updated 7/27/2010 9:11:03 AM ET 2010-07-27T13:11:03

Guests: David Corn, Chris Dodd, Thad Allen, Clarence Page
CHUCK TODD, GUEST HOST:  A sorry Charlie.
Let‘s play HARDBALL.
Good evening.  I‘m Chuck Todd, in tonight for Chris Matthews.  Leading off: Should he stay or should he go?  As “The Washington Post” put it this morning.  Charlie Rangel‘s ethics problems leave him with three choices—resign, accept the charges and stay on, or defend himself.  Democrats had hoped Rangel would choose option one or two.  Today, he chose option three, defend himself, at a time when Democrats have enough problems that they don‘t need the stench of a possible ethics scandal following them.  We‘ll get the latest on that.
Another story the administration wishes would just go away is Shirley Sherrod.  President Obama said today Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack jumped the gun in firing her.  But why is this president, perhaps the nation‘s most eloquent spokesman on race, so reluctant to discuss the matter?
Plus, Andrew Breitbart, the right-wing activist who released the Sherrod tape, insists his real target was the NAACP, that its members laughed at, cheered at Sherrod‘s anti-white comments.  Really?  That‘s going to—we‘re going to look at this videotape and you‘re going to see that‘s not true, either.
Also, just what we didn‘t need, a tropical storm named Bonnie bearing down on the Gulf Coast and delaying efforts to drill that relief well that will finally, permanently end the BP leak.  We‘re going to get the latest from the source, national incident commander Thad Allen.
And with rumors that Jeb Bush may consider running for president, David Letterman argues that the Bushes are like the “Godfather” movies, it‘s best to stop at two.  We shall see.  That‘s in the “Sideshow.”
But we‘re going to start with Congressman Charlie Rangel.  Luke Russert is NBC News‘s Capitol Hill correspondent.  And Luke, let‘s start with a contrite Charlie Rangel today at a Harlem press conference.  First we‘re going to play the exchange he had with you late yesterday, and then we‘re going to go to what Congressman Rangel said today.  Let‘s roll it.
LUKE RUSSERT, NBC CORRESPONDENT:  All right.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
Did you ever worry about losing your job?
REP. CHARLES RANGEL (D), NEW YORK:  What are you talking about? 
You‘re just trying to make copy?  What job?  The one I got?
RUSSERT:  Yes.  I mean (INAUDIBLE) serious violations.
RANGEL:  How do you think—how do you think I got my job?  I was elected, right?  How do you think I‘d lose it?
RUSSERT:  There‘s two ways.  You could lose it by your colleagues voted you out of here because of ethics violations, or your constituents (INAUDIBLE)
RANGEL:  What station are you from?
RUSSERT:  NBC.  MSNBC.
RANGEL:  It doesn‘t really sound like NBC asking these dumb questions.  It just shows what has really happened to a channel that did have some respect.
(END VIDEOTAPE)
TODD:  All right.  And now let‘s play Congressman Rangel this afternoon at his Harlem press conference.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RANGEL:  And I called this morning and I had a very good conversation with Luke Russert and apologizing for the way I treated him on television.  But it‘s awkward when you can‘t give answers to questions.  And sometimes, reporters feel compelled to go beyond what I can do.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD:  All right, let‘s take this in two parts, Luke.  Number one, the public relations aspect to this.  Clearly, he realized how poorly he came across, that he came across like somebody who was being evasive, being a bully, whatever you want to look at it as.  And he was trying to fix that today.
RUSSERT:  He absolutely was, Chuck.  I mean, something that you and I talked about this morning with Andrea is that you can often, as a politician, have a strategy to sort of blame the media, if you will, sort of saying, It‘s the media making a mischaracterization about me and my policies and—but these allegations against me are false, but I can‘t (INAUDIBLE) anything right now, but the media has it wrong, so I‘m going to make the media coverage of me the story.  And that‘s what Mr. Rangel chose to do with me yesterday.
Obviously, we weren‘t asking really pressing questions about specifics about what the allegations were.  We were simply asking, myself and my colleagues around me, Are you worried whether or not you‘re going to lose your job?  He‘s facing a very stiff primary opponent coming up in September that‘s going to give him a real—a real shot there.  Also, with these type of allegations, there‘s a real chance, Chuck—and I spoke to two vulnerable House Democrats today—that if this were to go to a vote on the House floor, there‘s a real chance that Nancy Pelosi does not have the votes to protect Mr. Rangel.  Remember, that‘s how he lost his gavel in March...
TODD:  Right.  That‘s how he lost the gavel.
RUSSERT:  ... that he did not have the votes to protect him back then. 
That would be the same right now just for him to be a member of Congress.  It‘s a very, very tough situation for Mr. Rangel right now.  And every Democrat I have spoken (SIC), to a man and to a woman, has said, We do not want this public trial going forward on Thursday.  It‘s absolutely the last thing we want in an election year.
TODD:  Well, walk us through this timeline, Luke.  What is Thursday?  We heard Congressman Rangel refer to it today.  What happens Thursday?  And then walk us through the process, assuming he continues on this course of where he‘s going to basically fight these charges in the Ethics Committee.
RUSSERT:  Well, Chuck, Charlie Rangel put it the best today when he said at his press conference, quote, “I‘m in the kitchen, and I‘m not walking out.”  So that‘s all giving us an indication that he‘s ready to go into this open trial, which is the House Ethics Committee, which is made up of his peers, which is even-handed with the five Democrats and five Republicans.  He‘s ready to go into this trial and essentially listen to the charges against him, and then speak regarding his innocence.
