updated 7/17/2008 1:24:00 PM ET 2008-07-17T17:24:00

Guest: Contessa Brewer, Pete Williams, Marc Klaas, Larry Posner, Michael Waldman, April Ryan, Brad

Blakeman

DAN ABRAMS, HOST:  Hi, everyone.

Tonight: Bush League Justice is back.  President Bush is trying to block yet another investigation by Congress.  This time the White House is thumbing its nose at a House committee trying to get access to FBI interviews with Vice President Cheney as part of the CIA leak investigation.

Just days after Karl Rove defied a subpoena, claiming the White House would not allow him to testify, now, the Bush team again exerting privilege, this time to keep Attorney General Michael Mukasey from complying with the congressional subpoena for documents related to the Justice Department‘s CIA leak investigation.

House Oversight Committee Chairman Henry Waxman called the executive privilege claim, quote, “ludicrous.”  “We‘re not seeking access to the communications between the vice president and the president.  We‘re seeking access to the communications between the vice president and FBI investigators.” Waxman says a planned committee vote on holding Mukasey in contempt of Congress will be delayed for now.  Shocker.

If I was the president, I wouldn‘t be too worried about this Congress either.  The fact that they have taken no action against Karl Rove almost a week after he refused to even show up to assert his privilege sure makes it seem like they‘re willing to take it on the chin and avoid taking any action to enforce these subpoenas.

Joining me now, Michael Waldman, executive director of the Brennan Center at NYU law school and the author of “A Return to Common Sense”;

April Ryan, White House correspondent for American Urban Networks; and, Brad Blakeman, former aide to President Bush.

All right.  Michael, let me start with you.  Look, the administration again, now, asserting executive privilege, and now, the House Oversight Committee is saying, “We‘re going to think about this,” et cetera.  But if you‘re the White House at this point, don‘t you have a pretty good sense that, you know what, sure doesn‘t seem like Congress is really going to step up and do anything about this?

MICHAEL WALDMAN, NYU SCHOOL OF LAW:  Look, this case is a little more complicated than some of the other ones but, yes, absolutely.  Right now, each time the Congress says, “This time we really mean it,” it makes it harder to believe.  What we need the Congress to do in all of these matters is to really stand up and stand up for checks and balances, stand up for accountability.

The bottom line is, it‘s setting a precedent, not just for this White House which is going to be gone soon, but for future presidents, that you really don‘t have to worry about Congress as a co-equal branch.

ABRAMS:  But, you know, in the Karl Rove case, they say, “All right, you‘ve got a subpoena to appear by this day,” and they come on this program and they‘d say, “We‘re hoping Karl Rove is going to come on,” and then, of course, Karl Rove doesn‘t show up.  And then they say, “We‘re really, really, really serious and we‘re going to give you another chance to come,” and Karl Rove, again, does not show up.

And this is the letter that the White House wrote to Karl Rove on this issue—advising Rove not to appear.  They said, “We‘ve been advised by the Department of Justice that a present or former immediate adviser to the president is constitutionally immune from compelled congressional testimony about matters that arose during his or her tenure as a presidential aide and relate to his or her presidential duties.”

Well, that sure makes it sound like no one should is allowed to testify if they work for the president—ever.

WALDMAN:  On anything.

ABRAMS:  Right.

WALDMAN:  It‘s much wider than previous administrations have ever claimed, even what Nixon claimed, and the fact of the matter is, I think, something like that will not stand up in court.  As you know, the House has gone to court to try to enforce contempt proceedings against Harriet Miers and if the court‘s rule, as I think they will, that they actually have to follow this lawful subpoena in a real investigation of real scandals.

And at the very least, it won‘t just be Congress that the White House is in contempt of, but the courts, as well.  But this is way broader than anybody else.

ABRAMS:  Brad, I want to ask you a question.  This is specifically about the subpoenas with regard to the CIA leak investigation, alright?  Because here‘s what the Office of the Assistant Attorney General said to Waxman today, “Interview reports demanded by the committee deal directly with internal White House deliberative communications relating to foreign policy and national security decisions by the president and his adviser, communications that lie at the absolute core of executive privilege.”

Boy, does that mean that President Bush had a role in the CIA leak that we don‘t know about?

BRAD BLAKEMAN, FORMER BUSH AIDE:  No, not at all.  What you‘re reading into it, I don‘t understand, Dan.

ABRAMS:  Really?

BLAKEMAN:  Yes, I really don‘t.  But I tell you this, is that the inherent powers of the president are implied powers in article two.  And the gentleman who spoke before me is absolutely right.  If the Congress means what they say, they have a remedy—take them to court.  They don‘t want to do that because they‘re afraid of what you ask for.  The court may broaden executive privilege to where they‘re expressed in a decision by the Supreme Court.  They don‘t want that.  So, that‘s all bluster and all politics.

ABRAMS:  Real quickly.

WALDMAN:  Congress shouldn‘t have to go to court.  Congress is a co-equal branch with power to compel testimony and legitimate investigations.

BLAKEMAN:  Yes, but this is not legitimate.  That‘s the problem. 

And if it‘s not -

WALDMAN:  There was a crime here.

BLAKEMAN:  And if they thought it was legitimate, they‘d take them to court.

