updated 7/2/2008 1:54:15 PM ET 2008-07-02T17:54:15

Guest: Dahlia Lithwick, David Corn, Tanya Acker, James Bennet, Bill Baker, Michelle Sigona, Lars Larson, Kim Serafin, Pat Buchanan, Clint Van Zandt

DAN ABRAMS, HOST:  Tonight: John McCain makes the Supreme Court a front-and-center campaign issue.  Does he really want to go there?

And: General Wesley Clark blasted for questioning the relevance to the campaign of McCain‘s military service, even Obama denouncing him.  But is what Clark said actually wrong?

Here to debate: Pat Buchanan; “Slate” editor, Dahlia Lithwick; “Mother Jones‘” David Corn.

Plus, the paranoid far right targeting the top grossing Pixar robot movie “Wall-e,” yes, a robot who cleans up the world and falls in love is leftist propaganda.

VERDICT starts now.

Hi, everyone.  Welcome to the show.

Today, John McCain made the Supreme Court a central campaign issue.  Attacking the types of justices Barack Obama would pick in the wake of a series of high profile court decisions—rulings on gun rights, the death penalty, habeas corpus rights for terror suspects held at Guantanamo Bay.

In front of the National Sheriffs Association today, McCain expanded it beyond the Supreme Court.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, ® PRESUMPTIVE PRES. NOMINEE:  It will fall to the next president to nominate hundreds of men and women to the federal courts.  These choices will have far reaching consequences for all Americans, and perhaps especially for law enforcement.


ABRAMS:  Obama is also trying to embrace the court as an issue.


SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESUMPTIVE PRES. NOMINEE:  John McCain has basically said that he would appoint judges who don‘t see a right to privacy.  And as a consequence, would be likely to overturn Roe versus Wade, that, you‘re just one justice away from that.  We think about the Supreme Court, but we don‘t think about, also the lower courts, and all the decisions they‘re making on an ongoing basis.


ABRAMS:  The reality is this may already be the most conservative court in U.S. history.  Seven of the nine justices appointed by Republicans and the most recent appointments were some of the most conservative judges on any federal courts in the country.  But on many of the key issues the court split, four conservatives, four more liberal, and Anthony Kennedy, a Reagan appointee now is the swing vote.  The key issues the court could confront in the near future involve the right to have an abortion, gay marriage, affirmative action, separation of church and state.

But it‘s the older liberals, John Paul Stevens and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, most likely to leave the court in the next term.  That means, if McCain wins, the court likely shifts dramatically to the right, while if Obama wins, he‘ll likely do little more than maintain the balance on the court.  Considering that liberals who have everything to lose, won‘t the court be a good issue for Obama and not McCain this time around?

Here to talk about it, MSNBC political analyst, Pat Buchanan, the author of “Churchill, Hitler, and the Unnecessary War”; “Slate” magazine‘s senior editor, Dahlia Lithwick, who‘s written extensively about the high court; and, David Corn, the D.C. bureau chief for “Mother Jones” magazine.

All right. Pat, you and I have talked about this before.  You think this is a great issue for John McCain based on history.  But I‘m asking you, aren‘t things different this time around?

PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  No, they‘re not.  Barack Obama endorsed the Scalia decision on guns.  We‘ve got a right to have is a .357 magnum in our home.  Barack Obama said, “That‘s fine.  I agree with Scalia, I agree with Scalia on child rape, you ought to be able to execute these guys even if it‘s a non-capital crime.”  So, he himself is testifying in a way to the fact that he agrees with certain -

ABRAMS:  Just because he agrees with them in some cases.  I mean, look, I don‘t happen to agree with Obama on some of those cases, but the fact that he is saying, “Look, I can agree with the most conservative justices sometimes” doesn‘t mean that he‘s going to or should or it‘s a good campaign issue for him on the Supreme Court.

BUCHANAN:  He is agreeing with Scalia on the two critical decisions last week, it tells me he realizes where the politics of this are.  And they‘re on the conservative side.  McCain is not moving to this because it‘s a weak issue for him.  He got all kinds of weak issues.

I think if you ask conservatives, Dan, they would say: Look, if they want to have a contest on the Supreme Court we‘ve got strict constructionist conservative justices.  They‘ve got liberal justices like Ruth Bader Ginsburg.  Let‘s have it out.  I think we win the issue.

ABRAMS:  Really?  I mean, look, the latest poll that we found on this issue, “Washington Post”/ABC News Poll, June 12th to June 15th: Who do you trust more to handle Supreme Court appointments -- 45 percent Obama, 43 percent McCain, 9 percent don‘t know.

BUCHANAN:  Why doesn‘t the guy say, “Look, I‘m going to appoint justices just like Ruth Bader Ginsburg, she was with the ACLU, she represents what I represent”?

ABRAMS:  He said the most sensible would be Justice Breyer, Justice Ginsburg, and Justice Souter.  That‘s what he said.

BUCHANAN:  He did?


BUCHANAN:  Well then, let‘s have it out.

ABRAMS:  Yes, let‘s have it out.  Look, I‘ve got—David Corn, as someone on the other side of the issue, don‘t you want to have this out?

DAVID CORN, MOTHER JONES:  Well, I think is.  I think this is a pretty dead even issue.  I doubt, Pat, that there are millions of Americans waking up each morning and saying, “My God, this country would just be on the right track if we had more justices like Scalia on the court.”

