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Glenn Beck

Will Senate Foreclosure Plan Help?; Bob Barr Says He`s No Spoiler; Second Amendment Decision Expected from Supreme Court

Aired June 25, 2008 - 19:00   ET


MICHAEL GRAHAM, HOST: Hi, everybody. I am Michael Graham, sitting in for Glenn Beck.
Tonight we begin with the mortgage crisis and the Senate`s plan for a $300 billion aid package. It`s a massive foreclosure Bill that allows the Federal Housing Administration to back new, cheaper home loans for the approximately 400,000 bottomed-out borrowers who are now considered -- get this -- too financially risky to qualify for government-insured fixed-rate loans.

So let me get this straight. These borrowers are too risky for the banks, but they`re just fine for you and me, the taxpayers?

Joining me now are Stephen Moore, who writes editorials about economics for "The Wall Street Journal," and John Taylor, president and CEO of the National Community Reinvestment Coalition.

Now John, I`ve got to tell you, as just a normal Joe Schmoe taxpayer who owns a house and pays my mortgage, it seems to me that the problem we have is people buying homes they couldn`t afford. Isn`t that the problem? Where`s -- where`s the other, bigger issue here?

JOHN TAYLOR, PRESIDENT/CEO, NATIONAL COMMUNITY REINVESTMENT COALITION: Well, Mike, you`re hardly the average Joe Schmoe. But it wasn`t the problem. The problem -- the interest of people wanting to buy houses, you know, that desire has always been a mainstay of the American public for a long time, since mortgages became available.

What really changed was that you had lenders who were willing to say yes when they should have been, perhaps saying no, or at least saying, "No, you need -- you can`t take on that size of house."

But it also was this -- this risk-layering multiple characteristics of loans that were really -- really did not take into consideration the borrower`s ability to pay and created triggers down the road that put them in a situation where you pretty much knew that they were going to run into problems. And that`s what we`re seeing now.

GRAHAM: This is what I don`t understand. Steve, maybe you can address this. It sounds to me like, OK, banks made dumb, risky loans; dumb borrowers bought houses they couldn`t afford. How does this involve me? Why am I, the taxpayer, on the hook for $300 billion in this?

STEPHEN MOORE, "WALL STREET JOURNAL": Well, I think this is the fundamental unfairness and inequity in this Bill. You really hit the nail right on the head.

There are something like 55 million Americans today with mortgages. Fifty-two million of us -- and I`m sure that includes you, Michael -- we`re paying our mortgages on time. And for a lot of people that can be a financial -- financially stressful situation, given the tough times in the economy.

The question becomes why should the 52 million people who did the right thing have to pay more taxes to pay for risky mortgages that were paid -- that were taken out by both borrowers and lenders who probably shouldn`t have taken out the loans in the first place. They got greedy. They should pay the -- pay for the repercussions of their decisions.

TAYLOR: Yes, there`s a myth here. The taxpayer isn`t playing anything. This program is actually paying for itself. In fact, there are some on the left who are criticizing this as being too much of a burden on the people who are going to get these loans because the government is actually going to make $800 billion on this program by -- by 2011.

So I -- first, let`s get the facts straight. Secondly...

MOORE: John -- John, I`ll make you -- I`ll bet you a lot that this isn`t going to bring in money for the government. You`re talking about...


MOORE: Let`s be really clear on facts. I mean, the Congressional Budget Office, Michael, says that 35 percent of these loans, one in three of these loans that we`re going to take out and put on the taxpayer`s backs, are going to go into foreclosure or in delinquency. I mean, that`s not a good portfolio. That`s a money-losing proposition.

TAYLOR: Right. And Steve, it`s that same government Congressional Budget Office that said that it`s going to make $800 million. So if you`re going to use them as your source, use that as a fact, too.

But let`s be clear about one thing. The folks being helped here is really the American economy. Because our economy is tanking, in great part, because of this mortgage foreclosure crisis. Which you cannot take 7 million Americans who took out subprime loans and thought that they would be able to refinance because they were told by brokers and lenders that no problem. Your house will go in equity. You`ll going to be able to refinance. And then they couldn`t, because the economy turns down and that`s what happens and housing prices don`t always go up.

MOORE: John -- John...

GRAHAM: I would like to impose here. I would like to ask the questions. But John makes a good point. Look, he`s saying, it will help the economy. Why not throw some money around? Every day, the $300 billion farm Bill, the bazillions invested in millions of industries.

I hear the average homeowner going, "Hey, if they`re throwing money around anyway, why not throw some to me. Why can`t I suckle on the great - - you know, great welfare state, too?"

MOORE: Well, this is the big problem with this line of thinking. We have a $3 trillion budget already. I mean, the money -- the government is throwing away money like it`s paper money. And at the same time, we have hundreds of billions, if not trillions of dollars of liabilities.

Adding -- we`re talking about, Michael, $300 billion of mortgages where the liabilities are now going to be in place on the backs of the taxpayers. How in the world is that good for the U.S. economy to take on that kind of risk?

