updated 10/17/2007 10:20:40 AM ET 2007-10-17T14:20:40

Guests: Chris Shays, Adam Smith, Bethany Marshall, Tom O‘Neil, Ed Suslovic, Elaine Thomas, Cindy Margolis

DAN ABRAMS, HOST:  You point out every night the number of days since victory declared in Iraq.  Well, here is another date.  It was five years ago today that President Bush signed the authorization to use force against Iraq.  Since then, more than 3,800 Americans have died, 28,000 seriously wounded, 500 billion spent.  Now, finally, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is admitting that the Congress has not done enough to challenge the administration‘s Iraq policies.  But even many Democrats still won‘t admit that their vote was a mistake, that they were wrong.  We‘ve got two prominent members of Congress with us here to discuss.

But, first, my take.  I, like many, generally supported the war because I was convinced Saddam had weapons of mass destruction.  I said I thought we should have taken more time before invading but I supported the operation.  Then four years ago, on the one year anniversary I said quote on the show: “ . helping the people of Iraq, while admirable, does not in and of itself justify the sacrifice of hundreds of American lives, hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars, and the scorn of many, including our long-time allies .  The question is not is it a good thing that Saddam is gone?  No, we must ask was it worth if?  Do the benefits outweigh the costs?  Was the price in American blood and dollars too high?”

My answer then as now was - no, it was not worth it.  It was a mistake.  Five years later, our members of Congress admitting were they wrong?  And if so, how can the Speaker of the House be relegated to the sideline talking about how little her majority party has been able to achieve in that regard.

Joining me now, Congressman Chris Shays a Republican from Connecticut

he was a supporter of the war, now believes a timetable should be set for withdrawing U.S. troops.  And Washington Democrat, Adam Smith, he voted for the invasion, has since called his vote a mistake.  And A.B. Stoddard is associate editor for the Hill.  Thanks to all of you for coming on.  appreciate it.  On Representative Shays, let me start with you.  Five years later, are you ready to say that your vote was a mistake?

REP. CHRIS SHAYS, ® CONNECTICUT:  Well, I said it even before the election.  I wish that I didn‘t vote for it, given that we didn‘t find weapons of mass destruction.  But, based on all the research I did, talking to the Brits, the French, the Israelis, the Turks, the Jordanians, I thought he had weapons of mass destruction and I thought he would use them.  But, I‘ll also add one more thing, knowing how badly we fought the war in the beginning, not by our military personnel but by the generals who led them, I would never have—and by the Secretary of Defense, I would never have wanted to see our troops involved in Iraq.

ABRAMS:  All right.  And Representative Smith, is that the same position, do you think that most Democrats are taking now or are some willing to go further and say, “Look, forget about what I knew at the time, I was simply wrong”?

REP. ADAM SMITH, (D) WASHINGTON:  Well, I think most Democrats, most people supported the war authorization.  On the Democratic side have said things similar to what Chris Shays said.  I think in my case I‘ve said that I‘ve placed too much faith in this president to properly use that authority.  And many books have been written about how improperly he has used that authority both as you said, in your remarks and this is something that I have mentioned many times is that the invasion came too quick.  We got the inspectors back in and the president didn‘t give them a chance to do their job.  But, even beyond that, you know, decision after decision, not having the resources, as the 12 captains who wrote in the “The Washington Post,” I think it was this morning, said, you know that we have never committed the resources to truly accomplish the mission.  So the way it has been fought has also been wrong.

ABRAMS:  Let me ask you this, following up on that, there‘re 87 Democratic members of Congress who have now signed a letter to the president saying, look, we are going to withhold funding unless you have a timetable that basically begins sometime before he leaves office.  Why won‘t you sign on to that letter?

SMITH:  Well, I, first of all, was not aware of it would be one reason.  Thank you for bringing it to my attention.

ABRAMS:  Would you sign it?

SMITH:  I‘ll take a look at it I‘m not sure.  The issue and we discussed this one previous time when I was on the show is, you know, whether or not to actually cut off the funding.  I have voted against the funding.  I voted against the supplemental last May because I think we gave it to the president too quickly.  I mean, I‘m perfectly willing to vote against funding that does not change the direction in the war.  But I respect members who say the end of the day if the choice is to completely cut it off while we still have troops in battle, is that a choice we are prepared to make?  That‘s a tougher call when you get to that point.

ABRAMS:  But Representative Shays, but as a practical matter, I mean,

doesn‘t this become a game of chicken in the sense that if the Congress

says we‘re simply going to withhold funding -

SHAYS:  That would be a mistake, Dan.

ABRAMS:  Let me ask you this.

SHAYS:  Sure.

ABRAMS:  That then the president is in the position of saying, all right, either I‘m going to leave the troops there without funding, or, you know, or, know, basically putting the president—the burden on the president.

SHAYS:  Well, first off, the problem we had when we went in April, is if we waited even a few weeks later, we would have had to wait all summer because all our troops had protective chemical gear and couldn‘t have gone in during the summertime.  And that, obviously, is one indication that we really did think he had chemicals.

SMITH:  Wouldn‘t have to wait six months.

