updated 7/8/2009 10:13:52 AM ET 2009-07-08T14:13:52

Guests: Andrea Mitchell, Jinah Kim, Toure, Courtney Hazlett, Roger Simon, Stephen A. Smith, Sheila Jackson Lee, Tricia Rose, Tim Grieve, David Korn

LAWRENCE O‘DONNELL, GUEST HOST:  In Los Angeles, the world says goodbye to Michael Jackson, while, in Alaska, Sarah Palin talks about her political future.

Let‘s play HARDBALL. 

Good evening.  I‘m Lawrence O‘Donnell, sitting in for Chris Matthews, here in New York. 

Leading off: remembering Michael Jackson. 

It was surely the biggest, the most extravagant and the most watched showbiz memorial service in history.  Thousands packed the Staples Center in Los Angeles.  Millions more watched on TV and on video screens around the country and across the globe, as the world said goodbye to Michael Jackson. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BERRY GORDY, MOTOWN FOUNDER:  In fact, the more I think and talk about Michael Jackson, I feel the king of pop is not big enough for him.  I think he is simply...

(CHEERING)

GORDY:  I think he is simply the greatest entertainer that ever lived. 

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  To the unanimous approval of the audience in the Staples Center, Jackson was repeatedly called the greatest entertainer who ever lived. 

Our guests tonight will talk about what made Michael Jackson such a popular and enduring figure in American music and culture. 

And, this being HARDBALL, we will talk politics.  Our own Andrea Mitchell got an interview with Sarah Palin last night in Alaska.  And she will join us with the latest on the Palin saga. 

And while the world‘s eyes were on the Staples Center today, Al Franken raised his right hand and was sworn in as Minnesota‘s junior senator, the Democrats‘ 60th senator and the Senate‘s 100th senator. 

More on that later. 

But we begin with today‘s tribute to Michael Jackson. 

MSNBC‘s Courtney Hazlett was inside the Staples Center for today‘s memorial.

Courtney Hazlett, there‘s always a different feeling inside the building on these events than we can possibly convey through television cameras to people watching at home.  What was it like to be in there? 

COURTNEY HAZLETT, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT:  It was—it was truly magical.  There‘s no other way to put it.  I was very honored to be there, too.

One of the most striking moments to me came very early on, when there was literally almost a 15-minute period of silence.  We were waiting for—between acts, and there was some delay in getting some of the Jackson family guests seated. 

And, Lawrence, nobody spoke.  Nobody really moved.  It was—it was very solemn.  I have never seen so many people in one place just behave themselves, to tell you the truth. 

And then there was just an ebb and flow of emotions throughout the 90-minute event.  There were periods of times when, you know, you cried with the Jacksons.  And, obviously, that would be when Paris came forward and talked about her dad being the best dad there ever was.  And then there were lighter moments as well. 

And we heard stories that were just so human about eating fried chicken on the floor with Michael Jackson.  And we have been saying all along that one of the magical things about Michael is, he‘s a celebrity‘s celebrity, and you don‘t get to hear that very often. 

But, for 90 minutes, he transcended that, and was sort of a normal person, too.  I mean, the stories you heard were just so real and so human.  I don‘t think we have ever experienced that sort of connection with a celebrity, and especially with an icon like Michael Jackson. 

O‘DONNELL:  Courtney, as you mentioned, one of Michael Jackson‘s children spoke at the end of the memorial service.  Was that the first time that his daughter, Paris, has been heard speaking publicly? 

HAZLETT:  As far as I know, yes, it‘s the first time. 

I mean, for goodness‘ sakes, we have barely seen these children without some sort of head covering or mask on their face.  So, to hear her speak, in and of itself, was a huge surprise.  And then for her to say what she did about her dad, I was so—you know, I don‘t know her, and I‘m proud of her. 

What a brave, brave thing for a young woman like her to do, and just really put a period on the end of the sentence for what kind of father Michael Jackson was. 

Listen, kids don‘t put themselves out there like that unless they mean it. 

O‘DONNELL:  Let‘s...

HAZLETT:  To me, it means Michael Jackson was a good father.  And, so, let‘s just leave that where it is. 

And, as we have to turn the page after today and start making judgments and digging in deeper to the other, more serious parts of the story, that‘s fine.  But let‘s leave it at this.  He was a good father. 

O‘DONNELL:  Let‘s listen to what his daughter had to say today at the memorial service. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PARIS MICHAEL KATHERINE JACKSON, DAUGHTER OF MICHAEL JACKSON:  I just wanted to say...

JANET JACKSON, SISTER OF MICHAEL JACKSON:  Speak up, sweetheart. 

Speak up.

P. JACKSON:  ... ever since I was born, daddy has been the best father you could ever imagine.  And I just wanted to say I love him so much. 

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  Courtney, I have friends who live in Los Angeles whose children have actually had play dates with Michael Jackson‘s children.  And they report exactly what his daughter had to say today, that, in all of their observations of them as a family, that—that he was the great dad to these kids, and that‘s the way they looked at him every day. 

HAZLETT:  I think you‘re absolutely right, Larry.  And it‘s just so wonderful to hear that. 

