updated 1/15/2008 6:38:41 PM ET 2008-01-15T23:38:41

Guests: Keli Goff, Roy Sekoff, Craig Crawford, Jack Burkman, John Ridley, Monica Lindstrom, Jim Moret, Daniel Hernandez

DAN ABRAMS, HOST:  Tonight, the inside D.C. media ignoring the real issues and creating racial debates amongst Democrats, even taking quotes out of context.  The media igniting the flame.

And border blame.  Conservatives want to build a fence along the border to keep illegals out, but to do it they have to take American property from American homeowners.  They didn‘t talk about that.

Plus: Bordering on lame.  Our new segment On Their Trail, the latest and worst of the campaign misstatements, blunders and cheap shots.

But first: Tonight, the inside Washington media buzzing about the supposed war over race breaking out between Clinton and Obama, but in reality the DC media I believe invented this war and sucked the candidates into race baiting gotcha politics.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KIRAN CHETRY, NEWS ANCHOR:  Race now the dominating campaign issue on the Democratic side right now.

HEATHER NAUERT, NEWS ANCHOR:  The issue of race.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  A war of words has erupted between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama over the issue of race and civil rights.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  The clash already with her comments this week and the way they have been interpreted about Martin Luther King.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Clearly, the Clintons know how to play racial politics.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  The reality is - this is much adieu about almost nothing.  While this weekend Obama and Clinton were offering up differing plans to address an economy headed towards recession, the DC media in particular were basically ignoring the issue that voters say is most important to them—the economy.  And instead mischaracterizing this comment by Bill Clinton about Obama.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL CLINTON, FMR. UNITED STATES PRESIDENT:  Give me a break.  This whole thing is the biggest fairy tale I have ever seen.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Well, some inside DC media, some opportunists, some critics hollered and howled that Bill Clinton was calling Obama‘s campaign a fairy tale, thereby insinuating that a black man could never be president.  No.  That has nothing to do with what he said.  All you need to do is play it in context in particular including the sentence before that one.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

B. CLINTON:  It is wrong that Senator Obama got to go through 15 debates trumpeting he‘s superior judgment and how he had been against the war in every year.  You said in 2004, you didn‘t know how you would have voted on the resolution.  You said in 2004, there was no difference between you and George Bush on the war and you took that speech you are running on off your Web site in 2004 and there‘s no difference in your voting record and Hillary‘s ever since.  Give me a break.  This whole thing is the biggest fairy tale I have ever seen.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Now that‘s a legitimate issue in question.  But too many in the press were developing a story about race.  And in that environment, if you even mentioned the name of the great Martin Luther King you do so at your political peril.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Dr. King‘s dream began to be realized when President Lyndon Johnson passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Now, somehow that was misinterpreted to minimize the role of D.  King instead of the real point that you need the president to push forward important legislation.  But that‘s not nearly as good a story.  And once the DC media creates the story, that candidates inevitably weigh in, Obama saying, quote, “She offended some folks who felt that it somehow diminished King‘s role in bringing about the Civil Rights Act.”  Maybe she did.  But if that‘s true, then, like the comments of Bill Clinton, it would mean that those offended took the comments out of context.  Then finally, the battle became an all-out war when Clinton supporter and Black Entertainment Television founder, Robert Johnson made this ill-advised comment.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERT JOHNSON, BET FOUNDER:  I am, frankly, insulted that the Obama

campaign would imply that we are so stupid that we would think Hillary and

Bill Clinton, who have been deeply and emotionally involved in black issues

when Barack Obama was doing something in the neighborhood that I won‘t say what he was doing but he said it in his book.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  All right.  Johnson later foolishly tried to suggest he was talking about Obama‘s days as a community organizer, not his admitted teenage drug use.  But look, his not part of the Clinton campaign and his comments are in the end irrelevant, but not of course if you‘re interested in continuing a fictitious race war amongst the top Democratic candidates. 

Here now is MSNBC political analyst, Craig Crawford, he‘s also a columnist

at CQPolitics.com; author and political analyst, Keli Goff; and Roy Sekoff,

editor of the Huffington Post.  Thanks of all of you for coming on the

program.  All right.  Kelly, you and I were talking before the show and you

were saying that you thought that Hillary Clinton‘s comments were dumb.  I

mean, it seems to me that once we start going down that road what we are

doing is buying into this narrative of this supposed battle over race -

KELI GOFF, POLITICAL ANALYST:  That the narrative that they wrote.

ABRAMS:  No, that the media created.

GOFF:  No.  I mean Dan, look, you keep using the word context which I think

is a really important word.  That all of these comments were taken out of

context.  I want to look at the bigger context, which is the context in

which these comments have come along.  And that, you‘ve had a pattern in

the Clinton campaign of people who are either volunteers or surrogates who

make these quote-unquote “Ill-advised comments,” whether it was referencing

that Obama allegedly has Muslim Jihadist ties, whether it‘s saying, we

don‘t want to talk about his drug use, we don‘t want this race about his

drug use -

ABRAMS:  Let‘s not talk about the past.

