updated 4/9/2008 10:46:19 AM ET 2008-04-09T14:46:19

Guests: Jeff Patterson, Pam Bondi

DAN ABRAMS, HOST:  Tonight: How is it progress when General Petraeus comes to Capitol Hill and uses almost the identical words about Iraq that the administration‘s been using for over four years?

Obama is making serious gains on Clinton in Pennsylvania.  Both campaigns released the slew of new ads there.

We sort out the Winners & Losers.

And Teflon John McCain confuses Shiites and Sunnis again today and again it does not seem to stick.

Pat Buchanan, Norah O‘Donnell, and Lawrence O‘Donnell are with us.

VERDICT starts now.

Hi everyone.  Welcome to the show.

All three candidates: Obama, Clinton, and McCain left the trail to question the commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, General David Petraeus today and Ambassador Ryan Crocker.  We‘ll talk about that.

But first: How can what we heard today be defined as progress?  General Petraeus proposed a so-called pause in pre-surge troop reduction.  Translation, leave the same number of troops in Iraq that were there in 2006, before the so-called surge.  In fact, the heart of today‘s testimony, the headline, sounded almost exactly like what we‘ve heard again and again over the past five years, sometimes even using the same word, uneven.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEN. DAVID PETRAEUS, U.S. FORCES COMMANDER IN IRAQ:  There has been significant, but uneven security progress in Iraq.

Coalition and Iraqi security forces have achieved progress in the security arena, though the improvements have been uneven across Iraq.

Despite many challenges, progress does continue to be made in Iraq.

PRES. GEORGE W. BUSH, UNITED STATES:  Our progress has been uneven, but progress is being made.

DONALD RUMSFELD, FMR. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE:  The people of Iraq have been making progress toward building a society.  It‘s not easy.

VICE PRESIDENT DICK CHENEY, UNITED STATES:  We are making progress.  Most of Iraq today is relatively stable and quiet.  There are still ongoing incidents, attacks on coalition forces.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  I hate to be a lawyer here, but what is the definition for success?  How has it changed?  What about the benchmarks?

Again and again Petraeus and Crocker were asked what it would take and they could not or would not answer.

Here now: MSNBC political analyst, Pat Buchanan; MSNBC chief Washington correspondent, Norah O‘Donnell; and, political analyst, Lawrence O‘Donnell.

Lawrence, I mean, it seemed to me again and again, the same question was asked of Crocker and Petraeus, and that is tell us what will be enough and they couldn‘t or wouldn‘t answer it.

LAWRENCE O‘DONNELL, POLITICAL ANALYST:  Well, Joe Biden got them on to a one to 10 scale at a certain point, which wasn‘t easy to do, in terms of where are we in the progress that a surge alone could achieve.  You know, we are at the beginning of that progress or toward the end of that.  And Petraeus said it was maybe a six or a seven which if it‘s a six, you know, and if it‘s the guy in charge, then, you know, honestly, maybe it‘s a five.

You know, there was no measurement of progress that came out of this discussion today that any Republican senator could take home to their campaign.  I mean, one of the people who‘s interesting to watch today, not a major player, Norm Coleman who‘s running for re-election this year.  And you could see him struggling.  Is there something you can give me to take back to Minnesota to beat Al Franken with in that Senate campaign ...

ABRAMS:  Pat, let‘s concede, Pat, that there is, by some definition, there‘s going to be progress.  You‘re going to be able to argue that there is some progress.  But how can they keep coming back and saying, we‘re making progress, but we don‘t have any benchmarks that we‘re going to follow and as a result, you just going to have to trust us.

PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Well, as of the end of 2006 as the Iraq Study Group said and McCain has himself said, we are looking down the abyss of defeat in Iraq.  It was a disaster ...

ABRAMS:  That‘s not what George Bush was saying in 2006.

BUCHANAN:  I‘m agreeing with you that the previous statements were wrong.  There‘s no question about it.  But since then, under Petraeus we have seen Anbar Province partly pacified, which was lost and we have seen a real diminution in American casualties and Iraqi casualties and that‘s undoubtedly hard progress according to hard statistics not oblivious (ph).  I‘d give Petraeus this sense ...

ABRAMS:  But that doesn‘t answer the question, Pat.  Pat, that doesn‘t answer the question of what we should do now.

BUCHANAN:  All right.  Well, that‘s a separate question.  Let me tell you what he says we‘re going to do.  He says we‘re not going to lose this war on my watch.  There‘s going to be 140,000 troops there at the end of this administration when I leave and I‘m not going to lose it.

Could we lose it afterwards?  We might.  That‘s what his saying.  I think he was very hard-headed and very realistic.  He put the ball in court of Congress, in Congress, it won‘t do a thing as it has done nothing for the last two years, but moan and gripe.

ABRAMS:  Well, look, the bottom line is, Norah, I mean, it seems the administration now, again and again, even Karl Rove before he left, was trying to lay this all on Congress even from the beginning.  And it now seems that the new talking point maybe to sort of blame this all on Congress, but doesn‘t Congress have a right, an obligation to demand some standard by which to judge?  Or am I being too much of a lawyer?

NORAH O‘DONNELL, MSNBC CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT:  No, I don‘t think you‘re being too much of a lawyer.  That‘s the point of Congress.  It‘s oversight of the executive branch, a check on the other branch of government.  And I think, Republican and Democratic senators repeatedly pressed General Petraeus today for what the endgame was.

