updated 10/2/2007 2:07:17 PM ET 2007-10-02T18:07:17

Guests: Jerry Penacoli, Lynn Soodik, Judge Mablean

DAN ABRAMS, HOST:  It is hard to believe, what we‘re just hearing about Britney Spears, that That means Wednesday at 12:00 noon, Britney Spears officially loses custody of her sons, Sean and Jayden.  But the judge has scheduled an emergency hearing at 1:30 the same day, an hour-and-a-half later, where presumably, he could reverse the order.

Spears has joint custody with Federline.  She‘s been fighting with her ex-husband for months.  The two have now joint custody of their children.  Federline wants more than that.

My take.  I‘m not sure if this is a threat or reality, but regardless, if her kids are going to be taken away from her, there better be something new that we don‘t know about, something more than just a traffic infraction.  Apparently, today‘s order came as a result of Federline‘s lawyer asking for a new hearing.  That came after Britney was spotted driving her kids around this weekend.  Remember, she doesn‘t have a valid California license.

Well, to take away her kids, they better have more than that.  She has a valid license in her home state of Louisiana.  She knows how to drive.  True, she hasn‘t fulfilled the clerical requirements necessary for a California resident.  She needs to do that.  But that‘s no reason to lose custody of your kids.  If she failed a court-ordered drug or alcohol test, that‘s a different matter altogether.  But I am really hoping that child custody is not being determined based on California motor vehicle record keeping.

Joining us now is “Extra” correspondent Jerry Penacoli, California family law attorney Lynn Soodik, Judge Mablean, former “Divorce Court” host, and MSNBC legal analyst Susan Filan.  Thanks to all of you for coming on.

All right.  Jerry, what do you know in terms of why this judge has come down now and said to Britney, You‘re losing your kids?

JERRY PENACOLI, “EXTRA”:  Well, first of all, it‘s not very shocking, what‘s happened, Dan, as you all have been talking about on your network there.  It‘s sad and it‘s pathetic, but it‘s not shocking.  As far as—there has to be a bombshell that we don‘t know about yet.  I don‘t think any of us knows about it except for that judge that has slapped this court order against Britney.

But the fact that she has acted, at least in public, very irresponsibly and shown time and time again that she is a loose canon and that she is not necessarily—and she may love those children.  I‘m sure she does.  But she‘s not perceived right now as a mother who is capable of taking care of those two children.  And it was brought up earlier on Keith‘s show, and it‘s very true, that this is a woman who is addicted—in my opinion, addicted to the spotlight and calls the paparazzi to make sure that they are following her every move, even if it‘s into a restaurant restroom.

ABRAMS:  All right.  But Lynn Soodik, let‘s even assume all of that‘s true, all right?  Let‘s assume Britney Spears is starving for attention.  Let‘s assume she‘s got serious problems.  But let‘s also assume that she hasn‘t violated any court orders, for the sake of argument here.  Can you take away the kids?

LYNN SOODIK, CA FAMILY LAW ATTORNEY:  I don‘t think the judge has taken away the kids right now.  Basically, what he said is, Kevin, you don‘t have to turn over the kids at noon on Wednesday, but I‘m having a hearing at 1:30 in the afternoon.

ABRAMS:  Well, that...

SOODIK:  He‘s going to let Britney tell him what is going on.  They‘ve made some accusations.  She‘s going to have a chance to defend herself.  She may go home that evening with the children.  She may not.

ABRAMS:  Well, I don‘t know.  Judge Mablean, it sounds to me like that is the either very seriously threatening Britney Spears—I mean, court orders are not to be taken lightly, as you know.  This is a judge who is saying, Kevin Federline gets to keep custody of those kids.  Translation: That means Britney Spears does not get custody of the children.  Do you think that the court here is simply saying, Oh, we‘ll see what happens?

JUDGE MABLEAN, FORMER “DIVORCE COURT” HOST:  I really don‘t think so.  I don‘t think a judge would be that cavalier about doing something like that.  I believe that there was something said in the papers that Kevin filed to make the judge really believe that there is a danger or a threat of harm to those children and that it would not be in their best interests for him to turn them over to Britney on Wednesday.

I don‘t know exactly what was said, but it‘s too much paperwork involved and it‘s too much court time involved to say, Take the kids, and then we‘ll have a hearing at 1:30.  I believe that enough evidence has been presented by Kevin, by his declaration, to make the judge believe that the best interests of those children are that they remain with their father, that Britney is having some serious problems that‘s causing him doubt...

ABRAMS:  All right...

MABLEAN:  ... as to her ability...

ABRAMS:  Susan...

MABLEAN:  ... credibility and her to handle those children.

ABRAMS:  Let me read you from the judge‘s order, all right?  The judge‘s order, initially, it said that she—that Britney‘s got to meet with a parenting coach eight hours, twice a week.  She has to undergo random drug testing twice a week, and alcohol.  Must refrain from consuming alcohol or non-prescription drugs 12 hours before spending time with the children, that she‘s got to complete “parenting without conflict” program, a parenting course, and she must refrain from corporal punishment, meaning she can‘t hit the kids.

all right.  So now we‘re hearing, Susan, that TMZ is reporting that Spears was ordered to meet with the drug counselor, she didn‘t do it.  She was ordered to submit to drug testing, she didn‘t do it.  She was ordered to enroll in parenting classes, didn‘t do it.  She was required to sign the judge‘s order, she didn‘t do it.

