updated 9/26/2007 12:53:02 PM ET 2007-09-26T16:53:02

Guests: Joan Walsh, Ken Silverstein, Michael Crowley, John Ridley, Steve Adubato, Stephen A. Smith, Susan Filan, Eric Newmark

DAN ABRAMS, HOST:  Today, Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad continued his American instigation tour at the U.N.  As numerous Western nations spoke out against Iran‘s nuclear program, Ahmadinejad declared the issue closed, saying they would continue uranium enrichment, and consequently, solidified his nation‘s status as an international outlaw.

He and President Bush went head to head.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE WALKER BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Every civilized nation also has a responsibility to stand up for the people suffering under dictatorship.  In Belarus, North Korea, Syria and Iran, brutal regimes deny their people the fundamental rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration.

MAHMOUD AHMADINEJAD, IRANIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): 

Unfortunately, we‘re witnessing the bitter truth that some powers do not value any nation or human being, and the only things that matter to them are themselves, their political parties and their groups.  In their view, human rights are tantamount to profits (ph).

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  But the war of words at the U.N. is really just that, verbal jousting.  Far more dangerous is a new report in “Harper‘s” magazine, one of many this year citing sources who warn, quote, “It looks like a military strike is in the works.”  And once again, that talk leads to another formal denial from U.S. officials.  This time, chief of Centcom Admiral William Fallon said, “This constant drumbeat of conflict is what strikes me, which is not helpful and not useful.  I expect that there will be no war, and that is what we ought to be working for.”

But then today, a striking development in the U.S. Senate, a new debate over the war in Iraq, specifically an amendment that some Democrats say would pave the way for a war with Iran?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JIM WEBB (D), VIRGINIA:  This proposal, Mr. President, is Dick Cheney‘s fondest pipe dream.  It‘s not a prescription for success.  At best, it‘s a deliberate attempt to divert attention from a failed diplomatic policy.  At worst, it‘s could be read as a back-door method of gaining congressional validation for military action without one hearing and without serious debate.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Wow!  My take.  Why do we keeping hearing about a war with Iran?  Is it really possible that we‘re already plotting that war?  Could this administration and this country, still reeling from the disaster in Iraq, even contemplate another preemptive war in the Middle East?

It‘s hard to believe, and if you believe the administration and military officials, it‘s just not true.  But even if it‘s not true, somebody is still leaking the information.  Is it to scare Iran into submission?  If so, then that‘s been totally ineffective so far.  Or could it be something far more insidious, an effort to scare the American public, a strategy to keep voters on their toes, which inevitably seems to help the GOP?

I‘m not sure, but I am positive that somebody is lying.  I want to know why.  Joining me now is the writer of that “Harper‘s” piece, Ken Silverstein, Washington editor for “Harper‘s” magazine, Joan Walsh, editor-in-chief of Salon.com, and MSNBC political analyst Pat Buchanan.  All right.  Thanks to all of you for coming on.  Appreciate it.

Ken, interesting piece that you‘ve got there, and you seem somewhat convinced, based on your sources, that a war with Iran is a real possibility.

KEN SILVERSTEIN, “HARPER‘S” MAGAZINE:  Well, I think it‘s a real possibility.  I don‘t think it‘s a foregone conclusion.  In the article—the short article I wrote, I don‘t think, you know, in any way attempts to reach the conclusion that the war is inevitable.

But there are signs that—I mean, it‘s clear that the military option is on the table.  That doesn‘t mean it‘s going to happen, but it means that there‘s planning going on.  There‘s contingency planning, at a minimum.  And there are signs that are a little bit alarming.  I mean, the president‘s rhetoric has gotten far hotter—you know, the putting of the Revolutionary Guard on the list of terrorist organizations, the accusations over Iranian meddling in Iraq.

You‘ve got, you know, increasing American military presence in the Gulf.  You‘ve got three naval battle groups over there now.  I mean, there are signs that the risk of a confrontation is growing.  But again, I don‘t think it means a war is imminent or even is necessarily going to happen.

ABRAMS:  But Joan, it sounds like Ken believes that it‘s real, meaning that at  last the threat is real, that this is not sort of invented.  Do you believe that the threat of a real war is possible, or is this just possibly political maneuvering?

JOAN WALSH, SALON.COM:  I think the threat is very real.  As long as you‘ve got Dick Cheney as your vice president, Dan, you have a very real threat of war with Iran.  These are the same people who sold us the cakewalk in Iraq.  I think there are people whose fondest dream is to sell this war as the final Bush legacy.

On the other hand, what you didn‘t have with the run-up to war with Iraq is people in the military who are clearly trying to torpedo this idea.  I don‘t think Secretary Gates wants this war.  I don‘t think a lot of people in the military want the war.  So it‘s not a foregone conclusion, by any means.

ABRAMS:  Pat, you also write about why you think that we may heading to war with Iran.  And now—you‘re the third guest now, and I think I have to say What probably reflects what is the majority of the American public‘s response, which is, Are you serious?  We‘re really thinking about going into another war in the Middle East now?

PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Well, sure, they are.  I mean, he‘s deadly serious.  The president of the United States has put down a couple of markers.  One of them, we‘re not going to tolerate Iran‘s continued movement toward the enrichment of uranium.  If they don‘t halt it, the military options are on the table.  Leaders in both political parties, the candidates, have agreed the military option is on the table.