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  OK.  You think the Bill Clinton comments were intended to insinuate something about race when he challenged Obama‘s vote on the Iraq war.

GOFF:  Come on, no one thinks the Clintons are racist.

ABRAMS:  No, that is not what I asked you.

(CROSSTALK)

GOFF:  I can‘t tell you what the president meant.  I can tell you what people heard. I can tell you how people received that.

(CROSSTALK)

GOFF: James Clyburn must have heard something else, too, Dan.  Maybe, he‘s taking out of context, too.

ABRAMS:  I think he‘s completely taking it out of context.  Craig Crawford, I mean, I want to be completely consistent on this.  Anyone who says that Bill Clinton‘s comments about the fairy tale was somehow an insinuation about race and I will go a step further, anyone who suggests that Hillary Clinton was trying to demean Martin Luther King in her comments is completely either mis-intentionally misinterpreting or taking those comments out of context.  Craig, go ahead.

Craig can‘t hear me.  Roy Sekoff, do you want to take that one?

ROY SEKOFF, HUFFINGTON POST:  Yes.  Absolutely.  You are 100 percent correct, Dan.  That particular statement, the fairy tale statement has been blown completely out of proportion.  However, to say that it was just the media, Dan, is ridiculous.  It wasn‘t the media that went out there and said that Bill Clinton was just as black as Barack Obama.  That was Ambassador Andrew young.  And as Keli said, it wasn‘t the media that brought up the Barack Hussein Obama and his madrassa background.  That was Senator Bob Kerrey.  See, these are experienced people.  They‘re not neophytes, they‘re not old people just making a little mistake.  So, I think, you know, we can‘t look into the Clintons soul, like Bush look at beauty and so (ph) but we can say that there is a pattern here, a consistent pattern that you know, there are a lot of people for such a disciplined campaign having to explain their comments and having to apologize for their comments Johnson and Cuomo and Young and on and on and Shaheen and you know.

ABRAMS:  Craig, this, to me, is typically what the inside Washington media does when they want to I think create these controversies.  And they say, oh, look, here‘s a person who is a quote, “Surrogate” for this person.  I mean, look, Hillary Clinton and Bill Clinton‘s comments if you look at them, there is an absolutely nothing wrong with the comments that either Bill or Hillary Clinton made and the only way to interpret them as being either even an insinuation of minimizing Martin Luther King‘s role or somehow an insinuation that Barack Obama is not fit to be president because he‘s African-American, to me is media interpretation in an effort to create a sort of race bait.  Let me let Craig in there.  Yes.

CRAIG CRAWFORD:  There‘s no connection between what Bill Clinton said and what Hillary Clinton said to these other surrogates that your other guests have mentioned.  This was the first effort right out of the Obama camp after the first remarks came to be known from Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton about Martin Luther King and fairy tale.  They said this is part of a pattern and it is a part of the big pattern and that became the talking point that many in the media picked up on.  Here‘s my problem with the media, Dan and maybe because I‘ve been sitting down here in Florida nursing a broken ankle for three weeks watching it all.  But I don‘t want to hurt some more of this ankle or watching my profession act like a bunch of fools for the last couple of weeks.  I mean, everybody gets up, it seems like, and says themselves—how can I not be bored today?  I‘m bored with this campaign.  I want something exciting to talk about.  And this stuff gets trumped up.  And it‘s out last week, talking about how racism was responsible for Obama losing in New Hampshire.

ABRAMS:  Let me read you, “Time” magazine: Could race the Democrats? 

“Newsweek”: The race war.  Politico: Racial tensions royal Democratic race. 

Go ahead, Keli.  Sorry, I -

GOFF:  Dan, I‘m not arguing with you that the media totally said this.  Of

course they have.  That is what the media does.  But what I‘m simply saying

is that when you are a candidate or you‘re a consultant on a campaign your

job specifically not to give the media extra news with which to hang your

campaign.  And what I‘m simply saying is that it‘s not that I think that

the Clintons were necessarily you know, trying to start a race war or being

racially insensitive, or any of that.  But their comments, I don‘t buy this

argument that these things were done in a vacuum and that they‘re so naive,

that they didn‘t think that especially the second comment about MLK -

someone was paid to -

CRAWFORD:  Wait a second, do you actually think that Hillary Clinton is so dumb that she‘s going to denigrate Martin Luther King two weeks before a primary in South Carolina where half the vote is of African-American?  She‘s not that stupid.

GOFF:  Well, someone on her campaign is a little na‹ve.  I do think that someone said to her, one of her strategists said we have to find a way to neutralize this whole JFK, MLK, Obama comparison and here‘s how you do it.

CRAWFORD:  Sure.  I think they had every right to do that.

GOFF:  I agree with you.  But they did it in a really stupid way and this is blowback.  That is what I‘m saying.

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  But it sounds to me like, Roy, it sounds to me like the answer may be you simply cannot mention Martin Luther King‘s name right now if you are either Bill or Hillary Clinton.

SEKOFF:  Well, I think Dan, what you said was that there was nothing wrong with either of those comments and I think that‘s not exactly correct.  They were both mischaracterizations of the truth.  Clinton completely was mischaracterizing Obama‘s position on the war.