ABRAMS:  Wait.  They‘ve already taken them to court with regard to

Miers and with regard to Bolton.  I certainly think they‘re going to take

them to court with regard to Rove; I have no idea why it‘s taking so long.\

But, April, let‘s talk about the politics behind this, all right?  I mean, in the end, you know, we‘re talking to Michael, you know, a really smart lawyer about the legal issues here, but in the end, there is something that is preventing Congress from acting.  What is it?  Are they afraid of 2008?

APRIL RYAN, AMERICAN URBAN RADIO NETWORKS:  It‘s a lot of complicated mishmash.  What is going to happen is, Dan, down the road, this could send a chilling effect.  They want transparency, those who are dealing with executive powers say, no, because this will hinder free flowing information from going back and forth.

ABRAMS:  I don‘t believe that, April.  I know that‘s what they say.  I don‘t believe them.  I think this is truly an effort to say, “We simply don‘t want our people to testify.  You know why—because it might be embarrassing to us.”

Now, whether I‘m right or not, there are political elements here that, I think, and you correct me if I‘m wrong—why has, why has the Congress not acted on Karl Rove, they don‘t want to make a really big deal about something like this leading into 2008, am I wrong, April?

RYAN:  Well, yes and no.  But let‘s go back, let‘s go back in history a little bit.  Let‘s go back to the Clinton years.  OK, you had Lloyd Cutler tell journalists that the beginning of this Bush administration that he had wished that president, then President Clinton would have exerted his executive powers more.  And, you know, he was basically saying, “It would preserve the prerogatives of the power of the presidency.”

So, and this is not necessarily in this case, it‘s not partisan, it‘s both the Democrat and the Republican.

ABRAMS:  April, I‘ve got to tell you, I don‘t believe it‘s not partisan.  I mean, I absolutely agree with you, I think, this is all partisan.  I mean, honestly, I think that the bottom line here is that—you can argue, and Brad Blakeman will tell you that he thinks Karl Rove is being hauled in there out of purely partisan reasons.  I would argue that the reason Karl Rove is being hauled in there is because he‘s being accused of being a partisan and of politicizing the Justice Department and the fact that they‘re -

RYAN:  His name was definitely brought up in this, yes.

ABRAMS:  And the fact that they can‘t get anything done there, the fact that they can‘t get any of these people there, in a way—I mean, Michael, is it fair for me to blame Congress?

WALDMAN:  Well, Congress is probably worried.  They figure people say, “Well, why aren‘t they doing action on gas prices?  Why aren‘t they doing action on something else?”  And they‘ll see this as kind of tussling in and tit-for-tat.  But they know, I think, a lot of them know, that they need to stand their ground, not only on constitutional grounds but as a matter of power.

I worked for President Clinton in the White House and sure, all presidents would like to hold back what they can.  But this White House is claiming much broader constitutional authorities.  When he was in Congress, Dick Cheney said it was monarchical prerogative of the president to avoid complying with the law and that‘s what you‘re seeing play out.

ABRAMS:  And, Brad, let me read you, this is from Waxman today.  I‘m going to give you the final word on this.  “Attorney General Janet Reno provided the committee the FBI interviews of both President Clinton and Vice President Gore.  Mr. Mukasey decided that a different rule should apply to Republican presidents than to Democratic presidents.”

BLAKEMAN:  Look, what you have is a very smart attorney general who‘s trying to protect his client and that‘s the president of the United States, an executive privilege.  And, again, the Congress is not without remedy.  They have a remedy.  Matter of fact, they have two remedies.  Take it to court or impeach.  They can‘t impeach and they‘re not going to take to court because they‘re afraid -

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  And number three—wait, number three they could do, is they could haul one of these people in using inherent contempt, they can haul Karl Rove in and put him in the jail in the Capitol.  I‘m not saying they should do that, I‘m not.

BLAKEMAN:  They could, but I don‘t think Conyers is Barney Fife, but I don‘t think he‘s going to be opening up the jail.

(LAUGHTER)

ABRAMS:  All right.

RYAN:  But you‘ve got six months left in the administration.  I mean, how long you have to go to the floor of the House and Senate and then -- it‘s going to take a long time.

ABRAMS:  I understand.  Well, they could certainly expedite the process, they can certainly move forward with contempt proceedings against Rove.  What that means, how they deal with it, separate questions.

Michael Waldman, thanks a lot, good to see you.  April and Brad are going to stick around.

But we‘re going to turn now to the mortgage mess.  In an NBC News exclusive, what happens when the sheriff shows up with an eviction notice because somebody can‘t pay the mortgage?  NBC‘s Justice Department correspondent Pete Williams found out.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PETE WILLIAMS, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice over):  In Prince William County, Virginia, Deputy Sheriff Mark Hord (ph) prepares for an emotionally difficult assignment.

Ordering a man out of the house he can no longer afford.

UNIDENTIFIED DEPUTY SHERIFF:  We‘re actually going to evict him.  We‘re going to ensure that he physically leaves the property.  It‘s tough to look at somebody‘s face and you can see the anguish in their eyes.  You can see what they‘re going through -

WILLIAMS:  In his 29 years of doing this, he says, it never gets easier.

UNIDENTIFIED DEPUTY SHERIFF:  It‘s not just the lower, middle-income people, it‘s happening to everyone.