Again, let‘s assume that some or most of those are true.  If that‘s the case, enough for Britney to lose custody of the kids?

SUSAN FILAN, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST:  Absolutely.  She was on thin ice back at the last hearing, and the court said, Look, Britney, I have serious concerns about you as a mom, but you show me that you can handle it by following my court orders and I‘ll give you an opportunity not to lose custody of your kids.  When she blew off the judge‘s orders and flouted in his face, I think she made the thin ice just crack and she fell into the icy cold waters.

It was an oral motion.  That‘s my understanding.  And I think Federline had to have something pretty serious and pretty alarming for the court to say, OK, you don‘t have to turn these kids over to Britney.  And I think she‘s toast now as a mom.

ABRAMS:  But Lynn, let‘s even assume that some of these court orders have been ignored, right?  Let‘s assume the judge is frustrated.  It just seems to me, when you‘re talking about custody of children, that angry judges shouldn‘t be the issue.  Clerical matters with regard to whether she had a California versus a Louisiana license shouldn‘t be the issue.  The standard is supposed to be what‘s in the best interests of the child.

SOODIK:  I‘m sure the judge is using that standard.  We just don‘t know what allegations Kevin made.  And what Mablean said is true, he probably made some allegations that gave him pause to allow the children to return to their mother.  And he‘s giving her an opportunity to defend herself on Wednesday.  It may be that she did something wrong or just didn‘t comply with his orders.  If she didn‘t comply with his orders, he‘s not going to say, No custody to you, but he‘s going to modify the order.

ABRAMS:  Let me ask—let me play this piece of sound.  This is from the bodyguard who had worked with Britney Spears.  I want to know, after we play this, whether the panel thinks that this could have come into play in this decision to take away the kids.  Let‘s listen.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  When you went into the room, she appeared completely strung out.  She was sweating and shaking and the room was a mess.  Did you also see evidence of drug use in that hotel?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  And did you talk to her at all?  Did you ever say anything to her?  Or as an employee, were you forbidden from talking about this?

BARRETTO:  It was almost forbidden to talk to her about her personal life.  And you know, Britney doesn‘t listen to nobody.


ABRAMS:  Judge Mablean, let‘s assume that that‘s true.  Again, it‘s dated because the bodyguard had worked with her—you know, hasn‘t been working with her in the past few weeks, for certain.  Is that the sort of thing that Federline‘s attorney could attach as an amendment to say, Hey, we‘ve got some more evidence, here‘s what the bodyguard had to say?

MABLEAN:  I don‘t believe that that in and of itself is enough because a lot of that is hearsay on the part of the bodyguard, and the declaration of the bodyguard as hearsay would probably be totally disregarded.  But I think that he has said enough to make the judge believe that she is either still—if she‘s using drugs, she‘s drinking alcohol, the pictures in the nude—she‘s going in clubs.  She comes out of clubs, looks like she‘s drunk, she‘s high.  She hit somebody in the car.  What was wrong?  Why did you hit that car?  And hit and run.

She‘s acting recklessly.  She‘s acting in total disregard for her safety, as well as the safety of the children because any mother who is in a heated custody battle like this, you put your best foot forward.  You know, you dot every I and you cross every T.  She is saying to the court, in a sense, based upon her conduct that we get to see on television—you know, she‘s flaunting.  She‘s saying, Look what I‘m doing.  That is absolutely stupid.

Something is happening about her mentally that she is not getting the point.  She‘s exercising poor judgment, in the least.  And that concerns me as a judicial officer, the poor judgment for herself.  You really have to be concerned about the safety of the children.

ABRAMS:  Jerry, one of the requirements was that she had to undergo regular drug testing.  Do you know anything about whether she‘s been doing that?

PENACOLI:  I had heard that she was doing it, but I don‘t know for sure.  I mean, I heard that she had at least two of these random drug tests.  Now, if she did and if she failed one of them, don‘t you think that‘s reason enough...

ABRAMS:  Oh, yes.  Look, if she failed...

PENACOLI:  ... for her to be slapped with a court order?

ABRAMS:  If there was a court-ordered drug test and she failed and the court said, Look, in order to maintain custody of your kids, you better not fail a drug test, and then she went and she failed it—OK.  Now I‘m getting it.  We‘re starting to understand, then, what happened.  We don‘t know that to be the case.  What we know is that she was driving around in Los Angeles and that that was one of the problems, apparently. that she didn‘t have a valid California license.

But I guess the point I‘m making is I am hoping that they have something more than that.  I mean, I just can‘t imagine...

MABLEAN:  Oh, of course they did.

ABRAMS:  Judge, go ahead.

MABLEAN:  They would never—no judge would ever take custody away because someone doesn‘t have a valid California driver‘s license.  If she were driving under the influence, yes.  But a hit and run accident suggests that there is something going on in terms of her judgment.  Again, I mean, why did she hit the person?  Was she paying attention?  Was something going on with her?  What was she doing?  Then she also has been seen driving the children around without seatbelts and holding them in her lap...

ABRAMS:  I want a prediction...

MABLEAN:  ... and all kinds of (INAUDIBLE)

ABRAMS:  Susan Filan, on Wednesday and this hearing, so will—Britney Spears now does not get the kids back at noon.  There is a hearing at 1:30.  Yes or no, do you think she‘s going to end up walking out of that courthouse at least by the end of Wednesday with physical custody of the kids again?

