updated 7/7/2009 9:44:07 AM ET 2009-07-07T13:44:07

Guests: Andrea Mitchell, Chris Jansing, Bertha Coombs, Jay Newton-Small, Mark McKinnon, Ross Douthat, Dennis Zine, Howard Fineman, Pat Buchanan

LAWRENCE O‘DONNELL, GUEST HOST:  Sarah Palin sets off her own 4th of July fireworks.

Let‘s play HARDBALL.

Good evening.  I‘m Lawrence O‘Donnell, sitting in for Chris Matthews in New York.  Leading off tonight: What‘s next for Sarah Palin?  It‘s been three days since the Sarah Palin bombshell, that rambling speech in which she announced that she was leaving office later this month.  So what happens now?  Is Palin quitting because she‘s decided you can‘t run for president from Juneau, Alaska?  Is she leaving ahead of some yet to be announced scandal?  Does she want to make the big money now—the speeches, writing books, and maybe hosting a TV show—or was she just sick of it all?

We have a great line-up of guests on this story tonight, including NBC‘s Andrea Mitchell, who‘s going to be joining us live from downtown Wasilla, Texas—Wasilla, Alaska, and from Texas, Republican strategist Mark McKinnon, who worked with Palin on her vice presidential campaign.

Plus: Hundreds of thousands are expected to jam the streets of Los Angeles tomorrow for Michael Jackson‘s memorial service.  That means crowd control, that means cops, and that means money, lots of money.  How is a state that is so broke that it is now paying its workers with IOUs going to afford all of this?  We‘ll get the latest from NBC‘s Chris Jansing.

And we‘ll look back on the life of Robert McNamara, President Kennedy‘s controversial defense secretary, who in the 1960s defended and prosecuted the Vietnam war.  McNamara died today at the age of 93.

But we begin with Sarah Palin.  NBC‘s Andrea Mitchell is live in Wasilla, Alaska, and “Time” magazine‘s Jay Newton-Small is joining us from Anchorage, Alaska.  Andrea and Jay, I think we will never forget where we were when we first heard Governor Palin announce that she was going to leave office.

Let‘s listen to what she had to say on Friday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. SARAH PALIN (R-AK), FMR VICE PRESIDENTIAL CND:  I‘m determined to take the right path for Alaska, even though it is unconventional and it‘s not so comfortable.  With this announcement that I‘m not seeking reelection, I‘ve determined it‘s best to transfer the authority of governor to Lieutenant Governor Parnell, and I am willing to do this so that this administration, with its positive agenda and its accomplishments and its successful road to an incredible future for Alaska—so that it can continue without interruption and with great administrative and legislative success.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  Andrea, you and Jay obviously ran for the airport as soon as you heard that to get yourselves up to Alaska.  It was hard to make sense of it on Friday when I was listening to it.  What have you learned since then that will make any more sense of this story?

ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC CORRESPONDENT:  I think that she was really getting beaten up here in Alaska.  When you talk to people, she was losing important battles to the state legislature.  She couldn‘t even get a cabinet nominee confirmed, which was unprecedented, because the Democrats who had been her allies before because she was beating up on Republicans, had, of course, abandoned her after the very tough presidential campaign, the vice presidential campaign, where she was really the attack dog for her running mate.  And then the Republicans had long disliked her because she went up against the status quo.

And you know, she saw nothing to gain from this.  She had more than $500,000 piled up in legal bills.  There‘s a legal defense fund.  I am persuaded that there is no, quote, “scandal shoe” to drop, at least based on what her lawyer and what the FBI is saying, that the blogosphere there has really been a little bit hyperventilating.

But the fact is, she can make a fortune on the lecture circuit, Lawrence, and with her book deal and with a talk show, let‘s say, and radio shows, even from Wasilla, you know, why go through this agony?  She is, I think, not going to be a viable candidate for national office based on her own Republican fund-raisers and supporters, but she can have a very good life.

O‘DONNELL:  Andrea, there was talk on the blogosphere about some scandal coming down the road, so much so that Palin‘s lawyer, after this story came out, issued a warning to the media, Don‘t fall for any of that stuff.  And it was a very, very unusual statement issued by the FBI in Alaska.  Let‘s listen to that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KRISTAN COLE, PALIN FRIEND:  For her to idly sit by and watch state resources be spent frivolously and for ethics complaints and in her mind are over the top and ridiculous—for her to watch those resources to be spent when they could be used for other things that the state does need to focus on, I think for her, she‘s that‘s just not her style.

TOM VAN FLEIN, PALIN ATTORNEY:  There is, in terms of a scandal or wrongdoing or anything she‘s embarrassed about, absolutely nothing.  There‘s no investigation of any type.  There‘s no ethics problems that have any merit.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  Andrea, those are the guests you had earlier today speaking about the Palin thing.  And the FBI statement we have, which was very unusual, which was put out today...

MITCHELL:  Right.

O‘DONNELL:  ... they usually do not comment on possible pending investigations, but they did say there was absolutely no truth to those rumors that we‘re investigating her or getting ready to indict her, Special Agent Eric Gonzalez said in a phone interview Saturday.

