—people don‘t really know that much about Barack Obama, for all we‘ve looked at him.  Some Democrats argue that the European part of his trip, as successful as it seemed, was a negative, a net negative because it wasn‘t reaching people‘s real concerns and it wasn‘t reassuring people that he isn‘t somewhat different, given his foreign background, the childhood in Indonesia and all the rest, his name.

The other piece of this is race.  And I think that...

BARNICLE:  Yes.

MITCHELL:  ... a lot of voters—let‘s face it, some of the voters in those last few primaries, who would tell us when we were out on the road in West Virginia and Pennsylvania and other places, would tell focus groups, as well as just flat out say it to reporters, that race is a drawback to some of those voters.  They have to become more comfortable with him.

BARNICLE:  Yes.  And Clarence, there‘s also the issue that when people are polled—I mean, if you‘re coming out of, you know, the factory gate at 3:00 o‘clock in the afternoon and you have some 22-year-old pollster, a graduate of Harvard or wherever, you know, with a little clipboard, you know, and they ask you about Barack Obama, you know, some people are just going to avoid telling the whole truth.  Don‘t you think so?

PAGE:  Well, that‘s right.

BARNICLE:  What do you think the percentage factor is in these polls about people who don‘t tell truth?

PAGE:  Well, I‘m glad you asked that, Mike, because I called it the Clarence Page factor during the primaries.  I learned from experience that if Barack Obama wasn‘t 6 points ahead going into a primary, chances were very good that Hillary Clinton was going to win it, like New Hampshire and a number of other states there.

It‘s not always that people lie to pollsters, but as you implied with your scenario at the factory gate, a lot of people just don‘t respond to pollsters.  If they‘re not going to support the black guy, they just won‘t respond.  And that‘s something that Andy Kohut at the Pew Center and other folks have found.  So I think Barack Obama still has reason to be nervous if he‘s only 4 to 6 points ahead.

BARNICLE:  Yes.  I mean, I wouldn‘t respond to a pollster at the factory gate.

But let‘s take a look at the latest John McCain ad.  Both of you take a look at this, and we‘ll talk about it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Is the biggest celebrity in the world he ready to help your family?  The real Obama promises higher taxes, more government spending, so fewer jobs.  Renewable energy to transform our economy, create jobs and energy independence?  That‘s John McCain.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  I‘m John McCain, and I approved this message.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BARNICLE:  Andrea, use again of the word “celebrity.”  And I was interested in your take on the European leg of Barack Obama‘s trip and how you thought that it perhaps was not a net plus for him back here.  Could you spell that out a little more?

MITCHELL:  Well, some Democrats, even some congressional Democrats were saying to me before he went, Why is he going to Europe?  He‘s got to do Iraq and Afghanistan.  Why doesn‘t do that and the Middle East, and then come home?  He doesn‘t need to be celebrated in Paris or Berlin, given the you know, the feelings of American voters and a little bit of anti-European bias of some of those Rust Belt state working-class voters, who are the hardest for him to get.  They were the Hillary Clinton voters in the primaries.

And so there were some suggestions from Democrats, others outside of the campaign, that that was not the smartest leg.  He, of course, wanted to prove that he could be presidential, and he certainly looked presidential in Paris.  Sarkozy couldn‘t have been given more of a welcome mat, a red carpet treatment.

But how does that play in rural Indiana?  We saw a little bit of a test today.  He seemed to do very well in Indiana with Evan Bayh.

BARNICLE:  Yes.

MITCHELL:  But whether that was a try-out or not, we don‘t know.

BARNICLE:  Well, let‘s look at Senator Obama today in Indiana.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  So I know that Senator McCain likes to call himself a maverick, and the fact is, there have been times where in the past, he did show some independence.  But the price he paid for his party‘s nomination has been to reverse himself on position after position, and now he embraces the failed Bush policies of the last eight years, the politics that helped break Washington in the first pace, and that doesn‘t meet my definition of a maverick.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BARNICLE:  You know, Clarence, off of Andrea‘s assessment of the European leg of the trip and Barack Obama campaigning across this country right now, I can‘t help but wonder, if he were a white guy in Berlin with 200,000 people, would—would, you know, the arrogant label be put on him because of that speech and because of his going to Paris and going to London?  I just—I don‘t get that aspect of the criticism.

