updated 10/25/2007 5:59:46 PM ET 2007-10-25T21:59:46

Guests: Hector Becerra, Rick Price, Jonathan Turley, Stephanie Miller, Craig Crawford, Richard Weinblatt, Hafize Sahin

DAN ABRAMS, HOST:  Coming up, authorities are now saying at least two of the fires raging in California could be the work of arsonists.  They may be closing in on suspects.  One person has been shot.  But, first, the good news, the hundred-mile-an-hour winds whipping from Los Angeles down to San Diego valley died down today allowing firefighters to contain at least three of the fires in the Los Angeles area.  One of them now 100 percent contained.  Backup firefighters coming to California from afar away as Virginia, Illinois, and Texas.

Still, the number of homes and families affected by the fire is staggering.  More than half a million residents have been evacuated, 1,436 homes destroyed.  Authorities estimate in San Diego county alone the fires have cost at least $1 billion in damage.  But we‘re learning tonight that arson may to be blame for some of the devastating fires.  Police so on edge they shot and killed a man they believed might have been trying to set a fire.  Joining us now on the phone with this BREAKING NEWS is Hector Becerra, a reporter for the “Los Angeles Times.”  Thanks for taking the time.  We appreciate it.  Tell us what you know about this investigation into arson.

HECTOR BECERRA, LOS ANGELES TIMES:  Well, the one with the fatal shooting involved, a man from 27-year-old man from Topac, Arizona, no name given yet, who was standing in a brushy area near the San Bernardino campus when he was spotted by university police.  They tried to detain him.  He drove off in a pickup truck.  And Bernardino City Police joined the chase.  He crashed his car, tried to ram police vehicles allegedly.  The officers shot at him.  He fled again, crashed again, allegedly tried to ram police vehicles again and was shot once more.  And this time he was actually mortally wounded.  So far they don‘t have any solid evidence tying him to any of the major wildfires.

ABRAMS:  And Hector, there are different investigations into different fires here because there are so many, right?

BECERRA:  Yes, more than 15 fires.  At least two of them have been determined to be probably the work of arsonists.

ABRAMS:  When you say probably the work of arsonists, just so we are clear on, this meaning that they were intentionally set?

BECERRA:  Exactly.

ABRAMS:  And do you know what it is that has led the authorities to believe that?

BECERRA:  I think in the case of the Orange County fire, the Santiago fire, it‘s the fact that there were multiple origins for the fire which is kind of a mark of arson fires.  I don‘t know what the case is in the temucla (ph) fires which is one of the fires that‘s believed to be the work of arson.

ABRAMS:  And are they investigating the other fires as well?  I mean, this is certainly to say that two of them could be arson, there could be more as well, right?

BECERRA:  Yes, there could.  They haven‘t—they have—I think in at least one of the fires, they think it was some construction tools may have, you know, possibly threw a spark and started the fire.  But they‘re still investigating some.  The two nearest fires to where the suspect was shot in the Lake Arrowhead area, in the case of one of them, the grass family fire, I was told that by authorities that they are pretty sure that is not an arson fire.  They believe that one is not arson.  But in the case of the slide fire they‘re still investigating and they haven‘t determined what the cause is.

ABRAMS:  And no way to know whether the case where this guy who was shot was behind either of the two cases where they think it maybe arson?

BECERRA:  Not yet.  They‘re investigating.

ABRAMS:  Alright, Hector, thanks very much for taking the time.  We appreciate it on that breaking news.

BECERRA:  You‘re welcome.

ABRAMS:  Seventy thousand dollars, that‘s the reward for information leading to the person or persons who caused that Santiago and also Silverado fires between Los Angeles and San Diego.  So, for more than 1,900 acres have been burned in that fire.  It‘s destroyed six homes, damaged eight others, forced 3,000 from their homes and injured four firefighters.  Joining us now is former L.A. County fire investigator Rick Price.  Rick thanks very much for taking the time.  You just heard Hector‘s report there about why they think that a couple of cases may be arson.  Explain to us what it is that you think they‘re finding that makes them say, wait a second we don‘t think this has happened naturally?

RICK PRICE, FMR. LA COUNTY FIRE INVESTIGATOR:  Well, arson investigators, when they arrive on scene, they look for various things.  They look for different types of incendiary devices, that being possible flares, match book devices and other things of that sort.  They will talk to fire personnel that were first on scene.  And they also talk to witnesses that may have seen somebody or seen how the fire set or where it was set.  And that allows fire and arson investigators to begin their investigation to try and sort out what and how it happened.

ABRAMS:  Because I think that a lot of people might think when you‘re talking about fire you‘re talking about complete and total destruction and, therefore, it must be hard to go back and figure out what caused it.

