updated 2/29/2008 11:11:20 AM ET 2008-02-29T16:11:20

DAN ABRAMS, HOST:  Tonight: Obama and Clinton are hitting hard on the campaign trail.

As always, we‘re On Their Trail: Assessing their misstatements, cheap shots and blunders.

And today: President Bush blasts Obama.  We‘ll fact check him as well.

Michelle Obama today calls her husband‘s middle name the fear bomb.

Once again, we call out the smear campaign by those using innuendo as a political tool against Obama.  The Republican Party now say, they want it to stop.  The public face says stop.  But that‘s not stopping many of them.

And Bush League Justice is back with a new allegation that Karl Rove may have had a hand in plotting the prosecution of the former Democratic governor of Alabama.  A former attorney general is with us who‘s calling for Congress to investigate and he‘s a Republican.

But first: The mud is flying between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton with new accusations and counter-charges, but today, for the first time, President Bush jumped into the ‘08 fight, repeating attack lines from Senator John McCain, going after Obama for comments he made at Tuesday night‘s debate that he‘d send troops back into Iraq if troops had left and then, al Qaeda reconstituted there.  Here‘s the tag team of McCain and President Bush.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, ® PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Al Qaeda is there now.  So to state that somehow if al Qaeda were there, that he would consider going back militarily is a really remarkable comment.

PRES. GEORGE W. BUSH, UNITED STATES:  If al Qaeda is securing an al Qaeda base, yes, that‘s exactly what they‘ve been trying to do for the past four years.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  OK.  This is going to be my first call tonight - misstatement, I‘m calling this on both of them.  It mischaracterized Obama‘s answer in the debate.  Here‘s what Obama actually said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TIM RUSSERT, DEBATE MODERATOR:  Do you reserve the right as American president to go back into Iraq once you have withdrawn with sizable troops in order to quell an kind of insurrection or civil war?

SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  If al Qaeda is forming a base in Iraq, then, we will have to act in a way which secures the American homeland and our interests abroad.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Obama was answering a hypothetical about what he would do in a particular situation.  I think Obama has actually been able to turn this misstatement to his advantage by responding that al Qaeda wouldn‘t not be in Iraq if it weren‘t for what he is now calling George Bush and John McCain‘s decision to invade.

All right.  Here to help us separate facts from fiction in this and our look at Clinton v. Obama today: Craig Crawford, MSNBC political analyst and columnist for CQPolitics.com; Kate Obenshain of the Clare Boothe Luce Policy Institute; and Peter Beinart, senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and author of the “Good Fight”.

Peter, do you agree with me on this call about the misstatement from the president and McCain?

PETER BEINART, COUNCIL OF FOREIGN RELATIONS:  Yes, I do.  You know, the irony here is that actually what Bush has been saying for quite awhile now and McCain has been saying is that we virtually vanquished al Qaeda in Iraq.  In fact, I think, one of the reasons that Americans are relatively comfortable getting out of Iraq is that one of the things we‘ve learned is that al Qaeda was not that powerful in Iraq.  The Sunnis have basically turned against them and they‘re chance of ever establishing power is very minimal.

ABRAMS:  Kate, it seems to me the mistake here is that they‘re hoping I guess that the public isn‘t going to actually see what Obama said in the debate and listen to the question and say, aha, we‘ve got a chance here to twist it.

KATE OBENSHAIN, CLARE BOOTHE LUCE POLICY INSTITUTE:  Dan, I heard what Obama said in the debate and he said exactly what the president said he said.  He said, if al Qaeda tries to form a base in Iraq.  The point is, they have a base in Iraq.  That‘s why we had to have the surge, everybody knows that al Qaeda was very powerful.

And so, the problem here for Obama, one, this is his weak point.  It shows him being naivete about foreign policy.  But the next thing is he conceded the point by saying, oh, I know al Qaeda is in Iraq, and so, in basically saying, either he‘s going staying there or he‘s going to come back.

ABRAMS:  Right.  So, I guess the claim is, Kate, that he didn‘t know that al Qaeda is Iraq, right?

(CROSSTALK)

OBENSHAIN:  That‘s exactly what he said.

ABRAMS:  Barack Obama didn‘t have any idea there‘s anything going on in Iraq.  What their problems there.

OBENSHAIN:  (INAUDIBLE) but he clearly saying, he did not realized that al Qaeda was actually forming a base there.

ABRAMS:  Right, right, right.

OBENSHAIN:  That‘s what he said.

ABRAMS:  Right, OK.  You know what?  Craig, real quick, I mean, silliness, right?  I mean, obvious misstatement here from McCain and the president?

CRAIG CRAWFORD, CQPOLITICS.COM:  I think it‘s more of a political purpose than a policy purpose the president got into this.  It‘s pretty clear to me that McCain and Bush want to see Obama as the Democratic nominee.  I don‘t think they don‘t have any illusions that making these arguments are going to drive Democrats away from Obama.  I think, they think it‘s still going to drive Democrats to Obama and also get the media talking about the inevitability of Obama because, look, the president and McCain are thinking he‘s the opposition.  I think political purposes.

ABRAMS:  All right.  Now to tonight‘s Clinton v. Obama matchup, first up: Clinton on the trail today, hammering Obama for shirking his responsibility as the chairman of the subcommittee responsible for Europe and NATO, saying, he should be holding meetings on NATO‘s role in Afghanistan.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FEMALE ANNOUNCER:  Hillary has gone on record saying that NAFTA was a mistake.

