updated 3/31/2008 12:13:02 PM ET 2008-03-31T16:13:02

Guests: Al Sparks, Kinky Friedman, Kim Serafin

DAN ABRAMS, HOST:  We have breaking news tonight: Democrat Don Siegelman, the former governor of Alabama is a free man tonight.

I‘d just spoke to him from his car on his way back home from prison where he‘s been locked up since last summer, serving a seven-year sentence on corruption charges—charges that Siegelman supporters have long claimed were politically motivated by prominent Alabama Republicans.

A former Republican operative even claimed that former presidential adviser Karl Rove was behind the effort to bring down Siegelman as the popular Democrat campaigned for another term.

Today, Siegelman spoke briefly as he walked out of prison in Louisiana.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. DON SIEGELMAN, FREED FMR. DEMOCRATIC GOVERNOR:  I may have lost my freedom for awhile, but I never lost faith.  But now, and I‘m sure you understand this—I want to be with my family for a few days.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  He‘s now probably about 20 minutes away from his home. 

For weeks, we called for the court to release Siegelman while he appeals.  The trial court said no.  But in a stunning ruling from the appellate court yesterday, they agreed with us and found that Siegelman‘s appeal, quote, “raises substantial questions of law or fact,” and ruled that, quote, “Siegelman shall be released.”

Tonight: Siegelman told me that he is convinced the case was politically motivated and believes Karl Rove was behind it.  He said, he, quote, “never thought there was any chance he would be convicted.”  He also told me that this demonstrates the problems go, quote, “much deeper in this Justice Department.”

Here me with me now: Democratic Congressman Arthur Davis of Alabama, who‘s calling on Karl Rove to come forward as part of a congressional investigation into possible political prosecutions; and Scott Horton, a lecturer at Columbia Law School, written extensively about this case for “Harper‘s.”

Gentlemen, thanks very much for coming on.

Congressman, I was amazed in my conversation with Governor Siegelman, only hours after leaving prison, how quickly he brought up Karl Rove.  What are you doing in this regard to try and get to the bottom of what involvement, if any, Karl Rove may have had?

REP. ARTHUR DAVIS, WANTS KARL ROVE TO TESTIFY:  Dan, he‘s right to bring up Karl Rove because Karl Rove is really the central character in this unsolved mystery.  There have been allegations made - very specific allegations that Karl Rove went to the Department of Justice and instigated them to push this case.

And let‘s put this in some perspective.  Whenever a former governor, current governor, member of Congress is under investigation, that is handled by the highest levels of the Department of Justice, even if the case is tried by local U.S. attorneys, the ultimate decision to prosecute is brought by people sitting in Washington, the chief of criminal division, chief of the Office of Public Integrity.

So, the allegation that Rove influenced those individual is very important and what I hope Congress will do, what I hope the Judiciary Committee will do is to put a subpoena in Karl Rove‘s hand and to pull him before Congress.  He has no cloak of executive privilege here because no one‘s asking him about what he talked about president or vice president.  We want to ask him what he talked about the Department of Justice, he has no executive privilege.

ABRAMS:  Hang on a sec, congressman.  Scott Horton, this is a bigger issue with Karl Rove.  I mean, you got this U.S. attorney scandal, where they‘re having problems getting people in to testify about that and there the question also was: What role did Karl Rover play?

But tonight, you have a former governor of the state of Alabama, right now, about 20 minutes away from his home, after an almost nine hour drive back from a federal prison where he‘s been sitting for seven months and the question is: Did Karl Rove have any hand in this?

Let‘s be clear, you‘re a lecturer at Columbia Law School.  Karl Rove is not supposed to have anything to do with the Justice Department, right?

SCOTT HORTON, COLUMBIA LAW SCHOOL PROFESSOR:  Absolutely.  In fact, if he became involved in the prosecution, it would be corrupt influence and that would be a crime.  But in this case, I think the governor said his fingerprints were all over it, that‘s also, what I‘ve found what I looked at it, every time I overturned a stone, I found Karl Rove.

In fact, we go back and look at how this prosecution began, it started with the state attorney general William Pryor and Pryor has a political advisor and campaign advisor.  His name is Karl Rove, in the background.  Then, we have the U.S. Attorney Leura Canary, her husband, William Canary is a close business associate of Karl Rove and we got Karl Rover in the background, advising the Republican governor of Alabama who, of course, was Governor Siegelman‘s adversary.

ABRAMS:  Yes.  All right, let me play a piece of sound.  This is from Siegelman, himself, in 2004 and I got to tell you, when we went back and I heard this comment from him, it was very similar to what he told me tonight.

He was at this point, talking about having just met George W. Bush at a National Governors Convention and saying effectively that he wasn‘t very impressed with him and he thinks that was the beginning of the end.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SIEGELMAN:  I left there with the impression that—while this guy was very personable, he was not exceedingly bright.  And I was the first governor to desert my colleagues and openly opposed George Bush‘s run for president, so to support Al Gore.  I gained the disfavor of Karl Rove who was also Alabama‘s attorney general‘s political consultant.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  See, congressman, what struck me most was the fact that you have these 52 state attorneys general, Democrats and Republicans, former attorneys general, from all over the country who were writing a letter to you and to Congress saying, please investigate this and they said, “There‘s reason to believe that the case may have had sufficient irregularities as they‘re calling to question the basic fairness that is the lynch pin of our system justice.”