Remember, the House Ethics Committee, which was essentially really propped up after Speaker Pelosi took the gavel in 2006, has really done a lot of their work behind closed doors...
TODD:  Right.
RUSSERT:  ... and is very secretive, obviously, because they don‘t want—they don‘t want leaks.  They don‘t want to involve the press in every step of the way.  But let‘s say on Thursday, this goes forward.  This will be the first time we‘ve ever seen this play out since in 2002 with James Traficant.  You‘ll see the open thing (ph) on Thursday.  And then depending on how that goes, you could possibly see all sorts of recommendations, whether or not it‘s censure, whether or not he accepts an apology...
TODD:  Right.
RUSSERT:  ... what they—what they give him, what‘s the punishment.  It‘s really open to interpretation from the House Ethics Committee standpoint.
TODD:  All right, Luke Russert on Capitol Hill for us.  You were in the middle of that storm, withstood it.  Stay alert this weekend.  It‘s funny how members of Congress, after they sleep on things like this over the weekend, suddenly may have a change of heart.  I have a feeling Monday could be just as busy for you as it was today.  Thank you, Luke.
RUSSERT:  Absolutely.  They desperately want him to just make an apology and let this all be done with.  Be well.
TODD:  All righty.  Thanks very much.
All right, I want to bring in David Gregory, moderator of “MEET THE PRESS.”  Let‘s quickly deal with Rangel here because the big fear among Democrats on Rangel is, if you look at 1994, the final thing was the stench of Dan Rostenkowski.  In 2006, the final thing was that stench of Tom DeLay coupled with what happened with the Mark Foley situation.  An ethics thing is sort of—can be a tipping point for a political party.
DAVID GREGORY, MODERATOR, “MEET THE PRESS”:  Well, it really can.  And what the congressman is most sensitive about was the question that was closest to the real sensitive point, which is, is he afraid of losing his job?  Because one way or the other, either at the polls or because of his colleagues really putting pressure on him, he could, in fact, lose his job.  And that‘s why there have been discussions privately about how he might handle this behind the scenes just so all of this does not come out because it was Nancy Pelosi who said they wanted to drain the swamp.  They don‘t want ethics to be an issue.
Look at the low esteem that Congress has held in at the moment.  You have enough of this, only to have it be exacerbated by somebody who could be a real figure for Republicans to use around the country.
TODD:  Here‘s an odd Catch-22 for the Democrats.  Here they are, doing
going through with this ethics procedure.  Pretty tough.  Pretty—and showing that they did what they said they were going to do with the way (INAUDIBLE) willing to have it show up in the middle of an election season.  And yet they end up getting—it‘s going to punish them.

GREGORY:  Yes, right.
TODD:  That‘s the irony to this.
GREGORY:  Well, I mean, I—look, and there‘s something that can be said for actually moving through with the process.  But you know, realize this isn‘t always on the merits here.  It‘s about how it looks.  And you know, we‘ll see, ultimately, just how far along that gets.
But there‘s all these different points where they have a question of emphasis right now.  And they spent the last week-and-a-half very comfortably talking about how Republicans don‘t want anything but a return to the Bush record, and now they‘re going to have an ethics issue that‘s going to flare-up.
TODD:  Speaking of timing, let‘s talk about timing.  Timing‘s been everything in a negative way for this White House.  When you think about the month of July—you and I both had heard from leaders inside the administration they really wanted to take a hard turn toward the economy.  But from General McChrystal, then the news that Robert Gibbs made on your show two Sundays ago having to do with about—it seems like every week has had some other story.  And of course, this week, it‘s Shirley Sherrod.
GREGORY:  Right.
TODD:  What has this done to this—and what have you seen out of this administration?  First of all, are they handling distractions better now, say, than six months ago?
GREGORY:  Well, you know, I think that‘s always going to be open to interpretation.  I think what you can say constructively about the Sherrod incident—I mean, the last thing they wanted is for this to play out and be a key figure.  And unfortunately, there is now a record with this administration, I mean, the president going back a year ago, hastily condemning the Boston or the Cambridge police without knowing all of the facts here, something he‘s accused the media of doing, and indeed, his agricultural secretary of doing in this case.  But they did also reverse course rather quickly, too, and put this to bed.
On the economy, what‘s interesting is that the difficulty is how much more can the administration to do to focus on the economy?  You‘ll hear Secretary Geithner say on Sunday, as others have, that right now, it‘s the private sector‘s role to really deal with the jobs issue.  So government can assist, but the private sector has to lead the way.
TODD:  Do they feel as if the private sector‘s voting?  You know, in a weird way, that...
GREGORY:  Yes.
TODD:  ... corporate capital—because I‘ve heard the same thing.  Basically, there‘s what is it, almost $2 trillion in private capital not being put into jobs.  You know, there are some that are saying that this is, like, you know, the Chamber of Commerce and others‘ way of encouraging -- No, no, no, no.  This is your way of voting.
GREGORY:  Well, I think there‘s a couple of things.  There‘s still a confidence issue.  I mean, looking at the Fed chief saying, essentially, I don‘t know what it‘s going to look like here.  Is it a double dip recession?  I don‘t know.  A lot of CEOs...
TODD:  That didn‘t help uncertainty.  Larry Summers agreed with him. 
Yes.  It‘s pretty uncertain.
GREGORY:  Right.  Secretary Geithner does not agree with that per se, but—and a lot of CEOs don‘t agree with that, either.  They don‘t think that there‘s another dip coming.  But you also got the housing market.  As long as the housing market is still in the crisis that it‘s in, which is because unemployment is where it is, you really can‘t—you can‘t really move a whole lot.  And I think that‘s a big factor weighing on what‘s happening in corporate America.
