updated 7/29/2008 12:39:53 PM ET 2008-07-29T16:39:53

Guest: Wesley Clark, Jonathan Alter, Brad Blakeman, Roy Sekoff, Pam Bondi, Kim Serafin

DAN ABRAMS, HOST:  Hi, everybody.  Welcome to the show.  Coming to you tonight live from Los Angeles.

The McCain camp is attacking Obama‘s patriotism, again.  This time, a new TV ad is suggesting he cares more about shooting hoops than spending time with injured troops.  The ad unleashed a rhetorical war today with the Obama camp accusing McCain of running a dishonorable campaign With us tonight: Retired General Wesley Clark, Jonathan Alter, and Brad Blakeman.

At issue: Obama‘s decision not to visit a U.S. military hospital in Germany.  On Friday, Obama canceled the trip after being told he could not bring any campaign staffers, including a retired Air Force general who‘s advising Obama.  Team Obama said the Pentagon effectively advised him not to go because the visit might appear political.

The McCain camp on the other hand had a slightly different interpretation.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, MCCAIN CAMPAIGN AD)

NARRATOR:  Barack Obama never held a single Senate hearing on Afghanistan.  He hadn‘t been to Iraq in years.  He voted against funding our troops.

And, now, he made time to go to the gym but canceled a visit with wounded troops.  It seems the Pentagon wouldn‘t allow him to bring cameras.

John McCain is always there for our troops.  McCain—country first.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Team McCain also dispatched a retired army veteran to attack Obama, quote, “For a young man so apt at playing president, Barack Obama badly misjudged the important demands of the office he seeks.  Visits with world leaders and speeches to cheering Europeans shouldn‘t be a substitute for comforting injured American heroes.”

The Obama camp is striking back, quote, “John McCain is an honorable man who is running an increasingly dishonorable campaign.  This politization of our soldiers is exactly what Senator Obama sought to avoid, and it‘s not worthy of Senator McCain or the ‘civil‘ campaign he claimed he would run.”

Here now is retired army general and MSNBC analyst, Wesley Clark;

“Newsweek” columnist, Jonathan Alter; and, former Bush aide, Brad Blakeman.

All right.  Jonathan, look, you you‘ve been traveling with Senator Obama on this.  Was this a misstep to schedule this and then back out?

JONATHAN ALTER, NEWSWEEK:  Well, sure, it was a scheduling snafu.  But it‘s just so lame to turn it into, you know, Barack Obama doesn‘t like our troops.  I mean, that‘s like saying, you know, John McCain was grilling hamburgers in Arizona and didn‘t visit a children‘s hospital, he doesn‘t like children.

You know, this is lame, really, Dan, pathetic kind of desperation politics at a very early point in this campaign.  What happened was as the trip to Ramstein, McCain perceived as political, the Obama people figured they would be dammed if they did, dammed if they didn‘t.  If they went, it would be seen as too political, if they didn‘t go, they would be seen as dodging.

And he‘s just been seeing troops in the Middle East earlier in the week, been to Walter Reed before that.  So, it‘s not really any question about, you know, his interest in seeing soldiers.  This was just a flap that a desperate McCain campaign seized on.

ABRAMS:  Brad?

BRAD BLAKEMAN, FORMER BUSH AIDE:  This is fair game.  Barack Obama has made this campaign not about experience, because the man doesn‘t have any, he‘s made it about judgment.  And his judgment was flawed.

He made a decision not to visit the troops.  He affirmatively began the trip with a desire to see the troops and then, when he found out he couldn‘t bring his campaign crew with him, he decided that he wouldn‘t make that trip.

Now, it‘s funny, because he left the press corps on the tarmac when he had his secret meeting with Hillary Clinton.  But he couldn‘t leave them on the tarmac with his campaign crew to visit our troops.

ALTER:  Brad, that‘s just not true, Brad.  We‘ve got to deal with facts here just for a second before we get into the discussion.  That was never—I was there, there was never any intention of bringing the press to the base.  That was never part of the plan.

When Sean Hannity says, you know, “Katie Couric was going to go with him and when she couldn‘t go he canceled the trip.”  Katie Couric wasn‘t there, for starters.  But no press was ever intending to go with him.  He was going to go with a retired brigadier general.

BLAKEMAN:  No, I‘m talking about his campaign - his paid campaign film crew.

And the brigadier general should have stayed on the plane and Barack Obama who seeks to be commander-in-chief should have been with our injured troops instead of playing president in Germany.

ABRAMS:  Well, let‘s talk to a general, Wesley Clark is with us.

All right.  General Clark, look, you know as someone who‘s run for president, as someone who‘s been involved on this, that any time you‘re talking about the troops, that a candidate has the potential to fall into major minefields here.  You know, in retrospect, do you think that Obama should have just said, “You know what?  I‘m going to go ahead with this.  The Brad Blakemans of the world are going to blast me.  I don‘t need this. 

I might as well go ahead and continue this visit”?

GEN. WESLEY CLARK, OBAMA SUPPORTER:  Well, I think, Barack Obama played it right, because, ultimately, I think what he would care about is the troops themselves.  And they would not want to be politicized.  I know this is being politicized.

But Barack Obama saw our troops in Afghanistan, he saw troops in Iraq, even the McCain ad has him playing basketball with the troops for goodness‘ sake.  He saw our troops in Kuwait, he saw our injured troops.  He‘s been to Walter Reed.  So, I really think that it‘s a disingenuous charge by the opponents.

