updated 5/24/2007 9:50:25 AM ET 2007-05-24T13:50:25

Guests: Rachel Sklar, Amy Dickinson, John Ridley, Michael Crowley, John Ridley, Pat Buchanan, Steve Emerson, Cecily Knobler, Kim Serafin

DAN ABRAMS, GUEST HOST:  I‘m Dan Abrams, filling in for Joe Scarborough tonight.  First up, a look back at the day‘s winners and losers.  Our first winner, former Justice Department official Monica Goodling, for coming clean today in front of Congress, admitting politics did play a role in deciding which federal prosecutors she hired and fired.  Loser, her old boss, embattled attorney general Alberto Gonzales.  She said Gonzales was at a crucial meeting about the controversial firings of U.S.  attorneys, a meeting Gonzales testified he didn‘t remember.

Winner, Oprah Winfrey, whose father has apparently decided to put a memoir about his famous daughter, quote, “on hold.”  Loser, Dr. Phil.  Guess that means he won‘t get to do a highly-rated hour special on how Oprah was exploited.

Loser, New York Yankees slugger Jason Giambi after a report that he failed a drug test.  Winner, tennis slugger Andy Roddick for bulking up overnight without drugs.  Roddick didn‘t know “Men‘s Fitness” magazine beefed up his arms in Photoshop until he saw his new and improved pipes (ph) on a newsstand.

And finally, the winner of what could have been a pay-per-view smackdown today between Rosie O‘Donnell and her conservative archenemy Elisabeth Hasselbeck.  The winner in a split decision, Elisabeth, which makes Rosie a close but definitive loser.

Let‘s take a look at how it all went down this morning in a blow-by-blow recap of their fight, where it sure sounds like Rosie is comparing U.S. troops to terrorists.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ELISABETH HASSELBECK, “THE VIEW”:  I just don‘t understand why it‘s my fault that people spin words that you put out there or phrases that suggest things.  And I gave you an opportunity two days ago to clarify the statement that got you in trouble...

(CROSSTALK)

ROSIE O‘DONNELL, “THE VIEW”:  Do you believe that I think troops are terrorists, Elisabeth?

HASSELBECK:  I don‘t think that...

(CROSSTALK)

HASSELBECK:  I don‘t...

O‘DONNELL:  Do you believe it, yes or no?

HASSELBECK:  Excuse me!  Let me speak.

O‘DONNELL:  You‘re going to double speak.

HASSELBECK:  OK?

O‘DONNELL:  It‘s just a yes or a no.

HASSELBECK:  I am not a double speaker, and I don‘t suggest—I don‘t put suggestions out there that lead people to think things that...

O‘DONNELL:  And you would not even look me in the face, Elisabeth, and say...

HASSELBECK:  What are you talking about?

O‘DONNELL:  ... No, Rosie, I can understand how people...

HASSELBECK:  I asked you...

O‘DONNELL:  ... might have thought that.  Why don‘t you take this opportunity, like I‘m 6?

HASSELBECK:  Because you are an adult, and I am certainly not...

O‘DONNELL:  So are you!

(CROSSTALK)

O‘DONNELL:  I‘m not going to fight with you anymore because it‘s absurd.  So for three weeks, you can say all the Republican crap you want.

(CROSSTALK)

O‘DONNELL:  I‘m just not going to do it!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Ouch!  But she did do it.  The fight went on for about five minutes.  Before we show you round two—and it‘s good—take a look at the fighters side by side.  Rosie O‘Donnell, age 45, height 5-7, politics liberal, experience, weathered (ph) journeywoman.  Elisabeth Hasselbeck, age 29, height 5-4, politics conservative, experience, young fresh-faced “survivor.”

Here with post-fight analysis is Rachel Sklar, media editor of the Huffingtonpost.com, Amy Dickinson, syndicated advice columnist for “The Children Tribune,” and John Ridley, a screenwriter and commentator.

All right, Rachel, so who won?

RACHEL SKLAR, HUFFINGTONPOST.COM:  Elisabeth won, absolutely and definitively.

ABRAMS:  Why?

SKLAR:  Because—well, first of all, she was the one who actually stuck to the facts.  And she addressed everything that Rosie threw at her.  And really, Rosie was a bully.  Rosie was a big bully in this, and her methods were really just underhanded and attacking.  And Elisabeth just came back.  She—she didn‘t back down, and she was right.  She was absolutely right.

ABRAMS:  Amy, you‘ve defended Rosie in the past.  You still sticking up for her?

AMY DICKINSON, “CHICAGO TRIBUNE”:  Well, I can tell you who lost.  The viewers lost.  We lost.  The reason I‘ve stuck up for Rosie in the past is...

ABRAMS:  Wait.  What do you mean, the viewers—I mean, does anyone really turn to “The View”...

DICKINSON:  Because what was that...

ABRAMS:  ... for important political commentary and...

DICKINSON:  You know—but you know what?  Actually, I have to say, you know, “The View” is the only place on broadcast television where citizens are getting together and talking about the war.  And a lot of mornings...

ABRAMS:  Oh, come on!

DICKINSON:  ... when they talk and they squabble like that—oh, listen, it sounds just like my friends and I.  This is what people are talking about.  And one of the things that I regretted and resented about Rosie today was that she says she wants to talk about the war, and guess what?  They end up talking about, You‘re not my friend.  No, you‘re not my friend.  You know, that‘s just cuckoo.

ABRAMS:  But I think it‘s cuckoo, John Ridley, for anyone to tune into “The View” to get their broadcast analysis of how to feel about the war.