SHAYS:  We would have had to wait six months.  And then our troops would have literally been in theater for over a year, stand by ready to attack, which I‘m told is not advisable.  But the real problem was as soon as we abolished all their army, their police, and their border patrol, we were stuck in Iraq for a long time.  We can‘t leave without replacing what we destroyed.  That‘s the bottom line for me.

ABRAMS:  But isn‘t the reality though that that is the goal, right?  No one wants to pull out and have it worse, you know, than it was before the mess that it would create if we pulled out and, I know you‘ve talked about the fact that the Surge, you believe, is working, but working towards what end?  Meaning, let‘s assume for a moment that you are right that al Qaeda in Iraq has been—its strength has been reduced, that the Surge is working to some degree, but what is the end?  If the end is to reduce the violence now, does that mean that in six months from now, that the Iraqis are going to be better off if we pull out?

SHAYS:  Are you asking me?

ABRAMS:  Yes.

SHAYS:  Yes. No.  I think the answer is we‘re not sure.  But we know this:  that having abolished their army, their police, and their border patrol, to leave now, would leave them in ruin and just hand over Iraq to the Iranians.  So, we have, what I call, a moral responsibility to replace what we destroyed.  I really believe that.

ABRAMS:  But I guess, Representative Smith, even if that‘s true, the question becomes when are we able to get over that?  Meaning, even if we—the Surge helps, are we ever going to be able to get to a point where Iran can‘t go into Iraq once we pull out?

SMITH:  Well, the part I disagree with what Chris said and have a great deal of respect for the amount of time he spent on this issue and his understanding of what‘s going on in Iraq is the idea that we are in a position to fix it.  The idea that our U.S. military occupation is going to be able to prop up some replacement police force or army.  I think our occupation undermines the ability of Iraq to resolve any of their differences and move forward and, as you have said, Dan, we have to have some point in which we are going to leave.  If it is an open-ended commitment that really undercuts any efforts to replace what apparently is never going to go, we have to start the process sometime.

SHAYS:  I agree with Adam.  Absolutely.  That‘s why I believe a time line is needed so people think we are going to leave tomorrow will know we‘re not leaving tomorrow.  And people think we are going to stay forever know we‘re not going to stay forever.

SMITH:  Democrats voted for a time line.  I don‘t know how Chris voted on that but we did vote on that.  But we did have a timeline.

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  A.B., let me bring you in here.  It seems that we have two congressman on this program who are both essentially saying that it was a mistake, whether it was a mistake based on what they knew at the time or based on a mistake generally, a tough to distinguish.  In your sense of the overall Congress, the Congress and the Senate, are—is it the case that almost all Democrats are willing to come forward now and say it was a mistake if I‘ve voted for it and the Republicans are, what?

A.B. STODDARD, THE HILL:  Well, you know, being critical of the war and saying my vote was a mistake—are two very, very different things. 

Witness, Hillary Clinton who refuses to apologize for her vote.  She made

it in good faith and she believes now, knowing what she knows now, that it

was an error.  But she didn‘t know that then.  That‘s a matter of personal

preference.  Someone like former Senator John Edwards was willing to

repudiate his vote.  People have personal preferences about that and it‘s -

you know, it‘s a serious—

ABRAMS: Does it matter.

STODDARD:  It‘s a serious responsibility:  It doesn‘t matter because

essentially, the two parties are both embracing a can‘t-leave policy on

Iraq.  If you talk to Republicans, they worried all year, politically; they

were in a perilous position they thought come September, come September as

we all waited for that Peter Petraeus report, they were going to start

defecting from the president.  Well, come September -

SMITH:  The Democrats will not embracing that position.

STODDARD:  Come September we had al Qaeda on the run in Iran and Iraq and we‘re working with Sunni leaders.  The variables continue to change in Iraq.  The Democrats don‘t have the votes to change the policy and they won‘t withdraw funding.  So, you see the two sides in pieces, they are not bulging.

ABRAMS:  Alright, Representative Smith, go ahead.

SMITH:  We are not embracing the can‘t-ever-leave Iraq policy, that‘s wrong.  I mean, as I‘ve said back being in May, I think it was before that, actually, back in April, we voted for a time line that set us on a path that would already have us beginning to withdraw from Iraq.  We are not  embracing that.  Now, you are correct in the way you describe we don‘t have the votes.  And if we don‘t have the votes to change the policy, our choice then becomes the very blunt instrument of simply cutting off all the funds and that‘s really complicated and hard to do.

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  Is there Representative Shays, I mean in ABC Washington New of poll said:

Do you think Congress should approve all this funding or reduce it?  That 27 percent approval, 69 percent said reduced it, is there a way to reduce it?

SHAYS:  Well, first off, there is a way to reduce it.  And one of the things that I like to remind all of us, we went to Iraq on a bipartisan basis two thirds of the House, three quarters of the Senate.  It would be healthy for us to realize we are not going to get out of Iraq unless it‘s on a bipartisan basis.

SMITH:  Absolutely.