I mean, it‘s what got me to say, wow.  If you got 52 state attorneys general, Republicans and Democrats saying that, there‘s got to, you know, there‘s got to be at least something to look at here.  So, exactly, let‘s be clear, exactly what can you, can Congress do, at this point, to get to the bottom of this?

DAVIS:  Well, what Congress can do is to subpoena Karl Rove and what Congress can continue to do is dig into the facts around this case.  And let‘s understand why 52 attorney generals signed this letter.  This was an unusually weak case.  And it‘s impossible to talk about this without making that point to your audience.

The reason that everyone thinks that there‘s something to these allegations, there are so many people think that, is because it was an unusually weak case.  The case against Siegelman rests on two witnesses, both of whom admitted to committing crimes, both of whom told multiple inconsistent stories to government.  The major witness told three different stories.

In my old days of practice in law, l learned if someone tells three different stories, at least two are probably false or all three of them.  So, it‘s an unusually weak case.  Normally, cases aren‘t broad of that nature.

ABRAMS:  Scott, what troubled me was that one of the key witnesses had made complaints about Republicans, key Republicans that presumably were never investigated and they only investigated Siegelman.

HORTON:  That‘s exactly right, Lanny Young, he, really, the major

complaints he raised went to Jeff Sessions, Alabama Republican senator and

also to Pryor.  Now, Pryor, as I noted, initiated this investigation and

was co-prosecuting it.  He was the subject of the allegation, such

allegations as -

ABRAMS:  So, the bottom line, two Republicans, two very prominent Republicans, a federal judge, a senator and there was no investigation in that regard.

All right, let me play this sound.  This is from Karl Rove.  This came after there was an allegation against Rove from this Republican operative who said that Rove actually asked her to get sort of compromising photos of Governor Siegelman.  Now, remember, she‘s a Republican and here is what Rove‘s response was.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KARL ROVE, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER:  I did not ask her or anyone to dig up dirty photographs on the governor.  I‘ve never worked with her.  I don‘t believe I‘ve ever met her.  I may have shaken her hand at a fundraiser but she has never been working in a campaign in Alabama I worked in.  I never asked her to do a darn thing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  And I should say, Scott, that the - Louis Franklin, the senior acting U.S. Attorney in the Middle District of Alabama said, “Karl Rove had no role whatsoever in bringing about the investigation or prosecution of former Governor Don Siegelman.”

I mean, look, I have a lot of faith in our U.S. attorneys around this country and they don‘t all just sort of fall into party line with whatever the Justice Department wants them to do.  So, is it possible that Franklin couldn‘t have know, didn‘t know what the source what?  I mean, what‘s your explanation for that?

HORTON:  It‘s absolutely impossible for Louis Franklin to know what he‘s stating here.  This investigation began early on with William Pryor, a man being who was being closely advised and coached by Karl Rove throughout this period.  Louis Franklin has no idea what was going on there.  He also has no idea what was going on with Leura Canary, his boss, someone who have a social relationship with Karl Rove.

ABRAMS:  We‘re going to stay on the story.  Thank you, congressman.  Congressman, we‘d love to see you back.  Let us know what you‘re doing on this.  We know you‘re going to keep investigating.

Scott Horton, as always, we appreciate it.

One final note: Governor Siegelman had agreed to come on the program tonight, I know he wanted to, unfortunately his PR team is now calling the shots.  They‘re out trying to cut deals with the media for access.  Most importantly, we certainly hope to have the governor on in the future.

Now to our own ongoing segment: Teflon John—keeping an eye on John McCain even if much of the swooning D.C. media won‘t.  Tonight, with the economy now the top issue, it‘s amazing how few people are talking about McCain‘s flops on this issue.

In February, McCain opposed any new taxes.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, TV HOST:  So, on taxes, are you a “read my lips” candidate, no new taxes, no matter what?

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, ® PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  No new taxes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  All right.  But then, a couple weeks later, he said, quote, “I‘m not making a ‘read my lips” statement that I will not raise taxes.  But I‘m not saying I can envision a scenario where I would, OK?  But I‘m not making it a centerpiece of my campaign.”

OK.  Then, yesterday, a new, new tax statement saying, quote, “I‘ll wait forever to increase American taxes because I don‘t think that‘s beneficial to our economy.”

So, where is John McCain on this?  I don‘t know.  But I do know that if Obama or Clinton flip-flopped like this, the media would be all over them.  It seems not for Teflon John.

Here now: Political analyst, Lawrence O‘Donnell and Kevin Madden, former press secretary for Mitt Romney‘s campaign.

All right.  Look, Kevin, you can tell me that maybe these flip-flops to you aren‘t significant and were they significant or not, I think, is a fair question.  But don‘t you agree that the media would be all over Obama or Clinton if they made this kind of differing statements?

KEVIN MADDEN, MITT ROMNEY CAMPAIGN FMR. PRESS SECY.:  Look, this

has a lot to do with the mechanics of the campaign and how John McCain

interacts with the press rather than it does any sort of big differences

between an explanation he gave 10 minutes ago or -

ABRAMS:  They love him, right?  The press loves him.  They love McCain.

MADDEN:  Well, you know, here‘s what happens.  And I have a unique perspective on this, Dan, because I saw it happened when we were running a campaign against him in the Republican primary but John McCain can make a mistake or make a misstatement one minute and then, two minutes later, he‘s on the bus with the press taking questions for three hours straight until they‘re nauseous, until they‘re tired of hearing the phrase, “My friends, my friends, my friends.”