PAGE:  Well, you know, this rap against Barack Obama for being arrogant kind of reminds me of black kids in middle school who put me down for trying to act white because I was making good grades and wore ties sometimes.  You know, Barack Obama is darned if he does and darned if he doesn‘t, as far as that‘s concerned.  I think that that label really isn‘t going to stick, though, because Obama is a guy who has a lot to be proud of.

When he went to Europe, he didn‘t to go there to win over middle-American voters like from small-town America.  Andrea‘s right.  They want to press the flesh right thereat home.

I grew up in a small town.  I was a steel worker back when we made steel.  I know what that‘s like.  But what did he do was to reassure a lot of other folks, support him, wondering if he cut the mustard on the world stage.  And I think he showed that he could.  And that includes some of the Obamacans, conservatives who have found certain things attractive about Obama.  I think he helped himself in that regard.

So I think that, you know, a lot of these labels sounds like McCain is practicing the kitchen sink strategy that Hillary Clinton used to some good effect for her cause, but she didn‘t win with it.

BARNICLE:  And Andrea, the critiques that you‘ve heard from—well, I don‘t know who they were from, perhaps other United States senators, or you know, various important people in Washington D.C., that small cocoon of a city where you‘ve spent so much time reporting on.  How much of it do you think is—whether you‘re talking to a public person or an appointed official, is it resentment of the fame and the ability that this young man has to gather such crowds?

MITCHELL:  No, actually, In these cases, these are Obama supporters...

BARNICLE:  OK.

MITCHELL:  ... elected Democrats, supporters of Barack Obama, saying, Oh, gee, I wish he wouldn‘t do that.  So this is not a case of resentment.  When you want to talk resentment, let‘s talk Bill Clinton.

(LAUGHTER)

BARNICLE:  Yes!  Yes!

(LAUGHTER)

MITCHELL:  There you‘ve got resentment.  I was very struck, by the way, by that McCain ad, the latest ad, because he lays out, you know, renewable energy and you see the—you know, the wind farms, which are exactly the same energy proposals as Barack Obama‘s, and I think Factcheck.org would have a field day with that commercial.

BARNICLE:  Yes, well, in addition, both sides—both sides, I think, on the energy issue are doing slogans and symbols, rather than substance.  I absolutely agree with you.  Andrea Mitchell, Clarence Page, thanks very much.

Coming up: Why is Bill Clinton dissing Barack Obama even while Hillary is campaigning for him?  We‘ll try to figure out what the Clintons are up to—good luck—when we return.

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BARNICLE:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Do the Clintons want Barack Obama to be president?  Do they really want him to be president? 

Dee Dee Myers is a former Clinton White House press secretary, who is now a contributing editor for “Vanity Fair.” 

Dee Dee, we have a little late-breaking news right here.  I would like to read it to you.  This is ABC News, hot off the wires, as they say.

“Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton told a gathering of supporters last week that she is looking for a—quote -- ‘strategy‘ for her delegates to have their voices heard and respected at the Democratic National Convention and did not rule out the possibility of having her name placed into nomination at the convention, alongside Senator Barack Obama‘s.”

Apparently, she said this at a fund-raiser last Thursday in California.  And one of these citizen journalists, you know, with the—with a camera...

DEE DEE MYERS, FORMER CLINTON WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY:  Right, the tape recorder and...

BARNICLE:  ... in the cell phone have it...

MYERS:  Right. 

BARNICLE:  ... yes, on the record.

What is up with this?  What do you figure this means, if anything? 

MYERS:  Well, last week as you know, “The Daily News” reported that Hillary Clinton had decided not to submit a signed request, which the DNC rules require, if she wanted to have her name put into nomination.  And, obviously, this report conflicts with that.  So, it sounds like Hillary Clinton is—well, what we know, more than sounds like, is that the Clinton and Obama camps are still negotiating for exactly what Hillary Clinton‘s role will be. 