ABRAMS:  Here‘s McCain on ABC talking about this issue.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “THIS WEEK WITH GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS”/ABC)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R-AZ) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  I think people make a judgment by what we do and what we don‘t do.  Certainly found time to do other things.  If I had been told by the Pentagon that I couldn‘t visit those troops and I was there, wanted to be there, I guarantee you there would have been a seismic event.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Brad, wouldn‘t you even agree, though, there‘s something disingenuous, I mean, let‘s even, for a moment, put the aside the issue of whether it was a smart political move.  But, wouldn‘t you agree there is something disingenuous about McCain suggesting that this shows that Barack Obama doesn‘t love the troops as much as he does?

BLAKEMAN:  I believe Barack Obama loves the troops.  I just think he‘s got a warp sense of judgment and right and wrong.  He is the one who wanted to see those troops.  This is what he states now.  Now, he says the Pentagon refused him to go because it would be politicized.

This is the first time he‘s ever listened to the Pentagon.  He won‘t listen to General Petraeus but somehow he‘ll listen to the Pentagon when they say, “Please don‘t visit troops.”  That‘s nonsense.

And John McCain is right.  If John McCain was denied by the Pentagon, the first thing John McCain would do is be on the plane to be with those troops.

ABRAMS:  Here is what the Obama camp, the adviser is saying about that, all right?  “Senator Obama did not want to have a trip to see our wounded warriors perceived as a campaign event when his visit was to show his appreciation for our troops and decided, instead, not to go.”

BLAKEMAN:  Dan, how was it a campaign event if the man walks in with the Secret Service and there‘s no press and no campaign coverage?  How is that politicizing the troops to talk to these people without any cameras present?  It‘s not.

ABRAMS:  Jonathan, how is it?

ALTER:  Look, this thing—it‘s really clear what‘s going on here.  You got people in the “National Review,” for instance, a conservative magazine, telling John McCain, “If you don‘t turn into an attack dog and rip Barack Obama and try to depict to him as unpatriotic, you‘re going to lose.”  So, this is what they urged him on the cover of that magazine.  A lot of other Republican strategists are saying the same thing.

I happen to think they‘re wrong.  I don‘t think that‘s the way for McCain to win, but clearly and his campaign has accepted that advice and they have decided that they have to kind of throw these desperation “Hail Mary” passes that are not going to help him, but it‘s like the ad they had last week that said that Obama created, was responsible for the high gas prices.

People don‘t believe these kinds of ads.  They know this was a scheduling snafu.  They know that there wasn‘t any horrible judgment here.  The horrible judgment is, supporting a $1 trillion war with people like me and John McCain did at the time.  That‘s bad judgment.

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  Hang on a second.  I want to ask General Clark about the Pentagon memo, alright?

General Clark, I want to ask you, as a military man, what you make of this Pentagon memo and I‘m going to read from it.

This is the memo about Obama‘s trip: “Because his visit is official only, Senator Obama may not be accompanied by members of his campaign staff.  He may only be accompanied by one member of his Senate staff and the appropriate number of security personnel.  Senator Obama may not address the media to make a campaign or election-related statement or to respond to a campaign or a campaign related event.”

A fair memo, general?

CLARK:  That‘s pretty fair because the truth is that when you‘re running for office, you don‘t go to military bases and campaign.  Unless you‘re the incumbent president and you can say you‘re the commander-in-chief.  But when I was running for office in 2003, I would have loved to have gone to a military base and met my old friends and made statements, I couldn‘t do it.  And that‘s pretty much been Pentagon policy forever and ever and ever.

ABRAMS:  All right.  Let me do this.  I want to play this MoveOn.org‘s new ad for Obama which is sort of, I think, kind of mocking of ads for certain drugs for sexually transmitted diseases.  But this is an ad supporting Obama from MoveOn.org.  Let‘s look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, MOVEON.ORG POLITICAL AD)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I never thought it could happen to me.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I‘ve been living with it for a while now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I got it from her.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  This could happen to anybody.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Anybody.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I have hope—hope.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes, it‘s true.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I‘m sorry, mom.  I‘m sorry.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  For eight years.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  We all thought it was gone -

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  And now it‘s back.

NARRATOR:  Hope, it could happen to you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  This is your brain.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  And this is your brain on hope.  Any questions?

ANNOUNCER:  MoveOn.org political action is responsible for the content of this advertisement.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Jonathan, does this help Obama, this kind of ad?

ALTER:  I don‘t think so.  I mean, you know, I personally think it was a little dopey, but maybe there are some people who will connect with it.  I don‘t think it has any particular political significance.

ABRAMS:  Yes.

General Clark, as a candidate, do you want these sorts of MoveOn ads out there or do you want them to just sort of stay away?

CLARK:  Well, I think these 527s have been part of the American political scene now for the last few years.  It‘s fine if they‘re out there.  I know that there‘s an effort to get the funding focused inside the Democratic Party to work tighter on the issues and put it more inside the Democratic National Committee structure.

So, we‘ll just have to see.  People want to express their views on issues.  And this is a legitimate expression of issues.

ABRAMS:  And, Brad, it‘s kind of funny, right?  I mean -

BLAKEMAN:  Not really.  I think -

ABRAMS:  No?  Come on.