PRICE:  That‘s true, Dan.  But in—not in all cases or is the evidence destroyed.  A lot of times fire investigators will be able to arrive on scene and find remains of devices or other things that lead them to believe that the fire was started intentionally.

ABRAMS:  Are you surprised that—I mean, when we see these kinds of fires, we see them in this area, I think many people think this happens this time of year.  Sure, these are far more severe than we‘ve seen in the past, but they are often caused by natural causes.  Are you surprised to hear that two of these are under investigation for arson?

PRICE:  Not at all.  I was an arson investigator for 17 years and normally when fires like this break out, when we have limited amount of rain, when the winds are high, a lot of times people, for unknown reasons come out and start setting fires.

ABRAMS:  And you can tell the difference between someone who accidentally drops the cigarette and someone who intentionally began a fire?

PRICE:  Well, if you see or find evidence where there may have been discarded smoking material like cigarettes you still have to continue investigation and talk to people and find out.  You don‘t eliminate that as a possible source.  You have to pursue that and find out.  But there are, in deliberately set fires, there are some tell tale signs of things that lead the investigators right off to believe that it was intentionally set.

ABRAMS:  All right.  Rick Price, thanks very much for taking the time. 

We appreciate it.

PRICE:  Thank you very much, Dan.

ABRAMS:  NBC‘s Don Teague accompanied a family who went back to see their burned out home for the first time.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DON TEAGUE, NBC CORRESPONDENT:  It‘s hard to comprehend how you could even have it the way you used to.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  And when you entered, you would see the view of the mountains and the lake and then you had the living room here, and then we had the dining room and then the kitchen.  And that used to be our family room over there.  This was the master bedroom.  That was the master bathroom.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Still burning.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Still got embers.  You see this devastation and it just—it‘s just so surreal.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes, it seems unreal.  I think I‘m in shock.  I don‘t care at all about the house.  I have my wife and my son, you know, we‘re healthy.  God will provide.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  My husband‘s right.  The best thing is we‘re together but we loved our home and it hurts.  It hurts to see it this way.  It hurts like I said, you know, it‘s not our house.  We just have to rebuild and make it our home again.  We have here what‘s important.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  We have what‘s important.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Right now, let‘s go to NBC‘s Martin Savidge who is live at the home of the San Diego Chargers Qualcomm stadium.  What “The L.A. Times” is calling the Ritz disasters shelters.  Now home to 10,000 people at least forced out of their homes.  Martin, why are they calling this the Ritz?

MARTIN SAVIDGE, NBC CORRESPONDENT:  Well, first, let me point out it may not be home for 10,000 too much longer.  We‘re anticipating an announcement at any moment they‘re going to clear a lot of communities and say that people can go back home.  That will be tremendous news for a lot of the evacuees.  Should happen at any time.  I‘ll show you around a bit.  Here is Main Street at the Ritz, if you want to call it that.  You got FEMA right over here.  Do you got any questions?  Need answers?  They‘re sitting, waiting, ready to take care of your questions.  It‘s not often that you get FEMA at your beckon call right here.

Over on the other sides you‘ve got volunteers showing up all day.  Sprint‘s got high speed Internet that is set up here.  Any number of high speed telephone companies.  If you need to call friends in Europe, the calls are free from here.  They‘ve also got any medical need you might have.  Whether you need to see the doctor, whether you need to see the dentist, whether you have got aches and pains, you want to be checked out, you haven‘t been to the doctor, this is the place to do it.  It may not be the Mayo clinic.  They have lots to help you.

Let me run down some of the other things they offer here.  Massage, acupuncture, you can join a prayer circle, you get kosher food on top of the regular food.  There was custom crochet work done, should you need it.  You can join a yoga class, you can meditate.  Kids are getting their own game areas.  Custom made air brush t-shirts just to name a few other things and it‘s all free.  Now, if you do stay here, you will be sleeping out of doors or at least in the open air.  This is not the superdome.  This is not covered.  It‘s not heated.  You‘re still sleeping and the temperature gets very cold at night so it‘s camping but, camping with style.

ABRAMS:  And Martin, I should say that you and I saw each other down in New Orleans after hurricane Katrina.  I only got a moment left.  But I would assume this is the polar opposite of what you saw down there?

SAVIDGE:  It is but for different reasons.  First of all, the structure here is intact, they got power, they got water, they got everything they need and they got help coming in.  Remember, they didn‘t have that in New Orleans.  The superdome was heavily damaged.  Twice as many people in that facility and then the numbers ballooned.  There was not enough law enforcement.  And, most of all, New Orleans was cut off by water.  Many people wanted to do what is happening here, they couldn‘t get there to do it.  Totally different situation, Dan.