I mean, General Petraeus himself said, we haven‘t turned any corners.  We haven‘t seen any light at the end of the tunnels.  The champagne bottle has been pushed to the back of the refrigerator, constantly saying that that progress, that headline though, is fragile.  It‘s reversible.

And that‘s why, many of these senators kept saying, OK, now you‘re asking us to tread water, how long will we be treading water in Iraq.  Senator Barack Obama asking for that endgame, it was not a clear sense about where that endgame was.

ABRAMS:  Here‘s Senator Levin, again, trying to get some sort of estimate as to where this ends.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. CARL LEVIN, (D) MICHIGAN:  Let‘s assume conditions permit things to move quickly.  What in your estimate would be the approximate number of American troops there at the end of the year?

Can you give us - you just say if you can‘t give us an estimate.

PETRAEUS:  I can‘t give you an estimate.

LEVIN:  All right.  You‘re not going to give us an estimate on that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Pat, are we relying too much on Petraeus?  I mean, should this ultimately be a decision made by the president and not by the general?

BUCHANAN:  It is a decision for the political leadership.  Here‘s an honest, candid general giving his assessment, saying, I can‘t tell you if there‘s going to be further drawdowns after July because I don‘t know what the situation is going to be.  So, then, it is up to the political leaders to say:

A.            It is not worth it and we‘re going to impose a deadline.  Or,

B.            The president at the other end, who says, I‘m not going to lose a war and I‘m going to keep the troops in.

This is what it is about, Dan, it‘s decision by responsible authorities who are our elected political leaders.  And we have a gutless Congress and a president who keeps right on rolling.

ABRAMS:  But Lawrence, is it fair to blame the, quote, “gutless Congress”?

L. O‘DONNELL:  Well, look, Barack Obama asked the best question today, which was he was asking the question of, what is the definition of success.  And he finally got it down to this for Petraeus which was, you know, if we have the status quo right now, without the U.S. military, if the Iraqi government and the Iraqi military could maintain the status quo we currently have in Iraq, would that be a point at which we could exit, and Petraeus wouldn‘t even answer that.

So, the president has completely given up any notion of any point at which we can exit and the military commander who comes to report on what he calls progress, it turns out he‘s measuring the progress against no standard at all because the military commander cannot give you the point at which success is achieved.  So, how can he tell you how much progress is (INAUDIBLE)

BUCHANAN:  Therefore, the ball goes to the court of the Congress of the United States, Dan.  What are they going to do?  Nothing but moan and groan for heaven‘s sake.

ABRAMS:  But why can‘t—why isn‘t it fair for them to ask for some help from General Petraeus?  He‘s not providing them any assistance.

BUCHANAN:  He has told them his honest truth what the situation is going to be and he doesn‘t know if it‘s going to be a lot better next January.  He clearly thinks and agrees that it has gotten better, but it‘s then up to them to decide whether they want to lose the war by bringing the troops home prematurely.  It‘s their call.

ABRAMS:  Hang on, Lawrence.  Go ahead, Norah.

N. DONNELL:  It‘s up to the commander in chief to make the final decision.  The commander in chief makes the final decision.  Any commander in chief gets different advice from General Petraeus.  And what we saw today is three potential commander in chief asking General Petraeus for what‘s going to happen next.

And it will be, if a Democrat is elected in November, that it may be that General Petraeus will go to Senator Clinton or Senator Obama if they‘re “President Clinton” or “President Obama” and will say, listen, I would like to continue with 140,000 troops, and I think we can still make gains, and a President Obama or President Clinton will say, “No, that‘s not what I want you.”

And McCain will say, OK, General Petraeus.  Yes, I‘m going to keep.  That‘s how it‘s different.

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  Hang on, one second.

N. O‘DONNELL:  As you pointed out that they are impotent to stopping the president.

ABRAMS:  Both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama got a chance to grill Petraeus and Crocker today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  The longer we stay in Iraq, the more we divert resources not only from Afghanistan, but other international challenges as well.  What conditions would have to exist for you to recommend to the president that the current strategy is not working?

SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  If one of our criteria for success is ensuring that al Qaeda does not have a base of operations in Iraq.  I‘d just want to harden a little bit the metrics by which we‘re measuring that.  At what point do we say they cannot reconstitute themselves, or we saying that they‘re not going to be particularly effective and the Iraqis themselves will be able to handle the situation?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Lawrence, either Obama or Clinton get bonus points for today‘s performance?

L. O‘DONNELL:  I think Obama does for the pieces he did after that actually.  He took Petraeus through the kind of questioning you would really hope occurred on the Oval Office but by all accounts we know didn‘t, which is exactly where are we now, and how much is Iran influencing Iraq and how are we going forward with this.

Hillary Clinton did a fair job of it, too.  I‘d just think, you know, in the Foreign Relations Committee, seniority really shows.  And it‘s very difficult for a new senator in a Foreign Relations Committee to hold his own, and Obama did that.

ABRAMS:  Hang on.  Norah, was it fair for some people to say before this that this sort of an important opportunity for Hillary Clinton to sort of shine?

N. O‘DONNELL:  Absolutely.  Listen, every three of these presidential candidates have in large part staked their candidacy on their positions on Iraq.  McCain is about continuing the war in Iraq, his position on the surge.  Hillary Clinton explaining her previous war vote and Obama saying, “I was against this war from the beginning.”

