updated 2/28/2008 3:41:29 PM ET 2008-02-28T20:41:29

Guests: A.B. Stoddard, Joshua Green, Laura Schwartz, Horton, Dana Siegelman, Jack Kingston

DAN ABRAMS, HOST:  Tonight: Who‘s misstated more facts in last night‘s debate?

We‘re On Their Trail assessing the latest misstatements and cheap shots.

And: The inside D.C. media are furious at Clinton for suggesting last night that she‘s treated unfairly, but looking at the numbers, she‘s got a point.

And: The right wing smear machine is starting to ratchet up its attack on Barack Obama—everything from his middle name to what he wears on his lapel.  I‘ll pick on one congressman who‘s part of that effort.

And Bush League Justice: The daughter of the jailed former Democratic governor of Alabama is with us.  I‘ll call for her father to be released while we appeal this questionable case.

But first: Clinton and Obama face off last night after a weekend of attacks, sarcasm and retorts.

Tonight: Once again, we‘re On Their Trail: assessing who misstated the facts.  Here to help us separate fact from fiction, A.B. Stoddard, associate editor of “The Hill”; and political analyst, Lawrence O‘Donnell.

All right.  First up: With less than a week to go before the crucial Ohio and Texas primaries, Clinton tried to rattle Obama on his foreign policy judgment.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Last summer, he basically threatened to bomb Pakistan, which I don‘t think was a particularly wise position to take.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  We‘re calling it as Clinton misstatement.  Obama never threatened to bomb Pakistan.  Clinton is twisting this comment from Obama from last summer.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  If, we have actionable intelligence on Al Qaeda operatives, including Bin Laden and President Musharraf cannot act, then we should.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  I‘m giving Clinton an X for misstatement.  The score now, one to zero. 

All right.  Lawrence, do you agree with me?

LAWRENCE O‘DONNELL, POLITICAL ANALYST:  Yes, I‘m with you on this one, Dan.  It‘s a pretty easy call.  Obama was talking about going after Osama Bin Laden.  Would he do it if they information that he was in Pakistan?  That‘s not exactly bombing Pakistan.

ABRAMS:  Yes, while, Michelle, when you listen to this piece of sound from Hillary - sorry, A.B., when you listen to this piece of sound from Hillary Clinton, on the radio talking about this issue, it‘s hard to believe she can make this allegation against Obama.  Let‘s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLINTON:  If we had actionable intelligence that Osama Bin Laden or other high value targets were in Pakistan, I would insure that they were targeted and killed or captured.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  A.B., that‘s from last August.  That sounds a lot like what Barack Obama said.

A.B. STODDARD, THE HILL:  Which is really surprising because that debate that you took that Obama clip from August, was real turning for Hillary Clinton.  She felt that she got Barack in a corner.  She drew that contrast.  She was presidential.  He looked like a foreign policy rookie.  He was going to dance with dictators and she had our best interests at heart.  She knew how to handle our allies and our enemies.

And so, it‘s interesting that she actually turned around and said pretty much the same thing right away.  And it was a mistake when this is her strong suit against Barack Obama for her to give him a shot when she needed to take one.

ABRAMS:  We‘re giving her our agreement that she gets a misstatement on that.

Next up on health care: Obama and Clinton duke it out over how to interpret their plans.  But on the fact, Obama once again, overstating support from a former member of Bill Clinton‘s cabinet.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  Every expert has said that anybody who wants healthcare under my plan, will be able to obtain it.  President Clinton‘s own Secretary of Labor had said that my plan does more to reduce cost.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  This is a misstatement.  Last December, former Clinton Labor secretary, Robert Reich said that after comparing both plans, Obama‘s would insure more people.  But since then, Obama has exaggerated what Reich actually said and Reich is now backed off his support, writing on a blog, quote: “In almost every important respect, all major Democratic plans are the same.  The plans would spend nearly an identical amount of money.  Who‘s correct? It‘s hard to know.”

A.B., you‘d think that he would know that Reich has said effectively, Mr. Obama stop saying this.

STODDARD:  I think he probably does now and it sounds like a big misstatement to me.  The problem is, coming off this big debate over the weekend in Ohio about the fact, his campaign is sending out these fliers, she is saying it includes misstatements and false information.  He doesn‘t want to look like he‘s establishing a pattern and using tactics that are no there.

ABRAMS:  Lawrence, you disagree?

O‘DONNELL:  I think Obama‘s use of Robert Reich is a fair use of the

Reich endorsement of his plan and of his candidacy, however -

ABRAMS:  Even if Reich has said now, “I‘m not endorsing it”?

O‘DONNELL:  He said he‘s with Obama‘s plan, his with Obama‘s candidacy.  My big problem at healthcare is that they are both constantly saying things that are untrue.  These plans will not save money and, by the way, they will never, ever become one.  Neither of them will come to a vote in the Senate.  It‘s never going to happen.

ABRAMS:  All right.  But the bottom line is, on the fact here, and again, the interpretation of their plans about universal coverage versus how Obama‘s could leave out, that‘s interpretation.  We‘re dealing with facts here.  So, in the facts, I‘m giving one right now, we got against Obama, one against Clinton.

