Guests: K.T. McFarland, Ed Schultz, Joe Watkins
MICHAEL SMERCONISH, GUEST HOST: Start spreading the news, two guys who have made it there both think they can make it anywhere. And now, their New York City melodrama has become national news.
Hi everybody, I‘m Michael Smerconish in for Tucker.
Michael Bloomberg is no longer a Republican, and though he‘s not a presidential candidate yet, he still has billions of dollars, and according to today‘s “New York Daily News,” there‘s no love lost between the current mayor and his predecessor, Rudy Giuliani.
In his column, Michael Goodwin writes, “Every step Bloomberg takes toward running for president puts him another step closer to a collision with his former mentor. It‘s a clash in the making for some time, and it‘s more personal than political. Forget policy differences, it‘s a macho battle for bragging rights, with the White House thrown in as a bonus.”
Along with enunciating specific points of contention between the two, Goodwin suggests that Bloomberg chafed at living in Giuliani‘s long political shadow. Bloomberg has indicated that he won‘t enter the race for president simply to play spoiler. He‘ll only get in to win.
But, if the “Daily News” is accurate, and there are in fact, soap opera dynamics between Rudy Giuliani and Michael Bloomberg, might Bloomberg enter for the chance to show up America‘s mayor?
Joining me now is somebody who knows Bloomberg and Giuliani quite well. Former Republican U.S. Senate candidate, K.T. McFarland.
K.T., from 90 miles away in Philly, I thought these two guys were tight? What‘s the deal?
K.T. MCFARLAND, ® FMR. N.Y. SENATE CANDIDATE: Well, I saw Michael Goodwin last night, and he said he was writing this piece. I disagree with him. I think both of these men are very capable and they‘re grown-ups. They are not doing this out of some grudge match, they‘re doing this because they both want to have ideas of how the country goes forward.
And, Michael Bloomberg is a shrewd businessman, he wouldn‘t be a billionaire if he weren‘t. He‘s not going to enter this race unless he thinks he sees his way to victory.
SMERCONISH: He had some big shoes to fill. I mean, it‘s amazing that Michael Bloomberg is of the stature having followed Rudy Giuliani, where he‘s considered presidential timber. Because, you know, it‘s all about expectations in this game, and—boy, the expectations for anyone who followed Rudy were that he would never be able to match up.
MCFARLAND: Well, you know, Bloomberg has been successful because Rudy was successful first. You know, you wouldn‘t have the success that Mike Bloomberg has seen in running New York if Rudy hadn‘t come in in the beginning.
Rudy turned the ship around. New York was in trouble. The bond rating was bad, crime on the streets, broken windows, you couldn‘t drive your car around town for fear you‘d have squeegee men come and mug you.
So, Rudy broke a lot of china, and he turned New York around. Having done that, Bloomberg could come in and take it the rest of the way.
SMERCONISH: Some of the aspects of Goodwin‘s story are pretty salacious. I mean, there‘s a report in here today that says Giuliani had the executive chef prepare food for his mother three times a week, and would have it delivered to her ten blocks away. And that Bloomberg was beefing about this. What do you know about that?
MCFARLAND: I don‘t know really know anything about ...
SMERCONISH: Did you eat any of that food? Tell us right now.
MCFARLAND: No, I was never invited to those lunches I‘m sorry to say. I usually go to McDonald‘s myself. No, look, these guys are grown-ups, and any effort by a tabloid press in New York to try to stir things up, hey, this is New York, that‘s fun. You know, I wouldn‘t take any of it terribly seriously.
SMERCONISH: All right ...
MCFARLAND: But I would take seriously though, are—the fact that this—if this is an election where anything can happen, you know, there‘s only one thing that‘s sure this time around, and that‘s nothing sure.
SMERCONISH: All right, but don‘t deny us our fun just yet, because there‘s more in this story.
SMERCONISH: Two weeks ago, Bloomberg started another skirmish, says Goodwin in today‘s “New York Daily News,” when he said that he wouldn‘t leave deficits like he inherited. That‘s on the record. You know, that‘s a direct, across the bow shot at Rudy.
MCFARLAND: But Rudy turned the ship of fate around, and the fact that it wasn‘t completely solved and the fact that September the 11th happened and there was still problems to deal with, you know, Bloomberg dealt with them.
SMERCONISH: K.T., come on. You‘re tight with the both of them. You know both of these—you know them both, you know their wives.
MCFARLAND: I know them both, I know them both, I know their wives, my children know their children.
SMERCONISH: Right, you run in the same circles.
MCFARLAND: We know them. They‘re both just terrific.
SMERCONISH: OK, so you‘re telling me what, that they are tight or they‘re not tight?
MCFARLAND: They‘re both confident, capable men.
I don‘t think anybody—this is politics, you know. Is anybody tight in politics? I don‘t really think so. But they both respect each other. They both know that without each other, their careers would probably not have been possible.
You know, Rudy Giuliani could not be running for president right now if New York was not on a roll.
SMERCONISH: Are you disappointed to see Bloomberg leave your party, because I know you ...
MCFARLAND: I am, I am very disappointed.
SMERCONISH: ...I know, you‘re a big tent person.