So, you know, and I think if you look at the way the Obama campaign and the way Hillary campaign, they interact with the press.  They make a mistake, and if it passed the size (ph) into a huge controversy, 48 hours later, they‘re, you know, apologizing or trying to walk back from those statements.

John McCain gets afforded a great deal of opportunities to correct himself when he does have misstatements because of his access.

ABRAMS:  But Lawrence, I mean, some of the time, he‘s not even correcting himself, some of time it just sort of hopes that it‘s just kind of fades away because the media doesn‘t seem to follow up on this stuff.

LAWRENCE O‘DONNELL, POLITICAL ANALYST:  Well, McCain has a flexible history with taxes.  And let me talk about this two ways.  First from a policy perspective as someone who was the chief of staff of the Tax Committee in the Senate, I‘d always appreciate it how difficult it was for senators to talk about it on both sides of the aisle.

McCain has never voted for a tax increase, but he did not vote for Bush‘s tax cuts.  I like to see senators flexible on the question of might you raise taxes and might you cut taxes for a variety of reasons.

ABRAMS:  Fine.  Then, he should say that.  And let him say, you know what, I want to stay flexible.  I don‘t want to time myself and that‘s not what he‘s saying.  He‘s saying, no new taxes.  And he comes back and he says, well, yes, maybe, I don‘t know, I‘m just saying.  You know, how does he get away with it?

O‘DONNELL:  Well, look, it‘s the Romney campaign knows well.  This is one of the reasons why John McCain have problems with Republicans in the primaries is they don‘t trust him as on locked in on taxes and locked in on tax cuts.

And now that he‘s in the general election, running against if possible, Obama or Clinton campaigns, the Obama and Clinton campaigns are identical on taxes.  They want to raise taxes rather significantly up to the Clinton level of the 1990s and that‘s something that‘s easy for John McCain to oppose.

ABRAMS:  Well, look but again, to me, the point here, isn‘t, I mean, the substance is something they‘ll get into in the election.  My point is the media coverage of this and that is why we have an ongoing segment called Teflon John.  So we can continue to call out the media on the stories that they‘re not focusing on.

Kevin Madden and Lawrence O‘Donnell are going to stay with us.

We want to know your VERDICT on the Siegelman case, Teflon John, e-mail us: Verdict@msnbc.com, tell us what you think.  Be sure to include your name, where you‘re writing from.  Every night in the P.O.‘ed box, we read them.

Send them in: Verdict@msnbc.com

Coming up: Democratic Party leaders are now coming out publicly to pressure Hillary Clinton to get out of the race.  Some of it overt, others using coded language that can only be translated to mean: Get out soon..

And: The best campaign parodies of this political season for each candidate.

Plus: A Maryland congressman calls it quits to become a lobbyist, likely leading his constituents without a congressman for months.

It‘s tonight‘s edition of Why America Hates Washington.

We‘re back in 60 seconds.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Time for Why America Hates Washington.  Tonight: A congressman who cashes in.  Democrat Albert Wynn of Maryland was defeated in the primary last month.  Now, he announced he‘ll quit in June rather than wait until the end of his term in January as it accustomed (ph).  He explained, quote, “It‘s time to move into another phase of my life.”

That phase: becoming a corporate lobbyist.  Fair enough, but by skipping out early, he potential leaves his constituents without anyone to represent them in Congress, but leaving earlier means that Wynn can become a registered lobbyist sooner.

Albert Wynn early dash for the big bucks is another reason Why America Hates Washington.

We‘re back with the rush to get Hillary Clinton out of the race in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Today, for the first time, a leading Democrat called for Hillary Clinton to get out of the race.  Senator Pat Leahy, an Obama supporter, became the first elected Democrat to publicly call on Clinton to withdraw.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

SEN. PATRICK LEAHY, (D) VERMONT:  There is no way that Senator Clinton is going to win enough delegates to get the nomination.  She ought to withdraw and she ought to be backing Senator Obama.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Some are saying it directly, others more gently but the message is the same, that they believe this Democratic race cannot, should not go to the convention at the end of August where Hillary Clinton has said it should be determined.

And since time maybe Clinton‘s best hope, calls for a quick resolution can fairly be interpreted as calls for Clinton to prepare to back down.

Obama supporter and senator, Chris Dodd has urged the party to get behind Obama.  Pennsylvania Senator Bob Casey who professed neutrality backed Obama this morning.  This, on the heels of the comments, of what we‘ll call the “fantastic four,” the party standard guard, DNC Chairman Howard Dean, is saying he wants the superdelegates to decide by July 1st, Nancy Pelosi, speaker of the House said the superdelegates should follow the popular vote which would certainly mean voting for Obama.  While, Al Gore and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid are cryptically saying that the Democratic race will resolve itself.

That, sure, sounds to me like code for “it will be fine and relatively bloodless because the current leader, Obama will eventually take the crown.”

Back with us: Political analyst, Lawrence O‘Donnell; Kelli Goff, author of the book, “Party-crashing”; and Kevin Madden, former press secretary for the Mitt Romney campaign.

Kelli, I mean, isn‘t that the message that you‘re hearing?  And even though these people, who were saying, it‘s going to work out, it‘s going to work out, saying not to worry or saying, don‘t worry, Obama is going to get it.