So, yes, all of them had a lot to prove today.

What was remarkable I think for Senator Obama is, he was deferred to, he was allowed to go before the NIGHTLY NEWS got on by Senator Bill Nelson who‘s a Clinton supporter, and then the whole Senate Foreign Relations Committee really deferred him, let him take some extra time, which is sometimes unusual.

And he really pressed—the phrase I took from Senator Obama, he said this parade of horribles that you layout that may happen if we withdraw from Iraq, that if al Qaeda would reconstitute itself and that Iran will have more influence.

He said it was the blunder of getting in Iraq that created those things.  I looked at that very closely, Dan, because I thought that think that was him setting himself up for the argument that he‘s going to have if he‘s the nominee, with John McCain in a general election.

ABRAMS:  Real quick, Pat.

BUCHANAN:  The real setup was the Lieberman-Petraeus communication, are Iranians behind the killing of hundreds of Americans and these special groups.  Yes, sir Petraeus said.

L. O‘DONNELL:  Watch the Biden (ph) communication on Iran.

BUCHANAN:  Well, look at what McCain and Lieberman are pointing to Petraeus right at the return of possible air strikes against the al-Qud Force.

L. O‘DONNELL:  Yes, and this Democrats talked about Maliki hugging and kissing -

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  All right.  Everyone is going to stay with us.

Your VERDICT on the candidates‘ questions.  We read your e-mails every night on the P.O.‘ed box.  Send them to: Verict@msnbc.com. Tell us what we‘re doing right and wrong.  Be sure to include your name and where you‘re writing from.

Coming up: John McCain blew it again today, confusing the Shiites and Sunnis again and yet, again, it doesn‘t seem to be sticking.

Our segment Teflon John is coming up.

And: A new poll is out today shows Obama making up real ground in Pennsylvania.  Both Clinton and Obama are out with new ads today about their childhood, issues of race and gender are not hard to read.

Plus: Employees of the V.A. are racking up thousands of charges at Vegas casino, movie theaters and the sharper image, just how does that help America‘s veterans?  Why America Hates Washington is coming up in 60 seconds.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Tonight‘s edition of Why America Hates Washington.

Veteran Affairs employees are racking up huge credit card bills at casinos, movie theaters, and high-end retailers and taxpayers pay (ph) the bills.

Last year, V.A. staff charged more than $2.5 billion on government-issued credit cards.  Among the charges now being investigated, more than $26,000 at Vegas casino hotels, $21,000 at Regal cinemas, more than $8,000 at the high-end retail store, the Sharper Image.  We don‘t know if robo-vacuums are self groomers (ph) on the list but some of the charges may be legitimate.

The investigation is on and these types of expenses have been problems in the past, the V.A. charging up billions is another reason Why America Hates Washington.

We‘re back with Teflon John up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  It‘s time for our segment Teflon John.  We expose the McCain gaffes that just don‘t seem to stick when they seem to stick to Obama and Clinton.

On Capitol Hill, McCain questioned General David Petraeus about the war and once again, he mixed up the different sects of Islam, a crucial distinction, since al Qaeda is made up of Sunni terrorists.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCAIN:  There are numerous threats to security in Iraq and the future of Iraq.  Do you still view al Qaeda in Iraq as a major threat?

PETRAEUS:  It is still a major threat, though it is certainly not as major a threat as it was, say, 15 months ago.

MCCAIN:  Certainly not an obscure sect of the Shiites ...

PETRAEUS:  No.

MCCAIN:  ... or Sunnis or anybody else.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  McCain‘s campaign today said he, quote, “stumbled.”  But this isn‘t the first time McCain has made this mistake.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCAIN:  It‘s common knowledge and it has been reported in the media that al Qaeda is going back into Iran and receiving training and are coming back into Iraq from Iran.  That‘s well-known.  (INAUDIBLE).  I‘m sorry, the Iranians are training extremists, not al Qaeda.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  I‘d just got to believe that Obama or Hillary would get pounded if they kept making these gaffes.  Pat, do you agree with me?  I mean, is there a different standard here for McCain?

BUCHANAN:  There may be a different standard.  But I agree with you on this one, Dan, I think, McCain, quite frankly, is showing his age.  He is not the candidate he was eight years ago.  He doesn‘t have the dynamism, he speaks very slowly and I think, almost, you know, monotonously from a teleprompter, he doesn‘t handle it well.

And whatever you say about Obama, if he‘s going to be the candidate, he‘s enormously improved, and he‘s every charismatic, and he‘s a wonderful orator, and he‘s got a wonderful quick sense of humor.  I think the McCain people are looking at their man as a pure (ph) candidate, horse flesh (ph), ought to be a little concern and I think I‘d be a little disturbed by these repeated flubs.

ABRAMS:  Norah?

O‘DONNELL:  You know, one time when you make a mistake, sometimes we flub, you know, we stumble.  We do it on television all of the time.  Politicians do it.  But now this has happened several times with McCain, I think it‘s an issue, and as Pat has described it and some people will call it another senior moment by John McCain.  His campaign said he stumbled, he corrected himself immediately.  But once again, this confusing al Qaeda as Shia when it‘s Sunni is a problem.  Now, you play the whole clip and he very quickly corrected himself.  But again, it raises questions.