SHAYS:  For instance, I am willing to see most of our troops out by the end of 2008 but not by the end of June of 2008.  I just think that‘s too soon.  I would actually prefer it to be 2009 but I‘m willing to see it happen by the end of ‘08 and there are others like me.  Why aren‘t there people reaching out to people like me and others who feel the same way?

ABRAMS:  Alright.  Representative Smith, why—if you‘ve got a Republican and look—and Chris Shays is certainly to the left of many of the Republican Party, but if you have a Republican Congressman like Chris Shays coming and saying - look, reach out to me, I‘m ready and—and pose a timetable here, why can‘t you as a majority in the Congress and Republicans like Shays get it done?

SMITH:  There aren‘t enough Republicans like Chris Shays.  That‘s the bottom line answer.  We have tried to reach out and have these discussions and put forward a fairly reasonable time line that had a great deal of flexibility in it and we were able to get, I can‘t remember how many Republican votes but it was around 20.  And we have reached out even after that.

ABRAMS:  Final word I have got to give Representative Shays the final word and I have got to wrap it up.

SHAYS:  Well, the bottom line is—I think Adam and I want to bring our troops home.  And it seems to me that if people on both sides of the aisle work together, we can do that in a way that still does justice to our obligations.

ABRAMS:  All right. Congressman Shays and Adam Smith, thanks a lot.  I appreciate you coming on the program and A.B. Stoddard as always.  Thank you.

Up next:  Big news from the vice president‘s wife Lynne Cheney about her family tree.  She now says Dick Cheney and Barack Obama are actually distant cousins?  Seriously,  you heard me right.  And senator Larry Craig‘s first interview since the sex sting arrest.  Finally, he answers questions about what really happened in that Minneapolis airport bathroom.  Plus, a bizarre public meltdown.  Daytime talk show host, Helen Degeneres breaks down in tears on the air over her dog coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  You think that‘s weird?  How about this for strange.  Lynne Cheney, vice president Dick Cheney‘s wife, dropped a bombshell on MSNBC Norah O‘Donnell today saying her husband and Barack Obama are closer than you think.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LYNNE CHENEY, DICK CHENEY‘S WIFE:  In my book, there is a lot of genealogical research you know, going back Dick‘s family, my family, these heroic and amazing tales of people who went West.  But one of the things I discovered is that Dick and Barack Obama are eighth cousins.

NORAH O‘DONNELL, HOST:  What?

L. CHENEY:  Isn‘t that amazing thing.  If they go back eight generations they have a common ancestor.

O‘DONNELL:  So you are for Barack Obama?

L. CHENEY:  I thought I should admit this fact as evidence that I am not completely objective about Mrs. Clinton.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  I can see the resemblance, right?

(LAUGHTER)

ABRAMS:  Mrs. Cheney says both men are descendants of a 17th century immigrant from the vice president‘s favorite country, France.  Now to one of the other strange political stories, Senator Larry Craig‘s arrest in that airport bathroom sting tonight more of NBC‘s exclusive interview with Craig as the senator explains what happened inside the Minnesota bathroom.  We added Craig‘s own words from the last month to Matt Lauer‘s exclusive interview.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MATT LAUER:  You walked into that bathroom, Senator.  Six minutes later you were under arrest.

SEN. LARRY CRAIG, (D) IDAHO:  Yes.

LAUER:  And your career was in jeopardy and your family life was in jeopardy.  So how should we handle this?  Do you want to tell me what happened?

CRAIG:  Matt, I would love to tell you the story and let me tell you why.  In this media storm that we have been in, you have heard one side of the story.

(SEN. CRAIG‘S POLICE INTERVIEW)

LAUER:  You‘ve said on a couple of occasions, Senator, that this officer, that this undercover officer was a profiler.  You said he tried to put words in your mouth.  Are you saying he is a liar?

CRAIG:  What I‘m saying is that what I said on that tape is the truth.  You heard my voice.  You heard his voice.  You saw how hard he worked to get me to say things that I didn‘t say because I didn‘t do it.

(SEN. CRAIG‘S POLICE INTERVIEW)

CRAIG:  I chose to plead guilty to a lesser charge in hopes of making it go away.  It is my intent to resign from the Senate effective September 30th.

LAUER:  He has had second thoughts about whether he should throw in the towel.

You can resign, senator, and you know what?  It would probably be go away.

SUZANNE CRAIG, CRAIG‘S WIFE:  It wouldn‘t be the same.

CRAIG:  And, Matt, that‘s the easy way out.  You have talked about my history and my record.  You know I‘m a fighter.   And that I don‘t just walk away from a fight.  This is the toughest fight of my political life.

LAUER:  What are they saying about the chances of an appeal?

CRAIG:  It‘s a combination of things, and we‘re not sure.  My attorneys think we do have some solid arguments that must be made.  And we‘re going to make them.

SUZANNE CRAIG:  When Larry told me that this story was going to break and he hadn‘t told me about it before that, I felt like the floor was falling out from under me.  It happened right here in this room.  And I felt like almost like I was going down a drain for a few moments.

LAUER: Why didn‘t you tell her?