MALE ANNOUNCER:  Hillary does have a plan to fix NAFTA.  She wants to change it from free trade to fair trade.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  All right.  I don‘t know if that‘s the right piece of sound there.  That‘s on NAFTA.  You know what?  Let‘s go to NAFTA then, on that one.  All right?

So, we‘re going to come back to the one I just talked about.  That‘s a new ad from Hillary Clinton.  NAFTA is still driving a heated debate between Obama and Clinton.  They unveiled that ad, no factual problem with that ad.  The problem started with this inaccurate report by a Canadian television news station, CTV, accusing Obama‘s camp of secretly calling the Canadian ambassador to the U.S.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  In that call, the Obama offered and warned the ambassador that NAFTA would become part of the debate in the Democratic primaries and that Obama would take some heavy swings of the trade deal, but told the ambassador, don‘t worry, it‘s just campaign rhetoric, it‘s not serious.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Well, the key level surrogate of the Clinton pounced on the report, firing out this press release, quote, “I am appalled, but not surprised by this report.  Working families cannot trust a candidate who telegraphs his real position to a foreign government and then dissembles in a nationally televised debate.”

The problem, the report turned out to be false.  And so, we‘re going to call this one, a Clinton blunder.  The Canadian embassy today is flatly denying that such a conversation ever took place.  Craig, you know, look, I thin, this is one of those situations where you just get stuck.  You rely on the Canadian report, you go for the attack and you get burned.

CRAWFORD:  Sure.  But I think, there‘s a larger point here that the Clinton campaign was trying to make and which ought to be discussed.  I mean, here is Barack Obama out there, talking about opening up to the world, presenting a friendlier face, uniting the world and yet, taking this hard stance against free trade in this Ohio primary.  You know, standing against NAFTA and the concept of free trade almost in order to appeal for votes in this primary really is at odds, if not contradiction to the overall message of his campaign about opening up and showing a friendlier face to the world.

ABRAMS:  Yes, but the bottom line is, I mean, that‘s the political answer, Peter, but the practical answer is the Clinton got burned.  They went for an attack, and they were wrong.

BEINART:  That‘s true.  But I think that the larger point here is that actually both sides are being, are being really disingenuous.  Because everyone loves to bash NAFTA but neither candidate had any intention of repelling that.  That when Clinton said she‘s going to replace NAFTA with fair trade, I don‘t know what that means.  NAFTA is on the books and she‘s not going to repel, neither is Barack Obama and they should be honest about that.

ABRAMS:  All right.  Kate, I‘m going to get you on the next one.  But I‘m giving Clinton a demerit on this one.

All right.  Now, let‘s get back to the one I was talking about before, all right?  And that is that Clinton has been hammering Obama for shirking his responsibility as a chairman of a subcommittee responsible for Europe and NATO saying, he should be holding meetings on NATO‘s role in Afghanistan.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  If you saw the debate the other night, my opponent say, he never held a substantive meeting because he was off running for president.  So, I don‘t think he should be counting that as experience since he never did anything.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  This one is a low blow, but it‘s accurate.  I mean, we‘re going to give Obama a demerit for this weak excuse.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  Well, first of all, I became chairman of this committee at the beginning of this campaign, at the beginning of 2007.  So, it is true, that we haven‘t had oversight hearings on Afghanistan.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  I mean, I don‘t know how your response can be I‘ve been too busy campaigning to do the nation‘s work.  I‘m going to rule this one an Obama blunder.  I mean, Kate, you can say that I haven‘t had time, but it‘s important, but he‘s basically just saying, you know what, sorry, I‘ve been campaigning.

OBENSHAIN:  Yes, keep in mind though, Hillary said that she was too busy to release her tax forms before the nomination.  But, I think, it was a great attack on the Clinton campaign part because it really highlights the weakness of Barack Obama.  Folks know him on the campaign trail.  They‘ve never seen him standing up in the Senate taking any substantive role and it‘s really highlight of that, to think, we can‘t imagine Barack Obama holding oversight committee hearings on something as important as Afghanistan.

ABRAMS:  Peter, what do you make of it?

BEINART:  Well, we can certainly imagined, I mean he partnered with Richard Luger on nuclear non-proliferation.  You can certainly imagine it.  The reality is: all politicians when they run for president, they stop showing up for work in Congress.  This is not a revelation.  It was true for super John McCain and super Hillary Clinton.  It‘s true for Barack Obama.

ABRAMS:  Peter, what kind of answer is that though to say, you know what?

BEINART:  It was actually an honest answer.  I mean, you can say that he shouldn‘t the job to begin if he knew he was going to run for president at the beginning of 2007, but it was an honest answer.

ABRAMS:  All right.  Look, I‘m going to rule this one against Obama.  So, we got 1-1 on demerits.  And our final one in the showdown between Obama and Clinton, you don‘t want an x in your category.  The fight over Clinton‘s time as first lady, camp Clinton is now pouncing on this statement that Obama made at the debate earlier this week.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  I have not in any way said that that experience is not relevant.  And I don‘t begrudge her claiming that as experience.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Obama claims he‘s never belittled her work as first lady but the Hillary camp is now pointing to a fair of statement Obama made on the campaign trail which seemed to belittle her work as first lady.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  I don‘t think micelle would claim that she is the best qualified person to be the United States senator by virtue of me talking to her on occasion about the work that I‘ve done.