FILAN:  No, I don‘t.  I don‘t think she really wants her kids.

ABRAMS:  Really?

FILAN:  I think if she did, she would have behaved differently.  And I think the judge now...

MABLEAN:  I agree.

FILAN:  ... has a responsibility to rescue these kids from a dangerous situation.

ABRAMS:  Lynn Soodik?

SOODIK:  I don‘t think you can predict.  You have to hear all the evidence first.

ABRAMS:  All right.  Judge Mablean?

MABLEAN:  I believe that the judge would not act hastily and say, Don‘t turn the kids over at noon, if he didn‘t have enough reason to believe that they were in danger, and he would change his mind at 1:30.  She‘s going to have to have very strong evidence to present to refute whatever allegations...

ABRAMS:  Jerry?

MABLEAN:  ... Kevin gave to say, Take the kids.

ABRAMS:  Jerry?

PENACOLI:  I think Britney loves her children.  I think Britney is not prepared, at this point, to have these kids and to take good care of them.

ABRAMS:  I think that—let me say this.  I hope—I hope this judge, to do what he‘s done here, has more than we know about.  And as a result, if he does, I think that Britney Spears will not get those kids back, not in the short term in terms of physical custody.  But it entirely depends, as Lynn Soodik points out, on the facts that we learn.

All right.  Jerry Penacoli, Lynn Soodik, Judge Mablean, Susan Filan, thanks a lot.  Appreciate it.

Still ahead: Jenna Bush breaks her silence.  The first daughter speaks out about politics, her future and her father‘s critics.


JENNA BUSH, PRESIDENT BUSH‘S DAUGHTER:  He‘s not the president of the United States, he‘s my father.  So yes, I don‘t like to watch television, you know, because I don‘t like to see those criticisms.


ABRAMS:  Plus, a new report says the Bush administration is now drawing up fresh battle plans for Iran.  But with the majority of Americans saying they don‘t want an Iran war, is military action really—and I mean really—going to happen?


ABRAMS:  President Bush‘s daughters try to stay under the radar.  Most of the time, they succeed—when they have not been out partying.  But now Jenna Bush is ready to talk as she promotes a new book she wrote about an AIDS patient.  This morning, NBC‘s Ann Curry spoke with Jenna in her first live interview.  She asked her about dating with the Secret Service around, her conversations with dad, including their talks about the war in Iraq.


ANN CURRY, “TODAY”:  You talk about the war with your father?

BUSH:  You know, we do.  We talk about it, of course.  I mean, I think every family in America talks about it.  But you know, those discussions are private.  There are some things I think—I hope—that America will still let me keep private.  And those are some of the discussions I‘d like to keep private.

CURRY:  But you are hurt by the criticism?

BUSH:  Of course.

CURRY:  Deeply hurt?

BUSH:  Because he‘s a different role to me.  He‘s not the president of the United States, he‘s my father.  So yes, I don‘t like to watch television because I don‘t like to see those criticisms.  I know him as a human.

CURRY:  Well, what should America know?  What would you wish Americans would know about your father that they don‘t know?

BUSH:  That he‘s open-minded, incredibly open-minded, that he‘s smart, he‘s very smart.

CURRY:  You think that people have been unfair to him in criticizing him for...

BUSH:  I mean, every...


BUSH:  I think with his, you know, word mix-ups, he‘s gotten some unfair criticisms.  He‘s a really smart guy.  He‘s a really funny person.  He‘s an amazing father.  He‘s incredibly supporting and loving to my sister and to me.

CURRY:  You had said, in fact, in the book that both your parents (INAUDIBLE).  What‘s the most amazing part of being their daughter, amazing part of them?

BUSH:  Well, that they‘ve allowed us to grow up and be who we want to be and let us make, you know, mistakes and let us grow and let us learn.  And they‘ve never—they‘ve never pushed us in one way or the other with their thoughts of who they want us to be.  They‘ve just loved us unconditionally.  And I hope to one day be a mother or a father like they have.

CURRY:  You want to be like them?

BUSH:  Of course.

CURRY:  There seems to be humor, a lot of humor.  Like, for example, I notice that your father actually laughs at his own mangling of the English language.

BUSH:  Of course.

CURRY:  Do you tease him about it ever?

BUSH:  I mean, no.


BUSH:  I‘m sure I do, yes.  We tease him about it a lot.  We tease each other.  Our whole family does.  But yes, I mean, you have to laugh through life, otherwise, how boring, you know?  I mean, you have to.

CURRY:  Do you—are you eager for it all to be over, though, for this spotlight, this intensity on your entire family to be over so that you can go back into a normal life?

BUSH:  I mean, I‘m excited to spend more time with him, of course, and spend time where there‘s not a weight on their shoulders that there is now, you know, just real time.  I feel like that‘s been cut a little short.  But you know, they‘re doing what they want to do.  And I can‘t wait until, you know, their stress is off, but it‘s great.

CURRY:  How did you pull off dating and getting engaged under the watchful glare, I would imagine, of the Secret Service?

BUSH:  Well, they‘re—you know, they do great jobs, but they do allow me to date.


CURRY:  So you don‘t have to ask their permission, but do you have to escape them sometimes?

BUSH:  No, no.  Of course not.  You know, I mean, they give me the privacy that would allow me to...