CRAIG:  It was a tough call, Matt.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  All right.  You see Senator Craig‘s wife there, remember we combined there some of the local interview with the Matt Lauer reports.  She has become another wife in the political sex scandal Hall of Fame who has stood beside her husband.  And this is now another instance where we are seeing a woman who has done exactly that.  Bethany marshal joins us now..  She is a psychologist.  Thanks a lot for joining us.  We appreciate it.

BETHANY MARSHALL, PSYCHOLOGIST:  Of course.

ABRAMS:  Alright.  She‘s not the first one who has political - a politician‘s wife who has gone public, supporting her husband, despite alleges of, in some cases it‘s infidelity as in the case of Hillary Clinton and Bill Clinton in this case allegedly soliciting a man in a bathroom.  Why do you think that these women are not just willing to stand by their political husbands but also go public with them?

MARSHALL:  Well, I think there is four reasons.  I mean, I think one is there is blatant denial.  These women have a well assembled set of defense mechanisms, denial, and also something we call selective blindness.  You look straight at something and don‘t see it like you see it in news print and it‘s not there.  You have to think about the fact that perhaps some of them are passive, controlled, under the husband‘s firm control.  Some of them like Craig and his wife.  It‘s possible that all the rage they have towards each other that they‘re directing towards third outside parties.  Like in, this case, they might be directing it towards gays.  And then I think the other thing is that all relationships are built upon arrangements of some sort.  And she may have constructed either a conscious or unconscious arrangement with him.  The conscious arrangement overlooked infidelity so she can have a position of power along with him.  The unconscious arrangement, I‘m not going to hold you response responsible for your sins if you don‘t hold me responsible for mine.

ABRAMS:  But I guess it‘s also possible and maybe this gets back to denial is that she, like many before her, simply believes her husband or doesn‘t want to believe that he may have been there for some other reason other than going to the bathroom?

MARSHALL:  Well, denial is a very powerful crude defense mechanism.  First of all and you asked why these political wives it could also be that these men who cheat or are in a position of powers are what we call pathological narcissist.  And by that I mean they feel special, unique, above reproach that they don‘t have to play by the same rules that society plays by and they view others as objects to exploit and wives are complimentary narcissists.  They are special because they obey and they have to reflect the man‘s wishes.

ABRAMS:  We saw the wife of Republican Senator David Vitter who was on the list of the D.C madam.  His wife had said that she would never be like Hillary Clinton, standing by her man.  She said something like I‘m going to walk away with one thing, it‘s not alimony, trust me, if she ever found out that her husband was cheating and then she found out about him being on the madam‘s list and she says this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WENDY VITTER:  When David and I dealt with this privately years ago, I forgave David.  I made the decision to love him and to recommit to our marriage.  You know, to forgive is not always the easy choice but it was and is the right choice for me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  They forgive a lot, don‘t they?

MARSHALL: Well, I think there is two possibilities.  One is it‘s easy to say you would never put up with something when you‘re not yet faced with a catastrophic loss.  But the other possibility is, perhaps, there really is something good in the marriage.  Perhaps he repaired the damage and stepped in and did the right thing and we have to take a look at that really is a possibility, that does happen in some marriages.

ABRAMS:  Bethany Marshal, thank you very much.  Appreciate it.

MARSHAL:  You are welcome.

ABRAMS:  On the West Coast you can see the Matt Lauer Reports, Larry Craig interview in its entirety at 8:00 pacific on NBC.  For everyone else you can see it tomorrow right here on MSNBC at 10:00 p.m. eastern.

Coming up: Ellen Degeneres public meltdown.  The talk show host burst into tears on her show.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ELLEN DEGENERES:  -- possible for it and I‘m so sorry.

ABRAMS:  Why was she so upset?  Got that.

Plus:  Portland, Maine considering handing out birth control pills to students in the sixth grade.  Talk to a city counselor who is in favor of the plan.  But first, Conan O‘Brien convince his audience that a fire alarm is real.  Even though they had just done a sketch on fire alarms.  Seriously, it‘s up next on Beat the Press.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  It‘s time for tonight‘s Beat the Press.  First up, my friend star Jones basically took an in-depth look at lust, sex addicts, and plus-size women, basically.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STAR JONES:  The sex addict is somebody who can‘t keep his zipper up.

Keep your pants on, basically and what you do with it basically.

Basically provided you the menu.

You basically had no choice.

A market research firm basically.

And don‘t take it anymore if you don‘t get it basically.

You are the fat girl, odd girl out, basically.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Basically.  One show.  We love star.

Next up, sometimes the title THE SPECIAL REPORT makes you wonder did anybody check to see what it might say about the anchor?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER:  Now Soledad O‘Brien.  Criminally insane.  No, come on.  It‘s not true.  Thanks for that one.  Finally, we‘ll be broadcasting from our new studio from 30 Rock next week on LATE NIGHT WITH CONAN O‘BRIEN after a sketch how to evacuate the studio in case of an emergency, this really happened.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(SIREN)

CONAN O‘BRIEN:  That is not a bit we are doing.  Figure out what that is I think we did a sketch about safety.  I swear to God and we have been doing this show for over 14 years, I have never heard this sound before.