BLAKEMAN:  I think that MoveOn should—no, I think MoveOn should keep these ads coming because we‘re going to remind people who MoveOn is.  It‘s the George Soros‘ operation who brought us last year the “General Betray Us” ad, a group that supports Obama.

ABRAMS:  I understand but -

BLAKEMAN:  And Obama wants to be commander-in-chief and have people like that.  ABRAMS:  Yes, and there are a lot of groups that support John McCain that he doesn‘t necessarily want to have a lot to do with either for campaign reasons.  Anyway, all right, General Wesley -

BLAKEMAN:  But the Democrats are joined at the hip with MoveOn.org.  Come on.

ABRAMS:  Of course, and then the Republicans are totally separate from any right-wing groups that put out ads.  That‘s the beauty of being a Republican.

BLAKEMAN:  We do, but not as vicious as they are.

ABRAMS:  Right, of course not.  All right.  General Wesley Clark, Jonathan Alter, and Brad Blakeman—thanks a lot.

ALTER:  Thanks, Dan.

ABRAMS:  Coming up: John McCain complains that the media is too easy on Obama.  But a new independent study shows the opposite is true, the media has been tougher on Obama.  We‘ve got the study.

And next: Bush League Justice.  Proof that the administration let politics rule the Justice Department as a new report says top officials broke the law by hiring less qualified Republicans over those who‘d even hint of liberal-leanings.

Plus: Vice President Cheney‘s demands to our disabled veterans—it‘s another reason why America Hates Washington, coming up in 60 seconds.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Tonight‘s edition of Why America Hates Washington: Vice President Cheney trying to force vets to get pumped up for and then stay through to the end of his speech.  The veep has been asked to speak at a disabled veteran convention next month in Vegas, but now, he‘s off the invite list.  The group says Cheney‘s so-called security demands were a, quote, “huge imposition.”

Cheney‘s staff asked the vets be sequestered for two hours ahead of his speech and that no one leave until he was finished talking.  Yes, the bathrooms were outside.

The incident calls to mind Cheney‘s reported hotel suite demands published two years ago, demanding the room be 68 degrees, stocked with four cans of diet sprite, no limitations (ph), and all TVs preset to FOX News.  Asking a hotel for rockstar treatment is one thing, but disabled vets—makes it another reason Why America Hates Washington.

Up next: The new internal Justice Department report finds the Bush administration broke the law by playing politics.  Coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Tonight: More evidence confirming what we have long called “Bush League Justice.”  An internal Justice Department report finds that top officials repeatedly broke the law, trying to hire only loyal Republicans—many unqualified—to fill what were supposed to be a political positions, including judges and federal prosecutors.

The Justice Department‘s Inspector General and Internal Ethic‘s Office is singling out former top department officials—Kyle Sampson and Monica Goodling.  In a report that find the pair, quote, “violated federal law by considering political and ideological affiliations.”

Goodling who had worked for the Republican National Committee investigated job applicants‘ backgrounds online, even using hot button key words like Iran Contra, Florida recount, homosexual, gun, WMD.  He routinely asked job applicants, quote, “Why are you a Republican?” and “What is it about George W. Bush that makes you want to serve him?”

Joining me now: “Newsweek‘s” Michael Isikoff, who has covered this ongoing story; and, former U.S. attorney, David Iglesias, who was fired allegedly for not being partisan enough.

All right.  Michael, look, this reiterates some of what we‘ve already heard and but these continuing details coming out and another investigation, again concluding that the law was broken here.  Are you surprised?

MICHAEL ISIKOFF, NEWSWEEK:  No.  It‘s a scathing report.  I mean, if you read, as you indicated, we knew the broad details of this for some time.  Monica Goodling, herself, had acknowledged she crossed the line in her hiring practices at the Justice Department, but when you see it all spelled out in these nitty-gritty details, it really is unseemly.

I mean, the couple of things that leapt out at me is, first, how somebody like Monica Goodling, a political opposition researcher at the Republican National Committee should acquire such amazing power at the Justice Department, that she had, she could veto who got hired and who didn‘t at very sensitive positions.

I mean, you had, in one case, a veteran terrorism prosecutor, somebody who had been led, some of the most important cases at the Justice Department, gotten awards from the Justice Department, up for a top job in the executive office of U.S. attorneys and Monica Goodling vetoes her because the prosecutor‘s husband had been an active Democrat.  This is a career guy for a career prosecution.  And, instead, the job goes to an inexperienced junior person who knows nothing about terrorism prosecutions.

ABRAMS:  I‘m going to read from the report finding on that issue you talked about because that struck me, as well.  “An experienced career terrorism prosecutor was rejected by Goodling because of his wife‘s political affiliations.  Instead, the Executive Office for United States Attorney had to select a much more junior attorney who lacked any experience in counterterrorism issues and who—officials believe was not qualified for the position.”

All right, Mr. Iglesias, do you read this report and say to yourself, “You see, I‘m not crazy.  I wasn‘t crazy in suggesting that there was something else behind my termination”?

DAVID IGLESIAS, FMR. U.S. ATTORNEY:  Well, even beyond that.  I mean, this is really a sad day, Dan and Mike, for the Justice Department.  The Justice Department is tasked with enforcing federal laws, including employment laws.

And what Sampson and Goodling did was beyond the pale.  You know, they broke federal law repeatedly for partisan reasons.

