updated 7/3/2008 10:57:52 AM ET 2008-07-03T14:57:52

Guests: Eric Lampel, Ron Allen, Lester Holt, Susan Filan, Contessa Brewer

DAN ABRAMS, HOST:  Tonight, Obama supporters go after Obama for what they say is his moves to the political center.  Should he have to apologize for trying to actually win this election?

Then, it may be a winning a shopping strategy, but what‘s the deal with Cindy McCain reportedly charging up to $750,000 on her credit cards in one month and one of her kids charging $50,000?  Can Americans relate to that?

MSNBC‘s Tucker Carlson; White House correspondent, April Ryan; and “Huffington Post‘s” Roy Sekoff, are with us.

And one of Charles Manson‘s closest accomplices, a woman who laughed about stabbing actress Sharon Tate, could soon be released from prison.

VERDICT starts now.

Hi, everyone.  Welcome to the show.

Some on the left are lashing out at Obama and McCain getting testy with a reporter.  Who won and who lost on the trail, Obama or McCain?

First up: Today, some of Obama‘s own supporters are going after him.  More than 12,000 created a group (ph) on the Obama Web site to express outrage over his support for a compromise terrorist surveillance bill.  This just a day after he spoke out in favor of faith-based programs, another that‘s lead many on the left to blast Obama for moving more towards the political right.

Last week, he joined many on the right in criticizing the Supreme Court‘s ruling that child rapists can‘t get the death penalty while supporting the court‘s ruling on the constitutional right to own a gun.  Why the shift?  According to Obama, there isn‘t one.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESUMPTIVE PRES. NOMINEE:  What happens is I get tagged as being on the left and when I simply describe what have been my positions consistently, then, so many people act surprised.  But there haven‘t been substantial shifts there.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Joining me now, founding editor of the Huffington Post, Roy Sekoff; White House correspondent and Washington bureau chief for American Urban Radio Networks, April Ryan; and MSNBC senior campaign correspondent, Tucker Carlson.

All right.  Roy, is it that horrifying to you that Obama is actually trying to win this election by appealing to independents?

ROY SEKOFF, HUFFINGTON POST:  That‘s where we have the disagreement.  I think he e should go back and he should maybe too, look that concession speeches of John Kerry, and Al Gore, and Hillary Clinton, who all tried to run to the middle and attempt to appeal to the swing voters.  I think this is actually a losing strategy for Obama.

ABRAMS:  So, the reason that John Kerry lost in 2004 or Al Gore in 2000 in theory, was because not enough people on the left came out and voted for them?

SEKOFF:  Oh, not exclusively.  I never said anything about the left.  I said he was trying -

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  What are we talking about here?  You‘re suggesting -

SEKOFF:  No, he‘s trying to appeal to the swing voters.  That‘s what you‘re saying, Dan.  He‘s trying to appeal to these swing voters.

ABRAMS:  Wait.  But you‘re saying, effectively, that he is going to lose votes, right?  He‘s going to lose votes by trying to appeal to the middle.  So, the people he‘s going to lose -

SEKOFF:  So, he‘s going to lose votes by watering down his brand.  That‘s the key with Obama.  I mean, you know, you know the old Texas saying, “You‘ve got to dance with the ones that brung you,” well the ones that brung Obama here are the people who are inspired by him, who have a message of hope, not of triangulation.

ABRAMS:  Yes.  I mean, in Texas, Tucker, they‘re pretty good by about politics.  And in Texas, they know how to dance and they know how to do their politics and I would think that this is just purely sort of—a strategy on the part of Obama.

TUCKER CARLSON, MSNBC SENIOR CAMPAIGN CORRESPONDENT:  Yes, I mean, here‘s a message to all the zombies who are feeling betrayed by Barack Obama.  The Upper West Side of Manhattan is not actual big enough to carry a presidential election.  The country is not that crazy.

You have to move to the center or you lose, in fact, that is Obama‘s brand.  His whole brand is, I‘m the conciliator.  I‘m the one who finds common ground.  I‘m post-partisan; I‘m beyond the bickering of Washington.  This is who he claims to be.

Now, the good news or bad news, depending on where your stand is, that‘s not true.  He‘s basically a pretty conventional liberal.  But posing as a centrist, that‘s what he does.

SEKOFF:  But, Tucker, I think you‘re absolutely right.  And so, I think, that‘s the difference, Dan.  When he is consistent with positions that may not be in lockstep with progressive, whether it‘s his comfort with faith, or whether it‘s, you know, the death penalty for child rapists, that‘s one thing.  But when he goes opposite of positions like NAFTA and FISA, that‘s when he gets into trouble.

ABRAMS:  April, I‘m not—so, it sounds like what Roy is saying, April, is that, as long as he‘s consistent with his past positions, then it‘s OK.  Look, the bottom line is, that this is what happens and, -- look, you guys know politics better than I do, but primaries versus the general election, you can‘t suddenly become pro-life if you were supporting abortion rights, although, you know, some people have done that.  But this is not that kind of shift.  I mean, he‘s altering ever so slightly and people on the left are going crazy over this.