TAYLOR: It is because it`s going to cut down on the foreclosures. And first off, the government -- the government is on the hook for the guarantee, but the truth of the matter is it`s banks who are making these refinancing loans. And it`s the homeowners, most of whom are going to continue to pay, as most of them are, on these mortgages.

So the government is going to cover any losses that occurs, but the fees, get this, these are not prime rates. These are prime mates plus additional interest on top of that. So it`s not...

MOORE: John, you know what`s going to happen, though? What the banks are going to do -- stick to the point, they`re going to add a 1.5 percent fee, not just the year of the closing, but every year thereafter.

And now get this -- as if that`s not enough, this is what these, you know, home buyers who you think are going to get a break, this is what they`re going have -- this is what`s going to happen.

TAYLOR: Here`s the problem.

MOORE: They`re going to get the federal government gets 50 percent of the equity that accumulates in this house beyond even the payment of the mortgage.

MOORE: Yes, but those numbers aren`t going to add up, because what`s going to happen, Michael, is the banks are going to unload onto the backs of the taxpayers and the federal government their very worst loans. They`re not going to give us the good loans. They`re going to give us the loans that are most likely to default. That`s what the bankers have told us.


GRAHAM: We`re running out of time, guys. I have one last question for John. If this is such a money-making proposition, why aren`t banks doing it? If there`s all this money to be made, why isn`t the private sector? I know guys, actually.

Remember the greedy Republicans? Why aren`t the greedy Republicans sucking up this money?

TAYLOR: You know, frankly -- well, through the Hope Now Alliance and what the administration has offered, some of this has been occurring on a voluntary basis. But actually our proposal from our organization was precisely that: we want the banks to do that without the government guarantee, and then we guarantee what needs to be guaranteed.

But unfortunately, you know, I mean the predictions are that there will be about 400,000 families helped with this. Now, we`re looking at 3 million foreclosures in the next year. Just in this May, this May that just passed, 261,000 foreclosure filings. And so this Bill is proposing to help 400,000.

So if we don`t get ahead of this problem, I will tell you that the kind of economic catastrophe that we`re going to face in the next year, is just...

GRAHAM: We`ve got to go, guys. I love it, but we`ve got to go. So much to talk about. Steve and John, thanks.

Coming up a new poll shows Obama with a double-digit lead over McCain. And that figure only grows when you include third-party candidates. Are they stealing votes away from McCain or is he losing those votes? I`ll ask libertarian candidate Bob Barr next.

And just a reminder: tonight`s show is brought to you by the Sleep Number Bed by Select Comfort. Sleep Number, it`s the bed that counts.


GRAHAM: Coming up, the Supreme Court handed down some very important decisions today, one of which was not about your Second Amendment rights. The court is expected to hand down that decision tomorrow. A preview in just a bit.

But first, when "Newsweek" released its national poll last week showing likely Democratic nominee Barack Obama with a 15-point lead over Republican John McCain, most thought there had to be some mistake. But late last night, another poll not only confirmed that margin but pointed to a possible reason.

Bob Barr`s run as a libertarian candidate, according to "The L.A. Times"/Bloomberg poll, is pulling votes away from John McCain. So is Bob Barr stealing them? Or is John McCain losing those Republican voters all by himself? Bob Barr is a former government congressman of Georgia and the current libertarian candidate for president.

Congressman Barr, welcome to the show.

BOB BARR (L), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thank you, Michael. Good to be with you.

GRAHAM: You know, every time I say your name to a Republican, they immediately say back, "Ralph Nader." It`s like a word association game. Is that who Bob Barr`s going to be in 2008?

BARR: No, not at all. The fact of the matter is that John McCain and the Republican Party have very serious problems that have nothing whatsoever to do with Bob Barr or Ralph Nader. It has to do with the fact that the Republican Party has no vision, no agenda, no platform and a candidate that generates no excitement. This is the reason why they`re having such trouble gaining traction.

GRAHAM: So how do you really feel about the Republicans, Congressman? I agree with you: Republicans are in big trouble. They`re on the matt. They`re bleeding. But isn`t it, Congressman, walking up and kicking them in the shins while they`re lying there by giving -- by urging people who would be voting for McCain to vote for you?

BARR: No, what I`m doing and what I intend to do through the remaining months of this campaign is raise the issues that neither of these two major-party candidates are making. Questions and issues that go to the fundamental nature of why government has gotten so big; why it`s spending so much money; why it`s invading our privacy; why we`re seeing court decisions like the one that you were just discussing.

These are issues that are important to the American people, not the issues that they`re hearing not discussed by Senator McCain and Senator Obama.

GRAHAM: Sure. And listen, I agree with you. And there are 100 reasons not to vote for John McCain. I agree.

And as far as, you know, pizzazz, you`re mentioning appeal, McCain has all the excitement of your, you know, junior high shop teacher. No doubt about it.

But isn`t it the case that -- that if John McCain cannot put together the less big government coalition, that the big-government candidate, Barack Obama, will be president, and that`s what you`ll have helped to have accomplished?

BARR: Well, what I aim to do is to -- to steal enough votes not just from them, but from the vast majority of voters out there that aren`t wedded to either of these two candidates that actually do believe the smaller government, that want to change, that want to open up the system, that believe in liberty, to put together a coalition with enough votes to take the election from both of them.