MCFARLAND: Yes, I am a big tent Republican.
SMERCONISH: I mean it seems to me—he‘s the kind of a guy that you‘ve been advocating should be, you know, one of the standard bearers of the party.
MCFARLAND: Yes, and I am sorry, I can see why he would want to do it, because if he is going to run for president, the only way that makes sense is for him to run as an Independent. But I am sorry to see him leave. I think the Republican party has an opportunity to rebuild itself in the Northeast, in urban and suburban areas by being social moderates, by being physical conservatives, by getting government off people‘s backs, out of their bedroom and away from their billfold.
SMERCONISH: Rudy is big on loyalty, or so the newspapers would have you to believe.
MCFARLAND: Yes, he is.
SMERCONISH: And I‘ve had a number of personal interactions with him myself, and that seems to fit the profile. Isn‘t this the ultimate act of disloyalty? Michael Bloomberg, and you know better than I, but he owes—the fact that he‘s the mayor of New York City today to Rudy having embraced him in the last minute of a heated campaign?
MCFARLAND: Absolutely. Bloomberg was running behind before September the 11th. But I think what September the 11th did in New York, and if anybody will remember that day, that was the day of the New York primary election, September the 11th. And then we had our mayoral election just two months later.
You know, New York was turned around, and I think a lot of people understood after September the 11th, that politics as usual wasn‘t going to make any difference (ph).
SMERCONISH: But it seems pretty underhanded, doesn‘t it? I mean, Bloomberg, he‘s done a hell of a job.
MCFARLAND: He‘s done a great job.
SMERCONISH: I like Michael Bloomberg, I mean—to me, I like so many different aspects, but on this loyalty basis, you know, he would just be another billionaire. I don‘t know how many of those there are. But he‘d be another billionaire, not the Mayor of New York City, but for Rudy saying, he‘s the guy.
And—you know, you correct me if I‘m wrong, didn‘t Bloomberg then tout the fact in an anti-Mark Green campaign commercial ...
MCFARLAND: Absolutely, he used the fact that he got Rudy‘s endorsement to run. But on the other hand, Bloomberg has done great things on his own. He took it the next step.
You know, after September the 11th, anyone in New York City thought that there was another attack right around the corner. We all lived at the edge of our seats. We didn‘t know, we had dough bags right next door if there was going to be another attack. Mike Bloomberg did a terrific job of creating an NYPD, New York Police Department, there was no anti-terrorists unit anywhere in the country.
SMERCONISH: There‘s something you‘re not telling me. Somebody spilled a drink on somebody else on the upper east or west side. Frankly, I don‘t even know the difference. But, we appreciate ...
MCFARLAND: But I‘ll tell you the ticket I‘d love to see.
SMERCONISH: Tell me.
MCFARLAND: Is the Giuliani-Bloomberg ticket.
SMERCONISH: Right, or Bloomberg-Giuliani, that‘s what Bloomberg‘ll tell you.
MCFARLAND: Or a Bloomberg-Giuliani. And then—guess what, the third New Yorker in the mix, Mrs. Clinton.
MCFARLAND: This could be—you know, this could be an all-New York election.
SMERCONISH: You may have to get back into the thick of things. Thank you for being here.
MCFARLAND: Thanks so much.
SMERCONISH: Appreciate it.
Some think that the fat lady is getting ready to sing, relative to the McCain campaign. I‘m not counting him out, but something is clearly amiss in John McCain‘s world. Can he recover and still have a shot at the White House?
Plus, free the Montrose 19. Political rabble rousers? Not exactly. Pranksters in New York learning a lesson the hard way, and they may be facing jail time because of it.
SMERCONISH: There are signs that John McCain‘s presidential campaign is struggling. First it was his fund raising, and now, the latest Gallop Poll of the Republican race in Iowa shows McCain running fifth. Fifth! Tied with Sam Brownback at the furthest outskirts of relevance.
How could a political leader of such enormous personal appeal have fallen so far out of favor so quickly? And can McCain revive his campaign or are we witnessing the end of his political career?
Joining me now to talk about John McCain, Joe Watkins, MSNBC Political Analyst, and Republican Strategist, as well as Ed Schultz, he‘s the host of the nationally syndicated, “The Ed Schultz Program.”
Gentlemen, welcome to the show.
JOE WATKINS, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Thank you, Michael.
SMERCONISH: Hey, Ed, I disagree with John McCain on immigration, and I disagree with John McCain relative to an exit strategy in Iraq. But I give him great credit for being a man of principle. I guess that‘s not something others are giving him credit for?
ED SCHULTZ, “THE ED SCHULTZ SHOW”: Well, you know, Michael, there is other candidates out there that are candidates and men of principle as well. The fact is, John McCain is out of touch with mainstream Americans with his war position. He sounds more hawkish every time he talks. In fact, you listen to him, you think you‘re listening to another version of George W. Bush and that makes a lot of Americans nervous.
SMERCONISH: Yes, and I am one of them.
SMERCONISH: Ed, I‘m one of them. I guess there is just something that I find—remember that movie, was it “Bulworth,” you know, Warren Beatty was in it? And he was say whatever was on his mind, even when it was goofy?