I mean, we‘ve had eight years of conservative appointments.  Eight years of a court that‘s more conservative than not and still, the people say the country‘s moving 82 percent in the wrong direction.  And if you want to fire up those independents, moderate, Republican suburban women on the issue of abortion, just have John McCain go up there every single day and say, “I will appoint more Scalias.”  I mean, that‘s not a win for John McCain.  It‘s a wash at best.

BUCHANAN:  Let me interrupt you just to say this—why would Barack Obama appoint a justice who would take away the constitutional right to own a handgun in your home which he just supports?  He‘s got a terribly inconsistent position.

CORN:  There‘s no litmus test here.  He‘s not saying, you know, neither is for McCain, right?  He‘s not saying I will appoint a justice that will rule this way in that case, he will appoint - look, two of the five justices who each keep siding Alito and Roberts, opposed him on the McCain finance bill which they overturned part of last week.

So, he would appoint people who say that his own actions are unconstitutional?  That doesn‘t make any sense either.

ABRAMS:  And Pat, let me go to Dahlia on this.  But, Pat, just to follow up your issue about the gun laws, everyone assumes that all Americans, they support the constitutional right to own a gun.  No question it‘s a popular thing but -

BUCHANAN:  Probably 20 percent.

ABRAMS:  But what do you think is more important, to protect the rights of Americans to own guns or to control gun ownership?  Thirty-seven percent said it‘s right to own guns, 58 percent said it‘s to control ownership.

BUCHANAN:  Let me introduce you to national politics.  There are issues called the voting issues.  The right to life people, they will vote, I don‘t care whether it‘s 8 percent or 10 percent, they will vote on that issue alone.  The gun folks will kill you in Kentucky, Tennessee, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Montana, if you‘re going to take away their guns.


ABRAMS:  Wait, wait.

BUCHANAN:  They don‘t care about anything else.

ABRAMS:  Even if they can‘t afford to buy a gun anymore?

BUCHANAN:  If go to New Hampshire, that‘s all they ask you, Dan.  How do you stand on guns?  I don‘t want to hear anything than that.


ABRAMS:  I want to bring Dahlia in, I believe when you were in New Hampshire they were asking about that.  I‘m not convinced that they‘re still asking about it.

BUCHANAN:  Maybe only 10 percent, but that can decide an election.

ABRAMS:  All right.  Dahlia, lay out for us, as the observer here, what are the key issues that could sway one way—that could change if McCain becomes president?

DAHLIA LITHWICK, SLATE.COM:  Let me actually just go back to what Pat says.  I actually agree with him on one issue which is, to the extent that there are single issue voters who care deeply about the court, they‘re not liberal, they‘re conservatives.

And so, when John McCain talks about the court and blasts away, blasts away, blasts away at this activist Supreme Court, activist—meaning absolutely nothing, it‘s just a dog whistle to the far right to sort of mollify them to say, “I care about your issues.  What are your issues?  They‘re abortion.  What are your issues?  Gay marriage.  What are your issues?  Tearing down the wall between church and state.”

So, just to be perfectly clear, I think he has a point when he says the kinds of things that happen last week when the Supreme Court decided the gun case, for instance, that‘s not going to have them screaming in the streets.  Liberals, it was just a blip on their radar.  I think that liberals has not being on the winning side of judicial history for so long that they don‘t realize what‘s at stake with the court.

ABRAMS:  But I think that‘s right except that now, things are different, in the sense that when you‘ve got this five to four court and there is the chance—and I would say not just the chance, the almost certainty, that the right to have an abortion would not exist if McCain becomes president, that things change.

CORN:  Dan, don‘t forget -

BUCHANAN:  People on your side who will vote on that basis alone; people on my side who will vote on that basis alone.  And they‘re decided.  But those people will vote on that alone.  And McCain‘s got to energize them.  And he‘s got to energize the “right to life” people and the Supreme Court doesn‘t.

CORN:  As he energizes those “right to life” people, he risks alienating the people in the middle who have some conflicted feelings about abortion but they certainly don‘t want to see it criminalized the way you do, Pat.  And so, that‘s the balancing act that John McCain has as he talks about the Supreme Court here.

And I still think a lot of Americans—remember Bush v. Gore, and that‘s a decision that doesn‘t look so good to most Americans these days.

ABRAMS:  Let me play and this is John -

LITHWICK:  And I think -

ABRAMS:  Go ahead, Dahlia, one more.  Yes, go ahead.

LITHWICK:  I just want to say one more time, I just think it‘s going to take 10 more years of the Roberts court before liberals say, “Hey, this is skewing the wrong way.”  I think we‘re glacial in our pace at the Supreme Court and the voting public for the most part just doesn‘t care.

ABRAMS:  Look, let me may this.  This is John McCain talking to this sheriffs group tonight and talking about the Supreme Court decision which ruled that five to four that child rapists as opposed to anyone who murders someone, cannot face the death penalty.


MCCAIN:  It was such a jarring decision from the court that my opponent Senator Obama immediately into his credit expressed his disagreement.  I‘d like to think that this signals a change of heart on his part about his votes against the confirmation of two of the four dissenters in the case—Justices Samuel Alito and Chief Justice John Roberts.  My opponent may not care for this particular decision, but it was exactly the kind of opinion we could expect from an Obama court.