I know that`s a long shot, but this year is a very, very unusual election cycle. We`re seeing that in these kinds of polls. I think there`s a real opportunity here for a third-party candidate with credibility and with a strong party behind him, like we have.

GRAHAM: Well, a third party candidate that throws the election, you know, keeps anyone from winning enough electoral votes, just throws it to the Congress. And so we know where that is. And it`s Barack Obama again.

But I want to tell you, I`ve had quite a few libertarians say why is Bob Barr our nominee? He voted for the Patriot Act. He voted for the expansion of medical -- Medicaid to include the prescription drug benefit for wealthy seniors. Is Bob Barr, in fact, a libertarian?

BARR: Well, first of all, the Medicare -- Medicaid benefit -- drug benefit was voted on after I left the Congress.

But what unites all of us as libertarians is not what I might have voted for by mistake in the Patriot Act and then worked to undo for a number of years, but what unites us all as libertarians and, as many blue- collar Democrats and conservative Republicans are finding, is a need to start dramatically reigning in big government. Neither of the two major- party candidates will do that. I will.

GRAHAM: By the way, just on the record, you voted for an early version of the prescription drug benefit while you were still in Congress.

But my question is, are you targeting a state? I mean, is there really a state by state or a workable three-party strategy to throw this to the House?

BARR: There is a very, very workable strategy. Russ Berney (ph), our campaign manager who managed Ross Perot`s campaign so successfully back in the 1990s, we have put together a number of states where we`re going to begin by concentrating our efforts, states where there is a demonstrable, tangible large segment of independent libertarian-leaning voters, Republican and Democrat alike, that are alienated from their parties. Those will be the states that we`ll begin concentrating in to start boosting our numbers.

GRAHAM: Well, Congressman Barr, thanks so much for joining us. I appreciate it.

Now let`s check in with our political panel tonight, Keith Boykin, editor of "The Daily Voice" and former aide to the Clinton administration; and Stephen Hayes, senior writer for "The Weekly Standard" and author of "Cheney: The Untold Story of America`s Most Powerful and Controversial Vice President."

Stephen, if voting for John McCain is a protest vote against the Barack Obama juggernaut, as I kind of perceive it is, isn`t a Bob Barr vote a vote of protest against the protest vote at this point?

STEPHEN HAYES, AUTHOR, "CHENEY": That`s a good way to look at it. Yes, I think -- I don`t expect that Bob Barr will -- will have much of an impact on the race, frankly. If he can make a solid anti-government campaign and actually get some attention for doing that, I think he has a potential to draw some votes away from John McCain.

But in particular, because I think McCain is not yet targeting conservatives or courting conservatives in the way that some conservatives might hope that he will.

GRAHAM: Keith...

HAYES: I don`t think he`ll end up -- I don`t think he`ll end up affecting the race terribly much.

GRAHAM: Keith, is there any truth to the rumor that Barack Obama has asked his fundraising people to also raise money for Bob Barr while they`re out there on the campaign trail?

KEITH BOYKIN, EDITOR, "THE DAILY VOICE": I had a feeling you were going to say that. No. There`s no truth to that rumor, but I do disagree because I think that Bob Barr could have a small impact on the race. Obviously, he`s not going to win; he`s delusional if he thinks he will.

But he could have an impact in states like Georgia where he`s from. And that could put Georgia in play for the first time for the Democrats since Bill Clinton was president. You know, the last two Democratic candidates couldn`t carry it. Barack Obama has a chance with Georgia, because he`s -- it`s a state with a strong African-American president.

And I think if he can force John McCain to spend some money in Georgia, then Bob Barr will have done his work.

GRAHAM: What about that, Stephen? If you look at the people who are most likely to trend towards a, you know, throw all the bums out Bob Barr vote, they tend to be in some southern states where there also tend to be quite a few black voters, as well. Could this be a double whammy for John McCain?

HAYES: I think if we`re talking about -- in the days before the election if we`re talking about Barack Obama potentially winning Georgia, John McCain`s got bigger problems than Bob Barr.

But I think -- you know, I think Keith is right. To a certain extent, there are places where Barr might be able to peel off some otherwise McCain voters by making a strong anti-government pitch.

The real question for Barr -- and I agree with Keith, too, that he`s delusional if he thinks he`s going to win. The real question for Bob Barr is how many people are going to listen to him. Who`s going to get his message? Because I think there are people out there who would be receptive to the kind of message that he would bring. I just don`t think he`s going to get much of a hearing.

GRAHAM: I happen to think that we`re not going to have another one- state election. If we did have a third in a row, it would be historic. We just don`t do that.

I think what`s going to happen, Keith. If Barack Obama passes the "he can be president" test and keeps the campaign together, I think he wins in something like a landslide, a solid, solid win. But if he cracks and doesn`t pass that test, then I think the doubts start flooding in and McCain does well and wins with a decent margin. Would you agree with that? Do you think we can look at another "Bob Barr makes the difference" campaign?