ABRAMS:  All right.  And here‘s what he says, Tucker Bounds, the McCain spokesperson says, “In the course of having a serious dialogue with military leadership in Iraq about how Americans can formulate success going forward, John McCain stumbled on his words and corrected them immediately.”

And Lawrence, again, he did correct them immediately, but I have to wonder whether if this had happen, imagine for a moment, Hillary Clinton repeatedly confusing Shia and Sunnis.  I mean, it would be enormous, would it not?

L. O‘DONNELL:  Well, if either one of the Democrats had done it as much as McCain has done it, they would be hopelessly out of the race at this point.  And certainly, one infraction for either one of the Democrats would be a serious problem.

I agree with Pat.  I watched McCain in New Hampshire this year and watch him in New Hampshire eight years ago, this is definitely someone showing eight years of age between those two campaigns.

But there‘s a more, I think, a more harmful possibility developing in the imagery of this, and that could be the imagery that McCain simply doesn‘t actually care about the distinction.  That he has so much faith in the American military power and ability of American military power, that he, like the president, is not that interested in the internal complexities of Iraq.  If he develops that image, he‘s an absolute loser in this campaign.

ABRAMS:  But then, how is it the case, Norah, how is it the case then, that when asked by “Newsweek” which candidate do you most trust to answer at a 3:00 a.m. phone call, McCain is still getting 45 percent, Clinton‘s got 27 percent and Obama‘s got 18 percent?  I mean, is that McCain‘s background, is that in part based on lack of media coverage or some of the things that McCain has been doing?

N. O‘DONNELL:  I think you‘re absolutely right, Dan.  I think it‘s both of those things.  I think that people view Senator McCain as a war hero, with the national security credentials.  I think a lot of military people also view McCain as someone who can be trusted because he served and he has sons who are serving and so they trust his judgment on that issue.

He is campaigning as an American hero.  You‘ve seen the ads where he cites his serial number there as he‘s laying in the bed as he‘s just been, of course, brought out of POW camp.  But with not yet have this direct confrontation as the debate goes for in the general election between McCain and an Obama or a Clinton.

Those numbers will change when there is a clear contrast and you get to see sort of the difference between the two of them.  But McCain knows that that‘s his strength.  He‘s going to campaign on that.  The question is whether he can prove to the American people or convince the American people that it is worth staying in Iraq and the blood and treasure if we continue (ph).

ABRAMS:  And whether the media, Pat, is going to impose the same standard on McCain as they do on Obama or Clinton?

BUCHANAN:  Well, let me say, I think, even if they do, McCain gets a pass the way Eisenhower did (ph), if you will.  Eisenhower garbled everything.  And he would deliberately garbled things because he knew he could get away with it, but he had (ph) conquered Hitler.  He‘d been, you know, he‘s been in-charge of the invasion, he gets a pass as it were.

And because of the credentials, and the background, and the history of McCain, and the fact that he‘s been consistent over a period of time, I think he generally gets a pass where someone who‘s considered tremendously inexperienced, Barack would not.  They would look at that and say, that guy doesn‘t know anything.  They will never say that about McCain.

ABRAMS:  All right.  Everyone‘s going to stick around.

Coming up: We‘re On Their Trail.  Obama is gaining on Clinton in Pennsylvania.  Now, they‘re ratcheting up their ad wars, bringing out childhood photos and Obama is even using the grandma who he said utters racial stereotypes.  She‘s in the new ad.

And: Rosie O‘Donnell‘s back, telling the morning show audience much more than we ever wanted to hear.  Beat the Press is next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Time for tonight‘s Beat the Press: Our daily look back at media hypocrisy, agenda and the amusing perils of live TV.

First up: Product placement has hit cable news.  Last night, FOX‘s Sean Hannity made a prediction, and bet one of his panelists a steak dinner if he was right.  But apparently, it was also an effort to plug one of his sponsors.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEAN HANNITY, FOX HOST:  Now, Bob Beckel, I will make you a bet, a gentleman‘s bet because, or a steak dinner at Ruth‘s Chris.

BOB BECKEL, GUEST:  OK, that‘s (INAUDIBLE) that Ruth‘s Chris is an example here.  It‘s a good one.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  He always wins even if he loses.

Next up: CNN‘s Wolf Blitzer and Jack Cafferty reminisce about film legend Charlton Heston yesterday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST:  All of us grew watching him on that big screen and I can‘t forget him, and I know you can‘t either, Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CO-HOST:  Well, I‘ll tell you, (INAUDIBLE) I remember as a kid, I‘d just not hardly (ph) being able to wait until the robe opened.  He was a giant, that movie was a landmark in my childhood.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  The problem Heston was not in 1953 movie, “The Robe,” which Cafferty later pointed out, he was funny (ph) about it, attributing it to his old age.  He handled it well.

Finally to some details about Rosie O‘Donnell you may not wanted to hear this morning on ABC.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROSIE O‘DONNELL, GUEST:  You‘re life is a little bit more black and white than when you get to be 46 and you have gray hair all over here.

DIANE SAWYER, HOST:  You have no—you have no gray hair.

O‘DONNELL:  Well, there are some parts of your hair you can dye.  Yes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  We need your help Beating the Press.  If you see anything right or wrong, amusing or absurd, go to our Web site: Verdict.msnbc.com.  Leave us a tip in the box, please include the show and the time you saw the item.

Up next: As Obama narrows the gap in Pennsylvania, new ads from both candidates sure seem to be focused on race and gender and Obama even brings out his grandma.  You know the one who he suggests does not always view whites and blacks in the same way.