APRIL RYAN, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT:  Well, Dan, that‘s interesting, you brought up a very interesting point.  I talked to someone who is a leader in the Christian right and he said, “Look, Barack Obama looks good.”  All the Republicans I‘m talking to, they are saying he looks good.  But the issue is, he‘s not necessary going to get all the Reagan Democrats that he thinks he‘s going to get because of his stand on gay rights, as well as being pro-choice.

But, also, you have to remember, if, indeed, Barack would change his major stance, if he would say, “Look, I‘m pro-life.”  He would have, I mean, it would be over.  It would be over but (INAUDIBLE).  That‘s it.

ABRAMS:  Roy, don‘t people like you on the left who are now blasting him, as he‘s getting blasted by the right on some of these same issues, I mean, you‘ve got the Catholic League blasting him from the right on his faith-based initiative, saying, “Obama wants to gut the religious values and bar religious agencies from hiring people who share their religion.  Hence, his initiative is a fraud.”

So, he‘s getting blasted by the right on what he said.  And now, people like you are coming out and blasting him from the left, you want to talk about sort of he needs to do to win, don‘t some people on the left need to just suck it up and say, “You know what, he‘s doing what he believes in; he‘s saying what he thinks, and if we don‘t agree with it, we still want a win”?

SEKOFF:  Oh, absolutely, Dan.  I don‘t expect Barack Obama to walk in lockstep with any constituency.  But what I‘m trying to say is, I think this is a losing strategy.  I think, you know, trying to appeal to this ambiguous swing voter strategy.  I think Obama‘s real key is that he‘s attracting voters.

Don‘t forget, 83 million eligible voters didn‘t show up at the polls in 2004.  And that‘s what he‘s been able to do.  He‘s been able to invigorate people who have rejected the electoral process, and I think that‘s where his sweet spot is, not trying to attract these swing voters.

ABRAMS:  But he‘s been able to invigorate Democrats.  I mean, haven‘t these been primaries, Roy?  I mean, you tell me, am I getting this wrong?

SEKOFF:  No, I think it‘s in the carry over.  I mean, that‘s the thing, they‘re not all Democrats.  You know, a lot of these people have given up on the electoral process.  They don‘t identify themselves as Republicans; they don‘t identify themselves, you know, as Democrats.

They‘re just disaffected.  They don‘t have health care.  They don‘t have jobs.  They can‘t afford the gas.

ABRAMS:  Go ahead, April.

RYAN:  Dan, I think the issue is the fact that this man is trying to go out and win an election, a historic election.  And he‘s also poised to go into the Republican camp and pull some people; the Republican camp is not totally for John McCain.  And that‘s the issue, he knows that he‘s going to try to get it.

ABRAMS:  I think, look, I‘m going to call—I call this a win for Obama.  I think he has to do this to win the general election.  It‘s not like he‘s going to lose these voters to McCain because he‘s not going to lose the left voters to McCain because of this.

All right.  Next up: The McCain campaign goes a shakeup today.  They announced that Republican operative and former Dick Cheney aide, Steve Schmidt, will take over the day-to-day operation from campaign manager Rick Davis.

Politico.com reporting, quote, “Schmidt is known of his aggressive brand of political combat.  He was a top communication aide in the Bush-Cheney ‘04, and will coordinate the campaign‘s daily pro-McCain and anti-Obama message.”

Tucker, does this mean that McCain is no longer to be taking the high road on the attacks?

CARLSON:  Well, there‘s nothing low about pointing out that you‘re a better candidate than your opponent.  You wouldn‘t be running if you didn‘t think that.  I think you‘ve got an obligation to explain why.  McCain falls down on that often.  McCain somehow, and I get this from years of watching the guy, feels it‘s wrong or beneath him to define his opponent negatively.

I don‘t think it‘s wrong or beneath anybody to do that.  And, I think, Schmidt, whom I know, and I think, is smart and a tough guy will push the campaign in that direction.  Look, McCain is likely not going to win this election by selling his story and his ideas.  It‘s a Democratic year, people are very anti-Republican.

The only way he wins, it seems to me, is by convincing people that Barack Obama is an unacceptable choice, that he‘s scary.  And presumably, if he actually feels that way, he wouldn‘t be running against him.  So, I think Schmidt will push him to say that and I think that‘s probably a good thing.

ABRAMS:  April, how big a deal is this in context—the fact that there‘s a shakeup going on, is this saying there‘s concern on the part of the McCain camp?

RYAN:  I mean, you don‘t have to plaster it on his head, but you know there is concern, most definitely.  He‘s losing in the polls four months out, four months out from the general election.  This man, the senator who was a POW, who was broken, bled for this country is losing an election to basically a newcomer on the national scene.

ABRAMS:  Roy?

RYAN:  Shakeup.

SEKOFF:  Well, you know, Dan, obviously, this is a big loss.  You don‘t fire your head coach if you‘re winning the game.  I respect McCain for realizing that he‘s losing, but at the same time, his problem is not personnel.  His problem is that the issues and the policies that he‘s running on have been rejected by the majority of the American people.

I mean, you know, 80 percent of the people think we need to change course and he‘s running on more of the same and by hiring Schmidt, it‘s even more of more of the same because he‘s bringing in one of Karl Roves acolytes.  So, we‘re going to be seeing the same kind of thing that people have rejected.  So, I think it‘s a loss.