ABRAMS:  No, wait.  Roy, I‘m going to separate these out.

SEKOFF:  No.

ABRAMS:  Hang on a second.  You want to argue it is a mischaracterization on the Iraq war - that‘s a legitimate fight to have between Obama and Hillary about the war. Fine.  But that isn‘t an insinuation of race by Bill Clinton calling Obama‘s votes a fairy tale?

SEKOFF:  Dan, here‘s the thing.

(CROSSTALK)

CRAWFORD:  Bill Clinton was making a very simple argument, I mean Bill Clinton was making a valid argument that Senator Obama‘s voting record had been pro-war, had been funding the war.  That he had not born out of this.

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  Roy, go ahead.

SEKOFF:  Dan, let me answer your point.  Do I think Bill and Hillary and Mark Penn and Howard Wilson sat it on and decided how to play the race card?  No.  Absolutely not.  But I do think they‘d decided that the way to go after Obama was to attack and attack and I think to try to draw him off the position that he‘s a new kind of politics.  I liken it to a prizefight.  You know, you have a low blow here, you have a rapid punch there, you have a kidney punch there.

ABRAMS:  You analyze politics like that and that‘s my problem, Roy.  If people like wanted to make it all about the punches and not the substance.

(CROSSTALK)

CRAWFORD:  I think there is a difference between people attacking and defining.

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  Whoa.  Whoa.  Whoa.  Hey, Craig, I levied and attack at Roy.  Let me give him a chance to respond on that.  Go ahead, Roy.

Craig, hang on a second.  Craig, hang on.  Let just me let Roy respond.  Go ahead.

SEKOFF:  I hope it‘s not the pain medication from the ankle.  No, what I‘m saying Dan, is that I‘m not sure it should mean what kind of person I am. 

I‘m just looking at what happens and when you have case after case of

things like this happening, when you have you know, Johnson coming out and

you say that he is just a surrogate.  But meanwhile, it was the Clinton

camp that released the explanation that he wasn‘t really talking of -

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  But what you can do is you can do what I think is a journalist‘s job, to do is to sit and actually critically, look, I‘m going to be the lawyer here, right?  I‘m going to critically analyze what‘s being said in each case and whether the attacks are fair.  That‘s we‘re going to do later on the issue.

SEKOFF:  Fair enough.

ABRAMS:  That‘s what we‘re going to do and I‘m saying these attacks are completely unfair.  This is total race baiting and I think there is no evidence to support any of it.  But that‘s what we are going to get into later in the program.  Keli Goff, great to have you in the house.  Thanks a lot.  Roy Sekoff, glad you got that one out because Craig is going to get a chance later in the show.

Coming up: Our new segment On Their Trail, the candidates‘ latest misstatements, blunders and cheap shots.  It‘s coming up.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, ® PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  I supported that, I argued for it.  I‘m the only one of on this stage that did.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  We‘ll tell you what he‘s talking about and it is not quite accurate.

And: The Bush department now taking on Americans living near the Mexican border.  The government wants to take their land to build that border fence.  Your e-mails at abrams@msnbc.com.  Tell us if we‘re doing right, and wrong and be sure to include your name and where you‘re writing from.  Back in the minute.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Did you know the border between the United States and Mexico is

1,952 miles long.  Coming up: Land owners in the path of the new -

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  A legal showdown now taking shape between the Bush administration and border residents who face legal action if they refuse to cooperate with the government‘s plan to build a 370-mile fence along the U.S.-Mexico border.  Many landowners outraged about the idea of losing some or all of their lands to the government with many now refusing to comply.  The government is preparing over 100 court cases against the landowners.  It‘s gotten so out of hand that Republican Texas senator, Kay Bailey Hutchinson has received a harsh criticism from some conservatives for just amending the law to require the government to consult with landowners and local officials first.  I know they want their fence and they want it now, but what about the party of individual rights?  I want to talk about taking their land for this, it‘s not the issue about whether we just need the fence.  Joining me now is Republican strategist, Jack Burkman and immigration attorney, Daniel Hernandez.  Thanks to both of you for coming on.  Appreciate it.  All right.  Jack, look, you know, apart from the side of whether we need the fence and I know you think that it‘s a good idea.  You‘ve got all of these Conservatives going after Kay Bailey Hutchinson for merely saying there needs to be consultation with the people who own this land.  It seems like the government is so hell-bent on getting this fence there that they‘re saying, we don‘t care what the residents there want.

JACK BURKMAN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST:  Well, they are and in the sense, it‘s their right.  Look, DHS has taking a long time with this, Dan.  If you look at Chertoff‘s statements that they have fooled around with this for months.  This is going on for a long time.  I am the last in the word to believe in eminent domain, but when national security is at stake, it has to be done.  I‘m amazed that just so many people out there are trying to use this as yet another way to continue to foster illegal immigration and put this on the back burner yet again.

ABRAMS:  But Jack there is a part of it which involves hypocrisy, right?  We‘re talking about the Supreme Court cases where people take away private individual‘s land and you get all these Conservatives defending them saying, the government shouldn‘t be involved but when you are talking about building the fence they all say, take it.  Take it as fast as you can.