CURRY:  That‘s good.

BUSH:  ... you know, to date.  I think that‘s sort of a misconception of the Secret Service, that they‘re everywhere all the time.  I mean, they do—they protect me in every way that they can, but they give me space.

CURRY:  Do you feel like you have a normal life, then, to some degree?

BUSH:  Yes.  Definitely.

CURRY:  You do?  You can go shopping at the mall?

BUSH:  Yes, of course.  I mean, yes, of course.


BUSH:  You know, Until now, I‘ve been pretty—I don‘t get recognized very much, which is great.

CURRY:  Have you thought about ruling out—have you ruled it out...


CURRY:  Never, you will never run for office.

BUSH:  Never do it, yes.

CURRY:  Should you say “never” at 25?

BUSH:  Yes, never.

CURRY:  Why never now?

BUSH:  Because—never.



BUSH:  It‘s not my—I‘m not political in that way at all.

CURRY:  And what if Henry decides?

BUSH:  I don‘t think he ever will.  He‘s ruled it out, too.

CURRY:  Well, you‘re young.  Things can change.

BUSH:  I don‘t think so.


ABRAMS:  Coming up: Inside the administration‘s top secret war plan for Iran.  A new report says the administration is really moving ahead with plans for military action.  Really?  I mean, is it really, really real?  Really?

But first: One TV world collides with another as the “Today” show‘s Meredith Vieira confuses the cast of “30 Rock” with the real-life people wearing those same outfits at NBC headquarters.  Yes, it happened.  It‘s next in “Beat the Press.”


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: When an abused little girl who authorities feared might have been kidnapped was found last week, it was cause for relief.  But it seemed Nancy Grace fill-in Sam Champion on Headline News was just as relieved and excited about something else, something only someone in the news business would care about, that they heard it first.


SAM CHAMPION, GUEST HOST, “NANCY GRACE”:  You heard it first on this broadcast.

Again, you heard it first on this show.

You heard it on this broadcast.  That little girl was found.

But again, you heard it at the top of this broadcast already.

So you heard it at 8:00 o‘clock.  The victim is found.  She‘s safe.  That at 8:12 from the Associated Press, so well ahead of even the news.


ABRAMS:  How distasteful~!  Apparently, they also didn‘t cover her face two hours later in their repeat.  We had to do that.  That was well after the authorities asked the media to do so.  But they heard it first!

Next up: Getting witnesses on the record can be difficult, especially in Afghanistan, as evidenced by this Reuters article Thursday written by Noor Mohammad Sherzai.  Remember that name.  He quotes a witness at the scene of an American military vehicle colliding with a police car.  Quote, “‘Then the Americans started firing,‘ said Reuters correspondent Noor Mohammad Sherzai.”  The author is quoting himself.  The article continued, “Sherzai and other reporters at the scene said many shots were fired.  ‘I was running away as fast as I could, but some of the police overtook me,‘ Sherzai said.”  And wrote.

A reporter quoting himself in his own article.  Well, Dan Abrams, who anchors a show on MSNBC, thought that was kind of bizarre.  Quote, “That seems like the style book run amok,” Abrams said on his show.

Finally, to the “Today” show, where Matt Lauer helped Meredith Vieira appreciate the difference between actors on the show “30 Rock” and people who actually work at NBC‘s headquarters at 30 Rock.


MATT LAUER, “TODAY”:  We wanted to introduce you to Kevin Prince (ph), who is our page...


LAUER:  ... this time here on the “Today” show.  And I wanted you two to meet.


VIEIRA:  All right.  Nice to meet you, Kevin.  Go ahead.

LAUER:  Can you explain why I introduced you?

VIEIRA:  Because I confused him.  The other day, I did a little bit for “30 Rock” that‘ll be on in November, and I confused him with the pages on “30 Rock” because he was standing there.


VIEIRA:  I normally see him at 5:00 in the morning, 5:30.

LAUER:  So the guy on the left is Jack McBrayer (ph), and he is an actor who plays Dennis the page on “30 Rock.”

VIEIRA:  I know!


LAUER:  You walked up to our Kevin Prince here the other day...

VIEIRA:  That‘s because the who “30 rock” people were here, and I...


LAUER:  And you said, I love you on that show.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  And she said, You know, we have a page her looks just like you (INAUDIBLE) Kevin, and he delivers me the newspapers in the morning.  And I was, like...

LAUER:  I am that page.




ABRAMS:  We want your help beating the press.  If you see anything amusing, absurd or just right or wrong, please go to our Web site at Abrams.msnbc.com, leave us a tip in the box.  And please include the show and the time you saw the item.

Coming up: A new report says the Bush administration is gearing up for military action against Iran, even drafting new battle plans.  Is it really possible we‘re preparing for another war?

Plus: President Bush asked America to wait until September to decide if the Iraq surge is working.  OK.  It‘s October.  Wasn‘t September just an artificial timetable to stall war critics?  Coming up.



DAN ABRAMS, HOST:  Coming up, members of President Bush‘s own party warn they would take action on the war after September.  September, September, September, September.  We heard it again and again, and now it‘s October.  That‘s coming up.   

But first the White House at the request of the Vice president is asking the Joint Chiefs of Staff to draw up new plans for a possible attack on Iran?  According to a new article in “The New Yorker” magazine, that‘s not the first time we heard the administration is getting ready for war with Iran but according to the article by Seymour Hersh, the plans are real and they‘re changing. 