And I think Hillary Clinton does want to make sure that her delegates are somehow recognized, that her support, which is greater than any rival candidate in either party in many, many, many years, is recognized. 

So, there is obviously some tension around that.  The Obama folks, no way do they want Hillary Clinton‘s name put in nomination.  I don‘t think they‘re worried that they would lose the vote.  They just don‘t want to remind people, A, how close it was, and, B, how many tensions still exist between these two parties.  They want to come out of the convention unified. 

So, this is a work in progress.  Hillary Clinton is going to speak on Tuesday night.  We know that.  Her supporters are organizing a parade and some other events in Denver on Tuesday.  It is the 88th anniversary of suffrage.  So, that‘s obviously another event that Hillary‘s particularly women supporters will want to celebrate. 

So, we will see.  This has not been easy.

BARNICLE:  So, Dee Dee...

MYERS:  You know, it is interesting.  The result—there were no conflicts around the platform, right?  Sometimes, in these things, there‘s big conflicts around some outstanding issue from—left over from the primaries.  Not this year.  There has been no tension around the platform.  It‘s all around the optics.

BARNICLE:  So, Dee Dee, when you say that the Clinton people want their delegates—Mrs. Clinton wants her delegates to be recognized, what do you figure the definition of “recognized” is? 

(LAUGHTER)

MYERS:  Well, I don‘t—I don‘t—I don‘t know.  I don‘t think we know the answer to that yet.  I think many of her delegates would love to have her name put out there and go through the roll call and let the delegates vote in the first ballot for her. 

That‘s a tricky proposition for her.  And, on some level, I think she would love to have that, to remind people she got 18 million votes, and she has 1,800 delegates or people that came to the convention supporting her. 

On the other hand, I think she recognizes that that would not be good for her long-term position in the party.  Regardless of what happens in November, she is going to go forward as a leader in the Democratic Party, and she needs to think about what her role is going to be.

So, I don‘t think that her name will end up being put in nomination, but she is certainly holding out that possibility perhaps still as a bargaining chip, making sure that—you know, that she gets other concessions for her delegates. 

And, you know, the other unresolved question here is, what about Bill Clinton?  He is a former Democratic president, been a major figure in this campaign, for better, and, on many days, for worse.

(LAUGHTER)

MYERS:  We have sort of figured out where Hillary fits into the official program.  We don‘t know about Bill. 

BARNICLE:  Funny you mentioned him. 

MYERS:  Yes. 

BARNICLE:  Funny you mentioned him, Dee Dee.

MYERS:  Funny how that comes up. 

BARNICLE:  Yes. 

Speaking of an awkward-moment time, let‘s to go a clip.  I am sure you have seen it several times...

MYERS:  Half-a-billion...

(CROSSTALK)

BARNICLE:  ... the former president of the United States—here he is talking—to ABC‘s Kate Snow this week. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, ABC NEWS)

KATE SNOW, ABC REPORTER:  Is he ready to be president? 

BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  You could argue that no one is ever ready to be president.  I mean, I certainly learned a lot about the job in the first year. 

You could argue that, even if you have been vice president for eight years, that no one can ever be fully ready for the pressures of the office, and that everyone learns something, and something different.  You could argue that. 

SNOW:  Do you think he is completely qualified to be president? 

(CROSSTALK)

CLINTON:  The Constitution sets qualifications for the president.  And then the people decide who they think would be the better president.  I think we have two choices.  I think he should win, and I think he will win. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BARNICLE:  OK. 

Now, Dee Dee, I can recall you distinctly slogging through the primaries with the former president, working the killer hours in the White House with president of the United States.  Kind of a difficult question.  I look at that, and I see an angry, resentful guy.  What do you see? 

MYERS:  Yes, I see a disappointed, hard-charging politician, a former president who is still angry. 

And, you know, one of the things that I learned working for Bill Clinton was that, when he was upset about something, you really needed to let him vent his spleen before he got on camera. 

And that interview looks—I don‘t know what the point of it was or how it came together.  It is clearly kind of on the fly, because they‘re standing up.  It‘s not—you know, they‘re not sitting down.  It is not lit.  It is something that he probably spent time rehearsing for. 