MITCHELL:  Right.

O‘DONNELL:  That is an unusual statement that does seem to have cleared up that.

Jay Newton-Small in Anchorage, is there any more information to be picked up there about how this decision was made and why?

JAY NEWTON-SMALL, “TIME” MAGAZINE:  Hey, Lawrence.  Well, look, she‘s gone completely MIA.  She‘s been out of pocket.  She‘s not—she‘s ignoring all media requests, and there‘s been a lot of media that has descended in the Anchorage/Wasilla area.  She‘s apparently gone on an annual family fishing trip, they call it fishing camp, and she‘s visiting villages in western Alaska, and she‘s not around.

But there‘s a lot of lawmakers here who‘ve been talking about how just miserable she‘s been, as Andrea was saying.  She‘s had a really, really tough session.  She‘s been really withdrawn ever since she‘s gotten back.  I‘ve had lawmakers say to me, She used to come down, she used to hang out in our offices, we used to talk about policy.  I haven‘t actually seen—laid eyes on her virtually this entire session for the last eight months.

She‘s been really sort of almost this, like, celebrity-esque, you know, like Michael Jackson kind of decamp (ph) and really retreat into this tiny little group of her closest friends and not really talk to many people that she used to speak to before.  And that‘s what—this sort of isolation she‘s been in in the last eight months is where she made her decision.  And the decision was really closely held, and it really was just amongst family members and a couple other people.  And she made a couple calls on Friday telling fund-raisers and others that she was going to make this announcement.

But—and really, I‘m told that it was an extension of her just thinking, OK, these are the reasons I‘m not going to run next year.  You know, I‘m not going to run in 2010 for reelection.  But why not start that right now?  She‘s already paid more than half a million dollars in legal fees for ethics complaints in the last five months or eight months.  If you look at the next 16 months, that means if you keep the same pace up, another million dollars that she‘d have to spend out of her own pocket, which is a lot of money for someone like her.

So I think the money was a factor and just her own personal sort of lifestyle.  She was really miserable commuting to Juneau four hours a day and she just really wasn‘t happy here.

O‘DONNELL:  The announcement was made when the holiday weekend was already under way.  I think a lot of HARDBALL viewers probably missed it.  Let‘s listen to more of what Governor Palin said on Friday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PALIN:  And I really don‘t want to disappoint anyone with this announcement, not—the decision that I have made.  All I can ask is that you trust me with this decision and know that it is no more politics as usual.  And some Alaskans, it seems today, maybe they don‘t mind wasting public dollars and state time, but I do.  And I cannot stand here as your governor and allow the millions of dollars and all that time go to waste just so that I can hold the title of governor.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  Andrea Mitchell, does her resignation stop the ethics investigations that have been swirling around her?

MITCHELL:  No, but 15 of the 16 have been dismissed.  So the only one remaining, according to her lawyer, is the investigation into the way she set up her legal defense fund, and they aren‘t taking that one too seriously.  They‘re defending against it, but they don‘t see a real problem there.

They don‘t see the legal jeopardy.  They really say that this was more about lifestyle, about the kids, and about seeing a future that, frankly, wasn‘t terribly appealing.  You know, certainly, a lot of critics here in both parties say that when she came back, she didn‘t like the nitty-gritty of going up against a suddenly resistant legislature, which certainly saw her now as the enemy because although she was very popular here before, her negatives have really risen in the polls.  She‘s about doubled the negatives in her polls.  Clearly, she took the partisan role as the vice presidential running mate, a very partisan role, and that created a lot of problems for her back at home.

O‘DONNELL:  Well, Andrea, you mentioned the polls, and she said that she polled her family, and they all kind of voted for resignation.  And that may be because a recent poll in Alaska found 54 percent approval rating for Governor Palin, which is good for most governors, but she was at 86 percent a year ago...

MITCHELL:  Right.

O‘DONNELL:  ... before she was chosen as John McCain‘s vice presidential nominee, some might say, Jay Newton-Small, victimized as John McCain‘s vice presidential nominee because that, it turned out, was a losing slot to go into last year.  Would she have been better off, looking back on her political career, now if she had just respectfully declined John McCain‘s interest?

NEWTON-SMALL:  Well, there are certainly some here in Alaska that say that they really wish she had declined John McCain‘s invitation.  She was so popular here.  She was getting more done in the last—in the first two sessions that she was governor here than many say had been done in 25 years.  She really took on oil and gas interests, for example, which hadn‘t been done in 25 years.  She helped to overhaul ethics—you know, ethics standards here.  She increased oil and gas standards—taxes here.  So I mean, this was, like, one of the most productive legislatures that she‘d had that had been had in a long time.

And then all of a sudden, she gets picked to go off onto the national stage and she comes back, and in comparison—you know, in the last year, she‘s introduced 12 bills.  Only one of them has passed.  You know, even Governor Murkowski, who at this point in his career—in his term—he was the last governor here in Alaska—he had had a 20 percent approval rating by this point in his term, and he passed 19 of his 39 bills in the third session.