Is that experience, that understanding, not just what world leaders I went and talked to and the ambassador‘s house who I had tea with.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Craig, of course, he‘s belittling her work as first lady, right?

CRAWFORD:  Well, Senator Obama is trying to have it both ways on Senator Clinton‘s first lady experience.  He definitely belittled it in the beginning because that was of the things she was arguing as her case for having experience but at the same time, he turns around and wants to hang NAFTA around her neck in the Ohio primary, simply because she was first lady the Clinton administration.  So, it seems to me, you can‘t have it both ways.  You can‘t attack her for something that‘s happened while she was first lady and also would say, she doesn‘t matter as first lady.

ABRAMS:  You know, Kate, that‘s an interesting point because to claim about having it both ways has been coming from Obama, who‘s been saying about Clinton, she can‘t have it both ways and she just can‘t pick and choose the good things that she did as first lady.  I guess that argument applies against him as well.

OBENSHAIN:  Yes, you know, I agree with Craig.  Of course, it is belittling, but it‘s pretty profound belittling.  But the Clinton folks have been belittling Obama throughout this campaign as well.  But sarcasm and belittling doesn‘t work.  And Obama‘s big problem here is he risks awakening this, the woman vote which is in this sort of Obama induce super (ph) right now.  But, you know, there is a backlash effect if he keeps putting her down and talking, at the debate, he belittled her.  He talks about how she was whining and how was she was being silly about the Farrakhan wording and that sort of thing.

She was, had a very legitimate point there.  But you got to be really careful about that backlash effect that the Clinton‘s experienced when they‘d belittle Obama.

ABRAMS:  All right.  So, that one goes against Obama giving us two demerits for Obama on this day and one demerit for Clinton.  So, this is one of the rare victories for Clinton in On Their Trail segment.

Thank you, Craig Crawford, appreciate it.  Kate and Peter are going to stay with us.

Coming up:  The National Republican Party tells local Republicans who‘s using that photo of Obama in Africa and his middle name, to stop.  While the GOP‘s biggest names take the high road, their helpers do the dirty work for them.

And: A new article says Bill Clinton is saying how unfair the press has been to his wife, as I‘ve said before, the man‘s got a point.

Plus: Bush League Justice is back with new allegations that Karl Rove might be behind the prosecution of a former governor because he was a Democrat.  We talked to a former state attorney general calling for Congress to investigate and he‘s a republican.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Coming up: Michelle Obama is now calling the far right repeating of Obama‘s middle name the ultimate fear bomb.  National Republicans are calling the so-called name calling for an end, they‘re saying stop it.  But there are plenty of others on the radical right ready to ignore that call.  Coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Today, t0he Republican National Committee formally denounced attacks on Barack Obama‘s middle name as today, Michelle Obama referred to using her husband‘s middle name as the ultimate fear bomb.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHELLE OBAMA, BARACK OBAMA‘S WIFE:  They threw in the obvious ultimate fear bomb that we have been hearing now.  They said his name.  They said look out for his name.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  This comes two days after radio talk show host Bill Cunningham repeated Obama‘s middle name as he introduced Senator McCain in Ohio.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL CUNNINGHAM, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST:  Barack Hussein Obama.  Barack Hussein Obama.  Barack Hussein Obama.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Now, Senator McCain later denounced it which had the effect of magnifying Cunningham‘s words while making McCain look like he‘s above the fray.  But it seems the right wing smear machine‘s plan for the race depends on hundreds of Cunninghams across the country.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARK LEVIN, ABC RADIO NETWORKS:  We‘re not allowed to mention his middle name, Hussein because to mention his middle name, Hussein, is well to mention his middle name Hussein.  We can‘t mention his middle name Hussein.  What‘s his middle name, Hussein.  Don‘t mention it.

JAY SEVERIN, WTTK , BOSTON, MA:  The demigod known as Barack Hussein Obama.

MIKE GALLAGHER SHOW, MIKE GALLAGHER SHOW:  People even realize that the guy has a Muslim middle name and Bill, like or not, for millions of Americans, that matters.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  The RNC, Karl Rove and party officials get to take the high road by saying, these tactics are out of bounds, while they get the right wing radicals to go out and do the dirty work.

Joining us now is Republican strategist, Cheri Jacobus; and still with us is Peter Beinart.  Cheri, is this going to be the strategy that the McCains of the world and the Republican National Committee get to say, we denounce this and then, there‘s a sort of understanding that they are going to say it anyway?

CHERI JACOBUS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST:  That‘s already been said.  And the reason this has been magnified, for one thing is because you and others in the media had given Bill Cunningham a big megaphone this week.  He‘s now a star.  Prior to this, I don‘t think anybody outside of Ohio even know who he was.  So, let‘s just be honest about that.  You guys are talking about this, you know, naivete.

ABRAMS:  And if we haven‘t talked about it, are you suggesting that your friends in right wing radio wouldn‘t be doing this everyday?  The Mark Levins and all the other ones we‘d just watched?

JACOBUS:  No, I think, this something that‘s feeding off each other.  But the real problem here, politically, for the Obama campaign and where I think they made a tactical error was feeding this, because, they‘ve had to do this a number of times.  And they‘re in the big leagues now.

If they start appearing to the voters that they don‘t want to talk

about themselves, they don‘t want to, you know, talk about things openly

and honestly, even if there are some people out there that are kind of

paranoid about the name.  You know, the candidates -

ABRAMS:  What is it that they‘re not talking about openly and honestly?  I mean, is this that they‘re denying his middle name?