ABRAMS:  Yes, an important distinction to be made.  Martin Savage, thanks you very much.  Appreciate it.  We will stay on top of the latest on the fires throughout the hour.

But up next: The nominee for U.S. attorney general refuses to say whether a technique known as water boarding is torture.  Insisting he doesn‘t know how it‘s done.  Now, Senate Democrats are demanding he figure it out and answer the question.  And COMEDY CENTRAL Stephen Colbert says he is running for president in a new national poll he is almost tied with one of the most recognizable Democrats in the Senate—Joe bidden and, ahead of other real candidates.  Now, a so-called candidacy could actually impact the race.  He is playing a character.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Throughout this hour, we are continuing to cover the BREAKING NEWS out of the wildfires in California that they are now investigating at least two of them as possible arson and a man has been shot in connection with arson investigation by authorities there.  We‘ll continue to update you on that throughout the hour.

As President Bush‘s nominee to replace Attorney General Alberto Gonzales is being considered by the Senate now, ten Democrats are demanding a clear cut answer to a simple question.  Does he think the technique known as water boarding is torture?  Water boarding is when somebody is placed in a reclining position, strapped down with cellophane or cloth over their face, and then water poured over the person to simulate the feeling of drowning.  That‘s a simulation that you are seeing there from current TV.  Last week, Mukasey seemed unwilling or unable to answer the question.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. SHELDON WHITEHOUSE, (D) RHODE ISLAND:  Is water boarding constitutional?

MICHAEL MUKASEY, NOMINEE FOR ATTORNEY GENERAL:  I don‘t know what‘s involved in the technique.  If water board something torture, torture is not constitutional.

WHITEHOUSE:  If water boarding is constitutional as a massive hedge.

MUKASEY:  No.  I‘m sorry I said it‘s torture.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAM:  But he still not answering the question.

My take.  The notion that he doesn‘t know what it is seems farfetched to say the least.  This is former Federal judge who presided difficult terrorism trials and considering how much this technique has been in the news lately, he must have known.  This issue would have come up. Even so, I‘m not sure that this issue in and of itself should prevent him for getting confirmed.  One person believes it should is my next guest George Washington University law professor, Jonathan Turley.  Thanks for coming on the program.  Appreciate it.

JONATHAN TURLEY, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY:  My pleasure.

ABRAMS:  So why is this such a big deal to you?.

TURLEY:  Well, there‘s couple of reasons.  One is that there‘s only two possibilities of what happened in that hearing room.  One, is that Mukasey is the most ill-informed individual on the planet, which is hard to believe given his intelligence and given his preparation and given the fact that he was no doubt told to expect this question.  It was the most anticipated question of the hearings.  Option two, that he was lying.  And we spin that in a lot of ways today.  We tolerate lies from leaders.  We have had a lot of it lately.  But, a lie is a serious matter when you want to be attorney general.  And, frankly, I think it‘s the most likely of those two possibilities.  Now, if he was lying, as many of us really have concluded he was—that alone should be a barrier.  But he was also either evading or lying on an issue of tremendous moral importance—a thing that‘s defining the nation, whether we engage in torture, it is not a close question.  Water boarding has been defined internationally and domestically as torture.  There‘s no, you know, doubt, ambiguity in that question.

ABRAMS:  I want to you listen to something that Cliff May, who is, you know, on the right on this issue.  When I was debating him on this show on this topic and I think his view on this reflects what many on the far right say about Mukasey‘s testimony.  Let‘s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLIFF MAY:  He has said that torture is something we don‘t do under law under the Constitution.  What constitute torture is something he would like the case comes to him, to actually study, to listen to testimony, consider evidence.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  That‘s totally disingenuous, right?  You take it away.

TURLEY:  I‘m sorry, it is rather disingenuous.  I mean, if you had asked him whether it‘s unconstitutional to bar people from polls based on their race and he said well, it would be unconstitutional if it was unconstitutional, I would have to study that question.  You would expect him to be able to say that barring people on a segregated basis from polls is unconstitutional.  The same is true about torture.  Water boarding is one of the defining primary issues of the administration?  He wasn‘t asked whether what the administration is doing is water boarding.  He was asked whether water boarding is torture.

ABRAMS:  And Jonathan, it goes further than that.  Here let me play, this is Senator Whitehouse telling him what water boarding is.  Let‘s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WHITEHOUSE:  Do you have an opinion on whether water boarding which is the practice of putting somebody in a reclining position, strapping them down, putting a cloth over their faces and pouring water over the cloth to simulate the feeling of drowning is that constitutional?

MUKASEY:  If it amounts to torture, it is not constitutional.

WHITEHOUSE:  I‘m very disappointed in that answer.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Jonathan, look.  He‘s not lying.  He is playing semantic games, isn‘t he?