And that‘s exactly what I‘ve been saying, and my fired colleagues have been saying for the past year and a half—that this politization is not just limited to our firing but had its tentacles in lots of different places including the honor‘s program, and now, immigration judges.

ABRAMS:  Well, let me ask you this—do you think that action should be taken, I mean, meaning, do you think that Monica Goodling, for example, should at least lose her law license?

IGLESIA:  Well, you know, my reading of this is for a pattern of misconduct, which I believe this report substantiate that the Justice Department‘s offices will refer this matter to her licensing agency and they‘re going to have to determine, will she keep her license.  I mean, this is a legitimate concern for somebody at that level to break the law that many times.

ABRAMS:  This is serious stuff, Michael.  And there‘s a sense, though, that there‘s no accountability.  Meaning, you read the reports and they say, “Well, these people have already left the department”—effectively, it sounds like what they‘re saying is, “There‘s nothing we can necessarily do,” but you‘re talking about breaking the law.

ISIKOFF:  Well, it is civil service law.  It‘s not likely to be the kind of thing that would be subject to criminal prosecution and I think there‘s probably a little precedent for that.

But the accountability has been—first, in the resignation of Alberto Gonzales as attorney general and all the other people who were associated with him who have left the department.  I mean, the department was in turmoil last year over the cumulative allegations related to this.

And I think that, you know, the accountability was, you know—all these people lost their jobs and that‘s going to be a big part of the Bush legacy when it comes to the Justice Department and criminal enforcement, that he threw by appointing his crony Alberto Gonzales as attorney general who is wholly unqualified and then, you know, it left the department in turmoil.

ABRAMS:  This is why we‘ve been calling it Bush League Justice.

Here is Monica Goodling testifying in 2007, conceding, almost, that she broke the law.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, MAY 23, 2007)

MONICA GOODLING, THEN JUSTICE DEPARTMENT‘S WHITE HOUSE LIASON:  The best I can say is that I know I took political considerations into account on some occasions.

REP. BOBBY SCOTT, (D) VIRGINIA:  Was that legal?

GOODLING:  Sir, I‘m not able to answer that question.  I know I crossed the line.

SCOTT:  What line?  Legal?

GOODLING:  I crossed the line of the civil service rules.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  I mean, that‘s an astonishing admission, is it not, Mr.

Iglesias?

IGLESIAS:  Well, it is.  And, remember, she‘s the only DOJ official to ever take the Fifth Amendment and seek immunity prior to testifying in front of Congress.  I mean, her testimony was just unprecedented.  So, yes, I mean, this is a big deal.  This is not just about Civil Service Laws, this will eventually include, I believe, proof of criminal law violations at the highest levels.

ABRAMS:  We shall see.  I don‘t think that they‘re going to take it criminal, but I do think that there could be some bar associations that are looking hard and long at this.

Michael Isikoff, David Iglesias, thanks very much.

ISIKOFF:  Thank you.

ABRAMS:  Coming up: A new study shows the news media has been tougher on Barack Obama than John McCain?

And, just two hours after Barack Obama‘s speech in Berlin, FOX News declares it didn‘t help him in a new poll that was taken the day before.  That‘s next in Beat the Press.

What‘s your VERDICT?  E-mail us at Your e-mails during the P.O.‘ed box at the end of the show.  Please include your name, where you‘re writing from.  Back in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

First up: A little over two hours after Barack Obama‘s speech in Berlin on Thursday, FOX News anchor, David Asman declared this -

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “YOUR WORLD”/FOX NEWS/THURSDAY)

DAVID ASMAN, FOX NEWS ANCHOR:  No Berlin bounce.

(voice over):  An estimated 200,000 people turning out to hear Barack Obama speak in Germany today, but it‘s the reaction here that really counts, and a FOX News Poll just out shows Obama getting no pop from his overseas trip.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  No Berlin bounce.  Their poll was taken on Tuesday and Wednesday, before Obama even arrived in Germany on Thursday.

Next up: CNN‘s Kyra Philips, who‘s very good, was anchoring during Obama‘s speech on Thursday.  Obama talked about his parents, his mother from Kansas and his father who is a goat herder from Kenya.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “CNN NEWSROOM”/THURSDAY)

KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR:  That‘s where you even heard a large part of that crowd giving a Kenyan cry which made Barack Obama smile bringing him back it his home country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Except that Barack Obama is not actually from Kenya, his father‘s home country.  If that happened at FOX, we suspect more than just an inadvertent error.

Finally: A shoutout to CNN and Soledad O‘Brien for their special series last week “Black in America.”  It examined concerns and successes in Black America today.  I watched some of it this weekend, really well done and it got big ratings, too.  It‘s well-deserved.

Coming up: Where is Caylee?  New evidence tonight in the case of that missing two-year-old, and new information about her mother who waited more than a month to report Caylee is missing.  We‘ll talk live with Casey‘s mother.

And next: A new non-partisan study shows the news media has been rougher on Obama than McCain.  What happened to the liberal media?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWS BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Coming up, new details in the case of that missing two-year-old whose mother waited over a month to report to her missing.  A new jailhouse phone call from the mother.  We‘ve got it and we‘ll talk to her grandmother.