The second part is the Quds Force, said to be aiding the Iraqi insurgents with enhanced IEDs and killing Americans.  Joe Lieberman has come out for bombing Iran.  The vice president is known to be very much behind the military option, when diplomacy fails.  The Israelis are behind it.  The neoconservatives are behind it.  Their magazines are calling for the bombing of Iran.

ABRAMS:  You talked about the vice president.  Here‘s Vice President Cheney talking about that very issue.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICHARD CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  The Iranian regime needs to know that if it stays on its present course, the international community is prepared to impose meaningful consequences.  For our part, the United States is keeping all options on the table in addressing the irresponsible conduct of the regime.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BUCHANAN:  We are—Dan, we are painting ourselves into a corner we cannot get out of.  We will have to strike if Iran doesn‘t back down.  That‘s what all this rhetoric has done.

ABRAMS:  But isn‘t the other solution, Joan, for them to stop the rhetoric?

WALSH:  You know, I was encouraged by Jim Webb standing up today and saying, Hey, the Lieberman-Kyl resolution is really equivalent to an authorization of war.  Let‘s stop this.  Harry Reid pulled it off the table.  They‘re going to talk about the language.  I‘m never quite sure where Harry Reid will wind up.  I think there‘s still a potential to ratchet down some of the rhetoric, but I‘m frankly worried about the Democrats.  They haven‘t shown enough spine on the Iraq front...

ABRAMS:  Let me—let me play...

WALSH:  I do...

ABRAMS:  This piece of sound from the president, I think, was to me one of the most ominous, and then I want to ask Ken about it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH:  I can say with certainty that the Quds Force, a part of the Iranian government, has provided these sophisticated IEDs that have harmed our troops.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Ken, he‘s talking there about killing Americans.  I mean, when you have the president of the United States going out publicly and talking about another nation‘s armed forces killing Americans, that does sound serious and ominous and like the possibility of war is really on the table.

SILVERSTEIN:  Well, I don‘t think there‘s any dispute about that.  I mean, the possibility is on the table.  I mean, what is curious is something you raised earlier, is, is the rhetoric from the administration designed to intimidate Iran and scare Iran, or is the rhetoric suggestive of the fact that they really are planning to go in?  And that‘s what‘s not entirely clear.

ABRAMS:  Can they be scared?  I mean, you hear—we‘ve been listening all week to Ahmadinejad both at the U.N. and Columbia, in interviews.  And he‘s giving off the impression, of course, that he can‘t be scared.  But now take us into—bring us to reality.  Can this regime be scared?

SILVERSTEIN:  I think the regime can be scared, to a certain extent. 

I mean, he‘s a weak president, just as our president is a weak president.  I mean, he‘s walking a very fine line in Iran.  He doesn‘t have a lot of support—I don‘t think he has a lot of public support for a war-like posture, either.  And so I don‘t think the Iranian regime is completely immune to the needs of meeting public opinion.  So yes, I think he can be scared off.  There are significant factions in Iran who also don‘t want war.

ABRAMS:  Go ahead, Pat.

BUCHANAN:  Dan, Dan, look, the probably the president‘s got is he said this about the Al Quds Force.  They‘re sending in IEDs.  They‘re killing Americans.  Lieberman said it.  They‘re all saying it.  The Senate said it in a unanimous resolution.  The question comes, if they don‘t stop, people turn to the president and say, They haven‘t stopped.  They‘re killing Americans.  You‘re commander-in-chief.  What are you going to do about it?  And at that point, he‘s got one option left, that‘s strike the Al Quds camps.  The Iranians retaliate, and then we go for their nuclear facilities.

ABRAMS:  But Pat, how do we do that practically while we‘re mired in Iraq and Afghanistan?

BUCHANAN:  Easy.

WALSH:  Right.

BUCHANAN:  Easy, Dan.  They—they‘re not going to use ground troops.  They will use air strikes on the Al Quds camps.  Then you get a ratcheting up of Iranian...

WALSH:  But that‘s not easy.

BUCHANAN:  I know, but you hit them.  The Iranians strike back, and then it‘s all-out strikes on the nuclear facilities.  That‘s the game.

WALSH:  And we don‘t have good intelligence.  We don‘t have good intelligence there.  We don‘t know for sure where the camps are.  We‘re not even sure where the nuclear facilities are.  That‘s why this is such a ridiculous and dangerous pipe dream.

BUCHANAN:  They‘re talking about 2,400 targets.  They‘re talking about 10 days of strikes.  They‘re talking about more than the two dozen nuclear facilities.  I mean, I know this is...

WALSH:  Right.

BUCHANAN:  Look, it is part threat, no doubt about it, part intimidation, but it is also serious planning...

ABRAMS:  All right...

BUCHANAN:  ... and it is also possible.

ABRAMS:  This is scary, scary stuff.  I mean, listening to the three of you...

WALSH:  It is.

ABRAMS:  ... two of you who often don‘t agree, Ken Silverstein, who‘s been writing about this extensively...

WALSH:  We agree on this.

ABRAMS:  ... and talking to sources.  This is one of the most important and frightening things facing our nation today.  All right.  Ken Silverstein, Joan Walsh, Pat Buchanan, thanks a lot.  Appreciate it.

BUCHANAN:  Thank you.

SILVERSTEIN:  Thank you.

ABRAMS:  Up next: Who‘s afraid of Hillary Clinton?  Apparently, “GQ” magazine.  The magazine reportedly drops a negative article about her campaign staff in order to protect a cover story with hubby Bill.  Is the Clinton campaign already that scary?

And later...