RYAN:  But in this case, I think it‘s the message and the messenger.  The change is because of the message and the messenger that they are, of course, trying to attack the person and move, shake it up, I‘m not saying it‘s McCain but looking at the other people.

ABRAMS:  Tucker, but, look, base on -

CARLSON:  Can I -

ABRAMS:  Yes, go ahead.

CARLSON:  Can I just make an obvious point here that Roy may not aware of? In all elections, from school board on up to president, people vote against much more than they vote for.  Candidates and their supporters delude themselves into thinking voters are voting for them because they adore their message of promise and change.  That‘s not true at all.  People vote because they‘re afraid of the other guy in every election.  Always included this -

SEKOFF:  Tucker, I just said that they‘re voting against what they had.

CARLSON:  Exactly.

SEKOFF:  Exactly, right.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON:  But you‘re making the point that somehow the politics of defining your opponents, you know, as less good than you, that‘s been rejected by the American people.  It has certainly not been, it‘s been embraced by every -

(CROSSTALK)

SEKOFF:  I haven‘t said a word about that.  What I‘ve said is, they‘re rejecting the policies of George Bush, which John McCain is running to perpetuate.  That‘s what I said.

ABRAMS:  I don‘t know how to rule this one, so, I‘m going to call it a draw.  I don‘t know in the end what it means.  But I do like the fact that when Tucker and Roy are arguing, they‘re both smiling.

Everyone is staying with us.

Coming up, John McCain losing his temper with a reporter and a fellow Republican senator recalls McCain grabbing someone by his shirt collar.  McCain‘s temper is a campaign issue again?

And, a new poll about the possible first ladies, as details emerge about the $750,000 Cindy McCain racked up on her credit card in a month.  Who won the day, Obama or McCain, when we come back?

Plus, the Department of Homeland Security is trying to hide how much taxpayer money it will spend on the fence on the Mexican border, another reason Why America Hates Washington is coming up in 60 seconds.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Tonight‘s edition of Why America Hates Washington: The Department of Homeland Security and it‘s bungle (ph) budget for a border fence.  Both Congress and the Government Accountability Office criticized DHS for failing to explain how it spent nearly $3 billion on the border fence plan and how it planned to spend millions more going forward.

The department responded with another botched estimate, which one watchdog group says, was at tens (ph) of the actual cost.  Hollywood had the grossly over-budget movie “Heaven‘s Gate” and now DHS has the border-gate.  It‘s another reason Why America Hates Washington.

We‘re back with more with John McCain‘s rumored temper tantrum, coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  We‘re back.  Who won the day, McCain or Obama? Right now on my scorecard, I have one win for Obama and one draw.  Still with us is Roy Sekoff, April Ryan and Tucker Carlson.

Next up: McCain has long been dogged by reports that he‘s got a temper—a temper that appeared to make a return last night.  McCain became visibly angry when a reporter questioned him about his military service.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER:  In what ways did your experience in Vietnam prepare you for the presidency?

MCCAIN:  Oh, please.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER:  I‘m just wondering.

MCCAIN:  Please.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Rumors about McCain‘s short fuse have been around for years and today, a fellow GOP senator added fuel to the fire.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

SEN. THAD COCHARN, ® MISSISSIPPI:  I saw some kind of quick movement at the bottom of the table and I looked down there and John had reached over and grabbed this guy by the shirt collar and had snatched him up like he was throwing him up out of the chair to tell him what he thought about him or whatever.  I don‘t know what he was doing.  I thought, “Good grief, everybody around here has got guns and we were there on a diplomatic mission.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Today, McCain said the story is, quote, “simply not true.”

All right.  April, how big a deal is this for John McCain when temper stories start emerging again?

RYAN:  It‘s a big deal.  People want to see an American president who can be, who can be tough under pressure, not blow their stack.  But, you know, it‘s been rumored for a long time, so many people inside Washington say they‘ve seen it and people in Arizona say they had first-hand knowledge of it and experienced it.  And America wants to know that their president can handle tough situations and handle tough times with an even, with an even hand and an even mind.

ABRAMS:  Tucker?

CARLSON:  You‘ve got to be kidding.

RYAN:  No.

CARLSON:  I mean, get real.  The tape that you show (ph) me, I mean, knock it off.

(CROSSTALK)

RYAN:  We know Bill Clinton, we know George Bush -

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON:  OK, they all have temper problems and the tape that you showed that was him getting mad.  I‘ve seen interns get madder than that in the newsroom.  You work in journalism, you know that‘s nothing.

And by the way, I hope he grabbed that Sandinista official by the face and ground him into the desk.  They were monsters.  They screwed up that country.  They killed a lot of people, they deserved it.  I think America wants a president with some backbone.  Come on.

ABRAMS:  Roy?

RYAN:  I did not say that.

SEKOFF:  You know, Dan, I mean, he‘s running for president of the United States, not im these manners.  I mean, suddenly he‘s going to be disqualified because he gets a little hot under the collar and has a potty mouth.  It‘s nothing.

ABRAMS:  Let me play, this is what happened.

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  Look, but here‘s Jon Stewart talking about, joking about McCain‘s temper.  And this is what can happen.  All right.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JON STEWART, TV HOST:  It turns out that one of the gentlemen running for president has been accused of dropping the C-bomb while engaged in the heated debate on the floor of the living room of his own house.