JACOBUS:  No, the fact that they‘re claiming that it‘s a smear campaign.

ABRAMS:  But it is.  I mean, it‘s innuendo, right?

JACOBUS:  This last December, when the former Democratic Senator Bob Kerrey endorsed Hillary Clinton, he brought up Barack Obama‘s middle name as Muslim heritage and he was doing it as a compliments.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  No, he didn‘t, he got slammed and he apologized for it, you know that.  Yes.

JACOBUS:  But I think you get a pass on this a couple of time, then, start looking like the campaign is a being a little bit oversensitive.  And I think what Obama probably needs to do at this point is really open himself up to the American people.  And try, you know, look at, it‘s worked for John McCain.

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  To do what?  What does he have to do?

JACOBUS:  He has to be a little more open about himself and not oversensitive about everything.

ABRAMS:  He wrote a book about his whole life, he admitted to using drugs.  He needs to be more open about himself?

JACOBUS:  But, Dan, he‘s claiming racism.

ABRAMS:  He‘s not claiming racism.  In fact, he‘s been the one avoiding the claim of racism.

JACOBUS:  They‘re coming off as very oversensitive about these things and he‘s on the big league now.  We can‘t even say he‘s a liberal and that somehow is an attack.

ABRAMS:  All right.  I don‘t know how we got into him being a liberal. 

But, Peter, let me -

JACOBUS:  You‘re saying that the president is attacking him because he disagrees with the policy position.  I mean, this is oversensitive.  We‘re in politics now.

ABRAMS:  OK.  I don‘t know that I understood the last connection, but let me ask you about this Jack Kingston thing, all right?  Peter, last night, Jack Kingston‘s on the show and this to me seems to be the fundamental problem with these kinds of attacks, all right?  The first part of what you‘re going to hear is Kingston on Bill Maher‘s show and his on my show a moment after.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JACK KINGSTON, ® GEORGIA:  You listen to why he doesn‘t wear an American flag button, it‘s convoluted answer.

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

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

ABRAMS:  But did you see my point?

KINGSTON:  And, Dan, I‘ll bring one to you next time.

ABRAMS:  I mean, I had no idea you‘re going to show up without a lapel pin.  But it seems kind of absurd that you‘re saying that Barack Obama‘s patriotism should be questions because he‘s not wearing a lapel pin and then you come on the show not wearing one.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  I mean, Peter, this is the business.  It‘s going to be the innuendo.  It‘s going to be the sort of the false claims of patriotism, and then, it‘s going to be the denial.  It‘s going to be the, you know, last night, Kingston was saying, hey, it‘s just banter.  It‘s just banter.

BEINART:  Yes, look, I think John McCain deserves credit for coming out very aggressively denouncing at it.  It‘s better that he did and he not did that.  I think that he‘d handled it better than Bush handled the swiftboat thing.

But yes, there‘s going to be a lot of this stuff.  There‘s already been enormous amount.  Will Democrats under the table talk about John McCain having a huge temper?  Yes, they will.  But this is even more damaging because it potentially plays on the bigotry of some portion of the American people that stores that.

And I think, that you know, good-hearted Republicans should be totally against that and they should fire people who participate in it.

ABRAMS:  And look, I‘m not blaming, and Cheri, let me get your final word, I‘m not blaming the Republican Party.  They‘ve done exactly what they should have done which is to come out and say, look, it‘s not OK.  And John McCain did the exactly the right thing and saying, it‘s not OK.  But it‘s the smear guys on the far right who are going to have the impact long term.

JACOBUS:  Well, look, I think, just as a political analyst, if I was Barack Obama‘s adviser, and obviously, I‘m not, you know, he is the one that came out and he gave this big reason for not wearing the pin.  He thought it was hypocrisy and he‘s got a lot of colleagues that wear the pin.  So, it kind of started this himself and it‘s a little bit disingenuous than to back off and say, hey, this is off limits and you‘re questioning my patriotism.

ABRAMS:  Not that it‘s off limits.

JACOBUS:  I think it was a little bit naive on his part to think that

he could make a statement like that and not have explain to it.  Because,

as I said, like it or not, the voters in this country want, we want to see

our candidates inside and out, pick him apart, we want to know everything

about him and if a candidate acts like they don‘t want to do that, they‘ve

got a problem.  It‘s not a smear machine.  This is the problem -

ABRAMS:  I don‘t know where the claim about him not talking about himself is coming from.  It had been naivet’, may have been, my friend, Mr.  Kingston who came on the program last night to denounce not wearing a lapel pin and then, he came on without one.

JACOBUS:  But he didn‘t make a statement about why he wasn‘t wearing

one.  Barack Obama said -

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  No, he was making a statement about—guys, guys, guys.  All right.

BEINART:  Dan, if you don‘t explain the position and that‘s fine.  But

if you do -

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  Look, the bottom line is Kingston got caught.  He got busted.  I‘m sure his sorry he didn‘t come on with the lapel pin.  And that‘s the end of the game.

Cheri Jacobus, Peter Beinart, thanks a lot.

Coming up: Bush League Justice.  A former Democratic governor in prison, new allegations that a political witch hunt led by Karl Rove put him there.  A former Republican state attorney general joined dozens of other former state A.G.‘s calling for a Congressional investigation.  He joins us live.