SMERCONISH: I mean, I like a guy who doesn‘t put his finger to the wind, and take a poll instead. Like, what you get from John McCain is the real deal and I respect that.
SCHULTZ: But it‘s out of mainstream with Americans right now. They don‘t want to continue on with this escalation. They want a deadline and they want to start drawing down groups and that‘s not where he is and I think it‘s costing him.
SMERCONISH: Well, Joe Watkins, if you had to say it in one word, even more so than the war, wouldn‘t it be immigration?
WATKINS: Yes, I think immigration is really hurting John McCain. I mean, these are the things—the fact that John McCain is not somebody to just tell Americans what they want to hear. I think it makes him a very credible candidate for the presidency, and certainly somebody that has real legs with the American people.
Unfortunately, he has two issues right now where he has—he is not in lock step with lots of Americans, and one is immigration, of course, and the other one is the Iraq war.
But, this is a man who was a hero, who over the years has built his base of support by being a maverick, by not just doing what the crowd wants him to say, but by being willing to stand up for the right thing. He believes that what he is doing with regards to Iraq and likewise what he is doing with regards to immigration are the right thing for America and the best way for America to go.
SMERCONISH: You know, Joan Vennaci (ph) wrote something in the “Boston Globe” that I have in front of me that really pained me, and it painted this vignette of McCain of being on the stump and some knuckle head waiving a sign that said traitor.
WATKINS: That‘s, like, so unbelievable that anybody can wave a sign like that. You might disagree with John McCain, but there is no way that you would ever say that John McCain is a traitor.
Here is a man who, in 1967, was taken captive by the North Vietnamese, spent all the years in a prisoner of war camp, had a chance for early release when they found out who his father was, and turned it down and stuck it out with the fellow prisoners of war. This man, if any of the candidates running for president, this man is a hero.
SMERCONISH: Hey, Ed, let me ask you ...
SCHULTZ: Michael, I want to ...
SMERCONISH: Is age a factor here?
SCHULTZ: Well, age is a factor. He is old with no new ideas. But I want to respond to this talk about hero. I respect John McCain, many Americans do, but just because he was in a POW camp 40 years ago in North Vietnam, doesn‘t mean that he has got the exact answers for what to do in Iraq!
SMERCONISH: No, but it means ...
WATKINS: But he‘s has been there. He knows ...
SMERCONISH: But, wait, guys, hold it. Hold it.
I have got to respond to that. But it does mean, Ed, that he has put on the uniform for his country and he is deserving of a certain level of respect, and some dirt bag with a sign that says traitor, I mean, I think it‘s indefensible.
SCHULTZ: Well, now wait, I agree with that, but let‘s put it in its context. He has drawn a lot of fire from working Americans, the word traitor I think was being used because he is selling out American jobs because he is going with this amnesty bill and this illegal immigration. He is a border senator who has not advocated for tight border controls.
He‘s out of touch with mainstream.
SMERCONISH: Alright. Maybe it‘s too much to put on the sign. If they put on a sign, stop selling out American jobs, I would be cool with it. That‘s fine.
Joe Watkins, let me ask you, it‘s your party. Is he done?
WATKINS: No, he‘s not done. I think he has to really stick to continue to raising money and continue to raise more and more money so he can get his message out. He can get direct male people and get some momentum in states where he seems to be losing momentum. And he‘s got to stick to his message. I think the thing that‘s made him strong in the past is the fact that he doesn‘t change his message just to suit the voters. I think he has got to, for better or worse, continue to do exactly what he is doing.
SMERCONISH: Ed Schultz, we are limited on time. Do you think that he is finished.
SCHULTZ: It‘s all about the money, and it‘s something that he does not like to do. And that‘s raise it. This is do or die time for McCain if he wants to stay alive and viable.
SMERCONISH: Yes, well, there is still a lot of time left on the clock. A lot of time for somebody else to make a faux pas, but I guess we are going to see the way this thing wraps up. Stick around, gentlemen.
He is true veteran, when it comes to presidential elections, having dabbled in them more than once, so is Ralph Nader dusting off campaign notes and gearing up for another run in ‘08?
Plus, alarm clocks. Mine goes off at 3:00 a.m. so I can do morning drive back in Philly. No matter when yours rings, I‘m sure it‘s not the most pleasant part of your day. But, when it comes down to it, they are harmless. Well, not so says one New York high school.
SMERCONISH: There are certain rites of late spring in America. The Red Sox look vulnerable, schools throw proms and graduations and high school seniors pull pranks.
Like clockwork they‘ve all happened but clock work has 19 seniors from the Hendrick Hudson High School, north of New York City, in big trouble with the cops.
The seniors broke into school on a Sunday night. They planted about 150 dime store alarm clocks around their school, aiming to have them all go off at the same time, 9:15 the following morning. That was the last day of school.
Well, they wrapped the clocks in duct tape, now you see where this is headed, to prevent the batteries from being removed. When the police responded, they feared that the alarm clocks were bombs. And now, the 19 kids, they face felony charges for placing false bombs and they can‘t participate in tomorrow‘s graduation exercises. I say they were boneheaded, but this is excessive.