(APPLAUSE)

STEWART:  According to the new unauthorized biography, “The Real McCain,” one time after his wife Cindy told him his hair didn‘t look good, Senator McCain responded, “At least I don‘t plaster on the makeup like a trollop, you (BEEP).

(LAUGHTER)

STEWART:  OK.  It seems a little harsh.  But in his defense, Senator McCain‘s a navy man.  It‘s just salty navy talk.  He‘s not trying to hide it.  You‘ve seen his campaign slogan - “John McCain, an experience (BEEP) count on.”

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Well -

RYAN:  Dan, I‘m talking, I‘m not talking about a potty mouth.  I‘m talking about someone who will blow a fuse.  Do you want that, Tucker?  Hey, you have it if you want it.

CARLSON:  I‘ve spent a lot of time with the guy.  I‘ve never seen him blow any fuses or even close.

SEKOFF:  You know what I love about this story, Dan, the most, is that when they ask Cochran why he‘s telling the story, he says because he wants to show how John McCain has matured over the last 20 years as opposed to what he was a 50-year-old hothead.  I mean, it‘s ludicrous.

CARLSON:  I like the 50-year-old version better, good for him.  Am I the only person in America who likes that?  Getting lectured from some creep from Sandinista government?  Grab him by his shirt and knock it off, pal.  Good for him.

SEKOFF:  I mean, grabbing the Sandinista is a little bit different than abusing your wife.  Those are two different things.

RYAN:  Do you want somebody who‘s levelheaded and who‘s going to war or somebody who‘s blowing a fuse when they are talking about major world issues, possibly going to war and things of that nature?  Let‘s be real.

ABRAMS:  I don‘t know if he‘d blow a fuse or not but I think it‘s a loss for McCain because any time his temper is in the headlines, I don‘t think it helps.

Next up: A new poll out reveals Americans‘ attitudes towards the candidates‘ wives.  Thirty percent of Americans now view Michelle Obama favorably, 35 percent view her unfavorably; 27 percent think favorably of Cindy McCain; 17 percent unfavorably.

In other first wives news, Politico.com is reporting on Cindy McCain‘s spending habits today, according to disclosure forms, they say Cindy racked up $500,000 of charges in one month on one American Express card, another $250,000 on an additional American Express card and one of their children held a monthly balance of $50,000 on yet another card.

Tucker, how can he claim to know average American‘s pain if his wife is spending $750,000 a month?

CARLSON:  Well, I would be annoyed if it was my wife, I‘ve got to be honest.  But I never heard Cindy McCain say that she felt anybody‘s pain.  I mean, she‘s an affluent woman, she‘s got a lot of money, and she apparently she spends it.  I mean, you know, it‘s hard to sort of hit her on hypocrisy since -

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  Yes, look, I agree, there‘s no hypocrisy here.  But I just can‘t believe that it‘s helpful to the campaign if the wife—I mean, imagine, let‘s turn the tables here.  Imagine for a minute, April, if Michelle Obama was accused of spending enormous amounts of money, $750,000 for the Obamas, I think, might be a little much, but let‘s say some enormous amount of money on a month on her credit cards; I think that people would be going crazy.

RYAN:  People would be going, I mean, absolutely ape over it. 

Number one, she‘s buying clothes off the rack and everyone is loving that.  You‘re in a time when people are being laid off from Starbucks, shops are closing, you‘ve got GM having issues, talking about possibly being able to use money for the rest of the year and after that maybe bankruptcy.

I mean, this is not a time to be doing elaborate spending, I mean, maybe more than just elaborate, but this is a time when people are looking, holding their pocketbooks, and looking at the leader and the possible leader of the free world to make sure they understand their pain.

ABRAMS:  And, Roy, one of my favorite parts is that Politico is reporting, this is how a campaign aide has sort of explaining it, who didn‘t want to be identified discussing the McCain‘s personal finances, stressed that the credit card balances are not ongoing debt.  Well, that‘s a relief.

SEKOFF:  Yes, they can take that one off.  I mean, the hypocrisy, though, comes when Karl Rove tries to paint Barack Obama as a country club elitist.

I mean, Cindy McCain is the real deal when you want to say, “The more you learn, the less you like.”  She‘s worth $100 million.  She runs up $750,000 on the credit card, you know, this kind of thing.  They don‘t pay their property taxes on the vacation home in California.

You know, this is not going to go over well with the American people.

ABRAMS:  All right.  Look, I‘m going to call this a lose for McCain.  I don‘t know that people are going to pay that much attention to it, but I do think it‘s a lose.  I think it makes it hard to say that you can relate to the average American‘s pain when the economy is the key issue right now.  It gives me, at least in my scorecard, a final score today of one win for Obama and two losses for McCain and one draw.

So, I‘m going to say that I think today was a definite win for Obama on the day.

But, Tucker, what do you think in terms of the day, who won?

CARLSON:  It‘s hard to see day by day.  It‘s kind of interesting that McCain is in Colombia on the day when, you know, the world‘s focuses on Colombia because of the release of those four hostages, the FARC hostages.  I don‘t know.  I actually think it sort of makes him look like kind of a statesman and again, I‘m won over by grabbing by Sandinista by the lapels.  Very close to getting my vote just on that story.