JOHN RIDLEY, SCREENWRITER AND COMMENTATOR:  Well, I would agree with that.  And I would actually say that Elisabeth won.  Normally, I really can‘t stomach her, and I think she is there to sort of be a punching bag.  But for whatever reason,  she really stood up for herself today.  And I think she made one really good point, is that why is she supposed to answer a rhetorical question for Rosie?

Rosie makes these statements that the troops are terrorists.  It‘s not up to someone else to do the nuance on that.  It‘s not up to Elisabeth to be the spin doctor.  So you know, I saw some people blogging and saying it‘s because she‘s pregnant.  I think that‘s a little dismissive to say that it‘s just her hormones.

ABRAMS:  Oh!

RIDLEY:  I think with three weeks ago, finally, Elisabeth has found her center, and she‘s not going to take it anymore.  And good for her.

ABRAMS:  Let‘s review round two of the big fight.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HASSELBECK:  I think it‘s sad.  I think it‘s sad because I don‘t understand how there can be such hurt feelings when all I did was say, Look, why don‘t you tell everyone what you said?  I did that as a friend!

O‘DONNELL:  All you did is not defend me.

(CROSSTALK)

O‘DONNELL:  ... since September...

HASSELBECK:  Yes.

O‘DONNELL:  ... I have told you I support the troops.

HASSELBECK:  I have done the same for you!

O‘DONNELL:  I asked you if you believed what the Republican pundits were saying...

HASSELBECK:  Did I say yes?

O‘DONNELL:  You said nothing, and that‘s cowardly, Elisabeth!

HASSELBECK:  No, no, no!  Do not call me a coward, Rosie!

(CROSSTALK)

HASSELBECK:  It was not cowardly...

O‘DONNELL:  It was.

HASSELBECK:  ... it was honest!

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Is there no commercial on the show?

HASSELBECK:  I‘ll tell you what‘s cowardly.

(CROSSTALK)

HASSELBECK:  No, asking a rhetorical question that you never answer yourself.  That is cowardly.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Let‘s go to commercial!

HASSELBECK:  I need a drink of water.  Let‘s go to commercial.

O‘DONNELL:  Man, oh, man!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Rachel, see, what I like about this is it really seems like they don‘t like each other.

SKLAR:  Well, I don‘t know why you like that particularly, but...

ABRAMS:  I find it to be authentic.  It‘s authentic.

SKLAR:  It is really authentic.

ABRAMS:  It‘s real.

SKLAR:  Yes.

ABRAMS:  It‘s not made-for-TV moments.

SKLAR:  I absolutely agree it was a very real moment.  And I think—

I think it was really interesting that Rosie talked about how Elisabeth didn‘t defend her because you may recognize that from earlier this year, when Rosie and Barbara Walters got into their altercation, Rosie had the same reason for being angry at Barbara Walters, that she wasn‘t defended. 

I just think it‘s very interesting because Rosie—Rosie certainly

comports herself as someone who can defend herself, and then turned around

and attacked Elisabeth and talked about how, you know, she almost—she

almost discredited whatever Elisabeth had to contribute by saying that she

she has to take it easy on poor little Elisabeth.

ABRAMS:  Well, you know...

SKLAR:  So I think that that—I think that definitely some stuff bubbled to the surface there, but it all seemed to bubble to the surface on Rosie‘s side.  Again, I have to stress that Elisabeth really did seem to keep to the issue at hand and didn‘t take it personal.

ABRAMS:  Well, you know, Amy, look, we talked before about taking this seriously.  And you know, all right, you can make an argument that Rosie sort of has an opportunity to become this sort of heroine to the left, right, by talking—saying things...

DICKINSON:  Well...

ABRAMS:  ... that many people on the left believe, et cetera.  But you know, she doesn‘t seem to be doing such a great job...

DICKINSON:  Right.  And that‘s the whole problem...

ABRAMS:  ... of making those arguments.

SKLAR:  That‘s the whole problem.  If you‘re going to be a provocateur or a gadfly, the first thing you need to do is—hello? -- stay rational.  And this is where Rosie—apparently, she can‘t keep it together for 10 minutes and have a reasonable conversation.  I mean, here we are, talking about their smackdown, when I‘m sure her intent is that people talk about the war.

ABRAMS:  All right.  Here are Rosie‘s original comments.  This is what I was referring to at the beginning of the show, where she seemingly compared U.S. troops to terrorists.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  Six hundred and fifty-five thousand Iraqi civilians are dead.  Who are the terrorists?

HASSELBECK:  Who are the terrorists?

O‘DONNELL:  Six hundred and fifty-five (SIC) Iraqis...

(CROSSTALK)

O‘DONNELL:  I‘m saying you have to look from the—we invaded...

HASSELBECK:  Who are you calling terrorists?

O‘DONNELL:  I‘m saying that if you were in Iraq, and another country, the United States, the richest in the world, invaded your country and killed 655,000 of your citizens, what would you call us?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  OK.  You know, John, Rosie should just drop it, right?  I mean, she should just say, I didn‘t mean—I didn‘t mean to say it, right?

RIDLEY:  Yes, well, again, she certainly puts it out there.  She certainly makes that allusion.  And then she‘s upset because someone makes the inference that she implies.  Again, I don‘t know why she expects someone else to do her housekeeping for her.  If she‘s going to imply these things, if she‘s going to say these things about 9/11 conspiracy—and look, a week ago, she definitely definitively said that Rudy Giuliani was part of a conspiracy to cover up the fact that the United States government was involved directly in the September 11 attacks.