WILLIAMS:  Deputy Hord (ph) carries the eviction notice to a man who has lost his dream house on the edge of the Civil War battlefield in Manassas.

UNIDENTIFIED DEPUTY SHERIFF:  I need you to understand the rules.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  We‘re almost done.

UNIDENTIFIED DEPUTY SHERIFF:  All right.  Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Sure.

UNIDENTIFIED DEPUTY SHERIFF:  I‘m sorry.

WILLIAMS:  The man who asked us not to show his face fell behind in his payments nearly a year ago, now, he has one last day to cart away the memories of 10 years.  He made sure his children were elsewhere.

(on camera):  How did you break it to them?  What did you tell them?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Well, to the kids, I basically said, you know, we need to move.  You know, we‘ve ran into financial problems because I got sick.  I feel like I failed them, my kids and my wife.  So, what do you do?

WILLIAMS:  Here in Virginia, evictions are up 2/3 in just the past two years.  But those numbers don‘t tell the full story of what‘s happening behind the doors in subdivisions like this one.

(voice over):  In this townhouse development, a woman evicted from her home fits her final loads into a rented truck, as a contractor takes the last step, changing the locks on the house she‘s been ordered to leave.

DEPUTY RON CHRISTOFANO, PRINCE WILLIAM CTY., VA SHERIFF‘S DEPT.: 

It‘s tough to walk into a scenario like that knowing that, you know, they probably are giving it their best and, unfortunately, their best isn‘t good enough.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I‘ll be conducting the foreclosure sale today.

WILLIAMS:  At the county courthouse, the process begins all over again.  Auctioneers seek bids on more houses in foreclosure.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  $4 million, three times, sold.

WILLIAMS:  With the new owners wanting their houses, setting off another round of evictions.

Pete Williams, NBC News, Prince William County, Virginia.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ABRAMS:  Coming up, John McCain did it again—another gaffe on the international front.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, ® PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Why I‘m introducing the energy supplies to Czechoslovakia.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Czechoslovakia hasn‘t existed for more than 16 years.  It‘s the latest McCain slipup and no one is really talking about it.  Imagine if Obama made that sort of mistake.And, Scott Peterson joins the Blogosphere.  Yes, that Scott Peterson, you know, the one who killed his wife, Laci.  We‘ll debate.

Plus, Washington spending billions to protect against nuclear and biological weapons, but a new report says the system can‘t tell the difference between uranium and bananas.  Another reason Why America Hates Washington is coming up in 60 seconds.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Tonight‘s edition of Why America Hates Washington: The government spending millions on nuclear and biological weapon detection that may not work.  According to the Government Accountability Office, three years and $5 billion later, our radiation monitors can‘t necessarily tell the difference between uranium and bananas.

As for biological weapons, House testimony today called the Biowatch system, quote, “underfunded, improperly managed, and of unclear benefit.”  That‘s after talking about the $400 million in taxpayer dollars.  Billions spent on keeping America safe but leaving us vulnerable is another reason Why America Hates Washington.

Up next, John McCain often gets kudos for his foreign policy experience.  Does anyone actually listen to him lately?  We have.  Some of the greatest hits are coming up, back in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Welcome back.

Our Teflon John series is back, where we chronicle the media‘s reluctance to hold John McCain accountable, in the same way they might Barack Obama.

Tonight, a new ABC News/”Washington Post” Poll shows Americans overwhelmingly think John McCain has a better grasp of world affairs than Barack Obama.  Sixty-three percent say McCain has more knowledge on world affairs, 26 percent say Obama does.

But is that partly a result of media coverage?  Sure, McCain has been on the Senate Armed Services Committee for more than 20 years, but over the past weeks and months, McCain has made gaffe after gaffe when it comes to foreign affairs, and yet the D.C. media and pundits have, for the most part, shrugged it off.

Imagine the reaction if Obama had made even one of these embarrassing errors.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, FEB. 17, 2007)

MCCAIN:  I was in a conference in Germany over the weekend and President Putin of Germany gave one of the old Cold War-style speeches as he addressed the conference there.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, MARCH 18)

MCCAIN:  Well, it‘s common knowledge and it‘s been repeated in the media that al Qaeda is going back into Iran and receiving training and are coming back into Iraq from Iran, that‘s well known.

I‘m sorry—the Iranians are training extremists, not al Qaeda.  Not al Qaeda, I‘m sorry.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, JUNE 30)

MCCAIN:  How can we bring pressure on the government of Somalia? 

How can we - I mean, Sudan.  I‘m sorry, Sudan.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, MAY 29)

MCCAIN:  I can tell you that it is succeeding.  I can look you in the eye and tell you it‘s succeeding.  We have drawn down to pre-surge levels.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, OCTOBER 21)

MCCAIN:  The first thing I would do is make sure that we have a missile defense system in place in Czechoslovakia and Poland.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, JULY 14)

MCCAIN:  Reducing the energy supplies to Czechoslovakia.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, JULY 15)

MCCAIN:  I regret some of the recent behavior that Russia has exhibited and I‘ll be glad to talk about that later on, including reduction in oil supplies to Czechoslovakia.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  All right, still with us are April Ryan and Brad Blakeman.