TODD:  Also on “MEET THE PRESS,” you have an interesting person on your roundtable, Anita Dunn, former communications director.  And the reason I bring this up is that this Shirley Sherrod story, part race story...
GREGORY:  Right.
TODD:  ... part media story.  You and I had a conversation about it...
GREGORY:  Right.
TODD:  ... this morning.  And you can go either way.  She had some very harsh words about Fox when she was sitting in the position as a spokesperson for the Obama administration.  Is this one of these where she‘s going to feel an, I told you so?
GREGORY:  Well, I think probably.  I mean, I think, you know, it was her view, although she extended that to saying that you don‘t—you don‘t engage with Fox News if it has a particular agenda, was her view, which—
I don‘t know if that was widely shared within the administration, you know, completely.
But the point is that you‘re right, a big part of this story is the excesses of media, a portion of which is ideologically-driven media, and how that ultimately plays itself out and forces a story to reach critical mass, or forces in this case, the administration to act hastily when so many members of the administration, namely the president, are critical of this sort of culture we‘re in.  So there‘s a lot to go around.
TODD:  Another fascinating (INAUDIBLE) Rick Santelli.
GREGORY:  Rick Santelli...
(CROSSTALK)
GREGORY:  Well, that‘s because I think that another big part of this piece, as well, is the NAACP going after the tea party.  Again, I mean, the fringes, the ideological fringes, are capturing the center of the debate sometimes too much.
TODD:  Well, that‘s an interesting Sunday!  Tim Geithner and a fascinating roundtable.  Good luck.  You might need to bring shields.
GREGORY:  Yes.  Exactly.  Exactly.
TODD:  Good stuff.  David Gregory, thanks very much.
All right, coming up: As a follow-up to the Shirley Sherrod story, why is President Obama so reluctant to discuss the matter of race?
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK)
TODD:  One of the last of the Edward R. Murrow boys has died.  Daniel Schorr spent years at CBS News and at National Public Radio and also worked as a commentator for CNN and as a newspaper columnist.  But for all of his success, his first-class reporting and his gifted writing, Schorr insisted that one of his proudest accomplishments was being included in President Richard Nixon‘s so-called “enemies list” as a result of his reporting on the Watergate scandal.
Daniel Schorr was 93 years old.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK)
TODD:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  The Shirley Sherrod story dominated Washington this week.  So what did we learn about the president, the media and our attitudes in our country when a racially charged story like this hits?
Princeton professor Melissa Harris-Lacewell is an MSNBC political analyst and Clarence Page is a syndicated columnist for “The Chicago Tribune.”  Thank you both.
I want to start—I want to start with you, Clarence, and that is this issue of whether the president is just not willing to engage in race, and it may be because he knows Washington can‘t handle it.
CLARENCE PAGE, “CHICAGO TRIBUNE”:  Well, it‘s always daunting talking to a guy that did a book on how Obama won.
TODD:  Well, but it‘s a numbers book!
PAGE:  You remember—well, you remember, though (INAUDIBLE) he didn‘t talk about race during the campaign, except when he had to.  (INAUDIBLE) and that was around Reverend Wright.
TODD:  Right.
PAGE:  A year ago, you had the “beer summit.”
TODD:  Right.
PAGE:  It distracted from health care.  Now we‘ve got Sherrod—
Shirley Sherrod, and her story is—has distracted from—from this huge Wall Street reform bill that was signed this week...
TODD:  Right.
PAGE:  ... and the unemployment compensation finally being freed up for the jobless.  It‘s astounding.  Race keeps haunting the president, you could say.  But you know, he has to be the visual embodiment of racial change.  He does that.  But when it comes to talking about it, it‘s just caused him trouble.
TODD:  Professor, you have the luxury of not being here in Washington right now.
(LAUGHTER)
TODD:  And I say this because I want to ask you a simple question. 
Was this a story about race or a story about the media?
MELISSA HARRIS-LACEWELL, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  No, it‘s a bit of both.   So you know, when I think about the media aspects of this, there‘s clearly the fact that when this clip hit the air that the—members of the administration believed that it was likely true.  Members of the Civil Rights organization and the national level, the NAACP, believed it was true.  And so in that sense, it‘s sort of a media story because it means that our government, our political organizations are still assuming that media means that something came from a kind of vetted, you know, set of sources that an editor took a look at, that sort of thing.
TODD:  Right.
HARRIS-LACEWELL:  But it is about race in this sense.  You know, if I called up HARDBALL and said, I—you know, Here I am in New Orleans and I‘ve got a video of a Martian on the corner of St. Charles Avenue, you would say, Oh, really?  Even though breaking a story about a Martian would be exciting, you would assume that it wasn‘t true because you know that Martians are a myth.
TODD:  Right.
HARRIS-LACEWELL:  So the fact that when someone said, I‘ve got a video clip here of reverse racism in action, that so many people immediately believed not only that it was true, but that it was likely...
TODD:  That it could be true.
HARRIS-LACEWELL:  ... tells us that—yes, that the right has really won in defining reverse racism as something that‘s true, as something that‘s likely, when, in fact, it‘s something that is much more on the order of a Martian standing on St. Charles Avenue.
TODD:  Well, here‘s the president talking today about the issue about Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on ABC this morning.  Let‘s listen.  Notice the issue he doesn‘t bring up.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  He jumped the gun partly because we now live in this media culture where something goes up on YouTube or a blog, and everybody scrambles.  And I‘ve told my team and I‘ve told my agencies that we have to make sure that we‘re focusing on doing the right thing instead of what looks to be politically necessary at that very moment.  We have to take our time and think these issues through.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD:  That is a president saying, in answer to my question, it‘s a media story, it is not a race story.