And—and when—and he is probably tired, right?  He looks a little tired.  He is on this trip to Africa.  It is a bad idea to let him, you know, go in front of cameras at this point, without really thinking through what it is you‘re trying to get out of the interview. 

And this is a great example.  That probably wasn‘t the point of the interview, right?  He didn‘t sit down to talk about whether he thought Barack Obama was qualified.  And he got asked about it.  And he was not prepared.  He hadn‘t been allow to sort of vent through it, which, you know, sometimes, at the White House, we would do these mock kind of murder board sessions before press conferences, for example, and let him give really angry questions to answers. 

And I remember Vice President Gore was the best at this.  He would—he would comment.  And someone would ask a very difficult question, and then Clinton would give a very emotional, angry response.  And then the vice president would wait a beat and he would say, that was just perfect. 

And everyone would crack up. 

(LAUGHTER)

MYERS:  And then Bill Clinton would do it over. 

(LAUGHTER)

MYERS:  And he would give a—a better answer, a dispassionate answer. 

And I felt like that prep was—was missing from this session.  And, of course, now it has become a distraction in the campaign.  Everybody is talking again about, why is Bill Clinton so angry?  Why isn‘t he supporting Barack Obama?  That is, I‘m sure, not what he intended, and not what he would have wanted to happen, had he stepped aside and been able to think about it a little bit. 

BARNICLE:  So, in other words, we just saw a little micro-moment, a microcosm of the difficulty that Senator Hillary Clinton‘s campaign must have had trying to control the former president during the primaries. 

(LAUGHTER)

MYERS:  Right.  He is not easily controlled.  But I think, sometimes, you know, you can appeal to his best interests.  He—he understands politics.  He—he clearly, he was withholding his approval in the answer to that question. 

I mean, what he said was—was completely true.  No one is ever really qualified to be president.  And, yet, it was a horrible answer to give to that question, if you‘re Barack Obama.  So, here we are, you know, three days later, four days later, still talking about it. 

BARNICLE:  Yes, especially when, you know, he went from state to state this sprig saying that his wife was ready to be president from day one.  He knew that. 

MYERS:  Right. 

(LAUGHTER)

MYERS:  Right. 

BARNICLE:  And, yet, this guy is the nominee, and, you know, well, the Constitution...

MYERS:  Right. 

BARNICLE:  ... says he can be the nominee. 

Let me ask you a question, Dee Dee.  And I understand if you want to pick a pass on this.  But the former president, earlier this year, a couple of months ago, took a swipe at your husband, Todd Purdum, who had written a piece in “Vanity Fair” magazine about President Clinton and his current associations and his friends. 

How does that impact you on a personal level, when a guy you used to work for, you respect, you admire, takes whack at your husband?

MYERS:  Well, it wasn‘t my favorite episode, Mike, as you can well imagine. 

(LAUGHTER)

MYERS:  I—I think, you know, you know enough about Washington and have enough friends here to know that there are a lot of dual-career couples in this town, and sometimes our interests collide.  And this was one of those examples. 

But, you know, and other than that, you know, it—I will leave it at that. 

(LAUGHTER)

BARNICLE:  Yes. 

MYERS:  I think it got a lot of attention.

BARNICLE:  Yes, it did.

(LAUGHTER)

MYERS:  And it was certainly an issue in our household. 

BARNICLE:  Yes, I can—I can believe. Dee Dee Myers, thanks very much. 

MYERS:  Sure.  Thank you.

BARNICLE:  Up next:  After John McCain used Paris Hilton‘s face in a campaign ad, Paris fires back with her own video. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PARIS HILTON, CELEBRITY:  Then that wrinkly, white-haired guy used me in his campaign ad, which I guess means I‘m running for president.  So, thanks for the endorsement, white-haired dude.  And I want America to know that I‘m, like, totally ready to lead.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BARNICLE:  And she wasn‘t talking about me. 

Stick around for the HARDBALL “Sideshow” next.

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BARNICLE:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Time now for the HARDBALL “Sideshow.” 