KELLI GOFF, POLITICAL ANALYST:  No, I‘m hearing a lot of worrying actually going on among Democrats.  I‘m hearing a lot of actually not just worry, but I‘ll say, terrified sobs at this point that we‘re rapidly approaching a potential McCain presidency.  Particularly if this thing drags itself out.

ABRAMS:  Yes.  But, see, Lawrence, that‘s the reality of what‘s happening.  And that‘s my point, is that behind the scene, they‘re scared but the public statements are this sort of coded messages.  You‘ve got Pat Leahy out there being honest.  He‘s saying, he‘s an Obama supporter, he‘s saying she should get out.

You‘ve got all these important people, like Dean saying they should decide by July 1st, well, that‘s not what Hillary Clinton wants.

O‘DONNELL:  Right, exactly.  These are definitely pro-Obama statements.  I‘m not so sure about the Gore and the Harry Reid statements.  I think those are neutral enough and distant enough.  But, when Howard Dean starts talking about July 1st, that does not work in Hillary Clinton‘s favor.

Look, I think, it‘s unwise for Hillary Clinton and for the party for Hillary Clinton to step out now because she has some very ardent supporters, most of her supporters are very ardent.  They could easily feel very bitter if they have the sense that she was forced out.

What Hillary does have to do from this point forward is stop campaigning in an attack mode on Obama.  She has to run a positive campaign about why she should be president and hope, something goes wrong with the Obama campaign.  And that‘s absolutely possible in the time (INAUDIBLE).

ABRAMS:  But Kevin, again, when they‘re making these comment that either things are going to work out or get that they should get things done earlier rather than later.  I mean, you look at what‘s been happening lately with the superdelegates, right?

I mean, Hillary Clinton has lost five superdelegates since February the 5th, Obama has gained 46.  OK?  I mean, you can‘t deny that there‘s a trend here.  So, Hillary Clinton wants to drag this out.  She wants to say, look, I need more time here.

MADDEN:  Well, you know -

ABRAMS:  Go ahead.

MADDEN:  Yes.  You know, this reminds me of that final seen in “Animal House” where Howard Dean is starring as like the Kevin Bacon character saying, all is well, stay calm.  And there‘s this chaos everywhere.

And look, superdelegates are not profiles in courage (ph), superdelegates tend to move towards who they think may be the presumptive winner and, I think, a lot of these superdelegates, when they come out and profess their support for Obama, they are hoping to move this in the right direction.

We saw Nancy Pelosi say that as well, where she‘s kind of urging and nudging these superdelegates that the popular vote ought to dictate which way they go.  But you know what, Lawrence is right, the Clinton people are dug in and they feel they have every right to dig in because this is close right now.

It‘s not exactly a landslide for Obama.  The margin is so small that they feel that it‘s their right and their duty to dig in.

ABRAMS:  Kelli, go ahead.

GOFF:  I respectfully disagree actually with - with something Lawrence just said.  I love Lawrence, basically, I disagree for a bit was that the fact that the Clinton - they‘re supporters will be really bitter and to make things really tough for the general election.  I actually completely disagree because Clinton‘s base of support are the Democratic stalwarts the base of the party, the people who will never vote for a Republican under any circumstances.

The reason Obama has done so well in open primaries is because he tends to appeal to the people that you actually need to win the election which are those independents, undecided voters and swing voters.  So, I think that the Obama camp and his supporters have a lot more to sort of threaten the Democratic Party with than the Clinton supporters do because you‘re not going to see those base crossover and vote for McCain.

ABRAMS:  I think some of that is true, Lawrence, but aren‘t there the more conservative Democrats who are now supporting Clinton, who might not support Obama?  I don‘t know, you tell me.

O‘DONNELL:  Yes.  Well, first of all, I want it on the MSNBC record that I love Kelli too.  Listen, look, both of these camps, Obama and Clinton have very ardent support this time and the polls are showing that many of them will not vote if their candidate loses.  They won‘t vote in the general election.  They have to be let down gently.  Whoever is going to get this nomination has to make sure the other side is let down gently.

ABRAMS:  I need a yes or no.  I need a yes or no, Lawrence.  Will the superdelegates and all of them decide by July 1st?  Yes or no?

O‘DONNELL:  Absolutely not  No.

ABRAMS:  Kelli, yes or no?

GOFF:  Yes.

ABRAMS:  Kevin?

MADDEN:  No way.

ABRAMS:  I say no.  No way.  I think that they‘re wishful thinking. 

We shall see.

GOFF:  That she (ph) stands alone.  What can I say?

ABRAMS:  Yes, but you know what?  When you‘re smart enough, you can stand alone and fight the good fight.  I love it.

Kelli, thanks for coming on as always.  Lawrence O‘Donnell and Kevin Madden.

MADDEN:  Thanks, Dan.

ABRAMS:  We read your e-mails, P.O.‘ed box.  Send it to:

Verdict@msnbc.com.  Tell us what we‘re doing right and wrong.  Include your name and where you‘re writing from.

All right.  Coming up: We‘re taking a break from all madness and the nastiness of the campaign trail, to break out the funniest most creative presidential campaign parodies we could find anywhere.

And: FOX‘s John Kasich seemed surprised last night that his two African-American guests didn‘t think alike.  Oh, my goodness.