All right.  April, I want to hold you a little bit accountable.  You as a representative of the mainstream media covering the campaign, et cetera.  Explain to me why it is that McCain can make gaffe after gaffe when it comes to foreign policy, to foreign affairs?  If Obama had even one of those, the media, the Brad Blakemans of the world would be going nuts.

RYAN:  I agree with you, wholeheartedly on that.  If the shoe was on the other foot, it would be a whole different story.  I think, a lot of this plays in to what many are concerned about.  John McCain‘s age and they kind of, you know, slip it off.

But where you have Barack Obama who is this maverick, this new kid, which many people consider him on the block, he is breaking the mold, you know, Washington is considered a white male fraternity and here‘s this young upstart African-American who is now running for the presidency of the United States and could possibly get it.

So, you know, I think, it‘s a lot of it is because of his rockstar status.  People are looking at him as this new upstart and want to hit him more so than this man who knows better, who is assumed to know better.

ABRAMS:  But, Brad, it‘s not just age, because back in 2000, a great philosopher called out John McCain on the same issue.

“It is an amazing phenomenon,” referring to Czechoslovakia, which McCain referred to Czechoslovakia in 2000, “I‘ll tell you that.  It‘s like the flap over the foreign-leader deal.  A guy gets up and quizzes me—it‘s my fault for trying to answer—but John McCain says something about the ambassador to Czechoslovakia.  Well, I know there‘s no Czechoslovakia, but yet it didn‘t make the nightly national news.”

That, of course, was then Governor George W. Bush complaining about the fact that no one was covering in 2000 the fact that McCain referred to Czechoslovakia.  So, put aside this Czechoslovakia issue, even George Bush was complaining in 2000.  Why is it that no one seems to hold McCain accountable for these kinds of gaffes?

BLAKEMAN:  Look, because they‘re innocent, they‘re innocent gaffes.  When you‘re as accessible as John McCain is, probably more accessible than any other Republican candidate for this office, every bus ride he has the press with him, he speaks every day to the press.  He has press availability.  You are bound to make mistakes.  These are innocent -

ABRAMS:  But Obama doesn‘t make these kinds of mistakes.

BLAKEMAN:  Sure he does.  He said we have 56 states.  Don‘t you know we have 50?  Did people go crazy on Obama when he said we have 56 states?  No, these are innocent gaffes that people know and when they think about it, they know that they were stupid mistakes and everybody knows he didn‘t mean what he said.

ABRAMS:  So, fair enough, Brad.  It‘s fair enough to the sense that these are minor mistakes.  But, you know what, if Obama had made the kind of mistake that John McCain made when Joe Lieberman had to correct him about Iran and Iraq, a U.S. senator has to come in his ear and correct him, and he repeatedly keeps making this make mistake on Czechoslovak, I mean, again, it‘s not -

BLAKEMAN:  But for ¾ of his life it‘s been Czechoslovakia.  Everybody knows there are two republics.  Come on.

ABRAMS:  But, yes, but the point is, is if Barack Obama made these mistakes, are you telling me -

BLAKEMAN:  He does make mistakes.  Barack does make mistakes.

ABRAMS:  If he made these mistakes on foreign affairs, Brad, you would be mocking him and saying, “Oh, this just shows you he doesn‘t know what he‘s talking about,” and, yet, it‘s McCain who‘s the one who keeps having the gaffes again, again and again.

BLAKEMAN:  In spite of these gaffes and misstatements, the polls show that the American people overwhelmingly support John McCain.

ABRAMS:  And I wonder.  I don‘t know the answer, but I wonder whether it‘s the media‘s coverage of it.

BLAKEMAN:  No, it‘s not media‘s coverage.  The public isn‘t stupid; they know when people make mistakes.  And he makes some mistakes.  But his overall policy is correct and that‘s what the American people understand.

ABRAMS:  April, finally 10 seconds, April, I‘ve got to wrap it up.

RYAN:  But, Dan, it‘s not necessarily about him, it‘s about the people who surround him and that‘s what people are looking at if he becomes president—the people who are surrounding him are really going to help him craft foreign policy.

ABRAMS:  April, I want to make sure you, you—important people in the media, who are the crucial people on the front lines are covering this fairly.

Look, Brad may be right that these are minor.  But if and when Barack Obama makes a similar mistake, it better be treated that way, as well.  We shall see.

April Ryan, Brad Blakeman, thanks a lot.

Coming up tonight: The new Jibjab video pokes fun at McCain and Obama.

And: Scott Peterson blogging from death row.  Yes, the man convicted of killing his wife Laci, is the latest death row inmate online.  We‘ll debate.

Plus, a Los Angeles reporter thought, “You know what—I‘d be fun to mock the folks waiting online for the new iPhone but he quickly became the butt of the joke.  That‘s next in Beat the Press.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

First up: FOX‘s Bill O‘Reilly can get in trouble when he has people on his show who are actually know what they‘re talking about, like FOX business reporter, Liz MacDonald refused to join on O‘Reilly‘s infantile effort to taint our parent company G.E., simply because he doesn‘t like MSNBC.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “THE O‘REILLY FACTOR”/FOX NEWS/TUESDAY)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  A lot of good strong numbers (ph) helping us making money.  Intel today.

BILL O‘REILLY, FOX HOST:  All right.  Just don‘t buy General Electric.  Don‘t buy that stock because that‘s a bad, they are bad people over there but otherwise, buy low, OK?