And I was kind of trying to process this whole thing.  And I look back

I have been here for just about nine days now.  And I have been to the Neverland Ranch—Ranch.  I have been outside the Encino home.  I was at the Forest Lawn Cemetery last night, and I was inside the memorial today. 

And you would think, between that and growing up with Michael Jackson, and having—I got a white glove when I was a kid, and “Thriller” was the first tape I owned.  And I held hands in the alleged human chain around the world for “We Are the World.”

I didn‘t know Michael Jackson.  You know, you think you know these people, but, until you have a moment like this—and it‘s so, so rare—you realize you don‘t know these people who are on magazine covers, in your iPods, and just such a part of your fabric of—of your memory. 

And, so, I think all of that came together, especially for me today, and definitely for the hard-core fans who flew halfway around the world in some cases to be here today—Lawrence.

O‘DONNELL:  Thank you, Courtney Hazlett, joining us from Los Angeles.

Joining us now from the Staples Center in Los Angeles is NBC special correspondent Toure.  And professor Tricia Rose—she‘s a professor of African-American culture at Brown University—is also joining us.  She‘s also the author of “The Hip Hop Wars.” 

Toure, was there anything surprising to you in that memorial service today in the Staples Center?  There had been a lot of advanced word about who was going to be there, of—about how it was going to be handled.  But, as you watched it, as you went through every minute of it, what—what was the most moving moment—most moving moment and the most surprising elements of it for you? 

TOURE, MSNBC SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT:  Well, let me go backwards. 

The most surprising element—I think you just broke news, saying that Michael Jackson‘s children have play dates with friends of yours.  I didn‘t know that they had play dates with other real children. 

So, I mean, like, you just broke news, Lawrence.  But...

O‘DONNELL:  Well, I will tell you, they...

(CROSSTALK)

O‘DONNELL:  ... they have play dates.  Michael—Michael would go on play dates with them and visit other people‘s homes.  And—and kids would go to Michael‘s place.  And—and they were having play dates with...

(CROSSTALK)

TOURE:  Well, we didn‘t know any of that. 

O‘DONNELL:  They were having play dates with the normal kids of L.A.  all the time. 

TOURE:  You‘re—you‘re making news today.  Perhaps I should be interviewing you. 

(LAUGHTER)

TOURE:  I mean, you know, it was like a black Baptist church service.  I mean, and it was very Christian.  It was very—singing and exuberant, but solemn in the right way.  The tone was right, some fantastic performances. 

Stevie Wonder—you know, if you weren‘t crying after Stevie Wonder and Mariah, then you were crying after Jermaine and John Mayer, or you were crying certainly after Paris took the mike, as Courtney said.  That was amazing. 

You know, and the other side of Michael Jackson was not ignored, the side that, you know, the Peter Kings of the world want us to remember.  Al Sharpton, Reverend Sharpton, said, there is nothing strange about your daddy, addressing his three children.  What was strange about—what was strange is what your daddy had to deal with. 

That was perhaps the line of the day, right behind—right after Representative Jackson Lee saying, people are innocent in this country until they‘re proven otherwise. 

So, you know, you saw lighter moments, like Brooke Shields.  And—and Courtney talked about Magic Johnson talking about eating Kentucky Fried Chicken With Michael Jackson, and the more serious moments, some fantastic songs.  The tone was right. 

I mean, this was the perfect send-off, I think, for Michael Jackson.  And, if he‘s watching from heaven, he‘s like, oh, my God.  They did this so right, and the whole world is watching, and I‘m in the middle of Staples Center, you know, and this is the greatest thing ever. 

I mean, he was a showman.  And today was a big showman send-off. 

O‘DONNELL:  Professor Tricia Rose, you‘re author of “Hip Hop Wars.” 

Describe for us the influence Michael Jackson has had on African-American music, and, in particular, what‘s going on today.  When I listen to what the young African-American artists are pointing—putting out today, I can‘t see the linkage between the work Michael Jackson was doing in the ‘70s and ‘80s and what I‘m listening to now. 

Is there a linkage? 

TRICIA ROSE, AUTHOR, “THE HIP HOP WARS”:  Well, you know, a lot has changed, but there are some important continuities. 

For example, one of his most hallmark signatures, the moonwalk, was, in fact, an early break-dancing move, which he borrowed and, of course, made his own and brought, you know, extraordinary individual creativity to.  But he was constantly in communication and conversation with the next generation. 

I will say, though, that commercial hip-hop culture, what‘s in the mainstream, corporate-sponsored music, is really antithetical to what Jackson stood for.  It is—it is ultimately letting a certain kind of anger and loss of faith and hope describe the culture as a whole, when—when that‘s not generally true.  It‘s misogynistic.  It‘s not really focusing on love and justice, in the way that Michael stood for. 

So, in a way, I think there is a sadness, it seems to me, that looking at him in relationship to the current state of, say, commercial black radio, that he brings forth.  I‘m hoping that, with his death, that we will really renew ourselves and ask, well, what is music for?  And what kind of community do we want, not just, what do we have, what‘s the suffering, but how can we transcend that?

And Michael‘s whole life was about acknowledging pain, being compassionate, being in touch with people, but figuring out ways to transcend that individual suffering to communities around the world. 