TURLEY:  Well, his first answer is a lie, I think.  I think he knew what the technique involved and he decided not to tell the truth.  Now, I grew up, learning that that was called a lie.  Now, what happens after that is he seemed to morph into Alberto Gonzales.  And he was trying to give the sort of nonsense answers.  This is what the president has been doing.  He‘s been saying we don‘t torture.  But then he defines torture to exclude most everything the world consider is torture.  Like saying I‘m not a bank robber but then excluding from the definition taking money from a bank with a gun.

ABRAMS:  Jonathan Turley thanks very much for coming on the program. 

Appreciate it.

TURLEY:  Thanks, Dan.

ABRAMS:  Coming up, COMEDY CENTRAL‘s Stephen Colbert is running for president.  It‘s a joke.  But now he is tied with Senator Joe Biden in a national poll and way ahead of other candidates.  Is that still funny?  Or is it just pathetic?  Plus, CNN‘s Lou Dobbs calls the governor of New York state an idiot and guarantees he won‘t back down.  One commercial j break later, he‘s apologizing for his own, quote, “Idiocy.”  Coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  It‘s time for tonight‘s Beat the Press.  First up: CNN‘s Lou Dobbs seems to think he‘s a lot smarter than everyone else.  And as a favorite term for those who don‘t agree with him.  This is all from last night‘s show.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LOU DOBBS, HOST:  And these idiots are walking around consequence for the idiots.  Do you idiots understand?  These idiots go down.  This is idiotic.  An idiot like Governor Spitzer and the reason I call him an idiot by the way is he called me annual anti-immigrant.  So, he started it, I guarantee you governor I ain‘t quitting until do you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Maybe Lou got too caught up in tough talk.  It seems someone in the break told him to stop being such an idiot.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DOBBS:  I‘m the idiot.  Governor, I apologize for calling you one. 

Your policies are idiotic but I have to apologize for calling you an idiot.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Wow!  It took all of six and a half minutes for him to quit. 

So much for that guarantee.

Next up: CNN‘s doctor Sanjay Gupta made it to a Beijing restaurant to get a taste of Chinese eclectic cuisine as part of the “Planet in Peril” show it seems more like penises and peril.

(NO AUDIO)

ABRAMS:  I don‘t know if you could hear that.  But you couldn‘t hear that.  OK, we will try to cue that up again because you missed the joke.

Anderson Cooper got his blood tested.  And as a fellow TV anchor the results of one test had me a little nervous.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANDERSON COOPER:  Next, my results for mono boto phthalates, the stuff found in cosmetics like the makeup I put on before going in front of the cameras.  I tested above the 95th percentile so what does that mean?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The most alarming one is the potential for infertility.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  That‘s a little bit alarming.  Basically we set it up by saying all right, it wasn‘t—it was the joke.  It wasn‘t that it‘s the planet in peril.  It was penises in peril.

Beat the press.  Woo, woo, woo.  We need your help beating the press.  If you see anything amusing, absurd, or just right or wrong beyond this program go to our Web site Abrams.msnbc.com.  Leave us a tip in the box, please include the show and the time you saw the item.

Up next: COMEDY CENTRAL‘s Stephen Colbert is running for president as a joke.  But now he‘s beating three of the Democratic contenders in a new poll.  Some are not laughing anymore.  And a new investigation into the Florida college student who was tasered at a John Kerry forum finds the police did nothing wrong and they have been cleared to return to work.  Tasers intact.  That‘s coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWS BREAK)

ABRAMS:  We are continuing now with our continuing coverage of the California wildfires.  New reports tonight that arson could be to blame for at least two of them and police in San Bernardino county say they have shot and killed a man who they thought might have been trying to start a fire there.

Another man is under arrest tonight.  We are continuing to follow all of that MSNBC Michael Okwu is in Running Springs, California.  Michael, I have got to believe if people out there find out it‘s arson that could just add salt to an enormous wound. 

MICHAEL OKWU, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  An enormous wound, Dan.  In fact, people here would be shocked, would be hurt, would be devastated.  Already, this fire has leveled just dozens of homes in this community.  You can take a look behind me.  This was once somebody‘s permanent residence, perhaps their vacation or weekend place.  As far as the eye can see, you can‘t see much here in the darkness.  But I can tell you it‘s a haunting scene with fires actually still going at this hour, with smoke wafting over the neighborhood. 

Recognizable items to you and me today absolutely charred beyond recognition.  Somebody‘s kitchen sink.  Somebody‘s sewing machine.  Somebody‘s typewriter.  This is now what most of this neighborhood looks today.  These wildfires have essentially wrought havoc across the community, across the southern California region. 