I mean, come on, what‘s next? Water boarding them? Joining me again, Joe Watkins, MSNBC political analyst and Republican strategist. And Ed Schultz, host of the nationally syndicated “Ed Schultz Show.” Joe, you are a law and order guy, but come one, this is too much law and order!
WATKINS: Well, I‘m sure these are good kids, Michael, but you know what? We live in a different age now. I mean, when “Animal House” came out, that was before September 11th, that was before Columbine and before Virginia Tech. We have had all of those unfortunate—all these tragedies in the last several years. Now this is a very, very different time. Kids have to be a lot more thoughtful about what they do and about what is funny.
Plus, you have to consider the fact that they broke into the school the night before, using a key that had been missing for a year to place all of the alarm clocks. And those police, those state troopers and other folks that came out to investigate, had to dismantle those alarms clocks. Those folks were putting their life on the line, every time they answer a call like that, so it‘s serious business to them, too.
SMERCONISH: Ed Schultz, I am a bleeding heart on this one. Are you with me?
SCHULTZ: Well, I am. I think to charge—possibly charge these kids with a felony, I think, is way overboard. It doesn‘t quite qualify for Andy of Mayberry and putting Barney Fife on it.
But I think it is an overreaction. And I think there is a lot of ways that they could get restitution and send the message and use these kids as an example that we are living in a different world post 9/11, and pranks are not the same as they used to be.
The break in has to be answered for, but I think felony charges, that‘s a little steep.
SMERCONISH: I totally agree. You know who has got the solution? Some guy named Danny Aloe (ph). He is the owner of Two Brothers Pizza, which is right down the road from the school. Here is his quote, he said, “let them clean toilets or cut grass or pick up the garbage.” I mean, isn‘t that the way you handle something like this?
WATKINS: Well, you have to send the message out. Because if you don‘t send out a strong message, saying that this kind of behavior is wrong and won‘t be tolerated, other people will try it. And we live in this new age now, where people are legitimately afraid, we do have terror, acts of terror taking place all around the world. We have to be concerned about it. I mean, the police do not have the luxury any more of coming to a school and finding alarm clocks and just assuming that it‘s a high school prank.
SMERCONISH: Hey, Mr. Watkins, are you one of these squeaky clean guys? I mean, come one, Schultz and I were raising some hell back in the day.
And, Ed, I don‘t mind telling you ...
WATKINS: You don‘t know me, I wasn‘t so squeaky clean.
SMERCONISH: Listen. In the eighth grade, guys, I got suspended for flicking a moon. And what happened is, they called my parents and they said to my father that, you know, he exposed himself, we are sending him home for the day. My dad was elated when he found out that I didn‘t drop trou in the front! So maybe I should confess my sins and biases in Tucker‘s slot.
SCHULTZ: Well, you know, I think the worst thing I did, I think we paper toileted a couple of homes. And I don‘t know if that would have been breaking any laws now or not. But you know, a felony, let‘s talk about that if we can. That can scar a kid for life. And I don‘t think that this incident warrants that severe of even attempt to do that to the kids. I mean, that‘s pretty severe. They will get publicity, they are embarrassed about it. Get them some public restitution and make them do some stuff. Cleaning toilets sounds pretty good to me.
SMERCONISH: Hey, Joe Watkins, I got the solution and it came from a caller back in our stomping grounds in Philly on the “Big Talker,” alright? Somebody called me this morning and they said let those kids go to commencement exercises but they have to sit there wearing dunce caps. Huh? Come on.
WATKINS: Well, that‘s one way to deal with it, of course. But, no, you have to send a message loud and clear for the next group of kids that might be inclined to do something. If the punishment is too lax, people will say, you know what? Nobody takes it seriously, we can get away with it, and even sends—sadly, a message to people would-be terrorists, that you know what? They will always assume that it‘s a prank, so therefore we can do this to them and that‘s one way of getting to them.
SMERCONISH: All right. After the break, we are going to delve into Joe Watkins disciplinary record from his school days. I‘m not sure how long that subject will last.
WATKINS: You don‘t want to do that! You don‘t want to got there, Michael.
SMERCONISH: The media has long been criticized for being too left leaning. Well, that criticism is only going to get worse after people see an MSNBC.com report on who in the media gave to which campaigns and how much.
Plus, all of this talk of a possible third-party candidacy must be music to Ralph Nader‘s ears. Will he decide to run for president again in ‘08? You are watching MSNBC.
SMERCONISH: Still to come, the possibility of a third party candidacy is growing more likely. Ralph Nader says that he is seriously considering a run for the White House again. How worried should the Democrats be?
Well, get to that in just a moment, but first, here is a look at your headlines.
SMERCONISH: It‘s a familiar complaint of conservatives that so-called national media leans left politically. A new report by Bill Dedman for MSNBC.com is going to add fuel to that fire. In a survey of 144 media members who contributed to politicians or political causes, 125 of them, 87 percent, donated to Democrats or to liberal causes. Is that a problem? Is it the plain honest truth, or both? Here to discuss it are a conservative and liberal member of the media, Joe Watkins, MSNBC political analyst and Republican strategist, and Ed Schultz, host of the nationally syndicated “The Ed Schultz Show.”