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL O‘REILLY, “THE O‘REILLY FACTOR”:  There wasn‘t one person in Sylvia‘s who was screaming, MF-er, I want more iced tea.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Bill O‘Reilly, under fire for comments about black customers at a Harlem restaurant.  And in typical O‘Reilly fashion, he‘s now attacking the critics for his, at the very least, careless comments.  Coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, “THE WAR ROOM”:  I guarantee you that if you do this, you‘ll never work in Democratic politics again.  Maybe you don‘t want to.  I‘m not saying it matters.  You will be embarrassed before the national press corps.  People will think—nobody will believe you, and people will think you‘re scum.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Hard core!  Seems now the Hillary Clinton campaign may be employing the same “take no prisoners” tactics, except this time, the cameras aren‘t rolling.  Today we got a peek into the notoriously tight-lipped Hillary campaign after “GQ” magazine apparently buckled under classic Clintonian pressure not to run an article revealing infighting inside Camp Hillary.  Hillary ops reportedly threatened to limit access to golden boy Bill Clinton as the magazine planned a cover story on him for their “Man of the Year.”

My take.  The Clintons are masters at controlling the message, and anyone who suggests this shows they‘re desperate or dangerous, I say, welcome to the ugly world of politics.  It‘s exactly what I would expect them to do, try to use their political muscle to get out their message exactly as they want it.  But that doesn‘t excuse “GQ.”  If they killed the piece just to keep Bill on their cover, then they should stick to fashion and footwear and leave the political pieces to others.

Joining us now, senior editor of “The New Republic” Michael Crowley and MSNBC analyst Steve Adubato.

All right.  So we got two issues here.  We got number one, “GQ,” and number two, we got whether this says anything about the Hillary campaign.  Steve, let me start with you on number one, this issue of “GQ.”  Bad move.

STEVE ADUBATO, MSNBC MEDIA ANALYST:  Horrible move.  How could you put yourself out there as a serious publication that wants to be in the political fray, talk about political issues, be seen as a policy entity?  Listen, you‘re right.  Do the shoes, do the fashion, great Italian suits.  What they proved here is that putting Bill Clinton on the cover because he moves product was much more important than their legitimacy, their credibility.  It looks real bad for them, and I don‘t see how they explain their way out of it.  A lot of people internally at “GQ” are very upset.

ABRAMS:  All right.  And let me read the “GQ” statement here.  It says

this is from Jim Nelson, the “GQ” editor-in-chief.  “I don‘t really get into the inner workings of the magazine, but I can tell you that, yes, we did kill a Hillary piece.  We kill pieces all the time for a variety of reasons.  Other than that, I don‘t have a lot more to add about what‘s going on or not going into the magazine.”

All right.  Michael, is that a legitimate defense, just, Look, we don‘t talk about how we make the magazine, how we make the sausage?

MICHAEL CROWLEY, “THE NEW REPUBLIC”:  Well, you know, you can‘t force him to say any more than that.  He‘s not an office holder.  I think it‘s a little bit hard to judge, not having seen the piece.  I will sort of disclose that, you know, I‘m friends with Josh Green, and he‘s an excellent journalist and I suspect that anything he did was quite good.  But...

ABRAMS:  Let‘s explain he‘s the author of the article that was killed, right?

CROWLEY:  That‘s right.  Yes.  He‘s a writer for “The Atlantic Monthly,” and I guess he was doing a freelance piece there.  He‘s very good.  But you know, I didn‘t see the article and it‘s hard to judge.  But you know, this is how, you know, political and celebrity journalism increasingly works.  I mean, celebrity journalism is completely out of control in that regard and...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  I mean, the bottom line is there‘s a difference here.  And I think there‘s a different standard here.  Now, look, let‘s put aside “GQ.”  I mean, I don‘t know whether we want to hold them to as high a standard. 

It seems here they‘re basically saying, Look, we want our guy on the cover.  If we have to kill some other legitimate stories, fine.  The old school journalists are going to go after it.  OK.  Question two, though, is on the Hillary business.  You think this shows—you think it‘s a bad move by the Hillary campaign?

ADUBATO:  I think it‘s terrible!  The fact that you can do something, Dan, the fact that you can kill a story because you‘re powerful and that Bill Clinton is such a powerful figure, a popular figure...

ABRAMS:  Right.

ADUBATO:  ... charismatic figure, doesn‘t mean you shouldn‘t do it.  You should do it, and here‘s why.  Hillary Clinton has been working for many, many years, Dan, to try to soften her image, to come across as someone who isn‘t the Clinton who will do anything to win a campaign.  What they‘ve proven here—by the way, it‘s Jay Carson who‘s the Clinton spokesperson, her traveling press secretary, Bill Clinton‘s press spokesperson, who allegedly went to “GQ” and said, We‘ll get you for this, similar to what you saw with Stephanopoulos.

ABRAMS:  So what?  So what?

ADUBATO:  Dan, the bottom line is, if you can‘t take media criticism, if you can‘t take the hit and say, I‘m a big boy, I‘m a big girl, and that‘s what it takes to be president—for them to go after—it looks petty and they‘re going to make this a much bigger story than it other would have—or would have—or people are going to be much more interested in it, Dan, then ever before.

ABRAMS:  Michael, you agree with that?

CROWLEY:  Yeah, well, I just want to make a couple points.  First, I want to clarify that I don‘t think political journalism should be like celebrity journalism.  But I do think compromises like this happen all the time in the media.  This is a kind of a juicy example.