BOYKIN: I`m actually shocked that I completely agree with what you said.

GRAHAM: Then I change my position entirely.

BOYKIN: I`ve been saying the same thing for the past month now. I think that -- I think this is actually going to be a landslide election. I don`t think it`s going to be close. I can`t tell you who`s going to win. I`m actually hoping that Barack Obama wins.

But it really sets a clear choice between Obama and McCain. It`s a question of whether you want change or you don`t. Are people fed up with the status quo, or are they afraid that Barack Obama is too much change? And that`s a really simple question. They will have results by October, and at that point, I don`t think that Bob Barr will make a huge amount of difference.

GRAHAM: Steve?

HAYES: There`s a really interesting figure out in one of these most recent polls. I thin kit was the "Washington Post"/ABC News poll that asked about who voters perceive as a risky choice versus a safe choice.

And the numbers between Barack Obama and John McCain, at least in my view, were startlingly close. I mean, I would have thought many more people than did would pick Barack Obama as a risky choice. One of the things the McCain campaign is going to try to do, I think, like Gerald Ford did to Jimmy Carter in 1976, is going to be to make the case that, "Look, this guy`s just too inexperienced. He`s not ready yet to be president of the United States in these times."

GRAHAM: The deal here is Republicans are going to get a spanking in 2008, and they have earned it. You can look at the budget. You can look at three lost years in Iraq that didn`t have to -- gas prices, 100 reasons.

But then you look over to the choice and, Keith Boykin, I`ve just got to say, a guy who was in the Senate for one year before he started running for president, the guy who was determining the salaries of dogcatchers in Illinois, you know, when 9/11 happened, I mean, there`s a real question of just the ability, the experience, not the brains -- he`s a smart guy -- but the experience to do the job. Isn`t that a legitimate question to be asking for president?

BOYKIN: It`s a legitimate question, but I don`t think that the context is there. This is a guy who has a lot of experiencing. He worked in the -- he served in the Illinois state senate. He`s been a community organizer. He`s been -- he`s been a lawyer. NO, he`s actually a very successful person.

He`s managed a campaign that has raised more than $300 million. What`s John McCain raised? And I think that says a lot about his ability to be an effective leader to run a structure of an organization like that.

GRAHAM: Stephen?

HAYES: I`m not sure I`d buy the idea that he`s qualified to be president because he`s running for president. But on the broader issue, I think you`re right, Michael. You know, he`s -- he`s going to have to show people that he has the composure and the poise and the wisdom, frankly, to present himself to the American people as a legitimate option, a viable option to John McCain.

And, you know, one place that he will have an opportunity to do that is side by side in the debates, and I think they`re going to be pretty important.

GRAHAM: I agree completely, guys. Steve and Keith, great job. Stick around. We`re going to have you back a little later in the show.

Coming up, the Supreme Court strikes down a Louisiana law that allows the death penalty for child rapists. Details in a bit.


GRAHAM: Well, it looks like we`ll have to wait one more day. After a couple of important decisions today, one of which we`ll talk about a little later in the show, the U.S. Supreme Court has still not handed down its ruling on whether Washington, D.C., will be able to keep its controversial 1977 handgun ban. An opinion is expected to be issued tomorrow, the final day of the Supreme Court session.

Both sides of the Second Amendment issue are watching closely. Whatever the court decides will surely have a national impact.

Tom Fitton is the president and chief spokesman for Judicial Watch.

Tom, thank you for joining us.

TOM FITTON, PRESIDENT, JUDICIAL WATCH: Thanks for having me on, Michael.

GRAHAM: So the line out of Vegas is this is a done deal, that the court is going to throw out the handgun ban or they`re at least going to affirm the Second Amendment. Is that what you`re hearing?

FITTON: Well, I hope so. You can never -- you never know until they rule. But based on the oral argument, there seem to be a majority of justices, including Justice Kennedy, who`s unfortunately off in the swing vote, as you heard earlier with the child rape case. And Justice Kennedy has seemed to be very adamant that the Second Amendment protects an individual right to bear arms.

And when the court rules tomorrow, it may be an historic decision, because this is the first time the court will give its interpretation of what the Second Amendment means. We`ve been arguing about it for years and years in this country. Now the Supreme Court is going to weigh in.

GRAHAM: You know, it`s interesting to me, because there have been quite a bit liberal scholars, like Laurence Tribe (ph) up in Harvard, who have said, "Hey, it says what it says. I don`t like guns. I don`t like the Second Amendment, but it`s true."

I`m wondering if it`s going to be 5-4. I mean, Tom, do you want to be the guy or gal who wrote the indefensible "I`m pretending the Second Amendment is not in there" decision that`s going to lose anyway?

FITTON: Well, you know, if you have an agenda, you`re not going to be embarrassed by it. I don`t think the liberals on this court are embarrassed by the liberal agenda. Oftentimes they`re in the majority, and they may lose this one.

The question is if they rule that it`s an individual right, the next question is, what does that mean? You know, we have individual rights in this country, but they don`t trump everything.