SEYMOUR HERSH, JOURNALIST, “THE NEW YORKER” MAGAZINE:  There‘s been a real campaign.  The White House has sort of shifted, even in public you can sort of sense it.  You can actually track it.  They no longer - they can‘t sell the nuclear - that Iran‘s a nuclear threat.  That just didn‘t work.  The American public did not buy it.


ABRAMS:  Earlier in the summer the plan focused on a bombing attack surrounding Iran‘s nuclear facilities but now, according to Hersh, the plans emphasized “surgical strikes” on the revolutionary guard corps facilities.  That‘s the part of Iran‘s military the Senate voted last week to classify as a terror organization. 

My take, I simply cannot believe that a war with Iran is really on the horizon.  Yes, it‘s been discussed.  Yes, some in the administration are probably reckless enough to do it with little provocation.  And yes, just in case preparations are being made, but it is hard to believe what‘s going on in Iraq, that a real war with Iran is on the table.  Furthermore, the only possible reason to start a war would be to take out Iran‘s nuclear facility.  So the notion that surgical strikes against the revolutionary guard is the latest strategy, is mind boggling and scary. 

Joining me now, Steve Clemens, Senior Director of the American Strategy Program at the New America Foundation, a nonpartisan think-tank, Pat Buchanan, MSNBC political analyst joins us as well.  All right.  Thanks to both of you.  Appreciate it.  All right.  Steve, Pat and I talked about this, Pat thinks it is real.  Are you telling me that this is a real, the real possibility of war with Iran on the horizon? 

STEVE CLEMENS, SENIOR DIRECTOR, THE AMERICAN STRATEGY PROGRAM:  I think there‘s a possibility of war on the horizon, but what I‘ve written and have been saying in contrast to Pat is that the president‘s not there yet.  The president is showing a diversity of options, some of them have teeth, and frankly, there‘s a lot of diplomatic, economic and other options on the table as well. 

And I just don‘t believe this is an Iraq replay.  I think there‘s plenty of time yet to see how this plays out.  The president is being tough in some areas, but, you know, there are other avenues to take.  I‘m a critic of this president.  I‘ve been very robust, but I just don‘t see in his posture the fact that we‘re already on a predetermined course to bomb Iran.  

ABRAMS:  And that‘s kind of my position.  Pat, you disagree? 

PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  No, I don‘t.  I don‘t think he‘s made the execute decision yet.  But I do think that as Sy Hersh writes and we‘ve been talking, Dan, I think they changed the targets from the nuclear sites to the Al Quds forces that are aiding the insurgents in Iraq.  So they claim in killing Americans, because that‘s an understandable target to Americans.  And frankly, I think the president would get a lot of support if he did it.  I think the expectation then would be that Iran would retaliate, and that‘s when you go after their nuclear sites.  

ABRAMS:  But Pat, let‘s face it ...

BUCHANAN:  But I do agree with Steve.  I don‘t think the final decision has been made.  

ABRAMS:  Just so we understand, Pat, because it seems to me the only real way to go after Iran is to claim it‘s based on the nuclear facilities.  It sounds like Sy Hersh article was saying, look the American public wasn‘t behind.  So what you‘re saying is they‘re going to kind of do it slowly but with clearly the end goal being to get the nuclear facilities? 

BUCHANAN:  I‘m saying that my expectation would be if there‘s any attack it would come on the Quds force, directly on them, the ones providing the enhanced IEDs.  But you don‘t have to be very bright to expect retaliation from the Iranian revolutionary guard maybe against Americans in Afghanistan, maybe terrorism down the road, when that happens then you go up the escalator.  The next move would be on those nuclear facilities.  That would be astonishing if it didn‘t proceed that way.  

ABRAMS:  Rachel Maddow joins us as well, from Air America radio.  Rachel, you and I have been talked about this and we‘ve talked about this with Pat in the past.  I‘m with Steve on this one.  It is hard for me to believe that this is real.  Yeah, sure, you can put plans together.  You can consider what-if scenarios, but the notion that we‘re sort of on our way to a war with Iran without anything else changing in terms of what we know is hard for me to believe.  

RACHEL MADDOW, HOST, “THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW”, AIR AMERICA RADIO:  Well, it‘s hard for all of us to see inside the internal deliberations at the White House, since Sy Hersh has as good a source as anybody does it seems on this.  There is one observable political external factor that I think makes me worry more about this than I think than Steve and Pat are saying that we ought to be worried about what you‘re saying, and that is the involvement this group “Freedom‘s Watch” which is this newly formed right wing group that put out these $15 million worth of TV ads in which essentially asserted that Iraq was behind 9/11.  Their next thing that they‘re doing is that they are moving on in their PR effort to try to sell Iran as a threat to the United States.  And that sort of White House -  disconnected from the White House but aligned with the White House PR effort to me looks like a lead-up to the Iraq war.  

ABRAMS:  You can argue that Iran is a threat to the United States and yet we still don‘t need a preemptive war, right?  

MADDOW:  But that won‘t be what these guys will say.  And so we‘ve got to bomb them yesterday.  

ABRAMS:  Here‘s what the White House response - Spokesperson Dana Perino was asked about this at the press conference today. 