So for anyone then to get upset because someone didn‘t rush to their defense, when you make these claims but don‘t offer any evidence, I think is a little absurd.

ABRAMS:  Rachel, someone who watches the media as closely as you do, I think there‘s no question that this is going to be good in the short term for “The View,” right?  It‘s getting a lot of attention.  It‘s spicy.  But in the long term, is this what that program wants to be?  I mean, does it want to be, as Amy suggests, a sort of a political program for people to get together and talk about things, or are people tuning in to “The View” to see lighter topics?

SKLAR:  Well, I think the people are tuning in to “The View” to see discussions.  And I agree with Amy that the war is one of the many things that are uppermost in people‘s minds, or uppermost in viewers‘ minds and uppermost in the hosts‘ minds.  And you know, I think that‘s healthy discussion.  That‘s great.  And I do think people tune in to see that kind of discussion.

ABRAMS:  I don‘t know.  I think...

SKLAR:  I think...

ABRAMS:  I think there‘s a real danger here, Amy, that this could sort of be the beginning of the end of the program.

DICKINSON:  Oh, now, listen, they call that first 15 minutes “Hot Topics,” and this is what they do.  And you have to know that 30 seconds after this catfight, they—they introduced Alicia Silverstone and wanted to talk about being a vegan.  So that‘s what the show is.  And actually, people who watch it—I like that.

ABRAMS:  You like Alicia Silverstone, you mean.

(LAUGHTER)

DICKINSON:  Well, actually, Alicia Silverstone looked so stressed out...

ABRAMS:  All right...

DICKINSON:  ... like she was going to throw up.  I felt sorry for her.

ABRAMS:  Really?  All right.  Rosie blogged about the show today, writing in an entry titled “Cease fire,” “a split screen new heights or lows, depending on who u ask.  Loud, always loud.  Tomorrow kelli”—that‘s her wife—“turns 40. I will not be at work.  Peace out.”

I don‘t know.  Is that really the way to sort of kumbaya moment?

RIDLEY:  A very coherent blog...

(CROSSTALK)

SKLAR:  She turns everything into that, yes.

ABRAMS:  But she‘s gone, right?  I mean, this is—this is Rosie‘s parting—you know, her parting shot at “The View,” right?

SKLAR:  She‘s got three weeks.  A lot can happen in three weeks. 

We‘re talking about Rosie O‘Donnell on “The View” here.  Right.

ABRAMS:  Here‘s a...

SKLAR:  Although, you know, she claims that she‘s going to spend three weeks sulking.  That‘s what—that‘s what it sounded like today.  Well, I‘ll just let you say what every you want.  I‘m just going to sit here.  I doubt it.

ABRAMS:  After the show, here‘s what Elisabeth said.  “If there are tensions, and obviously there was, it‘s dealt with in the moment.  I would hope that a disagreement or a heated debate wouldn‘t be the end of a relationship.”

I mean, what I really want to know, Amy, is behind the scenes, right -

and look, I‘ve been on “The View” a few times as a guest.  I don‘t hang out with them enough to know whether they‘re all pals off-camera.  But it sure seems like there is legitimate distaste for one another.  Am I just—am I buying into the TV performances?

DICKINSON:  Well, actually, I don‘t think these are performances.  Honestly, I don‘t.  I mean, you look at, say, Joey Buttafuoco and Amy Fisher.

ABRAMS:  Oh!

DICKINSON:  Now that‘s a performance.

ABRAMS:  Oh!

DICKINSON:  These people—no, that‘s real.

ABRAMS:  And a good one, at that.  Yes.

DICKINSON:  Yes.  No, this is real.  Yes.

ABRAMS:  All right.  We will certainly—we will certainly stay on top of the disputes going on at “The View.”  Rachel Sklar, Amy Dickinson, John Ridley, thanks a lot.

Coming up: Two presidential candidates now saying ABC News put the country in danger by reporting about a secret CIA plan to destabilize Iran.  If that‘s true, then why didn‘t the White House asked them not to report it when they had a chance last week?  On the other hand, President Bush releases previously classified information allegedly linking Osama bin Laden to Iraqi insurgents.  So why now?  Information‘s two years old.

And later: Nancy Grace is known for going on the attack, but this time, it‘s on one of her colleagues.  That‘s ahead in “Beat the Press.”

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  We‘re back.  It‘s a report that has two presidential candidates saying American lives could now be at risk.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHARLES GIBSON, ABC NEWS “WORLD NEWS TONIGHT”:  We begin tonight with exclusive information that the United States has opened a new front in its showdown with Iran.  President Bush has directed the CIA to carry out secret operations against Iran both inside and outside that country.  The U.S. has had many confrontations with Iran over its nuclear program and its influence in Iraq, but this operation is aimed directly at weakening the Iranian regime.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  An exclusive report last night from ABC News revealing alleged covert CIA actions against Iran.  today, a pair of Republican presidential candidates lashed out at the network, including one of the GOP frontrunners, Mitt Romney.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY (R-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  I was shocked to see the ABC News report regarding covert action in Iran.  The reporting has the potential of jeopardizing our national security.  Stated quite plainly, it has the potential of affecting human life.  We may never know.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  But if that‘s the case, then why didn‘t the administration say something last week when they were told about it?  And isn‘t it possible, as is the case in many of these controversial stories, that someone at the CIA or even the White House leaked the information for some sort of professional or political gain?  Wouldn‘t they need to know that before assuming ABC News is to blame for something?