(LAUGHTER)
TODD:  That is his way of saying that, wasn‘t it.
PAGE:  Well, this became a big story when the White House reacted the way they did...
TODD:  Right.
PAGE:  ... firing the woman without due process, without hearing her side of the story, without looking at the tape.  And as Melissa mentioned, the NAACP criticizing her without looking at their own video.  There is sort of a certain freak-out that has occurred around the “R” word.  The very notion of being called racist by Glenn Beck or someone else in the media is what upset the White House.  And the question is why.  Why did they react the way they did?
TODD:  Professor, I‘m going to play this scene from the movie “Crash,” because you asked us to do it because you believe there‘s a lesson in here on the Sherrod story.  So, we‘re going to play the clip and explain what—why you think we should look—there‘s something to be—that the two are connected.  Take a watch.  Take a watch. 
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “CRASH”)
MATT DILLON, ACTOR:  All right, well, you know what I can‘t do?  I can‘t look at you without thinking about the five or six more qualified white men who didn‘t get your job. 
LORETTA DEVINE, ACTRESS:  It‘s time for you to go. 
DILLON:  No, I‘m saying this because I‘m really hoping that I‘m wrong about you.  I‘m hoping that someone like yourself, someone who may have been given a helping hand, might have a little compassion for someone in a similar situation. 
DEVINE:  Carol, I need security in my office. 
DILLON:  You know, you don‘t like me, that‘s fine.  I‘m a prick.  But my father doesn‘t deserve to suffer like this. 
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD:  Professor, now, is this a case where Hollywood is pushing a—
I guess a stereotype of what they assume the way people think when it comes to race these days? 
HARRIS-LACEWELL:  Well, I mean, I think that they are reflecting—I try not to blame Hollywood.
TODD:  OK.
HARRIS-LACEWELL:  I think Hollywood in this moment is reflecting that what Americans feel most comfortable with is an idea that sort of everybody is racist.  Everybody holds prejudices.  You know, anybody might say something out of their mouth that is discriminatory towards one group or another and that it‘s all sort of equal. 
But, again, what that analysis does is it fails to recognize that what‘s going on here is a much more insidious form of racism.  I think part of what really angered people about the Sherrod clip was that she, as a black woman, was saying, I have angry feelings about white people. 
And, now, this was out of the context, before people understood that her father was murdered by the Ku Klux Klan. 
TODD:  Right. 
HARRIS-LACEWELL:  But the same thing happened to Michelle Obama when she talked about being proud of the country for the first time in her adult life during the campaign. 
You know, the idea that African-Americans would have a critical perspective on the country, on white people is—is generally not accepted.  We just—we just buried Senator Byrd with such enthusiasm about the fact that a person who began as a white racist ended up as someone who understood racial equality. 
But we don‘t like the idea that African-Americans should ever have the right to have difficult feelings towards whites. 
TODD:  Have gone through the same—yes.
Clarence, I want to go to one other aspect to this.  And that is the generational aspect, in that race—that you have some editors and producers of a certain generation who were there covering the civil rights movement or grew up in it. 
PAGE:  Right. 
TODD:  And then you have some of us who were not there and did not cover it... 
PAGE:  Right. 
TODD:  ... and maybe were conditioned to assume race is sometimes a bigger—bigger issue with some voters than maybe it is.  And maybe that‘s why there were—there were so many different opinions back during the Obama campaign.  Do you see some of that?
PAGE:  Politics is defined by classes of alternative realities. 
Ms. Sherrod and I are the same age.  She was 17 years old when her father was killed.  And the man who shot him in the back was never prosecuted.  I remember those days, too.  Remember, that was around 1963, before the Civil Rights Act was passed.  We still had white and colored waiting rooms and water fountains. 
My perspective on the world is different than that of my 21-year-old son, who has grown up in a rainbow coalition out there.  And my perspective is different from Melissa‘s perspective.  So much of what she has studied about, I lived through. 
But it‘s still a fact these days that the Tea Party movement, which kind of got this whole discussion started...
TODD:  Yes. 
PAGE:  ... their average age is around 55 and up.  And they‘re more my generation, the older generation, that is more anxious about too much change happening. 
Obama was elected mostly by kids my son‘s generation involved, who are
have a different sense about change and aren‘t as threatened by African-Americans gaining power, in the sense that they‘re going to change the world. 

(CROSSTALK)
TODD:  I have to leave it there.  Professor, thank you for letting us get a clip of “Crash” on the air there.
(LAUGHTER)
(CROSSTALK)
TODD:  Anyway, Melissa Harris-Lacewell and Clarence Page, thank you for a very thoughtful discussion this Friday. 
PAGE:  Thank you. 
TODD:  All right, up next, probably a little less thoughtful: David Letterman‘s take on the future of the Bush dynasty.  That‘s in the “Sideshow.”
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  
(COMMERCIAL BREAK)
TODD:  Well, back to HARDBALL.  Now to the “Sideshow.” 
All this week, David Letterman and those Stangel brothers focused on a retired pol with a famous last name.  Take one.  Guess who? 
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN”)
DAVID LETTERMAN, HOST, “LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN”:  President Obama was on vacation.  And this is his 65th vacation day since he‘s been in the White House. 
(LAUGHTER)
LETTERMAN:  Sixty-five days off since he‘s been in the White House, which means he‘s only 300 vacation days shy of tying George Bush. 
(LAUGHTER)
LETTERMAN:  Very, very close. 