Beat the Press is next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

First up: Last night, “O‘Reilly Factor” guest host and FOX News contributor John Kasich was talking to two guests about the controversial “Vogue” cover of basketball star LeBron James and model Gisele.  Some of the questions are whether it perpetuates racial stereotypes.  Kasich seemed stunned that his two African-American guests might actually have different points of view.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN KASICH, GUEST HOST:  Here‘s what‘s interesting.  Kate, you‘re African-American, you‘re African-American.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Yes.

MARC LAMONT HILL, GUEST:  Well done.

KASICH:  You see it one way, she sees it another.  How could you see it, you know, 180 degrees different.

HILL:  Well, because black people are people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Whoa, what a revelation.  They might actually see it differently, even though they are both African-Americans.

Next up: Former “Nightline” reporter David Marash made a controversial move back in 2006, by becoming the first major American broadcaster to sign up with the Al Jazeera English, the Arabic news network that has long made America bashing it‘s hallmark.

Now, Marash has quit telling the “New York Times,” quote, “The channel that‘s on now is not the channel that I signed up to do” and their coverage came from the point of view of the interest of Doha and the surrounding region.  Now, what he sign up—what did he expect?

He went to work for Al Jazeera.  He went on to tell the “Associated Press” that their adversarial editorial stance against Americans became so stereotypical, so reflexive.”

Yes, that‘s what they do.  We love Dave Marash but it‘s like going to work for ESPN and being stunned that they cover a lot of sports.

Finally: The civil war at FOX News continues.  Last week, anchor Chris Wallace went after the morning show crew at “FOX & Friends” for their, quote, “Obama bashing.”  And today, they seemed to take a swipe back at him.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STEVE DOOCY, TV HOST:  How‘s your countdown with Barack Obama going, a countdown that until he appears in your show?

CHRIS WALLACE, TV HOST:  Well, the countdown is fine, the number has kept rolling.  Obama has not appearing on the show.

DAN ABRAMS, HOST:  Finally, the civil war at Fox News continues.  Last week, anchor Chris Wallace went after the “Morning Show” crew at “Fox & Friends” for their, quote, “Obama bashing.”  And today, they seemed to take a swipe back at it. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STEVE DOOCY, CO-ANCHOR, “FOX & FRIENDS”:  How‘s your countdown with Barack Obama going - countdown until he appears on your show? 

CHRIS WALLACE, CO-ANCHOR, “COUNTDOWN”:  Well, the “Countdown” is fine, the numbers keep rolling.  Obama is not appearing on the show.

GRETCHEN CARLSON, CO-ANCHOR, “FOX & FRIENDS”:  We‘ve had Barack Obama twice on our show, if you want to jot down any questions, we could ask him next time he comes on. 

WALLACE:  Well, OK.  I could do that or I could go to “The View,” one or the other. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  One of these days he‘s just going to stop appearing on that morning show. 

Up next, with all the bickering in the campaign trail kind of lightening up a bit.  We compiled the best political parodies of each candidate in the race. 

And later, the five most talked about people of the week including Britney Spears, Obama on “The View” and Chelsea Clinton.  That‘s coming up in tonight‘s top winners and losers of the week.  Will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWS BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Welcome back.  With all the negative attacks and mud flying on the

campaign trail, we thought it might be a good time to lighten it up.  We

compiled our favorite parodies and impressions of the presidential

candidates.  Here to help us judge the best of the bunch, comedian and

actor, Al Sparks.  Al, good to see you.  All right, first up -

AL SPARKS, ACTOR AND COMEDIAN:  Good to see you. 

ABRAMS:  A candidate has been a gold mine for political satirists this

year.  Hillary Clinton -

AMBER LEE ETTINGER, “OBAMA GIRL”(sung):  I read “The Washington Post” but

every page I see your face/ The headlines in the “Daily Kos” say that

you‘ve crept into this race/ I know Obama‘s gonna win it, you‘re sorta kind

of staying in it/I think sometimes in this campaign you‘ve got a crush on

John McCain

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS PLAYING HILLARY CLINTON:  I can say something nice.  I certainly can.  Sen. Barack Hussein Obama is not a Muslim, as far as I know.  Rev. Wright, Rev. Wright. 

AMY POEHLER, PLAYING HILLARY CLINTON:  It was always our intention to lose Virginia. 

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR:  What about Maryland?  You lost there by 20 points. 

POEHLER:  John, getting blown out by Sen. Obama in Maryland has been a dream of mine. 

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  I certainly do remember that trip to Bosnia.  We came in an evasive maneuver.  I remember landing under sniper fire.  There was no greeting ceremony.  We ran with our heads down.  We basically were told to run to our cars. 

We do it, each one of us - because we care about our country. 

TOM CRUISE, ACTOR:  It‘s like we‘re hear here to help. 

CLINTON:  But some of us are right and some of are wrong. 

CRUISE:  You can just see the look in her yes.

CLINTON:  Some of us are ready and some of us are not.

CRUISE:  You‘re either you‘re on board or you‘re not on board. 

CLINTON:  Some of us know what we will do on day one.  And some of us haven‘t really thought that through enough.

CRUISE:  Then you‘re either in or out. 

CLINTON:  I‘m going to do everything I can. 

CRUISE:  I do what I can.

CLINTON:  Make my case. 

CRUISE:  The way I do everything. 