O‘DONNELL:  Professor Rose, in his...

TOURE:  Lawrence, let me—let me—let me...

(CROSSTALK)

O‘DONNELL:  Go ahead, Toure.  Jump in there. 

TOURE:  Let me—let me piggyback on what professor Rose is saying.

I mean, everything she said is right.  That‘s why I have such admiration for her.  But there are musicological links between Michael and what Justin Timberlake is doing, what Beyonce is something, what R. Kelly is doing, what Chris Brown is doing. 

But, also, perhaps more importantly, is the business link, the economic link.  Michael Jackson understood very much the important of—importance of owning your own masters.  And we talk about the Beatles catalogue he owns.  He also owns all his own publishing with the Mijac catalogue, which is worth $100 million.  And that‘s very important within hip-hop, owning your own masters. 

And, of course, Michael Jackson broke the color barrier at MTV, forced

them to play his videos, becoming their Jackie Robinson.  And MTV would not

be what it is—or at least what it was back when they were playing videos

without...

ROSE:  That‘s right. 

TOURE:  ... the influence of all these black artists...

ROSE:  Right.  Right.  I mean...

(CROSSTALK)

O‘DONNELL:  Let‘s listen to what Motown founder...

TOURE:  ... as well as, of course, revolutionizing what you do with videos. 

O‘DONNELL:  Let‘s go to—we‘re going to go to a clip from the service today and what Motown founder Berry Gordy had to say about Michael. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BERRY GORDY, MOTOWN FOUNDER:  He was driven by his hunger to learn, to constantly top himself, to be the best.  He was the consummate student.  He studied the greats, and became greater.  He raised the bar, and then broke the bar. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  Professor Rose, in his death, we have discovered, through iTunes sales, that his popularity has surged in the last few days. 

Will—will—do you—there, you think, be an influence on hip-hop music and the—and the modern music now and the—the musicians by Michael Jackson‘s death, that they will take a look back and say, wait a minute, are we missing some of the things that we could be using, some of the influences from him? 

ROSE:  Right. 

O‘DONNELL:  Clearly, someone like John Legend has already been influenced by Michael Jackson.

ROSE:  Well...

O‘DONNELL:  But the—but the—the kind of harder-core hip-hop guys, are they going to soften up in any way in Michael Jackson‘s direction? 

(CROSSTALK)

ROSE:  Well, I mean, Toure‘s point is extremely important, which is that he already has a profound impact.  And you see it in all of the dancers and artists that he described. 

But the question that I think you‘re getting at speaks to this larger problem, which has to do with, what‘s our vision of who we are, and how do we sort of hold on to that, in the face of an industry that sometimes pays us more for selling out, or pays us more for articulating a vision of African-Americans that feeds the most vicious stereotypes that, for reasons I can‘t explain, remain profoundly profitable?

And Michael Jackson found a way to remain excellence—to main—excellence, to hit the bar, to break the bar, as Berry Gordy said, and not capitulate to that.  Now, you know, I‘m not saying he did not have his other struggles, but I—I‘m hoping that some of the incredibly talented hip-hop artists, R&B artists, new jazz musicians, come together and think about what we‘re doing as a culture and the role of artists in imagining community, because, if you really don‘t have a sense of where you want to go and what you‘re hoping for, you get stuck in representing your own suffering in a way that is self-destructive, unfortunately. 

O‘DONNELL:  Toure, do you see...

TOURE:  I mean, Lawrence, hip-hop...

O‘DONNELL:  Go ahead, Toure. 

TOURE:  You—your—you keep conflating sort of hip-hop and all modern music.  And there‘s a lot of different modern black music, R&B, you know, as well as hip-hop. 

I mean, hip-hop is not going to be looking to Michael Jackson for influence.  When Michael Jackson—when—when hip-hop was first coming up, you saw artists like LL Cool J dissing Michael Jackson as a way of sort of...

O‘DONNELL:  Right.  Right. 

TOURE:  ... establishing who they were, you know, because hip-hop is ultra-masculine, ultra-testosterone.  There‘s no sort of gray area. 

And Michael Jackson was much more of a complete human being, in that you saw him, and you saw little James Brown sort of alpha male, and then little Audrey Hepburn feminist.  So, I mean, he was sort of a complete human being, androgynous in very many ways. 

So, no, hip-hop is not looking to a Michael Jackson.  Hip-hop is much more looking to James Brown, Sly Stone, you know, perhaps even the political music of Marvin Gaye.  Michael Jackson had much more of the sensitivity that, you know, hip-hop is not looking to express. 

O‘DONNELL:  Thank you, Toure.

ROSE:  Yes, I have to...

O‘DONNELL:  Go ahead.  Tricia, go ahead quickly. 

ROSE:  I have to—I have to pipe in on this one.

O‘DONNELL:  Go ahead, quickly. 

ROSE:  I just have to pipe in quickly.

ROSE:  There‘s no doubt that hip-hop is not looking to Michael Jackson, but hip-hop has always articulated masculinity and femininity. 