So she was incredibly unproductive this session.  She was really at war with her legislature.  She spent more time actually fighting about the appointment of a state senator, trying to get it out of the hands of somebody who had criticized her on national TV.  It was almost this little vendetta that she spent, you know, nearly six weeks arguing with law (ph) members over than she actually did on any kind of legislation.  It really was this—you know, this almost do-nothing congress here in Alaska for the last eight months.

O‘DONNELL:  Well, keep digging, Andrea and Jay.

MITCHELL:  And Lawrence, you know...

O‘DONNELL:  Andrea, go ahead.

MITCHELL:  Yes, I was just going to say very quickly that I talked to one of her advisers from the campaign, who said her problem was that she didn‘t know what she didn‘t know, and that she never should have said yes.  But you have to ask why John McCain offered it to her because he‘d barely met her.  And the advisers had come up here.  She was enormously popular.  But she would have a very different life, probably not all this money, but a very different life had—political career ahead if she‘d remained in Alaska.

O‘DONNELL:  Well, keep digging and find out what the next move is on this story.  Thank you, Andrea Mitchell and Jay Newton-Small.

Coming up, you betcha we‘re going to talk more about Sarah Palin.  Is she completely out of the game?

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PALIN:  We have a good, positive agenda for Alaska.  Take the words of General MacArthur.  He said, We are not retreating, we are advancing in another direction.  So with that, I‘m going to hand this over to our good lieutenant governor.  And again, I say thank you and God bless you, Alaska.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  That was Governor Sarah Palin on Friday declaring that she‘s not retreating.  It‘s one thing to not run for a second term, but why quit now?  Why quit the governorship?  Let‘s look at some possibilities with “New York Times” columnist Ross Douthat and Dailybeast.com contributor Mark McKinnon, who‘s a former campaign adviser to George W. Bush and John McCain and Sarah Palin.

Guys, before we get into the questions, I want to let you hear one more thing that Sarah Palin had to say on Friday.  She gave a basketball analogy to explain her decision.  Let‘s listen to that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PALIN:  Let me go back quickly to a comfortable analogy for me and that‘s sports, basketball.  And I use it because you are naive if you don‘t see a full-court press from the national level picking away right now a good point guard.  Here is what she does.  She drives through a full-court press, protecting the ball, keeping her head up because she needs to keep her eye on the basket, and she knows exactly when to pass the ball so that the team can win.  And that is what I‘m doing, keeping our eye on the ball.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  Mark McKinnon, you know Sarah Palin.  Why does a good point guard, after making a nice play like that on that pass, then quit at halftime and go home?

MARK MCKINNON, THEDAILYBEAST.COM:  Lawrence, first of all, I‘m glad to see that HARDBALL‘s trading up on its talent.  You‘re somebody who‘s written some fiction about—for television about politics, and it‘s hard to write scenarios like this.

O‘DONNELL:  It is.

MCKINNON:  It‘s just fascinating.  First of all, let me clarify my role.  I pledged to John McCain when I joined him in the primary election, which I had volunteered my time for, that I would leave the campaign in the general election in the improbable circumstances that both he and Barack Obama were the general election nominees, which I did.

I was called in September, about five days out from the debate, from the campaign saying, Would you please come in and help run the debate prep for Sarah Palin?  I said, No, I can‘t do it.  And they pled with me to come down and do that, and I said, Listen, what I will do is I‘ll come down for the very first session.  I‘ll do some basic debate prep, debate techniques 101, but will not participate in discussions about attack strategies for Obama.  So I did that.

So my totality of experience and intersection with Sarah Palin was three hours.  But it was a fascinating three hours because at that point, a week out, she was terribly vulnerable, knew that she wasn‘t prepared, and frankly, I thought it was going to be a disaster.  But she said she wasn‘t going to let John McCain down and she showed her moxie and a competitiveness.  And five days later, when I turned on the debate that night for (INAUDIBLE) from Austin, Texas, I was really surprised that she had risen to the challenge and she exceeded expectations.  Gather (ph) they were low.

But Ross had a great column today and he raised a couple really interesting points.  One is he said that she should have said no.  And it‘s really interesting—it would have been interesting to see where she would have ended up had she just been able to be governor for one or two terms and evolve naturally because she does have great natural tools and instincts and raw talent.

The second thing is that so much about Sarah Palin really is about class.  And I see people attacking her because she went to five colleges and those sort of things.  There‘s a lot of people out in America that are disenfranchised, that didn‘t get through college, and think that she‘s a great success story.

And so I think that, you know, maybe Andrea said it best earlier, in the earlier.  You know, she‘s going to have a very good life now, no matter what she does, and she‘s going to be a player and it‘s going to be fascinating to watch where it goes.

O‘DONNELL:  All right, let‘s consider the possible reasons.  There‘s a lot of reasons floating around about why she decided to quit the governorship.  Ross, let‘s start with possibility number one on why she quit.  She wants to run for president full-time, run for president in 2012, starting now full-time.  What do you make of that one?