And the question next is going to be, given the fact the Second Amendment protects an individual right to bear arms and to carry arms and to potentially use them in self-defense, what interest does the government have in regulating that right? And what is the court going to do, when faced with the myriad of questions that will come up after this decision?

GRAHAM: In other words, all across the country you have these different state laws. Like, if you want to conceal carry, you can, you can`t. Here`s a rule; that`s a rule. All of those state laws are called into question, right? Suddenly, you interject individual right, all of those state laws now are called into question, right?

FITTON: Well, potentially. It depends on how narrow the court ruling is. But this could be the beginning of the beginning. This could be the first of many Supreme Court cases that begin to outline the parameters of the right to bear arms.

Now I`m assuming it rules our way in the sense that they affirm an individual right. But if it goes the other way, it could be all bets are off on that too.

GRAHAM: Very briefly, this whole session, doesn`t it prove that the people are screaming, "Oh, no, Alito, Roberts. We`re doomed." It`s been a pretty middle, clunking around in the center court. Hasn`t it?

FITTON: You know, there are issues that are not controversial, it seems to me. And then the controversial issues the court is deeply divided: on the military commissions issue, on the child rape issue. And I don`t think we`re going to get a 7-2 or 6-3 ruling tomorrow. We`ll probably get another 5-4 ruling.

So on the issues that people are interested in, the Supreme Court`s closely divided. On these issues that people aren`t interested in, the Supreme Court tends to have a little bit more -- a little bit more together on it.

GRAHAM: And that`s what makes it so fascinating. Tom, thanks so much for your time. I appreciate it.

Barack Obama asks his supporters to help Hillary pay off her campaign debt. What`s Barack get in return? Lukewarm support from a cranky Bill Clinton. That`s coming up.


GRAHAM: Coming up, while the Supreme Court put off any handgun ban controversy for one more day, they cooked up some fresh new outrage by rejecting...

MICHAEL GRAHAM, HEADLINE NEWS ANCHOR: Coming up, while the Supreme Court put off any handgun ban controversy for one more day, they cooked up some fresh new outrage by rejecting the death penalty for child rapists. We`ll have the details next.

First just because Glenn`s not here doesn`t mean the world of politics has stopped turning. In addition to the new L.A. Times/Bloomberg poll I mentioned earlier in the program showing Barack Obama with a lead over John McCain; we have an Obama campaign source revealing that the candidate is asking top contributors to help his former rival Hillary Clinton retire her campaign debt.

And by retire, of course I mean pay up. This is on the heels of a pretty tame endorsement by former president Bill Clinton. I believe the exact words were he feels warmly towards him. But it`s ahead of the first Hillary and Barack post-primary joint appearance to take place this Friday in a small New Hampshire town called Unity.

That`s what passes for subtlety among the Democrats. Here with his thoughts is Jonah Goldberg and editor for the national view online and author of "The New York Times" bestseller "Liberal Fascism."

Jonah, I got to ask 12-point lead, Barack has his own presidential seal already. I`ve been told if you don`t vote for him you must have a problem with black people. Isn`t this over? Shouldn`t we just declare him president now and go on to the football season?

JONAH GOLDBERG, EDITOR, NATIONAL VIEW ONLINE: Well, first of all I want to say how glad I am that your probation officer let you leave the state to sub in for Glenn. As far as the media is concerned, this will be -- the coronation would already begin and we would have to all sacrifice a thousand bowls to Barack. And McCain would just simply cut off one of his fingers like a repentant Yakuza soldier for daring to challenge him for the presidency.

You`re right, there is a sense of inevitability, and it gets kind of frustrating for us and it`s going to get a lot worse before it gets better. We`re being told that we have Obama phobia if we have any problems with the guy; that we have this sort of irrational dislike of him. Liberals did that with us Bill Clinton; they`re going to have a field day doing it with Barack Obama.

GRAHAM: I look at the guy saying to his supporters, I`m so flush with cash, give some cash to Hillary, I`ve got money to throw around. I`m not going to say that he is overconfident at all, but you look at double digit leads in the polls and throwing money around. It seems to me like they feel pretty good.

GOLDBERG: It also seems like a pretty straight forward quid pro quo; Hillary has something Barack wants which is --

GRAHAM: Are you suggesting some kind of political deal involving the Clintons? Surely Jonah, that`s not what you mean.

GOLDBERG: I think the actual real meeting isn`t in Unity, New Hampshire it`s in Slaughter Beach in Delaware. But that`s another issue.

Hillary`s got these supporters, Barack wants to close ranks in the Democratic Party and the quid pro quo is Hillary`s debt has to be taken care of. And my guess is from the campaign finance laws, her own supporters can`t clear out the debt for her. She needs new deep pockets to pay for it.

GRAHAM: What about this one sentence if you will endorsement or suggestion of affection from Bill Clinton? Is Bill Clinton a key part of this or is Barack Obama essentially going to run away from the Clintons and do it his way? He seems to have a different vision for how to win as a Democrat.

GOLDBERG: I think that`s right, I mean Barack Obama never pivoted. He never triangulated, he never went to the center as Bill Clinton proved Democrats had to, at least that`s what the old conventional wisdom was, you had to have your sister-soldier moment. He hasn`t had one.