But, first, a new nonpartisan study finds that the press is tougher, that‘s right, tougher on Barack Obama than John McCain.  The Center for Media and Public Affairs at George Mason University which has studied network news since the 1980s, analyzed coverage on ABC, CBS and NBC and found that when reporters, anchors and analysts expressed any opinion, they were significantly more negative toward Obama, 72 percent than to McCain, 57 percent.  And the comments are only 28 percent positive for Obama, whereas 43 percent were positive for McCain.  What happened to the liberal media? 

Joining me now Roy Sekoff, the “Huffington Post” founding editor, and back with us is former Bush aide Brad Blakeman.  Brad, where‘s the liberal media? 

BRAD BLAKEMAN, FORMER BUSH AIDE:  It is liberal.  What kind of study is this?  They take network news.  Nobody is watching network news.  They‘re all watching cable.

ABRAMS:  Oh, yes.

BLAKEMAN:  They‘re watching you, Dan.  They‘re watching Fox.  They‘re reading blogs.  Come on, this is ridiculous. 

ABRAMS:  Brad, the numbers - just so you know, the numbers on the network news shows, you know, 20-something million compared to a few million on cable.  I mean -

BLAKEMAN:  Look at the Rasmussen poll.  Look at other polls which suggest that the overwhelming majority of Americans believe that the press is in the bag for Obama.  That‘s what they believe. 

ABRAMS:  But, Roy -

ROY SEKOFF, FOUNDING EDITOR, “HUFFINGTON POST”:  That just shows how effective -

ABRAMS:  That‘s right, brad is right that the public believes.  And you know, there have been polls, this Rasmussen poll that Brad talks about.  There‘s no question there is a perception out there that the media is softer on Obama.  And yet, this nonpartisan study seems to show just the opposite. 

BLAKEMAN:  It‘s reality; it‘s not perception.

(CROSS TALK)

SEKOFF:  No, Brad.  Dan, it shows you that the right-wing propaganda has been successful.  Thirty years of endless hammering on this liberal media and it reaches the point of absurdity when we‘re talking about John McCain.  I give you a perfect example.  Last week, I said that the media are card carrying members of the John McCain protection society and Brad rolled his eyes and chuckled.  And the next day, John McCain made a major error on the timing of the Anbar awakening.  And what did Katie Couric and CBS do?  They cut it out.  They left it on the cutting room floor and put an answer that was less damaging (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

(CROSS TALK)

ABRAMS:  Wait.  Hang on, Roy. 

BLAKEMAN:  If anybody believes the CBS and NBC are in the bag for McCain, nobody believes that. 

ABRAMS:  Hang on a second.  Roy, you don‘t actually believe that they did that on purpose to make McCain look better, do you?  You don‘t believe that, do you, Roy? 

SEKOFF:  Dan, you don‘t really think that they didn‘t.  What was the excuse?

ABRAMS:  Oh, come on.

SEKOFF:  The excuse was timing when in fact the answer was not shorter. 

(CROSS TALK)

ABRAMS:  Look, I mean, I‘m going to support this study because I think it was done by an independent, legitimate group.  But the notion that somehow CBS is conspiring and cutting out pieces and putting in other pieces just to make John McCain look better, to me, is kind of ridiculous. 

SEKOFF:  Dan, what about all the things that McCain has done.  You know that if Obama had done half the things that McCain has done in the last week. 

(CROSS TALK)

ABRAMS:  That‘s a different issue, and there I agree with you, Roy.  But, Brad, here‘s my problem.  All right, generally, what the folks on the right like to do when they don‘t like a study is say, “Oh, it‘s a bunch of left-wingers.  It‘s a bunch of liberals.”  The problem is the Center for Media and Public Affairs that did this particular study, this one that guys like you don‘t like. 

BLAKEMAN:  I don‘t care about it.

ABRAMS:  This is the same group that found in 2006 that the networks give far more positive coverage to the Democrats.  O‘Reilly and Glen Beck praised the study in 2006.  The director was once to Fox News contributor, et cetera, et cetera.  So you‘re not actually going to suggest that this is an organization that is in the bag, are you? 

BLAKEMAN:  I‘m not going to suggest that.  I don‘t really much care about these results.  I don‘t think it means much.  You know, the press wanted Kerry to win.  He didn‘t win.  They wanted Dukakis to win.  He didn‘t win. 

ABRAMS:  But you just threw this out.  What about the facts?

BLAKEMAN:  It doesn‘t matter what they say.

ABRAMS:  Facts matter, don‘t they? 

BLAKEMAN:  Yes, they do matter.  And I don‘t think these facts taken in their totality matter.  I think that the American people, based on the Rasmussen poll agree that Obama receives favorable treatment.  It‘s not even the print media.  It‘s the visuals.  It‘s the pictures. 

SEKOFF:  That‘s because people like you, Brad, have been having this delusional fantasy about this liberal media. 

BLAKEMAN:  I have that much power over the people that I‘m going to convince them that what they see is something I believe in. 

(CROSS TALK)

ABRAMS:  Roy, I‘m going to ask you - I‘m going to throw this one back at you based on the same study. 

SEKOFF:  Sure.

ABRAMS:  During the primary, though, the numbers were very different.  Obama positive coverage, 62 percent.  McCain just 34 percent.  Negative towards Obama, 38.  McCain, 66.  How do you explain the fact that Obama seemed, during the primary, according to this study, to get very positive coverage from the mainstream networks? 

SEKOFF:  Well, very often, you know, the new is exciting.  The new is fresh.  It‘s something - and so they started off that way.  And then, of course, as always happens, they turn on a dime and start going after even much harder.  With McCain, they have been having this, you know, giddy-school-girl relationship going on 10 years now. 