Corporate mainstream hip-hop has really reduced the genre to that base simplicity.  And I think, if hip-hop is going to survive as a voice for a continued healthy community, it‘s going to have to look to Michael Jackson or someone like him. 

O‘DONNELL:  Toure and Tricia Rose, I have got to thank you both.  Your insights have been invaluable to our understanding of what we were watching inside the Staples Center today. 

Coming up, we will be back with more from Los Angeles.  We will be joined by Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, who spoke at today‘s memorial, and has introduced a resolution honoring Michael Jackson in the United States House of Representatives. 

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)  

STEVIE WONDER, MUSICIAN:  ... the moment that I wished I didn‘t live to see come.

But as much as I can say that and mean it, I do know that God is good. 

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) 

WONDER:  And I don‘t—I do know that, as much as we may feel—and we do—that we need Michael here with us, God must have needed him far more. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(MUSIC)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O‘DONNELL:  Lots of political news ahead on HARDBALL.

Sarah Palin tells NBC‘s Andrea Mitchell she‘s a fighter.  Andrea joins us for—with the latest from Alaska and what might be next for the soon-to-be-ex-Governor Palin.

HARDBALL returns right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SMOKEY ROBINSON, MUSICIAN:  I‘m glad I live in an era when I got a chance to see, what everybody has been coming up here saying, the greatest entertainer of all times. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

After today‘s moving tribute to Michael Jackson at the Staples Center, the Jackson family is holding a private event now at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel. 

NBC‘s Jinah Kim is there, and joins us now. 

Jinah, I assume this is for the VIPs and the family who were at the Staples Center to retreat to a—a more intimate location afterwards? 

JINAH KIM, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT:  That‘s right. 

It‘s a—it‘s a wake or a repast, if you will, just an opportunity for the family to get together after such a very public tribute.  You know, if the Staples Center was for the public‘s behalf, this was strictly for those who were closest to Michael Jackson, the family choosing to end what‘s no doubt been a very hectic, stressful and tiring day by surrounding themselves with those who knew Michael Jackson best. 

We‘re told Usher, Wesley Snipes, and Brooke Shields were seen going inside the Regent Beverly Wilshire, which is one of the most premier hotels here in Beverly Hills. 

Several hundred more, we‘re told, were privately and exclusively invited by the family to take part with them.  You know, there‘s no dancing.  There‘s no singing.  There aren‘t really any public tributes.  It‘s just a way for the family to mingle with their closest family and friends and just kind of end what‘s been a very stressful day. 

And, in fact, it began a little after 2:00 Pacific time.  We‘re told that it‘s pretty much already wrapped up.  A lot of people are already leaving the premises.  And, so, it will be done here fairly shortly—

Lawrence. 

O‘DONNELL:  Thank you for that live update, Jinah Kim. 

Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee introduced a resolution honoring Michael Jackson in the United States Congress.  And she spoke about it today at his memorial service. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. SHEILA JACKSON LEE (D), TEXAS:  We have introduced into the House of Representatives this Resolution 600 that will be debated on the floor of the House that claims Michael Jackson as an American legend and musical icon, a world humanitarian, someone who will be honored forever and forever and forever and forever and forever. 

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  Joining me now, Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee. 

Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, you spoke today of your own experience with Michael Jackson in various situations.  Tell us about that. 

JACKSON LEE:  Well, it was really a story of Michael‘s humanitarian service, which I really believe the world and the nation probably will learn more about in the days to come.  It was steadfast.  It was steady.  It was yearly. 

My experience was his desire to fight against the devastation of HIV/AIDS on the continent of Africa.  And, so, African ambassadors that represented nations were willing to come and sit down with Michael Jackson. 

He was serious enough, he was known as such a world humanitarian that these representatives of nations came to the United States Capitol, visited with us in my office, and listened to Michael Jackson.  They listened to him.  He listened to them. 

And, then, I think it is important that...

(CROSSTALK)

JACKSON LEE:  Then, I think it is important that the focus was the devastation of HIV/AIDS.  He had done so much before.  He—he had helped children.  He had worked with developing nations.  He had sponsored orphanages in Africa. 

As you well know, when he was burned, he went and gave money for the burn unit.  He bought hospital beds.  And then, of course, he recognized the sacrifice that our soldiers give when he was in Washington by visiting Walter Reed Hospital, the symbol of the difficulty and tragedy that occurred with our men and women on the front lines during the heightened part of the Iraq war. 

Michael was sensitive and caring.  He was a living humanitarian. 

O‘DONNELL:  You also made a reference to his troubles and his difficulties.  Let‘s listen to that. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JACKSON LEE:  We know that people are innocent, until proven otherwise. 

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) 

JACKSON LEE:  That is what the Constitution stands for. 

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  Congresswoman, do you think that your resolution may have some resistance in the House of Representatives, especially having heard Peter King in the last 24 hours, a Republican congressman from New York, talk about Michael Jackson‘s trials and—and the accusations against him involving possible problems with children? 

Do—do you think your resolution may run into trouble because of that? 

JACKSON LEE:  Well, let me be very clear. 

This resolution deals with documented factual acts of humanitarian service that Michael Joseph Jackson gave throughout his life.  I don‘t know anyone that could reject the truth.  And, so, the resolution only speaks to the truth of his living testimony of how he helped so many, UNESCO, children that were in need, individuals who were dying. 

