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'Live with Dan Abrams' for Jan. 17

Read the transcript to the Thursday show

Guests Peter Beinart, Rachel Sklar, Lanny Davis

DAN ABRAMS, HOST:  Truth and consequences tonight: Campaign style.

Barack Obama: Now getting hammered for just being honest.  Isn‘t that exactly what‘s wrong with our campaigns?  That being candid can be harmful to your political health.

Speaking of harmful, it is getting ugly.  We scoured (ph) the underbelly of the campaign, sifted trash bins and the outright deception, about misstatement.  We‘re On Their Trail tonight with the dirtiest tricks so far from campaign ‘08.

Plus: Ten years ago today, hard to believe the Monica Lewinsky scandal broke.  Tonight: Hillary Clinton speak now as candidly as ever how it impacted her life.


SEN. HILLARY CLINTON, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  I never doubted Bill‘s love for me, ever.


ABRAMS:  What may be her most personal comments on the scandal, but first: Is Barack Obama just too honest to become president?  In the past few days, Obama‘s been slammed by Hillary Clinton, her surrogates and the media for being well, truthful.  Clinton lambasting (ph) here on the campaign trail after Tuesday night‘s debate, when he was the only one to even attempt to answer honestly when asked what is your biggest weakness?


SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  I ask my staff never to hand me paper until two seconds before I need it because I will lose it.  I need to have good people in place who can make sure that systems run.


ABRAMS:  All right.  Now: Clinton has been using that against him on the trail and in this interview yesterday.


SEN. HILLARY CLINTON, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Senator Obama said yesterday that he didn‘t intend to try to manage or run the government.  That he was going to have advisors to do that.  That is very reminiscent of what we‘ve had for the last seven years.  I intend to run the government.


ABRAMS:  Come on.  I mean, contrast with the self promotional so-called weaknesses that Clinton and John Edwards offered up, smothered and spin.


CLINTON:  I get impatient.  I get, you know, really frustrated.

JOHN EDWARDS, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  I think weakness, I sometimes have a rarely powerful emotional response to pain that I see around me.


ABRAMS:  Gosh.  That must have been so hard for him to admit that.  But this isn‘t the only time Obama has been beaten up for trying to tell it straight.  Of course, there‘s Obama‘s honest admission of drug use while he was a teenager.  It‘s something he discussed on his book and on the campaign trail.  And that‘s led to Clinton surrogates to repeatedly suggest it could be a political liability.  More than I smoked pot, but didn‘t inhale?  I‘d rather have honesty on this issue rather than obfuscation. 

Look, day after day, I‘ve been defending the Clintons scurrilous allegations of race baiting, I‘ve demanded the record be corrected in their favor.  Last night, I attacked Obama for refusing to discuss the possibility of a terror attack.  But as a lawyer and outsider, I‘m going to demanding as honest campaign as possible.  I don‘t want to see any candidate punished merely for telling its straight.  Joining me now, Lanny Davis, President Bill Clinton‘s former special counsel and a supporter of Hillary Clinton; Rachel Sklar, media editor for the “Huffington Post;” and Peter Beinart, editor at large for the “New Republic.”  All right.  Peter, let‘s start with you.  I mean, does it seem to you like Obama is getting blasted day after day, not for missteps, but for just telling it straight?

PETER BEINART, NEW REPUBLIC:  Yes, I think he is.  I think we‘re in a moment in the campaign where the press wants to bash Obama after bashing Hillary early on.  And look, if you‘re going to ask people these questions in the debate about what your biggest flaw is, I agree, there‘s nothing more annoying than candidates saying their biggest flaw is they care about the American people too much and what to work for - I mean, it really makes you want to turn off the TV set and go to football.  Obama gave a reasonably, modestly honest answer about the fact that he has a busy desk.  You know, I think the guy should actually deserve some credit for saying something that actually one can listen to without gagging.

ABRAMS:  Rachel, I mean, isn‘t it true?

RACHEL SKLAR, HUFFINGTON POST:  Well, I think that if he gave an honest answer, that‘s great, but people are entitle to scrutinize it and respond to it.