ABRAMS:  But Pat, that is the most twisted logic, and you used it before.  The idea that because he agrees with these justices on an opinion, that means that, oh, my goodness, Obama is having a change of heart.

BUCHANAN:  No.  It suggests, (A), an inconsistency on Obama‘s part -

ABRAMS:  How is it inconsistent -


BUCHANAN:  It would suggest that Barack Obama is 100 percent liberal and he says, “I‘m in favor of the death penalty in non-capital crimes”?  Is that a liberal position?  He knows where the country is on this, Dan.  He‘s moving there whether it‘s consistent or not because the politics are there.

ABRAMS:  Go ahead.

CORN:  Yes, but this argument goes back and forth on almost any case you choose.  You know, John McCain has attacked the Gitmo decision, yet he voted to confirm most of the justices who supported that.  I mean, senators vote for people, presidential candidates have voted for justices and they don‘t always agree with how it plays out.


BUCHANAN:  Look, I agree with you, McCain has been inconsistent.  But Obama has been inconsistent.  But would you not agree with me, that if Obama is moving to endorse a death penalty for a non-capital crime, that tells you where he thinks the politics are?

CORN:  He has said for a long time -


ABRAMS:  I think there‘s no question that Pat is right.  Look, I think Pat is right that there‘s no reason that Obama is supporting the gun control decision and the death penalty decision because he thinks the politics are there.  I‘m not convinced he thinks it‘s the right legal decisions.  I think, it‘s just purely a political decision.

BUCHANAN:  I think you‘re right.

ABRAMS:  David, you‘re not going to disagree with that.

CORN:  No, I won‘t disagree with that at all.  But I think, he has said already that he supports the death penalty for very limited cases.  This is now one of those limited cases.  What do you know?

ABRAMS:  All right.  Bottom line, Dahlia, you just simply do not think either way that this is—you think that for a select group of conservatives, it‘s a big issue but no liberals are going to think it‘s a big deal.

LITHWICK:  I wish they would.  It‘s a big deal.  I just think we‘ve been asleep at the switch for a long, long time.

ABRAMS:  I think the days of the court as a galvanizing issue for the right are fading.  I think that the change in this court has changed the landscape in that regard.  And I think that the days when you guys were railing against the Warren Court in ‘68 about crime and punishment, et cetera, I think that‘s 40-year-old politics.

BUCHANAN:  We can run the power sweep again this year, my friend.


ABRAMS:  David, thanks a lot.

Coming up, the McCain campaign on the attack against General Wesley Clark based on what he had to say about McCain‘s military service and of its relevance to the campaign.  But is anything Clark said actually that controversial?  Win, Lose or Draw is next.

And later: The far right has a new enemy.  It is a cartoonish robot.  Yes, they‘re up in arms over the Disney blockbuster “Wal-E,” claiming it‘s full of far left propaganda about the perils of pollution.  Yes, apparently they are serious.

Plus, the Pentagon defying the EPA and refusing to clean toxic chemicals at several military bases, another reason Why America Hates Washington is coming up in 60 seconds.


ABRAMS:  Tonight‘s edition of Why America Hates Washington: The Pentagon leaving a toxic mess.  The “Washington Post” is reporting that the Defense Department is refusing to clean up chemicals at three military bases even though it‘s the law, and the Bush administration‘s own Environmental Protection Agency says chemicals dumped at the bases posed, quote, “imminent and substantial danger.”

The Pentagon‘s position is even at odds with President Bush‘s pledge in 2000 that federal facilities should have to follow environmental laws.  The Defense Department ignoring those very laws: another reason Why America Hates Washington.

We‘re back with Win, Lose, or Draw.  General Clark‘s comments—is it possible that what he said is true?  Coming up.


ABRAMS:  We‘re back.

The McCain camp returns fire again today against Obama supporter, Wesley Clark.  Is what he actually said wrong?  And Obama now is making a big push for traditional Republican evangelical voters.

It‘s time for our Win, Lose or Draw edition of On Their Trail.  As always, we‘re making the call, who won or lost today, Obama or McCain?

First up: The McCain camp still on the attack today over the comments made by retired generally Wesley Clark.  On Sunday, he suggested McCain‘s military service doesn‘t necessarily qualify him to be commander in chief - comments he defended on this program last night.


GEN. WESLEY CLARK, OBAMA SUPPORTER:  I reject the idea that you take something like this and swiftboat it all out of proportion, which is exactly what happened.


ABRAMS:  But today, the McCain camp launched an attack on General Clark‘s military record.


ORSON SWINDLE, FELLOW MCCAIN POW:  General Clark probably wouldn‘t get that much praise from this group.  I can‘t speak for them, but we all know that General Clark, as high-ranking as he is, his record and his last command, I think, was somewhat less than stellar.


ABRAMS:  Still with us is David Corn, Pat Buchanan, and joining us is Democratic strategist, Tanya Acker.

All right.  David, the McCain camp is now going over after General Clark‘s military record, did they just lost the high ground on this issue?  And I‘m not really I understand why Clark‘s comments are that controversial.

CORN:  Well, Dan, I was on that conference call.  And that was what we used to call in the old days casting aspersions.  Orson Swindle didn‘t explain what he meant by that.  And it was returning fire with fire.  I thought it was uncalled for.