ROSS DOUTHAT, “NEW YORK TIMES” COLUMNIST:  Well, I think you have to give Sarah Palin the benefit of the doubt, to some extent.  She didn‘t say anything in her somewhat rambling remarks the other day about running for president.  And in fact, the emphasis seemed to be entirely on what your guests were talking about in the last segment, the fact that Alaska politics has become kind of overwhelming for her, she can‘t be an effective governor while she‘s barraged by ethics complaints and while the national media is paying attention to everything she does.  And so in a sense, you know, you can see the logic for her stepping aside and you can see the logic, certainly, from her personal point of view.

A lot of people questioned her decision to accept the role of John McCain‘s running mate when she has a baby, she has a daughter with a baby, and so on, you know, and maybe you could argue that this is her sort of coming to her senses and realizing this isn‘t the time for her to be in the spotlight.  If she does think that this is the best way to run for president in 2012, I think she‘s almost certainly mistaken.

I think the difficulty for Palin right now is that—you know, there was a Pew poll of prominent Republicans a little while ago, and it showed that Palin was both one of the most disliked and one of the most popular Republican politicians in the country.  She had approval and disapproval ratings that were just about even.

And the trick for Palin is to convince some of the people who don‘t like her right now that she‘s ready to be president.  And it‘s hard to see how she does that if she isn‘t holding some kind of elective office, at least in the next couple years. 

The obvious way to sort of burnish her credentials was to go back to Alaska and succeed as governor.  She isn‘t going to do that.  And, so, it‘s not clear to me what could happen in the next two years that would get her over that hump of people who think she‘s ready for the highest office in the land. 

O‘DONNELL:  Mark McKinnon, you‘re a presidential campaign strategist.  Do you know another—or any—presidential campaign strategist who would have advised the governor to do this as step one of a 2012 presidential campaign? 

MCKINNON:  No.

(LAUGHTER)

MCKINNON:  I don‘t think so. 

But, you know, she‘s unconventional.  And the fun thing about politics is that we‘re constantly surprised.  And—and—and she‘s fascinating because she is so unconventional. 

I—but I think that, in—in many ways, she‘s going to discover that she‘s, A, going to have a lot more fun, but maybe have a lot more leverage not being a candidate.  I mean, the different platforms that are now available for her to have an impact on the process are multiple and interesting and lucrative. 

So, she may just decide that she can—she can have a greater impact on the 2012 Republican presidential process playing from outside the curtain, rather than—than being on stage. 

O‘DONNELL:  All right. 

MCKINNON:  And...

O‘DONNELL:  Let‘s consider possibility number two, which is simply that the governor is sick of what she‘s been through since that day she got that phone call from John McCain.  She‘s burnt out.  She‘s tired of this.  She‘s done with it.  She wants out.  She wants to go civilian.  She wants to make the money. 

Ross, how does that one sound? 

DOUTHAT:  I—I mean, it sounds pretty plausible to me. 

If—you know, you guys were talking earlier about how there have been 16 ethics complaints filed against her as governor.  Fifteen of them have been dismissed.  I mean, people talked about how the Clintons were being hunted in the 1990s by their political opponents. 

Sarah Palin has become, as a politician, a lightning rod for both people in Alaska and people around the country.  And you can imagine her—you know, again, she‘s got five kids.  She‘s got a baby.  She‘s got a daughter with a baby.  You can imagine her being burned out by all of this, burned—tired of the legal bills, and ready to get out and have a little more fun. 

And one thing to keep in mind, too, is, she‘s 45 years old.  If she ran for president at the same age that Hillary Clinton just ran for president, she would be running—you know, I‘m not going to get the math right—but it‘s either in the 2020 or the 2024 presidential election.  So, there‘s plenty of time for her to have some kind of a political future.

And the one thing Palin really has going for her is, a third of the country loves her.  And they‘re going to continue to love her, even though she‘s resigned the governorship of Alaska.  And that‘s more than almost any other person in the Republican Party right now can say. 

You know, if you—if you went back to that—that convention in 2008, and you looked at the other potential running mates for John McCain, Tim Pawlenty, Mitt Romney, these guys spoke the same day that Sarah Palin accepted the nomination.

And, you know, Sarah Palin has—she‘s got electric stuff, when—you know, when she has maybe the right person writing a speech for her, and -- and the right crowd and so on, in a way that few politicians on—in the Republican Party do. 

O‘DONNELL:  All right.  Let‘s listen to a little bit more of the electric stuff she came up with on Friday. 

MCKINNON:  Hey, that‘s...

(LAUGHTER)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. SARAH PALIN ®, ALASKA:  ... comes after much consideration, prayer and consideration.

And, finally, I polled the most important people in my life, my kids, where the count was unanimous.  Well, in response to asking, hey, you want me to make a positive difference and fight for all our children‘s future from outside the governor‘s office, it was four yeses and one hell yeah.  And the hell yeah sealed it. 

And, someday, I will talk about the details of that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  The possibility number three is that Sarah Palin wants to go back to her first love, television. 

She wants to jump back into this game.  She used to be a local newsperson in Alaska.  And there‘s a lot of rumors saying she‘s going to jump into some kind of talk show, possibly like this, hosting it. 