ABRAMS:  You know what?  It seems to me, so, he‘s saying he‘s not a good paper guy see, that he needs some help in managing the office and that suddenly suggesting that he‘s like George Bush?

SKLAR:  No, I don‘t think necessarily of that.  He also made a comment a bit how he‘s not a COO.  These are all statement that go to the kind of manager the candidate will be.

ABRAMS:  And look and Lanny look, I‘m not saying this is the worst thing ever, that she‘s going after him, what I‘m saying is happening is that we are discouraging honesty on the campaign trail.  That what we‘re doing by going after Obama on this is effectively saying that the candidates give us the spin answers, give the Edwards answer here because then we won‘t follow up on it.  I‘ll just give you the non-responsive and self-promotional answer.


always just talk facts and let you draw your own inferences.  So, let‘s

talk facts.  First of all, I appreciate Senator Obama‘s condor as I do

Senator Clintons and Senator Edwards and I appreciate the way you feel -

but let‘s talk facts.  Senator Obama volunteered to the editorial board

that he was not going to be the COO as president, he was a visionary and he

was doing that obliquely to criticize Senator Clinton who says she‘s not a

visionary which I disagree with.  But he raised these subjects, Senator

Clinton responded by -

ABRAMS:  I didn‘t hear him say she‘s not a visionary.

DAVIS:  Excuse me, in the interview with a long editorial quote, which she‘s responding to, not that he had a messy desk, he said I‘m not a COO, a president has to have vision.

ABRAMS:  I‘ll play it for you, Lanny.  Here‘s the clip, let me play more.  Go ahead.


OBAMA:  Being president is not making sure that schedules are being run properly or the paperwork is being shuffled effectively, it involves having a vision for where the country needs to go.  It involves having the capacity to bring together the best people.


ABRAMS:  And so, that‘s something to criticize him about.

DAVIS:  Look, you just played an excerpt that I wasn‘t referring

to.  That‘s why I want to be factual before we do an argument.  He

volunteered a long quote to the editorial board that was basically the

reference to COO didn‘t come out of that debate.  She was responding to

that quote and to what he just said as he wants to be more than managing people and that‘s fair.  If you think this is slamming, this is very light.


ABRAMS:  I agree with you, but what it does is it discourages honesty in campaigns.  Of course it does.


SKLAR:  I disagree.  I totally disagree.  How does it discourage honesty?

ABRAMS:  Because what we‘re going to do is we‘re going to end up

because Obama has again and again said things be it about his drug use -

SKLAR:  He shouldn‘t be held accountable for things he‘s done?

ABRAMS:  What he should he should get to Bill Clinton that (INAUDIBLE) on the drug use right he should say, no, I tried it but I didn‘t inhale.

SKLAR:  Look, I don‘t know how the facts may or may not have come out, had he not admitted that, I think he gets points for having brought that to the floor himself.  But once he has done that, and so, he has done that, why should he not be held accountable for it and have to answer question about it?

ABRAMS:  Accountable is different than sort of insinuation which is what the Clinton campaign has been doing about the drug use.


BEINART:  On this management point, you know, Lanny is right, it‘s worth noting whether a candidate would be a good manager, there‘s no question about that.  But I think the truth, the best way of judging how good a manager someone would be as president is how well they‘ve manage their campaign.  And the truth is that both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have managed their campaigns excellently.

ABRAMS:  Let me do this.  I want to play another piece of sound that‘s been controversial where Obama again, I think Obama is kind of telling it straight and he‘s getting blasted for talking about Ronald Reagan.  Here‘s what he said.


OBAMA:  I don‘t want to present myself as some sort of singular figure.  I think part of the differences are the times.  I do think that, for example, the 1980 election was different.  I mean, I think Ronald Reagan changed the trajectory of America in a way that you know, Richard Nixon did not.  In a way that Bill Clinton did not.  He tapped into what people were already feeling which is we want clarity, we want optimism, we want you know a return to that sense of dynamism.


ABRAMS:  All right.  And then, what he gets for that?  What is really political analysis is he get this from John Edwards.