BLAKEMAN:  Come on.  Who followed Obama - who followed Obama over to Europe and got no press coverage at all and was forced-fed DOD material and got locked out of the Obama events?  The press.  Come on, really.

SEKOFF:  Brad, you asked him to go.  You suggested him to go.  You goaded him to go.

BLAKEMAN:  He had to go to Afghanistan and Iraq, but to cover it - Obama wouldn‘t let them cover it. 

ABRAMS:  Well, suddenly, I love it.  Suddenly the right -Wait, I love the fact that suddenly guys like Brad are great defenders now of the press‘ right to access, et cetera.  In many cases -

BLAKEMAN:  John McCain is the most accessible presidential candidate ever. 

ABRAMS:  He is.  That is true.  Final word, Roy.  Real quick. 

SEKOFF:  Dan - I just can‘t let that go, Dan.

ABRAMS:  Real quick, yes.

SEKOFF:  The fact is, you know, McCain came out with this lie and said that Obama wouldn‘t go to the thing because they wouldn‘t let the cameras.  It‘s absolutely not true and the liberal media -

BLAKEMAN:  It is true. 

(CROSS TALK)  

ABRAMS:  As we talked about earlier in the show, the cameras were never going to be there. 

SEKOFF:  That‘s what I‘m saying. 

ABRAMS:  On that one, you‘re right.  All right.  Brad Blakeman, Roy Sekoff, thanks a lot. 

Up next, we‘ve got new jailhouse phone calls from the mother who waited over a month to report her two-year-old daughter, Caylee, missing. 

And hundreds take to the streets for a massive food fight, coming up in 60 seconds. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Now, to “Reality Bites,” a dose of reality caught on tape.  Tonight, to Berlin where an annual water battle has turned into a food fight.  Two rival neighborhoods on opposite sides of the city.  It‘s called the “Wasserschlacht.”  They learned to settle their difference without violence.  Instead, they use water guns and anything else they can get their hands on in their yearly good-natured clash.  Stuff just keeps on flying.  Slimy fruits, veggies, eggs, fish.  There are some rules, though.  No fresh food - everything has to be cooked or rotten.  Be right back. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Breaking tonight - details in the case of missing Florida two-year-old, Caylee Anthony who hasn‘t been seen since mid-June.  The toddler‘s mother, Casey Anthony, remains behind bars for allegedly lying to authorities.  Just hours ago, authorities released another jailhouse conversation between Casey Anthony and her brother, Lee. 

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

LEE ANTHONY, CASEY ANTHONY‘S BROTHER:  Do you think Caylee‘s OK right now. 

CASEY ANTHONY, MOTHER OF CAYLEE ANTHONY:  In my gut, she‘s still OK and it still feels like she‘s close to home. 

LEE ANTHONY:  OK. 

CASEY ANTHONY:  So, I mean that‘s still my best feeling at the moment.  Again, if that changes, I mean, obviously, I‘m going to reach out and say something immediately.  But I know mom will understand this better than anyone that there‘s that type of bond you have with your kids. 

LEE ANTHONY:  Right. 

CASEY ANTHONY:  And it‘s - you know, it‘s unexplainable.  Absolutely.

LEE ANTHONY:  Did you speak with Caylee over the phone at any time? 

CASEY ANTHONY:  I did one time, yes, and that was actually the day mom had called the police. 

(END AUDIO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  All right.  For some of the other late-breaking details, here‘s NBC‘s Ron Mott. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RON MOTT, NBC CORRESPONDENT:  Sunday night, a public prayer for two-year-old Caylee Anthony. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  We pray right now that they will find this child. 

MOTT:  An outpouring of support for her worried family. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Whatever has to be done, the little girl has got to be found. 

MOTT:  But much of the spotlight remains cast on the toddler‘s mom, Casey Anthony, entering her 12th day behind bars as steadfast as she was on day one about her missing daughter. 

LEE ANTHONY:  She is still saying that, yes, Caylee is alive.  Caylee is OK. 

MOTT:  Casey Anthony says the babysitter ran off with the little girl more than a month ago.  Police fear the child is dead.  And now, it seems the jailed 22-year-old is ready to start talking to authorities again, at least to the FBI. 

LEE ANTHONY:  She said, “I‘m willing to speak with the FBI.”  I was pretty much able to talk to my sister and say, “All I know of what you are getting out there is what we‘re hearing from investigators or what we‘re hearing from your attorney.”  And I was pretty much able to verify with her, “Is this accurate?  And on some things, she said absolutely and other things she was appalled. 

MOTT:  Late Friday, officials released a profanity-laced phone call Casey Anthony placed to her home the day she was arrested in which she cursed at her mom and brother before this exchange with a friend, Christina. 

CHRISTINA, FRIEND OF CASEY ANTHONY:  Casey, you have to tell me if you know anything about Caylee.  Sweetheart, if anything happens to Caylee, Casey, I‘ll die.  You understand, I‘ll die.  If anything happens to that baby. 

CASEY ANTHONY:  Oh, my god.  Calling you guys, a waste.  Huge waste.  Honey, I love you.  You know I would not let anything happen to my daughter.  If I knew where she was, this wouldn‘t be going on. 

CHRISTINA:  Well, how come everybody is saying you‘re lying.