But I would also say that, you know, the story was sort of about tension—as I understand, it was sort of about tensions within the Clinton staff and infighting.  This was not something sort of—I would be very interested in it, but I don‘t think it was something vital to the fate of the republic, for instance, you know, the rationale for going to war with Iraq.

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  So what?  I mean...

CROWLEY:  But to me, ultimately, look, this shows this --  think this is why Hillary Clinton is running so far ahead in the national polls right now, that she has really learned how to control the press.

(CROSSTALK)

CROWLEY:  ... that campaign is become notorious among my friends who are reporters for pulling things like this, not quite as heavy-handed, but for working the refs constantly, calling editors, calling reporters.  They are very aggressive...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  And I think that‘s why you‘re hearing people of both parties, and we‘ll listen to it here, talk about how flawless this campaign is.

CROWLEY:  Absolutely.  I mean, it‘s just...

ABRAMS:  Let‘s listen.

CROWLEY:  ... much more than anyone expected and—and...

ABRAMS:  Michael, hang on one second.  Let me just listen to this.  Do we have this?  OK.  All right.  Sorry, Michael.  Go ahead.

CROWLEY:  Well, no.  I just think that it‘s really the amazing story of the presidential campaign to date has been how well Clinton has—how far she‘s lunged ahead of all her competitors.  And I think that her ability to control the media is a big part of that.  And I think that—

I‘m constantly hearing stories about how aggressive her staff is, about working reporters and editors to make sure that, you know, they‘re getting the kind of coverage that they want.  I think it‘s been very effective.

ADUBATO:  But the problem with that argument is that‘s all inside politics.  That‘s tactics, Michael.  The problem here is the average person who cares about the campaign is going to say, I want to like Hillary Clinton.  I want to see her as someone who I can identify with.  And if she‘s playing that kind of hardball politics that kills a story, that censors a story, I think it looks bad for her.

ABRAMS:  All right.  Look, I think this is—this is—the Republicans play this game a lot better than the Democrats, and I think...

ADUBATO:  Democrats say they‘re better than the Republicans.

(CROSSTALK)

CROWLEY:  Dan, just one final—a lot of reporters say it reminds them of the Bush administration.

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  Michael Crowley, Steve Adubato, thanks a lot.  Appreciate it. 

Steve will join us later.

CROWLEY:  Thank you.

ABRAMS:  Coming up: Fox‘s Bill O‘Reilly seemed surprised African-Americans are just like white people when they go to restaurants.  Now, in typical O‘Reilly fashion, he‘s trying to blame the liberal media for the uproar over his comments.  How could someone as smart as O‘Reilly say something so stupid?

But first, a guest on “Nancy Grace” finally answers the big question:

What makes teachers have sex with their students?  The answer, she tells us, has something to do with what is in the air.  “Beat the Press” is next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  It‘s time for tonight‘s “Beat the Press, our daily look back at the absurd and sometimes amusing perils of live TV.  First up: Over at “Nancy Grace,” psychotherapist Robi Ludwig finally answers the question so many of us have wondered for so long: Why do teachers have sex with their students?  Who knew it was something in the air?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NANCY GRACE, HOST:  Why do we keep seeing school teachers have sexual encounters—it‘s child molestation—with students?

ROBI LUDWIG, PSYCHOTHERAPIST:  When you‘re working around adolescents, there‘s a lot of sexuality in the air that‘s hard to handle for a lot of teachers.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Huh?  (INAUDIBLE) talking about kids?  (INAUDIBLE)

Next up: Sometimes even people with very different takes on the same story can look alike.  On the “Today” show, Catholic League president Bill Donohue and Dean John Coatsworth of Columbia University‘s School of International  and Public Affairs were debating Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad‘s appearance at Columbia.  And as you can see, the guys kind of look a little bit alike.  I‘m just saying!

Finally, in the “Did he really say that?” category, here‘s Headline News‘s Glenn Beck.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GLENN BECK, HOST, “GLENN BECK”:  I think Jesus Christ and Hitler had a lot in common.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  OK, we took it out of context.  I admit it.  Here is the supposed context.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BECK:  They could both look you in the eye and say, Got an answer for you.  Follow me.  One was evil, one was good.  There are very few politicians right now that can look you in the eye and you believe it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  So—you got the rest of that, right?  So the context is politicians need to be more like Jesus and Hitler?

We want your help beating the press.  If you see something amusing, absurd or just plain right or wrong in the press, go to our Web site—and don‘t worry, we beat ourselves up, too.  You know, we‘ll—I mean, I don‘t know if that one will make it on, but—Abrams.msnbc.com, and leave us a tip in the box.  Please include the show and the time you saw the item.

Up next: Bill O‘Reilly tries to beat up the press.  He‘s now blaming CNN for the firestorm over his recent comments about African-Americans in restaurants.  We‘ll look at his original comments and how O‘Reilly is struggling to defend himself tonight.

And later: Judgment day for Larry Craig.  The big hearing is tomorrow.  And yet now we learn the prosecutor in the case actually advised Craig to get a lawyer before he pled guilty?  Coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWS BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Coming up, Senator Larry Craig gets his day in court tomorrow as he trying to take back his guilty plea in the bathroom sex sting.  Now, we‘re learning the prosecutor gave him some advice before he pled guilty.  Coming up later.