Paris Hilton is tired of being the butt of John McCain‘s jokes.  Here she is hitting back. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NARRATOR:  He is the oldest celebrity in the world, like super-old, old enough to remember when dancing was a sin and beer was served in a bucket.  But is he ready to lead? 

HILTON:  Hey, America.  I‘m Paris Hilton, and I‘m a celebrity, too, only, I‘m not from the olden days, and I‘m not promising change, like that other guy.  I‘m just hot.

But then that wrinkly, white-haired guy used me in his campaign ad, which I guess means I‘m running for president.  So thanks for the endorsement white-haired dude.  And I want America to know that I‘m, like, totally ready to lead.

I‘m Paris Hilton, and I approve this message, because I think it is totally hot. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(LAUGHTER)

BARNICLE:  By the way, McCain staffers say the senator thought the ad was hilarious.  And I bet he did.  Knowing him a little, I bet he did. 

Supermodel and Tyra—talk show host Tyra Banks is all dressed up as Michelle Obama in the latest issue of “Harper‘s Bazaar.”  That‘s right.  Tyra has got a whole magazine spread, complete with a Barack look-alike.

Here‘s Tyra‘s tip for potential first ladies.  Know how to take a fierce picture.  Well, I think there‘s a little more to it than that. 

In other news, is it possible that voters know too much?  Well, some voters seem to think so.  According to a new Pew poll, 48 percent of Americans say they have been hearing too much about Barack Obama, and 26 percent say that about John McCain. 

Sorry, guys.  There‘s still 90 days until the election.  But here‘s something “Politico” picked up on today.  Check this out.  There‘s John McCain Straight Talk Express down in Florida.  But take a look.  What is that on the back bumper?  There you go.  You can see it right there.  It‘s an Obama sticker. 

A McCain spokesperson told “Politico,” “We will have revenge.” 

Time now for tonight‘s HARDBALL “Big Number.”  

Barack Obama‘s campaign credits small donors as the big reason for their big fund-raising numbers.  But according to today‘s “New York Times,” Obama‘s not hurting for money from the fat cats, the rich people.  So, much how much has Obama raised from people who gave at least $1,000?  One hundred and twelve million dollars—tonight‘s HARDBALL “Big Number.”  That‘s one-third of Obama‘s total haul, $112 million. 

That‘s more than John McCain, even more than Hillary Clinton managed to raise in her campaign.  Obama‘s $112 million from big-time donors—tonight‘s “Big Number.” 

Up next:  President Lincoln had his team of rivals, and both Barack Obama and John McCain say they want to move past partisanship.  So, in this day and age, could either Obama or McCain get away with including political rivals in their inner circles, or is bipartisanship dead? 

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MARGARET BRENNAN, CNBC CORRESPONDENT:  I am Margaret Brennan with your CNBC “Market Wrap.”

Stocks finished higher as oil prices continued to slide.  The Dow Jones industrial average climbed 40 points.  The S&P 500 gained by a little more than four.  And the Nasdaq was up 28.5 points. 

Oil dropped another 59 cents, to close at $118.58 a barrel.  That is the lowest level in three months. 

Meantime, mortgage financing giant Freddie Mac reported its fourth straight quarterly loss.  The $821 million loss was more than three times what Wall Street expected.  The company also announced it will cut its dividend by at least 80 percent.  Freddie Mac shares—Freddie Mac shares plunged 19 percent today. 

And Connecticut became the latest state to sue Countrywide Financial.  The suit claims that the mortgage giant steered customers into home loans that they couldn‘t afford, then charged excessive fees to homeowners who defaulted.  California, Florida, and Illinois are also suing Countrywide, which was acquired last month by Bank of America.

That‘s it from CNBC, first in business worldwide—now back to

HARDBALL. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  My attitude is, is that whoever is the best person for the job is the person I want. 

(APPLAUSE)

OBAMA:  So, if there is somebody—if I really thought that John McCain was the absolute best person for the Department of Homeland Security, I would put him in there. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BARNICLE:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

And that‘s Barack Obama, obviously, sort of praising Abraham Lincoln‘s decision to name his political opponents to Cabinet posts.  And he left open the possibility of doing the same if he becomes president. 