And McCain had been building this sort of cult of victimhood, you know, Senator Jay Rockefeller said something negative about his service and now, Wesley Clark said something that they‘d interpret as being negative.  Poor John McCain just can‘t take this, you know, and he‘s asking for sympathy.  But yet they come along and yesterday, they turn out what—one of the swiftboat veterans who did far worse to John Kerry, and then today, they have Orson Swindle going after Clark‘s own military record without explaining why.

So, they‘re taking what might have been a winning situation and turning it into a draw.


BUCHANAN:  I think David‘s trying—you didn‘t do quite make it there, David.  Look, this is a failure for this reason.  I happen to agree with you, that the fundamental point he‘s making about commander in chief and a splendid military record in combat and judgment, they‘re two different things.  However, the very fact that Barack Obama cut the legs from under Clark and we saw Clark on your show last night basically saying they‘re swiftboating me.  That‘s very defensive.

So, I think this is a real loss for Clark.  I think Clark‘s been eliminated as a vice presidential nominee.  And, I think, when I talked to a fellow who told me a lot of military guys say, “What kind of guy is Obama that he would throw his guy over the side for an inartful statement?”

ABRAMS:  Tanya, why did he cut him loose like that?

TANYA ACKER, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST:  Well, I think he knew how the statement was going to play.  I mean, I happen to agree.  I think it was a complete overreaction to what General Clark said.  I think that he was saying nothing more astonishing that simply because, you know, one has served, doesn‘t necessarily make him fit to be president of the United States.

I will say though that I think that the reaction of the McCain camp today was so completely over the top.  I mean, for John McCain to allow his surrogates to attack another serviceman like that, is really beyond the pale.  That was disappointing.

ABRAMS:  But here‘s the reason, is because, we got these three quotes from John McCain.

February 15th, 2003: “I absolutely don‘t believe military service is necessary,” regarding becoming president.  May 1st, 2004: “Some of our greatest presidents have not had military experience.”  November 7th, 1999:

“The question I ask myself every morning while shaving in front of the mirror is: OK, John, you‘re an incredible war hero, an inspiration to all Americans.  But what qualifies you to be president of the United States?”

I mean, Pat, this isn‘t very much different than what Clark said.

BUCHANAN:  The point is valid.  Look, you can be a tremendous war hero and you‘re not necessarily qualified to be president of the United States.  But why go there by Clark and obviously Barack Obama again?  Where are the politics?  You can see it in the way that Barack Obama cut the legs under from this man.

ABRAMS:  Look, I‘m calling this a lose for McCain.  I thought it was a loss for Obama yesterday, but for the McCain camp to try to get mileage out of this today by smearing Wes Clark, makes it a lose in my book.

All right.  I called it a lose yesterday for Obama.  Don‘t laugh at me, Pat.


ABRAMS:  Next up: Today, Obama made a big -

BUCHANAN:  You‘re in big trouble on this one.

ABRAMS:  Made a big push for evangelical voters, he delivered a major religion speech today in Ohio, promising to make good on President Bush‘s commitment to faith-based programs.


OBAMA:  We know that faith and values can be a source of strength in our own lives.  That‘s what it‘s been to me.  That‘s what it‘s been to so many Americans.

I‘ll establish a new council for faith-based and neighborhood partnerships.  The new name will reflect a new commitment.  This council will not just be another name on the White House organizational chart; it will be a critical part of my administration.


ABRAMS:  Tanya, isn‘t this going to alienate some on the left?


ACKER:  Well, let‘s just say I‘m not a big fan of this.  I wasn‘t a fan when George Bush started his office of faith-based initiatives.  I‘m not a fan of Barack Obama picking up this—look, I don‘t thing the government should be in the church business.

ABRAMS:  So, what is Obama doing?

ACKER:  (INAUDIBLE) losing it from a fiscal perspective.

ABRAMS:  But Obama is now in the church business.

ACKER:  I‘m not OK with it.  I mean, I would call it a lose for him.  I don‘t think that we can afford it.  I don‘t think the government should be writing checks to churches.  I just don‘t think we should be in that business.


ABRAMS:  David, 1,000 house parties, dozens of Christian rock concerts


CORN:  Politically, it‘s a big win.  Well, I may agree with the substantive criticism of it.  It‘s is quite obvious that Barack Obama can talk about faith and the interaction between faith and policy in ways that John McCain can‘t even dream of.  I mean, who would ever think that the Democratic candidate would talk more convincingly on these matters than the Republican candidate?

I mean, David Kuo and John Dilulio, who were part of the faith-based initiative of the Bush administration, and then broke of it, broke free of it, saying that this was nothing except, you know, a con game on Bush‘s part to try to win over evangelical voters, today endorsed Barack Obama‘s approach.  So, listen, he won‘t win the whole evangelical voting bloc out there, but he can prevent a lot of it from going to McCain.

ABRAMS:  Is he winning any of your boys, Pat, and your girls?

BUCHANAN:  It‘s a big win for Obama, very smart.  No, he‘s not going to win over the evangelicals, but he‘ll diminish some of the hostility.  It looks like he‘s reaching out to them.  And it also shows him as something other than somebody way out on the left.  It‘s a win for him.  What he‘s got to do is detoxify himself to Middle America, if he does that (INAUDIBLE) he will win the election.