Oh, my gosh.  The brother of former President George Bush, Jeb Bush, is running for president. 
(LAUGHTER)
LETTERMAN:  People who know the Bushes are saying that Jeb Bush is smarter than his brother. 
(LAUGHTER)
LETTERMAN:  That‘s damning with faint praise, isn‘t it? 
(LAUGHTER)
LETTERMAN:  I feel the same about Bush presidencies as I do about the “Godfather” films.  You‘re better off stopping at two. 
(APPLAUSE)
LETTERMAN:  That‘s—that‘s fine. 
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD:  And now you know why Jeb Bush is probably not going to run for president.  That‘s the baggage he would be carrying.  So, when he changes his last name to Smith, we will know he‘s thinking about it. 
Next: a curious get-out-the-vote effort in Tennessee.  Republican gubernatorial candidate Congressman Zach Wamp says Americans must elect a new government to repeal health care reform.  But what if they don‘t? 
Well, here‘s what Wamp told the hot line—quote—“I hope that the American people will go to the ballot box in 2010 and 2012 so that states are not forced to consider separation from this government.”
We will see what voters think of secession talk on August 5, Tennessee primary day.  Wamp is in a very competitive—competitive Republican primary. 
Now for tonight‘s “Big Number.” 
Five years ago, a luxury yacht dropped anchor of the coast of Belize, allegedly coasting big damage to the coast‘s barrier reef.  Why is this a political story?  Well, the yacht belonged to Democratic Florida Senate candidate Jeff Greene.  So, what kind of fine does Greene face if he returns to Belize? -- $1.87 million.  Even though Greene‘s campaign says the incident never happened, the fine stands.  Jeff Greene has got a nearly $2 million reason to never again visit Belize. 
There‘s tonight‘s “Big Number.”  You‘re trying to become a senator from Florida, you can‘t be damaging coral reefs. 
Anyway, up next:  The activist who released the Sherrod tape insists the NAACP laughed and cheered at her racially charged statements.  Really?  Well, we‘re going to go to the videotape after the break.
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC. 
(COMMERCIAL BREAK)
AMANDA DRURY, CNBC CORRESPONDENT:  I‘m Amanda Drury with your CNBC “Market Wrap.”
Well, stocks bounding higher for the second day in a row, the Dow Jones industrials surging 102 points, the S&P 500 adding nine, and the Nasdaq jumping 23 points. 
Investors excited about another batch of encouraging earnings report and breathing a bit easier now that they have the results of those European bank stress tests.  Only seven out of 91 European banks failed the test.  But critics complain they weren‘t tough enough, especially when it came to sovereign debt. 
U.S.-traded shares of European banks ended the day mixed, with Royal Bank of Scotland and the Bank of Ireland surging about 4 percent each. 
But back to earnings now, Verizon leading the Dow after beating expectations and delivering an optimistic full-year forecast.  Ford blowing past expectations and saying it expects even better results in 2011.  McDonald‘s shares, however, slipped after posting a profit that just barely squeaked past estimates.
And General Electric shares surged, after its board approved a 20 percent hike in its dividend. 
That‘s it from CNBC.  We‘re first in business worldwide.  Now it‘s back to HARDBALL. 
TODD:  All right, welcome back to HARDBALL.
Now even Andrew Breitbart‘s alleged motivation that he says for putting Shirley Sherrod on the Internet is falling apart.  Here‘s what he said. 
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANDREW BREITBART, PUBLISHER, BREITBART.COM:  So, my motivation was to say, I have evidence that shows, based upon your standard of people in the audience behaving racist, we have an NAACP-sanctioned event in which the speaker is talking in a racist narrative in which the audience, when she refers to a white farmer—when she refers a white farmer to a white lawyer to send it one of your own kind, and when she talks about not giving him the full weight of what she could do with her position, the audience cheers. 
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD:  Well, here‘s what Shirley Sherrod said, and listen closely for the reaction that Breitword (sic) claims—Breitbart claims happened. 
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SHIRLEY SHERROD, FORMER USDA OFFICIAL:  I was struggling with the fact that so many black people had lost their farmland, and here I was faced with having to help a white a person save their land.
So, I didn‘t give him the full force of what I could do. 
I did enough, so that when he—I—I assumed the Department of Agriculture had sent him to me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD:  David Corn is the Washington editor of “Mother Jones” magazine and writes for PoliticsDaily.com.  Pat Buchanan is an MSNBC political analyst. 
This was alerted to me.  Will Saletan on Slate did a—sort of a frame-by-frame study of this.  We went back and we watched this whole thing.  And the reactions that Breitbart said were there are not there.  So, it—this part of his—I understood that that was his claim.  This part of it falls apart. 
DAVID CORN, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, “MOTHER JONES”:  Well, it‘s another lie, but it‘s a lie after the fact, because that wasn‘t the original motive. 
If you go back and look at the original piece, it accused Shirley Sherrod of being a power-abusing Obama official.  This was all about targeting the Obama administration for reverse racism and basically for screwing white people.  “Here, we have the evidence.”
And, when that fell apart, he tried to come up with a different justification.  Listen, I have known Andrew a long time.  And for a lot of those years, I actually have gotten along with him.  I have liked him.  We have had a fun time together. 
But he lives out in Hollywood.  And when a project goes bad, what do you do?  You call for a rewrite?  And that‘s what he‘s doing here, but it‘s a false rewrite. 
TODD:  Pat, as I understood what Breitbart‘s motivation has been sort of over the last couple of years, it‘s this idea that he‘s one of these conservatives that believes that the rest of the mainstream media has a liberal agenda, and, by golly, he‘s going to create a...
PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Right. 
TODD:  ... a—his own journalistic enterprise.  Does this undermine his attempts at becoming even a credible conservative activist journalist? 
BUCHANAN:  Well, in Breitbart‘s defense, if you will, he says the audience reacted in a fashion that he said they seemed to be cheering or approving of what was done. 
The NAACP saw the exact same tape, and they said, not only was the lady‘s conduct shameful, et cetera—we know that was a limited slice—it was shameful, intolerable and racist; they said...
TODD:  Right. 
BUCHANAN:  ... we got to take a look at that organization, that NAACP unit down there. 
So, they made the same assumption, frankly, that I did.  I couldn‘t hear it clearly when I first heard it on “MORNING JOE.” 
TODD:  Right.
BUCHANAN:  It sounded like there was sort of ho, ho, ho, and you really took it to that guy. 
And that is what Breitbart is saying.  That‘s what the NAACP...
(CROSSTALK)
CORN:  But it‘s not there.  But it‘s not there.  And Breitbart had the tape. 
(CROSSTALK)
BUCHANAN:  Now, hold it.  Just hold it a second. 
(CROSSTALK)
BUCHANAN:  The point is, the NAACP looked at it, and they seemed to conclude it was there as well.  And they certainly didn‘t...
(CROSSTALK)
TODD:  I understand that.  But I‘m just saying, what does this mean for Breitbart‘s attempt to be taken more seriously? 
BUCHANAN:  Oh, I think the very—the controversy of this, the fact
it blew up, and the fact that Breitbart is there, I think he has got a real
Breitbart has got a real problem of people taking and using his material, because it turned out that he had a splice of a tape, that he did not have the full tape, and the story came out was much more fuller, and it contradicted...

TODD:  Everything. 
BUCHANAN:  It contradicted—certainly contradicted the fact that she was..
(CROSSTALK)
BUCHANAN:  ... racist form.
CORN:  Pat, Pat, it wasn‘t an accident.  It wasn‘t just a simple screw-up.  They characterized the tape in the worst possible ways for the most partisan, ideological motives. 
TODD:  Right.  There was no journalistic...
(CROSSTALK)
CORN:  There was no vetting.  This wasn‘t a journalistic enterprise. 
BUCHANAN:  Right. 
TODD:  Right. 
CORN:  It was a right-wing smear that was meant to do damage to the Obama administration. 
TODD:  But, Pat, you just talked about the NAACP mistake.
(CROSSTALK)
BUCHANAN:  Let me respond to that. 
(CROSSTALK)
BUCHANAN:  Let me just respond here.
TODD:  Go ahead. 
CORN:  It wasn‘t a right-wing smear meant to do damage?
(CROSSTALK)
BUCHANAN:  How in heaven‘s name could the Department of Agriculture, the NAACP, and the White House look briefly at this thing and say, get rid of her, this is a disaster?  They came to the same stupid conclusion. 
(CROSSTALK)
CORN:  They overreacted...
BUCHANAN:  I will say.
CORN:  ... to the way that the story was being covered. 
But it doesn‘t excuse what Breitbart did.  He was very happy at first. 
(CROSSTALK)
TODD:  But this is where it goes to this question that you and I just talked about off camera.  And I want you both to answer it.
BUCHANAN:  Right. 
TODD:  Was this a story about race this week or a story about the media? 
BUCHANAN:  A story about politics. 
TODD:  A story about politics?
BUCHANAN:  It is a story about politics.  The big story here is not Andrew Breitbart. 
The president of the United States and the Department of Agriculture -
or the White House, I should say—threw Rosa Parks under the bus based on an element of a tape that was contradicted by the whole tape, without looking at it themselves. 

This was their employee.  This was one of their people.  They threw them out of fear and panic that maybe FOX News is going to run the tape?  That‘s the story.
CORN:  This is a story about the politics of race, of people using race very deliberately to try to get a political end, which is to damage the Obama administration.  So, it‘s a story of a smear that actually worked initially and then didn‘t last.
TODD:  But you both just made it about politics here a little bit, which is: What did we learn—what did you learn about the Obama White House and what did you learn about the Obama White House?
BUCHANAN:  If the Obama White House had delayed for 24 hours, Breitbart and anybody at FOX that used the tape would have had egg all over their face.  And the administration would have said, look, you guys doing this nonsense, you clipped this thing.  They would have been fools.  Who‘s the fool this week?
TODD:  Everybody has been.
CORN:  Pat is right.  I mean, we agree on this.  Because the White House—first, it was really the Agriculture Department overreacted and the White House didn‘t intervene in time whether they, you know, may have been involved—we still don‘t have all the answers to this—
TODD:  Right.
CORN:  -- as you know, Chuck.  But they didn‘t get involved, didn‘t stop, that‘s for sure.  They were nervous.  They are running scared.  And if you don‘t protect and stand up for your own people, then the public doesn‘t believe you‘re going to be fighting for them.
TODD:  All right.  Pat, you dealt with an opposition press—
BUCHANAN:  Right.
TODD:  -- during the Nixon administration.
BUCHANAN:  And the Reagan administration.
TODD:  What‘s your—what‘s your advice to the Obama folks in dealing with this part of the opposition?
BUCHANAN:  Well, look, you got—you now have—FOX News who is very powerful.  And if I were with the president, I say, Mr. President, they are out there.  And the shows at night, several of them at night, clearly have a real edge to them and it‘s not what our agenda.  Stop worrying about these guys.
TODD:  You would ignore them.