EDWARDS:  I would never use Ronald Reagan—whether it was damage to the union movement and damage to the middle class (INAUDIBLE) and the biggest corporations in the America or the incredible devastation to the environment while president of the United States.  I can promise you this, this president will never use Ronald Reagan as an example of change.


ABRAMS:  What is Barack Obama using Ronald Reagan as the example for change or was he merely saying that that time in history, Rachel, that he tapped in to something?

SKLAR:  For sure, he was actually saying that.  But you can‘t raised Ronald Reagan as a Democrat and not expect some people to jump all over that.  Ronald Reagan is the example for the Republicans as almost a drinking game how often they‘ve mentioned it.  You can get drunk that of listening to a Ronald Reagan references in the debates.  So, I think that is a legitimate thing.

BEINART:  With all due respect, that was a ridiculous answer.  And what John Edwards said was absolutely pathetic.  Will Barack Obama, I‘m not a Barack Obama supporter but to say that Ronald Reagan change the trajectory of American politics in a way that Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton who I think was a great president did not, is self-evident.  He was the most conservative American president elected since Herbert Hubert. 

When radical ideological move -


ABRAMS:  Go ahead, Lanny.]

BEINART:  As the statement of Reagan significant.

DAVIS:  Let me pull this segment together.

ABRAMS:  Thank you, Lanny.

DAVIS:  Barack Obama has the right to his opinion, his opinion is that Ronald Reagan changed the trajectory of American politics, he certainly did, he took us over to the conservative tax cutting, budget deficit presidency that Bill Clinton needed to correct in his eight years.  He‘s entitle to his opinion.  He‘s entitle to be criticize for his opinion. 

And there‘s nothing personal in that John Edwards said and there‘s nothing

personal -

ABRAMS:  I know it‘s not personal but it‘s also what it is - is again, it‘s just a mere - to me there‘s nothing opinionated about what Barack Obama said.  It‘s a fact.


DAVIS:  It‘s not necessarily a favorable fact, it maybe a negative. 

This trajectory could have been negative -

BEINART:  But Barack Obama never said it was positive.


ABRAMS:  Rachel, final word.

SKLAR:  I think it‘s fair to make a point that just by raising it,

he said he didn‘t see himself as a COO (ph) figure and then he raises the

specter of the singular figure.  I do think -


ABRAMS:  I got to wrap -

SKLAR:  The whole is going about honesty and whether or not you pay for it.


ABRAMS:  He is paying for his honesty, no doubt about that.  I got to wrap up it.


ABRAMS:  Lanny Davis, Rachel Sklar, Peter Beinart, stay with us.

Coming up: Ten years ago, the day after Monica Lewinsky scandal broke, Hillary Clinton offering some of her most candid comments yet about how she felt at that time.


H. CLINTON:  You know you‘re mad.  You‘re really upset.  You‘re disappointed.


ABRAMS:  Yes, that was Tyra and yes, we have more of that interview.  And first: It was her husband, now, Mitt Romney lashing out at an aggressive reporter‘s covering the campaign.



that are tied to my -


ROMNEY:  You hear what I‘ve said Glen?


ABRAMS:  It‘s not a heckler, it‘s a reporter.  Is the media getting too aggressive?  Are they instigating or is it just called doing their job?  And some now are saying, it started the dirtiest campaign ever.  But we‘re on their trail.  Calling out the five dirtiest tricks used against the candidates so far.  Coming up.


ABRAMS:  Did you know the first televised campaign had aired in 1952 for Republican presidential candidate, later president, Dwight Eisenhower during “I love Lucy.”  Coming up: It‘s getting testy on the campaign trail.  Mitt Romney going at it with the reporter, this after Bill Clinton is stuck (ph) to a different reporter.  Is the media instigating or just doing their job?  Coming up.


ABRAMS:  In this campaign, is the media inventing controversy and creating drama?  The inside DC media were all over Bill Clinton‘s exchange with a local San Francisco reporter, FOX News of course asking: Is they‘re losing it?  Well, the Associated Press headline read: Bill Clinton Berates Reporter.