And I would just simply say that all legislation has to be vetted.  This will be vetted on the truth.  And I would hope that my colleagues, in a bipartisan way, would represent and recognize the national and international stature that Michael had in putting a face on America, a face of kindness, a face of caring, and a face of sharing. 

That‘s what we will be addressing. 

O‘DONNELL:  All right.  Thank you, Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee. 

When we return: how Michael Jackson influenced African-American culture. 

Our coverage of the memorial—memorial today to Michael Jackson continues after this. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

QUEEN LATIFAH, ACTRESS: “Today, in Tokyo, beneath the Eiffel Tower, in Ghana‘s Black Star Square, in Johannesburg and Pittsburgh, in Birmingham, Alabama, and Birmingham, England, we are missing Michael Jackson.  But we do know we had him.  And we are the world.”

(MUSIC)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(MUSIC)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

Journalist Stephen A. Smith, host of his own TV and radio show on ESPN, he‘s written for “The Philadelphia Inquirer” and appears frequently on MSNBC.  Stephen joins us from joins us from 30 rock to talk about the life and legacy of Michael Jackson. 

Stephen, you had to have a heart of stone to not be moved by what went on in the Staples Center today.  I felt like I was watching a hero‘s send-off, a hero‘s funeral. 

Was Michael Jackson a hero to the African-American youth in this country? 

STEPHEN A. SMITH, JOURNALIST:  I wouldn‘t go that far. 

What I will say, he was a hero to anybody that was affiliated with the music industry, because we all recognized him to be arguably the greatest entertainer of all time.  I mean, his music was absolutely phenomenal.  I just finished playing it all day long during Fourth of July.  Obviously, his dance moves, some of the things that he did in the music industry, seven, you know, hit singles with the—with the “Thriller” album, 50 million copies sold, the top of the Billboard charts, I mean, and first got on MTV, African-American, and you look at so many of the things that he did throughout his career, it was clearly illustrious. 

And, so, when you call him an iconic brand, or you look at him in that fashion, it‘s strictly in the sense of his music, not really anything else. 

O‘DONNELL:  Well, I—I would assume that his relationship to black America had different chapters to it.  And...

(CROSSTALK)

SMITH:  Definitely.  That‘s—that‘s a very, very good point, because the Reverend Al Sharpton alluded to that today, because, I mean—I mean, he was a pioneer of sorts, you know, being—starting out his career at age 5, accomplishing what he accomplished through the ‘70s, through the ‘80s, when he went out on his own and left the Jackson 5, and obviously what he was able to accomplish with “Thriller” and the “Bad” album, or whatever, “Off the Wall,” actually, before that. 

The reality is that again, you see he—you know, he basically transcended so many barriers and just walked right through them and overcame them, and paved the way for a lot of people.  And Al Sharpton can relate to that. 

But, in terms of people in this generation, all they know is that Michael Jackson is one of the greatest musicians of all time, and, obviously, they know a few other things, or think they know a few other things about him that are less—are less celebratory. 

O‘DONNELL:  And what did it feel like when he started to change his appearance so dramatically in a way that seemed not even recognizable to what he was as a kid? 

SMITH:  It depends on who you ask.  To some people within the African-American community, it was flat-out offensive, simply because they felt like what Quincy Jones, one of the greatest music producers of all time, just alluded to publicly a couple of days ago, when he said that he felt like Michael Jackson didn‘t want to be black, didn‘t like being black. 

He—he never believed that he had vitiligo or anything like that.  So, to some, it was offensive.  To others, they felt sorry for him simply because it was just—it was clear, it was crystal-clear to us that he had been exploited. 

You have to remember that this is a guy that was a child prodigy.  He was a star from the time that he was 5 years of age, a megastar.  And he transcended so many things, that it got to the point where he was living in a bubble.  He never had the freedom to go out, party, have a good time, go to the movies, things of this nature.  His brother Marlon (INAUDIBLE) he had to wear disguises sometimes when he went out in public. 

When you have that kind of life from the age of 5 on, you know that this man has been exploited.  He was never allowed to be a child, which is why it was difficult for him to let go of his childhood.  And, as a result of that, you‘re looking at other people and saying they exploited him. 

It‘s not that this guy was a bad guy.  It‘s not that he was evil.  He was exploited, and he was never given the chance to grow up into manhood. 

O‘DONNELL:  And this network last night reran the old Martin Bashir documentary about Michael Jackson, which included details of his childhood that I had forgotten which are really much more difficult than I had remembered...

SMITH:  Well...

O‘DONNELL:  ... and I think very explanatory of the way his life curved in later years. 

SMITH:  Well, I will say this.  This isn‘t the day to get into all of that.

O‘DONNELL:  Right.  Right. 

SMITH:  But what I will say is, it‘s entirely—you see why Joe Jackson, the father, wasn‘t front and center when all of that stuff was going on. 

O‘DONNELL:  Exactly.  Exactly. 

SMITH:  I will leave it at that. 

O‘DONNELL:  Exactly. 

Thank you, Stephen A. Smith. 