ABRAMS:  April?

RYAN:  I think McCain and the classic words of that song, “he had a bad day.”

ABRAMS:  Roy?

SEKOFF:  Yes, if McCain grabbed one of the Colombians and pulled him over, I call it a draw, otherwise a win for Obama.

ABRAMS:  Yes.  All right.  Roy Sekoff, April Ryan, and Tucker Carlson, thanks a lot.  Appreciate it.

Coming up, one of Charles Manson‘s followers who killed pregnant actress Sharon Tate now may be released from prison.  Her attorney is with us for a debate.

And: FOX News attacks the “New York Times” by literally altering pictures of a “Times” editor and reporter to make them look uglier than they are.  Yes, they really did it and did not say that they were doing it.  Beat the Press is next.

And later: Christie Brinkley‘s attorney said her soon-to-be ex spent $3,000 a month on porn, yes, while he was married to Christie Brinkley.  And yes, he‘s one of our losers tonight.  Coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

First up: Over at FOX News, they really outdid themselves this morning.  They were upset at a “New York Times” article titled, “FOX News Finds It‘s Rivals Closing In.” which we are.  So, rather than address the substance, they targeted “New York Times” editor, Steven Reddicliffe and reporter Jacques Steinberg.  But look carefully at the pictures they used.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “FOX & FRIENDS”/FOX NEWS)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  His boss, the guy who assigned to this, is a fellow by the name of Steven Reddicliffe, and Mr. Reddicliffe actually he used to work for this company.  He sends his attack dog, Jacques Steinberg out, that fellow right there, the writer for the “New York Times” to do these hit pieces.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Hit piece?  How about the fact that they altered the photos?  Compare the actual picture of editor, Steven Reddicliffe, to the one they used.  They yellowed his teeth, blackened his eyes, receded his hairline.  And here‘s reporter, Jacques Steinberg, and what FOX used.  They gave him a bigger nose, and, again, blackened his eyes and yellowed his teeth.  They report, you decide.

Next up, I‘m a big fan of forensic pathologist, Dr. Michael Baden, he‘s now with FOX, he often offers insightful commentary, but sometimes it‘s kind of self-evident.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “ON THE RECORD‘/FOX NEWS/JUNE 25)

DR. MICHAEL BADEN, FORENSIC PATHOLOGIST:  They‘re thinking of a drug overdose, and that points toward a self-inflicted suicide.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Self-inflicted suicide as opposed to what?  Otherwise it would be murder, right?

Finally: in our continuing series, how dumb does CNN think their viewers are?  Senior business correspondent, Ali Velshi, pulled out a set of dominos so that viewers might be able to really understand how much money they lost in the stock market.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “CNN ELECTION CENTER”/TUESDAY)

ALI VELSHI, CNN CORRESPONDENT:  Each one of these dominos is worth $10 billion.  That‘s not even a number you can really fathom but I‘m going to give you some sense of how much money has been lost since the beginning of this year.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Wow.

VELSHI:  That is 210 dominoes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  So, now, when discussing the stock market with your friends you can say, you know, I never fathomed how much it was until this guy on CNN knocked over all these dominos.  Then I got it.

Up next: The former Charles Manson follower killed pregnant actress Sharon Tate and who said, quote, “Woman I have no mercy for you,” while Tate was pleading for her life, wants mercy.  Now that she‘s terminally ill and she may now be released from prison.  We‘ll debate with her attorney.

Plus, breaking news tonight.  The body of the missing 12-year-old whose uncle and ex-stepfather arrested has for sexually assaulting a minor has been found.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)   

(NEWSBREAK)

ABRAMS:  We‘re back.  Breaking tonight, a missing Vermont girl has been found dead near her uncle‘s property, 12-year-old Brooke Bennett went missing last week, disappearing a short time after this surveillance video showed her at a convenience store with her uncle who claimed he dropped her off there. 

The uncle, Michael Jacques, was arraigned Monday on sex charges involving a different girl who said Jacques was running a sex ring, abusing girls as young as 9.  Now new evidence suggests Brooke might have been pulled into that ring, but court documents out today also cast doubt on Jacques‘ story.  Joining me on the phone with latest is NBC‘s Ron Allen.  He‘s in Burlington, Vermont, and he has been covering the case. 

Ron, how did they find the body? 

RON ALLEN, NBC CORRESPONDENT:  They say they found the body based on information they developed by searching Jacques‘ home.  It all goes back to him, Dan.  And he hasn‘t been charged with murder yet.  There was a suggestion that he might be charged with kidnapping. 

The U.S. attorney is going to have a press conference tomorrow, that might be when it is.  But there seems to be little doubt that he was centrally involved (INAUDIBLE) and the guy who had a troubled past dating back to the early 1990s, all kinds of sex charges. 

He was a known sex offender and, as you said it, one of these cases involved a girl who was 9 years old who he had been molesting and assaulting for five years or so.  It turns out that that girl was the one who led authorities to Jacques and eventually to Brooke‘s body. 

ABRAMS:  All right.  Ron Allen, thanks very much for that update.  We appreciate it.  Keep us updated. 