BILL CLINTON, FMR U.S. PRESIDENT:  ((INAUDIBLE)) but they‘ll find that out later.


ABRAMS:  But that is not the only example.  Late today, Republican candidate, Mitt Romney and an AP reporter seemed to almost close to blows of whether Romney‘s campaign includes any lobbyists.


ROMNEY:  I don‘t have lobbyists running my campaign.  I don‘t have

lobbyists -

GLENN JOHNSON, AP REPORTER:  That is not true.  That is not true. 

Ron Kaufman is a lobbyist.

ROMNEY:  Did you hear what I said, Glen?

JOHNSON:  You said you don‘t have lobbyists running your campaign.

ROMNEY:  I said I don‘t have lobbyists running my campaign and he‘s not running my campaign.

JOHNSON:  He is one of your senior advisors.

ROMNEY:  He‘s an advisor and the person who runs my campaign is Beth Meyers.


ABRAMS:  The question: Are some of the media are now trying to spice up the campaign with provocation or is this just what we were supposed to do?  Here now is David Shuster in Columbia, South Carolina.  He‘s been covering the campaign and with us still is Rachel Sklar from the “Huffington Post.”  What do you think Rachel, did the Romney confrontation legit?

SKLAR:  Not legit at all.  I mean that reporter was almost itching for a fight there and if you saw the extended footage where Romney went up and approached him after they both heading to the (INAUDIBLE).

ABRAMS:  David, what you make of it?  Is this an ongoing issue?

DAVID SHUSTER, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  I think Rachel is totally wrong.  I mean reporter there was not asking a silly question or showing he didn‘t know what he was talking about.  He caught Mitt Romney misleading people.  We‘re not supposed to be stenographers for Mitt Romney and he said, that can not be true.  And eventually, Mitt Romney acknowledge, oh, yes, it‘s just the person running my campaign at the top.  He was not a lobbyist.  The fact is Ron Kaufman is a lobbyist.  The reporter was right on the mark.  Now, you can say, maybe the reporter should be a little nicer about it.  (INAUDIBLE) see reporters air on the side of being a little too aggressive when they know what they‘re talking about.

ABRAMS:  Yes, it‘s also I think, there‘s something Romney that‘s driving the press crazy and this is not bias.  This is problems with the facts.  I mean, every time we‘re doing these On The Trail segments, we were going to misstatements, it seems Mitt Romney keeps coming up again and again.  But Rachael, you make the point about the sort of the way he‘s asking the question.

SKLAR:  It‘s completely confrontational.

ABRAMS:  Do you think it‘s happening a lot in the campaign?

SKLAR:  You know, I don‘t think it‘s actually happening all that much.  At least not that you know, that has been broadcast over the air waves.  Maybe it‘s happening in privately.

ABRAMS:  Here‘s a little more of the confrontation between Romney and AP reporter, Glen Johnson.


ROMNEY:  He is not running my campaign.

JOHNSON:  There‘s another lobbyist involved in your senior management too.

ROMNEY:  Listen to my words.  Alright?  Listen to my words.  I said

JOHNSON:  But that‘s semantics, though.  Running your campaign and giving you advice?  He‘s on the plane.

ERIC FEHRNSTROM:  Hey, Glen.  Save your argument.

JOHNSON:  He approached me Eric, OK?

ROMNEY:  Let‘s talk.  Let‘s you and I talk.]

JOHNSON:  I‘d be glad to talk.  Anytime.


ABRAMS:  I think, David, it does seem that you know, this reporter is just not trying to get the truth, he seems really angry at Romney.

SHUSTER:  Look, maybe he had a bad day and maybe the Romney

campaign didn‘t fed today.  Whatever the reason was, but in any case, no,

as reporters, we should be adversary, our job is not to be the candidate‘s

friend or -


SKLAR:  (INUAUDIBLE) not rude and provocative.

SHUSTER:  But he knew what he was talking about.  He was right Rachel, the reporter was absolutely right today.

SKLAR:  Absolutely.

SHUSTER:  What was he supposed to do?  What he supposed to say, oh, I‘m sorry, Governor Romney but I‘m right you‘re wrong?