Bill can cause trouble, he`s imminently quotable. The press loves to follow him around and if he doesn`t get -- if Obama doesn`t get Bill on board, Bill could be a source of endless mischief and constantly change -- get the Democrats off message in the fall and I think that`s what Obama wants to avoid.

GRAHAM: Let`s face it the Obama campaign is just smarter than everybody else. Unity, New Hampshire you find a town where the poll was split evenly for both candidates? How do you do that?

GOLDBERG: I`m sure they had an intern in charge of clever place names.

GRAHAM: Unity is a great town name, Slaughter Beach Delaware was an interesting one you just suggested. We found the top five towns that didn`t quite make the cut. Are you ready for this?

GOLDBERG: I`m ready.

GRAHAM: If it weren`t Unity, New Hampshire, number one would be Truth or Consequences, New Mexico; Last Chance, Colorado; Fertile, Iowa -- which I don`t know there`s a little sexual buzz there -- Hell, Michigan and my favorite, "You`re Still Not Going to be the Vice President, Nevada. Those are the top fife choices.

Thanks for joining us Jonah, I appreciate it.

GOLDBERG: Hey Michael, it was great to be here.

GRAHAM: Now I want to turn once again to Keith Boykin, editor of the Daily Voice and former aid to the Clinton administration. And Stephen Hays senior writer for the Weekly Standard and author of "Cheney, the Untold Story of America`s Most Powerful and Controversial Vice President." Guys, thanks for sticking around.

I have to ask you this, Keith, I see here people saying all the time, of course, it`s got to be Obama. And then I find they`re almost never talking about issues, they`re just talking about the state of America, the feelings, the sense that things are on the wrong track. Is that enough to put Barack Obama in the White House, do you think?

KEITH BOYKIN, FORMER CLINTON ADMINISTATION AIDE: I don`t think it`s enough just because things are on the wrong track. Obviously the demographics, the economic statistics, the nation of the national mood kind of helps Barack Obama lot. But the reality is he has an agenda, he has an agenda of change, he has an agenda of sweeping away the old and starting something new.

A new kind of politics that`s about hope and optimism, instead of division that we have had for so many years. I think people are responding to that. I think it`s going to resonate.

GRAHAM: Steve, I`m going to ask you. Have you ever asked a question about Barack Obama in which you did not get the answer Keith just gave us? Is there any other answer? It`s the same answer every time.

STEPHEN HAYES, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: At a certain point, isn`t this change going to have to change? That`s going to get complicated after a while.

GRAHAM: Well, what do you think? I mean I look at John McCain, I wonder almost how much of a factor John McCain is going to be in this election. Barack Obama`s taking care of business, he`s taking care of Senator Clinton, thereby taking care of her supporters. He`s getting the money rolling in, he`s got a 12-point lead. And John McCain is scrambling around basically trying to get attention next to this media superstar Barack Obama.

BOYKIN: Well, you know, it`s stunning just how this has changed so quickly too. If you look at where we were just three weeks ago, everyone was saying can the Democrats unite? Now we see that`s happening.

They they`re saying can Barack Obama win white voters? Now we`re seeing he`s doing just as well as Kerry and Gore were doing. They were saying can Barack Obama win women voters? Now he`s got a huge gender gap with John McCain.

Can Barack Obama do well in the battle ground states? He`s winning in Ohio, he`s winning in Pennsylvania and doing very well in Florida. So the whole idea that we have to look at a snapshot in the middle of the Democratic primaries and use that for the future has kind of been thrown out of the way now.

HAYES: That`s true, Michael, but I will say that one of the things that we have to take into account is that we`re in the middle of a summer here. Things slow down considerably in the summer. You had a quick start to the general election once it finally happened.

They went at each other and went at each other fiercely on issues of national security. There`s been a lot of talk about energy lately, which I think people are still paying attention to. But certainly John McCain will be a factor as we get closer to November.

GRAHAM: I think that there`s a tool that Barack Obama has that no other candidate for whatever reason ever had which is the race card. I don`t mean he`s going to play it in some negative or exploitive way, but rather there is this concern that any time you criticize Senator Obama, if the context is oh, my gosh, was there some racial element there, the criticism goes away. It`s even difficult to talk issues.

I understand Stephen, you had an incident where you were trying to get some questions asked yourself on the topic.

HAYES: Yes, last Thursday I was at a Christian Science monitor breakfast here in Washington and I asked Robert Gibbs, Barack Obama`s communications director about how Barack Obama is going to handle some ballot initiatives that are going to be on ballots in five states in all likelihood across the country that deal with rolling back racial preferences. And I said is it a problem for Barack Obama to oppose those initiatives, that is to come out in favor of racial preferences when he`s had a history, at least recently of some pretty compelling campaign rhetoric talking about being post racial.

And I have not yet heard back from the Obama campaign, I`m still hopeful that I will. But the question I think you raise is an important one. Will we be able to have a serious and substantive discussion on things like policy about racial preferences without it devolving or degenerating into a name calling.