BUCHANAN:  I wouldn‘t ignore them because I think they‘re legitimate news organization.  They got powerful programs.  But the idea that you‘re sitting there watching and somebody says, oh, my God, Glenn Beck could have this on in the afternoon and you panic.  It‘s preposterous.
TODD:  You agree with him on that?
CORN:  Yes.  I don‘t know how powerful they are.  More people watch “Dancing with the Stars” than Bill O‘Reilly on any given night.  I think that, you know, it‘s like in the campus here in Washington—
TODD:  Yes.
CORN:  And they‘re like—they‘re like one of the campus TV stations.
TODD:  I‘m getting a hard, hard right.
David Corn, Pat Buchanan, a lively and interesting discussion on Mr.
Breitbart and everything else.
All right.  Up next: Just this week, the president signed into law Wall Street reform, cracked down on government waste and extended unemployment benefits.  So, why is he not getting any credit—despite an unemployment rate there to worry about?
This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK)
TODD:  Former Colorado Republican congressman, Tom Tancredo, is threatening to turn the Republican gubernatorial primary in Colorado upside down.  He‘s told the two Republican candidates for governor that if they don‘t drop out, he‘s jumping in.  Tancredo believes the two Republican candidates on the August 10 primary cannot win against Denver‘s Democratic mayor, John Hickenlooper.
Tancredo says he may run as an unaffiliated or with a third party if he has to that would likely split any sort of Republican or conservative vote and hand the race to the popular mayor.  Crazy times in Colorado.
We‘ll be right back.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK)
TODD:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.
President Obama knows that he‘s got to turn around the economy.  And this week, he went a long way, he believes, into achieving that.  He signed into law Wall Street reform.  He cracked down on government waste, and he extended unemployment benefits.
But until Americans really feel the economy improving in their own lives, will they give President Obama any credit?
Senator Chris Dodd is chairman of the banking committee, and he, of course, has his name on the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act that the president signed this week.
Senator Dodd, thank you for joining us.
So, let‘s start with Wall Street reform.  Explain this.  How do you go back to Connecticut, to somebody in Waterbury who‘s struggling to find work and say, “This is how Wall Street reform is going to help the economy get better to get you a job”?  How do you tell that person that?
SEN. CHRIS DODD (D), CONNECTICUT:  Well, it‘s hard thing to say because this bill doesn‘t give you your job back.  It doesn‘t restore your foreclosed home.  It doesn‘t put money back into your retirement account.
It‘s designed specifically to look ahead, to make sure we never again have to go through the very crisis we‘ve been through.  We‘ll have other economic crises, but they should never metastasized, or, if you will, spread out, as this one did, coming from a housing crisis to one that‘s contaminated almost every aspect of our economy.
So, we never made the claim that this bill is designed to restore all of that.  It‘s trying to minimize the kind of problems that we‘re going through as a result of this crisis.  So, that‘s the intention of the bill.
Now, obviously, what it does do as well, hopefully, is by stabilizing institutions, by getting them to focus on the flow of credit to businesses that are needed, stopping such things as, of course, this proprietary trading where insured deposits are being risked at taxpayers‘ expense, consumers‘ expense, giving protections to consumers, sort (ph) of taking them to the cleaners as they were in the home mortgage crisis, (INAUDIBLE) that you got an early warning systems that you can try to minimize the effects of crisis when they occur.
All of that ought to reassure the markets that we‘re in better shape to prepare against the next crisis that comes.  So, those things I think can help.
TODD:  But, Senator, you know, sometimes especially when it comes to legislating money, whether campaign money or when it comes with Wall Street -- sometimes, today‘s reform is tomorrow‘s problem, you know?
DODD:  Yes.
TODD: You know, it happened, let‘s say, with political action committees.  How are you confident that something that‘s being created today that is supposed to be a reform doesn‘t lead to an untended negative consequence?
DODD:  That‘s a great question, Chuck.  And anyone who tells you they can‘t be clairvoyant on that is kidding themselves.  You can‘t be.  One of the things we tried to do, I just mentioned, is the idea of this early warning process and to cover the shadow economy.
TODD:  Right.
DODD:  Too often, I‘m sure there‘s some 19- or 20- or 22-year-old who‘s reading through this bill trying to figure six ways to get around the language of it already.
TODD:  The loopholes, right.
DODD:  Exactly.  So, what you‘re trying to do is to reach around that by saying, if you‘re—if you are a financial institution—and we define a financial institution—no matter how creative you get, if you fall within the definition of one, then you‘re going to be covered by the legislation.  So, we tried to anticipate that kind of thinking to see to it we‘re never left again with an area developing where there aren‘t any regulators and there‘s no one controlling what‘s going on—which is what occurred in the area of brokers or in the shadow banking system.
So, we‘re anticipating that and by looking beyond the horizon.  It isn‘t just what happens here any longer.  Whoever thought than an economic crisis in Greece or a market collapse in Shanghai would pose significant risks to our economy in this country.
TODD:  Right.
DODD:  So, we need the ability to be able to watch these items as they occur globally and then harmonize these rules as well.  I intend to be a part of that G-20 conference when it occurs and urge the president to establish within the G-20, annual meetings of regulators so that we have some ability here not to race around the world and have countries develop a race to the bottom, so you can protect against the kinds of things that have occurred in our country as a result of lacking that harmonization globally.
TODD:  Senator, a couple other questions.
DODD:  Yes?
TODD:  A lot of people had advice for you a year ago when they thought you had some troubled electoral prospects before you made the decision not to run.  Any advice to Congressman Charlie Rangel?