DANA PERINO, PRESS SECRETARY, THE WHITE HOUSE:  The president has said that he believes that there is a diplomatic solution that we can use to solve the Iranian problem.  And that‘s why we‘re working with our allies to get there.  

UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER:  You said that before we went to Iraq, too.  

PERINO:  I‘m not going to comment on any possible scenario that an anonymous source continues to feed into Sy Hersh.  


ABRAMS:  Yeah, okay.  But that‘s not a denial, Steve.  I want to hear a denial, Steve. 

CLEMENS:  Well, there‘s no denial.  I mean, what we have in this case is, frankly, what Rachel has lined up and what Sy Hersh might greatly respect to line up is what any president should be doing is looking at various plans for dealing with a problematic nation.  But what we see in the hyperventilation in the right about this issue  - and I take Pat Buchanan out of that, but that would not be happening if they enjoy the full confidence and support of the president on this decision.  He‘s not there yet.  He‘s nowhere near it in my view.  And frankly, I just talked to Nick Byrnes, the other day.  Our undersecretary of state is negotiating this program of sanctions.  We just did a deal with the Chinese and the Russians that says, “We‘re going to wait IAEA plays out its game, until Javier Solana plays out its game, and with Europe and Iran before we even draft the third round of resolutions on Iran.  

BUCHANAN:  Let me talk about the Al Quds force.  One of the problems here is the president is painting himself into a corner.  General Petraeus says they‘re fighting a proxy war against us.  The general says our guys are being killed.  Lieberman says our guys are being killed.  The president says they‘re sending this stuff in there when he spoke to the American legion event. 

Dan, he‘s painting himself into a corner.  Whatever you say about George Bush, he‘s not a bluffer.  If they don‘t stop sending these IEDs in there, then George Bush either hits them or people are going to start accusing him of backing down.  

ABRAMS:  But part of it, Rachel, is going to be how you frame it.  We‘re only going to find out about a lot of this if the administration decides to release the information.  

MADDOW:  That‘s exactly right.  

ABRAMS:  We‘re going to get our information from them.  So if they decide to make this a central case, they will.  If they decide to deal with it, you know, privately and aggressively, they can do that as well.  

MADDOW:  Yes, the distance between what Steve is saying and what Pat is saying is that Steve is usually right, but an optimistic guy.  And I know this because I like Steve and I read his blog every day.  But he‘s talking about a process that would be rational.  What Pat is talking about, what Seymour Hersh is talking about, which is the whole idea that the rationale for invading Iran will change according to whatever political reality they need to cram it into in order to get justification for doing it.  They‘re going to do it no matter how irrational it is.  That‘s the picture that Seymour Hersh is painting, that‘s why it is so scary because it is irrational.  

ABRAMS:  All right.  Well, I said this before, when we talked about it, and I‘ll say it again, I think this is probably the most important story of the day, and we‘ll continue to cover it.  Stay with us.  Steve Clemens, Rachel Maddow, and Pat Buchanan stay with us.

CLEMENS:  Thank you.

ABRAMS:  Up next, it‘s October 1st.  Were we supposed to wake up this morning with a plan to get out of Iraq?  Remember all those people who said wait till September, wait till September.  What happened?  

And later Britney Spears loses custody of her two kids.  You can guess if she winds up today‘s big winner or loser.  We‘ll have more on that coming up.



ABRAMS:  Did you know the months of September and December always start on the same day of the week?  I didn‘t know that.  So maybe President Bush meant give him till December to see how the war‘s going before making any real changes.  Now here we are on October 1st.  Is it clear the wait until September, wait until September, was just a date on the calendar to stall war critics? 


ABRAMS:  It is October 1st.  That means September‘s officially over.  Remember that was the month we were supposed to see change in Iraq?  It has now come and gone with no real change in policy.  Republicans told us when back to school sales started their unwavering support for the seemingly never-ending war could come to an end.  And the president kept saying wait, just wait, wait till September.  Now in October it sure feels like it may have been just a stall tactic to keep the war going.



SENATOR ARLEN SPECTER ®, PENNSYLVANIA:  For certain, by September, when we face the full $500 billion appropriation bill, there‘s a very difficult time ahead unless we can see light at the end of the tunnel.  


GENERAL DAVID PETRAEUS, COMMANDER MULTI-NATIONAL FORCE, IRAQ:  I believe Iraq‘s problems will require a long-term effort.  There are no easy answers or quick solutions.  

REPRESENTATIVE ROY BLUNT ®, MISSOURI:  Clearly, no one would expect us to pursue a plan that wasn‘t working, and so that September timeframe is one that‘s important and we‘ve been talking about it as an important timeframe.  


PETRAEUS:  And though we both believe this effort can succeed, it will take time 


SENATOR CHUCK HAGEL ®, NEBRASKA:  If we do not see this administration take some initiatives to make some changes - significant, strategic policy changes over the next 90 days, then, of course, it will be forced on them.  


ABRAMS:  Really?  Look, Hagel has been a straight shooter on this, but what were the changes?  Where was the light?  September‘s gone, nothing‘s changed.  In retrospect, isn‘t it fair to say that September never meant anything?  Everyone knew that General Petraeus and U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker would come in and say there was some progress; we need more time.  And so now we find ourselves in October with no real change.  Still with us is Rachel Maddow and Pat Buchanan.  I mean, Pat, were we just snookered? 