(SIREN)

(LAUGHTER)

O‘BRIEN:  Everyone stay calm.  What is that about, Chip?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Let me double-check.

O‘BRIEN:  Do they know we are taping (BEEP) a show?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Kudos to Conan for leaving that 80s Show which is pre-tape.  I hope we can handle that well if it happens to our show if we get over there.

We need your help beating the press.  If you see anything amusing, absurd or just right or wrong, please go to the website Abrams.msnbc.com.  Leave us a tip in the box.  Please include the show and the time you saw the item.

Up next: Ellen Degeneres breaks down in tears on her daytime talk show.  Plus: A live interview with the ex-girlfriend of an accused child rapist who has just been captured.  She was the one who recognized the man she dated for months and told police who he was.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWSBREAK)

ABRAMS:  We‘re back with an unusual public meltdown from a very popular talk show host, Ellen Degeneres, usually upbeat and lively on her show.  Today was a different story.  She stopped her opening monologue to give a passionate, teary speech about her troubles with her dog, Iggy.  NBC‘s Mike Taibbi has the bizarre story. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MIKE TAIBBI, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice over):  At the start of her show today, comedian Ellen Degeneres was in tears. 

ELLEN DEGENERES, HOST, “THE ELLEN DEGENERES SHOW”:  Today is a hard day for me to hit back.  And I am not capable of coming out and pretending to be funny and on when things are going so terribly wrong right now. 

TAIBBI:  She said both on her show and her web site that she‘d adopted a dog from a local rescue group that proved to be too much for the home she shares with partner, Portia de Rossi and their cats.  So she gave the dog to her hairdresser and her family, shown on this tape from the gossip site TMZ.  But she didn‘t check with the rescue group about her decision.  And the group‘s response, “Mutts and Moms is devoted to care for animals.  Ellen Degeneres ... breached a contract not to give the dog away.”

DEGENERES:  He said if I don‘t get the dog back by 2:00, I‘m calling the media on you.  I‘m calling my attorneys.  I‘m calling the police. 

TAIBBI:  The police did come.  The dog did go, leaving her hairdresser‘s daughter, Ruby, distraught. 

RUBY, DAUGHTER OF ELLEN DEGENERES‘ HAIRDRESSER:  I want my dog back so badly. 

TAIBBI:  On her show, Degeneres took responsibility in a long, emotional appeal. 

DEGENERES:  And because I did it wrong, those people went and took that dog out of their home and took it away from those kids.  And I feel totally responsible for it and I‘m so sorry.  I‘m begging them to give that dog back to that family. 

TAIBBI (on camera):  Ellen Degeneres has evolved from a sometimes controversial sitcom star into a successful national talk show host with a wide crossover following. 

(voice over):  Her popularity has been due in part to her willingness to get personal with her audience.  She has never been more personal than she was today. 

DEGENERES:  I‘m sorry I did the wrong thing.  Just give it back to the family.  Please, please, please. 

TAIBBI:  The central figure in a west coast drama who has admitted mistake has her household, another household, and audience of millions waiting to see how it all ends.  Mike Taibbi, NBC News, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ABRAMS:  Here now is senior editor for “In Touch Weekly,”  Tom O‘Neil.  Tom, thanks for taking the time.  Appreciate it.  All right, just so I understand this - I mean she is breaking down apparently more than she has ever broken down before.  And it‘s not that the dog is going to be harmed, right?  Or hurt in some way.  It‘s just that the organization that had given her the dog now, I guess, wants to give the dog to someone else? 

TOM O‘NEIL, SENIOR EDITOR, “IN TOUCH WEEKLY”:  Well, no, I think they are just getting all bureaucratic and neo-nazi on Ellen is what this is.  What‘s interesting is—you just point out, she just didn‘t channel this in a cold-hearted Hollywood way.  She felt that urge to share this with her viewers in a very emotional way and to cry.  And she taped this show yesterday.  She could have re-taped it and re-taped it until she got it right.  But no, no.  She wanted us to see the meltdown today. 

ABRAMS:  Why?  I mean, do you think she is trying to have an impact on how the organization deals with it? 

O‘NEIL:  I think she is genuinely sorry.  I think that this huggy-huggy-kissy Ellen that we see is actually quite real, and I‘ve often wondered whether it is or not.  And I think we just saw a profound evidence here. 

It was a traumatic thing that happened on Sunday.  Wait until you hear how they took this dog back, Dan.  It‘s shocking.  This woman from the shelter showed up at the little girl‘s house and said, “I‘m just here for a routine inspection.”  They let her in the house.  She grabbed the dog.  She dialed the police on her cellphone.  She stood there for two hours holding this dog until the cops came, and then she had her way and marched out.  This is traumatic for these kids. 

ABRAMS:  So it sounds like you‘re saying you think that actually the organization is being harder on her because of her celebrity rather than the other way around? 

O‘NEIL:  That‘s what Ellen says, yes.  She says—

ABRAMS:  What do you think? 