But first, more fallout from comments made by Bill O‘Reilly during last week‘s edition of his radio program.  O‘Reilly described a recent trip to a Harlem restaurant with Reverend Al Sharpton and seemed amazed at what he found - that black people are just like the rest of us.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

BILL O‘REILLY, RADIO COMMENTATOR:  I couldn‘t get over the fact that there was no difference between Sylvia‘s restaurant and any other restaurant in New York City.  I mean, it was exactly the same, even though it‘s run by blacks, primarily black patronship.  There wasn‘t one person in Sylvia who was screaming “M-Fer, I want more iced tea.”  You know, I mean, everybody was - it was like going into an Italian restaurant in an all-white suburb in the sense of people were sitting there, and they were ordering and having fun.  And there wasn‘t any kind of craziness at all.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Tonight O‘Reilly fighting back with an old lawyer‘s axiom.  When the law is against you, argue the facts.  When the facts are against you, argue the law.  And when both are against you, attack the messenger? 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

O‘REILLY:  Now, Media Matters distorted the entire conversation and implied I was racist for condemning racism.  Stunningly, CNN echoed the defamation on at least three of its programs.  The reason CNN did this is because its ratings are abysmal.  It is getting hammered by Fox News, so they‘re desperate for attention and smearing me is one way to get it. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Right.  OK.  My take.  I‘m surprised someone as savvy as O‘Reilly got caught saying something so dumb.  I challenge O‘Reilly on this show over many of his comments, but he‘s a smart guy, a fellow wordsmith if you will.  He should know better.  I listened to the whole thing.  He says the words are taken out of context.  He was actually decrying racism, and that‘s true. 

He was lecturing his audience on why racism is bad, but he‘s missing the point.  He wasn‘t trying to be a racist, but the reality may be even more dangerous, that he felt he felt he had to tell his audience that black people are just like the rest of us.  Either he‘s assuming his audience is completely ignorant or racist, or he‘s making those assumptions. 

Here now is screenwriter and PR contributor John Ridley, MSNBC media analyst Steve Adubato and ESPN‘s Stephen A. Smith.  All right, thanks, all of you, for coming on.  Stephen, do you disagree with me? 

STEPHEN A. SMITH, ESPN RADIO HOST:  Yes, I do. 

ABRAMS:  Tell me why. 

SMITH:  I personally speak - and I mean - when I first - I just got off the phone with Trenness Woods-Black (ph) of the third generation owner for Sylvia‘s and I sheared her opinion initially of being a bit disappointed and being a bit offended - wondering what pal Bill O‘Reilly was trying to say.  And then looking at it from the perspective, why would you walk in there preconceived notions? 

But then I did my due diligence.  I went online and I listened to the tape in its entirety, and I have absolutely no problem whatsoever with what Bill O‘Reilly was saying.  I understand exactly where he was coming from.  I mean, clearly he was deriding racism, and he was saying that it was not a good thing.  He was acknowledging the fact there‘s a perception out there by some people in the black - in the white community rather, who feel such things.  And basically he was saying that you know what?  Times, indeed, have gotten better, and his experience with Al Sharpton at Sylvia‘s restaurant was emblematic of that.  And I appreciated that and appreciate his honesty in that regard. 

ABRAMS:  John Ridley, it seems to me it is so incredibly condescending, at the very least, to accept that explanation. 

JOHN RIDLEY, MSNBC MEDIA ANALYST:  I agree to a point.  He did start out - Bill O‘Reilly started out saying nice things about black people, but then he gets to this point where he says “I couldn‘t get over the fact that black people in a black restaurant were conducting themselves in a civil fashion.”  For an individual who works in the New York City and lives in the New York metropolitan area to be shocked that white people can actually order iced tea in a restaurant is worse than - it‘s plain ignorance.  That‘s all it is. 

ABRAMS:  Let me play another piece of sound.  This is again more from that same radio program. 

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

O‘REILLY:  You know, and I went to the concert by Anita Baker at the Radio City Music Hall, and the crowd was 50/50, black/white, and the blacks were well-dressed.  And she came out - Anita Baker came out on stage and said, “Look, this is a show for the family.  We‘re not going to have any profanity here.  We‘re not going to do any rapping here.” 

The band was excellent, but they were dressed in tuxedoes, and this is what white America doesn‘t know, particularly people who don‘t have a lot of interaction with black Americans.  They think that the culture is dominated by Twista, Ludacris, and Snoop Dogg.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

ABRAM:  Wait, what white America is he talking about?  That‘s what I don‘t get. 

SMITH:  The white America I communicate with. 

ABRAMS:  Really?  The white America ...

SMITH:  Yes!  Let me say - let me say this.  I think ...

ABRAMS:  Let me just - let me ask you, Stephen.  They think that it‘s surprising that black people are well-dressed? 

SMITH:  There are an abundance of white people - that - You know - listen, how many times have I been on your show, Dan?  Do you know how many times white America comes up to me, somebody as a member of the white community comes up to me, “You speak so well.  (UNINTELLIGIBLE)  Stephen, you really do.  You speak very well, very well.  By the way, Stephen you dress so nice.  Oh, my goodness.  I am so surprised.”  I get it all the time. 

ABRAMS:  Steve Adubato ...

STEVE ADUBATO, MSNBC MEDIA ANALYST:  I‘ll tell you what ...

SMITH:  I get it all the time.

ABRAMS:  Steve Adubato ...

ADUBATO:   I‘m not speaking for white America or Italian-Americans who love Italian restaurants, but I‘ll tell you this.  I want to give O‘Reilly a pass because I want to see him not as a racist, and I don‘t see it that way.  I see him as unbelievably out of touch.  And I know that he is in the 60 range but he seems to be much older in his views. 