BURKMAN:  Good point, but, no.  What it involves Dan, the legal answer is it involves public policy choice.  There are competing values.  Yes, I love both values.  Yes, I hate eminent domain.  But when the security of my country is at stake, I choose the later and I put the concerns about eminent domain aside and I‘m going to give you one better.  I‘ll give you the real reason.  If we don‘t soon secure this border, if we cant get passed the emotionalism with this fence, at some level, the United States, we‘re going to have to use force to secure the border.  That‘s a shame and I don‘t want to see that, I don‘t want see people shot.  I don‘t want to see force used.

ABRAMS:  No.  I can promise you no one is going to get shot over this, Jack.  All right.  No matter what they do, our government has made a lot of boneheaded moves.  They‘re not going to end up shooting people at homeowners at the border over their land.

BURKMAN:  Not homeowners.

ABRAMS:  Let me get Daniel on this.  Again, Daniel, on the issue of the individuals who have land there, I mean, look, generally, Jack is right, right?  That when eminent domain, when you build a highway, you build railroads, sometimes they have to go through private citizens‘ land and as a result they get paid for their property and they have to give it up.

DANIEL HERNANDEZ, IMMIGRATION LAWYER:  You know, here‘s what kills me about this is the statistic I keep hearing over and over - 75 percent of all Americans want this fence.  Well, 75 percent of all Americans aren‘t getting their land taken away from them—river front property, hunting property, fishing property, livestock property.  Some of these people, this is where they make their living.  We already know the fence is not going to work, because people are going to flyover or crawl under but why are we going to take people‘s land away from them to build some fence that‘s not going to work in the first place and it‘s absolutely not cost effective.

ABRAMS:  How else do you do it?  I mean, I guess, look, the answer is, one of the proposals that they are considering is in certain areas where the homeowners are really objecting, they‘re saying, all right, so, in that particular area we‘ll just beef up patrols, we‘ll increase lights, et cetera.  What do you think about that, Daniel?

HERNANDEZ:  Well, you know, again if we are trying to talk about beefing up border security, the real problem is the immigration issue.  I know you don‘t want to talk about that but unfortunately it‘s always tied in.  The reality of the situation is if we‘re going to beef up security, we got to fix it first at the root and that‘s the immigration issue.  If it means stepping up security, border patrol units, hey, you know what?  Those are still my tax dollars.  I don‘t want to see more big (INAUDIBLE), there‘s other solutions.

ABRAMS:  Jack, I got to tell you, I think that that sounds like a pretty good compromise if you know, look, if the Congress is passing this law that says the fence is going to be built and homeowners are saying not on my land, not on my land.  Why do they want to fight with these people so much.  Why not just say, in those particular areas, we‘re getting such major objections, we‘ll beef up the border patrol, put in extra lights, et cetera?

BURKMAN:  You know, because we don‘t have time and because the national security of our country is at stake.

ABRAMS:  Suddenly?  It‘s like this absolute rush we have to do it in the next three hours.

BURKMAN:  Suddenly indeed, Dan.

ABRAMS:  Building a wall is going to take ages.

BURKMAN:  Imagine how this entire debate would be transformed if there was another 9/11 attack in the United States.  You know, my distinguished opponent tonight, I never once heard him in the past express concerns about eminent domain.  But suddenly, these concerns have moved to the forefront.

ABRAMS:  Jack, it‘s taking the Israelis forever to build that wall there.  It‘s going to take us a long time to build the wall here.  And if you want to get it done quickly, I‘ve say you should advocating by getting more patrols on the border rather than simply building a fence.  (INAUDIBLE).  All right.  Jack Burkman and Daniel Hernandez, thanks a lot.  Appreciate it.

Coming up: On Their Trail, the candidates; latest misstatements, blunders and cheap shots.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY, ® PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  In the next 10 years, we‘ll see more progress, more change than the world has seen in the last 10 centuries.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Ten centuries.  Boy, that sure is a long time.

And: CNN has its international network.  So, you think its international reporter covering Israel would at least know what that country‘s capital is.  No.  Not quite.  Beat The Press is next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  It‘s time for tonight‘s Beat the Press.  Our daily look back at the absurd and sometimes amusing perils of live TV.

First up: CNN prides itself in its international reporting and even claims to be the most trusted name in news.  This report makes you wonder.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Palestinians would like East Jerusalem as their capital.  The Israelis would like to keep Jerusalem as their capital.  Currently, their capital is Tel Aviv of course.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Of course not.  Israel made Jerusalem the capital nearly 60 years ago.  Good to see they have those international correspondents who don‘t know much about the countries they cover.

Next up: This morning on MSNBC during a preview of tomorrow night‘s debate, we spotted this identity crisis that was up for over 30 seconds.  Look at this thing down there.  Only on MNSBC.  Democratic debate tomorrow live in Las Vegas at 9:00 pm.  What is MNSBC?  We‘re not changing our name.