Ed, do you write checks?
SCHULTZ: I certainly do. I gave 4,000 dollars to Tom Daschle, gave 4,000 to Senator Dorgan, gave 2,000 dollars to Ken Conrad. And I think it‘s money that they deserve because they have done a good job for the Democratic party. I‘m very proud of it. But that doesn‘t mean that I am not going to go on the air and disagree with them on certain issues.
I think, Michael, if you are going to go after the credibility of those in the news media who decide to do what they want to do with their personal money, I think you also have to question what the motives are some ownership groups that give exclusively to conservative causes. That‘s an issue in my opinion.
SMERCONISH: Joe, I don‘t have a problem. Ed, what does he do for a living? He offers his view. So why shouldn‘t he also offer his view through his checkbook? I think my beef would be if he were a beat reporter and he were writing checks. I mean, that‘s sort of the dichotomy that I see. Joe Watkins, how do you break it down?
WATKINS: I agree with that. I have given money. As a matter of fact, the first thing that happens if you Google my name on Google is you see all the contributions I have given over the last several years. I have given about 8,500 dollars to different candidates, all Republicans of course, people who I have supported in the past because I really like what they are doing.
And just like Ed, I don‘t agree with every single thing that every single Republican does, but I like what these candidates have tried to do and I have tried to be supportive of them.
That being said, it‘s all fair, I think—when I come on television and I share my opinion, I tell people exactly what I think. And at the same time, often times as a Republican analysts for MSNBC, I give people a sense of what the Republicans think, and how it looks from a Republican perspective. I think it‘s all fair.
At the same time, we should consider the fact that of the journalists that were surveyed—what was it, 17 out of—
SMERCONISH: It‘s a nine to one ratio.
WATKINS: If you don‘t think that the media is slanted to the left, think again.
SMERCONISH: Ed Schultz, nine to one, pretty compelling.
SCHULTZ: Well, are we talking about actual beat reporters who are giving? I think that have you to look at their work. They are still citizens and they are still operating within the law. And that doesn‘t mean that they are not going to be very direct to the facts, and they are going to tell both sides of the story. They have a professional obligation to perform in their job.
They are highly trained. You know, you just don‘t get a job at the network. You have to do some things in your career to get there. I think that once reporters get to the network, the last thing they want to do is put themselves in jeopardy by leaning one way or another, when it comes to doing their professional work.
So I think this might be somewhat of a stretch and a reach, to try to pigeon hole reporters because they give certain dollars to certain causes, it means that they are going to report that way. I don‘t think that‘s professional. I don‘t think it happens.
SMERCONISH: I think there is a body of research out there that has suggested that quantitatively for a long time that members of the media lean left. That has always been my perspective. I am not here to read the GOP talking points. I just think that‘s the reality.
SCHULTZ: Well, you know, Michael, it is well documented that 90 percent of the electronic media in this country is owned, operated, programmed by conservatives. I don‘t think there‘s any doubt—
SCHULTZ: Hey Joe, four out of five dentists—Oh no, that‘s a different thing.
Hey, Ralph Nader says he is getting into this. Chris Matthews is going to have him on “HARDBALL” tonight. Here‘s the part that I find disingenuous: Nader is already saying, well, we need more choice. Here is Bloomberg, clearly about to get into the race. How can Nader bang that drum and say there is not enough choice. My god, they can‘t fit all the candidates on stage who are running in either party.
WATKINS: Well, the drum doesn‘t have any resonance to it at all. I mean, Nader cannot really make any kind of a credible argument for his entering the race again. He hasn‘t gotten any big numbers in the past. He hasn‘t been able to raise lots and lots of money. There is no ground swell of support for him. He clearly cannot compete with Michael Bloomberg, who has billions of dollars of his own money, if he so chooses to spend it, to spend.
So why Ralph Nader is getting into the game, other than for the sake, perhaps, of ego is beyond me.
SMERCONISH: Ed Schultz, I look at Michael Bloomberg, and I accept on the merits that to the extent he wants to get into the race, he wants to get into the race to win. But when I look at Nader, I do look at a man who I think is in just to be a spoiler. He cannot possibly think that he is out there to win this thing.
SCHULTZ: Well, you know Michael, well he‘s a spoiler, or what his motivation is, ego, he could be trouble for the Democrats, depending on who gets the nomination. There is just enough anti-Hillary folks out there that might defect and go to Ralph Nader, where he could make a difference. I don‘t think the country will be much different in 2008, when it comes to votes, as it was in 2004. And I think there is just enough people on the far left that might gravitate to Nader, where he could make a problem for the Clintons if they get the nomination, down in Florida or in Ohio or Pennsylvania.
So I that Nader is trouble for the Democrats, and I think that he is going to be more of a force in 2008 than he was in 2004, because the war has intensified with the far left.
SMERCONISH: In other words, in a scenario where Hillary is the standard bearer of the Democratic party and Rudy or Fred Thompson are leading the charge for the GOP, even with Bloomberg in the race, you think there is a disaffected block of a couple of percent that could go to Nader and pull from Hillary?