Up next:  It‘s been a very busy day in politics.  And, when we come back, we will have the latest on Sarah Palin.  Her own—our own Andrea Mitchell got an interview with Palin.  She will join us next from Alaska. 

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O‘DONNELL:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

Alaska Governor Sarah Palin plans to resign in just 19 days.  So, what happens after that? 

NBC‘s Andrea Mitchell tried to get some answers from the governor herself today.  She joins us from Anchorage, Alaska.  We‘re also joined by Politico‘s chief columnist, Roger Simon. 

Here‘s Governor Palin talking about how being John McCain‘s running mate changed things in Alaska.  Let‘s listen. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. SARAH PALIN ®, ALASKA:  I knew that I wasn‘t going to run for reelection.  I knew that everything changed on August 29 in politics in Alaska.  That‘s the day that I was tapped to run for vice president of the United States. 

Things changed.  And it was quite obvious that nothing would ever be the same for our administration. 

ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC CHIEF FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT:  Are you sorry now you said yes to John McCain on August 29?

PALIN:  Not in the least, absolutely not.  It was a great honor to stand by a true American hero.  I believe in John McCain.  I appreciate him.  I honor him.  And I would have done all that again in a heartbeat.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  Andrea Mitchell, another amazing interview.  And it sounds pretty convincing.  I would have to agree with her.  Everything certainly did change the day John McCain chose her to be V.P. 

MITCHELL:  No, I think that is true. 

I think that the Democrats who had worked with her here in Anchorage before that viewed her as the attack dog from the campaign, which is the role that she played, and were no longer willing to work cooperatively. 

The Republicans had always been her enemies here.  You saw the statement from Senator Lisa Murkowski, Republican senator, criticizing her for quitting in the middle of the term.  And even some of Palin‘s supporters, as I pointed out to her in the interview in Wasilla, where we were for a couple of days, were telling us that they felt she should have stuck it out. 

But she felt that she had done what she wanted to do.  And, look, she has a much wider landscape, a much wider terrain now.  She can make a lot of money.  She doesn‘t have the hassles of running the government.  And she knows she does not want to be governor of Alaska.  She was really not happy in this job when she came back. 

O‘DONNELL:  You know, the lesson of that videotape that we‘re watching right now is, for any American politician, do not try to hide out from Andrea Mitchell.  She is going to find you, no matter where you are...

(LAUGHTER)

O‘DONNELL:  ... no matter what you‘re doing. 

Roger Simon, where do you think she goes from here? 

ROGER SIMON, CHIEF POLITICAL COLUMNIST, THEPOLITICO.COM:  I think she goes pretty much anyplace she wants. 

I think, if she wants a political future, if she wants to run in 2012, she has a real shot at it.  Look, she‘s popular right now.  I really believe—I honestly believe, if the Republicans were nominating a presidential candidate today, Sarah Palin would be it. 

I mean, you know, look at the list, Tim Pawlenty, Bobby Jindal, Haley Barbour, Mike Huckabee, Mitt Romney, all fine men who might build powerful political campaigns, but Sarah Palin is popular right now. 

How popular?  She can do an interview with Andrea Mitchell wearing waders and make it look real. 

(LAUGHTER)

SIMON:  She is not a cookie-cutter candidate.  She looks real.  She sounds real.  I think that‘s appealing. 

O‘DONNELL:  Well, you know, luckily for Pawlenty and Romney and those guys, they‘re not picking the nominee today and they‘ve got some time to try to distinguish themselves. 

Now, here‘s Andrea asking Governor Palin about running for president. 

Let‘s listen to that one. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITCHELL:  Can you imagine yourself running for president?

PALIN:  I don‘t know what the future holds.  I can‘t predict what the next fish run‘s going to look like, much less what‘s going to happen in a couple of years.  But my focus is on my state still, and it always will be. 

MITCHELL:  Some people have said that you saw the bright lights from the national campaign and came back, and it was very hard to readjust to the nitty-gritty work of...

PALIN:  The nitty-gritty, like you mean the fish slime and the dirt under the fingernails and stuff that‘s me?

MITCHELL:  Juneau, the state capitol, the hard legislative slog. 

PALIN:  No, that‘s not—I am a fighter.  I thrive on challenge. 

That is a challenge. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  Now, Andrea, we‘ve got a hot new Gallup poll from Monday night.  It finds that overall, 43 percent say they‘d vote for Sarah Palin for president if she ran for president, or they might vote for her if she ran for president.  Fifty-four percent say no, they would not vote for her for president. 

Among Republicans, Roger Simon, 72 percent say they would vote for Palin.  So that support, if she were the nomination today. 

But Andrea, what is your bet now?  Do you think you went up to Alaska and found a woman who is quitting politics or someone who is planning her political future?

MITCHELL:  I think I found someone who is frustrated with the political situation here on the ground and sees a broader political future, but also a different career with the book, with, you know, paid speeches.  She can make a lot of money.  She can have a much nicer life. 

I think she wants to be an influence in speaking for social conservatives, and she does have a lot of support, as this poll indicates.  And as Roger has said, I think she has damaged herself with party leaders, including some of her own most fervent supporters and fund-raisers. 