Some 410 acres have burned, destroying some 1500 homes and forcing evacuation of at least a half a million people.  It is the largest evacuation in California‘s history.  And officials are estimating the damage at $1 billion, what‘s with a “B”, billion dollars. 

Now, there was good news in all of this today, Dan.  We understand that those Santa Ana winds we have all been talking about in the last 24 to 48 hours that peaked at about 60 to 80 miles an hour have slowed considerably.  We understand from officials that they are down to about 10 miles per hour today. 

And that‘s enabling the firefighters to get better handles on these fires, to be less concerned about structure damage, to be less defensive and to be more offensive to start the air assault.  They say that they are trying to get a pretty good effort going now at cutting containment lines around these fires.  Dan? 

ABRAMS:  All right.  Michael Okwu, as always, thanks a lot.  Appreciate it.  Tonight, a new poll of Democrats shows that Stephen Colbert, the comedian, the late night TV host, is actually shaking up the race for president.  Yes, the fake candidate is creating ripples by beating real ones. 

He is running neck in neck with Joe Biden, you see it there, the senator who chairs the Foreign Relations Committee.  Colbert is actually ahead of Dennis Kucinich and Bill Richardson.  For those not paying close attention, news flash, it‘s a joke.  He is playing a character. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STEPHEN COLBERT, COMEDIAN:  Who would have thought that the son of a poor Appalachian turd miner, the grandson of a goat ball licker, born in the town of could-be president, one day could be president of the United States?  Only in America, John. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  And now Colbert could actually impact the 2008 race.  He‘s reaching out to Republican and Democratic officials down in South Carolina where he is from.  His presence on the ballot there could shake up the early primary schedule.  That‘s exactly what he told Tim Russert on meet the press. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COLBERT:  I want to put the focus back on South Carolina.  I want it to be a permanent thing.  I don‘t want Iowa and New Hampshire to be the only people in the United States who get to control, who is a bell weather state.  And if Iowa and New Hampshire don‘t like that, they can take some of that Iowa corn and stick up their Dicksville notch. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Stephanie Miller has hosted “The Stephanie Miller Show” and has waged her own candidacy for president.  And Craig Crawford is MSNBC analyst and a columnist for the “Congressional Quarterly.” 

All right, Craig, let me start with you.  We are going to have some fun with this segment.  First, I have got to ask you, on a serious note, could this actually have an impact?

CRAIG CRAWFORD, MSNBC ANALYST AND COLUMNIST, “CONGRESSIONAL

QUARTERLY”:  Well, if he got on a ballot in South Carolina.  Then, you know, votes are casts and no matter - even if people cast a vote as a joke, it still counts.  And I would see, you know, the possibility that he could win a delegate if he got enough votes. 

ABRAMS:  And more importantly, Craig, isn‘t it the media attention?  I mean, if he actually goes down there and begins campaigning, the press is going to be covering him, certainly more than some of the lower tiered candidates.  But it could actually even impact the amount of press that Clinton and Obama get. 

CRAWFORD:  Sure.  And I think that‘s one reason South Carolina officials were fairly receptive to this.  Because that‘s - the whole purpose of this early calendar for the South Carolina primary is they want more attention on South Carolina. 

He has got to get on those ballots though, and he‘s only got until next Thursday to decide.  That‘s the deadline on the Republican side.  He has got to pony up $35,000 to get on the ballot.  The Democrats only charge $2,500 or 3,000 signatures on petitions.  So that‘s it the legal mechanism he has got to get through to get on the ballot.  If he gets on the ballot, he might be fake, but votes are real if they are cast for him. 

ABRAMS:  Here is what he said about that very issue. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COLBERT:  Well, it‘s proportional voting on the Democratic side.  All I need is enough votes on the Democratic side to get one delegate.  And I‘ll feel like I have won.  Because if, at the Democratic National Convention somebody has to stand up and say the proud state of South Carolina, the Palmetto State, the home of the greatest peaches and shrimp in the world, counts one vote for native son Stephen Colbert, I‘d say I won. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Stephanie Miller, so you tried this yourself, didn‘t you? 

STEPHANIE MILLER, HOST, “THE STEPHANIE MILLER SHOW”:  Dan, I just want to say out here from Hollywood.  There is word that carrot top going to get in.  And if Bob (UNINTELLIGIBLE) serious, the whole thing is topsy turvy.  I‘m running for vice president, Dan, with Barry Goldwater‘s granddaughter.  We‘re doing Goldwater-Miller our way, family name, no skills, just like “W.”  And I think that we are going to shake up the race as well.  I think it‘s why Gore is staying out, Dan.  I do. 