Here now is Michael Crowley, senior editor for “The New Republic,” and MSNBC political analyst Pat Buchanan.  Pat, isn‘t that true?

PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Well, certainly, if the White House was informed they were going to run this report—and I believe it is deeply damaging to national security and it does risk lives—the White House should have said, Don‘t do it.  And if the reporter said, We‘re thinking of going ahead, it should have gone upstairs and the chief of staff at least should have called the head of ABC.

ABRAMS:  Right.  That—but according to ABC, they told the White House last week, This is coming.  They didn‘t respond.  Nothing happened.  They checked with them.  No response at all.  So is that ABC‘s fault, then, for saying, Well, look, we‘re going to go forward with the story?

BUCHANAN:  Well, I believe it‘s ABC‘s fault, as well, because, look, I think, Dan, you got to know this is damaging.  Look, I was a White House assistant.  If I had known this information and I‘d leaked it, that would not only be a criminal act, it would be a disgraceful act for me to do so and I would be fired.  How can it then be commendable for Pat Buchanan as a journalist to publish that information?

ABRAMS:  Wait, wait, wait.  You just compared to doing something criminal with commendable.  No one‘s saying—the question is...

BUCHANAN:  Well, the question is, how can what President Bush, as an aide to the president, do—if it‘s criminal and disgraceful, how can it be commendable as a journalist?

ABRAMS:  Forget about commendable.  Doesn‘t someone with access to the information—whoever had access to this information, that‘s the person responsible for disseminating.  That‘s the person who‘s saying...

BUCHANAN:  That is the person...

ABRAMS:  ... I am legally bound not to reveal this.  But it‘s a great scapegoat because Mitt Romney can get up there and say, you know, It‘s ABC‘s fault.  I can‘t believe ABC—who knows if the CIA or the White House were the ones who leaked it?

BUCHANAN:  Well, look, here‘s what they—you‘re exactly right on this.  The White House should have objected to the story.  The White House is obligated now to run down the source of this story, fire and prosecute the individual who put it out because this is a highly classified NSC decision on the part of the president of United States about an unfriendly act we‘re committing against a foreign country that can get people killed.  But ABC also is—I mean, this isn‘t a—I mean, they‘re just not blind on this.  They also have standards and values...

ABRAMS:  Right.

BUCHANAN:  ... and you got to look at this and say, Wait a minute, we got—we god that woman over there, Dan, who‘s about to be prosecuted, who could be in real trouble if they use this kind of stuff against her.

ABRAMS:  Fair enough.  But Michael, here‘s the question.  Did this report tell Iran anything new?

MICHAEL CROWLEY, “THE NEW REPUBLIC”:  No. I mean, Dan, that‘s why I‘m sort of marveling a little bit at my friend, Pat‘s, outrage here because first of all, I would be shocked if we hadn‘t been doing this stuff for a long time.  And if the CIA is only now starting to try to undermine the regime through what are really pretty timid-sounding practices, that‘s surprising to me and almost, I would think, a little bit of a dereliction of their duty.

Second of all, the ABC report was incredibly vague.  There‘s nothing that the Iranian‘s can act on.  I mean, they mention propaganda and meddling with Iranian currency and financial assets overseas.  Knows what that means?  So I just don‘t see the—and the third thing I want to point out is that a year ago—I looked up the story this afternoon.  In mid-March of 2006, the Bush administration announced that it was asking for $75 million more to promote democracy in Iran.  I mean, it‘s obvious that they have been trying to agitate for democracy, to destabilize this regime.  There‘s just nothing very surprising about this.  And so I just don‘t see what the...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  And you can argue...

BUCHANAN:  Look, there‘s a difference...

ABRAMS:  ... that Seymour Hersh, I believe, had an article...

BUCHANAN:  Right.

ABRAMS:  ... suggesting something very similar a year ago.

BUCHANAN:  But look, look, there‘s one thing—promoting democracy, we all know what that means, National Endowment for Democracy and teaching people how to do street demonstrations, all this stuff that‘s sort of aboveboard.  This suggests something very covert.  It gives the Iranian regime a real weapon.  The Americans are trying to overthrow our government, an unfriendly act, if not an act of war.  Formally, in effect, by ABC, they‘re told the president of the United States is doing this.  Any American in Iraq is in real danger right now.

ABRAMS:  But wait, wait.  Pat...

BUCHANAN:  They could be accused of being a spy.

ABRAMS:  People are in danger now, but I believe that the White House released information months ago suggesting that Iran was behind attacks on U.S. troops.

CROWLEY:  Yes.

BUCHANAN:  Well, they have—they have released that—it‘s one thing...

CROWLEY:  But Pat, is this a surprise to the Iranians?  I mean, the Iranians suddenly, Oh, my goodness, the Americans are coming to get us.  I mean, we—you know, Dick Cheney has almost intimated that we‘re about to start bombing them.

BUCHANAN:  Well, you know...

CROWLEY:  I would think if this is the worst we‘re throwing at them...

BUCHANAN:  Michael...

CROWLEY:  ... they would be pretty happy about it, actually.

BUCHANAN:  This is confirmation that the government policy of the United States is to overthrow the government Iran.  If they were trying to overthrow our government, we might consider it an act of war, would we not?  It‘s the confirmation that is the problem.

ABRAMS:  Here‘s ABC News‘s statement.  Quote, “At no time did the White House or CIA indicate that broadcasting this report would jeopardize lives or operations on the ground.  ABC News management gave them the repeated opportunity to make whatever objection they wanted to regarding the report.  They chose not to.”