And later: It‘s happened again.  This time, John Ashcroft booed by crowd of college students after he became the latest to call Obama “Osama.”  It‘s in tonight‘s Winners & Losers.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWSBREAK)

DAN ABRAMS, HOST:  We‘re back.  Barack Obama appears to be surging in Pennsylvania.  New polls tonight.  We‘ve those polls and new TV ads, new controversy.  It‘s time for our “Win Lose or Draw” segment as we evaluate the new ads. 

Still us, political analyst Lawrence O‘Donnell, MSNBC chief Washington correspondent Norah O‘Donnell, and MSNBC political analyst Pat Buchanan.  

All right.  A brand new poll in Pennsylvania tonight shows Obama beginning to close the gap with just two weeks to go.  The Quinnipiac University poll shows Obama now trailing Clinton by just six points, 50 to 44.  Just a week ago, Obama was trailing in that poll by nine.  And a month ago, many polls showed him down by almost 20. 

So that takes us to our first issue - the ad wars.  Clinton and Obama now blanketing Pennsylvania with them.  Obama reportedly shelling out more than $2 million.  Clinton unveiling five new ads today.  We‘re going to evaluate some of the winners and losers.   

First, this one.  Highlighting Clinton‘s childhood roots in the Keystone State. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  This is me in Scranton where my father was raised and my grandfather worked in a lace mill.  Every August, we piled into the car and hit to our cottage at Lake Winola.  There was no heat or indoor shower, just the joy of family.  I was raised on pinochle and the American dream.  I still have faith in that dream.  It‘s just been neglected a little.  We all need to dream it again, and I promise we will. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Norah, how can it not be a win when we are seeing those baby videos? 

NORAH O‘DONNELL, MSNBC CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT:  Exactly.  Listen, this may be part of the post-Mark Penn strategy, talking about softening her image. 

But what‘s remarkable that‘s going on in Pennsylvania is what Barack Obama is doing.  It‘s unprecedented.  You said it - $2 million.  There are Democrats in that state who say nobody has ever spent that much, not Rendell, not Casey.  No other Democrat has spent that amount of money in one week. 

He is outspending her at least three to one in that state.  I think you have to raise the question - is he trying to end it in Pennsylvania?   Which would be very difficult to do.  Everyone assumes that Hillary Clinton has the advantaging there, but he is pouring big bucks into that state ...

ABRAMS:  All right.  Lawrence ...

N. O‘DONNELL:  ... that‘s why she had to put out this new five ads today.

ABRAMS:  Well, let me talk about that.  And Lawrence, I‘m going to rule this one in a minute.  But what do you think of that last ad we saw with Hillary Clinton growing up in Pennsylvania, et cetera? 

LAWRENCE O‘DONNELL POLITICAL ANALYST:  It‘s very nice.  I don‘t think it will affect any undecided voters.  They don‘t think of her as a cute little girl.  They all know who she is.  That kind of ad is to introduce the candidate who the voters don‘t know. 

It‘s a waste of money.  I am sure they are not going to spend very much money to get that one on the air in Pennsylvania.  They don‘t have enough money to put all these ads it on the air in Pennsylvania.  They just want to show it on MSNBC because they can‘t afford to buy time from them. 

ABRAMS:  All right.  Maybe.  I like the ad.  I don‘t think - I think that anything that even attempts to humanize her is a good move for Clinton.  In this case, I‘m going to call this one a win. 

All right.  Pat, you want to weigh in on that or -

PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Yes.  I think it‘s a very good ad.  Pennsylvania is one of the oldest states in the union and they‘re very nostalgic, those folks over there.  What‘s she‘s saying with that ad is, “I‘m one of you.”

ABRAMS:  Right.

BUCHANAN:  This is a two-person race up there, and so I think it‘s probably a pretty effective ad.  I don‘t know anybody who could be unhappy about that, Dan. 

ABRAMS:  All right.  Obama unveiling an ad ...

BUCHANAN:  Except for O‘Donnell. 

N. O‘DONNELL:  Except for Lawrence.  Bah-humbug. 

ABRAMS:  All right.  Next -

N. O‘DONNELL:  He hates children.

L. O‘DONNELL:  I want a little substance.  I just want a little substance in the ad.  That‘s all.

ABRAMS:  All right.

BUCHANAN:  Weren‘t you ever a baby once? 

ABRAMS:  Pat Buchanan telling Lawrence O‘Donnell, “You are too mean.”

All right.  Obama unveiling an ad that appears to be aimed at Pennsylvania women, a Clinton stronghold.  It features all women including his sister and wife. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAYA SOETORO-NG, BARACK OBAMA‘S SISTER:  People recognize themselves in Barack and they feel understood by him, in part, that‘s because he listens so well. 

MADELYN DURHAM, BARACK OBAMA‘S GRANDMOTHER:  Well, I think it‘s given him a lot of depth and a broadness of view.

MICHELLE OBAMA, BARACK OBAMA‘S WIFE:  Barack and I talk all the time about making sure that our girls can imagine any kind of world for themselves with no barriers.

SOETORO-NG:  He wants to make sure that everybody‘s children have the opportunities that his daughters have. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  All right.  Before we rule on this ad - it features Obama‘s grandmother, the same woman he very publicly admitted uttered racial and ethnic stereotypes that, quote, “made him cringe.”  Pat, what do you make of that?