CASEY ANTHONY:  Because nobody (EXPLETIVE DELETED) is listening to what I‘m saying.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ABRAMS:  Joining me now is NBC‘s Ron Mott and Florida prosecutor Pam Bondi.  All right.  Ron, what is the latest about what level of cooperation she‘s offering to the authorities? 

MOTT:  Well, hey there, Dan.  Her attorney says that she is cooperating fully with authorities.  But at the same time, he‘s saying that he‘s not going to allow his client to just be laid out there to probe when he wants them to be focused on young Caylee. 

One of the more interesting developments today in addition to those new jailhouse tapes is that Jose Baez who is Casey Anthony‘s attorney filed a motion that will be heard tomorrow - scheduled to be heard tomorrow, trying to suppress the further release of public documents, like including those phone calls because we‘re starting to pick up details we haven‘t otherwise heard because her brother is essentially running his own investigation and making calls to her trying to firm up details, cell phone records and things of that nature.  And I think Jose Baez wants it put a stop to that, Dan. 

ABRAMS:  All right.  Pam, I want you to listen to another piece of sound.  This one, again, is between Casey and her mother.  Let‘s listen. 

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

CASEY ANTHONY:  You don‘t know what my involvement is and stuff?

CINDY ANTHONY, CASEY ANTHONY‘S MOTHER:  Casey - 

CASEY ANTHONY:  Mom - 

CINDY ANTHONY:  What? 

CASEY ANTHONY:  No. 

CINDY ANTHONY:  I don‘t know what your involvement is, sweetheart.  You‘re not telling me where she‘s at. 

CASEY ANTHONY:  Because I don‘t (EXPLETIVE DELETED) know where she‘s at.  Are you kidding me? 

CINDY ANTHONY:  Casey, don‘t waste your call to scream and holler at me. 

CASEY ANTHONY:  No!  Waste my call sitting in the jail, this bunk?

CINDY ANTHONY:  Whose fault is you sitting in the jail?  You‘re blaming me that you‘re sitting in the jail?  Blame yourself for telling lies.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Pam, why are the authorities releasing this?  I mean, she‘s denying again and again that she had any involvement. 

PAM BONDI, FLORIDA PROSECUTOR:  You know, Dan, that‘s interesting because as prosecutors, they did not have to release them.  Law enforcement and - you know, in Tampa we work so closely with law enforcement and on a pending investigation, typically, you would not release information like this.  The thing that really helped here, though, is it helps the grandmother.  I think it‘s clear from listening to those tapes that she‘s not an accessory after the fact to any crime.  To me she sounds like a desperate grandmother doing anything to get her daughter to tell where her granddaughter is. 

ABRAMS:  And it seems again and again that family members are asking her the ultimate question.  Pam, when you‘re in jail, do you know that all your conversations are going to be recorded?  Are you told? 

BONDI:  Dan, absolutely.  There are signs, huge signs posted in every jail in every prison that say, “You‘re being recorded.  You have no expectation of privacy.”  So as far as her attorney trying to keep those from being released, that‘s not going to happen.  That is within the discretion of law enforcement as to whether they want to release them. 

ABRAMS:  All right.  Cindy Anthony joins us now on the phone.  She‘s Caylee‘s grandmother.  Thanks very much for taking the time.  We do appreciate it.  So we‘re listening to these conversations of you talking to your daughter from jail.  And again and again, you‘re asking her whether she had any involvement and she‘s saying no.  It seems that she is angry at you at times.  How do you feel about the release of these conversations? 

CINDY ANTHONY (on the phone):  I‘m not sure which conversations that you are referring to because I haven‘t seen anything on TV yet and I have not seen anything.  I haven‘t had the chance.  I keep having to return media phone calls, so I‘m not sure exactly which ones you‘re referring to. 

ABRAMS:  All right.  I‘m going to try and replay one of the ones that we just heard of you.  Let me replay it so you can hear it, and then I want to ask you about it. 

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

CASEY ANTHONY:  You don‘t know what my involvement is and stuff? 

CINDY ANTHONY:  Casey. 

CASEY ANTHONY:  Mom. 

CINDY ANTHONY:  What? 

CASEY ANTHONY:  No. 

CINDY ANTHONY:  I don‘t know what your involvement is, sweetheart. 

You are not telling me where she is at. 

CASEY ANTHONY:  Because I don‘t (EXPLETIVE DELETED) know where she is at.  Are you kidding me? 

CINDY ANTHONY:  Casey, don‘t waste your call to scream and holler at me. 

CASEY ANTHONY:  No!  waste my call sitting in the jail, in this bunk?

CINDY ANTHONY:  Whose fault is you sitting in the jail?  You‘re blaming me you‘re sitting in the jail?  Blame yourself for telling lies.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  It seems here you‘re really pretty aggressive there with your daughter. 

CINDY ANTHONY:  It sounds like I was pretty calm with her.  I didn‘t raise my voice.  You know that was less than 24 hours after finding out that my granddaughter was missing.  So I think I was probably still in shock.  So - and I hadn‘t really had a chance to speak with my daughter, start looking at some of the facts and start looking at reasons.  So basically, on that, I have no comment. 