ABRAMS:  I‘ll tell you why I agree with you it‘s a win for Obama.  Not because he‘s going to win over a mass amount of evangelical, but because it also as a benefit of reminding people he‘s not a Muslim.  I mean, honestly.


CORN:  That‘s a side benefit, Dan.

ABRAMS:  That‘s the reason it‘s a win for Obama.

Next up: one of the country‘s most powerful lobbying groups is now ready to spend millions to make sure Obama is not elected.  The NRA reportedly ready to shell out $40 million on the campaign, about $15 million will be dedicated to portraying Obama as a threat to the Second Amendment.

One NRA official announced today, quote, “Apparently, he thinks gun owners are either fools or have short memories.  We look forward to showing him ‘bitter.‘”


CORN:  Listen, this has the potential to be a win for the McCain side, for the Republican side, depending how well they spend their money, and what sort of attack they have.  But, I think, at this stage of the game, a lot of the people who care about those issues, they already know that McCain is more in the NRA line than Barack Obama.

Although you have to say, the NRA has never been all that happy with John McCain and the McCain-Feingold bill.  And you know, he doesn‘t come across as a true believer, but nevertheless, you know, this is one side where, I think, people don‘t need $40 million to convince him where they stand.

ABRAMS:  And, Pat, how‘s the NRA going to deal with this McCain ad from 2000?


MCCAIN:  I‘m John McCain with some straight talk.  Convicted felons have been able to buy and sell thousands of guns at gun shows because of a loophole in the law.  Many were later used in crimes.  That‘s wrong.  I believe law-abiding citizens have the right to own guns, but with rights come responsibilities.  Close the loophole.  Vote yes on 5.


ABRAMS:  Pat, the NRA is stuck between as far as they‘re concerned, the bad guy and a worse guy.

BUCHANAN:  Hold your nose and vote for McCain.  But, I think, Barack Obama helped himself by endorsing the individual‘s right to own guns.  He‘s again, what he‘s trying to do is detoxify, de-demonize himself with the center of American politics.  It‘s a win.

ABRAMS:  I‘m calling this one a draw.  I don‘t think the NRA is going to have as much power this time around as they‘ve had in the past.  It gives my final score, one win for Obama, a lose for McCain, one draw.

Who won the day?

Tanya Acker, who won today?

ACKER:  I have to, I‘ve got to call it a draw, frankly.  I think that McCain didn‘t help himself today with the comments by a surrogate about Clark.  And, again, I think it was politically shrewd, Obama‘s reach out to evangelical but I just -

ABRAMS:  But you don‘t like it.

ACKER:  I don‘t buy (INAUDIBLE) I don‘t like it.

ABRAMS:  David Corn, who won the day?

CORN:  Barack Obama won because whether Tanya likes it or not, his faith-based initiative is going to have more impact at the end of the day than anything that goes on with Wesley Clark and Orson Swindle.


BUCHANAN:  I think Barack won and the general had a bad day.


ABRAMS:  I think it was probably a win for Obama today, too, smart political moves on his part.

David Corn, Tanya Acker, and Pat Buchanan, thanks a lot.

Coming up: New details in the search for a 12-year-old girl missing for almost a week.  Her former stepfather and uncle are now under arrest for sexually assaulting a different minor.  This girl‘s dad is with us tonight.

And apparently, the folks at CNN were a little confused on what type of bearing arms the Supreme Court was referring to.  That‘s next in Beat the Press.


ABRAMS:  It‘s time for tonight‘s “Beat the Press.”  First up, the big Supreme Court ruling on the right to bear arms last week.  Apparently the folks at CNN were a little confused about the ruling meant.  Look at the type of “bare arms” their graphic refers to.


FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR:  Residents there are rather up in arms, many are up in arms over the U.S. Supreme Court decision to strike down a ban on handguns.


ABRAMS:  To show you what those “bare arms” look like, this is the first person in their story they interviewed, the woman on the right who had “bare arms.”

Finally to the pure perils of live TV, this is WNBC‘s Monica Morales covering dolphins in a New Jersey river on MSNBC.


MONICA MORALES, WNBC-TV:  Right now they‘re healthy and happy. 

Experts are going to leave them—oh.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Are you OK there, Monica?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I hate it when that happens.

MORALES:  I‘m fine, I‘m fine.  I‘m all right.  I‘m OK.


MORALES:  But thank you.


ABRAMS:  She handled it like a champ.

Up next, the search continues tonight for a missing 12-year-old girl in Vermont after both her uncle and former stepfather were arrested on charges of sexually assaulting another minor.  Her father is with us.

And later the far right has a new bogeyman, the blockbuster Disney Pixar movie “Wall-E.”  They say it bombards audiences with leftist propaganda like recycling is good.  Oh no.  Coming up.



ABRAMS:  We are back now with some breaking news.  Police in Missouri have just captured 28-year-old Nicholas Sheley, who they say could be responsible for eight murders across two Midwestern states.  Authorities had a warrant for his arrest for the murder of a 65-year-old man, but they say he‘s a person of interest in five other killings in that state, might be connected to two more in Missouri.  Joining us with the latest is Lieutenant Bill Baker of the St. Louis major case squad.  Lieutenant, thanks very much for taking the time.  How did you catch him?

LT. BILL BAKER, ST. LOUIS P.D. (on phone):  Thank you for having us.  Actually, we put his picture out to the media, and a short time later we ended up taking him into custody over in Granite City, Illinois.