GRAHAM: I want to get Keith here, because I got to tell you, I will go on the air on my radio show and get 20 reasons not to vote for Barack Obama related to specific issues having nothing to do with race and the first ten phone calls back will be bigot. Is that going to be the conversation between now and November?

BOYKIN: Well, no. First of all, a political presidential campaign is the worst time to have a conversation about race because these conversations get overly politicized. Secondly, just calling it racial preferences in the first place that`s enough to make me a little bit suspicious. I don`t know what you mean when you say racial preferences.

If you`re talking about affirmative action, that`s designed to remedy the past racial preferences that existed in our country for more than 300 years. I think the language itself ticks people off. We want to be very careful.

HAYES: We are seeing an example right here.

BOYKIN: If you want to have an honest conversation about it, let`s talk about without using some of the loaded language that you use.

GRAHAM: How do you ask the question, should there be slots at colleges that are set aside for people based on race without talking about race? That is the policy we`re talking about, Keith.

BOYKIN: It`s not a question of whether you talk about race. Liberals and conservatives agree there is nothing wrong with having a conversation. The question is how you talk about it.

When we talked about affirmative action in the past, Republicans always said we`re talking about quotas, we`re talking about racial preferences. No we are not talking about either one of them.

For God`s sake, the one thing that Barack Obama does is he allows us to do is get past that old sort of garbage, the language, the rhetoric that we have used for the past 20 years to talk about these issues and let`s have a more intelligent dialogue about it. Forget about all the slanderous rhetoric

GRAHAM: Steve, go ahead.

HAYES: I think this is part of the problem, frankly, he says it`s suspicious that I would use the term racial preference. On the Missouri ballot initiative they use the word preference, because in fact that`s what it is, when you give one group, by groups a preference over another group.

By definition, it`s a preference, I don`t think there should be any problem with that and I hope we can have a civilized discussion about it without somebody calling me suspicious because I happen to oppose racial preferences.

BOYKIN: If that`s the case, then all of our society, American society is built on racial preferences. For God`s sake, what was slavery and segregation for 350 years? Let`s have an honest dialogue about this, let`s talk about the real issues.

GRAHAM: I got to wrap it up because we`re out of time. We have to move on. Thank you Steve and Keith, that was great.

Coming up, five of the nine Supreme Court judges say sentencing a child rapist to death constitutes cruel and unusual punishment. But did the other four have it right? I`ll have some answers.

RICHELLE CAREY, HEADLINE NEWS CORRESPONDENT: I`m Richelle Carey, this is your "Headline Prime" news break.

A group of nine teenage and two adult hikers have been found safe in the Sierra Nevadas north west of Fresno, California. They have been missing since Saturday. The director of Outward Bounds Wilderness Program says the hikers went to a nearby store and called for help. They turned up just hours after rescuers began searching for them.

They were supposed to meet up with a third adult guide on Saturday; that guide spent two days searching on his own for them before he called police. He was the only person in the group with a satellite phone.

In Atlanta, the trial of a father accused of hiring a hit man to kill his daughter-in-law is now in the hands of a jury. 69-year-old Simon Rye faces a possible death sentence if he`s convicted of murder of Sparkle Rye. Closing argument started Wednesday morning.

Prosecutors say Rye was so enraged over her son`s relationship with an African-American woman that he paid $10,000 to have her killed. Sparkle Rye was stabbed and strangled in the doorway of her apartment outside Atlanta in the spring of 2000.

And the Supreme Court has cut a $2.5 billion punitive damage award against Exxon for the Exxon Valdez disaster. The company will only have to pay $500 million in damages for the 1989 oil spill, the worst in U.S. history. Exxon has already paid about $500 million to compensate victims for economic losses.

That`s the news for now. Keep it here, I`m Richelle Carey.


GRAHAM: Earlier today the Supreme Court struck down a Louisiana law allowing the execution of people convicted of raping a child. In the 5-4 vote, the court said that the law violates the constitution`s ban on crucial and unusual punishment. According to the majority opinion, "the death penalty is not a proportional punishment for the rape of a child."

Actually I kind of agree. I would like to see some torture done in myself. Wendy Murphy is a professor at the New England School of Law and author of "And for Justice for Some."

Wendy, great to see you. Let me start with a line from Justice Alito`s dissent that I think summarizes everything. He says that the death penalty "no matter how young the child, no matter how many times the child is raped, no matter how many children the perpetrator rapes, no matter how sadistic the crime." I`m stunned by that. I don`t get it.

WENDY MURPHY, PROFESSOR, NEW ENGLAND SCHOOL OF LAW: Well, you took the words out of my mouth. I was going to quote from that same section, because what they also said is it doesn`t matter how many times or if you leave the child basically in a coma, it just doesn`t matter.

You know, I happen to be personally opposed to the death penalty as a philosophical matter, but if you`re going to have it, to make these kinds of moral lines to say it`s only okay if someone dies.

The dissent also made another good point, Michael. If you`re the get away driver in a homicide so you don`t kill anybody, but you`re the get away driver and there`s someone else who does the killing, you can be executed in this country. But if you destroy dozens of children`s lives and brutally rape them, no death penalty. I don`t see the moral justification for this at all.