Moving on, Obama was asked about the “National Journal” rating him as the most liberal senator of 2007.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  Well, first of all, let‘s look at what the “National Journal” rated us on.  It turned out, Senator Clinton and I had differences on two votes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  We‘re going to call this response misleading.  Obama tried to minimize the ratings as silly and claimed that he and Clinton were virtually identical in their votes with the exception of two.  But the “National Journal” used more than that for their rating.  Obama didn‘t mention, for example, two other votes where he would have differed from Clinton.  She voted with Republicans on them, but Obama missed the votes.  If Obama becomes the Democratic nominee, Republicans are going now to attack him as too liberal.  He‘s going to have a better answer than that, Lawrence.

O‘DONNELL:  I don‘t think he does.  These ratings are ridiculous. 

They‘re completely wrong.  They take 99 votes out of literally thousands.  Senators in a year can cast thousands of votes.  And so, when you only have two that are different, it‘s utterly meaningless.

ABRAMS:  No, but, A.B., he‘s mischaracterizing what the criteria was.  What he‘s saying in essence, it‘s only about two votes difference.  And what the “National Journal” is saying is, no, it‘s about more than that.

STODDARD:  It doesn‘t matter.  The only thing that people are going to hear was the end of his response when he talks about throwing out categories and the old politics, and talking about the broadest coalition and we don‘t know how long that he has.  In either party, who is the person getting rich, poor, black, white, male, female, young and old, rural, urban, it‘s Barack Obama.  And you know what?  You can throw any label on that coalition you want, it won‘t stick and therefore, it‘s not going to stick on him.

ABRAMS:  Well, I got to tell you, I think that in the general election, it‘s going to be all about labels and they‘re going to have to address this issue head on.  And let me say what Lawrence said, which is look, this shouldn‘t matter, this is silly.  This kind of, you know, assessments but it‘s going to come up.

All right.  Score card again.  I‘m ruling this one against Obama.  He has two demerits to Clinton‘s one.

Next up: Clinton has been taking major fire from Obama in Ohio over the North American Free Trade Agreement, NAFTA.  She‘s now critical of it, but the question last night: Has she flip-flopped?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLINTON:  You know, I have been a critic of NAFTA from the very beginning.  I didn‘t have a public position on it because I was part of the administration.  But when I started running for the Senate, I have been a critic.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  This is a misstatement.  Clinton ran for the Senate in 2000, but she sure didn‘t sound like a critic in 2004, when she said, quote, “I think, on balance, NAFTA has been good for New York and America.”  Now, she tried to claim in that debate that what she meant was that it was good for some places, but not for others.  But that statement in 2004, A.B., is hard to spin.

STODDARD:  She has a credibility gap on this issue if she‘s made statements to the contrary.  She can be critical now of NAFTA when she said it was fine in the past.  The problem for Hillary Clinton is she‘s given Barack Obama this great argument about: You can‘t have it both ways.  You can‘t take credit for the administration and then say that secretly, you had problems with things.

A year ago, when she started her campaign, she needed to come out and say: By the way, these were the things that I had problems with.  If you do it too late, it sounds like Mitt Romney.

ABRAMS:  Yes.  Go ahead, Lawrence.

O‘DONNELL:  You‘re right, Dan.  By the way, I was working with Hillary Clinton at the time in the Senate when she was trying to pass her health care plan.  And her only problem with NAFTA was she wanted it to go after the health care plan because if that‘s come through the same committee that I was running and so, her problem was just sequential.  She‘s never been against NAFTA until this campaign.

And they‘re both saying, incredibly silly about two.  It‘s been very good for Canada, the United States and Mexico.  And neither one of them will do a thing about it when they become president.

ABRAMS:  And this one goes against Clinton and that puts us on my score card a two to two which leaves us with the final one.  And these are the fact issues here.

Clinton gets grilled by Tim Russert, over why she‘s delayed releasing thousands of documents dating back to her time as first lady that are now under locking key.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLINTON:  I have urged that our end of it moved as expeditiously as we can.  Now, also, President Bush claims the right to look at anything that is released and I would urge the Bush White Bush to move as quickly as possible.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  That is certainly sounds like a misstatement to me.  Clinton tried pushing the blame into the White House.  Today, the White House press secretary, Dana Perino saying, they can‘t act, quote, “as quickly as possible” because the Clinton camp has not told the White House which documents they want released which they must do according to a 2001 executive order.

Now, look, A.B., this is a close one here, because you have to trust what the White House is saying on this.  But it sure does seem like, on balance, that this is likely a misstatement by Clinton.

STODDARD:  But you could see the panic in her eyes.  She decided she couldn‘t answer this one more time with the response I‘m going until after the nomination because she was facing down Tim Russert and she couldn‘t take the pressure because she‘s tried to wiggle.

ABRAMS:  Lawrence, real quick on this.  Lawrence.

O‘DONNELL:  Yes, my legal understanding of this, which could be flawed, is that the White House is right and Hillary is wrong.  And the Clintons have plenty of reasons to hide those documents.

ABRAMS:  That means of the factual misstatements from the debate last night, we rule that Clinton had three misstatements or misleading comments, Obama had two.  That means Obama won it in the fact area of the debate.

A.B. Stoddard and Lawrence O‘Donnell, thanks a lot.  Appreciate it.

Coming up next: Hillary Clinton went after the media last night and then, of course, the inside D.C. media went after her for saying it.  But what if she was right?

We looked at the numbers and she has a point about being treated unfairly.