ABRAMS:  He was found in front of a bar, is my understanding.  Someone from that bar called look, I just saw that picture on television, the guy‘s here?

BAKER:  No, no, actually two policemen.  One from Illinois state police and one from Granite City that actually saw him.  And when they saw him, he took off running and they ended up catching him.

ABRAMS:  And do you suspect that he‘s involved in more than just these eight cases?

BAKER:  That I don‘t know.  I know that he‘s certainly good for the cases down here in the St. Louis area.  I don‘t have enough knowledge on the other ones, but I don‘t think—I think that certainly he‘s a good suspect in them.

ABRAMS:  Did he resist arrest?

BAKER:  Initially he ran, but they ended up catching him.

ABRAMS:  Well, that‘s good news I‘m sure a relief to many people around there.  Lieutenant Baker, thanks very much for taking the time.  We appreciate it.

BAKER:  Thank you, sir.

ABRAMS:  Next up, police continue their search for a 12-year-old Vermont girl missing since Wednesday.  Tonight the case is taking some disturbing turns.  This is a surveillance video at a convenience store showing the last time that 12-year-old Brooke Bennet was seen.  Now, authorities haven‘t found her yet.  They believe that she‘s there with her uncle.  But while investigating they found something else.  And have arrested two of Brooke‘s family members amid allegations of a sex ring victimizing girls as young as nine.  Here‘s NBC‘s Jay Grey.


JAY GREY, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  There has been another arrest.

COL. JAMES W. BAKER, VERMONT STATE POLICE:  The Vermont state police have arrested Ray Gagnon of San Antonio, Texas, for aggravated sexual assault.

GREY:  But investigators say there is still no solid evidence to lead them to 12-year-old Brooke Bennet.

BAKER:  We‘re using every resource we can to try to tighten this up so we can find Brooke and bring her home.

GREY:  Brooke‘s former step-father, 40-year-old Ray Gagnon has been charged with aggravated sexual assault and obstruction of justice, part of a bizarre case unfolding as the search for the missing 12-year-old continues.

Federal agents allege Gagnon and Brooke‘s uncle, Michael Jacques (ph) arrested last week were part of a sex ring in Vermont running what one little girl has called a sex training program where children as young as nine were graded on their performance.  Police say at this point, the arrests do not involve Brooke, who disappeared after being dropped off at a Vermont convenience store by Jacques last week.

BAKER:  I think we‘re eliminating possibilities where she may be.  I just don‘t want to be in the business of predicting how close we are.

GREY:  Initially Brooke apparently told her family she was going to meet a friend the day she disappeared.  Investigators now believe that was a lie and that her intent was to meet someone she had traded e-mails with on the Internet.

Police continue to focus part of their investigation on what they call social networking Web sites.  Jay Grey, NBC News.


ABRAMS:  Joining me now on the phone is Brooke Bennet‘s dad, James Bennet and also former FBI profiler Cliff Van Zandt joins us.  Michelle Sigona from “America‘s Most Wanted” is with us as well.

All right, Mr. Bennet, thank you very much for taking the time.  I know this has to be a tough time for you.  Did you know the stepfather and the uncle who were arrested in connection with this sex ring?

JAMES BENNET, BROOKE‘S FATHER (on phone):  I knew both of them.  The stepfather more so than the uncle.

ABRAMS:  And I assume that—did you ever have any suspicions about them?

BENNET:  The uncle I had a little bit of an idea what his history was. 

The stepfather, I had no idea.

ABRAMS:  I would assume that one of the hopes at this point is that maybe Brooke ran away out of fear, right?

BENNET:  That‘s my hope.  That‘s what keeps me going and I‘m hoping that she‘s out there somewhere and we can get her home safe.

ABRAMS:  How—what was your reaction when you heard about today‘s arrests and this development today?

BENNET:  It‘s just—it‘s a lot to take in.  I don‘t know.  I don‘t know what to think.

ABRAMS:  But look, but there is still that hope that maybe this would indicate that she ran out of fear and, as you say, you‘re ready to protect her, welcome her home as soon as that can happen.  Let me bring in Clint Van Zandt and Michelle Sigona into the conversation.  All right.  Michelle, let me start with the facts here.  What do we know about why these guys were arrested, what the allegations are?

MICHELLE SIGONA, “AMERICA‘S MOST WANTED”:  Sure.  There‘s an affidavit.  I have a copy of it here.  What this affidavit says that while they were investigating the disappearance of Brooke, investigators, they were interviewing and uncovering more information.  That‘s when they found this victim, who alleges that she was a part of this Breckinridge program which rates sexual acts.

And based on that information, that‘s how they were able to move forward to be able to make the arrest on Brooke‘s uncle and also her stepfather.  Now, again, this is only an alleged sex ring.  The investigation is going on.

ABRAMS:  Let me take a step back.  This is according to that affidavit, all right, that Jacques called the sex program “the Breckenridge program,” that he was told in order to graduate—this is another girl—she had to earn a 75 percent on how you perform.

SIGONA:  Seventy five percent.

ABRAMS:  She was told she was currently at 50 percent and said the men tell you what to work on.  But let‘s be clear here.  Let me go to Clint.  Clint, this is a different girl.  Brooke is missing.  They‘re still looking for her.  No one has any idea at this point what may have happened to her, whether she may have run away, whether she was a victim, too.  And this is another girl in connection with the step-dad and the uncle?