Here is what Rush Limbaugh had to say today about that possibility. 

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)  

RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST:  All I know is that—is this.  If Sarah Palin has any desire to do a TV show, to do speeches, to raise money, to do money—or earn money, whatever it‘s for, if she has any desire for a future, be it in politics, in media, or whatever, she‘s going to have to do it in the lower 48.  She cannot do it in Alaska. 

It‘s not going to get it done.  I don‘t think this precludes her running for office down the road, the presidency in 2012, at all.  I think these people saying that she‘s an instant target because she quit is just - that‘s just inside-the-beltway formulaic.  And she‘s not that. 

(END AUDIO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  Mark McKinnon, do you think the bidding war is already under way with the television networks about who is going to land Sarah Palin? 

MCKINNON:  Oh, absolutely.  You can count on it.   TV, book, all kinds of offers are pouring in. 

You know, but she—she just went through—I mean, she‘s just been microwaved, politically, what she went through in the last 10 months.  And it‘s clear that she wasn‘t ready, and she got thrown in the deep end too early. 

And—but I think that, at the bottom of this, she just wants to step out and step back, and—and—and take some time to really plan out what the next steps are going to be.  But—but the opportunities are endless. 

And I—listen, Rush Limbaugh has a great instinct for that audience, for his audience.  And, as Ross was saying earlier, there‘s 30 percent or more of the country, and a—it‘s a majority, a slim majority, of Republicans who think that Sarah Palin hung the moon.  And so she‘s going to have a substantial career ahead of her, whatever she decides to do. 

O‘DONNELL:  OK, thank you, Ross Douthat and Mark McKinnon. 

Up next: the death of a political icon about whom everybody had an opinion. 

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O‘DONNELL:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

This morning, we learned that we lost one of the most influential and controversial figures in the history of American foreign policy. 

Former Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara died today in his Washington, D.C., home.  McNamara will go down in the history books as the chief architect of the Vietnam War under Presidents Kennedy and Johnson. 

As defense secretary, he directed a massive buildup of troops in Vietnam, setting the stage for the most divisive war of the 20th century.  McNamara later admitted that military action in Vietnam was a mistake, telling the Associated Press in 1995 -- quote—“We of the Kennedy and Johnson administrations acted according to what we thought were the principles and traditions of our country.  But we were wrong.  We were terribly wrong.”

How wrong?  Fifty-eight thousand one hundred and seventy-eight dead Americans. 

In 2004, McNamara came on HARDBALL.  And Chris asked him to compare Vietnam to the war in Iraq. 

Here is what he said. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, JANUARY 7, 2004)

ROBERT MCNAMARA, FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE:  ... military action. 

Therefore, today, I believe that we must recognize the desire of the - of the Iraqi people to—to support nationalism, and we must help them do so, which means we must turn over the government to them as fast as we can. 

I think that‘s the U.S. policy today.  I hope it is. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  McNamara followed his tenure in the Defense Department with 12 years as president of the World Bank, where he dedicated himself to increasing aid to poorer nations. 

He continued working on issues of global development and nuclear disarmament through his retirement. 

Robert McNamara was 93 years old.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERTHA COOMBS, CNBC CORRESPONDENT:  I‘m Bertha Coombs with your CNBC “Market Wrap.”

Stocks ending the day mixed, as last week‘s dismal jobs report continued to nag investors—the Dow Jones gaining 44 points, as investors snatched up bargains on a few consumer staples names, after a morning sell-off.  The S&P 500 picked up two points, but the Nasdaq was off by nine. 

A favorable report in the U.S. service sector did help turn things around this afternoon, a reading of 47 showing that the sector is still slowing, but at a slower-than-expected pace.  The service sector accounts for about 80 percent of the U.S. economy. 

Oil prices tumbled more than 3 percent, to $64 a barrel, on worries that the economic recovery could be slower than previously anticipated, as unemployment rises. 

And comments from Vice President Joe Biden over the weekend also fueled investor concerns.  Biden says the administration—quote—

“misread” the depth of economic troubles inherited from the previous administration, but stood by the $787 billion economic stimulus package. 

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

HARDBALL. 

O‘DONNELL:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

Winners of the 17,000 seats to Michael Jackson‘s memorial service began picking up their tickets today, and hundreds of thousands are expected to descend on downtown Los Angeles tomorrow. 

NBC‘s Chris Jansing is outside the Staples Center.  And she will be anchoring MSNBC‘s coverage of Michael Jackson‘s memorial service beginning tomorrow at 11:00 a.m. Eastern. 

Chris, there were some developments in the courtroom today on the estate. 

Let‘s go over those before we get to what‘s going to happen tomorrow. 

What—what was the outcome today in court? 

CHRIS JANSING, NBC CORRESPONDENT:  Yes, I think that is significant, because we have all seen, in the aftermath of the death of Michael Jackson, just how valuable his estate had become.  He was $500 million in debt, it‘s estimated, but, already, his record sales have gone through the roof. 