SCHULTZ: I do. And I think that they could pull from Barack Obama.
I think he could pull from John Edwards.
WATKINS: That‘s a hard case to make, because I think, at the end of the day, the Democrats want to win too badly to throw away votes on Ralph Nader. I mean, they want it too badly. They want the presidency after two terms of a Republican.
SCHULTZ: Well, I think that they definitely want it, But, you know what, when you‘ve got Hillary Clinton getting booed again yesterday over at the Take Back America Conference—I hear it every day, there is an undercurrent in America that is upset with the Democratic leadership right now. They better get their act together when it comes to the war and keep putting the pressure on.
I had a long talk with Russ Feingold today. It‘s no longer the far left Democrats, it‘s mainstream Americans, and the Democrats need to do more. And those are the exact people that Nader is appealing to. I think he could be trouble.
SMERCONISH: Guys, I have to tell you, I think the best thing to happen to Hillary in a while was to get booed, because in middle America, folks sitting in their barcaloungers see a liberal group booing, and that, you know, as the president would say, it resonates.
Joe Watkins, thank you. Ed Schultz, you‘re sticking around with me.
And all of you should stick around as well.
By the way, again, “HARDBALL” tonight; Ralph Nader is going to be Chris‘s guest. Play a little “HARDBALL” right after we are done.
Now a little break to talk a little sports. Sammy Sosa carved out his place on baseball‘s Mount Rushmore last night, hitting his 600th home run and joining the likes of Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth, Willie Mays and Barry Bonds. And speaking of Barry Bonds, I have figured out—some are going to say dreamed—I have figured out the story book ending to the Barry Bonds saga.
There is no need to end this finale by just cutting to black and leaving fans to speculate on what it means, ala Sopranos. No, I have got a straight forward scenario where Bonds becomes revered by everybody. Bud Selig is happy. And Major League Baseball not only survives but maintains its dignity. Now, cue the guy in the members only jacket, because I am ready to spell it out. I just have to give you a little background.
By now you know that Barry Bonds hit number 748 last Sunday at Fenway against the Red Sox. That home run left him just seven behind Aaron‘s all time record of 755. Eight more and Bonds will become the guardian of one of the most storied records in sports. But Bonds is widely suspected of using illegal performance enhancing drugs, as two “San Francisco Chronicle” reporters famously alleged in their books “Game of Shadows” last year.
Their is speculation that a perjury charge might flow from his Grand Jury testimony in 2003, where in he reportedly stated that he took banned substances unknowingly. Those enhancements, they could certainly explain the unheard of 73 home runs that Barry Bonds hit in 2001.
Now, in his own defense, Bonds attributes the power of his twilight years to legal regiments. That would be nutrition and weight training. And lost in the shuffle is that before there was any Grand Jury investigation of Balco or Greg Anderson, Bonds was one of the best baseball players of the current generation. And to date, let me also point out, Barry Bonds hasn‘t been charged, much less convicted of anything. In fact, he has never even failed a drug test.
Nevertheless, Bonds approaches Aaron‘s record not as a home run king, but as the prince of baseball darkness. Assumed innocent or proven guilty, Barry Bonds represents baseball‘s steroid era. And nothing seems capable of erasing that stigma for Bonds and the game of baseball.
I remember last summer I took my sons to see a Phillies home stand with the Giants and watched as Bonds received a City of Brotherly love razzing. And it was funny when he first came up to the plate. But I have to tell you, by the later innings, it was down right unseemly, and an incredible distraction from an otherwise splendid game.
I would have felt sorry for Barry Bonds that day accept that he has been his own worst enemy. I mean, over the years he has built a reputation for being a difficult teammate and an antagonistic interview for the reporters following his career.
All right, I am ready. Meadow, by now, has parallel parked the car, so let me cut to the chase and give you my solution. You ready? Barry Bonds should stop at 754. He should come within one, but not surpass Hank Aaron‘s record, voluntarily choosing instead to retire on the cusp of passing the most heralded record in baseball.
Talk about a total win-win. He seizes the loan remaining opportunity to show some class, and re-earn the respect of those dedicated to the game that he has played for more than 20 seasons. But only if he is willing to stop one shy of tying Hank Aaron. He hits number 754 and then he quits.
Think about it. Bonds has 14 home runs in the 64 games in which he has appeared this year. He needs half that number to reach Aaron‘s mark, which, at this pace, means another 30, 35 games. It will probably happen in late July or early August.
Statistically, barring injury, it is going to happen sometime this baseball season. But baseball never has been just about statistics. The reality is that Bond‘s legacy as the game‘s greatest power hitter is years past tainted. So if stats are the reason that Bonds still patrols left field at 43 years old, reaching 754 and stopping would prove that he could beat Aaron, but he would have too much respect for the game and for Hank Aaron to actually do so.
By pulling out of sports most cherished home run derby, Barry bonds could also save Major League Baseball from what could be a humiliating night. Aaron has said he intends to stay away from whatever ball park hosts Bonds‘ record setting home run. Commissioner Bud Selig has remained silent on any plans to celebrate Bonds‘ accomplishment.