LIZ MACDONALD, FOX CORRESPODENT:  I think that stock is actually

OK.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Oh.  We gave MacDonald a shoutout last night.  And so, I promise, we‘re not trying to get her fired.  I‘m just been impressed with her knowledge.  I know that may not help her over at FOX News.

Next up: The duo over at “Hannity and company” were talking to Madonna‘s brother about his new book when Sean Hannity decided it was time to delve into the real issues.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “HANNITY & COLMES”/FOX NEWS/TUESDAY)

SEAN HANNITY, FOX HOST:  I don‘t know what it would be like to have to wipe off your sister‘s, you know, sweat from her naked body, but that‘s part of the stuff you reveal in this book.

CHRISTOPHER CICCONNE, MADONNA‘S BROTHER:  It is.  It‘s one of the

things a brother does for -

HANNITY:  Not—I love my sisters dearly.  If they‘re watching, never going to happen.

ALAN COLMES, FOX HOST:  He did that for me after the show, though.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  That—that is an image I‘ll have a tough time getting out of my mind.  Yuck.

Finally, Los Angeles KTLA reporter Eric Spillman thought it would be fun to mock the folks waiting online for the iPhone.  But he very quickly became the butt of the joke.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “KTLA MORNING SHOW”)

ERIC SPILLMAN, KTLA REPORTER:  I mean, come on, you know, honestly

-

UNIDENTIFIED MALE ANCHOR:  I‘m with you, Eric.

SPILLMAN:  You know, what is the deal?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE ANCHOR:  It‘s a phone for God‘s sake.

SPILLMAN:  Do you prefer gadgets or human beings, if you had to choose?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Human beings.

SPILLMAN:  Have you ever seen a woman naked?

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  You‘re kind of jack ass.  It‘s kind of dumb, too.  You might want to go down (ph) somewhere else.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  There you go.

SPILLMAN:  All right.  Sense of humor.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  This is not smart.  This is journalism to you?

SPILLMAN:  All right.  All right.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Wow.

SPILLMAN:  Walking away.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Yes.  So, who‘s the real idiot? Coming up - Reality bites for Obama and McCain.  Plus, blogging from death row.  Scott Peterson and other convicted murders on the Internet.  Mark Klaas, father of 12-year-old Polly, will be with us, his daughter‘s killer is looking for penpals.

Coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWS BREAK)

DAN ABRAMS, HOST:  Coming up, store clerks who fought back.  The man trying to rob the pizza shop didn‘t count on going up against this guy. 

Plus, a new political humor video makes its debut - the first to star Obama and McCain.  That‘s in “Reality Bites.” 

And it turns out this world‘s greatest dad - bottom says “greatest dad” - is allegedly into soliciting sex from kids on the Internet.  Tonight‘s “Winners and Losers” coming up. 

ABRAMS:  But, first, convicted killers like Scott Peterson looking for love, friendship or attention online.  It‘s upsetting many victims‘ rights advocates.  Here‘s NBC‘s Michael Ocu(ph). 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MICHAEL OCU(ph), NBC REPORTER:  Prisoners call it inside, but even from behind bars, even from the steely confines of death row, prisoners inside are getting their messages out on the Internet. 

CHRISTINE WARD, CRIME VICTIMS‘ ALLIANCE:  My first thought was that I was quite offended. 

OCU(ph):  Scores of the nation‘s most notorious convicts like Scott Peterson have been seeking pen pals and posting personal Web pages complete with their writings, art and photographs.  Critics say it‘s an affront to victim‘s families. 

WARD:  It is shocking and painful and just horrible for that family to experience and to see their child‘s killer acting as if nothing was wrong. 

OCU(ph):  Prisoners are barred from direct computer access, but they‘re not barred from sending or receiving regular mail.  So, inmates simply mail their details to contacts on the outside who then make sure the information is uploaded on to sympathetic Web sites. 

Richard Allen Davis, convicted murderer of 12-year-old Polly Klaas has a page.  So, too, serial killer Charles Ng, who calls himself shy and sentimental.  Peterson‘s site features smiling photos of himself with his wife, Laci, whom he‘s convicted of murdering while she was pregnant with their unborn son.  His site provides links to blogs about his so-called wrongful conviction. 

GLORIA ALLRED, ATTORNEY:  It‘s as though he has never been convicted.  This is the spin machine for a death row inmate in high gear. 

OCU(ph):  States like Missouri and Florida have prohibited inmates from soliciting pen pals on the Internet, but prisoner rights activists say that‘s wrong. 

JOHN BOSTON, NYC LEGAL AID SOCIETY:  We have a constitution that protects the right to free speech.  And the fact that somebody is offended by speech doesn‘t mean that the government can suppress it. 

OCU(ph):  Or should.  They point to hundreds of overturned convictions, protecting a fundamental right while others argue it‘s hardly the right thing to do.  Michael Ocu(ph), NBC News, Los Angeles. 

ABRAMS:  So should the Web be out of bounds for death row inmates? 

Joining me now, Marc Klaas.  His daughter Polly was kidnapped and killed in 1993.  Her killer is now showing off his artwork online.  And defense attorney Larry Posner is with us. 