The whole idea of marketing his image and likeness is worth millions, probably tens of millions, of dollars just in the coming months alone.  So, the two people who were named as executors of the estate, both longtime friends, one a lawyer, one a music executive, went to court to say, this is something that needs to be handled right now. 

In the interim, Katherine Jackson, his mother, had been essentially overseeing all the decision-making.  The judge agreed that, at least in the short term, those two men, longtime friends of Michael Jackson, one of whom negotiated probably his most brilliant deal, which was for the—part of the Sony music catalogue, would, indeed, be taking control of it, again, at least in the short term. 

What the Jackson family has said is, they don‘t have objections to these people, per se.  They just want to make sure that they sort of preserve this legacy.  So, I think they‘re going to be continuing ongoing negotiations from both sides about how best to do that.

But the judge did decide today to go with those two executors, who will be controlling his estate, until there‘s another court hearing in early August—Lawrence.

O‘DONNELL:  Chris, the LAPD knows that there are 17,000 ticket-holders on their way to the Staples Center tomorrow.  What are—how are they making their estimates about what else is going to happen downtown?  How many other people who know they can‘t get into the Staples Center are still going to show up? 

JANSING:  Yes.  Not only can they not get into the Staples Center, Lawrence; they can‘t even get into this perimeter. 

You have been to plenty of political conventions.  It‘s going to be like that.  You, with—if you don‘t have the wristband and you don‘t have a ticket, you can‘t even get in within blocks. 

But I will tell you already, just to give you an indication, behind me, there‘s a line of people.  I got here early this morning, the crack of dawn.  All day long, there‘s been a line of people who want to sign this billboard to Michael Jackson.  They have already taken one down.  There was no more room to sign. 

They have put another one up.  There does seem to be this just outpouring for Michael Jackson and people who want to be in proximity to him. 

How do they make their—their guesses?  I mean, I think part of it is how many people went online, 1.6 million, who wanted tickets.  They‘re looking at how many people are booking hotels in this area and in the outlying area.  They have been talking to airlines, how many people are flying in.  They‘re estimating anywhere from 100,000 upwards of 750,000 people, they think, could try to come to Los Angeles, even though—and we can‘t state this enough—you‘re not going to be get—be able to get within blocks of the Staples Center if you don‘t have a ticket and you don‘t have a wristband. 

So, I think we‘re going to see they‘re going to have plenty of security here to make sure that everything goes smoothly.  So far, things have gone very, very well, both here around the Staples Center and over at Dodger Stadium, where they were handing out tickets and wristbands to the people who were lucky enough to win that lottery. 

O‘DONNELL:  Well, thank you, Chris Jansing.  You are going to be guiding us through this tomorrow. 

Michael Jackson‘s memorial is expected to cost Los Angeles taxpayers at least $2.5 million to control the crowds around the Staples Center. 

And now L.A. Councilman Dennis Zine, would like the Jackson family to foot some of that bill. 

Dennis Zine is joining us on the phone from Los Angeles now. 

Councilman Zine, why should the Jackson family be paying for police protection on a ceremony that is a—a mourning and funeral ceremony? 

DENNIS ZINE, LOS ANGELES CITY COUNCILMAN:  We have a number of funerals, memorial services throughout the city of Los Angeles.  Never do we need to bring in over 2,000 police officers and all of the detail that‘s being put into this to make it safe, secure. 

The Jackson family—and our sympathies extend to the Jackson family and all the fans of Michael Jackson—but, more than the Jackson family, it‘s AEG entertainment.  They are the promoters.  They‘re the ones who are going to do this concert.  They‘re the ones who operate Staples.  They‘re the ones who need to put up the dollars for a city that is over $530 million in debt, a state that‘s issuing IOUs, a city that‘s giving furloughs to our employees and pink slips. 

We don‘t have the funds to cover this massive operation of security, not only security for the crowd and traffic control, but security for terrorists, security for people who know this is going to be a worldwide broadcast.  And, if someone wants to make a statement, look at the audience they may have. 

O‘DONNELL:  Councilman Zine...

ZINE:  We need to be safe and secure. 

(CROSSTALK)

O‘DONNELL:  Councilman Zine, is there any legal way you could oblige the Staples Center or the Jackson family to help pay for this? 

ZINE:  I met with our city attorney (INAUDIBLE) -- our new city attorney in Los Angeles, who is focusing on this with his administration, his staff, to look at the legal ramifications.  If you were to have an event at Staples—say you were going to have a concert, say you‘re going to have an exhibition, say you‘re going to have a boxing match with famous boxers, and there was security necessary, AEG Entertainment Staples would pay for that. 

This is not what we would consider a normal memorial service or funeral.  This has become a worldwide event, where a lot of people who make a lot of money off of Mr. Jackson—God bless the man.  He was an incredible entertainer.  And at the same time, we need to provide security, but the cost needs to be borne by the AEG Entertainment Group.  They‘re the ones who are going to be marketing this particular event.  They‘re the ones who are going to be marketing the rehearsal.  They‘re talking about making a movie out of it. 