Bonds should save Major League Baseball the task of planning an empty spectacle. Everybody will know he could have hit 755 and then some. and by stopping before he gets to Hank Aaron‘s mark, there would be no asterisk. There would be no ceremony. There would be no shame for Barry Bonds. He would be rehabilitated. He would be redeemed in one shot, probably a shot over a left field fence.
Rush Limbaugh, Laura Ingraham, Michael Savage, you know the names. And if you read the latest report on talk radio, you will also be made to believe it‘s conservatives like them who own the air waives. But do they?
And after some serious thought, Bob Barker may not think Rosie O‘Donnell is right for “The Price is Right.” We have our finger on his pulse, and we are bringing you the latest. You are watching MSNBC.
SMERCONISH: I‘m Michael Smerconish, in for Tucker. I am a talk show host based in Philadelphia. And my guest is Ed Schultz. He‘s a nationally syndicated talk show host. And we‘ve got something else in common; we were both mentioned in a new study by the Center for American Progress and Free Press. That group asserted that talk radio, our domain, is dominated by conservatives. And they want the government to do something about it.
These folks say that more regulation of the air waves would create more balance, that more diverse ownership and less consolidation in the radio business would balance radio politics. Me, I don‘t deny conservative dominance. I just think that the research is flawed.
Ed, here is my question. I am a pro choice guy. I am in favor of an Iraq exit timetable. And when it comes to same sex couples, I have a live and let live mentality. So ideologically, what does that make me?
SCHULTZ: Well the question is, are you entertaining? Yes. Do you have good commentary or do you have good content? Do you have good guests on the air? You have to have a lot of different elements to have a good radio show. I think that when Limbaugh started, he had a lot of success, opened the door for a lot of others.
It‘s the old concept, Michael, when you are in business and you make a product and you have a product and it‘s successful, what do you do? You make more of it. I don‘t think there is any doubt that he paved the way for a lot of conservative talkers. And the industry evolved to what it is today. But I take issue with those in the industry that say liberals can‘t talk and can‘t be entertaining and can‘t do commerce.
When we started in January of 2004, we started on two stations and 500 people listening on the Internet. We have grown to 100 stations. It‘s all about ratings. It‘s all about revenue. And you have to show a consistent growing audience. Now, we have been able to do that.
The point being here is you have to be able to sell advertising. You have to be able to hold an audience.
SMERCONISH: I agree with you. My beef, and maybe it was too much inside baseball, I just think they were too loose with these labels. I get lumped in as a conservative. And here‘s another sort of thorn in my side, you are a progressive. What am I? A regressive. I am for regressive policies. I love how it‘s no longer liberal, it‘s progressive. It‘s not a trash man, it‘s a sanitation engineer.
SCHULTZ: You know, I think the talk radio industry is right now a little confused and searching for identity, because the country basically has shifted on a lot of different key issues. We are at a philosophical cross roads in America on how we feel about health care, how we feel about, how we feel about foreign policy, taxes, the economy, foreign debt, all of these things.
So to take a label and put it on a talk show host right now is pretty dangerous. The question is, does the talk show host get ratings? Does the talk show host sell advertising?
SMERCONISH: I am all for what you are saying. You are giving me the free market pitch. Look, I wish there were more - I wish there were more - - I‘ve got to say this. I wish there were more classic rock on the radio. But I don‘t think the government should get involved to give me more Led Zeppelin and Yes.
SCHULTZ: Well, wait a second now. When you are talking about the spoken word, it influences a lot of people and it influences election in this country. There is no question. We are talking about market opportunities. Right now the liberal progressive format in this country—we are all fighting over the same 100 stations. Michael, I offer to you that ownership is an issue.
There are conservative broadcast companies in this country that do not broadcast one single second of liberal talk radio.
SMERCONISH: But Ed, I have to tell you something—
SMERCONISH: CBS would fire me in the morning and replace me with a communist if that communist would get them more revenue. It‘s all about the scratch.
SCHULTZ: That‘s not true. Michael, that is not true. I have got one of the top talk shows in Seattle, and I am only on one station in the country with Infinity. That‘s not true. We are not being given the fair market opportunity.
SMERCONISH: I just don‘t see it that way. I think it‘s totally demand driven. And if were there a demand for whatever the program happened to be, believe me, they would put it on the air, because all they want to do is sell advertising and there is nothing wrong with that.
SCHULTZ: You know, Michael that‘s almost insulting me. I beat Sean Hannity in Denver. I beat him in Seattle. I beat him in Portland. I beat in San Diego. How many markets do I have to beat Hannity in before I get 200 or 300 stations? It‘s an ownership issue. Salem Radio, Infinity does one, ABC owns Hannity. It comes down to ownership. Actually, Clear Channel has been better than any of them.
The fact is, it‘s market opportunities and liberal talkers, progressive talkers are being held to a totally different standard than conservatives.
SMERCONISH: I respectfully disagree. But I am thrilled to have you in here so folks get both sides. I‘m a free market guy, and I think, if the market demands it, you will be everywhere, including in Philly. Thank you for being here.
SCHULTZ: Well, thank you. You bet.