All right.  Marc, let me start with you.  Why do you think it‘s so important that they not be permitted to do this? 

MARC KLAAS, FATHER OF POLLY KLAAS, A KIDNAP AND MURDER VICTIM:  Well, Dan, these are some of the worst people in our society.  They kill with impunity.  They take out women.  They take out babies.  They take out pregnant mothers.  They take out multiple victims.  They do it all without remorse or without conscience, and they‘ve been put on death row for a very specific reason.  They have absolutely no business being in society in any way, shape or form.

And here, we have the Internet and we have these friends, these enablers of these death row inmates that are giving them a worldwide audience.

Now, I contend that any time they‘re allowed a worldwide audience or allowed to have contact with the public at all, their influence is going to continue to be a bad and evil influence and society is going to suffer as a result of it. 

ABRAMS:  Larry? 

LARRY POSNER, DEFENSE ATTORNEY:  This is just too far-fetched to believe.  These people are scheduled to be executed.  That seems like a fairly serious penalty.  Now, if they put something out to a friend who puts it on a Web site, nobody wanders into that Web site.  They have to search it out, click on it and read it.  We are protected from anything we don‘t want to read. 

ABRAMS:  And this is Richard Allen Davis who is the man who unfortunately - Mr. Klaas, you‘ve been forced to follow his life all too closely - wrote this - the man convicted of kidnapping and killing your daughter, “Could there be someone out in the world who would be of open mind not to not take everything that the media has said about me and be willing to learn for themselves just who I really am.  If you want you can write to me and express your thoughts and feelings.”

I assume that‘s the sort of stuff that gets to you.

KLAAS:  Well, you know what, Dan?  Last night, there was a local news story on this very issue.  And one of the last images I saw before I fell asleep was an image of Richard Allen Davis and I have to tell you, I had nightmares all night long. 

Now, listen, the ultimate extension of this is really a threat to society.  In 1997 I helped then-Wyoming Governor Jim Geringer to get a serial killer Web site off of AOL and it was a ran by a fellow named Keith Jespersen who was encouraging people to murder their employers and to practice on their children, and in fact, to send him money and he would send them a serial killer‘s kit. 

So, you know, Mr. Posner can say what he wants and he can talk about, you know, how these poor souls need to reach out, but these aren‘t poor souls.  These are evil beings incarnate and if they get their hands on a worldwide audience or, in fact, any audience, horrible things can ensue. 

ABRAMS:  Go ahead, Larry. 

POSNER:  Why don‘t we tell the truth.  If they threaten somebody, it‘s a crime.  If they put out something saying hurt somebody, it‘s a crime.  Then they can be censored.  But let‘s talk about some of the things that Richard Allen Davis puts online.  “You make your bed.  Now, you must lay in it.  My thoughts are I dug my grave, now I must lay in it.” 

It doesn‘t strike me as something that ought to be censored.  It strikes me as a man saying, “Look what I‘ve done.  I‘ve ruined my life and I‘m going to be executed.”  There is no harm in him publishing it, and there is no harm to those people who wish to read it and wish to reply.  And none of us have the right to censor that and say, “You can‘t answer this mail.  You can‘t write to somebody in prison.”  That‘s the fundamental dignity of a human being and it remains even after conviction. 

KLAAS:  There‘s no dignity.  There‘s no dignity in anything that these individuals have ever done in their lives.  And listen, there‘s no absolute right to free speech.  You can‘t advocate the overthrow of the government.  You can‘t yell “fire” in a crowded theater.  And similarly, these individuals have indicated and demonstrated through their heinous acts and through their lives that they have no business communicating with anybody.  Death row is about taking them away from society, not giving them a worldwide access to society. 

ABRAMS:  Larry, let me -

POSNER:  When they‘re executed, they‘ll be taken away. 

ABRAMS:  Real quick, Larry.  Just summarize what the legal issue in your mind is here?  Put aside the policies.

POSNER:  Well, the legal issue is - Take out all the threats and all the talk about crime.  If a person wants to write something, that is not criminal and does not ask or imply that somebody should do something criminal.  They have a right to publish that in America and they have a right to receive letters from those people who wish to write them. 

ABRAMS:  Well, look.  As you know - I mean, look, Larry, there are a lot of  restrictions in prison.  You know, prisoners -

POSNER:  Absolutely.

ABRAMS:  Prisoners‘ letters are monitored in a way they wouldn‘t be monitored in the everyday world, et cetera.  But, look, you know, this is a tough issue because as a policy matter, I think that Marc is absolutely right.  As a legal matter, I think that Larry may win the legal argument here.  So, it‘s a tough one.  But Marc Klaas and Larry Posner, thanks a lot.  I appreciate it. 

Up next, a pizza shop clerk fights back this week, knocking out a would-be robber, joining a long line of other clerks taking the law and their lives into their own hands.  I‘ve interviewed some of the others and we‘ll show you their stories of why they risked their lives. 

And the pundits say it‘s hard to make fun of Obama.  One group figured out how to do it.  Coming up in 60 seconds. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Tonight, “Reality Bites” for Barack Obama and John McCain, both featured the latest jib-jab video.