I think that Roger, I know that you wrote in your column on Politico that, you know, the establishment figures might not have liked her statement, because it came from the heart, because it wasn‘t programmed.  It wasn‘t done by, you know, party strategists.  But there was a rambling quality to it. 

And, in fact, she has to think more clearly about the issues and be able to express herself.  She got through the debate well, I thought, with Joe Biden, but she still proved herself lacking, I think, on the national stage in terms of articulating issues that went beyond slogans.  That‘s where I think her critics, at least, would say she has a lot more hard work to do if she wants to be a national candidate. 

O‘DONNELL:  Now, one of the hot rumors or hot possibilities about her is that she might go into the talk show business.  Now, let‘s listen to Andrea asking Governor Palin about the possibility of a talk show. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITCHELL:  You started out in television a long time ago.  Can you see yourself doing a talk show?  Could you reach more people that way?  Would that be fun?

PALIN:  I don‘t know, again, what the future would hold.  I know that I certainly don‘t need any kind of a title or high position to effect the change that needs to be effected in our nation. 

And what has to happen right now is we need to rein in government.  Obama is growing government.  It‘s the last thing that we need to do right now. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  Roger, she‘s saying she doesn‘t need any kind of title.  Maybe just a talk show would do it when you listen to that answer.  What do you think?

SIMON:  You know, I got to say, I think Andrea‘s correct in that Governor Palin has to become more polished and more, you know, up to speed on some things. 

But look at that exchange right there.  She went from a question about doing a talk show to attacking big government.  I mean, she‘s got some skills there.  You know. 

And I think it was just nine months ago that Sarah Palin gave a disastrous interview to Katie Couric.  And you figure she‘s going to hide out from network interviews for the rest of her life.  Now she‘s out there.  She‘s giving interviews to Andrea.  She‘s giving interviews. 

You know, she‘s—she is quitting her job as governor of Alaska.  And I think Andrea is absolutely right: she hates being governor of Alaska right now.  But I don‘t think she‘s a quitter.  I think she‘s willing to stand up, you know, and take all that‘s thrown at her.  And maybe she will find out as she goes around the country giving speeches that, as politicians often do, they get swept away by the roar of the crowd.  And maybe that will convince Governor Palin to go back into political life by 2012. 

O‘DONNELL:  Well, she could try to hide out, but once Andrea Mitchell was on that plane to Alaska, there was no way.  Thank you, Andrea Mitchell and Roger Simon. 

Up next, Al Franken is now Senator Al Franken.  What can President Obama get done with 60 Democrats in the Senate that he couldn‘t do before?  The “Politics Fix” is next.

And this is HARDBALL only on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O‘DONNELL:  Coming up, President Obama and Bill Clinton both talking about Michael Jackson today.  HARDBALL returns with the “Politics Fix” after this. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  And that you are well and faithfully discharged the duty of the office upon which you are about to enter, so help you God. 

SEN. AL FRANKEN (D), MINNESOTA:  I do. 

BIDEN:  Congratulations, senator. 

FRANKEN:  Thank you. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  We‘re back with the “Politics Fix” with Tim Grieve, who‘s the assistant managing editor for Politico and David Korn, who‘s the Washington bureau chief for “Mother Jones.” 

Tim Grieve, having worked in the Senate myself, I‘ve seen an awful lot of Senate swearing-ins but nothing as extraordinary as what we witnessed today.  This is, I think, the most anticipated raising of the right hand in many, many years in the United States Senate. 

So Al Franken has his first day in office behind him.  Any surprises?

TIM GRIEVE, POLITICO:  Yes, one big surprise.  His first vote out for all this talk of 60 Democratic votes his first vote out for all of the talks of 60 Democratic votes in the Senate, Al Franken comes out and votes against Barack Obama on his very first vote. 

O‘DONNELL:  What was that vote?  What was the item?

GRIEVE:  It was a vote—the Obama administration wanted to deduct some of the funding to prevent buses from suffering terrorist attacks, and a number of Democrats voted against it, including—including Al Franken. 

O‘DONNELL:  Let‘s listen to what Senator Franken told the Associated Press, quote, he said, “I think they‘ll get—they‘ll get too used to the idea that I‘m a senator, that I‘ve kind of changed careers.  I just don‘t think it will take that long.  They‘ll see what I do and what I say.  Mainly, I‘m going to put my head down and get to work.” 

David Korn, first vote against the Obama administration.  That‘s a pretty clear signal on day one that this isn‘t the guy who a lot of people were expecting was showing up. 

DAVID KORN, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, “MOTHER JONES”:  Well, it‘s a declaration of independence, but I think by and large, like most Democrats, most liberal, progressive Democrats, he‘ll tend to vote with the Obama administration.  So I don‘t think we‘re going to see him becoming a maverick or a rebel. 

What he was saying in that statement, too, is that he doesn‘t need any more of the spotlight right now.  He‘s had it, in a way, for eight months during this recount.  He‘s had it for years on “SNL” and other places.  And I think he needs, you know, to do the hard, heavy lifting. 