O‘NEIL:  I think so.  I think that they saw a way to stick it to a celebrity and, you know, do a power trip on them and it took a little too far.  Ellen is a contributor to this charity.  She gave them $600 recently.  She is adopting these animals.  She has done a lot for animal rights.  She is on their side. 

Now, she admits—what I find interesting about her tantrum it wasn‘t a self-righteous indignant meltdown of a celebrity.  But she took full responsibility.  I didn‘t read the papers. 

ABRAMS:  Here is more of what she said. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DEGENERES:  I shouldn‘t have given the dog away.  Just please give the dog back to those little girls.  I‘m sorry I didn‘t call you.  I‘m sorry I did the wrong thing.  Just give it back to the family, please, please, please. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  How long did they have the dog? 

O‘NEIL:  They got the dog on September 20th.  Portia and Ellen did. 

The family has only had the dog for a few days. 

ABRAMS:  All right.  So the emotion about giving the dog back is the family had it for a few days.  I don‘t know.  I don‘t know the story.  She just is totally losing it over the fact that this family she gave the dog to had it for a couple days, right? 

O‘NEIL:  Right, right.  And it may seem in a cold, cynical, 21st century world like an overreaction, but this is Ellen.  People love her.  She is known for this extraordinary heart and apparently it‘s quite real, Dan. 

ABRAMS:  Tom O‘Neil, thanks a lot.  Appreciate it. 

O‘NEIL:  Thanks.

ABRAMS:  All right.  Well, the Bush administration is pouring billions into abstinence education.  A middle school in Portland, Maine may become the first in the state to offer birth control prescriptions to some of its students age 11 to 13.  The lead nurse at the school saying it is a service that is, quote, “totally needed.” 

Joining me now on the phone is Ed Suslovic, a city councilor in Portland, Maine.  He has two daughters at the school.  Thank you very much for coming on the program.  Appreciate it.  All right, first of all, would parents be informed of the school giving the kids this kind of contraception? 

ED SUSLOVIC, CITY COUNCILOR, PORTLAND, MAINE (on the phone):  Yes.  In order to access the student health clinic at the school, parents must give written consent at the beginning of the school year. 

ABRAMS:  So—but why does the school need to be involved in this as opposed to, for example, a local clinic? 

SUSLOVIC:  Well, this clinic is the local clinic.  It‘s a health center operated by the public health department of the city at the school in conjunction with the school.  I think it‘s important to point out that this is one of the best middle schools in the country.  Delegations from all over the country come to see how this middle school operates.  Serves very diverse population.  For many of the students, this is the only place they can get access to health care. 

ABRAMS:  So you have two daughters.  If they came to you and they said, dad, we would like you to sign off on this so we can go get birth control, what do you say? 

SUSLOVIC:  Well, first of all, I think even by the time they reach age 30, I can‘t imagine my kids being sexually active.  But the reality is ...

ABRAMS:  Here, we‘re talking about 11. 

SUSLOVIC:  Exactly.  The reality is, both from surveys but also clinical evidence, we do know that a relatively small number, but nonetheless, there are students who are sexually active in the middle school years.  And so it is important that those students have access to first of all, good information so they can make, hopefully, safe choices.  But if they are sexually active, then I think not only the threat of disease but also pregnancy is something that we have to confront. 

ABRAMS:  But I was reading something again about this parental notification which suggested that in certain cases that young people do not have to ask their parents for permission. 

SUSLOVIC:  You know—and that is something that the school committee is going to be wrestling with tomorrow night when they take this up, state law does allow minors to seek confidential health care.  Now, the school policy, as I understand it, with the way the health center operates, is that in order to access the health clinic, students must have their parents complete that written consent. 

ABRAMS:  And you would only support it with parental consent? 

SUSLOVIC:  In the school situation? 

ABRAMS:  Yes. 

SUSLOVIC:  Yes, but I think the reality is, Dan, that there are very young people that are in situations where they are sexually active.  They need help, first and foremost.  They don‘t need condemnation.  They don‘t need to be ignored.  They need help. 

ABRAMS:  All right, Councilor Suslovic, thanks a lot for coming on to the program.  Appreciate it.

SUSLOVIC:  My pleasure. 

ABRAMS:  Up next, a man accused of sexually assaulting a 3-year-old girl and videotaping it all is finally under arrest tonight after extensive nationwide manhunt.  His ex-girlfriend helped police track him down.  And she joins us next.

And later, who says you can‘t be on the cover of “Playboy Magazine” at the age of 42?  How about three times in a year?  Internet sensation Cindy Margolis, who is setting a record for “Playboy,” is with us.  It‘s in tonight‘s “Winners and Losers.” 

(MUSIC)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Did you know more than 50 percent of child pornography arrests involve images of children under the age of 6?  Up next, the repeat sex offender accused of videotaping an attack on a 3-year-old is finally behind bars after a nationwide manhunt.  His ex-girlfriend who helped catch him joins us next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Chester Stiles, the man accused of videotaping himself sexually assaulting a 3-year-old girl was finally arrested last night outside Las Vegas after 20 days on the run.  Police say is he a repeat violent sexual predator.  In the end, it was a routine traffic stop near his last known address that finally led to his arrest. 