All right.  So I think we all agree that Mitt Romney and Tancredo here are going a little bit over the line suggesting that ABC News...

BUCHANAN:  I don‘t agree with that.

ABRAMS:  Right.  Right.  OK.

CROWLEY:  And I love how Mitt Romney had to read this prepared statement.  He looked down at it about five times.  Is it really that complicated?  He seems so...

(CROSSTALK)

CROWLEY:  ... spoon fed to him.

ABRAMS:  All right...

BUCHANAN:  Well, you ought to be—you ought to be very careful when you‘re talking about relations with a foreign country...

ABRAMS:  All right...

BUCHANAN:  ... as potentially dangerous as Iran.

ABRAMS:  Michael Crowley and Pat Buchanan, thanks a lot.  Appreciate it.

CROWLEY:  Thanks, Dan.

ABRAMS:  Coming up: The White House releases new intelligence it claims proves a link between Osama bin Laden and Iraqi insurgents.  Like (ph) this discussion we‘re having here, why now?  And a special good-bye to Tony Blair, courtesy of “The Daily Show.”  That‘s in “Must See S.C.”

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Time for tonight‘s “Must See S.C.,” video you‘ve got to see.  First up, a recent edition of “Great Moments in Presidential Speeches,” courtesy of David Letterman.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FRANKLIN DELANO ROOSEVELT, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  ... that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself!

JOHN F. KENNEDY, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country!

GEORGE WALKER BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Let me—let me

let—let me—let me...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  And in Britain, Prime Minister Tony Blair often criticized for supporting President Bush.  Jon Stewart presents an ode to that special relationship.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  (SINGING) Now, I had the time of my life, I‘ve never felt like this before...

BUSH:  I appreciate your courage and I appreciate your vision.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  (SINGING)  I had the time of my life...

TONY BLAIR, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER:  George Bush has shown tremendous leadership...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Up next: Is President Bush playing politics with classified information?  The White House just released documents that claim to show a link between al Qaeda and Iraqi insurgents, but why now?

And later: Nancy Grace may be tough on some of her guests, but wait until you see how she grills one of her reporters.  It‘s coming up on “Beat the Press.”

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Coming up in “Beat the Press,” Nancy Grace goes grilling, not a barbecue, but one of her CNN colleagues ends up feeling the heat, that story and more in just minutes. 

But first, President Bush tries to bolster support for the Iraq war by declassifying information about Osama bin Laden.  Today at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, President Bush said that, back in 2005, bin Laden was ordering his henchmen in Iraq to attack U.S. targets. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Today, I‘d like to share some information with you that attests to Al Qaeda‘s intentions.  According to our intelligence community, in January 2005, Osama bin Laden tasked the terrorist Zarqawi, who was then Al Qaeda‘s top leader in Iraq, with forming a cell to conduct terrorists attacks outside of Iraq. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Now, the intelligence is more than two years old.  The man who was tasked with planning those attacks, dead.  So isn‘t this a selective release of intelligence?  Is it just an effort to support the war? 

Terrorism expert Steve Emerson is with us.  Once again, John Ridley and Pat Buchanan.  Thanks a lot for joining us.  Appreciate it.

All right, Steve, look, you‘re a terrorism expert.  Let‘s even assume that the terrorism information here is accurate.  Isn‘t it a little bit odd and selective that little bits and pieces come out that seem to support the administration‘s account and yet, at other times, they say, “Oh, no, no, can‘t talk about that,” even when it seems that it‘s information that‘s pretty similar. 

STEVE EMERSON, TERRORISM EXPERT:  Dan, there wasn‘t that much new information today.  And if he really wanted to be political about it, he would have released it before the election to generate support for the Republicans. 

You know, Pete Hoekstra, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee up until the elections, for two years tried to get the administration to release documents to support the war in Iraq, and he couldn‘t.  So I don‘t really find it credible criticism to say that this is a selective release here. 

I mean, this is information that should have been released to the public domain.  To say that it‘s selective released suggests that there‘s some other information that would be contradictory.  There isn‘t.  

ABRAMS:  I guess the problem that I have, John Ridley, is that, you know, it seems that—we just had a discussion earlier about this claim that somehow ABC News has put lives at risk with a report, just sort of vague report about Iran, that seems to be not that surprising.  And yet, here we have people suggesting that, you know, this is just information that needs to be out there when it comes to bin Laden.  

JOHN RIDLEY, MSNBC COMMENTATOR:  Well, the thing that surprises me is the substance or the subtext of this information.  I mean, this is apparently a 2005 conversation, where bin Laden is telling al-Zarqawi to use a destabilized Iraq as a launch pad for attacks against the rest of the world.  So, basically, the president is using as justification to stay in Iraq the fact that we never should have gone to Iraq in the first place.  That, to me, is what‘s surprising, is to release not only warmed-over information, but information that undercuts the justification for even starting the war.

ABRAMS:  Pat?

PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Well, let me talk to that.  I don‘t believe that Iraq was a center of Al Qaeda operating with the authority of the government.  It simply was not before we went in.  But I think what the president is doing, it is a selective release of intelligence.  And what are you saying, in effect, is Al Qaeda is now in Iraq, and bin Laden was given orders to Zarqawi to kill Americans using Iraq as a base.

ABRAMS:  OK, let‘s assume all of that‘s true. 

BUCHANAN:  OK.

ABRAMS:  Let‘s assume all of that‘s true, Pat.  Doesn‘t the question remain, why now?  I mean, is there a problem with the administration cherry-picking certain information that it wants to release and then, on the other hand, saying, “But you know what?  Any information that might look bad for us or not support our case, we want to keep classified”?