(JIB-JAB VIDEO OF OBAMA AND MCCAIN)

We‘ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Welcome back.  A robber holds up a pizza shop in Denton, Texas, but didn‘t count on running into a brave 17-year-old employee.  The security video shows the robber wearing a wig, sunglasses.  He appears to be holding a silver handgun.  As a female employee hands the money from the cash register, clerk Rudy Sandoval reappears and unloads on the guy, knocking him out.  He lay unconscious on the floor for several minutes before he woke up and ran away. 

A couple outside chased him down and police arrested him.  It‘s not the first time a clerk, whoever it is, has fought back.  Here‘s a look back at some other brave souls from all walks of life who fought back.  They told us how and why they did it. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MITCH PENNEAU, KFC STORE MANAGER:  He had ambushed me in the parking lot as I was getting ready to get in my car and, you know, we went - he forced me back into the store and to try to open the safe.  And when I couldn‘t get the safe open fast enough for him, he decided that beating on me would, you know, give me a little bit of incentive on it.  And then he put the gun to my head and pulled the trigger and it didn‘t go off. 

ABRAMS:  So he literally pulled the trigger? 

PENNEAU:  Yes.  The actual, you know, video that we have that I‘ve seen and we‘ve heard, you can actually hear the hammer going off.  You can hear the distinct click and it just didn‘t fire. 

ABRAMS:  Wow.  And I assume at that point, you were thinking about your family, huh?

PENNEAU:  Yes, I was.  I thought - you know, he took a step back and, you know, the only thing that was going through my mind is, “I‘m going home tonight to my wife and kids.”  And that little bit of hesitation that he had when he took a step back and looked down at his gun to put another bullet in it, that was all I needed to reach forward and grab the gun and push it out of the way.  And you know, from there, I got both hands on the gun and the struggle was on. 

ABRAMS:  So it was clearly loaded, right? 

PENNEAU:  It was loaded.  Because, you know, by the time the struggle was over, you know, it went all through the store and out into the parking lot.  He got in the parking lot, and he was yelling at me to just let go of the gun and he‘d go away and I was yelling back, “I‘m not letting go of the gun until it‘s unloaded.” 

The magazine got locked off.  And then, he let go of the gun with one hand and was trying to, you know, hit me on the side of the head or something to get me to loosen it up.  And I was able to reach down, you know, by twisting the gun, and pushed the bolt down so that the last round in the gun would fall out.  And as soon as that last round hit the floor, I let go of the gun and he took off running. 

ABRAMS:  All right.  So tell me what happened.  This guy walks in with a gun, and he said, “Give me the money,” and apparently you were laughing? 

HAFIZ J. ALAM, STORE CLERK:  Yes, I was laughing.  I was taking time, and I was slowly coming to the counter.  I went to the register and opened the register, and he was loading the bullets.  And he said, “Do you think it‘s funny?”  And I said, “No, I‘m not thinking it‘s funny, but I‘m giving you money.  Let‘s take it easy.  It takes time to get the money.” 

So I opened the register.  I gave it him slow by slowly money, and I was looking for the chance to do something.  And he was giving me time.  He was giving me time - giving time.  So I was OK.  I mean, like, he was rushing, but what I was doing what I was doing slow by slowly, and I give him time in first 20, 10s, fives, singles, that way, and I get the chance.  I got the chance, and I took the guns. 

HAFIZE SAHIN, STORE CLERK:  At the moment, I thought he was coming behind the cashier, so that‘s why I grabbed an ax what ever that was - I‘m sorry - because I thought this is a gun.  It‘s not real.  Maybe he‘s coming behind the cash register and trying to hurt me or like that.  So I can protect myself like that.  I‘m sorry, I‘m so nervous right now.  

ABRAMS:  No, no, look.  You know, I would think you would have been more nervous then.  I‘m watching this tape, and I can‘t imagine you weren‘t more nervous when that was happening, no? 

SAHIN:  Yes.  I was more nervous at that time, yes, but, I tried control myself.

ABRAMS:  All right.  So now that you have seen the tape, would you do it again?  If you could take a moment and think about it, would you actually go and grab the ax again? 

SAHIN:  I hope I won‘t.  I can‘t do it again.  I don‘t think so. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ABRAMS:  Oh, what a brave young woman. 

Up next, will tonight‘s big winner or loser be the world‘s greatest marketer, Star Jones whose soon-to-be ex now says he still loves her;

Katherine Heigl, who may be the world‘s most ungrateful actress; or this guy who wore a shirt proclaiming himself the world‘s greatest dad, allegedly on his way to a sex date with an underage girl. 

Plus, your E-mails in the “P.O.‘d Box.”  Be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  It‘s time for tonight‘s “Winners and Losers.”  Back with me again to help us make the call, MSNBC anchor Contessa Brewer.  Hey, Contessa.

CONTESSA BREWER, MSNBC ANCHOR:  OK, Dan.  First up, “Grey‘s Anatomy” star Katherine Heigl withdrew herself from Emmy consideration last month because she claims the writing wasn‘t good enough to warrant a nomination.  Well, the “Grey‘s” writers and producers so upset that according to “Us Weekly” they‘re considering giving her character, Izzie, a brain tumor so that she won‘t know whether her character will live or die. 

So there‘s speculation that Heigl wants to be killed off the show because she needs to focus on her movie career.  But network executives deny that she‘s going anywhere.  So if they lock her into the contract, then she‘s a loser.  She could be a winner if this brain tumor storyline is so good she wins an Emmy for it. 