SMERCONISH: You think you are doing your part by recycling your newspaper every day? Well, that‘s not enough, at least not in the Philippines, where newspaper handbags are the latest craze. You are watching MSNBC.
SMERCONISH: We spent the first 55 minutes of the show bringing you the news that you can use. Now we‘ll spend the next five bringing you the news you must use. And for that we‘re joined by MSNBC vice president of prime time programming Bill Wolff. Mr. Wolff?
BILL WOLFF, VICE PRESIDENT OF MSNBC: Mr. Smerconish, well said. This is really the important part of the program and that‘s why they‘ve handed it to a person as credible as I am. Now, as you said earlier in this fine program, Michael, Barry Bonds is closing in on Henry Aaron‘s record of 7555 career home runs. And the whole pursuit lives under the cloud of Major League Baseball‘s steroid scandal.
This very afternoon, confessed steroid user Jason Giambi, the dreaded New York Yankees, agreed to cooperate with Major League Baseball‘s official steroid investigation. Well, the Professional Golf Association wants to end its steroid problem before it begins. PGA commissioner Tim Finchem has reversed his position and called for a united front among golf‘s organizing bodies to test golfers for performance enhancing drugs.
The PGA is the last—one of the last—among major sport organizations to commit to drug testing. Given the physiques of people like that man you‘re looking at right now, U.S. Open Champ Angel Cabrera, I, for one, am relieved. The only question, Michael, is: by performance enhancing drugs in golf, do they mean beer, trans-fats, cigarettes?
SMERCONISH: Only if you‘re talking about John Daly.
WOLFF: I must confess to being a terrible golfer. I do enjoy it, but I‘m a far better golfer after one, perhaps 1 ½ of my favorite adult beverages.
SMERCONISH: So you think.
WOLFF: Well, that‘s all that‘s important is self-perception on the golf course, Michael.
Now to the fashion and accessory Mecca known as the Philippines, where there is a new trend in handbags. They‘re making them out of old newspapers, presumably the style section. My apologies for that. A group of 20 housewives started the trend when they set about finding new uses for old news print. So fashionable are these bags that they‘ve been seen on the arms of Manila‘s elite and they‘re going for just two bucks a shot retail, although it won‘t be long before you‘ll be seeing knock offs going for 50 cents on the streets of Manhattan. Of course, the knock offs will be made of the “National Enquirer” and the “Weekly World News,” Michael.
SMERCONISH: I can see it now. Is that a real “New York Post?” The label has been cut out of it.
WOLFF: No, it is a knock off “New York Post,” or perhaps the online edition. Next up, shoes made out of banana peels.
Now for a shameless ratings grab, with your permission, of course, Michael. It‘s your show. Everybody loves baby animals. At least that‘s what focus groups tell executives like me. So try to top this. Dateline Belgrade, Serbia. This heart-melding, irresistible, coup inducing beast is Jovan, the rare white buffalo, imported to a Balkan zoo from Texas last week and added to the collection there of rare white animals.
Jovan is reportedly darling sweet, cuddly soft, fuzzy, and innocent. Zoologists in Belgrade are hoping to import a mate for Jovan in order to produce more such wonderful beasts, which kinds of ruins the innocence of this whole story. But oh, look at that cute little baby! Come on! Don‘t turn away now! In fact, call your friends and tell them to tune in.
SMERCONISH: It is a Yugoslavian animal. That‘s all I can say. My mother is one of 11 and they‘re all from that part of the world. I‘m for it. Especially if it boosts my ratings.
SCHULTZ: I‘m going to stay right out of that Balkan argument my friend. Those get dangerous. And finally, Michael, it is Decision 2007. “The Price Is Right” edition. As you know, outgoing institution Bob Barker encouraged spaying and neutering for the last time last Friday. And the king of the long skinny microphone was quoted that very day endorsing Rosie O‘Donnell as his successor.
However, Barker has clarified his comments to the Associated Press. Quote, I have not been asked for my opinion, nor have I expressed one, Barker said. I think there are several candidates who could do the show, and Rosie O‘Donnell is certainly one of them, end quote. Now most special interests groups have withheld their endorsements as well. And in the interests of the peaceful transition of power, we will keep the world abreast of every development in this pressing story, Michael.
SMERCONISH: Bill Wolff, come on down!
WOLFF: I once tried. I was once—I once sat in the audience, Michael, and I have to admit that every time they said come on down, I was petrified they would call me, because I have no idea what a popcorn machine costs retail.
SMERCONISH: Good stuff. Hey, Bob Barker is a good guy. I like the guy. I‘m going to miss him.
WOLFF: The best ever.
SMERCONISH: I loved him in “Happy Gilmore.”
WOLFF: And I would vote for him for president of the United States, no matter his party.
SMERCONISH: He may run as an independent. He‘s the only one left out.
SMERCONISH: I look forward to it.
SMERCONISH: Thank you, that does it for us. Appreciate it very much. Thanks for watching. Remember now, up next on “HARDBALL,” Chris has got Ralph Nader. This should be good stuff. If they let me back in the building, I‘ll be here tomorrow for TUCKER.
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