BUCHANAN:  No, I don‘t think so, Dan.  Clearly the president had an objective here when he brought General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker back.  And he frankly succeeded and he did get something.  He said we‘ll have 5,000 troops out in December and the sergeants in April.  Thirty thousand more will be withdrawn.   That was satisfactory to, if you will, the northern, more moderate Republicans, and so having those votes, the Democrats could not get 60 votes to impose their deadlines, and they certainly can‘t get 67 ... (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

ABRAMS  That to me translates into we got snookered because we‘re talking about the troops - all of the troops that served as a surge.  You‘re saying a tiny group of that surge, those additional troops, get pulled back.  And then hopefully by next summer the rest of the troops that were part of the surge will get them back, which means we‘re back at the point we were at before. 

BUCHANAN:  What I‘m saying, Dan, is that if you believe that Bush was going to pull all of these troops out of Iraq, you snookered yourself. 

ABRAMS:  All right, Rachel, “The Washington Post,” all right, May 8, 2007 said, with September looking increasingly like a decisive deadline, September could be key deadline in war - was the headline.  Was the media and others just fooled? 

MADDOW:  Yes.  I mean, I think that people were willing to hear that there was going to be some sort of change in the same way that we‘ve heard from the beginning of the war, that some magical six-month distance would be the amount of time to see if things were working.  There is one thing that started to change this September.  That is, that instead of trying to define the U.S. occupation as a success in Iraq, I think they‘re getting a little softer on that.  And they instead are now moving to keeping the war going by talking about how scary it would be for us to leave.

ABRAMS:  Oh yes.  No, look, we‘ve done a segment on this show about the changing definitions of the goal post, the shifting goal post, et cetera.  Pat, let me read you, Norm Coleman, May 8, “There is a sense that by September you got to see real action on the part of the Iraqis.  I think everybody knows that.  I really do.”  Then Gordon Smith, the same day, May, “Many of my Republican colleagues have been promised they will get a straight story on the surge by September.  I won‘t be the only Republican demanding a change in our disposition of troops in Iraq at that point.  That‘s very clear to me.”  I mean, were these people being dishonest or are they just accepting of this shifting of the goal post? 

BUCHANAN:  I think they‘re accepting in this sense.  The president gave them something, the 5,000 the end of the surge.  Then he, in effect, said what Rachel was saying, “Look, you draw down these troops too fast and we‘ll have a cataclysm there and a humanitarian catastrophe.”  He wants that ...

MADDOW:  No, he said - Pat, he said if you draw down these troops ever, if we ever leave, that‘s when they started talking about the Korea-like deployment.


BUCHANAN:  I think the point is the political argument succeeded with these fellows.  They were given this option or this one, support me or this is where it‘s going.  Then they said, okay we don‘t like it but we have to do it.  

ABRAMS:  But Pat, let me ask you to dig back in your memory a little bit, when they made that argument at the end of Vietnam, right, people were saying if we pull out, it‘s going to be a major disaster, et cetera.  Politically, how did they overcome that? 

BUCHANAN:  Well, immediately after Vietnam?  The Vietnam - I mean, you‘ve got a million dead Cambodians, hundreds of thousands of dead Vietnamese.  It was a disaster for the United States.  The Soviets moved in Africa and Angola and Mozambique and Grenada and Nicaragua. Look, I was there, Dan.  It was not good days.  That‘s why Ronald Reagan is president.

ABRAMS:  But this president is still claiming that the sort of like the cause and effect, that the reason everything went so badly is because we got out of Vietnam.  

MADDOW:  Right.  No, the difference here is the decision about whether or not we believe that peace is better served by more war or by ending the war.  And right now, just like the end of Vietnam and just like Pat is still arguing and just like we‘re arguing now in the senate and everywhere else, that this idea there will be so much more war if we end this war.  We can‘t possibly get to peace by ending the war.  We have to decide if that‘s bunk or not.  

BUCHANAN:  Rachel, do you want the peace of Cambodia in Iraq?  A million dead - in first year of peace, a million dead.  

MADDOW:  Pat - but here‘s the question, Pat, had we stayed, the state of things would have been better off?  Do you think that the Vietnam War was too short?

BUCHANAN:  No, I think we would have been better off if congress hadn‘t cut off aid to the South Vietnamese and let the North override them.  

ABRAMS:  If only we had cable back then, we could have had this debate back then.  But Pat was having it behind the scenes.  Rachel Maddow and Pat Buchanan, thanks a lot.  Appreciate it.

MADDOW:  Thank you.

BUCHANAN:  Thank you, Dan.

ABRAMS:  Up next, will today‘s big loser of the day be some wieners who said gimme more at a corn dog contest; burglars who tried to nail police by giving them more than just trouble, but nails, or Britney Spears who is in bigger trouble than she thought after official losing custody of her kids today.  More on that breaking news in today‘s “Winners and Losers.”



ABRAMS:  Time for tonight‘s “Winners and Losers” for this first day of October, 2007.  Winner - competitive canines who took part in the 10th Annual Doggy Olympics over the weekend.  The pooches competed in the flying disk catch, hurdles in diving, but one gold medal winner taking home the title of top dog in each category.  

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Look at me.  Look at me.  Don‘t look at anybody else.  Don‘t look at the fat ass losers or freaks.  You look at me!