ABRAMS:  Contessa, she‘s a loser, OK?  She‘s a loser - I said this before - for dissing her writers, all right?  That‘s why she‘s a loser.  Here‘s what I want them to do.

BREWER:  OK.

ABRAMS:  I want them to write in that she gets like amnesia, and then has a twin sister that she never knew come in and like - you know, make it like awful soap opera stuff. 

BREWER:  This is not -

ABRAMS:  No, no, no.  But that would be the ultimate revenge if the writers not only force her to keep her contract but then write her the most awful stuff ever.  I mean the fact that she dissed them -

BREWER:  They just make her become fat.  That would be the worst punishment ever. 

ABRAMS:  But, “This is not Emmy worthy because the writing isn‘t good enough.”  What arrogance! 

BREWER:  I mean, come on.

ABRAMS:  So she‘s going to be a loser every day until she apologizes to those writers. 

BREWER:  But she‘s a winner because at least she has a real movie career. 

OK.  Star Jones‘ soon-to-be ex-husband, Al Reynolds, speaking out about their impending divorce, says he‘s still very much in love with the woman he lavishly married three years ago.  He even still wears his wedding ring.  He went on to say in the interview released on YouTube that he just wants people to get to know the real him. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

AL REYNOLDS, STAR JONES‘ SOON-TO-BE EX-HUSBAND:  I want people to know that I‘m more than just Star Jones‘ ex-husband.  I‘m Al Reynolds. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BREWER:  Al Reynolds also denied rumors that he‘s gay.  In fact, what he said was, Dan, “I just want people to know I‘m not a homosexual and I‘m hurt that they would even take it there.” 

ABRAMS:  Yes.  If he came out and he was going to say, “You know what?  I‘m doing this interview, this tape, whatever it is, just to proclaim my love for Star Jones,” I would say, all right, good for him, winner. 

BREWER:  But?

ABRAMS:  But he seems obsessed with people not thinking he‘s gay.  Again and again, he‘s talking on this tape, “I want people to know I‘m not a homosexual,” this and that.  I don‘t care.  I don‘t care if he‘s gay.  I don‘t.  But what I do care about is - we are giving him the publicity that he thrives on.  I was going to say, he‘s getting too much publicity.  We are to blame for giving him that.  So we‘re losers, too. 

BREWER:  And the winner, the publicists there.  OK, our last winner or loser - this one is going to be rather obvious.  Michigan resident Daniel Allen Everett made the unfortunate choice of leaving the house with this shirt on, proclaiming himself the world‘s greatest dad. 

And allegedly where was he going?  To meet who he thought was a 14- year-old girl for sex.  Authorities would not confirm, or could not, whether Everett actually has children.  The fact that he was on his way with the world‘s greatest dad -

ABRAMS:  Can you actually imagine getting dressed and thinking, “You know, I‘m going to go and like, allegedly commit this crime of having sex with an underage girl.  What should I wear?  You know what?  Let me wear - I‘ve got that great t-shirt.” 

BREWER:  Fourteen-year-old girl having the world -

ABRAMS:  I‘ve got that great t-shirt, world‘s greatest dad. 

BREWER:  So you know, if he does have children, they are never going to want to see him again. 

ABRAMS:  Contessa Brewer, thanks very much. 

BREWER:  Nice to see you.

ABRAMS:  Time for the “P.O.‘d Box,” your chance to tell me what you hate or love about the show.  First, an E-mail for Contessa who says, “I love the Contessa ‘Winner or Loser‘ segment.  It doesn‘t always have to be about entertainment.  I watch Contessa during the day.  Hard core!  Tough girl!” 

They wouldn‘t give their name.  So it could be your mom -

BREWER:  In my dreams, it probably is my mom.

ABRAMS:  Or you. 

All right.  Next up, many wrote in about Karl Rove‘s personal attack on me where he compared me to a high school journalist. 

Josephine writes, “I‘m sure Mr. Rove did not intend to insult himself when he compared your questions to those of a high school journalist.  If they were as simple as he implies, why has he not answered them?”  Oh, so true Josephine. 

And Rhonda Williams writes about Rove‘s refusal to testify to Congress, “Why don‘t they send Dog the Bounty Hunter after Karl Rove?  I have only seen bits and pieces of his show, but I think a visit from Dog would make clear to Mr. Rove that he‘s not above the law.” 

Finally, some sharp reaction to the “New Yorker” cartoon controversy, this month‘s cover depicting the Obamas as Muslim radicals burning the flag and the Oval Office.  Steve Lowenthal writes, “What nobody on the talk panel is allowed to say is that even if we get the satire, we have to be afraid of the rubes and stupids who want to believe the rumors that could have easily been proven many months ago if those rumors had been true.” 

Bart Tennant says, “I was horrified when I saw “The New Yorker” cover today.  Who decided that image was OK?”

That‘s all the time we have for tonight.  E-mail the show.  Do you like this new segment with me and Contessa?  Let us know at verdict@msnbc.com.  Please include your name and where you‘re writing from.  Visit the Web site, Verdict.MSNBC.com.  We‘ll see you tomorrow, depending, I guess, on what you say.  Contessa may or may not be back. 

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.

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

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