So why should the taxpayers of the city of Los Angeles be burdened with this extreme cost when we don‘t have the dollars to put forth in the first place?  So I‘m calling for AEG Entertainment and the Jackson family to encourage them to do this. 

Let me mention one more thing.  We were notified late Thursday that they had selected the venue of Staples Center.  Late Thursday.  Friday was a holiday.  Saturday was the Fourth of July.  Sunday was a holiday.  Monday everyone is back to work.  But over the days when everyone was on vacation, days off, we had people working to put this together. 

Clearly, AEG, the Jackson family should help with security. 

O‘DONNELL:  Thank you L.A. City Councilman Dennis Zine.  Join MSNBC tomorrow for coverage of the Michael Jackson Memorial, starting at 11:00 AM Eastern. 

Up next, Governor Sarah Palin‘s resignation provided the political fire work this is Fourth of July.  But is she really planning a presidential bid?  Howard Fineman and Pat Buchanan will place their bets right here on HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICHARD NIXON, FMR. PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Last point.  I leave you gentlemen now, and you will now write it; you will interpret it; that‘s your right.  But as I leave you, I want you to know just think how much you‘re going to be missing.  You don‘t have Nixon to kick around anymore, because, gentlemen, this is my last press conference. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  Pat Buchanan is joining us now, a young Nixonite in those days.  Pat, that was the saddest day of your life, November 7th, 1962.  I know it was.  Your hero just quitting the ring, walking away, won‘t have him to kick around anymore. 

How did you feel on Friday?  Was that the second saddest day of your political life, watching the great heroine of Alaska, your favorite Sarah Palin, walk away from the governorship? 

PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Well, there was an element of sadness, no doubt about it.  I think she‘s been beat up very, very badly, her family has.  She feels it.  You have these ethics charges, which are phony.  As we just heard, 16 out of 17 thrown out, but it‘s cost her half a million bucks.

And I think she had just had enough, and she wanted to retreat for a while.  But I do believe, just like that Nixon press conference which—

Howard K. Smith that Friday had Alger Hiss out on the show, the political obituary of Richard Nixon.  Six years later, we walked into the White House. 

I think this, too, will pass for Sarah Palin.  I don‘t think she‘s given up the idea of running for president.  And I think if she conducts herself well, this will be forgotten, and it certainly won‘t be held against her by those folks in the country who really have a lot of love and loyalty for her. 

O‘DONNELL:  Joining us now Howard Fineman, “Newsweek Magazine” and MSNBC political analyst.  Howard, Richard Nixon had evil geniuses like Pat Buchanan around him to mastermind his return to power six years later, and then his incredible 49 state re-election campaign ten years after saying you don‘t have me to kick around anymore. 

Who are the evil geniuses around Sarah Palin who can guide her from here to the presidency? 

HOWARD FINEMAN, “NEWSWEEK MAGAZINE”:  Well, I‘m not sure she has any geniuses, evil or otherwise, but she could do worse than get a young, deeply informed editorial writer off a newspaper somewhere, which is what Pat was at the time, who really understands the issues.  The problem with Sarah Palin, among other things, she‘s being accused of being a quitter.  She‘s being accused of not even being able to stand the cold kitchen of Alaska.  So how could she stand the national spotlight? 

But I agree with Pat.  As—I wrote a web piece in which I said I have covered a lot of presidential candidates, a lot of people.  I know when somebody is running for president.  And I think Sarah Palin thinks that she‘s got a shot, and she‘s going to make some money, try to get her head on straight, and give it a shot. 

She‘s very popular at the conservative grassroots of the party.  But she needs an education.  She‘s got Bill Kristol here in Washington who is a friend of hers and a fan, Bill Bennett, Mary Madeleine.  She‘s got some people.  But she has really got to study and learn the issues.  And she doesn‘t yet know them. 

O‘DONNELL:  We have two bets that she may be headed for a campaign for higher office.  But she‘s up against history now, Howard and Pat, because her name comes at the end of the following list, Henry Cabot Lodge, Bill Miller, Edmund Musky, Sergeant Shriver, losing vice presidential candidates, Robert Dole, Walter Mondale, Geraldine Ferraro, the forgettable Lloyd Benson, the unforgettable Dan Quayle, and, of course, Jack Kemp, Joe Lieberman, John Edwards.  Who did we forget? 

BUCHANAN:  Franklin D. Roosevelt, 1920 --

O‘DONNELL:  No, here‘s my point, Pat.  In the television age of campaigning, which began in 1960 -- in the television age, we are vicious to losers in this country.  We do not want to hear from you again.  Not one person who‘s held the vice presidential slot in the campaign and lost, in the television age, has ever made it to higher office.  Go ahead, Pat.  Tell me how she‘s going to get there.

BUCHANAN:  Richard Nixon lost as presidential candidate in 1960.  He had been vice president and ran for president, lost in ‘62 and came back and won the presidency twice, and 49 states. 

It is a tough road.  I will say this, I think she could conceivably—because look, there‘s enormous loyalty and love for her in the party.  I can see her blowing out the conservative side in the caucuses in Iowa and the Iowa straw poll, and having one other candidate to run against, down to the finals.  I can see her conceivable getting the nomination. 