But, while both Obama and John McCain have touted their bipartisan efforts, could the next president really create a Cabinet of rivals in today‘s 24-hour cable TV and blogger world? 

Doris Kearns Goodwin, Pulitzer Prize-winning presidential historian and MSNBC political analyst, her most recent book is “Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln.” 

Doris, can you, in your wildest imagination—and I know you have a pretty good one—could you ever imagine Barack Obama making John McCain his secretary of defense, or John McCain placing Barack Obama in his cabinet, in this world filled with, as we talked about, bloggers, 24-hour cable news channels?  Do you think could it happen? 

DORIS KEARNS GOODWIN, HISTORIAN:  What it would depend upon, obviously, is the temperament of either McCain or Obama.  They would have to have an enormous amount of self-confidence to be willing to do it.  They would have to have a great degree of humility to be willing to do it.  And you‘re right, it is much, much harder today. 

You know, In Lincoln‘s time, those rivals were able, in the middle of cabinet meetings, to call each other all sorts of name; you‘re an absolute scoundrel; you‘re a thief; you‘re an unprincipled liar.  One would get so mad at the other, they wouldn‘t to go cabinet meetings for months on end.  Can you imagine if every night on the cable news we heard about these kind of arguments going on inside Washington? 

Yet, on the other hand, the country is so desirous of having some sort of break to the paralyzing partisanship that we have in Washington that you have a feeling that both these guys, in talking about it, may just try to reach across the aisle at some point.  I suspect they will. 

BARNICLE:  I don‘t want to be a downer here.  And I don‘t want to appear too overly cynical.  I would love to see a day just as you described, where one candidate took the other into his cabinet and a new era of bipartisanship did flourish.  Yet, we in a sense—you can disagree with me or agree with me.  We live in a nation of 300 million newspaper columnists, many of them crazy people with access to computers, and they blog all day long.  The separation, the ideological separation of these people are such that I don‘t know that bipartisanship is still possible.  What do you think?

GOODWIN:  I think what it would depend upon—it would have to be taking somebody in on a cabinet post where there‘s general agreement between the two.  For example, maybe somebody on energy, somebody on homeland security, somebody on the war on terror.  When Roosevelt took in his two-top Republicans as war secretary and Navy secretary, Stimson and Knox, they were complete critics of him on the New Deal.  But they agreed on giving aid to the allies. 

So I think you have to find one of these rivals or somebody on the other side who agrees with you on some fundamental issues.  My guess is it would have to be energy, it would have to be oil dependency, it would have to be homeland security, or it would have to be something on the war.  And then you would have to figure out a way to keep them from really talking to the press the way—Lincoln finally told his rivals, I can let you agree and disagree with each other inside my inner circle, in our official family; stop talking to the press about it.  I don‘t want to hear you disparaging one another outside. 

Now whether you have somebody with that kind of leadership strength to do it with his energy circle, that‘s the other big, big question. 

BARNICLE:  Do you think in that period of time that you covered so ably in your book about Lincoln, even in your work on Roosevelt, do you think partisanship was as pronounced in those eras, the Civil War era, the World War II era, as pronounced as it is today?  Or is it just that the coverage of it is so much more available today, so much more in our face today? 

GOODWIN:  Well, I think one things that‘s different today, say, from even Roosevelt‘s time is in those days, the senators weren‘t racing home to raise funds for their next campaign.  There wasn‘t the ease of jet travel that allowed them to go home on the weekends.  They stayed in Washington.  They would play poker together.  They would drink together.  They would have conversations together across party lines.  So you had a chance for friendships to develop across those party lines. 

Even as late as Lyndon Johnson in 1964, he was able to reach across to Durksin (ph) to help him on the Civil Rights Bill, breaking the filibuster because they had a long history of companionship.  That‘s much less likely today.  That‘s part of what‘s happening in Washington.  Those lines are more strictly drawn.  Who gets on television but the extreme partisans on one side.  They liked the point, counter-point.  The guys in the middle don‘t have that same exposure, in a certain sense, that allows those friendships to form. 