After nearly 40 years behind bars, one of Charles Manson‘s fellow killers could soon be set free.  Susan Atkins, convicted in the 1969 murder of actress Sharon Tate, Atkins, then 22, confessed to helping stab Tate 16 times.  And after the killing, the pregnant wife of director Roman Polanski, she pasted her blood and used it to scrawl the word “pig” on her front door. 

Now prison officials say Atkins is being considered for what is called “compassionate release” because doctors say she has only six months to live.  Before we speak to Susan Atkins‘ attorney, here is a little bit more about the Manson women. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LESTER HOLT, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  The media put Charles Manson in the spotlight, but the true killers are young women.  Susan Atkins, a 19-year-old ex-stripper who was living with drug dealers.  Atkins is a high school dropout who has spent most of her life searching for a place to fit in.  After spending the night with Manson, she, too, falls under his spell. 

VINCENT BUGLIOSI, PROSECUTED CHARLES MANSON:  When you look at the Manson family, for the most part, they had fairly good backgrounds, average American backgrounds, totally different from what we would expect obviously of mass murderers.  But Susan did not have that background.  Her mother died when Susan was rather young, she didn‘t get along with her father and she drifted to San Francisco and became a topless dancer.  You couldn‘t categorize her background as being average American. 

HOLT:  In the spring of 1968, after a year after living like nomads, Charles Manson, the women, and other members of the growing family set up camp at a run-down film set on the outskirts of Los Angeles.  Saturday, August 9th, 1969, Patricia Krenwinkel and Susan Atkins are summoned by Manson.  He tells them “Helter Skelter” is at hand. 

SUSAN ATKINS, MANSON “FAMILY” KILLER:  We drove to the house with instructions to kill everyone in the house.  I remember when we first went in, one of the people said, who are you?  And Tex said, I‘m the devil and I‘m here to do the devil‘s business. 

HOLT:  The first person to die inside the house is Jay Sebring, when he refuses to obey Tex Watson‘s orders.  He is shot, beaten, and stabbed. 

ATKINS:  I remember seeing people scattering in different places and running in different places.  I tied his hands with a towel and then was instructed to kill him.  And he and I began to fight and I remember I was screaming for help and he was screaming for help and then Tex came and helped me. 

HOLT:  Frykowski is stabbed 51 times.  He is then shot twice, finally he is beaten to death with a gun.  Now, only Sharon Tate remains alive. 

ATKINS:  I felt nothing.  I felt absolutely nothing for her.  And she begged for her life and for the life of her baby. 

HOLT:  Tate‘s pleas go unheeded.  Watson and Atkins stab her to death.  Then Atkins takes a towel, dips it in Tate‘s blood and writes “pig” on the front door. 

ATKIN:  It‘s so alive in me even just recalling it.  I remember that I had gone so far and there was no turning back. 

HOLT:  Three months later, all the members of the Manson family are arrested, but not for the murders.  Police want them for auto theft, but when family member Susan Atkins lands in jail, she begins to held her cellmates about Manson.  It‘s the lucky break the LAPD needs. 

BUGLIOSI:  She told two co-inmates of hers that she was a member of a family.  And the family was responsible for all these murders, the Tate/LaBianca murders that the police were still trying to solve. 

HOLT:  Susan Atkins‘ unwitting jailhouse confession leads to the arrest of Patricia Krenwinkel, Leslie Van Houten, Linda Kasabian, Tex Watson, and Charles Manson. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ABRAMS:  Joining me now is Susan Atkins‘ attorney, Eric Lampel; and MSNBC‘s senior legal analyst Susan Filan (ph). 

Thanks to both of you for coming on, appreciate it.  All right.  Eric, what is the argument for releasing Susan Atkins? 

ERIC LAMPEL, ATTORNEY FOR SUSAN ATKINS:  Well, the California penal code that was amended that went into effect this year allows for compassionate release of terminally ill prisoners if they‘re not a danger to society.  Certainly Susan qualifies for—she is disabled, she has a couple months to live. 

The reason the governor and the legislature in California passed that was to ease some of the burden on the California taxpayers to not have to pay these huge hospital costs for caring for these terminally ill prisoners. 

ABRAMS:  But because this is such a high-profile case, you seem to still think that there‘s a real shot? 

LAMPEL:  Well, there‘s a shot.  I mean, this is a new code section, a few prisoners have been released, not all of them.  Susan has been eligible for parole for decades and has been a model prisoner.  Hasn‘t been a danger to society for decades.  And the fact that she now has brain cancer and has lost her left leg through amputation, certainly means she‘s not a danger. 

So, I hope that compassionate release law will allow her to.  If she‘s not going to be released, she is going to be in the same hospital room, but at least her family will be able to come in and see her. 

ABRAMS:  Susan?

SUSAN FILAN, MSNBC SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST:  It‘s an outrage to even consider letting her out on compassionate release.  I understand the statute, I understand the financial cost to the state, but the state has to penalize people who have been convicted and sentenced by the court.  This court sentenced her to this life imprisonment term whether it involves brain cancer or not.  So I don‘t see why because she‘s ill she should get out.  You do the crime you do the time.