And: CNN‘s Lou Dobbs made a name for himself by going after illegal immigrants.  Now, he appears to have a new target, CNN‘s own correspondent.  Beat the Press is next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  It‘s time for tonight‘s Beat the Press.

First up: If you thought Hillary Clinton had it rough when she was quiz about the name of the likely new Russian president, that‘s nothing compared to CNN‘s John King being put on the spot by his know-it-all colleague, Lou Dobbs last night.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LOU DOBBS, TV HOST:  I was wondering, do you know what John McCain‘s middle name is?

JOHN KING, CORRESPONDENT:  I do know John McCain‘s middle name, but

that, Lou, is not the point.  What they‘re saying is -

DOBBS:  Wait a minute.  Woah, woah, woah.  Tell everybody what his name is.  I want to hear.

KING:  I know, it slipped my mind at the moment.  I have heard it before though, Lou (INAUDIBLE)

DOBBS:  It‘s Sidney.  It‘s Sidney.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  What a jerk.

Lou probably had someone in his ear ready to give him the answer. 

John, I don‘t remember (INAUDIBLE) as an answer to it.

Next up, what‘s in FOX News pollster and political pundit, Frank Luntz saying his questions and insinuations that sure sound like they‘re less about politics and more about sex?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FRANK LUNTZ, POLLSTER:  How many of you want them to make love to each other?

Do you want Hillary on top or Obama on top?

So, what was it about her health care positions that must turn you on?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAM:  Turned you on, who‘s on top?  Dirty politics, I guess.

Finally: ABC News did an hour-long investigation on medical mysteries.  They spent a lot of their time on sexual arousals.  They‘re part of the mere fact but the news divisions spent significant time on the topic of sexual arousals.  They also spent a lot of time plugging the network show “Grey‘s Anatomy” throughout what was supposed to be a news piece.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MALE ANNOUNCER:  You saw it on “Grey‘s Anatomy”, constant sexual arousal.

FEMALE ANNONCER:  Then, again, maybe you saw it featured with “Grey‘s Anatomy”.

MALE ANNOUNCER:  Just like this scene on “Grey‘s Anatomy”.

Like these doctors on “Grey‘s Anatomy”.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Either if they think the public is so dumb they have to keep bringing it back the “Grey‘s Anatomy” or they just felt the need to repeatedly plug “Grey‘s Anatomy”.

Up next: Bush League Justice, investigating allegations of Karl Rove might have been behind the prosecution of Alabama‘s former Democratic governor.  And later: A new report that Bill Clinton is bitter and angry about the media coverage his wife has received.

Coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS: Welcome back.  Tonight, we continue our “Bush League Justice” series as we follow up the case of convicted Alabama governor and Democrat, Don Siegelman, now sitting in a federal prison.  And whether you think he was wronged or not, whether he was taken down for being Democrat or not, we‘ve been hearing from you.  The calls and E-mails pouring in since we aired the allegations of a former Republican operative, Dana Jill Simpson, who‘s calling out what she says are Karl Rove‘s dirty tricks. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAN JILL SIMPSON, FORMER REPUBLICAN OPERATIVE: He wanted me to follow Mr.  Siegelman.  He suspected that he was cheating on his wife and he asked if I would follow him. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS: In addition to pointing the finger at Rover, Simpson says top Republicans in Alabama used political pressure to take down Siegelman. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SIMPSON: He was married to Laura Canary.  And the two girls that he was talking about, I had to ask who they were because he said these girls were going to take care of Mr.  Siegelman.  And so I asked who they were, and he said it was Laura Canary and it was also Alice Martin who were both United States attorneys general. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS: All right.  The Alabama GOP has denied that Simpson worked for them.  Karl Rove says he never worked on a campaign with her and denies all of her allegations.  But here‘s the context behind the allegations, that Karl Rove spoke to officials of the Justice Department about the feds‘ case against Siegelman, that Rove was in contact with an old friend that topped GOP operative in Alabama, Bill Canary who was working to unseat Siegelman as governor in a close re-election fight.  Canary‘s wife was a U.S.  attorney in Alabama, and it was her office that drove Siegelman‘s prosecution.  Now, she eventually recused herself. 

But maybe the biggest alarm, being raised now from dozens of former state attorney generals, both Democrats and Republicans who have called on congress to investigate.  Tonight, we‘ll talk with one of them, a Republican.  The former Arizona state AG who‘s backing John McCain for president.  But first, Don Siegelman‘s attorney is here with us, Vince Kilborn.  Thanks for coming on the program.  We appreciate it. 

All right.  Let me ask you this.  What do you think is the strongest argument that your client was targeted because he was a Democrat? 

VINCE KILBORN, DON SIEGELMAN‘S ATTORNEY: All right.  The strongest argument was that we tried this case during the governor‘s election.  There is no better way to kill a candidate for governor than put him on trial in a federal courthouse in Alabama with daily coverage.  And so I think that‘s the strongest sign. 

We tried to raise this political angle during the trial.  We just didn‘t have the proof.  The government opposed raising that and the court went along with it.  Now, since the trial all these revelations have come out, and that‘s one of the reasons why they asked the attorney general of the United States to launch an investigation, appoint a special prosecutor to look into not only that, but the other revelations about the coaching of the principal witness Nick Bailey. 