CLINT VAN ZANDT, MSNBC ANALYST:  Yeah, a couple of things police have to put together here, Dan, number one, the Internet, of course.  Did she meet somebody on the Internet?  Did she think she was meeting person A and it turned out to be person B?  Number two, if this Breckinridge club, this horrible sounding thing, this Amber alert that has been issued for Brooke is the first one ever issued in the State of Vermont.  Look what it‘s uncovered, this alleged sex ring.  The question was Brooke also being victimized by this?  And could this have been the reason she disappeared, either somebody within that ring or was she just running to protect herself?

ABRAMS:  And this is again from more allegations from that police affidavit.  At nine or 10 years old a note 00 this is, again, not Brooke.  A note under her pillow, this other girl unnamed said she was being enrolled in a program for sex.  Jacques was her trainer.  She was told two other girls were in the program.  The first one who does it lives, the second gets her throat cut.  Michelle, do the authorities believe that there actually were other girls involved in this?  Or was this just Jacques talking?

SIGONA:  That‘s definite a possibility, Dan.  What investigators are saying if anyone has had any contact with these men, children especially, to please come forward and to give them information because they don‘t know.  They don‘t know if there are other victims out there.  We only know of one for sure at this time.  And we don‘t know if anyone else was a part of this ring.  These are definitely things that we need to uncover.  If folks have information, they need to step up to the plate, call our hotline or call their local police to give them information so we can close this thing together.

I mean, we‘ve got to find Brooke, absolutely.  And you know, this is just one other thing in this investigation.  If it‘s positive at all.  It‘s helping to help save some other victims out there.

ABRAMS:  Let me put up the number here.  There it is.  If you‘ve got any information about the case, please call the Royalton State Police, 802-234-9933.  Again, if Brooke is watching, as Mr. Bennet was saying that one of the hopes, of course, is that Brooke may have run away out of fear and that maybe she‘ll know that everyone is waiting for her to come back.  Mr.  Bennet, I don‘t know if you‘re still there with us.

BENNET:  I am.

ABRAMS:  Thank you so much for taking the time tonight.  We really appreciate it.

BENNET:  Thank you.

ABRAMS:  And Clint and Michelle, as always, thank you.

VAN ZANDT:  Thanks, Dan.

SIGONA:  Thanks, Dan.

ABRAMS:  Up next, the far right is blasting the box office hit “Wall-E.”  And “Flight of the Bumblebees.”  Fourteen million of them escaped when this truck flipped over.  That‘s coming up in 60 seconds.


ABRAMS:  Time for “Reality Bites.”  Tonight we go to New Brunswick, Canada, where a truck carrying millions of bees overturned.  Sending them buzzing everywhere.  Police and beekeepers did their best to subdue the roughly 14 million bees.  Passengers on motorcycles and in convertibles not so lucky.  Many got stung.  Eventually Mother Nature helped out.  A downpour helped contain the bees.  Be right back.


ABRAMS:  Welcome back.  It‘s the number one film in America right now.  Some on the radical right are calling it left wing propaganda.  Pixar‘s $63 million hit, “Wall-E”, a story about a lovesick robot left to clean up the earth 700 years from now.


ANNOUNCER:  Seven hundred years into the future.  Mankind will leave our planet.  Leaving Earth‘s cleanup in the hands of one incredible machine.  His name is Wall-E.  After all these years he‘s developed one little glitch.  A personality.  He‘s extremely curious.  And just a little bit lonely.  But all that is about to change.


ABRAMS:  Yes, that movie is what led Glenn Beck to rant about Pixar teaching his kids that we destroyed the Earth.  The “National Review calling it “leftist propaganda about the evils of mankind.”

Columnist Jonah Goldberg describing it as “Malthusian fear mongering.”

Let‘s be clear.  This is a movie primarily about a robot in love seven centuries from now.  If love is evil and keeping the environment is clean, then I don‘t want to be good.  Here now is Lars Larson, host of “The Lars Larson Radio Show” and Kim Serafin, the senior editor of “In Touch Weekly.”  Lars, you‘re really going to defend your friends on the far right on this nonsense?

LARS LARSON, RADIO HOST:  You‘re going to call me the radical right, far right, now it‘s robot love?  Are you folks in favor of robot marriage?  Do I need to take a position on that, as well?

ABRAMS:  Exactly.


ABRAMS:  Come on, Lars.  I appreciate it that you‘re laughing about this.  This is craziness, right?

LARSON:  No, no.  You say the radical right.

ABRAMS:  It is.

LARSON:  You make me sound like the converse of Olbermann going off on the president‘s golf game or something.

ABRAMS:  Come on.  This is ridiculous, Lars.

LARSON:  It‘s not, because .

ABRAMS:  Listen to the quotes.  “The film treats our capitalist system as the Earth‘s ultimate sin.”

LARSON:  It does.

ABRAMS:  “I can‘t wait to teach my kids how we destroyed the Earth.”

LARSON:  It does.  It‘s propaganda.

ABRAMS:  “I agree with the charges of hypocrisy.  I agree that the Malthusian fear mongering was annoying.”