And he seems to be insulting his audience by saying, “Let me explain these things to you.”  I want to say that his motives may not be racist.  That‘s irrelevant, because a broadcaster with his stature, with that audience, has more of a responsibility to be more in touch with the world that is around him. 

SMITH:  I have a response to that. 

ADUBATO:  And by the way he‘s the one - Stephen A., he‘s the one who shows Ludacris.  He‘s the one who shows Twista.  He has the video there constantly ...

SMITH:  I still have a response.

ADUBATO:  So he is perpetuating that image.

ABRAMS:  Stephen, I will let you respond, but that is true.  I mean, the bottom line is the only people it seems O‘Reilly talks about on his program are Ludacris and Snoop Dogg, and going after these guys.  And then he says, you know what, they think the culture is dominated by these.  Why?  Because he talks about them on his show all the time.  

SMITH:  Sounds absolutely beautiful.  But here‘s the thing.  That‘s not the issue.  This particular issue is the issue.  You as a white individual have every right to feel the way that you feel, because he seems to be generalizing and basically leaning toward the ignorance that may be coming from the white community, according to the law of Bill O‘Reilly.  That‘s a different argument altogether. 

Me as an African-American listening to his conversation in its entirety, while I recognize it was alarmed by him saying he was so surprised and he was shocked that it just was like any other thing.  When I listened to the entirety of his conversation, I appreciate the effort that he showed in trying to be sensitive and allocute in a very candid fashion the ignorance that may be coming out from his own community.  I appreciate that. 

ABRAMS:  But Stephen - The problem, John Ridley, is that he wasn‘t saying that there‘s ignorance.  That‘s the problem.  He wasn‘t saying white America is ignorant.

JOHN RIDLEY, SCREENWRITER:  No, he wasn‘t saying it.  He was demonstrating it.  And for an individual who has probably come in contact with people with Condi Rice and Colin Powell or Dick Parsons to be surprised by this, that‘s the thing that is really shocking to me.  And for him to say, “I couldn‘t get over it ...”

SMITH:  Not shocked at all ...

RIDLEY:  No, again, this is not somebody who lives in a rural area, somewhere where he has no contact with people - (UNITELLIGIBLE)

(CROSS TALK)

SMITH:  How old is he?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Oh, stop it!

RIDLEY:  New York City.  Wait a second here.  We‘re talking about an individual who works in media, who works in New York City, who has contact with people in politics ...

SMITH:  Keep going.

RIDLEY:  All the time.  I wouldn‘t be surprised for someone - by the way, even in Los Angeles, where we are so self-segregated, I wouldn‘t be surprised.  But again, for someone like Bill O‘Reilly, much like Steve Adubato says, he‘s demonstrating his own ignorance.  And I‘m not surprised, by the way.  But I am surprised by someone who works in media and pretends to control(ph) America.

SMITH:  I‘m not surprised at all.

RIDLEY:  So, I am for Bill O‘Reilly to be so stupid in demonstrating

SMITH:  Who runs the media?  Who do you think he is associating with?

ADUBATO:  Dick - excuse me.  Dick Parsons.

RIDLEY:  Excuse me - Dick Parsons.  Who runs AOL ...

(CROSS TALK)

SMITH:  That‘s not what I‘m talking about.  Who does he deal with on an everyday basis.

RIDLEY:  You just asked that question to me.  Who runs the media - Dick Parsons.

SMITH:  He is executive producer, the boss that he deals with on an everyday basis.  There is a plethora of individuals running television.

(CROSS TALK)

RIDLEY:  Who‘s running the new Fox Business News channel, a black man. 

Come on.

ABRAMS:  Here‘s the thing.  Here‘s what it reminds me of.  This is an ad I saw.  I remember this ad from the 1980s, all right.  And it was - it was a public service announcement that was supposed to teach kids about racism.  Let‘s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE CHILD ACTOR:  Yesterday Jimmy said I was prejudiced.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE ACTOR:  Do you know what prejudice is?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE CHILD ACTOR:  No.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE ACTOR:  Well, prejudice is when you react to someone because of their religion or their color.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE CHILD ACTOR:  But I don‘t do that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE ACTOR:  Who is Jimmy?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE CHILD ACTOR:  He is (UNINTELLIGIBLE) my Jewish friend.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE ACTOR:  Then you are prejudiced, because you think of Jimmy as your Jewish friend and not your friend.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  All right, Stephen A., I can see that it‘s a little bit of a cheap shot to play that - to play that ad.  But the bottom line is, the point is the same, which is that Bill O‘Reilly is thinking of this people as the Black people who it the restaurants and - Oh my god, lo and behold, they‘re acting like normal people.  Let me give you the final word.

SMITH:  And I guess my response to that will be, all right, fine, if

there‘s a crime for being ignorant, clearly, he‘s guilty of that to some

degree.  Nobody‘s arguing that.  But when you think about the level of

vitriol that‘s being aimed in his direction often, this to me is a perfect

it is a perfect catalyst to engage in more dialogue about the ignorance that may be coming out of a different community.  And that‘s all I‘m saying.

ABRAMS:  Stephen A., he‘s got a good defender in you.  John Ridley, Steve Adubato, thanks a lot for coming on.  Appreciate it.

RIDLEY:  Thank you.

ABRAMS:  Up next, Larry Craig‘s lawyer heads to court tomorrow to try to convince the judge to let him take back his guilty plea in the airport sex sting.  The prosecutors are now saying they warned him - get a lawyer.  They say they told him that before he pled guilty.  And later a grizzly turn of events as bears invade the burbs.  It‘s one of tonight‘s winners and losers.