ABRAMS: Now, he has said the attorney general has essentially said, look, while this case is on appeal, we‘ve got to let the court system work its magic.  We‘ve got to let them deal with it first, and then we could get involved.  What do you make of that argument? 

KILBORN: It‘s not a good argument.  Certainly, it‘s on appeal and we‘re raising certain things.  But all this has come out after the trial.  The recent broadcast on “60 Minutes” where this was broken to the world is not in the record.  It won‘t be in the record.  And we just can‘t raise it. 

ABRAMS: But -

KILBORN: So we‘re going to the second - Go ahead.

ABRAMS: No.  I was just going to say that one of the problems, is it not, is if it didn‘t come up during the trial, it‘s hard to say, you know, we have other evidence that we would have liked to have introduced. 

KILBORN: That‘s a yes and no.  Evidence that comes out afterwards, newly discovered evidence, example, DNA testing on a capital case, can be brought forward.  Right now, the best avenue, the quickest avenue to get the governor out of prison is to have the attorney general do his job, launch investigation, have the congress do its job, launch an investigation, then get to the bottom of it.  A lot of work over the weekend right now.

ABRAMS: All right.  Vince Kilborn, thanks a lot.  I appreciate it.  I said it last night and I‘ll say it again - I think Don Siegelman should be released from prison while he awaiting an appeal. 

I have a number of serious concerns about the prosecution and the handling of this case by federal Judge Mark Fuller.  First, Siegelman‘s sentence - he was acquitted of 25 of the 32 counts, yet he got seven years and four months, much stiffer than one would expect. 

Second, after Siegelman‘s sentencing last summer, The former governor was immediately led away in shackles, no 45 days to report to prison.  Nothing.

Third, no bail for Siegelman, even though an appeal for this controversial and nonviolent crime is pending.

And fourth, that appeal continues to be delayed because the court hasn‘t produced a trial transcript even though the case ended over a year and a half ago, and so as a result, they can‘t file their appeal yet. 

Joining us now, former Arizona Attorney General Grant Woods, a Republican who has signed the letter, along with 51 other former state attorneys general, asking House Judiciary Committee to investigate Siegelman‘s case.  Thanks for joining us, appreciate it. 

All right.  In your letter, you all lay out a number of reasons why you think that this case needs to be investigated.  What are the most important ones to you? 

GRANT WOODS, FORMER ARIZONA ATTORNEY GENERAL: Boy, Dan, I think you can just, you know, take your pick.  There‘s so many of them.  I think our main point is there‘s a million red flags on this case.  And that doesn‘t necessarily mean they all come to something, but it means that there‘s too much out there for it not to be investigated. 

For context, you should remember that the governor, when he ran for

re-election went to bed, having been declared by everybody the winner.  He

was awakened a few hours later and said, “Oh, you know, there was a foul up in a rural county and some votes were switched.  So now you lost.”

Now, we flash forward a few years.  He‘s going to run and try to get back into office and they bring charges against him.  And they go to trial, pretty big deal.  They charge the former governor who‘s getting ready to run again.  And the prosecutor gives his opening argument and the judge dismisses the case after the opening argument.  That just doesn‘t happen.  That‘s how bad that case was. 

Then they still don‘t give up.  So they go after him again and have now a different prosecutor, as you mentioned, the wife of one of the people who had been working for years politically against him.  And I then I think Mr.  Kilborn said that they were all assured that nothing was going to come of it, that he charges were no good.  And all of a sudden, there‘s a top to bottom review and charges are brought. 

ABRAMS: But let me ask you this.  Do you think that the judge is to blame here for some of the things that are laid out? 

WOODS: Well, I agree with everything you said.  I think those are the red flags in the case.  There are all sorts of questions about the judge here.  But certainly, let‘s just look at the end.  I think that was a red flag to a lot of us. 

For example, in my state, while I was attorney general, our governor went through a federal criminal trial.  He was convicted.  He was sentenced to two years in prison, not seven and a half.  And the judge, though, did the right thing.  He said, “I‘m going to let him out on an appeal bond, and because there are appealable issues here and let‘s see what happens.” 

So what did happen?  His case was reversed by the ninth circuit.  He was pardoned by President Clinton.  And justice was served, I guess.  So that‘s the way the system is supposed to work.

What did this judge do?  He denied the appeal bond.  One thing you did mention is he didn‘t allow him to report.  Every white collar criminal, most people, are allowed to come in 30 to 60 days later and report to prison. 

ABRAMS: Yes.

WOODS: No, he took him off, hauled him off in manacles and in handcuffs in front of everybody and made a big show.  And then he was hustled around prisons for two or three days before he was finally placed in a prison far away from his family.  This whole thing just doesn‘t look right.  And that‘s what we‘re saying.  Somebody needs to look at that.

ABRAMS: I agree with you.  I‘ve got to ask you a question though, because some critics of you and of others has said, “You know what?  This AG, this Republican who‘s out there - he was friends with Siegelman for a long time before that.” What do you make of that? 

WOODS: Well, you know what?  We have been friends with other people who have gone to jail.  And frankly, we agreed that they should go to jail, because if somebody misuses the public trust, then they need to go to prison.  We all agree with that.  And we‘re not passing judgment on the Siegelman case.  What we‘re saying is every American deserves a fair shot. 

ABRAMS: And I think that‘s crucial.  I think that‘s crucial what you just said.

WOODS: Yes, it is crucial.