Finally: To an enthusiastic report from CNN reporter, Kareen Wynter on today‘s custody battle between Kevin Federline and Britney Spears, with an interesting analysis of what makes a model parent.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KAREEN WYNTER, CNN REPORTER:  So, Kevin shows up, he‘s sporting this new Mohawk, in a crisp suit, just looking like the model parent.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  He got a Mohawk for the hearing so he could look like a model parent?  I guess their definition of model parent is different from mine.  We need your help Beating the Press.  If you see anything right or wrong or amusing or absurd go to our Web site at Abrams@MSNBC.com” and leave us a tip in the box, please include the show and the time you saw the item.

Up next:  We‘re On Their Trail—exposing the candidates‘ biggest misstatements, blunders and cheap shots on the road to the White House.  In just the past few days, there have been some more doozies.  We‘ll show the latest top five.

And: A court ruled late tonight that Britney Spears cannot even visit her kids.  That came after she did not show up to the hearing.  Yikes.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWS BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Coming up, a court has ruled that Britney Spears cannot even visit her kids.  Plus, what Britney has in common with Dallas Cowboys tough guy Terrell Owens.  And even background music becomes an issue with Barack Obama, that is when the “B” word is part of the lyrics.  Those stories are coming up in tonight‘s “Winners and Losers.”

But first, our new segment “On Their Trail,” the biggest misstatements, blunders and cheap shots made by candidates on the road to the White House.  With help from sources including “The Washington Post Fact Checker” and “Congressional Quarterly‘s” Politifacts, we have chosen our top five doozies in just the past few days. 

Joining me now, John Ridley, from the “Huffington Post,” and still with us Craig Crawford.  All right.  Coming in at number five, Arizona Senator John McCain.  It‘s already been a pretty rough campaign on the Republican side.  And last week, at a rally, McCain made comments amounting to well, can‘t we all just get along? 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  I‘m going to raise the level of political dialogue in America, and I‘m going to treat my opponents with respect.  And I‘m going to demand they treat me with respect.  And we we‘re going to get a dispute and a debate done but in a respectful fashion. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  All right, sounds good to me.  But can maverick McCain really grab that high-minded mantle given his long reputation as a hot head.  I mean he once reportedly erupted at fellow Republican Senator Pete Domenici saying, “Only an a-hole would put together a budget like this,” following that up with “I wouldn‘t call you an a-hole unless you were really an a-hole. 

A year later, Republican Senator Chuck Grassley asked McCain, “Are you calling me stupid?”  He reportedly replied, “I‘m calling you an f-ing jerk.”  I don‘t know.  John Ridley, I mean, it always makes me nervous when a candidate says that they‘re going to sort of bring the dialogue up a level and yet are engaged at times in attacks. 

JOHN RIDLEY, “HUFFINGTON POST”:  Yes.  I think when a candidate says they are going to bring the discourse up a bit, that means they‘ve hired some new hatchet men around them to go after somebody else.  Look, if McCain can do it, God bless him for bringing a little higher level discourse.  But he is famous for his temper, so I would not be surprised the first person who goes after him expects it to get it good. 

ABRAMS:  Number four, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney who had a recent Republican debate touted his record on job growth when he was governor. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FMR. GOV. MITT ROMNEY (R-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  I‘m very proud of the fact that after many, many months of declining job growth, I took over the state and helped turn that around.  And in my years as governor, we kept adding jobs every single month after we saw that turnaround. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Here is the problem though. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY:  Facts are stubborn things.  Let‘s get the facts right. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Facts can be stubborn for things.  Yes, Governor.  Even Massachusetts ranked 46th in job growth while he was in office.  Plus, according to a “Boston Globe” piece from February 2006, quote, “Romney likes to point that the state‘s unemployment rate has fallen to 4.9 percent from 5.7 percent when he took office.  What he doesn‘t say is that is in large part because so many people have fled the state or given up looking for a job.  There are 40,000 fewer people in the work force than when Romney took over.”

I mean, Craig Crawford, it seems to me like this is just an issue that Romney should just stay away from.  He doesn‘t have to admit that, “Oh, my state was 46th,” and this and that.  But I don‘t think he should embracing the job growth in a state as if it is something to celebrate. 

CRAIG CRAWFORD, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Yes.  Apparently, he hoped all those people who moved out of Massachusetts moved to New Hampshire and were going to vote for him in the primary.  Apparently, that didn‘t work out. 

You know, Romney, I would have to say, is probably the worst offender, our serial exaggerator, in this campaign, more than most.  But he does it so smoothly, he‘s kind of like the boss who lays you off and says, “This is going to be the great thing for you.  This is the best thing that ever happened to you.”  That‘s how he comes across.

ABRAMS:  Don‘t worry, he is our number one coming up later, too.  All right.  At number three, Sen. Hillary Clinton facing criticism for her Iraq war vote.  The senator has seemed to be making every effort to ally herself with Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel, a longtime critic of the war. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HILLARY CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  The vote of Chuck Hagel, who was one of the architects of the resolution has said - was a vote for war.  It was a vote to use the threat of force against Saddam Hussein who never did anything without being made to do so.  Chuck Hagel who helped to draft the resolution said it was not a vote for war. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  But then the “New York Times” reports today that Sen. Clinton‘s talking points seem to misconstrue the facts.  She voted for the proposal put forward by the White House, by not Sen. Hagel. 