SKLAR:  Rather than saying, that‘s not right, that‘s not true.

ABRAMS:  Here‘s a Romney spokesperson walks over to the reporter and goes after him.


FEHRNSTROM:  Glen, you should act a little more professionally instead of being argumentative with the candidate.

JOHNSON:  No, he shouldn‘t stand there and tell total falsehoods.

FEHRNSTROM:  So, now, what he‘s telling is total falsehoods?  Save your opinions.  Save your opinion.

JOHNSON:  It‘s not an opinion, it‘s a documentable fact.  A senior advisor is a registered lobbyist.

FEHRNSTROM:  Don‘t be argumentative with candidate.


ABRAMS:  There should be a question mark on the lower through there, I don‘t know if they‘re going it for good.

SHUSTER:  Come on.  Don‘t be argumentative with the candidate.  Don‘t be argumentative.  What does Mitt Romney think is going to happen when he‘s president if all the world leaders is going to be nice and respectable.  If he has a campaign had a problem with reporters being rude, what does he think is going to happen when he sit in the Oval Office?

ABRAMS:  Is this happening a lot, David?  On the trail, is this happening a lot?

SHUSTER:  It‘s happening on occasion.  But I would draw distinction Dan between a reporter who knows what he‘s talking about like the reporter today and of a fool and jerk like Bill O‘Reilly who try to push over a guy to get out of the way of Barack Obama and then, what does he ask Barack Obama is some insightful, hard penetrating question?  No, he says will you be on my show?  That is where you can draw a line.  If a reporter is lazy and as silly and as aggressive, that‘s a problem.  When the reporter knows what he or she is talking about, I have no problem with that.

SKLAR:  And it‘s OK for them to be aggressive?  My point went to behavior, you know?  If the facts are great and I think that if you have the facts, that should be enough, you shouldn‘t pick a fight.

ABRAMS:  David Shuster and Rachel Sklar.  Thanks a lot.

SKLAR:  Our job is not to be friends with these people.  If you don‘t ask the tough question, who would ask the tough question.

ABRAMS:  Coming up: This could be the dirtiest campaign ever and there‘s still nine months to go.  But sometimes the candidates aren‘t the ones throwing mud.  One group now accusing John McCain is selling out his comrades in that Vietnamese prison where he was a prisoner.  We expose the five dirtiest tricks of the campaign so far.

And up next: Beat the Press.  It‘s always been one of my favorite parts of the show.  The folks over at FOX agree.  Did we lose that banner? 

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.  Coming up


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

First up: MSNBC‘s Janet Shamlian with an uncomfortable live shot yesterday, covering the OJ Simpson case.


UNIDENTIFIED HOST:  Janet, I usually don‘t like to draw attention or give TV time to potentially naked men wearing bucket big yellow (INAUDIBLE) but it looks pretty darn cold there.  How long has he been standing there and what‘s the point?

JANET SHAMLIAN, MSNBC REPORTER:  Let me just say, it‘s unusually cold in Vegas today.  I think it‘s like the wind chill right is in the high 20s or you know, low 30s.  It‘s really cold.  I think he felt he could get some attention here.


ABRAMS:  Is Janet trying to explain something else to us by talking about us how cold it is?  You don‘t need to defend the guy, come on.

Next up: We like to think interviews to celebrities are off the cup, questions and answers are sometimes different.  Ted Danson (ph) gave interviews to Good Morning America and then to Regis and Kelli.  The very next hour, all sounded a little bit familiar.


TED DANSON, REPORTER:  Katie Holmes is this incredibly elegant, gracious person in the middle of this storm of paparazzi.   She is so graceful.  I really admire her.  She cease gracious and storm of all the paparazzi, she‘s so elegant and full of grace.  I really admire her a lot.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  We have Queen Latifah coming up tomorrow.

DANSON:  Her rock and roll with a huge heart.

Queen Latifah‘s rock and roll with a huge heart.

Congratulations on the Golden Globe nomination.

We‘re at home because of this strike which is sad.