CLINTON:  And whenever the voters get to decide.

CRUISE:  Nothing out of the way for me. 

CLINTON:  Thank you all. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Al, is it hard to make Hillary Clinton funny? 

SPARKS:  Unfortunately, no, especially lately because she‘s been soft-balling a lot of things.  I mean basically, her latest flub is the equivalent of going on and saying, “I‘m batman.  No, I‘m not.  I‘m sorry.  I thought I was Batman.  I‘m not.”  I mean these are such extremes lately in the campaign because things are getting very tense.  So when you drop a ball, it lands very heavily.  Yes.

ABRAMS:  And you were to - would Hillary be one of your first choices in terms of comedic material, moving ford ward?

SPARKS:  Well, a lot of the female comedians I know are really hoping that, you know, this is a day in their sun.  You know, there are only like maybe two male comedians who can really pull her off - Eddie (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and I suppose, me.  My hair is long now.  But basically, you do an impersonation of your mothers friend, you know, somebody that was in her sorority, you know.  She‘s that lady, you know, at the church that‘s going, “Would you like more potato salad.”  You know, it‘s a pretty one to do.

ABRAMS:  Next up, presumptive Republican nominee John McCain.  

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS (sung):  It‘s raining McCain, hallelujah.  It‘s raining McCain, amen.  I‘m going to go out and let myself get absolutely John McCain.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR:  Mr. President, the Iranians are wanting to negotiate their formal surrender. 

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR:  Return fire. 

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR:  Sir, are you wearing pajamas? 

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR:  It‘s stuffy in here.  Mr. Gorbachev, tear down that window. 

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR:  Also sir, we can‘t afford to pay for the Iraq war anymore. 

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR:  Then, let‘s go rob Alaska. 

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR:  Sir, Alaska is a part of the U.S..  Can‘t we end the war? 

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR:  Never. 

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  I would rely on circle

that I have had developed over many years of people like Jack Kemp -

CAITLIN UPTON, MISS SOUTH CAROLINA 2007:  Because, uh, some, people out

there in our nation don‘t have maps -

MCCAIN:  Phil Gramm, Warren Ruddman, Pete Peterson and the -

UPTON:  And, uh, I believe that our, uh, education like such as, uh, South

Africa -

(MUSIC)

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS:  It‘s raining McCain, hallelujah.  It‘s raining McCain, amen.  I‘m going to go out and let myself get absolutely John McCain.  John McCain!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  I don‘t know.  I‘m going to go on to McCain.  I‘m going to let you talk about it in a minute, Al.  I just don‘t think they are as funny as the ones on Obama and Clinton.  Hang on.  Let‘s play final one - Barack Obama. 

SPARKS:  OK. 

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR:  Barack Obama is how you say his name.  Bringing America the message of change.  He used to look good to me, but now I find him Barack Obama-sistible. 

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR:  Let me tell you about a woman, that I met during my campaign.  A woman, who is struggling, day-to-day.  The woman who can‘t seem to get ahead.  A woman who‘s future is bleak.  And that woman is standing right next to me.  I‘m going to take you down (EXPLETIVE DELETED). 

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR:  They are tired of being told you journalists have to stay neutral.  You can‘t openly take sides in a political campaign.  They are saying, yes we can.  Yes, we can take sides. 

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR:  For 60-year-old chick in a pantsuit, Sen. Clinton, your (EXPLETIVE DELETED) doesn‘t look all that bad.  

ETTINGER (sung):  Obama, I have a crush on Obama.  Everyone‘s got a crush. 

Chris Mathews‘ got a crush.  Bill Richardson‘s got a crush.  

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  All right, Al.  All the Obama jokes are always about how fawning everyone over him.  And the John McCain stuff - it‘s hard to make John McCain that funny, isn‘t it? 

SPARKS:  No, not at all, actually. 

ABRAMS:  Really.

SPARKS:  Probably - Yes, I think McCain is the one comedians are rooting

for the most.  Because A - you can use all your Bush jokes, because there

is no policy difference.  He‘s got kind of that Reagan, kind of old man

aspect.  He has got a comb over, which is comedy gold since - I don‘t know

editorial cartoons in the 1700‘s.  And that whole, “my friends, my friends, my friends” thing.  I mean people are waiting in line to milk that. 

If you notice, the Obama jokes are actually mostly about Hillary.  It‘s like Obama gets credit as a comedian for being funny by proxy because the people who are playing him are actually making fun of her.  So she gets double-teamed. 

ABRAMS:  Al Sparks is going to stay with us.  Up next, the week‘s most five talked about people including French lady, Carla Bruni, the new New York governor and Britney Spears back on primetime TV.  The weeks “Winners and Losers” coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Time for “Reality Bites,” a dose of reality caught on tape.  Tonight, the fastest growing sport in America, ultimate fighting.  Reaching out to new participants -  kids.  Yes, cage fighting kids.  Some as young as the age of six taking it to the ring.  So far, Missouri is the only state that allows kids to fight in this mixed martial arts.  Many sane parents hope it stays the only one.  It‘s unspeakable.  VERDICT will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  It‘s time for the week‘s “Winners and Losers.”  How did some of the news makers fare this week?  Who won?  Who lost? 

Here to weigh in the author and former Texas gubernatorial candidate, Kinky Friedman, Kim Serafin, senior editor of “In Touch” magazine.  And back with us is comedian Al Spars. 