John Ridley, I mean, this one - this is a significant one.  I mean if the distinction is accurate that the “New York Times” lays out in terms of which proposal she was voting for, that does seem to me to be quite significant. 

RIDLEY:  Yes, it does.  I mean, look, I think she‘s bringing up Chuck Hagel‘s name because he was anti-war and he‘s someone that independents and moderate Republicans respect.  But I would say at this point for Sen.  Clinton.  She ought to stay away from bringing up other people‘s names.  She gets in trouble with Hagel.  She gets in trouble with Martin Luther King.  I think she needs to focus on her own record.  Forget about bringing up any other names. 

ABRAMS:  Yes.  Craig, what do you make of this one?  The Clinton one? 

CRAWFORD:  Well, I think Sen. Clinton said all she needs to say.  I agree with John about the war although he does need to keep driving home that point that a lot of people voted for that resolution without expecting, without anticipating, even, that it would lead to a preeminent war and invasion of Iraq.  Plenty of senators say that.

(CROSS TALK)

ABRAMS:  The easier way to say it is not to sort of get bogged down in this Chuck Hagel versus the White House proposal, and simply stick with the point that she‘s been making and that Bill Clinton has been making, which is that she supported the threat.  Once you start getting into these fact issues of which proposal she was supporting, I think that that‘s trouble for her. 

CRAWFORD:  Yes.  I think any time the war comes up, it is not good for her now.  In the general election, however, she has protected herself, waffled, if you will, but waffled in such a way that should this war actually seem a little more popular to a lot of people.  Come the general elections, she is covered on that point. 

ABRAMS:  Coming in at number two, Sen. McCain again.  McCain has received a lot of credit among Republicans for his strong and early support of the surge in troops in Iraq.  But at a Republican debate last week, McCain straight talk express hit a speed bump. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCAIN:  I supported that.  I argued for it.  I‘m the only one on this stage that did. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Well, four of the five other candidates on the stage with McCain that night also supported the surge.  Senator, you were not alone. 

FMR NEW YORK CITY MAYOR RUDY GIULIANI (R-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  John

gets great credit for supporting the surge.  But, John, there are other

people on this stage that supported the surge.  The night of the

president‘s speech -

MCCAIN:  That is -

(CROSS TALK) 

GIULIANI:  Yes, John.  The night of the president‘s speech, I was on television.  I supported the surge.  I supported it throughout. 

ROMNEY:  I think it‘s hard to predict whether this troop surge will work but I‘m absolutely confident it is the right thing to do. 

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, ABC NEWS:  Do you support the president‘s plan to send more troops to Iraq now or not? 

FMR. GOV. MIKE HUCKABEE (R-AR), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Well, what I try to say, George, is I support that the president has the right to make these decisions as commander in chief.  We need to give him time to let it work. 

STEPHANOPOULOS:  So if you were in the senate you would vote for plan? 

HUCKABEE:  I would give him a chance.  You bet I would.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Huckabee‘s is not as strong.  But John, what do you make of that? 

Fair criticism of McCain? 

RIDLEY:  Yes, Dan, I think it is absolutely fair to criticize what he is saying, that other people did support it.  But I think the larger issue is that McCain is almost a victim of his own success.  Because the surge is working on a military level, people are not talking about the war anymore.  The economy is the number one issue.  So even if he hammers this home, I don‘t if it‘s going to help him much.

ABRAMS:  Coming in at number one, more Mitt.  Mitt Romney‘s campaign has been trying to be optimistic and looking forward.  And in his new ad, you have to give him credit.  He does have especially high hopes for the next ten years. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY:  In the next ten years we‘ll see more progress, more change than the world has seen in the last ten centuries. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Ten centuries?  That‘s a long time.  A lot has happened in those

centuries.  I don‘t know.  Electricity, the airplane, the iPhone.  I mean -

CROWLEY:  Yes, I think that takes us back to medieval times.

ABRAMS:  Exactly.

CROWLEY:  I mean look at it this way.  You know, torture has advanced quite a bit.  We are up to waterboarding now from the rack.  We‘ve made some progress there. 

RIDLEY:  Yes.

ABRAMS:  John, final thought on this one? 

RIDLEY:  You know what, Dan - I‘ve got to tell you.  This one actually grew with all the things you mentioned that happened in the last hundred years.  And look, the iPhone- ten years ago, no one thought it would happen.  I know that it sounds like a bit much.  I‘m just happy a conservative acknowledges that things were going on more than 3,000 years ago.  So hey.

ABRAMS:  John Ridley and Craig Crawford, thanks a lot.  Appreciate.