It‘s sad that there is a strike, very sad, hugely sad, and it‘s sad to some of the shows that could have gotten attention.

It‘s also sad to a lot of shows that could have used the attention couldn‘t get it.


ABRAMS:  Hot tip to the Huffington Post for that one.

Finally: They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, as you can imagine the smiles across our faces this afternoon when we noticed this on the bottom of the screen on FOX.  Look familiar?  Of course.  The name of this segment.  Beat the Press.  We know they watch every night to see if they made it into the segment.  But we truly appreciate the shout out.

We need your help Beating the Press.  If you see anything right, wrong, amusing or absurd, go to our Web site: and please leave a tip in the box.

Up next: We‘re On Their Trail.  Tonight, the top five dirtiest

tricks in the campaign so far

Plus: Ten years after Monica Lewinsky became a household name, Hillary Clinton finally opens up about the scandal with some of her most candid comments yet.

And: A 14-year-old comes face to face with a burglar breaking into his home, called 911 from his closet, before taking matters into his own hands.


911 OPERATOR:  You need to get out the window.

MICHAEL:  I can‘t.


ABRAMS:  He went after the guy.  More of that tape coming up.


ABRAMS:  Coming up, a 14-year-old called 911 from his closet while a burglar is robbing his home.  Then he confronts the man while still on the phone with 911.  We‘ve got the tape.

Plus, Hillary Clinton opens up to Tyra Banks about Monica Lewinsky.  And actor Sean Penn on the attack again, coming to the defense of a dictator pal of his.  Those stories coming up in “Winners or Losers.”

But first, our new segment, “On Their Trail,” continues.  But tonight, rather than just the candidates misstatements, blunders and cheap shots, we look at the top dirty tricks of the ‘08 campaigns where the candidates were the victims. 

Joining us now editor-at-large for “The New Republic,” Peter Beinart and Republican strategist Leslie Sanchez. 

All right, first up, number five, John McCain can‘t seem to catch a break-in South Carolina, a state infamous for its primary politics and smears, snarls and innuendo.  This time not Karl Roe(ph) behind the dirty tricks.  It‘s a nonprofit group reportedly supporting Huckabee, engaging in what is called push polling.  Disguising itself as a legitimate polling group, they take some cheap shots while pretending to be asking survey questions.  This time the victim was McCain. 


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Does knowing that Sen. John McCain and his agents want to restrict free speech in a America, make you less likely to vote for John McCain?


ABRAMS:  All right.  So Peter, how widespread is this?

PETER BEINART, EDITOR-AT-LARGE, “THE REPUBLIC”:  I don‘t know.  You know, South Carolina seems to have a knack for eliciting a log of this.  There was obviously a lot in McCain‘s campaign against Bush in 2000.  You know, Huckabee has a kind of a nice guy reputation.  So, I think you‘ve got to be a little careful.  He doesn‘t want get the reputation that Mitt Romney has.

ABRAMS:  But Leslie, the key is all these candidates, once this comes out, is they denounce it and they say, “You know, we had nothing to do with it.  It‘s terrible.  It‘s terrible.”  Right?

LESLIE SANCHEZ, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST:  Well, in most cases, Dan, they don‘t have anything to do with it. 

ABRAMS:  Right.

SANCHEZ:  You know, this could be the equivalent of a political drive-by shooting.

ABRAMS:  Absolutely.

SANCHEZ:  The reality is, we rarely know who writes the checks.  They hide behind 5-27(ph) organizations or others that don‘t have to disclose it.  So, it would be nice to know who‘s cutting the check to put the ads on the air. 

ABRAMS:  Coming in at number four, the holidays are over, but Mitt Romney may still be reeling from a not-so-merry Christmas card sent to South Carolina voters.  The card quoted controversial passages from the book of Mormon, such as in the city of Nazareth, “I beheld a virgin and she was exceedingly fair and white.”  And, “We have now clearly shown that God the Father had a plurality of wives.”  And on the back of this, “We wish your family a holiday season, and joyful new year.  The Romney family.”  Of course, the problem, the Romneys, of course, never sent the card.  And whoever did actually could face some jail time for mail fraud if the state calls in the FBI to investigate.  Leslie, how significant?