I mean, you know, you guys heard the 911 tapes.  I didn‘t know where my granddaughter was.  So - you know you react to what you do at that time.  That‘s all I can say.  Bottom line is, my focus is finding Caylee.  Casey has maintained from day one that Caylee was taken from her and I believe her.  Now, that this initial shock of Caylee being missing is gone and I have had a chance to sit back and look at the facts and speak to my daughter again and talk to her friends and start to put some things together. 

I‘m 100 percent certain that Casey is telling the truth.  The police told us that she was totally lying about everything that there is no such person as Zenaida.  Well, why don‘t you guys just run a people search.  There are several in the State of Florida, nine just in the Orlando area alone.  There are several in New York.  There are several in New Jersey.  We have private investigators looking at all of them right now.  So, the Sheriff‘s Department lied that there was only one in this area. 

ABRAMS:  Let me ask you this.  Do you think that - it sounds like what you are saying is that the Sheriff‘s Department intentionally doesn‘t want to find this woman who your daughter said that Caylee may be with? 

CINDY ANTHONY:  I think they made a conclusion based on four or five hours with my daughter.  And they, based on the conclusion that they think that there is no point in going any further.  I don‘t know what their rationale is. 

ABRAMS:  So what has changed your mind?  I mean, you listen to the 911 tape.  You listen to your conversations with her early on from jail, and you seem to be very dubious of her story at the time.  What‘s changed your mind? 

CINDY ANTHONY:  Actually, being able to sit and talk to her and looking at the facts, and knowing a lot more than what‘s out there in public.  You know, the media only portrays what they want to portray.  They only give you - when you interview with them, you can sit there and talk to them for 15 minutes, 20 minutes, five minutes - whatever.  They‘re going to give you a five-second blurb, and they‘re going to cut it and spin it any way they want to. 

ABRAMS:  Well, tell us what we are missing.  I mean, here is your opportunity.  What is it that‘s not out there factually that would help demonstrate that she had - 

CINDY ANTHONY:  You and I would need - we would need an hour show to do that.  And I am not going to do that right now on a two-minute interview or whatever we have.  If you want to sit down and do a one-on-one and do a whole count by count, we can do that. 

ABRAMS:  All right. 

CINDY ANTHONY:  I think at that point we also need to have the Sheriff‘s Department there too ... 

ABRAMS:  All right.

CINDY ANTHONY:  ... so that everybody can, you know, say their things. 

ABRAMS:  Let‘s do this -

CINDY ANTHONY:  I‘m not going back and forth with them. 

ABRAMS:  I understand.  Let‘s do this.  We‘ll call it then - sounds like, you know, it‘s a fair request.  We‘ll call the Sheriff‘s Department and see if we can get them on tomorrow.  Love to have you back for a more extensive conversation about this.  So we don‘t end up doing the sound bites. 

CINDY ANTHONY:  Yes.  I mean, why don‘t you get the Detective Melich(ph) on the phone and ask him why there are errors in his report? 

ABRAMS:  We will.

CINDY ANTHONY:  He wasn‘t under duress.  He didn‘t lose his daughter.  He told me he wasn‘t overly tired.  He wasn‘t scared, and he has several false statements in his arrest report. 

ABRAMS:  All right.  We will continue to follow this.  We‘re going to give them an opportunity to come on tomorrow as well.  Thank you for taking the time. 

CINDY ANTHONY:  Sure.

ABRAMS:  And we‘ll try to get you back tomorrow to talk about this more in depth.

CINDY ANTHONY:  OK.  Thank you. 

ABRAMS:  Be right back. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Unfortunately, we‘re almost out of time.  So we‘ve only got limited amount of time for the great Kim Serafin, senior editor at “In Touch Weekly” magazine. 

So we‘ll start with British movie star Keira Knightley just saying no to digital cleavage enhancement.  That‘s right - Britain‘s “Daily Mail” reporting the studio executives for Knightley‘s upcoming film “The Duchess” wanted to enlarge her breasts in promos. 

Knightley got flak back in 2004 when her chest was enhanced for posters for the film “King Arthur.”  This time, Keira putting her foot down saying no to a touchup.  Now, Kim, I‘m sure everyone is going to say it makes her a winner.  But I‘m certainly, you know, not going to play devil‘s advocate for the sake of being called the devil.  But don‘t they touch these things up all the time? 

KIM SERAFIN, SENIOR EDITOR, “IN TOUCH WEEKLY”:  No, of course they do airbrushing.  They also do lighting.  We‘ve got great lighting on the set now.  But there‘s a difference -

ABRAMS:  No, I do not look this good in person, I swear.  No, I don‘t. 

I don‘t. 

SERAFIN:  But, there‘s a difference between altering your physical body shape.  And by the way, Keira Knightley was just on the “Forbes” list.  She was just like the second highest-earning actress after Cameron Diaz.  She doesn‘t need to do the extra digital enhancing.  I have seen her on red carpets.  I‘ve seen her live.  She looks great.  She doesn‘t need airbrushing.  But yes, of course, they do this all the time and they do little things, you know, take a little hair out of your face, cover up any wrinkles.  I think Andy Roddick was on the cover of like “Men‘s Fitness.”

ABRAMS:  “Men‘s Fitness.”  Yes, yes, yes.

SERAFIN:  Yes, they made his abs a little fuller.  You know, it happens.  She doesn‘t need to do it now.  Let‘s talk to her in 20 years when her career is not as good. 

ABRAMS:  See you soon.  You‘re coming back.  That‘s all the time we have tonight.  See you tomorrow.

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

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,