ABRAMS:  You actually looked into what you can and can‘t do, didn‘t you?  If you were actually going to wage what is a fake candidacy, whatever you want to call it - you actually looked into what the practical ramifications are, didn‘t you? 

MILLER:  Yes.  I did, Dan.  Clearly, it‘s a cheap publicity stunt to promote my radio show and CC Goldwater‘s DVD about her grandfather, “Goldwater, Run Goldwater, Mr.  Conservative.  However, I think we are making a more serious point this is not my dad and Goldwater‘s party anymore. 

The Democratic frontrunner, Hillary Clinton, is quoting Barry Goldwater on the campaign trail today about gays in the military, “You don‘t have to be straight; you just have to shoot straight.”  Barry Goldwater is a liberal icon today.  How hilarious is that?  So we are making a point. 

CRAWFORD:  She was a Goldwater girl, remember? 

MILLER:  Yes, she was. 

ABRAMS:  Craig, you know, look - but what I think is kind of amazing about this is when you take these national polls, I mean, Colbert is pretending to be, you know, some right wing blow hard.  That‘s sort of his whole schtick here, and it‘s hilarious.  And yet, people - it seems that he‘s more popular among Democrats than Republicans. 

Well, and he beats some fairly serious Democrats and Bill Richardson.  That one really did kind of surprise me.  You have got to wonder if people can stay in the race if they can‘t even out-poll a fake candidate.  The other question, Dan, is the debates, if these candidates who are allowed in the debate, he gets better numbers than they do.  Why should they be in the debates?

ABRAMS:  Here is the Colbert position on gay marriage. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COLBERT:  Marriage is the basic building block of society.  And if gay men get married, that threatens my marriage immediately because I only got married as a taunt toward gay men because they couldn‘t. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Stephanie, as a fellow comedian, are you a little bit envious of the amount of attention that he has gotten in his campaign as opposed to yours? 

MILLER:  Yes.  I‘m suing, frankly.  I declared it a full three weeks

ago, Dan.  And until you have shown a spotlight on this - yes.  I, you

know, I think that just goes to show you how dissatisfied people are with

Bush (UNINTELLIGIBLE) I want a 24 percent of -

(CROSS TALK)

ABRAMS:  But it‘s not just them, but it‘s the democrats, Stephanie. 

MILLER:  I don‘t know anybody, anybody better.

ABRAMS:  He‘s getting zero - he is getting basically nothing with the Republicans, but when he is up against the other Democrats, that‘s where he‘s actually - I don‘t want to call it competitive, but at least competing. 

MILLER:  Listen, I think if Dumbledore gets in the race now that he has come out as gay, I think he shapes up the whole thing, Dan.  I think we are all screwed. 

CRAWFORD:  I think Stephanie makes a really good point.  The antiestablishment mood out there in the country is, I think, what opens the door of this.  That‘s how Pat Paulsen (ph) got in the race as a comedian back in 1968, for the same sort of thing, the antiwar movement. 

ABRAMS:  His slogan, I think - I think his slogan was, “I‘ve upped my standards, now up yours.”  Stephanie Miller, and Craig Crawford, thanks a lot.  Appreciate it.

MILLER:  Yes.

ABRAMS:  Up next, remember, don‘t tase me bro?  A new report says campus police who tasered that student during a John Kerry forum did the right thing.  The two officers who have been placed on lead were back at work today, tasers in hand.  Plus, an ax wielding convenience clerk shows a would-be robber who‘s boss.  We‘ll talk to the little lady.  Coming up in “Winners and Losers.”  

(MUSIC)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  A new report - no, this is the tasered guy.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  A new report released today has cleared University of Florida campus police officers of any wrongdoing in connection with that incident where a student was tased by police right after yelling “Don‘t tase me bro.”

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE STUDENT:  Why are they arresting me?  Can somebody do something here?  Are you arresting me?  What did I do?  Get off me?  Get the off me, man.  I didn‘t do anything.  Don‘t tase me, bro.  Don‘t tase me.  I didn‘t do anything. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE POLICE OFFICER:  Roll over. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE STUDENT:  Ow!  Ow!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Two officers were placed on administrative leave but the investigation found they adhered to state guidelines and both have been reinstated.  Joining me now is civil rights attorney, Sanford Rubenstein, and Richard Weinblatt, a former police chief and Taser expert.  Thanks to both of you for coming on the program. 

Richard, are you surprised?  I mean, a lot of people watched that tape and they hear the language of this report that says they did everything right, nothing beyond the state guidelines. 

RICHARD WEINBLATT:  I‘m not surprised by the report results at all.  I think it‘s fantastic - the report results.  That‘s what we wanted to see.  And, by the way, I am by no means - some many of the things all police officers do is correct.  However, in this case, if anything it‘s not that they used too much force.  I could argue that they didn‘t use enough force fast enough. 