BUCHANAN:  Didn‘t grandmother say stay off those buses? 

ABRAMS:  Yes.  I mean ...

BUCHANAN:  Well, I think it‘s a very soft ad.  But this one - I‘m not sure exactly who it‘s appealing to.  My friends, they don‘t have ...

ABRAMS:  Women.

BUCHANAN:  Well, you know ...

ABRAMS:  Women.  Come on.

(CROSS TALK)

BUCHANAN:  See, that‘s why I didn‘t get it. 

ABRAMS:  All right.  Norah, as the resident woman on the panel - Norah, did you feel it  Did you get it? 

(LAUGHTER)

N. O‘DONNELL:  I love that Pat admitted that.  Yes, listen, we know, and Lawrence and Pat know this because I have covered all of the exit polling for us at MSNBC.  If Barack Obama wants to win this nomination, if he wants to win in Pennsylvania, if he wants to win in any Democratic primary or caucus, he has to win women.  That is Hillary Clinton‘s advantage. 

So by showing his half sister, who‘s half-Indonesian, in that ad, by showing his white grandmother, who he said he can no more disown even though she had put forth racial epithets, that hopefully, the campaign‘s point is that this will appeal to women voters in Pennsylvania.  It‘s interesting Michelle Obama who we haven‘t seen much in the past couple of weeks ...

ABRAMS:  Yes.

N. O‘DONNELL:  ... has been spending time in Pennsylvania, essentially making the case for her husband once again.  He‘s got to do better.

ABRAMS:  I‘m ruling this one a draw.  I like the idea of the ad.  Again, it seems strange to me though for Obama to bring out grandma in this context, you know - anyway - after citing her as an example, anyway. 

Next up, new Clinton ad featuring the African-American mayor of Philadelphia, Michael Nutter.  We‘re just going to play the first line of this one.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)  

MICHAEL NUTTER, MAYOR OF PHILADELPHIA:  I know, you want to know why I‘m supporting Hillary.  Easy.  She gets it, and she gets the job done. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  All right.  Nutter goes on to talk about how Clinton is best equipped to deal with issues like the economy and education.  But Lawrence, what‘s with that opening line, “I know you want to know why I‘m supporting Hillary”?

L. O‘DONNELL:  I think they reached over way too far in that concept.  He should have just started off with, “Let me tell you why I‘m supporting Hillary.  It‘s just filed with all kinds of the wrong implications.  And it looks like it‘s some kind of attempt to get at Obama‘s black vote, which it‘s not going to work for at all.  This is the mayor.  This is a guys whose involved in the nuts and bolts of government.  And the ad goes on to talk about that, but he should have just stuck with that. 

ABRAMS:  All right.  I‘m ...

BUCHANAN:  I think it‘s a defensive ad, Dan.

N. O‘DONNELL:  Well, he‘s talking to African-Americans in Philadelphia.  Yes, he‘s talking to African-Americans in Philadelphia - why am I supporting her ...

ABRAMS:  Right.

N. O‘DONNELL:  ... over Barack Obama, an African-American candidate. 

ABRAMS:  Right.  That is the undertone. 

BUCHANAN:  It‘s defensive, Dan.  He‘s trying to hold - he isn‘t trying to get votes.  He‘s trying to hold what she‘s got.  It‘s trying to prevent a total landslide in Philadelphia.

ABRAMS:  All right.  I am going to rule this one a draw for Clinton.  A little uncomfortable with that first line.  It assumes that any African-American supporting Clinton need to explain themselves.  All right.  This is the last ad from Obama.  It‘s now aggressively pursuing the youth vote in Pennsylvania. 

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Because with your power, it‘s with your voice that we‘re going to be able to make a difference.  One voice can change the rules, and if it can change the rules, it can change the city.  And if it can change the city, it can change the state.  And if it change the state, it can change a nation.  And if it can change a nation, it can change the world.  Let‘s go change the world.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Norah, is this the kind of ad that just makes you want to get out of your seat? 

N. O‘DONNELL:  Well, listen.  He‘s playing to his strength there, which are the youth vote.  They helped him win in a place like Iowa.   I think what‘s fascinating here is that he‘s been doing something with a little small mention of it in one of the papers.  He‘s actually encouraging students to sign up for - if you sign up 10 or 20 other students, you can get the chance to win to play basketball with Barack Obama.  It‘s registered thousands and thousands of people in it. 

It‘s just a different way that they run a viral campaign with youth people.  If he can turn out the youth vote in large numbers in Pennsylvania, again, it will be part of this larger story about Obama transforming politics.  They‘re certainly trying to do it in a novel way again in Pennsylvania.  And a lot of it is under the radar. 

ABRAMS:  Pat, it seems to me that ad defines the Obama campaign.  It‘s wanting to gauge if that desire to get people out of their chairs and cheering.

BUCHANAN:  But here‘s a problem with it.  I mean that‘s fine for the youngsters.  But as I said, Pennsylvania is the oldest state in the union ...

ABRAMS:  Some - the older people can‘t get out of their chairs?

BUCHANAN:  Change for them means going to the nursing home or the funeral parlor.  I‘m not sure they want to see the world change because it means the next -  

N. O‘DONNELL:  Pat, Pat, Pat - Pat is on a roll. 

BUCHANAN:  Come on.  What do - the older folks are joking at that.  We‘re not going to change the world.  I worry about my social security and Medicare Part D.