Up next, a court rules that Britney Spears cannot even see her kids.  Yes.  It has gotten that bad.  And one-time Natalee Holloway murder suspect Joran Van Der Sloot goes off on a reporter during an interview, throws a glass of wine at him.  It is in tonight‘s “Winners and Losers.”  Coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Did you know Britney Spears is an accomplished gymnast who attended classes until age nine and competed in state level competitions?  Coming up tonight, a judge rules that Britney Spears cannot even see or visit with her kids.  Yes.  It is that bad.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Breaking tonight, a court has just ruled that Britney Spears will not have access, literally access, to her two sons indefinitely.  She had another bizarre day, initially showing up for a custody hearing, then leaving before ever entering the courtroom.  The circus-like atmosphere which seems to follow her everywhere continued as her entourage cruised around L.A. 

Clearly, Britney has bigger priorities than trying to get her kids back.  Her ex, Kevin Federline, showed up for the hearing.  He gets to retain sole custody after Britney was stripped of all visitation rights following her hospitalization earlier this month. 

Joining me now, Jim Moret from “Inside Edition,” who was outside the courthouse when Britney arrived and former prosecutor Monica Lindstrom.  All right.  Jim, look, this is a sad situation here, but it is also just almost so bizarre that it‘s hard to believe.  I mean, literally - what, Britney shows up in a car, then doesn‘t go into the courthouse? 

JIM MORET, “INSIDE EDITION”:  I was standing about five feet away from that angle where the camera captured the mob scene.  And there was a crush of reporters.  Our camera crew was jostled about. 

Britney said she was terrified.  We heard her basically say, “I want to get back in the car.”  She went around the car, got in the driver‘s seat and then she climbed into the passenger seat in the back, and then she left.  But then she didn‘t just leave.  She then went to a church in the valley, then went shoe shopping and then had lunch.  You know, it just got more and more bizarre. 

ABRAMS:  And she was late to court because she was waiting for a furniture delivery? 

MORET:  She should have been at court at 9:00 if she intended to be there.  Kevin Federline showed up at 9:00.  She showed up after lunch, at closer to 2:00. 

ABRAMS:  I mean, look.  Monica, judges are not supposed to take into consideration when evaluating the best interest of the children sort of the behavior of a party towards the court, right?  But the bottom line is, it is impossible to separate out.  I mean it just seems like Britney Spears doesn‘t want her kids back.  Or she is so out of it, she has become such a loony tune, she doesn‘t realize what she is doing is totally destructive. 

MONICA LINDSTROM, FORMER PROSECUTOR:  I think you are absolutely right, Dan.  The judge needs to look at what is in the best interest of the children.  And this situation for Britney has gotten from bad to worse.  The judge takes everything into consideration.  Even if he is not technically supposed to, he‘s still a person and he is going to look at Britney‘s behavior.  She didn‘t show up in court.  That could show him that she doesn‘t care enough to want to be there. 

ABRAMS:  This is harsh, though, Monica.  I mean, the idea she can‘t even visit with her kids, not even supervised, not even with someone else there. 

LINDSTROM:  Well, what has she done?  What has she done to prove that the children are safe with her, that she is a stable person and a stable parent?  Zero.  She‘s done nothing.  She‘s had chance after chance. 

One thing to remember though is nothing is permanent in family court.  So even though this order is there right now, if she takes significant and substantial steps to prove to the court she wants this changed, the court will listen to that and perhaps make a change.  But it is going to be a lot of hard work. 

ABRAMS:  Jim, does she want the kids?  Does she want to see the kids, Jim? 

MORET:  Well, remember the reason that visitation was taken away.  The last time she saw her children was January 3rd.  What happened then?  She didn‘t want to turn her kids over.  That was the same thing.  She showed up very late for a deposition, only 15 minutes.  There was a three-hour standoff with cops and then Britney was taken to the hospital and held there for a day and a half. 

Does she want to see her kids?  I don‘t know.  You know, I can‘t figure it out.  This situation has really gotten to be pathetic.  It is hard to watch what‘s happening to her.  I don‘t know what‘s going.  I don‘t know think she knows what she‘s going to do from one day to the next. 

ABRAMS:  And, Monica, the judge really may have believed she could be a danger to these kids, right? 

LINDSTROM:  Absolutely.  She had a standoff with the police.  She was holding the children.  She wouldn‘t give them up to who she is supposed to.  That is a danger.  Not only that, she was in the hospital. 

So without any proof that she‘s not a danger, the judge has to go with the evidence that is presented to him and that is what was shown to him today.  And you know, another thing to think about, if she continues down this slide and this spiral, there might be a family member that goes to the judge and says, “Hey, we need to commit her involuntarily if it keeps getting worse and worse.”  Let‘s hope that doesn‘t happen but it‘s possible. 

ABRAMS:  Well, you know what?  But Jim, if there‘s one of those family members out there, you‘d would think they would be trying to help her already, right?  It feels like she doesn‘t have the necessary support team in place to sort of tell or the ability to tell her to do the right thing. 

MORET:  And look who is closest to her now, a member of the paparazzi - a paparazzo, someone making money still of off pictures from her.  It‘s sad. 

LINDSTORM:  It‘s sad.  So sad.

ABRAMS:  Jim Moret and Monica Lindstrom, thanks a lot.  Appreciate it.

LINDSTROM:  Thanks, Dan.

MORET:  Sure.