Stiles‘ ex-girlfriend, who says she was dating him the same year he allegedly made the tape and who also tipped off police when she saw the videotape, is with us.  But first, NBC‘s Chris Jansing has more with the break in the case. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CHRIS JANSING, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice over):  The missing license plate of this car was the break Las Vegas police needed to capture one of America‘s most wanted criminals, Chester Arthur Stiles. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE POLICE OFFICER:  He finally told us, “Hey, I‘m Chester Stiles.  I‘m the guy you are looking for.”  And at that time he said, “I‘m sick of running.”

JANSING:  When he was pulled over last night, dirty and disheveled, police saw the driver‘s license Stiles showed that was suspicious, and he quickly admitted his real identity.  It ended a search that began outside Las Vegas last month after a local named Darren(ph) Tuck brought police the videotape.  It reportedly showed Stiles raping a girl, not yet 3 years old. 

The nationwide media blitz helped police identify the little girl.  Stiles‘ former girlfriend Tina Allen told Larry King recently that she was the little girl‘s babysitter and unaware of Stiles‘ violent past. 

TINA ALLEN, CHESTER STILES‘ FORMER GIRLFRIEND:  Larry, I am responsible for bringing this man into a circle of people that I love very much and would never knowingly exposed any kind of Danger. 

JANSING:  Stiles had been on the run for four years.  In 2003, he was charged with sexually assaulting another Las Vegas child.  She was just 6.  His rap sheet, dating back to 1999, includes assault, battery, resisting arrest, auto theft, and weapons possession. 

Investigators still want to know how the videotape of Stiles with that little girl got into the hands of Darren Tuck, who is in jail now for possession of child pornography and if the two men even knew each other. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ABRAMS:  Chester Stiles now faces 21 felony counts for the acts seen on the videotape.  He‘s doing court tomorrow.  Joining me now is Elaine Thomas, Chester Stiles‘ ex-girlfriend and her attorney, Conrad Clouse(ph).  Thanks a lot for coming on the program.  I appreciate it.  All right, you were dating him the same year that this videotape was supposedly made.  Anything make you suspicious back at the time? 

ELAINE THOMAS, CHESTER STILES‘ EX-GIRLFRIEND:  No, not at all.  He was very polite.  He treated me very well.  He was very well-spoken, very well-read.  He was working at the time.  He had run on some hard luck.  But, you know, and I knew of some of his criminal history, not to the extent that it wound up being, but I had known of a few things. 

ABRAMS:  Any indication of involvement with young girls? 

THOMAS:  No, not at all.  In fact, most of his girlfriends have been older women. 

ABRAMS:  And so what was it that led you to call the police?  You see this on TV?  You see the video? 

THOMAS:  Yes.  I saw the second set of photos that got released on the 26th of September.  And they came out on the 11:00 news, and I happened to have it on.  I wasn‘t really paying attention to it but it was on in the background.  I was working on my computer.  And when the pictures went up, the shot of him from the waist up, I knew that it was definitely him. 

ABRAMS:  And I assume you were stunned? 

THOMAS:  Oh, beyond stunned.  Beyond stunned. 

ABRAMS:  And Mr. Clouse(ph) then, you got involved and the police were called? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Absolutely.  Within moments of Elaine finishing watching the broadcast, she gave me a call.  We talked a bit, especially about her concerns for her safety.  And then fairly immediately I was on the phone—this is about 12:30, 1:00 in the morning to federal authorities.  About six hours later we had had conversations at that point with both the authorities in Nye County, Bob Beckett, in particular, and the FBI. 

ABRAMS:  Elaine, have you been concerned that, now that he had been on the run, knowing you had helped tip off police as to who he was—have you been concerned for your own safety? 

THOMAS:  Of course.  That‘s always been a fear.  Chet had never harmed me in any way.  I cannot honestly say that he ever raised a hand to me in anger, or even yelled at me very strongly.  You know, we had our fights but it wasn‘t—there was nothing violent about them. 

But, by the same token, I also realized that somebody that‘s on the run from this type of a crime and with this kind of media attention could resort to violence.  And I did know that he has weapons.  And he knows my house well.  He knows how to get into my house well, whether it‘s locked or not.  He knows my dogs so I wouldn‘t even necessarily have warning if he came in.  So I was very concerned. 

ABRAMS:  So I assume that there is a lot of relief tonight that he has been arrested. 

THOMAS:  Yes, there is. 

ABRAMS:  All right.  Elaine Thomas, thank you very much for taking the time.  Appreciate it.  And Conrad Clouse, thanks to you as well.

THOMAS:  Thank you.

ABRAMS:  Up next, will tonight‘s big winner or loser be Britney Spears who tried to go undercover, sort of, before getting booked by police?  “Harry Potter” author J.K. Rowling who should have covered up before signing books?  Or 42-year-old cover girl Cindy Margolis who is making history in “Playboy‘s” record book?  The most downloaded model in internet history joins us next in “Winners and Losers.”