BARNICLE:  Cable TV is basically killing partisanship.  I mean, because cable is conflict.  I would like you to listen to Barack Obama earlier this week talking about John McCain.  Take a listen.  Look at this. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  He said, and I quote, our dangerous dependence on foreign oil has been 30 years in the making and was caused by the failure of politicians in Washington to think long term about the future of the country.  Now, what Senator McCain neglected to mention was during those 30 years, he was in Washington for 26 of them. 

So when Senator McCain talks about the failure of politicians in Washington failing to do anything about our energy crisis, it is important to remember that he has been part of that failure. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BARNICLE:  So we have rhetoric like that from Barack Obama.  We have rhetoric from John McCain.  We have ads like the Britney Spears-Paris Hilton ad.  Then these shows come on the air and we dissect the ads and we dissect the rhetoric, and we say boy, this verges on dirty campaigning.  Yet, reading your books about Lincoln, this is nothing comparatively speaking. 

GOODWIN:  That‘s right.  At least there is no senator, like in Lincoln‘s time, who nearly kills another person on the Senate floor, as happened.  We haven‘t reached that point of view.  Actually, a Congressman nearly killed a senator from Massachusetts.  The interesting thing is the campaigns now, because they‘re so long and because they‘re so personal and people sit beside each in debates, the feelings really do harden, I think, in a way that makes it harder to forget the negative attacks once you get into office. 

Think about what Romney and McCain said about each other.  It will make it harder for him to reach across to that rival, even though it might be a good choice for him.  He once said about—McCain once said about Romney, never get into a wrestling match with a pig, because the pig will get dirty and the pig will like it.  And Romney once said about McCain, he is not honest.  If you‘re not honest in obtaining the election, how can you be honest when you get into the job?  Those feelings are hard to put aside. 

In Lincoln‘s day, they weren‘t running around.  There was no president on a stump at that time.  It was surrogates running around.  And it takes place between the summer and November.  Now it is two years of anger that builds up, as did happen with Clinton, I think, and Obama, which makes that choice much harder to happen. 

BARNICLE:  Doris Kearns Goodwin, as always, thanks very much. 

GOODWIN:  You‘re welcome, Mike, as always. 

BARNICLE:  Up next, the politics fix.  We‘ll separate the facts from the hot air in the tire inflation debate.  This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  All of us could get better gas mileage and save oil in the process just by keeping our tires inflated.  It turns out, the experts agreed.  Senator McCain and the Republican National Committee, though, mocked the idea.  They‘ve been going around sending tire gauges to reporters, saying “Barack Obama‘s energy plan.”  Well, that sounded clever except last night, after all that, Senator McCain actually said he agreed that keeping our tires inflated was a good idea. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BARNICLE:  Time now for the politics fix.  Our round table tonight, MSNBC political analyst Michelle Bernard, and “Salon‘s” Joan Walsh.  Joan, Michelle, this back and forth on energy from both candidates—devil‘s advocate, here.  I find them both extraordinarily lame.  I understand the idea of getting tune ups.  I understand the idea of inflated tires.  But what I don‘t understand is why neither candidate seems willing to step up to the plate, look into the camera and tell the American public, you have to drive less.  We have to reduce our reliance on foreign oil.  It‘s going to be difficult.  You have to make sacrifices. 

Joan, why is either candidate seemingly unable to do that? 

JOAN WALSH, SALON.COM:  Mike, I guess I disagree with you.  I think Barack Obama has been doing that.  He‘s been doing it back to the Democratic primary, when, rather bravely, he would not come out for a gas tax holiday, unlike Hillary Clinton, who was sort of pandering.  Obama has done that.  It‘s McCain who is seizing on this very silly tire gauge idea.  I would like my tire gauge, because Obama happens to be right about it.  It does helps a little.  But Obama has said, we have to drive less.  We have to reduce our dependence on foreign oil. 

McCain is reduced, in this very sad campaign, to mocking Obama at every turn.  He obviously think that is what works. 

BARNICLE:  Michelle, do you disagree with me, too?  Please do. 