ABRAMS: Because I‘m not saying -

WOODS: Well, here‘s the thing, Dan -

ABRAMS: I‘m not saying it either.  I‘m not saying he should be found not guilty.  What I‘m saying is the system has to work, that he‘s got to be released in the meantime while they figure all this out, figure out whether it‘s politically motivated.  Grant Woods, I think your letter along with the other 51 has had a big impact here.  And I thank you very much for taking the time to come on the program. 

WOODS: Dan, thanks for shining the spotlight on this.  And I hope everybody, Republican or Democrat, will just rally around the principal.  But we‘ve got to do the right thing and not allow this thing to happen.  So if it did happen, it needs to be uncovered.  If it didn‘t, then let‘s investigate it and call it off. 

HAMMER: Up next, Hillary Clinton called out the inside D.C.  media during Tuesday‘s debate for being too hard on her.  Now, a new article reveals her husband Bill is also seething about the press coverage.  I say he‘s got a point. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SAMANTHA BEE, COMEDIENNE: We‘re at “Debate 20” and I think everyone here is a little disappointed that it took Sen.  Clinton this long to catch on to our plan. 

JON STEWART, COMEDIAN: The media‘s plan?  Where are you, Sam?

BEE: Oh, I meant the media‘s anti-Hillary war room in the Paula Jones conference center.  And right now, there‘s a certain feeling of relief of no longer having to work in the shadows. 

STEWART: So Sen.  Clinton was not being paranoid? 

BEE: Oh, no, no, no.  We‘re out to get her. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS: That‘s “The Daily Show” telling it, I think, like it is, calling out the inside D.C.  media for the love fest with Obama.  Now, according to “Time” magazine, Bill Clinton is furious too; columnist Karen Tumulty, writing, quote, “Bill Clinton correctly blames the media for uneven treatment saying reporters have taken a tougher stance with him and his wife than with Obama.  After “Saturday Night Live” lampooned the media for their love affair with Obama, Bill telephoned guest host Tina Fey to thank her. 

And in an interview, Hillary Clinton‘s top strategist blames the press for some of the Hillary Clinton troubles at the polls as well.

Joining me now, Roy Sekoff, founding editor of the “Huffington Post.”

And back with us is Kate Obenshain from Clare Boothe Luce Policy Institute. 

All right.  So Roy, look, you and I have debated this for awhile now and it seems that we‘ve got “Comedy Central” and we‘ve got “Saturday Night Live” which tend to reflect what the public sentiment is.  And it seems finally, after me screaming at you about this for weeks, that the public sentiment is finally coming my way, which is that the media has been harder on the Clintons. 

ROY SEKOFF, FOUNDING EDITOR, “HUFFINGTON POST”: It‘s remarkable how many

members of the Clinton camp cited that “Saturday Night Live” sketch this

week.  I mean how bad are things when the big smoking gun that you have

proving this anti-Clinton conspiracy is a comedy sketch show.  I don‘t get

it.  It‘s supposed to be the objective -

(CROSS TALK)

ABRAMS: Look, here‘s the problem -

SEKOFF: Hillary is getting the raw deal. 

ABRAMS: But here‘s the problem.  Usually, it‘s the objective media or the media that will sort of resolve a debate.  But when it‘s you against the media, who else are you going to get but a comedy show or maybe a straight shooter?  

SEKOFF: But I hate to tell you, by the way, that “The Daily Show” was not siding with you.  They were not telling it like it is.  They were satirizing the whole notion that the media is lined up against Hillary Clinton.  They‘re not siding with you.

ABRAMS: Oh, really?  I disagree with you.  I think, actually, the point of

that -

SEKOFF: I mean roll it again there.  They were mocking the idea. 

ABRAMS: They‘re mocking the whole thing, but they‘re making it clear that this is now in the public discussion.  It is now out there, finally, after us talking about it here for weeks that people are saying, “You know what?  Boy, after looking at this for this amount of time, maybe it really is true that the Clintons got a raw deal here.”

SEKOFF: Well, Dan -

KATE OBENSHAIN, CLARE BOOTHE LUCE POLICY INSTITUTE: Dan -

ABRAMS: Go ahead, Kate. 

SEKOFF: Go ahead.

OBENSHAIN: It is true that the Clintons have gotten a raw.  Well, at least, Hillary has gotten a raw deal.  I think Bill has gotten everything he deserves.  But just from the other side, looking at this, I actually am beginning to feel sorry for Hillary Clinton watching her in the last couple of debates.  She seems to get hammered by the fact that she actually does have plans. 

Barack Obama simply says I have a plan, I have a plan.  Media is like, “OK.  Sorry, you‘ve got a plan.”  They dissect her plans.  Now, conservatives and Republicans have been dealing with this media bias for years and they‘ve been able to take their message directly to the people.  But Hillary is crying foul.  It worked in New Hampshire.  We‘ll see if the victim routine, which is probably deserved - we‘ll see if it works again. 

ABRAMS:  don‘t think it‘s going to work. 

OBENSHAIN:  I don‘t think it will either. 

ABRAMS:  Again, I don‘t know about this notion that the Republicans have been able to take their message to the people.

OBENSHAIN:  Well, they would have been able to take their message to the people if not for you, guys.