BUCHANAN:  Well, wait a minute now.  Here, the president—of course, he‘s the elected president of the United States.  He‘s got a right to declassify the information.  You are correct.  He is using this information to prove his point that Iraq is now the central front in the war on terror. 

Is other classified information that might contradict that?  I don‘t know -

I agree with Steve, it can‘t contradict that point, but are there that might contradict his arguments, are they keeping that classified?  Yes.  That‘s what presidents do.

Let me tell you a quick story.  I was in the White House, and I wrote this speech on the attack on Libya with Ollie North.  And we gave it to the president.  He released the fact then that Libya was behind the attack on La Belle discotheque, to prove the point why we‘re doing this now and why it‘s justified.  Presidents can do that, but, frankly, reporters don‘t have that authority. 

ABRAMS:  John, why are you shaking your head? 

RIDLEY:  Well, I don‘t understand this proves.  This is information that‘s three years old—or two years old, I‘m sorry.  As you said, Dan, one of the operatives is dead.  They talked about another operative who‘s been captured by the CIA.  We know that the Taliban is regrouping over in the no man‘s land in Pakistan, in Afghanistan.  So, again, this is not current information about something that‘s going on right now.  And I‘m not suggesting that the president release current information, but I don‘t know that two-year-old information says that we should still be fighting this war, right now, in Iraq, that this is the central front in the war on terror, if bin Laden is the one who‘s directing this.  He‘s directing it from somewhere else.  Why aren‘t we getting this guy?

BUCHANAN:  But what he‘s saying—what the president is saying, though, is Al Qaeda is now in Iraq taking orders from bin Laden.  He‘s tying them together.  He is making a point to buttress his argument, and it is an effective argument, and it is it legitimate release. 

RIDLEY:  I disagree.

ABRAMS:  Last year, after the president disclosed new details of an alleged Al Qaeda plot, the White House press corps took the then-press secretary to task over it, sort of similar discussion.  Here‘s what happened.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) 

SCOTT MCCLELLAN, FORMER WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY:  The president today cited a specific example of a plot that was disrupted.  He talked about how our efforts, working in partnership with international partners, to disrupt a plot in which Al Qaeda planned to hijack planes and attack the West Coast.  The purpose of the speech was to highlight the strong international cooperation that is going on. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  But is it just a coincidence—you‘ve had February 6th circled on the calendar for the hearings, the NSA hearings.  Is it just a pure coincidence that this comes out today?

MCCLELLAN:  Well, you‘re talking about the NSA—let me mention, the terrorist surveillance program is a vital program, and it‘s been a very valuable tool.  I‘m not going to get into discussing any of the tools that may have been used when it comes to disrupting this plot.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  So you get the idea there.  Steve Emerson, look, this has been an ongoing question for this administration, and that is, what to release when, what to be upset about?  What is legitimate?  What is political?  Is it fair for the media, do you think, to keep asking these questions?  

EMERSON:  Well, they can ask questions, but I don‘t think it‘s a legitimate criticism.  I think the media is griping because they don‘t have an exclusive here.  If the administration had taken this information and confidentially leaked it to a network or to a print paper, and they released it as an exclusive, no one would be complaining.  And to compare it, by the way, Dan, to the ABC release, which I do believe was harmful, it‘s different.  It‘s apples and oranges.  This doesn‘t have any operational value, this type of release, whereas the ongoing, covert operation does have some operational value. 

ABRAMS:  But if it was something that people didn‘t know about—I mean, the discussion we had before was the fact that there was a report a year ago, a very similar report, and this administration has also talked about the fact that Iran was behind certain attacks on U.S. troops.  So it is hard to imagine that this is somehow, again, a revelation that‘s going to change anything. 

EMERSON:  Well, you know, there are certain reports that are credible, certain aren‘t.  And the fact is, ABC News Worldwide Television is a little bit more credible than a “New Yorker” report by Seymour Hersh. 

And getting back to the issue of selective release, look, the fact is that there already was a deal cut or apparent deal cut on Capitol Hill.  So if he wanted to selectively release intelligence, he would have released this weeks ago.  He would have released it before the elections last year.  There wasn‘t that much new intelligence, so why is everyone so complaining about this? 

ABRAMS:  John?

RIDLEY:  Well, again, I don‘t think it‘s what‘s being released right now that I‘m complaining about.  I think the idea that somehow this information, this old information about an alleged conversation may or may not be the reason that we‘re staying in Iraq, I think that‘s where it‘s difficult. 

I don‘t believe that Iraq is the center front of the war.  And if you‘re using Osama bin Laden, who‘s directing this, as a reason to stay in Iraq, I would say, then, I think we should be going after Osama bin Laden, not talking about people who are dead. 

BUCHANAN:  But, John, what this is saying is—what he‘s saying, in effect, is—and it‘s true and valid—is Al Qaeda, whether they‘re in there in 2003 or not, they are in their now, and this does prove the point. 

ABRAMS:  Real quick, Steve Emerson, since I have you...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  Steve Emerson, just real quick.  I‘m out of time.  But a new Pew poll, research center, 26 percent of young Muslim say suicide bombings can be acceptable in certain instances.  Does that surprise you? 

EMERSON:  No, it‘s not surprising, but it‘s very disturbing.  And it‘s surprising to many other people, because they‘ve been asleep at the wheel, and they‘ve been in denial about the extent to which there‘s an extremist undercurrent in the American Muslim community and the leadership here of the American Muslim community is at fault.