And: The far right and attack machine is already ratcheting up its attacks against Obama, his clothing, his patriotism.  I‘ll take on a Republican congressman who‘s joining that chorus.

Plus: Our Bush League Justice series continues with more on the allegations that Karl Rove orchestrated a political prosecution of the former Alabama governor because he‘s a Democrat.  The governor‘s daughter is with us.

Coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Coming up: After Hillary Clinton‘s line during last night‘s debate, attacking the media, the inside D.C. media went after her, except she‘s got a point and the numbers back her up.

Coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLINTON:  In the last several debates, I seem to get the first question all the time.  And I don‘t mind, you know, I‘ll be happy to field them but I do find it curious.  And if anybody saw “Saturday Night Live”, you know, maybe, we should ask Barack if he‘s comfortable and needs a pillow.  I just find it kind of curious that I keep getting the first question on all of these issues, but I‘m happy to answer it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  All right.  As much as the inside D.C. media bashed her for that line, we look at the numbers, and Clinton‘s got a point.  For the six Democratic debates in 2008, our research found that Clinton got the first question of the night in five debates.  She was asked the first question on the first three topics, 10 out of 18 times.  In last Thursday‘s debate, Senator Clinton spoke first about twice as often as Obama did.  And last night, Clinton got the first question for the first three subjects.

Now, obviously going second allows you to think out your answer and respond to your opponent.  Any lawyer knows that you always want to be the one who gets to respond.  I said that for weeks now, the inside D.C. media is much tougher on Clinton.  I‘m not saying it was intentional last night.

But the latest overheard example earlier this week, when “Newsweek‘s” Jonathan Alter and others called for Hillary to drop out of the race before Tuesday‘s primary.

Joining me now, former special assistant to President Bill Clinton and Democratic strategist, Laura Schwartz; and Joshua Green, senior editor with “The Atlantic”.  All right.

Josh, I mean, look, whether it was a smart thing or not for Hillary Clinton to say it, she‘s got to be able to fight back against what has become real media bias against Hillary Clinton.

JOSHUA GREEN, THE ATLANTIC:  Look, it‘s nonsense.  Clinton lost 11

races in a row.  No other candidate would be taken seriously at this point

if their last name wasn‘t Clinton.  So, the curve (ph) all the rules like

that -

ABRAMS:  But it‘s not about the rules.  Look, but it‘s not about the rules.

GREEN:  It‘s about the rules.  That was her complaint.

ABRAMS:  No, it‘s not about the rules.  There‘s no rules in place. And

look, I‘m not suggesting anyone is doing it intentionally. But, look, put

aside just last night, Josh, you‘re claiming, oh, she‘s lost 11 now, so the

media ought to be tough on her.  But then, you look at the numbers -

GREEN:  I‘m not claiming.  She did.

ABRAMS:  All right, fine.  But the, what about fact that in December 16th to January 27th, before she‘d lost all those, a study from the Center for Media and Public Affairs showed that positive coverage of Hillary Clinton happened 51 percent of the time while for Barack Obama, 84 percent of the time.  You can understand that after awhile, she may just say, you know, I‘m getting tired of this.

GREEN:  Well, look, it‘s been a long, established fact and truism in Washington journalism, if you‘ve been around longer, you get tougher scrutiny.  You‘ve got a longer record for people to look at.  You‘ve got all sorts of baggage.

You know, she‘s got more to answer for because she‘s been around for a lot longer and on the stage a lot longer than Barack Obama has.  When she talks about her 35 years of experience, you know, in the public life and uses that as a benefit, you know, there‘s a bit of a downside to that too.  And you have to answer a lot of questions of that.  So, you can‘t claim it on one hand and then, complain on the other hand.

ABRAMS:  Well, look, Laura, I think it‘s a mistake to go after what I view as a straight shooter like Brian Williams on something like this.  But the point is, you can understand why she‘s frustrated.  It‘s not just debate after debate after debate, it‘s also headline after headline after headline and story after story after story, and now, you have people saying, oh, you know what?  She should get out before Ohio and Texas next Tuesday.  And she‘s going to say, you know what?  I‘m getting tired of this.

LAURA SCHWARTZ, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST:  Yes, you know, and I think, she has a point.  All this talk about getting out is very premature.  She‘s a fighter and I think, she might just prevail next week.  But I‘ll tell you what, Dan, blaming the media is no way to get on track.  This is a policy.  This is the message problem of her campaign.

ABRAMS:  Why does it work for the right, Laura?  Look at John McCain.  All he did with that “New York Times” article about linking him to the lobbyist is play the victim even though there was ton of other stuff in that article and in the “Washington Post” that was really damning about McCain and yet, his attack on “The New York Times” seems to immunized him from any real scrutiny.

SCHWARTZ:  Well, that‘s because “The New York Times” is seen as the liberal media in the eyes of the Republicans.  In fact, you know, the only two things that really rile up the Republicans and “The New York Times” and anything with the last name Clinton.  She needs to get back, she‘s framed the debate last night, as being fighter, and yes, she‘d came out complaining about the first question.  They had to build it back another way, not by taking the media.  And you know what?  She could win.

ABRAMS:  But Josh, look, she is way behind at this point.  Both if you look forward and look at where we are now.  She‘s got a long way to go.  So, maybe, the answer is: You know what? My other attacks, I‘m attacking about the issues, hasn‘t been making a difference.  Maybe I can point out that the media has been unfair, and it has, so, maybe I‘ll get some points.