DODD:  Well, listen, I know Charlie well from many, many years.  And I think he said it well today.  That report is coming out, what is it, next week, next Thursday or so, and there will be a process and a hearing.  Let‘s see what it says.
Obviously, he‘s been through a rough couple of years.  And people want to, you know, throw him out the door before he‘s had a chance to be heard.  Obviously, he‘s got his difficulties.  He‘s got his problems.
TODD:  Right.
DODD:  But he ought to be given a chance to make his case.
TODD:  Any regrets yourself you‘re not on the ballot?
DODD:  No.
TODD:  It‘s been a year almost since you made this decision.
DODD:  No, Chuck, not at all.  And I‘ve enjoyed immensely the 36 years.  We had a very productive couple of years on health care and financial reform, Iran sanctions, other bills—and I‘m looking forward to a new chapter in life and I‘ll be watching you regularly here and television commenting on the events that are occurring.
The election is this year.  I‘ll bee able to sit in the bleachers and watch it instead of being on that ballot for the first time in more than three decades.  So, I‘ll be watching out there.
(CROSSTALK)
TODD:  You never know.  We love to bring ex-politicians out and they become our chief analyst.
Anyway, Senator Chris Dodd, thanks for joining us.  Have a good weekend and travel safe back home.
DODD:  Thank you, Chuck, very much.
TODD:  All righty.
Up next: a storm is coming to the Gulf of Mexico.  And we‘re going to get the latest on the oil spill as that storm approaches.
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHELLE OBAMA, U.S. FIRST LADY:  In the name of the United States of America, I christen this Stratton.  May God bless this ship and all who sail in her.
(CHEERING)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD:  Never easy to get those things done and we are back.  That was First Lady Michelle Obama today christening a Coast Guard cutter on the Gulf in Pascagoula, Mississippi.  And in just a few weeks, the first family is return together area for a vacation on the Florida Gulf Coast.
But today, all eyes are on Tropical Storm Bonnie and its looming path toward the well.
Admiral Thad Allen is the national incident commander of the Gulf oil spill and he joins me now from New Orleans.
Admiral Allen, simple question here: this Tropical Storm Bonnie, is it still making a direct line for the spill site?
ADM. THAD ALLEN (RET.), NATIONAL INCIDENT COMMANDER:  It‘s pretty close and because of that reason, we‘re not taking any chances and we‘re pulling up our equipment and getting ready to move out of the path of the storm.
TODD:  And the whole point of this cap that‘s on there now—I mean, this was something the government wanted to have in place because you knew you were getting into the beginning—to the more active portion of hurricane season, correct?
ALLEN:  That‘s correct.  The cap was originally proposed as a way to go to four production platforms.  It would give us up to 80,000 barrels a day and that allow us to more contain the flow of the oil out of the well itself.  But it also have the opportunity to close off all the valves and actually shut in the well.
We‘ve assiduously looked at the results of this over the last six days and we have confidence that if we have to leave the site, we can leave the capped well unattended.
TODD:  So, this will be the first time that it will be unattended.  It will be—when does it officially, will there be nobody physically at the site?  At what point?  Is it later today, tomorrow, Sunday?
ALLEN:  We‘re going to leave some of the ROV-tending vessels out there until the last minute and it‘s possible, depending on the path of the storm, they could ride out the storm over the wellhead and continue to have an ROV deployed.
But we believe that we need to understand the implications if they have to leave and we think the window could potentially be about 48 hours and that could happen, you know, sometime later on after midnight this evening.  But there going—right now, the—it will be conditions-based or remain on the scene as long as they can.
TODD:  And how—and you‘ll be able to get back pretty much immediately, correct?
ALLEN:  Well, again, it will depend on the storm passage.
TODD:  Sure.
ALLEN:  The real heavy lift is with the Development Driller III which is drilling the relief well.
TODD:  OK.  Two other quick questions—there‘s been some more research being done about these underwater plumes.  Have you seen this research from the University of South Florida?  And are you getting this confirmed from the government side?
ALLEN:  Well, I‘ve been working very closely with Jane Lanchengco (ph), who has been trying to coordinate not only the efforts of the private universities but the NOAA acquisition regarding hydrocarbons in the water column well.  We need to know more about that.  We‘ve had—this is obviously the largest spill in U.S. history and we‘ve all sort of been using subsea dispersants and we need to understand more about it.  So, welcome the additional information.
TODD:  And I‘m glad you brought up the dispersants.  When are you going to get an EPA report?  There‘s been a lot of talk about the dispersants but not as much research being done by the EPA on what happens to the oil after it‘s interacted with the dispersants.  When do you expect to have another study back from the EPA on this issue?
ALLEN:  Well, Lisa Jackson and the EPA have been very aggressive on this.  And those test are ongoing right now.  In fact, they‘re concluding, I believe—they‘re about ready to undergo peer review and I think she‘ll be making some kind of an announcement in the future on that.  But I can tell you, they are aggressive looking at the testing on the dispersants as it mixes with the oil that we know that‘s out there.
TODD:  And when you say in the future, do you mean next week?  This is something we‘re going to know in the next week?
ALLEN:  Well, I wouldn‘t want to speak for Lisa.  But I know that they‘ve been working on it very, very hard.  And I think they‘re nearing the end and I would leave the timing of that to her.
TODD:  OK.  Admiral Thad Allen, thank you for your time.  Good luck with the storm this weekend.  And let‘s hope it stays as weak as it looks right now.  Good luck out there.
ALLEN:  Thank you.
TODD:  All right.
Well, that‘s HARDBALL for now.  Thanks for being with us.
Right now, it‘s time for “THE ED SHOW” with Ed Schultz.
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