ABRAMS:  You think they should have tased him earlier? 

WEINBLATT:  I think they should have tased him earlier and they should have grounded him earlier.  And if the secret service had been there and somebody had disrupted a public forum meeting on an educational campus, I guarantee you, secret service agents would have been all over that guy. 

ABRAMS:  Here is what the Florida Department of Law Enforcement report says, “The officers‘ actions appear to fall well within the guidelines of the Officer Response Level three physical control.  This level allows for the use of pain compliance and restraint devices.  The Taser was designed to disrupt the nervous system and cause a temporary loss of muscle control.”

SANFORD RUBENSTEIN, CIVIL RIGHTS ATTORNEY:  It‘s interesting that a police panel has cleared the police officers of what happened.  What I would like to see is a panel of jurors in a civil trial determine first, was excessive force used?  If it was, how much this young man should get for damages?

ABRAMS:  But I don‘t think he‘s going to get any.  I mean, look, this guy came in - he came in to cause trouble.  I mean I don‘t think there is any question about that.  That is a separate question about how you deal with that.  But he came in to cause trouble.  He apparently even said to the officers in the car something like, “You were just doing your job.” 

RUBENSTEIN:  What I‘m suggesting is the actions that he did take in terms of not stopping when perhaps he should have of speaking, did that really need to result in the kind of force that was used, and being grabbed off the podium and tasered after?  It appeared that he already was restrained.

ABRAMS:  But - go ahead, Richard.  Do you want to respond to that? 

WEINBLATT:  He was not already restrained.  He had his hand on a chair.  The officers gave him verbal commands repeatedly to let go.  He actually had the control.  He could have put his hands behind his back.  They never would have tasered him and it would have been fine. 

And if he had a true complaint against it, he could have filed it administratively.  He could have done as you said, sir.  He could have filed a lawsuit and it could have been handled that way. 

The way to handle it in a democratic, civilized society is, not to fight with the police.  It‘s to do it in the right way.  Because the old version is to do it with breaking bones and bashing heads with nightsticks like we used to do. 

RUBENSTEIN:  I might suggest that in a civilized society excessive force by police authorities is not acceptable. 

ABRAMS:  Is this excessive - I mean, look, the guy is running back, and then they pull him to the back of the room.  He then tries to run back in.  They are trying to control him again and again.  I mean, isn‘t this what a Taser is for - is to sort of relax someone to stop them from fighting back? 

RUBENSTEIN:  I don‘t know if it was necessary to Taser him.  The tape that I saw had him on the ground, four officers surrounding him and him saying me “Don‘t Taser me, bro.”  Now, it was really necessary to use a Taser?  And a Taser is not a gentle thing to do. 

ABRAMS:  Go ahead, Richard.

WEINBLATT:  Taser is actually very low on the use of force continuum.  They were one level lower than when he was.  The report says he was on level four which acted physical.  He was aggressive and he was pulling away from the officers.  And he was at three. 

ABRAMS:  Speaking of that, Richard, you supplied us with a videotape of you being tasered, here it is. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WEINBLATT:  OK.  OK.  OK.  (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE POLICE OFFICER:  Whoa.  You guys (UNINTELLIGIBLE). 

My goodness.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  I guess you have to be tased to know what it‘s really like, huh? 

RUBENSTEIN:  I have to add, also.  I have a case in which a victim was tasered and died of a heart attack not long thereafter.  There could be dangerous effects of Tasers. 

WEINBLATT:  Now, do you know what happened?

ABRAMS:  Sanford, thanks for coming on tonight.  Richard, I‘ve got to wrap it up.  For that, thank you very much.  We appreciate it.  Look, the law enforcement panel cleared them.  I don‘t think we‘re going to see any lawsuits here. 

Up next, in “Winners and Losers,” no tricks, just treats as strippers were set to hand out candy to middle school students.  More on that Halloween controversy.  Beam them up, presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich reportedly sees he‘s had a close encounter with aliens.  At least that‘s what he said.  And a pint-sized cashier takes on armed robber by fighting him off with an ax.  The scrappy stork clerk joins us next.  Girls who bump and grind, an extra terrestrial escape from the daily grind, or the girl with ax to grind.  Which will be tonight‘s big winner or loser?  

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  It‘s time for tonight‘s “Winners and Losers” for this 24th day of October, 2007.  Our first losers, officials at a Brooklyn, New York middle school who‘s scheduled to have strippers hand out candy at a school event.  The exotic dancers from Scores Strip Club had offered their services at no cost for this weekend‘s Halloween charity benefit. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE REPORTER:  Do you think it‘s a good idea? 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  That strippers hand out candy?  No.  Do you? 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  That is until the plan was exposed.  The strippers were then dis-invited, even though they never intended to remove their clothes. 