All right.  First up - and Kinky, I‘m coming to you so I want you to listen.  Chelsea Clinton became big news when asked about whether she thought the Monica Lewinsky scandal hurt her mother‘s credibility. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHELSEA CLINTON, DAUGHTER OF HILLARY CLINTON:  Wow, you‘re the first person actually that‘s ever asked me that question in the - I don‘t know - maybe 70 college campuses I‘ve now been to.  And I do not think that‘s any of your business. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  She got offended by that question, but then again, she went on to defend her mom against exaggerations that she made about her trip to Bosnia as first lady.  And today, Chelsea said she thinks that her mother would make a better president than her dad.  So Kinky, does she become a loser this week? 

KINKY FRIEDMAN, AUTHOR AND FORMER GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE:  No, I think Chelsea became a winner this week.  This guy didn‘t have the kahonas to ask.  He wouldn‘t have asked Bill Clinton anything of that nature.  Then he picked on Chelsea and she told him none of your bees wax, corn bread or shoe tacks.  That‘s all.  She didn‘t pander to him.  Told him that it‘s none of his business.  She‘s right on target.

KIM SERAFIN, SENIOR EDITOR, “IN TOUCH” MAGAZINE:  Yes, I‘m going to have to agree.  I think she was a winner.  I think she handled herself very maturely.  She didn‘t play into it.  She didn‘t look flustered.  I thought she handled it really well. 

ABRAMS:  But how?  I mean she can go on the campaign trail and she can

represent her mom.  And she can choose to be sort of selectively offended

by questions from college students in Q & A sessions. 

SPARKS:  I don‘t think she‘s being selective about it.  I think she genuinely was.  I think there is genuine shock in what she‘s saying.  She takes a pause there, where you‘re like, “Should I order someone to do something about him,” if you know what I mean.  “Or should I let it slide.”  And I think she did it very well.

It think the question of whether mom would be a better president, I don‘t know how she could have possibly answered that any other way. 

ABRAMS:  Yes. 

SPARKS:  But what is she going to say.  Yes, she‘s not going to be very good, but dad will be there and fine. 

ABRAMS:  I‘m going to take chance here and disagree with the entire panel. 

I think that it made her a loser this week. 

SPARKS:  Really? 

ABRAMS:  I think she could have said, “You know what?”  I said if she could have just said, “I‘m not going to go there,” with a smile on her face, and let it pass.  But look, three to one against me on this one.

Our next news maker of the week - French president Nicolas Sarkozy‘s new wife Carla Bruni, a former model previously known as much for her relationships with Eric Clapton and Mick Jagger will have this nude photo of her auctioned off next month at Christie‘s Auction House. 

The charmed offensive across the channel kicked into high gear, visit with the royals and Gordon Brown in London.  She‘s winning rave reviews for her demure stylish attire with the French press, now dubbing her the new Jackie O. 

Kinky, you‘re a man of style.  Is she the new Jackie O.? 

FRIEDMAN:  She‘s great.  You know, I think the answer to this - Oscar Wilde said it a long time ago, “There is no good or evil.  There‘s only charming or tedious.”

SPARKS:  I agree.  I‘ll try to be charming.  I think she‘s fantastic.  She sets a new standard.  I think it‘s funny people got on her, you know, for dressing up to meet the queen as if she was putting on airs.  I was naked when I showered this morning, but that doesn‘t mean I don‘t put on clothes when I‘m here on your show. 

ABRAMS:  Yes.

SPARKS:  There‘s a sensibleness to it. 

ABRAMS:  I‘m not sure.

SPARKS:  She‘s a good chick. 

ABRAMS:  Yes.

SPARKS:  Smart. 

SERAFIN:  We have such a positive panel.  I was also going to say, you

know, she‘s a winner this week.  She certainly dazzled everyone with her

clothes and her demeanor.  But you know, a loser in the sense -

ABRAMS:  And her nudity. 

SERAFIN:  That these nude photos - Dan, her nudity -

ABRAMS:  Oh, no. 

SERAFIN:  And that these nude photos are going to be auctioned off. 

Apparently, they are only going for like $3,000 or $4,000.  So I just want

to say, I ever take nude pictures -

SPARKS:  Really?

SERAFIN:  Yes, if I were to take nude pictures -

SPARKS:  I need to get my checkbook. 

(CROSS TALK)

ABRAMS:  Let her finish the offer before you pull out the checkbook.  Go ahead, Kim.

SERAFIN:  And - thank you.  If I ever take nude pictures and become the first lady of France, those pictures better go for at least $40,000 or $50,000.  That‘s all I‘m saying.

SPARKS:  They will.  They will.  I guarantee it.

ABRAMS:  All right.  Well, Al, we‘ll make sure that we get you to pull out the checkbook when that happens.  I‘m declaring her a winner this week.  I‘m in agreement with the panel on this one. 

All right.  Our next news maker of the week - New York‘s new Governor David Paterson.  In the days since he became governor, he has admitted to several affairs.  Earlier this week, he admitted he used cocaine, quote, “a couple of times,” along with marijuana. 

Paterson now says he‘s done talking about his personal life.  I don‘t know how this guy, Al, gets anything done at this point.  His first couple of weeks in office, all he‘s got to talk about was how many women he slept with, where he slept with them and the sort of drugs he used. 