You know, Larry, you know, we worked in the Senate.  The drudgery that comes with being a good legislator, particularly when you‘re the junior senator from a state.  The Senate—you know, the Senate is a club and they expect you to sort of be seen and not be—not be heard too much. 

And Al Franken is a guy with a real strong wit.  He can easily walk to the middle of the stage and command attention.  But he‘s shown a lot of discipline in the campaign and the years up to the campaign, and how—and in playing by the rules.  And I think he will be doing a lot of that in the coming months ahead.  We may not see a lot of him. 

O‘DONNELL:  You know, I talked to Al Franken before and after the election about what Senate committees he wanted to be assigned to, because in the real work of the Senate, that‘s—that‘s where it really gets done.  And it‘s also my favorite question for novice Senate candidates, because usually they don‘t have an answer.  Al had answers all the way through. 

And let‘s take a look at the assignments he got. It‘s pretty much what he wanted.  The two big ones: the “A” committees, as they call it, are the judiciary committee and the health committee.  That‘s the health committee chaired by Ted Kennedy. 

And he won‘t join that.  He won‘t be able to vote in the health committee on the markup that they‘re doing on the bill they‘ve been working on because he hasn‘t been part of working on that bill. 

But he‘s also going to be on Indian affairs, which is a committee he wanted, because Minnesota has a lot of Indian reservations and also the aging committee. 

His debut really happens nationally next week when he will have a chair in the judiciary committee hearings for the Supreme Court nomination of Sonia Sotomayor. 

He‘s going to be one of the rare members of the judiciary committee who is not a lawyer.  I think there‘s one other—one other right now.  So he will be up against some other judicial scholars on the committee and certainly a judicial scholar sitting in front of him as a witness.  And Al will be sitting there without a law school education. 

Tim Grieve, how do you expect him to handle that?

GRIEVE:  I expect him to be very somber and well prepared. 

Look, we‘ve all been hatching out this same story for at least two years now.  You know, will Al Franken be the crazy comedian, or will he be a serious candidate, a serious senator?  That story‘s been written, you know, a thousand times, and at every turn in this campaign and every turn in this—this appeals process, he‘s been, you know, would be Senator Serious.  And I think that‘s what we will see when he shows up for the committee hearings. 

O‘DONNELL:  All right.  We‘ll be back with Tim Grieve and David Korn. 

For more of the politics fix, you‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  You know what I do believe is that black sports figures and black entertainers helped to create a comfort level with African-Americans that had an impact historically, dating back to people like Sidney Poitier or Louis Armstrong, up to Michael Jackson.  So I would say that he‘s a part of a long line of black entertainers that had a powerful impact on the culture. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  That was President Obama in an interview with NBC‘s Chuck Todd in Moscow today talking about Michael Jackson. 

We‘re back with Politico‘s Tim Grieve and “Mother Jones‘” David Korn for more of the “Politics Fix.” 

David Korn, that seemed like Professor Obama trying to calibrate exactly how much credit to give Michael Jackson and not give him too much credit at the expense of other African-American cultural icons.  What did you make of it?

KORN:  Listen, Michael Jackson remains controversial despite all the accolades that he received today.  I don‘t think Barack Obama wants to go too far in praising him.

But I also think historically he has it right.  My list would include Paul Robeson, Marian Anderson, Little Richard, The Supremes, Harry Belafonte, Sam Cliff (ph), and let‘s not forget Jimi Hendrix. 

He is one of a long line, and we heard a lot of hyperbole, I think, in the last few days about how he broke a lot of barriers.  He was part of a long team of entertainers that broke a series of different barriers. 

O‘DONNELL:  And here‘s what‘s Bill Clinton told the Associated Press about Michael Jackson.  Quote, “He basically helped save my party from terrible financial distress, so he was very kind to me personally.  He was an immensely gifted man, and I think he basically meant well.  I know about all the trouble he had in his life, and I hope he will be remembered for his contribution as an artist.  I hope his children turn out well.  That would be the greatest tribute you could have.” 

Tim Grieve, we have Bill Clinton weighing in now.  We have Barack Obama.  Has this story gone about as far as it can in terms of penetrating the political culture?  Will it quiet down now?

GRIEVE:  No, in fact, I don‘t think it will.  We have this House resolution from Sheila Jackson Lee coming.  A lot of conservative Democrats are not going to be happy about having to choose between—between joining the Congressional Black Caucus and supporting this and staying true to their own more conservative districts, where sort of the dark side of Michael Jackson is the side that people are thinking of, the child molestation charges and those sorts of things.  So...

O‘DONNELL:  All right.  Thank you, Tim Grieve and David Korn.  Join us again tomorrow night at 5 and 7 Eastern for more HARDBALL. 

“COUNTDOWN” with Keith Olbermann starts right now. 

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

END   

Transcription Copyright 2009 CQ Transcriptions, LLC  ALL RIGHTS  RESERVED.

No license is granted to the user of this material other than for research.

User may not reproduce or redistribute the material except for user‘s

personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed,

nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion

that may infringe upon MSNBC and CQ Transcriptions, LLC‘s copyright or

other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal

transcript for purposes of litigation.>

Watch Hardball each weeknight at 5 & 7 p.m. ET

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,