GREEN:  I don‘t see how that works.  I mean, nine out of 10 times, you

know, when you complain if the refs cost you a game, you look like a whiner

and you look like, you know, you look like you‘re complaining.  I mean, in

a situation like this, to complain about being called on first, look, what

she needed to do in these debates, was take the offensive, get on the

message, define what it was these debates are going to be about.  In her

situation, when she‘s behind, she wants to get the first question.  So, to

turn around -

ABRAMS:  Right.  I don‘t know who would want the first question at any

point.  You always want to be second, you always to be able to -

GREEN:  Dan, it‘s not true.

ABRAMS:  Of course it is.

GREEN:  It‘s not true.  She needs to change the tone of these debates if she wants to come back.

ABRAMS:  No.  Josh, she‘s going to get a big hit when she gets to respond to Obama and give him a zinger.  That‘s how she‘s going to win.  And that comes from getting the question second, when you have time to think about it and time to respond, period.

SCHWARTZ:  (INAUDIBLE) those questions weren‘t just, OK, Hillary talk, Obama talk.  It was a total discussion last night.  So, they have plenty of zingers to get in.

ABRAMS:  But with that said, let me just say, I think that the way she did it, et cetera and how she went about it, I don‘t think was very effective.  But Josh Green and Laura Schwartz, thanks, a lot.  Appreciate it.

SCHWARTZ:  Thanks.

ABRAMS:  Coming up: Bush League Justice is back.  New allegations about Karl Rove spearheading a campaign to get a governor of Alabama, a Democrat, booted out of office.  We‘ve called on the U.S. attorney general to investigate, so far, nada.  We will not let this go.  The former governor is in prison and his daughter with us tonight.

Plus: Former child actor, Gary Coleman can‘t seem to get much acting work, but, boy, did he work it on the “Today Show” yesterday.  That‘s coming up in tonight‘s Beat the Press.

(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: Apparently, CNN‘s Lou Dobbs thinks he‘s a tough guy, challenging the CEO of Goldman Sachs last night for chiding CNN‘s boss for, quote, “making the public put up with Lou”.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LOU DOBBS, TV HOST:  I‘d love to have you come on and talk to my face not to my back, partner.  You know, I know it‘s not the way you do it on Wall Street there, hot shot, try it here.  Come on down, open invitation.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Yes, Lou is a tough guy.

Why would he want to come on your show, if he thinks your show shouldn‘t be on the air?

Next up: Listening to some talking heads on TV, do you sometimes ask yourself are they total idiots?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Campaign alert, former President Bill Clinton has just taken the stand in east patio (ph), Texas.  There as part of an early vote event.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Yes, that was this talking head, me, during our coverage yesterday.  There‘s no east patio, Texas.  Clinton was on the east patio at Mountain View Community College in Dallas, Texas.  Nice.

Finally: Child star, Gary Coleman may not have a lot of acting work, but his appearance on the “Today Show” proves he really knows how to work it.  As a paid spokesperson, this was all during a four-minute interview with Al Roker yesterday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GARY COLEMAN, CHILD STAR:  You know, I‘m doing this new campaign for I can‘t believe it‘s not butter.  (INAUDIBLE).  You forget to play the now I know better game.  On nowyouknowbetter.com, February 28th at 4:00 p.m.  Eastern standard time.  I can‘t believe it‘s not butter because butter is better campaign.  I hope I will see you at the nowyouknowbetter.com in February 28th at 4:00 p.m. Eastern standard time.

AL ROKER, HOST:  All right.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  You got to love the nearly married Gary Coleman.

Up next: Bush League Justice.  New allegations about Karl Rove orchestrating a political prosecution against the former Democratic governor of Alabama, the governor‘s daughter is with us.

And later: The smears on Barack Obama have started, from what he wears to his patriotism.  I‘ll take on a Republican congressman who says it‘s fair game.  Coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWSBREAK)

ABRAMS:  Our series, “Bush League Justice” is back.  Tonight, we continue our investigation to whether pure politics led to the prosecution and conviction of Alabama‘s former Democratic governor, now sitting in a federal penitentiary. 

Today, Karl Rove, the president‘s former top political aide says, he has, quote, “no recollection of ever meeting with or talking to a former Republican operative named Dana Jill Simpson who told us that Rove asked her to spy on former Governor Don Siegelman in an effort to catch him cheating on his wife. 

Simpson also said that Rove and top Alabama Republicans plotted the prosecution of Siegelman.  Tonight, more of my interview with Simpson.  Now, 52 former attorneys general have serious questions about how this case was handled, and so do I.  We‘ll get to those in a moment with Gov.  Siegelman‘s daughter, who joins us live. 

But first, another remarkable incident in this already remarkable and troubling case.  This past Sunday, millions of Americans watched “60 Minutes‘” follow-up on our story and questions about the case.  But not in one part of northern Alabama - that‘s right - the segment on the Siegelman case, in just that area and just that segment did not air because of what the station‘s general manager calls a technical problem. 

Quote, “The receiver failed at the worst possible time, and there‘s nothing I can do to make some people believe it.”  Well, the station also happens to be owned by a group of close ties to President Bush and the Republican Party. 