Our first winner, James Lipton who revealed he used to procure French women paid to remove their clothes. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CONAN O‘BRIEN, HOST, “LATE NIGHT WITH CONAN O‘BRIEN”:  So you were a French pimp? 

(LAUGHTER)

JAMES LIPTON, HOST, “INSIDE THE ACTORS STUDIO”:  No, absolutely not! 

I was an American pimp living in France. 

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  The elegant “Inside the Actors Studio” host is best known for stripping down celebrity guests with random and unpredictable questions. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LIPTON:  What is your favorite word?  What single thing turns you on? 

What‘s your favorite curse word? 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Our second winner, a 3-year-old british boy who took his love for Harry Potter a little too far.  The boy wizard was outside playing Potter with his friends, a game that involved sticking an orange traffic cone on his head and it stuck. 

The hard core Harry fan seemed amused by the whole thing.  Same can‘t be said for the eight firefighters called in to remove the orange head wear off the cone-headed boy. 

Our second loser, Rudy Giuliani, who many in New York are calling bone headed after the life-long New York Yankees fan told a Massachusetts audience he is now rooting for the Boston Red Sox in the World Series. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUDY GIULIANI:  I‘m rooting for the Red Sox in the World Series. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  He could now use some help removing the red head wear the New York newspapers photo-shopped on his head. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR:  Where do the Sox rank in your life? 

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR:  I say Red Sox and breathing. 

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR:  Can you believe this pinhead?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

But the big loser of the day?  Democratic presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich.  The White House want-to-be‘s pal Shirley McClaine reveals in a new book that Kucinich believes he‘s seen a UFO close and personal.  According to McClaine, while Kucinich was at her Washington home, he said he stared at an alien craft for 10 minutes and even felt a connection with the aliens.  I‘m guessing this revelation will lead the underdog candidate to have a new ax to grind with someone other than the president. 

The big winner of the day?  An underdog store clerk who tried to grind an ax into an armed invader after a pistol-packing robber tried to hold up her convenience store.  Ninety-pound Hafize Sahin pulled out the ax from underneath the counter and chased the guy out of the store. 

ABRAMS:  Joining me now is Hafize Sahin, the store clerk who fought off the armed robber, from her store.  Thanks very much for joining us as we come into your store there.  Tell me what led you to fight as opposed to just giving the money? 

HAFIZE SAHIN, STORE CLERK:  I really don‘t know exactly what is it.  I just did it.  I don‘t know how.  That‘s it.  I can‘t remember exactly.  

ABRAMS:  Did you have the axe there just in case something like this happens? 

SAHIN:  No.  We use it for something else.  Anything, you know, and we put it over there.  It is only with safety we can put over there, so that‘s it.

ABRAMS:  And so it just sort of happened that he said this to you and your automatic reaction - just defense mechanism was to just, at the moment, just take the ax and start hitting him? 

SAHIN:  At the moment, I thought he was coming behind the cashier, so that‘s why I grabbed the ax, because I thought this is a gun.  It‘s not real.  Maybe he‘s coming behind the cash register and trying to hurt me or like that.  So I can protect myself like that.  I‘m sorry, I‘m so nervous right now.  

ABRAMS:  No, look, I would think you would have been more nervous then.  I‘m watching this tape, and I can‘t imagine you weren‘t more nervous when that was happening, no? 

SAHIN:  Yes.  I was more nervous at that time, yes, but, I tried control myself.

ABRAMS:  So now that you have seen the tape, would you do it again?  If you could take a moment and think about it, would you actually go and grab the ax again? 

SAHIN:  I hope I won‘t.  I can‘t do it again.  I don‘t think so. 

ABRAMS:  Were you scared as it was happening? 

SAHIN:  Yes.  I was scared.  

ABRAMS:  And I assume that‘s your daughter there with you, and I know when things like this happen, we often think about our families, don‘t we? 

SAHIN:  This is my sister‘s, yes.  She was really excited too with what happened to me. 

ABRAMS:  Yes.  All right.  Well, look, we are glad to see that you are safe.  Thank you very much for taking the time to come on the program.  I know you were nervous.  You did a great job, just so you know.  You were terrific.  

SAHIN:  Thank you. 

ABRAMS:  So thank you very much for coming on.  Really appreciate it.  

SAHIN:  You‘re welcome.  Thanks.  

ABRAMS:  That‘s all the time we have for tonight.  But up next, stay tuned for another episode of “Lockup San Quentin, Extended Stay: Weapons 101.”  I‘ll see you tomorrow.

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

END   

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