               

ABRAMS:  Lawrence, final word on this one.

L. O‘DONNELL:  This does appeal to the youth vote, Dan, but what it really is, is a winner ad.  It‘s aimed at undecided voters who kind of want to pick a winner.  They make this candidate look like a winner.  It‘s saying get on this bandwagon, because this is the guy who‘s going all the way.  It‘s designed as a winner ad and a momentum ad.

ABRAMS:  All right.  I‘m ruling this one a win for Obama even if Pat says - you know.  I don‘t know. 

Lawrence O‘Donnell, Norah O‘Donnell, Pat Buchanan, thank you.  What‘s your verdict on the scorecard?  E-mails every night in the “P.O.‘d Box.”  Send them at verdict@msnbc.com.  Tell us what we‘re doing wrong and right.  Be sure to include your name and where you‘re writing from. 

Up next, six teenage girls were arrested after they beat a former cheerleader allegedly just to film it for the Internet.  This is really disturbing. 

And “Reality Bites,” where anyone who has to clean up the falling cups in the World Cup Stacking competition.  That‘s coming up in 60 seconds.    

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Now to “Reality Bites,” a dose of reality caught on tape.  Tonight, bar tenders take a back seat to four-year-old cup stacking sensation, Miles Seminario.  He broke three world records for his age group in the world speed stacking competition this weekend, completing the task in just under four seconds.  The fastest time on record 1.86 seconds held by a 10-year-old stacking phenomenon from Massachusetts.  We‘ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Six teenage girls between the ages of 14 and 17 have been arrested for beating up another teen, a former cheerleader.  The motive unclear, maybe in retaliation for comments she posted online.  Girls took turns punching, hitting and yelling obscenities at the former friend who was allegedly lured to the house with a phone call. 

Authorities say the young girl had no idea she was walking into a trap.  The brutal assault lasted 30 minutes and was recorded.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Liar!  That‘s what you get for being a (EXPLETIVE DELETED) liar.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  OK, I‘ll leave. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Oh, yes, baby.  Oh, yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Come on.  You‘re not leaving. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I‘ll just leave you.  I‘ll just leave and go home. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  (EXPLETIVE DELETED) Go!

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Don‘t hit the shelf, don‘t hit the shelf.  Don‘t hit the shelf.  Do something.

ABRAMS:  That video was the second beating.  According to authorities, the victim was knocked unconscious before that.  In all, eight teens have been arrested, including two teenage boys who allegedly acted as lookouts.  The 16-year-old girl suffered a concussion, and apparently hearing loss in her left ear, loss of vision in her left eye.  The accused face felony charges, fall imprisonment, kidnapping, battery. 

Here now, Jeff Patterson, reporter with WFLA in Tampa.  And Florida prosecutor Pam Bondi.  All right. Jeff, what do you know about what led to this? 

JEFF PATTERSON, REPORTER, WFLA:  Well, Dan, allegedly, according to the Polk County sheriff, what led to it were comments that were posted on MySpace pages that went back and forth between some of these girls with the victim in this case.  Sixteen-year-old Victoria Lindsay was supposedly posting some negative comments on the MySpace pages of the other girls, and that led to this brutal beating. 

ABRAMS:  Pam Bondi, I want you listen to what one of the accused mother apparently said.  If I‘m reading this correctly, this could not be - I‘m stunned that one of the mothers is saying this.  Let‘s listen. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRISTINA GARCIA, MOTHER OF BEATING SUSPECT:  Don‘t waste your time on MySpace going back and forth talking, saying all of these nasty things about people.  I don‘t see why she would do that if she didn‘t have the nerve to back up what she was saying.  

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  I mean - I don‘t even know what to say.  Go ahead, Pam. 

PAM BONDI, FLORIDA PROSECUTOR:  Well, first of all, I think we‘re both thinking, Dan, there is nothing in the world any young girl can say that justifies what they did to her.  It‘s outrageous conduct.  And they were arrogant enough to video their actions.

ABRAMS:  Well, I mean - let me play a little bit more of this.  Again, think about what the mother of one of the accused just said, all right?  She shouldn‘t be saying these things if she can‘t back it up.  Let‘s watch this. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  You talk on (EXPLETIVE DELETED) MySpace all of the time.  What happened ...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Why did you -

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Why did you (UNINTELLIGIBLE)?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I thought you were going to fight me. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  How come you don‘t like April?  How come you don‘t like April?  Don‘t ever (EXPLETIVE DELETED) talk about her.  Why don‘t you like her?  Why don‘t you like her?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Don‘t you ever ...

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ABRAMS:  All right.  Now remember, this is after she had been unconscious already, and she came back.  Now, Jeff, are all of these girls going to be charged as adults?  Some of them are as young as 14. 

PATTERSON:  The sheriff in Polk County says he would like to charge them as adults.  That‘s going to be left up to the State Attorney‘s Office in Polk County as to whether or not they will do that. 

I will tell you, Dan, that I spoke today with the mother of one of the victims.  And she says, “My daughter is not an angel, but she didn‘t deserve.”  She didn‘t really want to get into a back and forth with the parents of one of the accused in this.  But she just says, “There is nothing that my daughter could have said that would have brought this down upon her.”  I have to tell you, I have two small children - two young girls.  I hope they never have to face anything like this. 