Joining me now, Scott Horton, a Columbia law professor who‘s covered the Siegelman case extensively for “Harper‘s” magazine.  All right.  Scott, thanks for joining us.  What do you make of the stations defense here?

SCOTT HORTON, COLUMBIA LAW PROFESSOR:  Well, the second defense, originally, when they went on the air, they said that there were network difficulties.  And as soon as that happened, I was watching it.  I got the message from Alabama.  I picked up the phone.  I called CBS News and I said, “What are these network difficulties?”  They said, “There aren‘t any.”  This is being transmitted.  This station has a signal and they are not putting it out to their viewers. 

ABRAMS:  So they changed their story?

HORTON:  They then changed their story and they then said it was a receiver, you know, that they were running that was not functioning. 

ABRAMS:  It‘s so hard to believe.  The notion that a receiver in Alabama, just during the Siegelman story, just during “60 Minutes.”  I mean, they got it resolved, right?  Right at the end.

HORTON:  Just at the end.

ABRAMS:  Just when the story is finishing up, right?

HORTON:  That‘s right.  Just for the last couple of minutes, which, of course, were senseless without seeing the beginning of it.  Now, I think we‘ve got to give it to the station that they did come back and rebroadcast it twice.  Once, during the peak of the Oscars, when everyone was watching.  And then they the second time broadcasted it at 6:00, the following year. 

ABRAMS:  I‘m not suggesting the whole station was behind this, but the idea that maybe there was someone there, be it a rogue individual, be it someone who gave an order to a particular person, whatever it is.  It seems hard to escape that conclusion because otherwise, as I said the other night, they had the worst luck in the history of television. 

HORTON:  Well, I think that‘s exactly right.  I think it may not have been a conscious management decision.  I‘ll give them that.

ABRAMS:  Who owns the station?

HORTON:  The station is owned by an investment group that is headed by one of the Bass brothers.  I mean, they‘re very, very close to Bush, of course.  They were involved in the Harken Energy and other matters.  They‘re big contributors to Bush, and of course, Bush‘s senior Karl Rove. 

And they have a manager there, local TV which is headed by a CEO from Clear Channel, a prior Clear Channel executive.  And he also has a long record of involvement with Republican causes.  There‘s no question; in fact, the CBS people in New York told me, this is a station that‘s known for its hostility to Gov. Siegelman, no doubt about that. 

ABRAMS:  Scott, I‘m going to ask you to stick around, because I want to continue with this story. 

The allegations against Karl Rove.  Former GOP operative Dana Jill Simpson says Rove was behind an effort to bring down former Gov.  Siegelman.  Rove has denied that and denied ever talking or meeting with Simpson.  When I spoke with her Monday, she fired back.  Many of those comments did not air until now. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DANA JILL SIMPSON, FORMER GOP OPERATIVE:  Well, this is what I‘d say - Karl Rove has said that and he feels so good about saying that.  What I want him to do is go and swear in front of the United States Congress and swear what he is saying is true.  It‘s easy to go out and slander people and lie for people, but it is very much a serious thing to get in front of congress.  And at of this point, Karl Rove has refused to do so. 

ABRAMS:  There is no doubt in your mind that you met with Karl Rove and that he said to you, “Spy on Gov. Siegelman, get pictures, try and show that he was cheating on his wife”?

SIMPSON:  That‘s exactly what the man asked me to do. 

SIEGELMAN:  How many times did you meet with him?

SIMPSON:  I met with Karl Rove probably three times, approximately and additionally, I also talked to him multiple times. 

ABRAMS:  Why have you never mentioned before the allegation about Rove and the pictures?

SIMPSON:  Oh, I mentioned it to people, they just did not use it because nobody wanted to go into the fact that I had been following Don Siegelman trying to get pictures of him cheating on his wife. 

ABRAMS:  As you know, some of your critics have said, “You know, in front of congress, et cetera, she had had a lot of opportunities.  Why hasn‘t she mentioned this before?”

SIMPSON:  Well, let me explain something to you.  I talked to congressional investigators, Dan, and when I talked to those congressional investigators, I told them that I had followed Don Siegelman and tried to get pictures of him cheating on his wife.  However, they suggested to me that was not relevant because there was nothing illegal about that and they just preferred that it not come up at the hearing that day.  And my lawyer was there. 

ABRAMS:  As you know, the Alabama Republican Party is coming after you saying, “We can‘t find one instance of Dana Jill Simpson volunteering or working on behalf of the Alabama Republican Party, nor can we find anyone within the party leadership in Alabama who has ever so much as heard of Dana Jill Simpson.” 

SIMPSON:  Well, that‘s absolutely a lie that has been said by Mike Hubbard who is now the chairman of the Alabama Republican Party.  But Mr.  Hubbard‘s going to have a real problem because he‘s got to explain how I was talking on the telephone to the party headquarters in 2006 and also talking to the rally campaign in 2002.  And further, he‘s going to have to also explain how I have records showing I was talking to him in Washington and also in Virginia about the campaign back in 2002. 

(END VIDEO CLIP) B

ABRAMS:  All right.  Now, former Gov. Don Siegelman may be watching this segment tonight from prison, convicted on bribery, conspiracy and mail fraud charges.  The Justice Department has refused to investigate telling us that Siegelman can go to court with his claims that he was target for partisan reasons. 