(MUSIC)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  The senator best known for his wide stance is hoping a Minnesota judge will take a favorable stance towards his case in court tomorrow.  Larry Craig‘s lawyer will ask him to throw out the guilty plea the Idaho Republican sent in by mail after getting caught in the police sting in the notorious men‘s bathroom in the Minneapolis airport in June. 

On Monday the prosecutor filed papers saying Craig is trying to change his plea for political reasons, quote, until his plea of guilty became public, the defendant did not proclaim any concern, remorse or regret with having accepted the plea agreement.  In fact the prosecutor now says he advised Craig to talk to a lawyer before pleading guilty.  He did not.  So does that make it harder for him? 

Joining me is former prosecutor and MSNBC Senior Legal Analyst Susan Filan and Minnesota defense attorney Eric Newmark.  All right, Eric, let me start with you.  Does that change anything, if the prosecutor said to him, “Talk to a lawyer”?

ERIC NEWMARK, MINNESOTA DEFENSE ATTORNEY:  I don‘t really think it changes the issue in the case for tomorrow, which is whether the plea was valid, whether it was knowingly and intelligently made and ultimately whether the court will hold him to it.  Certainly, it was correct of the prosecutor to tell him to seek the advice of a lawyer, but I don‘t think it really dramatically changes the issues tomorrow. 

ABRAMS:  (UNINTELLIGIBLE) It says that - the prosecution‘s petition says the defendant‘s plea was made intelligently following warnings, waivers, time for consideration, encouragement to seek counsel and repeated statements of guilt to the court.  Susan, does that make it hard?

SUSAN FILAN, MSNBC SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST:  Absolutely not.  This is the most ridiculous thing I‘ve ever heard. If a United States Senator doesn‘t understand the consequences of pleading guilty in a written plea agreement, which I have read, and he signed every waiver, then who does?  This motion is really to benefit people that either, you know, speak Turkish and were only spoken to in English or have a limited IQ.  For a United States senator to basically say, “I didn‘t get it,” when really happening is, “Gee, I don‘t didn‘t know it was going to be this bad for me if I actually pled guilty.  It‘s hogwash that I‘m offended, and insulted, and disgusted by this ploy.  It‘s pure politics. 

ABRAMS:  All right, Eric, whether - Go ahead, Eric. 

NEWMARK:  Well, I respectfully disagree with that because I think one of the things they are going to argue tomorrow is, first of all, whether there was a factual basis for the plea.  Whether he‘s a United States senator or judge or anybody else, the judge who hears the case has to decide that he admitted to facts which constitute a crime.  In the plea petition Susan says she has read, she‘ll see that he just admits to a conclusion.  He said ...

FILAN:  He doesn‘t have to admit to the actual specific act.  He has to admit to the factual basis for the plea that satisfies with the statutory criteria, which this does.  Every element of the crime has been proven.  He admitted.  He‘s just bummed out at the result.  Too bad. 

(CROSS TALK)

ABRAMS:  Go ahead.

NEWMARK:  The judge needs to be convinced that he actually committed the crime.  And if you read the petition, there‘s no basis for the judge to believe that.  I also am hearing rumors around the court house in Minneapolis that in fact it was a clerk who entered the sense, and the judge actually never reviewed it or signed it.  That‘s may be another thing to bring up tomorrow in an attempt to throw the plea out. 

ABRAMS:  But we‘re talking about a guilty plea by mail here, Eric.  I mean - you know, I think a lot of people are viewing this, “Well, it wasn‘t made knowingly.”  It‘s like a traffic ticket, except that it‘s a misdemeanor.  The bottom line is you send it in the mail and say, “I‘m pleading guilty.”

NEWMARK:  It‘s not a traffic ticket.  He‘s got the right to a jury trial.  He‘s got all the constitutional right that ...

FILAN:  Which he waived if you read his guilty plea.  He was Mirandized.  His plea is in writing.  If a United States senator doesn‘t understand it, please tell me who does. 

NEWMARK:  I don‘t think the issue necessarily is only going to be, did he understand it.  The question is, was it valid?  Did the court approve it?  Did the court find that there was a basis for the plea? 

ABRAMS:  What does that mean?  What does that mean?

NEWMARK:  A person can‘t come in and plead guilty to a crime unless the judge is convinced they actually committed it.  So generally ...

ABRAMS:  Yes, I know.

NEWMARK:  Generally, what happens is you say - the judge will say, “What did you do that you did wrong?”

FILAN:  This is total nonsense, Dan.  Utter folderol.

ABRAMS:  I got to wrap it up.  I think it‘s going to be - he‘s got a big uphill battle. 

NEWMARK:  He does, but I don‘t think it‘s impossible. 

ABRAMS:  All right.  Eric Newmark and Susan Filan, thanks a lot!

NEWMARK:  Thank you.

FILAN:  Good night, Dan. 

ABRAMS:  Up next, Winners and Losers.  Will be it be the tear-shedding Britney fan Chris Crocker‘s cashing in on his obsession with the pop princess, Padres‘ outfielder Milton Bradley obsession with the bad call has him out for the season, or a gang of baboons obsessed with finding food, declaring open season on a town in South Africa.  Tonight‘s Winners And Losers are next.

(MUSIC)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  It‘s time for tonight‘s Winners and Losers, on this 25th day of September, 2007.  Our first winner, internet sensation Chris Crocker also known as the “leave-Britney-alone” guy. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRIS CROCKER, BRITNEY SPEARS‘ FAN:  Leave Britney alone! Please. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  The pop princess‘s greatest defender continues to ride his more than 15 minutes of fame, playing dress-up on “The Jimmy Kimmel Show.” 