BUCHANAN:  And it should say something about immigration, too.

ABRAMS:  Steve Emerson—Pat, you can‘t stick that one to me as we‘re saying goodbye—Steve Emerson, John Ridley, Pat Buchanan, thank you. 

Still to come, is Joey Buttafuoco really leaving his wife?  The Long Island Lolita, Amy Fisher, who shot Joey‘s wife in the face, that‘s coming up in “Hollyweird.”

But first, Barbara Walters seems concerned her dog is so well-known that it without her being there could be dognapped.  It‘s in “Beat the Press,” up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Good cable segments never die; they just reappear on other shows.  So it is time tonight for “Beat the Press.”

First up, everyone knows Nancy Grace is tough on her guests, but who knew that her incessant grilling applies to CNN‘s own reporters, too?  Here, my pal, Nancy, grills CNN reporter Keith Oppenheim for information he just doesn‘t have. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NANCY GRACE, CNN HOST:  Do we know the age? 

KEITH OPPENHEIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT:  No. 

GRACE:  Is that a no?

OPPENHEIM:  No. 

GRACE:  Do we know the race? 

OPPENHEIM:  Do not know that.

GRACE:  Do we know possibility the nationality? 

OPPENHEIM:  I don‘t know their nationality.

GRACE:  Chief, do we know if they used a note? 

OPPENHEIM:  Excuse me, one more time?

GRACE:  A note?  Was there a bank robbery note?

OPPENHEIM:  I don‘t know if there was a note.  This was quick, four minutes...

GRACE:  Yes, four minutes.

OPPENHEIM:  It happened very fast.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  He doesn‘t know.  He doesn‘t know. 

Next up, the perils of live TV.  A FOX News anchor Steve Doocy apparently wasn‘t really listening during a newsbreak this morning. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  California police say they‘ll check for mechanical problems in a golf cart that went off of a cliff near San Diego killing its driver yesterday.  How scary. 

Those are your headlines at this hour.  Let‘s go back to Gretchen and Steve. 

STEVE DOOCY, FOX NEWS ANCHOR:  That guy‘s lucky to be alive!

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  He‘s not alive. 

DOOCY:  Oh. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  And, finally, I don‘t know if Rosie‘s making her a little skittish or it‘s the stress, coming up with 10 more fascinating people to profile, but journalism pioneer Barbara Walters, who‘s interviewed as many world leaders as anyone, seems to be in full panic mode over the notoriety of her pooch. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARBARA WALTERS, HOST, “THE VIEW”:  You have not seen Cha-Cha on this program this whole year.

ROSIE O‘DONNELL, HOST, “THE VIEW”:  Is she ill? 

WALTERS:  No, but she was getting to be very well-known.  And when we took her—this is no kidding.  And sometimes, if I‘m not with her, and she goes out to the park with the nanny...

O‘DONNELL:  Male nanny?

WALTERS:  ... people say, “Is that Cha-Cha?” because she‘s recognizable. 

JOY BEHAR, CO-HOST, “THE VIEW”:  But you‘re with her?

(CROSSTALK)

BEHAR:  Barbara, this is so delusional, I‘m sorry.

WALTERS:  I am afraid of Cha-Cha being dognapped.

O‘DONNELL:  Yes, dognapped, yes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  What was she saying about her nanny, you mean like a dog nanny?  I‘m with Joy on this one.

Coming up, just when you thought Paris Hilton found Jesus, now it looks like she may be trading in the Bible for Buddha.  It is in “Hollyweird.”

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  And now it‘s time for “Hollyweird.”

First up, it may be hard to believe that mechanic Joey Buttafuoco may be involved in a love triangle.  The Long Island love mechanic whose teenager mistress, Amy Fisher, shot his first wife back in the 1990s, over the past week, he‘s been seen kissing both Amy Fisher and his estranged second wife, Evanka.  But has the kind of the ‘90s tabloid scene made up his mind?  There are reports he‘s heading to New York for a move-in with Amy. 

Here now from VH1‘s “Best Week Ever,” Cecily Knobler, and “InTouch Weekly‘s” senior editor Kim Serafin.  Thanks a lot.

All right, Kim, what is going on with Joey B.? 

KIM SERAFIN, “INTOUCH WEEKLY”:  Oh, it‘s such a big loss for us here on the West Coast.  We are going to lose the love mechanic, as you call him, Dan.  He is apparently moving across country, five days after he reunited with Amy, 15 years after their big story, their big coming out in the news.  They apparently, you know, are in love again.  He‘s going to move in with her in her Long Island house.  And now this has nothing, nothing to do with a reality show that they‘re apparently trying to pitch. 

ABRAMS:  Yes, I love the fact that we‘re able to put video of them on top of each other with both of them walking out of a prison.  I mean, it‘s like—we had one on the bottom, and the other on the top, and they‘re both like walking out of prison.  All right, Cecily, do you want to add anything here? 

CECILY KNOBLER, VH1‘S “BEST WEEK EVER”:  Yes, actually, I think it‘s really sweet if Amy and Joey get back together.  It‘s like a cupid shot them right in the face, I mean, the heart, the heart, right in the heart.  Adorable kids.

ABRAMS:  Joe Francis, the man behind “Girls Gone Wild” videos, has pleaded not guilty to sexual battery.  You know, something a little bit ironic about the fact that, you know, a guy who‘s been exploiting women all of these years—Kim, what‘s going to happen to him?  Is he facing serious time?