MICHELLE BERNARD, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  I do disagree with you, Mike.  I disagree with Joan a little bit too.  If the candidate were anyone but Barack Obama, I would have actually said that this was probably a very good campaign tactic for the McCain campaign.  The problem is that when you mock Barack Obama, he‘s so quick on his feet, he‘s so charismatic, and he always has a very effective rebuttal, no matter what the mockery is that you may be engaging in. 

That being said, Joan is right, Obama has talked about the fact the American public needs to be less reliant on foreign oil.  So has John McCain.  Both candidates though, I think, have dismally failed in really talking about what it will take to have a comprehensive energy plan.  They were both against offshore drilling.  We know that they both are now for offshore drilling.  But we also know that there‘s a place for Ethanol and other types of biofuels when we talk about a comprehensive energy plan.  We really need to hear the details about that. 

It is possible that maybe the reason they are not discussing it is, number one, the American public does not want to hear that they have to drive their cars less.  People don‘t want to hear about consumption by India and China and people more worried about the economy and national security.  Maybe that‘s the way you win a campaign. 

BARNICLE:  Let me ask the both of you this question and give the both of you another chance to disagree with me. 

WALSH:  All right. 

BARNICLE:  I found Barack Obama‘s suggestion, I believe earlier this week, to provide each American household with 1,000 dollars they would appropriate from the Exxon/Mobile profits, as listed, 11 billion dollars, their second quarter profits, whatever, round numbers, around there—I found that to be, that suggestion to be like the ultimate campaign stunt.  Joan? 

WALSH:  Well, he‘s been talking about this for months.  It‘s not just around the Exxon/Mobile earnings announcement. 

BARNICLE:  Joan, excuse me for interrupting, but let me ask you a question.  Why not take money from banks that make money, when they were making money?  Why not take money from Home Depot when they were making money.  The idea that he‘s putting in people‘s minds, I would think some people, is that profit is a bad word.  Do you think profit is a bad word? 

WALSH:  No, I don‘t think profit is a bad word.  I run a business, Mike.  I believe in profit.  I think it‘s very clear to the American people that we have had two oil men in the White House.  We have had an oil cartel in the White House and the only segment of the economy that seems to be doing really well is the oil companies.  I think it‘s a smart thing politically to link those things.  Of course, it‘s not—I don‘t want to be simplistic and I don‘t think he‘s being simplistic.  But I think it‘s fine and I think it‘s actually brave to say look, the oil companies can step up and help Americans get through the summer—it will be next year -get through the winter, pay their heating bills.  I think it‘s a great place to draw from. 

BARNICLE:  I want Harvard to pay my kids tuition, because they have like a 500 billion dollar endowment. 

WALSH:  They are starting to do that, as a matter of fact, Mike.  But they have money. 

BARNICLE:  Michelle, you take a shot at me. 

BERNARD:  Mike, I completely agree with you.  I disagree with Joan on this point.  I think it‘s fool hearty to blame all of the nation‘s problems on Exxon/Mobile or on any oil company. 

WALSH:  And he‘s not.

BERNARD:  When you go with this populous message that we‘ve heard from many Democrats over the years of sort of being Robin Hood and stealing from the rich to give to the poor, what you‘re also telling to the people who are the engine of the economy is that we‘re going to shut you down.  We‘re going to put you in the position where you are unable to give people jobs, to help grow our economy.  That‘s a serious problem.  Unfortunately, or fortunately for some, maybe it is a campaign tactic that works.  Overall, I think Barack Obama is going to have to change his message.  Exxon/Mobile is not the problem—is not causing the problems that our nation is facing right now. 

BARNICLE:  Joan, you are shaking your head.  You have 30 seconds. 

WALSH:  We found that in 2000 when Al Gore went out with a populous message, he did better in the polls.  I think a smart populous message that does not demonize, that it is not anti-profit, but really talks about the hard choices we have to make, is going to sell in this economy.  I think Barack Obama is right to do it.  I think it‘s very smart. 

BARNICLE:  Joan Walsh, Michelle Bernard, thanks very much.  Join us again tomorrow night at 5:00 and 7:00 eastern for more HARDBALL.  We‘ll see you then.

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

END   

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