SPARKS:  I know.  I‘m so glad he‘s not going to say anything more because quite frankly, next week, he‘d have to admit to running guns for the rebels in South America like it‘s gotten so bad.  I think most of us were just amazed, like this guy‘s amazing.  He‘s the first blind governor ever.  He‘s getting all these great women.  How does he manage to do it?  This guy can get stuff done.

ABRAMS:  I mean, Kinky, this is kind of amazing.  I mean, you know, that all of this is happening in his firs two weeks in office. 

FRIEDMAN:  Well, I mean the guy - the fact that he did cocaine I think is no problem.  You‘ve got to find what you like and let it kill you, you know.  That‘s what I think.  Also, he‘s blind, he‘s black.  I mean how bad can he be? 

ABRAMS:  I‘m not sure I know what that means. 

SPARKS:  Is anybody there? 

ABRAMS:  I agree. 

FRIEDMAN:  The bar is very low, with the Eliot Spitzer situation.

SERAFIN:  Yes.

ABRAMS:  Yes.  All right. 

SERAFIN:  Exactly.

ABRAMS:  Up next - 

(CROSS TALK)

Let me take a quick break.  Up next, we‘re going to continue with the five most talked about people of the week.  Barack Obama goes on daytime TV chat fest at “The View,” the ladies falling all over him.  We‘ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  We‘re back with our panel talking about this week‘s “Winners and Losers.”  Next up, Barack Obama sat down with ladies of “The View” earlier today. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARBARA WALTERS, CO-HOST, “THE VIEW”:  We thought you were very sexy looking. 

SHERRI SHEPHERD:  I had my vote for Hillary and as soon as I heard that speech, I changed it.  I want to leave “The View” to campaign for you.  Well, not leave “The View,” but you know, on the weekend. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Yes.  I can‘t imagine Sherri campaigning without being able to say she‘s on “The View” will do Obama any good.  But, Kinky, Obama on “The view,” “You‘re so hot.  You‘re so hot.  You‘re the hottest guy ever.” 

FRIEDMAN:  Dan, we shouldn‘t hold that against Obama.  I mean he‘s a naturally charming person. 

ABRAMS:  I‘m jealous. 

FRIEDMAN:  Well, we‘re all jealous. 

SPARKS:  Are you really, Dan? 

FRIEDMAN:  Bill Clinton is charming.  I mean the problem is, you don‘t know who is going to be a good president.  A guy like Tom Brady would have never been picked 76 in the draft, you know.  Hillary just - she may make a great president.  This is tough to go against somebody this charming. 

ABRAMS:  I‘m giving him a winner.  Ladies of the view love you.  I love you, too.

SERAFIN:  A big winner.

ABRAMS:  Our final news maker of the week - Britney Spears.  She actually seemed somewhat normal and cogent in her cameo role as Abby, the receptionist, on “How I Met Your Mother.”  Critics even praised her performance and the her appearance gave the show its highest ratings ever.  While this is a plus in a rare-winning week for Brit, you‘ve got to wonder, Kim, if this is - it‘s a scripted show after all.  

SERAFIN:  That is true, but you‘re right.  She looked coherent.  She sounded good.  She was funny.  We‘re used to seeing her - pictures of her either in a pink wig or being dragged out in an ambulance on a stretcher. 

So I think for a lot of people who were seeing that day to day to day, were so happy to see her looking great back to her normal self.  Even Madonna this week came out and said she‘s a fan of Britney‘s album.  She listens to it all the time.  So I think things are turning around for Britney obviously.

ABRAMS:  And Al, final ten seconds, you‘re a big Britney fan, I know.  So final thought on this.  

SPARKS:  Oh, indeed.  Absolutely.  I‘ve seen her live.  I do notice that they kept her behind a counter, which was very underwear safe, if you noticed like whether she was wearing it or not, they knew they had the shot.  They were OK.  She‘s a winner this week.  

ABRAMS:  Guys she‘s a winner this week.  You guys are winners for joining us in my first effort in doing “Winners and Losers” on Friday with the gang.  Kinky, sorry we had all those problems with your earpiece.  But you‘re awesome.  

Kim, Al, great to have you on the show. 

Time for the P.O.‘d Box, your chance to tell me what you hate or love about the show.  Last night, we brought you the breaking news of former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman.  He‘s ordered released from prison.  Since December, I‘ve been calling for the court to release him while he appeals his conviction. 

Jim and Dorothy Pearson from Taylor, Texas, “You deserve kudos for bringing to public view the injustice to former Alabama Governor Siegelman.  You give a good name to the ‘old‘ art of crusading journalism.”

Wow, thank you. 

Russell Preston, though, from Montgomery, Alabama, “Be careful with your blatant disregard for the verdict reached against Mr. Siegelman, a verdict reached a jury of his peers.”

Russell, I‘m not disregarding the jury‘s verdict.  I‘ve simply said all along that there are significant new questions about the motivations behind this prosecution.  And because of that, I thought Siegelman should be freed pending appeal. 

Some of you jumped all over me for criticizing “American Idol” last night.  I think it‘s misleading for the show to masquerade as an amateur competition when many of the finalists are pros, have had record deals.

DJ from Detroit, “Bad enough he got booted off “American Idol.”  You called him ‘Chick-ay-zee.‘  It‘s ‘Chick-ee-zee.‘  You crack me up.”

“Chick-ee-zee” - Have a good weekend.

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

END   

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