GRAHAM: I`m trying to look for the legal justification because the constitution clearly includes capital punishment, it`s in the constitution. So if you`re going to have capital punishment, I think it is the average person who said we are either going to execute a typical murderer like in a bar fight or a moment of passion, versus the perp who rapes children, they`d let the murderer spend life in jail, no problem.

The American people would much rather see these sick, repulsive criminals put to death. If anybody is going to qualify for the death penalty.

MURPHY: Well, because frankly, when you think about what kinds of people we`re talking about, they`re just despicable. When you go to prison, the murderers are actually kind of nice. They hang with you -- no I`m serious. You ask anybody this.

GRAHAM: Wendy, you`re hanging out with the wrong people. I have got some guys for you to meet Wendy if you think the murderers in the jail are nice.

MURPHY: I know I need to get out more. But now people will tell you that most murders happen in a spur of the moment, so it`s not about the person so much as the moment.

These guys we`re talking about, the predators, all they`re thinking about is hunting for their next child victim. They don`t deserve to live in civilized society which is another justification for why people say they don`t deserve to live at all.

GRAHAM: You`re the law professor so explain this to me because I have read some coverage of the ruling; I haven`t read the entire ruling obviously it`s too soon. But apparently the five people said we consider the death penalty and sure you could have it in some other cases, but it`s icky. Is icky a constitutional principle you guys teach at the New England School of Law?

MURPHY: The icky exception. This is really, Michael, a political decision. And no surprise, it fell along political lines with the conservatives dissenting. Kennedy who`s sometimes a swing voter on some issues but has been pretty much anti-death penalty in the recent past anyway, so fairly predictable as a political matter.

What I worry about as a law professor or as an officer of the court is the extent to which people are going to say 5-4, but for the blowing of the wind with Justice Kennedy, we could have executed these guys? What if McCain wins and appoints two more conservatives, five years from now, we might start executing these guys?

I just don`t think you can be so frivolous about the death penalty and expect the people in this country to respect the rule of law.

GRAHAM: And that is something that`s important to point out. There was no specific legal point where they said, we think these guys are dirt bags too, we want to execute them, we just can`t. They pointed out this is completely arbitrary, as you pointed out, completely political. Why doesn`t the court defer then to the will of the people? Isn`t that the point of the democracy?

MURPHY: Not only should they defer to the will of the people. I`m against the death penalty, but the will of the people matters here. And there was a really interesting fight between the majority and the dissenting opinions about exactly that issue. With the majority saying the trend appears to be against executing and the dissent saying, oh, no, no, no.

And I`ll tell you this much, Michael, because you know I`m such an activist on behalf of kids who are victimized. The trend has been, please let`s kill these guys because we`re not doing a very good job just locking them up, we have failed children so much that we are getting desperate enough to say please, can we take their lives away?

GRAHAM: That`s for the E-channel, that`s not for the courts. Wendy thanks so much, we`ll be back in a bit.


GRAHAM: Shaking hands and kissing babies is a big part of running for office, also played a key role in me getting this job. Barack Obama has puckered up for more than his fair share. Now one supporter has figured out a way he can kiss a whole lot more.

Here`s CNN`s Jeanne Moos.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, kids, don`t you know that`s the head of a president you`re touching. Don`t pull his nose, not that Barack Obama minds.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESUMPTIVE PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: After kissing hundreds of babies --

MOOS: It`s routine by now, babies adorned with Obama stickers try to nap, parents hand over the baby. The senator gives him or her a kiss and a smile, occasionally the parents brag about it on YouTube, but imagine what this madness feels like to the baby.

It`s a wonder they don`t all sob. Though it`s true, some of them do. This father of two is pretty adept at making faces.

But for supporters who can`t make it to an Obama event, have we got a website for you. SendBarackyourbaby, package and ship your baby in a well padded box, fill out the packing slip. What would you like senator to do with your baby? Kiss, hug, give hope?

Here`s hoping you`re not taking this sendBarackyourbaby stuff seriously. Questions include how will you return my baby, most babies are back home within 14 business days. Not quite as quick as an in person kiss.

OBAMA: I`m going to kiss that one right there. That`s a cute one there.

MOOS: A 22-year-old web designer named Karim Shia dreamed up this one-note joke website, he`s a lukewarm Obama supporter.

We have had no reports of anyone actually sending a real infant. But if you do, don`t forget to bubble wrap your baby.

Okay, so shipping a baby is out of the question. But people really do let their babies body surf to Obama.

OBAMA: There you go, start passing the baby up.

MOOS: Kids go from hand to hand on the way up then hand to hand on the way back. By the way, we`re not giving John McCain equal time in the baby kissing department because we can`t find examples.

We did once interview a guy who had his baby pose with every candidate he could and he said McCain was a natural, even when Baby Dahlia cried.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He made a joke that there goes another vote.

MOOS: Though the babies won`t remember any of this, for the parents it`s a four-exclamation point moment.


GRAHAM: So that Website wasn`t real. Could someone get my wife on the phone?

I`m Michael Graham from New York. Good night.