LAMPEL:  Yes, you do the sentence and the sentence was not life in prison.  You misunderstand the basics of the situation.  Her sentence was seven years to life with the possibility of parole. 

FILAN:  But she has been denied parole every other time for every other reason.  You are only just saying now she should get out because she‘s sick.  And I‘m saying that doesn‘t change anything because she was denied parole for the same reasons earlier, those reasons still stand. 

LAMPEL:  The only reasons were she was involved in the crime, I make no excuses for those crimes.  That isn‘t the point.  The point is she qualifies under this section, she‘s terminally ill, she‘s not a danger, she has one leg, she has brain cancer, she‘s not going to get out and do anything.  And the state of California shouldn‘t have to pay for it. 

ABRAMS:  Hang on one second, let me play—I want you to respond.  This is Debra Tate, Sharon Tate‘s sister testifying at one of the parole hearings. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DEBRA TATE, SISTER OF SHARON TATE:  I don‘t think that serial killers should be released back into society.  I believe that if one is, that that opens the door for the future. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  What about that, Eric? 

LAMPEL:  Well, they disagree with the sentence.  They think she should be put to death or burned at the stake or something, or it‘s a life in prison. 

ABRAMS:  Or just stay behind bars for life. 

LAMPEL:  Well, but she‘s seven to years with life with the possibility of parole was her sentence.  She‘s terminally ill, she qualifies. 

ABRAMS:  Bottom line, Susan, do you think it will happen? 

FILAN:  No.  And I think just because she technically qualifies doesn‘t mean she should get it.  I don‘t think she should get it and I don‘t think she will. 

ABRAMS:  We shall see.  Eric Lampel and Susan Filan, thanks a lot.

LAMPEL:  Thank you, Dan.

FILAN:  Thank you.

ABRAMS:  Up next, a police officer shot multiple times in a major gun battle.  All of it caught on tape, we have got the tape and we hear from him, next. 

And algae invades the Olympics. “Reality Bites” in 60 seconds.  

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Now to “Reality Bites.” Tonight we head to China where a massive cleanup is under way at China‘s Olympic sailing village because of a giant algae mess along the coast.  With the Olympic games a little more than a month away, the Chinese have some 10,000 workers and a 1,000 boats clearing away the algae, which covers some 5,000 square miles.  We‘ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Welcome back.  Police dash cams are a part of life now in many departments.  This weekend MSNBC‘s “Caught on Camera” will show some of the most striking incidents.  One involves a cop fired on at point blank rage.  The incident recorded on his dash cam. 

Here‘s MSNBC‘s Contessa Brewer. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CONTESSA BREWER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  Tyler, Texas, March 22nd, 2006.  A state trooper is viciously shot on a dark highway and it‘s caught on his dashboard camera.  The incident begins when Steve Stone (ph) with the Texas Department of Public Safety catches a pickup truck speeding.  The experienced law enforcement officers soon finds a stash of drugs. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  What‘s in there? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Some weed. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  What? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Weed. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Weed? 

They caught me off-guard.  Normally they make you drag the answer out of them.  So I asked him again, I said, is it weed?  He says, yes, it‘s weed.  And I set that down on my patrol car because he was going to be under arrest for possession of marijuana. 

OK, I have got a bag full of drugs here. 

BREWER:  The situation grows tense as trooper Stone places the driver under arrest. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Place your hands behind your back.  You‘re under arrest.  Stop. 

BREWER:  But before he can get the handcuffs on.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Stay in the car!

BREWER:  The passenger door opens, trooper Stone reaches for his weapon. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  When that door first came open, the look on that man‘s face as he was getting out of that truck I will never forget. 

BREWER:  The driver and passenger both pull guns. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The driver was able to use his free right hand.  I never did observe a gun.  So that tells me it was further down and hidden from my view.  And in the video you can see him dig down in there and pull a semi-automatic pistol out of his pants. 

BREWER:  They both unload their weapon.  Trooper Stone falls down an embankment before he can fire back. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  It‘s believed they took about 20 shots at me, so they fired until the guns were empty. 

BREWER:  They fled the scene, leaving the police officer for dead on the side of the road. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  They just wouldn‘t stop shooting.  In my mind every round they fired was hitting me. 

BREWER:  Somehow, some way, he is still alive.  His bulletproof vest helps, but barely. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I was struck twice in the chest, once in the back, came out the top of my left shoulder, and then I was struck three times in the neck.  And I also have a impact wound on the chin. 

BREWER:  He screams out. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  You hear me yelling out, “help, Tyler!”.  We call our communications center here at this district officer, they‘re known as Tyler, that‘s their call sign. 

BREWER:  But as cries for help go unheard, he doesn‘t have a radio on him and the dashboard camera is recording audio, but it‘s not being transmitted to anyone.  He‘s in intense pain, and bleeding profusely.  He struggles back to his to patrol car where he can radio for help. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I was able to reach in and grab the radio and make a call out for help. 

Tyler, help, I‘ve been shot!  Help, Tyler, help, please! 

I actually had an image of my wife waving after we had just had dinner earlier that day and I was thinking about my little girl back at home. 

BREWER:  He summons the strength to relay critical information on the suspects. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Fourteen, 14, can give me any kind of vehicle information? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  It‘s going to be a blue pickup truck with two Hispanic males. 