SERAFIN:  Well, he‘s apparently facing six months in jail.  Now, he just was doing a jail sentence that he was in for 35 days.  He didn‘t do too well in this Florida jail, so I really do not think he wants to go back to jail.  It‘s interesting, because his attorney is saying that these charges are ridiculous.  Probably not the best defense.  I mean, this is a guy that has been singled out a lot for exploiting young women, so maybe the “ridiculous” charge is not the way to go to this.  But we‘ll see what happens.  I mean, I don‘t think he wants to go back to jail.  He didn‘t do too well last time. 

ABRAMS:  Cecily, let me let you weigh in on this next one.  “The View” smackdown with Elisabeth Hasselbeck, now this.  Rosie O‘Donnell has reportedly been scammed out of $70,000.  Some unemployed guy in Queens apparently wrote himself checks from Rosie‘s production company‘s account.  How do you get access to Rosie‘s production company‘s checkbook? 

KNOBLER:  I don‘t know.  I think that‘s a great question.  Although, I mean, look, it‘s a horrible thing to do, obviously, but what‘s $70,000 to Rosie O‘Donnell.  It‘s like one lunch, right?  I mean, is it really that big of a deal?  It‘s Rosie. 

ABRAMS:  Kim?

KNOBLER:  And the real question is, why would he steal Rosie‘s identity?  Why not somebody hotter like Brad Pitt or somebody?  I mean, of all people‘s identities to steal to get their money, like really, Rosie?

ABRAMS:  Kim?

SERAFIN:  Yes, it‘s very strange.  He‘s apparently never worked for her company.  Nobody knows really why he singled out her company.  This is probably not the best time.  I mean, you know, she is in need of a job right now, so maybe she‘s keeping track on her finances a little bit more.  Maybe this would have slipped by a year ago. 

ABRAMS:  You know, we‘re supposed to be dealing with the topics here, but I‘ve got to ask you guys both.  At the top of the show, we did this smackdown between Rosie and Elisabeth, fighting over what Rosie had said in the past and whether their defending each other and this and that.  Cecily, good for the show? 

KNOBLER:  Oh, great for the show.  Obviously great for the show.  I mean, whether—it doesn‘t matter who‘s side you‘re on.  Obviously, it‘s going to bump up ratings, right?  I mean, it‘s got to, I think.

ABRAMS:  From the Bible to Buddha—change the music.  Hang on.  Thank you.  From the Bible to Buddha, Paris Hilton was apparently spotted walking out of a Buddhist store in Los Angeles, this just a day after she was seen carrying the Bible and a self-help book.  Kim, is Paris just evaluating her various prison options? 

SERAFIN:  Yes, I think it‘s little combination of evaluating the options that she has.  Also, you know, she is very P.R. savvy.  There were a lot of people who, after the sentencing, thought, “Oh, she doesn‘t realize that she did something wrong.  She‘s not contrite,” so she gets the fact that being photographed with a Bible, with a self-help book, this could potential help her image.  But I think, as an article described it, you know, she tried Governor Schwarzenegger, she tried the Bible, now she‘s going for Buddha.  So she‘ll eventually find something that will work for her.  I do think she‘s very upset about jail, so she‘s...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  Oh, I‘m sure she‘s upset about jail.  I mean, I love the way

I said this the other day—about the way she was holding those books, sort of facing them out, so everyone would be able to see which book.  It‘s like, “Oh, look, I‘ve got the Bible I took from my hotel.  Look.”  Anyway. 

What‘s got Italians up in arms these days?  Believe it or not, the going price for Barbra Streisand tickets.  Consumer groups and the city of Rome have joined forces to keep Streisand from performing in their city due to their horrifically excessive ticket prices.  But, I mean, Cecily, don‘t her concerts here cost a lot of money?  And yet it seems that she‘s got this sort of weird Barry Manilow-like built-in fan base. 

KNOBLER:  Yes, she definitely does.  I mean, I think she could draw that kind of money.  But I think the real question is, really?  I mean, people in Rome are talking about something being too excessive?  Have they seen the pope‘s hat?  Really?  I mean, what‘s $200?

ABRAMS:  $1,2000. 

KNOBLER:  Well, the $200 for the nosebleeds, $1,200 for like a decent ticket.  But, you know, if you‘re a Babs fan, you‘re going to pay it, right? 

ABRAMS:  It‘s just amazing to me that she‘s still got so much juice. 

I‘ve got to tell you, look, maybe I‘m just out of it. 

All right, quickly...

SERAFIN:  Yes, 65 years old.  Hey, if you can still command those kind of ticket prices...

ABRAMS:  More power to her.  Exactly. 

There were reports earlier this week that Oprah Winfrey‘s dad was going to write a book about her life.  The news shocked Oprah.  The book has been put on hold until Oprah‘s all right.  All is right with the world.

What happened with this?  Do you think, Kim, that Oprah convinced papa not a good idea? 

SERAFIN:  Yes, I‘m sure Oprah, being, you know, the most powerful woman in the world, the richest woman in the world, and all the other titles that she gets bestowed on her, had nothing to do with him saying that he‘s putting the book on hold.  Yes, apparently, he is—the book is on hold right now.  And if he does revisit it, according to the article...

ABRAMS:  Got to wrap it up.  Kim, Cecily, thanks a lot.  Appreciate it. 

That‘s all the time we have for tonight.  We‘ll see you back here tomorrow night in SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.  Up next, the “Doc Block,” the ultimate betrayal, a story of a mother convicted of sexually abusing her own daughter to please her husband.  It‘s up next.

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

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