Not that there was any doubt that McCain walked away the winner from Rick Warren's forum, but when David Shuster cracks that Obama was lucky not too many people were watching . . . Subbing for Chris Matthews on this evening's Hardball, Shuster kibitzed Saddleback with Dem Steve McMahon and Republican Todd Harris. Shuster made his surprising remark at segment end.

DAVID SHUSTER: I think it also revealed that John McCain's going to be a much better debater than a lot of people think.  And maybe also in some sense, Barack Obama is lucky in a way that Saturday night was Michael Phelps' night and not a night when a lot of people were paying attention to politics.

A bit later, Shuster used Phelps to work in an obligatory swipe at President Bush.  After rolling tape of a clearly-excited Phelps mentioning that it was "pretty cool" that the president had taken pictures with him at the pool after the 400 individual medley race,  Shuster pounced: "even cooler for the president, who's probably happy that someone popular wanted to get a picture with him."

View video here.

In the midst of a campaign in which conservatives fret John McCain is missing opportunities by staying to the left on too many issues, Chrystia Freeland, the U.S. Managing Editor of the Financial Times based in London, declared “extremely imprudent” the conservative desire for John McCain to make a commitment against raising taxes. On Tuesday's Hardball she saw the “hard right,” not politicians unwilling to stick to a pledge, as the problem:
The first President Bush did not fare very well when he made that absolutely firm, clear campaign pledge not to raise taxes. So, you know, I think that in a way, the biggest problem John McCain is facing in this campaign is the hard right of his own party, which is trying to pin him into positions that are not really very realistic right now.
Her comment came after fill-in host Mike Barnicle read a statement from the Club for Growth rebuking McCain for saying that raising the Social Security tax is not “off the table.” Barnicle posed this leading question to her: “Can any sane politician, Chrystia, make an adamant, set in stone statement given the fact that we're a country at war with an energy crisis -- about never raising any tax under any circumstances?” She agreed “it would be extremely imprudent” to do so given the “dire economic situation the United States is facing right now.”

A truly extraordinary thing happened Sunday morning on ABC's "This Week": the panel and the host seemed to agree that former President Bill Clinton's antics on the campaign trail are hurting Hillary's chances of winning the Democrat presidential nomination.

Maybe even more surprising, the editor of the ultra-leftwing publication "The Nation," Katrina vanden Heuvel, quoted someone close to the Clinton campaign as having said, "People are looking at him like a little league dad who's having these temper tantrums in every state."

Making matters worse, George Will referred to the former president as "an Olympic-class whiner," while host George Stephanopoulos said, "Some people are concerned about this, even inside the Party," and fretted, "I have no indication at all though that President Clinton's going to stop."

I kid you not.

Without further ado, and for your entertainment pleasure, here's a partial transcript of this truly delicious panel segment (video available here, relevant section begins at minute 7:25):

Despite his war wounds, can Bob Kerrey still kick Chris Matthews' butt? We might soon find out, because on this evening's Hardball Matthews lumped Kerrey into a group of Clinton sycophants he derided as "castratos" and a "eunuch chorus."

Chris was kvetching about the way a variety of Hillary Clinton supporters including Kerrey have lined up to take shots at Barack Obama. In endorsing Hillary yesterday, the former Nebraska senator went out of his way to draw attention to Obama's Muslim background.

View video here.

Widows and orphans, beware: the Republicans are coming!

That was the upshot of Chris Matthews's observation today about two Republican front-runners.

View video here.

Financial Times US Managing Editor Chrystia Freeland has become a "Hardball" regular of late.

CHRYSTIA FREELAND: The other thing that people worry about is if someone forecloses on their home, and that's the issue we haven't really seen raised too much in the Rudy-Romney debate. I think as we move into 2008 and the economy looks a lot grimmer, that's going to be another important battleground.