BREWER:  Help arrives within minutes, as cops begin a hunt for the blue pickup.  Trooper Stone is still conscious, but in critical condition. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  It felt like my shoulder exploded and the only thing holding it together was the skin.  It hurt very intensely.  It was also during this time that I realized I had been shot in the neck. 

BREWER:  Thanks to his speedy description, police spot the blue pickup within a half hour and a high-speed chase ensues.  Then the car crashes, the two men inside severely injured, but alive, police recover several weapons in the car. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  We‘re going to need that rifle right there, Robert (ph).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The driver was an illegal immigrant and he had been criminally deported from the United States two times prior to the day he shot me for weapon and drug offenses.  So this would have been his third strike. 

BREWER:  After barely surviving the car crash, the two men plead guilty to several counts of aggravated assault on a public servant.  They‘re sentenced to life in president.  Despite the torrent of gunfire, the 29-year-old former military police officer survives. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I mean, it‘s just a miracle that they didn‘t pierce anything vital, any of the major blood vessels. 

BREWER:  But recovery takes nearly two years and it‘s not 100 percent. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I still have some mobility issues with my left shoulder.  I guess I think about it most when I‘m playing with my little girl. 

BREWER:  He returns to the job and becomes an investigator.  And he says he cherishes life more than ever. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I didn‘t want my little girl to grow up without a father.  You know, I didn‘t want my—my wife to have to explain to her why her father‘s not around. 

Help!  Help!  Help!  Help!

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ABRAMS:  Wow.  The full program “Caught on Camera: The Thin Blue Line,” premiers this Sunday at 10:00 right here on MSNBC. 

Up next, will tonight‘s big winner or the loser of the day be Christie Brinkley‘s ex, who we now know spent big bucks every month on porn; Lindsay Lohan‘s dad, Michael, trying to make big bucks auctioning off his latest paternity test; or “90210” star Shannon Doherty who could once again be reeling in the big bucks by returning to that famed zip code? 

Plus, your e-mails calling at the “P.O.‘d Box.” Be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  It‘s time for tonight‘s “Winners and Losers.” Our first loser, Alec Baldwin.  Poor guy, it seems every time he gets politically involved he creates a controversy.  This time he tries to help New York‘s carriage horses, lobbying to eliminate the industry so the Horse and Carriage Association of New York honor him by naming diapers attached behind the horses to catch their manure “Baldwin Bags.” 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM “SEINFELD”)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  We can‘t breathe right here.  Hurry it up. 

(LAUGHTER)

MICHAEL RICHARDS, ACTOR, “KOSMO KRAMER”:  Rusty! 

(LAUGHTER)

RICHARDS:  Rusty!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Our second loser, Lindsay Lohan‘s dad, Michael Lohan.  According to TMZ, Lohan auctioning the results of his paternity test to two magazines.  At issue, whether Ashley Kaufmann, seen here as Lohan‘s illegitimate daughter, he is reportedly asking $10,000 for the story if he‘s not the dad, $20,000 if he is the dad.  You stay classy. 

But the big loser of the day, Peter Cook, whose bitter divorce from supermodel Christie Brinkley began today in court and we know maybe why he didn‘t want the case to be public.  Testimony today indicated Cook allegedly spent $3,000 a month checking out porn and swinger sites.  Really?  Put aside the fact he was living the fantasy being married to Christie Brinkley, but $3,000 a month?  What kind of VIP access do you get for that kind of money?  I swear, I don‘t know.  I don‘t. 

Our winner of the day, actress Shannon Doherty, you know, Brenda Walsh from “Beverly Hills: 90210”?  She hasn‘t been doing much since those days, but she may have a new gig.  She reportedly could be getting her gig back, playing Brenda Walsh in a new CW spin-off called, surprisingly enough, “90210.” 

Time for the “P.O.‘d Box,” your chance to tell me what‘s right or wrong about the show.  Noel Chestnut weighs in about the radical right‘s outrage over the animated kid flick “Wall-E,” they called it leftist propaganda. 

“I can‘t believe anyone, right-winged or not, would try to trash the movie ‘Wall-E.‘  My 6- and 7-year-old kids loved it and did not come out of the movie wanting to save the Earth or recycle.  I asked them what they thought the film was about.  They seemed to think it was about robot friendship.  Hmmm, go figure.” 

Michael McKinlay: “Thanks for squashing all the right wing talk about ‘Wall-E‘ being a propaganda piece.  People need to lighten up, eat their popcorn, and enjoy the show.” 

Finally, Joe Burns writes about last night‘s segment on the Supreme Court as a campaign issue. “Why is it that even you say Roe v. Wade is overturned, that would be the end of legal abortion in the country?  Roe v.  Wade is a states rights issue.  It would allow states to outlaw abortion.” 

That‘s right, Joe.  And therefore it would mean the end of the constitutional right to have an abortion in this country.  I never said it would mean abortion would be outlawed everywhere.  E-mail us about the show, verdict@msnbc.com.  Thanks for watching.  We‘ll see you back here on Monday night.  Have a good weekend.

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

END   

Content and programming copyright 2008 MSNBC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.  Transcription Copyright 2008 ASC LLC 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 ASC LLC‘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

,