CROCKER:  I love Britney Spears.

JIMMY KIMMEL, HOST “THE JIMMY KIMMEL SHOW”:  What attracted you to her? 

CROCKER:  Well, we‘re both very beautiful women.  And more than that, you know - More than that we‘re the underdog.  You know, everyone wants to be us. 

ABRAMS (voice over):  Crocker, a TV rookie, still recognized there‘s no place like home.  He did a live web chat from his home. 

CROCKER:  You‘re putting words in my mouth, and that‘s not what I want you to put in my mouth. 

ABRAMS:  Our first loser, New York Yankees rookies forced to dress like princesses while saying, “There‘s no place like home.  There‘s no place like home.” 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED NEW YORK YANKEES ROOKIE:  I took it as an honor.  I got one of the like four or five main characters, so I‘m pretty pumped up about it. 

ABRAMS (voice over):  That‘s right.  The newbies had to come out as the cast of the “Wizard of Oz”, forced to click their heels to the locker room and outside the stadium. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JUDY GARLAND AS DOROTHY:  There‘s no place like home.  There‘s no place like home. 

ABRAMS:  The second winner, British racer Graham Harvey.  He took home the title at the annual World Lawn Mower championships in England this weekend.  Dozens of mowers transformed this farm into a racetrack for the event.  Harvey came out on top tearing up the course.  But since each mower had its blade removed, no grass was cut.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS (voice over):  The second loser, San Diego Padres outfielder Milton Bradley, cut down for the rest of the season after tearing up his knee.  Bradley went berserk during an argument with an ump and was mowed to the ground by his own coach. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE SPORTSCASTER:  You‘ve to be smart here.  Bradley can‘t be stupid here. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE SPORTSCASTER:  Somebody has to help Bud Black. 

Bradley just got hurt.  This is the most ridiculous thing I‘ve ever seen. 

ABRAMS (voice over):  Hitting the grass left him unable to walk off the field by himself - an avoidable injury now made him miss the playoffs.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  But the big winners of the day?  A gang of baboon bandits controlling the mean streets of Cape Peninsula South Africa.  Three-hundred and fifty of them have learned to break into houses and open car doors taking whatever they want.  And there‘s nothing the residents can do about it, either.  The black baboons are a protected species. 

The big losers of the day?  Unprotected bandit black bears.  Hundreds have been caught breaking into homes and backyards looking for food and water.  But unlike their baboon brethren halfway across the world, these residents are allowed to fight back.  The bears are being rounded up in record numbers, tranquilized and sent back into the woods. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  When attacked by a bear, simply lie still on the ground and cover your face and head with your hands.  When the bear is finished batting you around and mauling you, contact the U.S. Forest Service. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  But some residents of cities out west say the bears are effectively holding them hostage, even in their cars.  Here‘s NBC‘s Peter Alexander. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  We can‘t get out.  He‘s trapped us in here. 

PETER ALEXANDER, NBC CORRESPONDENT:  For biologist Carl Lackey(ph), the calls keep coming. 

CARL LACKEY(ph), BIOLOGIST:  Are the bears still in the yard? 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Yes.

LACKEY:  OK.

ALEXANDER:  The problem is, who is entering the yards? 

THAD HEATER, NEVADA DEPARTMENT OF WILD LIFE:  They‘re hanging out in this pine tree right here. 

ALEXANDER:  Black bears by the dozens, like this mama bear and her cub in Reno, Nevada.  Last year wildlife officers here answered 350 bear complaints.  Right now they‘re averaging 400 a month. 

(SOUNDS)

Across the Wild West bears are showing up where they shouldn‘t - hanging out in hallways, breaking into homes, even dangling from an overpass, barely able to hold on.  Severe drought and wildfires are forcing bears to look for food and water in the cities. 

HEATER:  The bears are trying to scrape out a living down here and just trying to do the best they can just to exist and survive.

ALEXANDER:  At Lake Tahoe, five to ten houses get hit everyday.  This is one of those neighborhoods where bear and man meet.  The folks who live in this home boarded it up for protection after bears broke in three times in the month of August alone. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes, he‘s out.  He‘s out. 

ALEXANDER:  With the bear tranquilized, the biologists give him a full physical before sending him home. 

(Talking to Carl Lackey)  Tomorrow is this guy going to have any idea what happened to him? 

LACKEY:  Yes, hopefully.  I‘m hoping he‘s remembering every bit of it and he‘ll hate it, and stay where he belongs. 

ALEXANDER:  Lackey is trying to teach these old bears new tricks, using dogs for what he calls aversion conditioning. 

LACKEY:  Their whole job is to haze that bear, bark at him, haze him up a tree, with the ultimate goal of teaching that bear to stay away from people. 

ALEXANDER:  With backyards doubling as buffets and dumpsters for dessert, the folks here may have to get used to their new neighbors.  Peter Alexander, NBC news, Reno, Nevada.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ABRAMS:  That‘s all the time we have for tonight.  Stay tuned for Catch Him If You Can.  I‘ll see you tomorrow.

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

END   

Copy: Content and programming copyright 2007 MSNBC.  ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.  Transcription Copyright 2007 Voxant, Inc. ALL RIGHTS  RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material other than for research. User may not reproduce or redistribute the material except for user‘s personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon MSNBC and Voxant, Inc.‘s copyright or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.

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