ABRAMS:  They have been able to take their message to the people because

everyone is so biased against them.  The awful people at Fox News -

SEKOFF:  It‘s ludicrous, Dan.  I mean, Dan, let me ask you this.  If

everybody in the media is so biased against Hillary Clinton, where is the

outrage that she won‘t release her tax returns?  I mean she loaned her own

campaign $5 million.  That means the source of that income is a very

significant area of investigation.  Can you imagine -

ABRAMS:  So of all the issues, to you, the most important issue in this

campaign that should define whether the media has been biased against

Hillary Clinton -

SEKOFF:  No, no, no, no.

ABRAMS:  Is the reception to her unwillingness to release her tax forms. 

SEKOFF:  No, no, no.  But in the same way, the campaign it can‘t be done on whether “Saturday Night Live” did a good sketch on Obama. 

ABRAMS:  I agree. 

SEKOFF:  That‘s absurd.  That‘s an absurd point.

ABRAMS:  I think she handled that attack on the media very poorly.  I think she targeted the wrong people when she did it.  But the bottom line is she‘s got a point and finally now, “Time” magazine is talking about it.  Everyone is talking about it, I guess, is my point.  I‘ve got to wrap it up.  Roy and Kate, thanks a lot.  Appreciate it. 

Up next, will tonight‘s big winner or loser be Prince Harry, who we now learned left the Royal Court to fight the Taliban in Afghanistan; Drew Peterson, who‘s still losing in the court of public opinion; or Boy George in court today on allegations he chained a man to a wall.  Who will be tonight‘s big winner or loser?  Coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  it‘s time for tonight‘s “Winners and Losers” for this 28th day of February, 2008.  Our bronze loser, Boy George.  The former Culture Club singer and ‘80s pop star, in court accused of chaining a male escort to the wall at his home in London last year.  Remember, the singer already swept litter from the streets of New York two years ago after cops found cocaine in his apartment.  Today, he pled not guilty the false imprisonment. 

Our silver losers, White House Chief Of Staff Josh Bolten and former counsel Harriet Miers.  State Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi asked the Justice Department to investigate whether they should be prosecuted for contempt of congress for repeatedly refusing to cooperate in the U.S.  attorney investigation.  A grand jury could soon be convened. 

But our big loser of the day - suspect Drew Peterson, who went on the “Today” show this morning, not just to say that he has no idea where fourth wife Stacy is, but also to talk about his third wife‘s death being declared a homicide.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MATT LAUER, HOST, “TODAY” SHOW:  What about the nature of the relationships, the controlling element of it, the fact that Kathleen Savio said she was terrified of you and Stacy said she was worried about you.  Was there cause for worry? 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DREW PETERSON, SUSPECT IN THE DISAPPEARANCE OF STACY PETERSON AND THE DEATH

OF KATHLEEN SAVIO:  No, not at all.  It just that I controlled my family. 

I think more people in America should control their family. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  And it‘s not funny.  One wife dead, homicide.  Another one missing under suspicious circumstances, but Drew‘s got control of the family. 

Our big winner for today, Prince Harry, who managed to keep under wraps for three months that he‘s been serving in Afghanistan with British troops.  The junior officer and third in line to the throne has reportedly been on the frontline battling the Taliban has this to say before his deployment in December.  

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PRINCE HARRY, JUNIOR OFFICER IN THE BRITISH ARMY:  A little bit of excitement that I finally got the chance to do the soldiering that I wanted to do ever since I joined.  A bit of everything. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  The British media followed a news blackout.  Someone linked it today to Matt Drudge.  And now, Prince Harry may be on the way back to the U.K. because the secret is out.

Time for the “P.O.‘ed Box,” your chance to tell me what you love or hate about the show.  Last night, I took on Congressman Jack Kingston for questioning Obama‘s patriotism, because among other things, he hasn‘t worn an American flag lapel pin.  He showed up without a flag lapel on his suit. 

Gene Stucky from Pennsylvania, “I simply cannot believe that guy appeared on our show without an American flag on his lapel!  What a dork!”

Matthew Corner from Columbus, Ohio goes after me for defending Hillary against the inside D.C. media, “You claim the media is unfair to Hillary because it paints her in a more negative light and has more negative stories regarding her.  However, your own show seems to almost always give her more demerits than Obama.”

Matthew, I believe the Washington media does not like Hillary Clinton or the Clinton story.  But our fact check segment, where we award demerits from misstatements and cheap shots is just that - a fact check.  The candidate gets more demerits - it‘s because he or she made more misstatements, cheap shots or blunders.  I‘m not rooting for Hillary Clinton.  I‘m not going to help her.  I‘m going to try to make sure she gets a fair shake.  When she‘s to blame, I‘m going to say it.

Susan Millsap from Woodland, California, “Please keep covering the story about the governor that went to jail and the ‘60 Minutes‘ program that didn‘t air in parts of that state.  I never watch your program, but caught this clip by chance while home sick from work. 

Susan, thanks for feedback and thanks including the disclaimer about never watching the show.  It‘s OK.  You can admit it.  You don‘t have to be sick to catch the show. 

Heather from Littleton, Colorado, “Again, I must stress, please lose the brown pinstripe suits.  They don‘t complement your eyes and are TV unfriendly.”  Again?  Have we discussed this already?  But thank you, Heather.  I will be sure to keep in mind. 

Whitney Larkins from Texas, “Who cares about any brown pinstriped shirt or what have you.  You are a delight for every woman‘s eyes.” 

Oh, Whitney, stop.  Don‘t stop, please.  Your E-mails,

Abrams@MSNBC.com.  Please include your name and where you‘re writing from. 

See you later.

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

END   

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