ABRAMS:  Up next, in “Winners and Losers,” Dallas Cowboys tough guy Terrell Owens tears up over his teammate Tony Romo after they lose.  Drew Peterson, still a suspect in his wife‘s disappearance - that‘s not him - hires a publicist and demands to be paid for interviews.  And one-time Natalee Holloway murder suspect Joran Van Der Sloot throws a drink at a reporter. 

A football star says the quarterback isn‘t to blame; a pompous husband who wants more fame; or a one-time suspect whose TV move was really lame?  Which will be tonight‘s biggest winner or loser?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  It‘s time for tonight‘s “Winners and Losers” for this 14th day of January, 2008.  Our bronze winner, the Department of Justice, which continues its sweeping changes in the wake of our recent Bush League Justice series. 

Controversial civil rights chief John Tanner was shown the door and now the ax falling on a pair of his equally controversial deputies.  One is accused of discriminating against African-American employees, the other investigated for improperly filing lawsuits from her Cape Cod beach house.  Both have now been demoted. 

Our silver winner, tough-talking TV talk show host John McLaughlin.  The words hip-hop and John McLaughlin wouldn‘t normally appear in the same sentence, hip and McLaughlin don‘t go together.  But that did not stop Master JM from attempting to analyze the lyrics of rapper 50 Cent. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN MCLAUGHLIN, TV TALK SHOW HOST:  What Mr. Cent is doing in the clubs is, quote, “having sex.”  “I ain‘t into making love.” 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  He doesn‘t want that.  No. 

MCLAUGHLIN:  He doesn‘t want that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  But the big winner of the day, Dallas Cowboys‘ quarterback Tony Romo.  Sure his team was knocked out of the playoffs in a major upset last night.  And yes, some are blaming that loss on his recent trip to Mexico with girlfriend Jessica Simpson.  But Romo did receive the rare teary-eyed support of a teammate.  This was Terrell Owens after the game. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TERRELL OWENS, TONY ROMO‘S TEAMMATE:  It is really unfair.  That‘s my teammate.  That‘s my quarterback.  If you guys do that, man, it‘s unfair. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  The emotional outpouring reminded us of another teary-eyed defense. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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

(END VIDEO CLIP)  

ABRAMS:  On the losers, our bronze loser, Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama, whose campaign apparently thought when you play background music at an event it stays in the background.  Normally, they would be right except when Hillary Clinton is your main opponent and the song in question is Jay-Z‘s “I Got 99 Problems But A [ Bleep ] Ain‘t One.” 

Our silver loser, Drew Peterson, a former Illinois cop now a suspect in his wife‘s disappearance.  The often pompous Peterson has been seen preening for the press on a regular basis.  But now he is refusing to talk because, yes, he‘s hired a publicist.  The Florida publicist confirming Peterson has a deal in the works and could soon be paid to sell his pathetic story. 

But the big loser of the day, one-time Natalee Holloway suspect Joran Van Der Sloot, the Aruban team turned up on a Dutch late night talk show on Friday in what was billed as his final TV interview about the case.  But things took a turn for the worse when Joran went toe to toe with a local crime reporter who questioned his honesty.  After the interview, Van Der Sloot tossed a glass of wine right in the reporter‘s face.  Just as interesting, of course that they were drinking wine during the interview. 

What a jerk.  It is time for our new e-mail segment where you get a chance to tell me what you love or hate about the show.  First up, J. Copeland in South Carolina writes about how I mocked the prosecutor trying to put former teacher Debra Lafave back behind bars for talking to and hugging a 17-year-old coworker.  Debra Lafave pled guilty to having sex with a 14-year-old student.  “Man, have you got it bad.  If you think viewers can‘t pick up on the urges you have about Debra Lafave, you‘re kidding yourself.  You are obsessed with her.” 

Beryl Walker writes, “You‘re so wrong about Lafave.  If this was a 50-year-old man who had molested a 14-year-old girl, you would be happy to see the court following the process about the anti-contact order.”

All right, look, Beryl.  This is ridiculous.  The judge did the right thing saying no to additional time for Lafave.  I talked about this before.  I‘m going to talk about it again.  As a society, we need to send a message.  It is much more important to send a message to male sexual predators, whether you like it or not. 

Eric Woods in Coral Springs, Florida on my attack of the media coverage of Hillary Clinton, “You should know better that to defend Hillary by blaming media coverage.  She is her own worse enemy and has no one to blame but her own flawed campaign.”

Mary Rufus in Dallas Texas, “I could believe that anybody in the media would have the balls to call out the media for their lynching of Hillary Clinton.  I hope the powers that be don‘t shut you up.”  Don‘t worry, Mary.  No one‘s going to shut me up.

We‘ve gotten some great ideas from you about what our new E-mail segment should be called.  If you want more, something that gives you a chance to take me on every night, send us your ideas to Abrams@MSNBC.com.  If we pick your ideas, you get some free MSNBC swag and my on-air appreciation.  We‘re very close on that one.  That is all the time we have for tonight.  Up next, “LOCKUP, HOLMAN EXTENDED STAY.”

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

END   

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