ABRAMS:  This is a little bit more - it‘s important because these girls have all been charged.  And when I hear that mother‘s response, I think it‘s important to see this. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Don‘t hit the shelf, don‘t hit the shelf.  Do something.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  It‘s not fair.  I don‘t have a problem with you. 

(CROSS TALK)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  How is it not fair?  It‘s perfectly fair.  It‘s one-on-one. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Pam, could these girls be serving time? 

BONDI:  Well, Dan, certainly four of them can be charged as adults.  The 14-year-old, who unfortunately, she‘s the one that knocked her unconscious.  The 15-year-old who was yelling obscenities and rendered some of the blows, most likely cannot, under Florida law, be charged as adults unless the kidnapping charges are added against them.  There are only certain enumerated felonies when you‘re that age, that allow the state to treat you as an adult. 

The other four girls certainly can be and I believe that‘s a tough State Attorney‘s Office.  I think they will be charged as adults, as well as the two boys who looked as lookouts in the case.  They can be treated as if they committed all the acts the girls committed as principals in the case. 

ABRAMS:  Yes, and let‘s remember, you know, the kidnapping charge there.  She tried to leave the house.  They had locked the door and had someone standing in front of there.  Jeff Patterson, Pam Bondi - horrible story. 

Up next, will tonight‘s big winner or loser be Paris Hilton, who mistakenly thinks she‘s a good role model for little girls; John Ashcroft who mistakenly calls Obama, Osama; or Naomi Campbell is mistaken if she thinks she‘s ever getting on another British Airways flight.  Your E-mails in the “P.O.‘d Box,” coming up.  Be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Time for tonight‘s “Winners and Losers” for this 8th day of April, 2008.  Our first loser - Paris Hilton who may be the only person who thinks she‘s an ideal role model for little girls.  In a recent TV interview, the heiress says she‘s, quote, “comfortable being a role model.”  Yes, I want my daughter to dream of someday - just someday, being in a sex tape, being arrested for drunk-driving and serving time. 

Loser, former Attorney General John Ashcroft said this to a college crowd.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN ASHCROFT, FORMER ATTORNEY GENERAL:  And I want to tell you about the Patriot Act is that the elected representatives of this country, including Osama - not him, Obama.  I‘m sorry. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Our loser of the day.  Naomi Campbell who won‘t have to worry about British Airways losing her bags anymore.  According to sources at the airline, she‘s been banned from flying ever on British Air - for life.  No rehab.

Our big winner of the day - a real winner - Petty Officer, Second Class Michael Monsoor, who today, was awarded posthumously, the nation‘s highest military tribute, the Medal of Honor. 

At the ceremony at the White House this afternoon brought the president to tears when paying tribute to the Navy SEAL, who died almost two years ago in Iraq after throwing himself on top of a grenade to save the lives of many of his comrades.  A true winner.

Time for the “P.O.‘d Box,” your chance to tell me what you hate of love about the show.  Last night, I interviewed former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman, released from prison just over a week ago, in what many believe was a political prosecution orchestrated by Karl Rove.  Rove‘s attorney assured us in a subpoena Rove would agree to testify before congress about the case. 

Susan Sanderson for Tukwila, Washington, “Of course, Rove‘s attorney would say he would respond to a subpoena.  What else is he going to say?  But whether or not Rove would actually show up is another story.”

Susan, you‘re right.  He could not have responded on that issue as he has in the past.  I intend to hold him to it, publicly. 

A lot of E-mails about Friday‘s “On Their Trail” segment.  I gave the Obama camp a blunder for their adviser Colin Kahl‘s assessment that 60,000 to 80,000 troops may need to remain in Iraq until the end of 2010, a position inconsistent with Obama‘s public pledge to withdraw troops within 16 months of taking office. 

Jason Harris, “Obama stated he would bring troops home within 16 months of taking office.  His adviser stated troops would have to remain until 2010.  Wouldn‘t that be 16 months?  Are you going to own up to this?”

No!  Kahl didn‘t say until 2010; he said until the end of 2010, which should mean 24 months from Obama‘s inauguration, not 16.  And remember, Obama‘s foreign policy adviser, Susan Rice, even said Kahl‘s views do not reflect that of the Obama camp. 

A lot of you were on Sen. Clinton‘s trail for her recollection of the 1968 assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King.  She said in a speech Friday that upon learning of King‘s death, quote, “I walked into my dorm room and took my book bag and hurled it across the room.”

Mary Lafountain from Weidman, Michigan, “That would have been 40 years ago.  I was in school 40 years ago and I don‘t remember there being book bags.  I carried my books and so did every other student that I knew.”

And Hugh Morton, “Hillary claims to have flung her book bag in disgust.  What a crock.  Another fable.  There were no students carrying book bags in 1968.”

It is amazing how many E-mails we got from people expressing that sentiment.  Why is it not possible she had a bag that had books in it?  I don‘t know.  

That‘s all the time we have for tonight.  You can E-mail me about the show at verdict@msnbc.com.  Please include your name, where you‘re writing from.  We‘ll see you tomorrow.

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

END   

Copy: Content and programming copyright 2007 MSNBC.  ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.  Transcription Copyright 2007 Voxant, Inc. ALL RIGHTS  RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material other than for research. User may not reproduce or redistribute the material except for user‘s personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon MSNBC and Voxant, Inc.‘s copyright or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.

Watch Verdict with Dan Abrams each weeknight at 9 p.m. ET

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,