But there are serious questions that should lead the Justice Department and the judge to, at the very least, release Siegelman while he appeals.  The facts: The appeal has been delayed because the court has still failed to produce a transcript of the trial which was completed over a year and a half ago. 

Fact: This case was thrown out before Alabama prosecutors went after him again and he was making a political comeback. 

Fact: The judge in the second case threw out 25 of the 32 charges that the prosecutors filed. 

Fact: The sentence of seven years and four months was disproportionately tough. 

Fact: The key witness also made allegations against two prominent Republicans that were never even investigated. 

And fact: Fifty-two former state attorneys general Republicans and Democrats have called for congress to investigate because of the irregularities.  I agree. 

Joining me now, Dana Siegelman, Don Siegelman‘s daughter.  Thanks very much for taking the time.  We appreciate it. 

DANA SIEGELMAN, DON SIEGELMAN‘S DAUGHTER:  Thank you, Dan.

ABRAMS:  All right.  So where does this case stand as far as you are concerned?

SIEGELMAN:  It is finally being noticed by the public in a big way.  I don‘t know about standing very much.  We‘ve been trying to move forward for eight months now with the appeal process and nothing has been done.  Congress is investigating in the House Judiciary Committee, but how much, I don‘t know. 

ABRAMS:  Let me ask you this, your dad, I think, is watching this from prison tonight.  How is he doing?

SIEGELMAN:  He is more enthused since “60 Minutes” has come out.  He‘s excited that you‘re following the story and passionate about it.  And I think he‘s been encouraged.  I mean he‘s gotten several letters since “60 Minutes” aired.  And I‘m hoping that the people that wrote him in prison also wrote to congress.

ABRAMS:  Yes.  And you know, what‘s particularly amazing to me is the fact that the Justice Department is saying at this point, we have to wait.  We have to let the appellate process go.  We have to let the appellate process move.  We can‘t do anything until that happens. 

And yet, your dad‘s lawyers are waiting for a transcript of the actual trial that occurred more than a year and a half ago and there‘s all sorts of excuses in the court about why they can‘t get a transcript.  Is that right?  Is that an accurate description of what‘s happening?

SIEGELMAN:  It is.  It‘s unbelievable.  None of us know what to think other than Judge Fuller is sitting on it and trying to keep my dad hushed as long as he possibly can.

ABRAMS:  Does your dad think Karl Rove is behind this?

SIEGELMAN:  Absolutely.  He knows Karl Rove is behind this. 

ABRAMS:  How does he know that?

SIEGELMAN:  My dad was the first governor to endorse Al Gore for presidency.  He spoke at the Democratic national meeting in Boston and said some things that were very controversial and things that scared the Republican Party into thinking that my dad was also looking to run on a national scale.  Well, Karl Rove is the guy to see if you want to stop somebody in the Democratic Party. 

ABRAMS:  And is the evidence you have, that Karl Rove was behind this, primarily Dana Jill Simpson?

SIEGELMAN:  Not necessarily.  Karl Rove worked with Bill Canary in Alabama for several years doing Republican Party work.  Karl Rove was hired by Bill Pryor whose office the indictment came out of.  So, I think there‘s a lot more there than just Dana Jill Simpson. 

ABRAMS:  Scott Horton, we bring you 20 seconds.  You‘re a law professor - legally, what do they do? 

HORTON:  Well, I think they‘ve got to perfect their appeal.  They have to continue to push it.  But I think they need to push for his release pending the appeal.  At this point, frankly, there‘s no legitimate reason for the court of appeals to continue to hold him.  What‘s going on is a complete travesty. 

ABRAMS:  I‘m going to call for it again.  I‘m going to call for the former governor to be released pending appeal.  Look, even if it turns out that the appeal has no merit, he can go back to prison.  This happens all the time in nonviolent offenses. 

In this particular case, the minute they sentenced him, they didn‘t even give him the 45 days that they ordinarily give someone to get your affairs in order.  They dragged him out in shackles and put him in prison.  The bottom line is that I want to see him released while they appeal.  You can always put him back, don‘t worry.  Dana Siegelman, Scott Horton, thanks very much for coming on the program.  I appreciate it.

SIEGELMAN:  Thank you, Dan. 

ABRAMS:  We are going to stick on this tomorrow night.  We‘re going to have another segment on this story.  We are not dropping the subject. 

Up next, if you thought the right would wait until he was the nominee to start the innuendo against Obama, you thought wrong.  It‘s already started on everything, from his patriotism to his clothing.  I‘ll debate it with the Republican congressman already questioning Obama for not wearing an American flag lapel pin. 

But first, reality bites, the sometimes painful dose of reality caught on tape.  Tonight, what might be a new low for TV.  The Fox reality show, “Moment of Truth,” where contestants are given a lie detector test about the most personal parts of their lives.  And for Lauren and Frank Cleary, the reality of going on this train wreck of a show could be the end of their marriage. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARK WALBERG, HOST, “MOMENT OF TRUTH”:  The question will not be asked by me.  It‘s by a surprise guest, your ex-boyfriend frank. 

LAUREN CLEARY, CONTESTANT:  Oh, my god. 

FRANK, EX-BOYFRIEND OF LAUREN CLEARY:  Do you believe I am the man you should be married to?

L. CLEARY:  I want to be honest and say yes. 

WALBERG:  Since you have been married, have you ever had sexual relations with someone other than your husband?