(MUSIC)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Time for tonight‘s “Winners and Losers,” for this 16th day of October, 2007.  Loser: this now wanted Long Island woman who snatched another woman‘s baby in a packed grocery store.  The attempted kidnapper tried walking off with a fellow shopper‘s cart and newborn baby.  When she heard the woman scream for help, the failed want-to-be mom surrendered the infant and took off. 

Winner: failed want-to-be mom Britney Spears who actually surrendered to police last night, accused of taking off from the scene of a car accident as is the case with anything Britney related, even turning herself in, far from routine.  She donned a pink wig and wore no seat belt.  She was booked and released.  She will be back in court next week. 

Winner: British scientists who created a new breed of pint-size pigs.  It took them nine years to create these small swine, which grow to about 1/5 the size of a normal one.  But the hogs are still healthy and hearty. 

Loser: Hardy‘s restaurant whose knew breakfast burrito might require at least three or four of those mini pigs.  The fast food joint unveiled the new creation today, featuring two-egg omelet filled with bacon, sausage, diced ham, cheddar cheese, hash browns, and sausage gravy, all wrapped inside a flour tortilla.  You can pig out on the plate and pack on just 920 calories, 60 grams of fat. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(BELCHING)

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR:  Did you hear that? 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  But the big loser of the day?  “Harry Potter” author J.K.  Rowling.  The publishing princess kicked off her American book tour yesterday, revealing a bit more than just the ending to her latest novel.  The normally reserved Rowling accidentally bared all in front of a gathering of more than 1,000 school kids, leaving some of the kids to be thinking less Potter more “Playboy?” 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE CHILD ACTOR:  (UNINTELLIGIBLE) The magic isn‘t happening. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE CHILD ACTOR:  I‘m going to disagree with you. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  The big winner of the day?  “Playboy” pet Cindy Margolis baring it all for the magazine at the age of 42.  Margolis, already known as the most downloaded woman on the internet, has now set a playboy record, appearing on the cover three times in 10 months. 

At least we think it‘s a record.  She agreed to appear nude for the first time in her career in exchange for “Playboy” donating some of the proceeds from that issue to charity.  Here now “Playboy” supermodel Cindy Margolis.  Thanks very much for coming on the program.  Appreciate it.  All right, so you had never posed nude before the age of 40? 

CINDY MARGOLIS, SUPERMODEL:  I didn‘t.  I kept my clothes on until I turned 40.  I was proud of myself on the most being downloaded woman for keeping my clothes on.  But when Mr. Hefner called me to wish me a 40th birthday, and still made me after offer after all these years, how could I refuse?.  And he made it history by giving all the proceeds to my charity which is “Resolve: The National Infertility Association.”  So we helped a lot of families out there having babies by taking my clothes off.  

ABRAMS:  I would assume that maybe the goal would be to encourage people to have babies by looking at you without your clothes on, I don‘t know.  

MARGOLIS:  Well, what a lot of people don‘t know is half the time, in fertility issues, it is a male problem.  So you know, “Play Boy” helped men out there to go to the doctor and have a sperm specimen.  You know, how far.

ABRAMS:  OK.  OK.  All right.  You know, we thought this was going to be a little light segment, talking about you, you know, on the cover of “Play Boy.”  Now we are talking about sperm banks. 

(CROSS TALK)

ABRAMS:  Let me ask you this - so, three times you get on the cover and you were also voted - what, the hottest - what were you voted? 

MARGOLIS:  I was voted the sexiest woman of the year by “Play Boy.” which is such an honor at 42, because ...

ABRAMS:  Let me ask you about the age.  About the age—

MARGOLIS:  Go ahead.

ABRAMS:  I mean, you‘re 42 and you‘re on the cover.  

MARGOLIS:  I am.  Why don‘t you repeat that again.  Forty-two—oh, god.  

ABRAMS:  Well, I think it‘s important, is it not?  I mean, I think that you are a trail blazer to some degree, being that age and being on the cover of “Play Boy” three times.  Most of the other people in the magazine are right there in their 20s? 

MARGOLIS:  Yes.  Almost everyone else is.  And I think at this time in my life, it‘s almost empowering, an inspiration, that you can be married and have three kids, and still be confident and sexy, and pose for “Play Boy.”

ABRAMS:  And no regrets, right, about finally going to the dark side after 40? 

MARGOLIS:  It‘s not going to the dark side.  Actually, it was one of their biggest issues that women bought as many issues as men because it did go for a good cause.  And you know, again, if I wanted to do it for gratuitous reasons or for my career, or for the money, I would have done it when Hugh called me at 20, 25, 30, 35.  But when he called me at 40, how could I turn down Mr. Hefner, at this time of my life?  And it has - it‘s really been an inspiration to a lot of women out there. 

ABRAMS:  You know, I‘m 41.  I‘m still waiting for that call. 

MARGOLIS:  See, I‘m older than you. 

ABRAMS:  I know.  Cindy Margolis, thanks very much.  Appreciate it.  

MARGOLIS:  Thank you for having me.  

ABRAMS:  That‘s all the time we have for tonight.  Coming up next, the premiere of a new series on MSNBC, “Why They Run” takes you behind the stories behind the wildest high speed police chases ever.

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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