ABRAMS:  The dogs were treated like athletes.  Not just animals competing over like who can eat more.  No, that was left to the humans.  Losers.  A pair of competitive dog eaters clawing and biting for the title of Mr. Corn Dog.  This not quite Olympian championship in held in Dallas, Texas, Sunday, left the audience feeling hungry for more after Brent Richard(ph) and Mike Wilkis(ph) tied, each wolfing down a dozen corn dogs in ten minutes.  No overtime to break the tie.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Ladies and gentlemen, we have is a tie.  



ABRAMS:  Winner, the Montgomery, Alabama, police officer who rescued a woman apparently trying to commit suicide on a bridge.  She now faces disorderly conduct charges after her attempted leap caused a three-car pile-up.  Police say she was wielding a knife before they stepped in to save her.   >

Loser, a pair of burglars who thought they could save themselves from police by piling up 60 pounds of nails in a parking lot.  The not-so dynamic duo can be seen spreading a bucket of roofing nails across the ground just before robbing a Kentucky pharmacy.  The goal, to blow out the tires of any police cars responding to the break-in.  The disorderly dopes dropped the drugs they were trying to steel on their way out of the store, but they did manage to get away.  


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Just when I think you couldn‘t possibly be any dumber, you go and do something like this.  And totally redeem yourself!


ABRAMS:  But the big winner of the day?  Japanese scientists who successfully created this new breed of transparent frog.  The amphibians feature translucent skin, the first for any four-legged animal.  Scientists pulled off the breeding experiment in the hopes that the see-through skin will help them perform research without harming the frogs.

The big loser of the day?  Apparently harmful pop parent Britney Spears.  The see-through clothing wearing mom was dealt a major blow today in her custody battle with ex-prince turned frog Kevin Federline.  A California court ruled she loses custody of her two kids in two days. 


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


ABRAM:  I can never get enough of that guy.  But seriously - all right.  Now there‘s this court ruling out there.  The question is, does this really mean Britney loses the kids?  Were joined again by MSNBC team‘s Legal Analyst, Susan Filan.  All right, Susan, is this real? 

SUSAN FILAN, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST:  Yes, I think it is this time.  The last time she was in court, the judge said you‘re on real thin ice.  You are very close to losing these kids.  You want to keep these kids, here‘s what you need to do.  I think she violated the court‘s orders.  I don‘t think she did drug testing.  I don‘t think she went to parenting ed.  And I think something else came out in court today where the judge said, you know what, this isn‘t a game.  You‘re a danger.  I‘m sorry, but you just lost your right to be a mom.

ABRAMS:  This is what the court order said, “Respondent is to retain physical custody of the minor children on Wednesday, October 3rd, 2007 at 12:00 p.m. until further order of the court.  Translate for us.  

FILAN:  That‘s a real big deal, you know, meaning you‘ve just lost your kids for now, until you now prove to the court why you should get them back.  Once you‘ve lost your kids, it‘s really hard to get them back.  You‘ve got to be psychologically evaluated.  The kids have to be tested.  It‘s got to be in their best interest.  She‘s really blown it big time.  I don‘t think she wanted to be a mom anymore.  I just don‘t think it gave her enough attention.  She‘s supposed to give attention to the kids, not the other way around.  It wasn‘t fun anymore.

ABRAMS:  But then, why did she fight this?  I mean, this has been a big legal battle.  Kevin Federline now wants more time.  It is 50/50 right now, he wants more than 50/50 when it comes to custody.  If she doesn‘t want the kids, right, and she, in fact, wants to throw in the towel, why not just do that legally and say, you know what, for now you can have the kids.  

FILAN:  Yes, because that looks bad to abandon your kids.  It is much better to have the court take them away, blame your evil ex, and say he out-lawyered you, you know, the blame game, and not to stand up and say, you know what, this is just too hard.  I don‘t really want to do it now.  I‘d rather party.  There‘s no way she‘s going to do that.  This way, if they‘re force to wait for her, she can boohoo and cry me a river and go through the motions.  But you know, I think she‘s getting what she‘s asking for, which is him to do all the work.  

ABRAMS:  And so, when they‘re back in court on Wednesday, do you think that Spears‘ lawyers will go through the motions and make the legal - because I do.  I think that they are going to get through and they are going to say ...

FILAN:  Absolutely. 

ABRAMS:  You cannot take these kids away from Britney.  

FILAN:  Absolutely.  I think you‘re absolutely right.  They‘re going to go through the motions.  They‘re going to go the charade.  They‘re going to try to guilt the judge, look, you got it all wrong.  K-fed is doing this to me.  By her own actions, she‘s out partying and violating the court orders ...

ABRAMS:  If it were up to you, how long would you take away the kids for? 

FILAN:  See, it‘s not a punishment.  We‘re not punishing Britney Spears for being bad.  What we‘re doing is safeguarding these kids.  I would keep them with their dad and I hope he‘s going to do a good job with them until I‘m sure that she‘s ready to resume her role as a parent.  She‘s going to have to prove that to me big time.  She can visit with them, but they‘re not going to have, you know, a week with mom and a week with dad.  She‘s done for now.

ABRAMS:  We do the beat the press(ph) on this show.  As I said, is this real, talking about Britney Spears and then the previous segment, is this real with a war with Iran.  Woo. 

FILAN:  Yes.

ABRAMS:  Susan, thanks. 

FILAN:  You bet.

ABRAMS:  See  you tomorrow.



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