L. CLEARY:  I‘m going to have to say yes. 

ABRAMS:  Lauren says she humiliated her husband in front of an audience of millions for the prize money and fame.  In the end, she walked away with no money and so far, no offers.  Be right back. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  It is starting.  The right wing smear machine on its way toward shaping the attack on Sen. Obama.  And it‘s not just this radio talk show host repeating Obama‘s middle name again and again as he introduced Sen. McCain at a political event in Ohio this week.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Barack Hussein Obama.  Barack Hussein Obama. 

Barack Hussein Obama.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  McCain apologized for those comments, but if Obama succeeds in nailing down the nomination, be prepared for an assault on this patriotism, including more “Drudge Report” attacks on Obama with photos like this one and an effort to use this photo of Obama during the singing the national anthem to question his love of America.  This is Republican Congressman Jack Kingston on Bill Maher‘s program last Friday. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JACK KINGSTON ®, CONGRESSMAN FROM GEORGIA:  The guy would not say the pledge of allegiance and won‘t put an American lapel pin on his coat.  That thing voters are watching.  Where do they stand on America?  What is their relation.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Joining me now is that man, Republican Congressman Jack Kingston from Georgia.  Thanks very much for taking the time.  I appreciate.

KINGSTON:  Dan, thank you for having me. 

ABRAMS:  All right.  Isn‘t this pure sleaze, I mean the notion to sort of attack Obama based on the fact that he‘s not patriotic because they got a picture of him with his hands down when the pledge of allegiance is being played. 

KINGSTON:  Well, I think that there are these questions that the American people want to know about.  I mean, you know, when you listen to why he doesn‘t wear an American flag button, it‘s a very convoluted answer.  And, you know, American flag button - I‘ve been in politics and you have been around politicians for a long time, Dan.  Everybody wears them, from the mayor to county commissioner, to members of congress to the president. 

It‘s curious that suddenly, there‘s a guy who doesn‘t want to do it.  And if you put that with the wife‘s comment, the first time in her adult life she‘s proud of America.  You‘re running to be the number one cheerleader in the country.  So I think these questions aren‘t off limits. 

ABRAMS:  All right.  Congressman, first let me ask you, you‘re not wearing a lapel pin, are you?

KINGSTON:  I will wear one and I have worn one.  I‘m not making a statement about it.

(CROSS TALK)

ABRAMS:  But you see my point?  I have no idea you were going to show up without a lapel pin, but it seems kind of absurd that you are saying that Barack Obama‘s patriotism should be questioned because he‘s not wearing a lapel pin and then you come on the show not wearing one. 

KINGSTON:  Well, Dan, I don‘t follow that at all.  I‘m saying I will be glad to wear one and I have worn one and I do wear one.  But Barack Obama says he won‘t wear one.  That‘s a completely different thing.  You‘re probably not wearing one now.

ABRAMS:  I‘m not.

KINGSTON:  But you would you wear one?

ABRAMS:  I would wear one.  But I don‘t feel -

KINGSTON:  Then there you go.

ABRAMS:  But I wouldn‘t criticize someone who doesn‘t.  I wouldn‘t say I‘m going to question someone‘s patriotism.  Would I wear one at some time?  I‘ve worn one I think once in my life, at one point for something.

KINGSTON:  Dan, you know why these, as you call them, attacks - I don‘t really think they‘re attacks.  I think it‘s just a little banter back and forth.  It seems that the leftists have their hypersensitivity buttons on.  But it works.  Apparently, it‘s like scratching fingernails across a black board when you say Barack Hussein Obama. 

(CROSS TALK) 

ABRAMS:  You‘re not going to suggest - you know it‘s intentional.  You would at least admit that including his middle name is an intentional thing, right?

KINGSTON:  Absolutely.  There‘s no question about it.  I mean - but you know, that‘s banter.  The real issues, as you know, really are he wants to spend $800 billion in new social problems. 

(CROSS TALK)

ABRAMS:  But those are the issues - I don‘t think the far right - I‘m not necessarily associating you with the far right.  But I think that the far right is not going to focus on those issues.  Instead they‘re going to focus on this nonsense like whether he wears a lapel pin, whether there‘s a photo of him with his hands down.  You made that very point on Bill Maher.  You were saying this is a guy who doesn‘t have his hand on his heart during the national anthem.  He doesn‘t wear a lapel pin.  Then we‘ve got pictures of John McCain not wearing a lapel pin, too. 

KINGSTON:  Well, you know, the interesting thing is it really does

somehow strike a nerve on the left.  And so I think the right is going to

continue doing it.  But now, listen -

ABRAMS:  Because it‘s innuendo. 

(CROSS TALK)

KINGSTON:  Dan, on the Bill Maher show, I also brought up the fact he

was interested in bombing in Pakistan without the permission - 

ABRAMS:  It isn‘t true either because we just proved that our - He never said that either. 

KINGSTON:  He had a statement about that.  Now, OK, would you agree

that this is true, his health care plan is a $65 billion price tag on top

of all kinds of other programs which are big spending programs.  And all

that is relevant, but it seems like a lot of the times the guys on the left

only want to talk about the minutia.  And I think -

ABRAMS:  This isn‘t minutia?  I mean “Time” magazine‘s  photo of Obama during the national anthem - again, that to you, is not minutia?