It is very hard, I agree, seeing her getting a majority of the moderate vote and liberal Republicans and bringing them aboard.  That‘s a very, very big mountain for her to climb. 

I think Howard‘s right.  She really needs to study.  She needs young people with her on the issues everyday and two or three really good writers.  Then campaign in year 2010 for every Republican, 2009.  Come on down to Virginia.  Go through Virginia, south of Fredericksburg.  If that guy wins there, I think you‘re back and you‘re in the game. 

Does it mean you win?  No, it means you‘re in the game.  Quite frankly, she‘d be one of the two or three favorites.

O‘DONNELL:  Howard Fineman, who among Republican candidates out there in the country, running statewide, is going to want possibly the Republican politician with the highest negative?  Sarah Palin has a negative of about 44 right now nationally.  Why would she be welcome in to statewide campaigns to try to help people out? 

FINEMAN:  Well, I think in low turnout midterm elections, Lawrence, you want to get your base out.  And there was a Pew Poll out I think just the other day showing that among Evangelical Christians, among Republican conservatives, she has a phenomenal approval rating. 

Now, I don‘t think she can win the nomination, let alone the general election.  But I think in terms of appealing to that base, she is gangbusters right now.  And she has the additional star power of the fact that the national media, all the wise guys and gals, totally dismiss her.  With a certain segment of the American public, there‘s no greater credential than that. 

O‘DONNELL:  We‘ll be back with Howard Fineman and Pat Buchanan for more of the politics fix.  You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. PETER KING ®, NEW YORK:  This guy was a pervert.  He was a child molester.  He was a pedophile.  To be giving this much coverage to him, day in and day out, what does it say about our country? 

There‘s nothing good about this guy.  May have been a good singer, did some dancing.  Bottom line is, would you let your child or grandchild be in the same room as Michael Jackson?  What are we glorifying him for?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  We‘re back with MSNBC political analysts Howard Fineman and Pat Buchanan.  That was New York Republican Congressman Peter King on Michael Jackson. 

Pat, what do you think?  Should Peter King be trying to score some political points on Michael Jackson at this point or stay quiet? 

BUCHANAN:  No, I don‘t think you really should.  Michael Jackson was controversial at the end of his life.  Had some problems.  But millions and millions of people, young people, love him for his music and everything.  And I think—I think you stay quiet at a time like this. 

You know, there‘s a great statement by Thomas Hart Benton, he said of an enemy who was very ill, when god almighty puts his hand on a man, I take mine off.  I think at times like this, people, if you don‘t like somebody, the best thing to do is be quiet. 

O‘DONNELL:  Howard Fineman, do you expect any other politicians to be trying to score a point here or there on Michael Jackson? 

FINEMAN:  I don‘t know, but Lawrence, that was the sound of the original Reagan Democrat speaking.  Those are the people who fled the city of New York after the ‘60s, and retreated to the suburbs and didn‘t like what they saw in the city, to put it somewhat euphemistically.  That‘s the voice that Peter King was speaking with when he gave his statement there.  And that‘s a type of voter that a lot of modern conservative politics was built on, quite frankly. 

O‘DONNELL:  Howard, Al Franken, senator-elect, less than 24 hours from being sworn in, appeared with Harry Reid today, made a very short statement, took no questions.  You‘ve been talking to him during this transition period from campaigner to appellant in court.  What do you expect of him as he gets sworn in tomorrow? 

FINEMAN:  I think he‘s going to be very serious, very shoulder to the wheel, very much focused on Minnesota, leaving the comedian behind.  And he‘s going to be boring as watching paint dry as he tries to get health care and energy legislation passed.  That‘s his strategy.  He‘s taking it seriously.  He‘s a very, very smart guy.  And I think he‘s going to work at keeping his profile low, just the way Hillary Clinton did when she first came into the Senate. 

O‘DONNELL:  Pat, are the Republicans going to let him do that or they going to taunt him? 

BUCHANAN:  No, I don‘t think they will.  I agree with Howard.  I think it would be very smart for him just to be a deadly serious guy.  And get the comedian, the wise acre, the mockery, get all that behind him, and become a United States senator.  And you can do that sort of thing pretty rapidly now.  And I think that would be my guess exactly what he‘s going to do.  It sounds like he‘s started. 

O‘DONNELL:  As Howard knows, he was a math major at Harvard, a very serious student there.  Howard and I have both seen his serious side in personal situations.  Howard, neither one of us is surprised by what we‘re seeing so far, right? 

FINEMAN:  No, I‘m not surprised, although it is pretty amazing.  I‘ve known him for 20 years.  I remember when he was running around in Iowa with a satellite uplink dish on his head, gathering material for “Saturday Night Live.”  It‘s an amazing world. 

O‘DONNELL:  We‘ve got to go.  Thank you, Howard Fineman, Pat Buchanan.  Join us tomorrow night at 7:00 Eastern for more HARDBALL.  Right now it‘s time for “THE ED SHOW” with Ed Schultz.

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

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