LARSON:  Dan, listen.  I‘ve got a 19-year-old step daughter just graduated from high school.  Come home all the time talking about how her teachers .

ABRAMS:  Don‘t let her see this movie.

LARSON:  No but her teachers are foisting off on her things like, you know, “An Inconvenient Truth” as science.

ABRAMS:  We‘re talking about a robot movie.  Don‘t bring up “Inconvenient Truth.”

LARSON:  But we‘re talking about a movie that foists off on little kids the idea that human beings are bad for planet Earth and that‘s not true.

KIM SERAFIN, “IN TOUCH WEEKLY”:  The director understands .

ABRAMS:  I‘m going to let you—Lars, I thought you guys were the ones who hate the P.C. police.  You‘ve become the ultimate in the P.C.  police here.

LARSON:  No.  I‘m not saying the government should police this.  I think people should understand if you take your kids to this, understand they‘re going to come away with the idea that mommy and daddy are bad for the planet.

ABRAMS:  I‘m sure they are.

LARSON:  And the planet would be better off without us.

ABRAMS:  I wanted to warn the children out there before I play this.  I want to be very careful that you not—hang on one second.  Sorry.  I want to let all the children out there know that you have to be careful because what I‘m about to show you is part of this movie.


ABRAMS:  Go ahead, Kim.

SERAFIN:  Well, that‘s “Hello Dolly” so that‘s very scary.  You know, the director Andrew Stanton has actually said, look, I don‘t like movies that preach to me.  I wasn‘t trying to make an ecologically—a movie with ecological messages, I was trying to do a movie about robots in love.  I think he even said the most I do recycle, even my wife has said I‘m bad at that.

ABRAMS:  The point you‘ve made before is when people in Hollywood want to make a statement .

SERAFIN:  Exactly.  If Hollywood wanted to make a statement they are very open about environmental messages.  No one in Hollywood is ever shy about talking about a message in the movie.  And when there have been movies with messages, people are very glad to promote it.  So the fact he isn‘t trying to promote it tells me that wasn‘t what their agenda was.  This is a family film, I think.  It‘s a film that doesn‘t have gratuitous violence, gratuitous sex, doesn‘t have bad language, doesn‘t have drug use and I think that‘s why it was one of the number one, was the number one movie in America because families wanted a place to take their kids where they feel safe.  And I think that was one of the reasons it did so well.  At the end of the day Hollywood cares about box office.  You know?

ABRAMS:  Lars, lighten up.

LARSON:  Dan, I read the director‘s denial.  I don‘t buy it.

ABRAMS:  All right.

LARSON:  Why didn‘t he present Earth as a garden place of humanity after 700 years?

ABRAMS:  Exactly.  Lars Larson, film maker.  Lars Larson, Kim Serafin, thanks a lot.

Up next, tonight‘s big “Winners and Losers”, Nelson Mandela finally removed from this country‘s terror watch list.  Stephen Baldwin who threatened to leave the country if Obama is elected or John McCain apparently afraid of straight talk to the country from his own mom.  Your e-mails are in the “P.O.‘d Box.”  Be right back.


ABRAMS:  It‘s time for tonight‘s “Winners and Losers.”  Our first loser the performance enhancing drug Viagra.  Scientists now say watermelons have ingredients that deliver Viagra-like effects to the body‘s blood vessels and may even increase libido.  Have a happy Fourth of July.  Our second loser, John McCain, whose 96-year-old mom, Roberta, told an interviewer, they have got me muzzled.  Maybe McCain is worried mom will offer too much talk like when she was asked on C-SPAN earlier this year how much support she thought her son had among the Republican base.


ROBERTA MCCAIN, JOHN MCCAIN‘S MOTHER:  I don‘t think he has any.  I don‘t know what the base of the Republican—maybe I don‘t know enough about it.  I‘m not seeing any help whatsoever.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  So can he then go on and become the nominee of this party?

MCCAIN:  Yes, I think holding their nose they‘re going to have to take him.


ABRAMS:  But the big loser of the day, Stephen Baldwin, he is an actor and has famous brothers, anyway, he was on Fox News to blast Obama‘s celebrity endorsements and while there provided his own celebrity endorsement to McCain, that is if you consider him a celebrity.


STEPHEN BALDWIN, ACTOR:  The media and Hollywood is so convinced that Middle America and mainstream America, you know, here‘s what it thinks, I believe john McCain is going to be the next president of the United States and should be.

If Barack gets nominated I‘ll be moving out of the country.


ABRAMS:  And we care what you think why?  In 2000 brother Alec threatened to leave the country if Bush was elected.  He‘s still here.

Our winner of the day?  Nelson Mandela, the 1993 Nobel Peace Prize winner was finally just now taken off the U.S. terror watch list.  Mandela and other African Congress members remained on the list for quote “activities they conducted against South Africa‘s apartheid regime decades ago.”

It‘s about time.  Time for the “P.O.‘d Box.”  Last night I interviewed General Wesley Clark about his comments about McCain‘s military experience.

David Skillman from New York.  “Nothing in General Clark‘s controversial statement suggested that General Clark was impugning Senator McCain‘s courage or patriotism.  General Clark‘s statement may have been unpopular but it‘s not all together clear to me that it was untrue.”

I agree and I have said as much.  That‘s all the time we have for tonight.  You can e-mail us about the show.  Verdict@msnbc.com.  See you tomorrow.



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