KINGSTON:  Well, let me say this - I can bring that up, but it‘s the left that wants to continue talking about it, that‘s why the right is going to do it.  That‘s why that Bill Cunningham is bringing up the middle name because it seems to drive the left crazy.  And we‘re having a good time watching it.  You know, listen, Dan.  You‘ve got to remember, Hillary Clinton has not been able to attack Obama.  (UNINTELLIGIBLE) contest because she has to be very, very careful.  But with general elections, I have no problem.  It‘s wide open.

ABRAMS:  Congressman, I‘ve got to wrap it up.  Go get your lapel pin

back on -

KINGSTON:  I‘ll bring you one, Dan.

ABRAMS:  Before the next time you come on the show.  Make sure you are wearing it. 

KINGSTON:  I‘ll bring you one for you.

ABRAMS:  Congressman Kingston, thank you very much. 

KINGSTON:  OK, Dan.

ABRAMS:  Up next, will tonight‘s  big winner or loser be Michael Jackson whose Neverland Ranch is in foreclosure; Roger Clemens whose claim of never landing steroids could now lead to federal investigation; or actor Gary Busey who should never land on the red carpet again, based on his behavior.  “Winners and Losers,” and your letters, next. 

First, what happens to people after their 15 minutes of fame are over?  Our new segment, “16th Minute.”  Tonight, former White House secretary, Fawn Hall, the woman who stuffed documents in her bra, and shredded others to protect her boss, Lt. Col. Oliver North during the Iran-Contra scandal. 

In 1991, Hall got hitched to former Doors band manager Danny Sugerman and spent the next few years fighting off a crack cocaine addiction.  TMZ caught the ever loyal secretary selling papers at a trendy bookstore in West Hollywood this week.  Back in a minute.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  It‘s time for tonight‘s “Winners and Losers” for this 27th day of February, 2008.  Our bronze loser - out of control actor Gary Busey who made our list earlier this week for bizarre behavior on the red carpet at Sunday‘s Academy Awards.  Turns out Jennifer Garner was not the only one Busey terrorized.  Here he is with an 11-year-old reporter on Oscar night. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED 11-YEAR-OLD REPORTER:  What advice do you have for all those young celebrities out there who are getting in trouble with the law nowadays.

GARY BUSEY, ACTOR:  Well, you going to have to say that - you‘re going to have to speak up.  I don‘t understand you.  What are you asking me?  I can‘t hear you.  You‘re talking too fast. 

UNIDENTIFIED 11-YEAR-OLD REPORTER:  Can you give a shoutout and say hi?

BUSEY:  I‘m not giving a shout out. 

UNIDENTIFIED 11-YEAR-OLD REPORTER:  Gary Busey.

BUSEY:  I‘m not giving a shoutout.  That‘s a stupid thing to do. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  That was an 11-year-old.  See Gary Busey run. 

Our silver loser - Michael Jackson whose Neverland Ranch now in foreclosure.  Jacko will have to come up with the $24 million he owes by next month, or his house of shame will truly be his neverland. 

But our big loser of the day - baseball star Roger Clemens.  Now, the congress has asked the Justice Department to investigate whether he lied under oath when he repeatedly denied he took steroids.  The DOJ pursued the matter and it turns out Clemens did lie.  The seven-time Cy Young Award winner will be worrying less about the bull pen and more about the federal pen.  

Our big winner of the day - Jimmy Kimmel.  The late night host has turned his mock-infidelity with girlfriend Sarah Silverman into a YouTube sensation, racking up millions of hits online.  First, Sarah surprised Jimmy when she announced she was cheating on him with Matt Damon.  Jimmy got his revenge with Matt‘s BFF Ben Affleck. 

(MUSIC)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  All right, all right.  We get the point.  It‘s time for the “PO‘ed Box.”  Many of you wrote in after I took on “Newsweek‘s” Jonathan Alter for saying Hillary Clinton should withdraw from the race and endorse Barack Obama now.  Arc Anderson from Denver, “I absolutely agree with Jonathan Alter that Mrs. Clinton should exit the race.  It‘s an uphill battle for her and while it‘s perfectly acceptable for her to remain in the race, her political career and the Clinton ‘brand‘ will suffer for it in the long run.”

Arc, yes, it‘s an uphill battle, but you‘re suggesting that by staying in the race through Tuesday, her political career and brand will be hurt?  It‘s ridiculous.  In fact, if gets out now, her supporters will be much angrier than if she waits to see what the voters, not the pundits, say on Tuesday. 

Bob Miller in St. Louis, “What is this obsession that the media has wanting candidates out of the race early?  I say to the press, chill out.” 

Angela Gleason from Dubuque, Iowa, “Alter is right.  If she stays, we will witness the unraveling of rage.”

If she stays until Tuesday?  Alter suggested she get out before then.  Come on. 

Barbara Higgins from Santa Fe, “Thank you for taking on Jonathan Alter regarding his opinion about Hillary Clinton needing to withdraw before the March 4th primaries.” 

Oh, we didn‘t get in the last one.  Come on, it was an E-mail with someone talking about my clothing.  No, we don‘t have time?  Come on.  Oh, the brown pinstriped shirt?  Oh, anyway.  All right.  Tomorrow, your E-mails at Abrams@MSNBC.com.  Make sure you include your name and where you‘re writing from.  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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