SANCHEZ:  It could be very significant.  It‘s definitely beneath contempt.  It‘s unbelievable.  Those are the types of ads focused on faith or race or, you know, these types of religion ads tend to cut to the core.  So it‘s important to denounce it immediately as they did. 

ABRAMS:  Coming in at number three, John Edwards trailing in national polls behind Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.  Could this anonymous fake telephone poll have hurt him? 


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Some foreign policy experts say that John Edwards‘ plan to pull out all combat troops out of Iraq within 10 months is irresponsible.  Does this statement influence your feeling about John Edwards a lot, somewhat, not too much or not at all? 


ABRAMS:  Peter, these are, what?  These are taped things that they called people pretending to be polls and they slam the candidate, right?

BEINART:  Yes.  I mean push polls in general are not a good thing.  But as they go, I think this one actually is fairly tame.  I mean you can agree with John Edwards‘ position or not.  But that‘s a fairly accurate representation of it.  It is John Edwards‘ position.  Some people think that‘s a great position.  Some people don‘t.  So I don‘t think that one is as bad as the other one. 

SANCHEZ:  And it is an irresponsible position, Dan.  So that‘s why I kind of like that call.  (UNINTELLIGIBLE) from that point.

ABRAMS:  In at number two, John McCain again, taking a swift vote-like cheap shot for his service in the Vietnam War.  Shadowy groups sending out this mailer to South Carolina voters featuring a tasteless caricature of the Arizona senator as a prisoner of war.  The mailer includes a bogus fact sheet that McCain, quote, “broke and told his interrogator, ‘OK, I‘ll give you information if you will take me to the hospital.  I mean this one, Leslie, has been getting a lot of attention as of late.  And you know, this is more than just a cheap shot.  I mean this guy is a war hero and this ad is suggesting, you know, not just that he wasn‘t a war hero, but that he actually effectively sold out his comrades. 

SANCHEZ:  Oh, absolutely.  You know, I deal in politics, but this done by the denizens of the political underworld.  I mean this is really bad stuff when you get into this type of thing.  And don‘t forget, in this camp, you had Orson Swindle come out who was a fellow prisoner who repudiated all of these accusations.  This is something that came out in 2000.  John McCain had to suffer a lot of these types of false blows in South Carolina.  It‘s happening again.  But I think the difference is now he‘s responding much more quickly. 

ABRAMS:  Finally, the most famous or infamous cheap shot of the ‘08 campaign trail so far, our number one.  The Obama smear E-mail.  A racist rant against Hillary‘s main opponent, listing outright lies about the Illinois senator; among the worst, this one, that “Obama was enrolled in a Wahabi school in Jakarta.  Wahabism the radical teaching that‘s followed by Muslim terrorists who are now waging Jihad against the western world,” that‘s the quote.  Most major news networks, like this one, ignored this smear job except for one.  For them, it just might have been too good to resist. 


UNIDENTIFIED MALE ANNOUNCER:  That man right there was raised and spent the

first decade of his life raised by his Muslim father, as a Muslim and was

educated in a madrasa(ph) - 


ABRAMS:  Barack Obama raised as a Muslim - this is huge!  That was Fox, of course.  Peter Beinhart, this has been an ongoing issue, I mean, to the point Brian Williams even asked Obama about it during the last debate. 

BEINHART:  Yes.  You know, I think it‘s really sad and pathetic that the truth of the matter is, with one of the things that I think America wants to try to hold up to the world is our religious tolerance. 

And first of all, Barack Obama is not even a Muslim.  But his father was a Muslim.  And I think that‘s something we should be proud of, that we‘re a country where someone can have a very, very diverse, unconventional background.  And we can still judge him based on the content of his character.

ABRAMS:  Yes.  But more important is the fact they are just outright lies about the madrasa(ph) and all that. 

BEINART:  Absolutely.  It also happens to be totally false. 

ABRAMS:  Right.  Right.  All right.  Peter and Leslie, stand by.  It‘s time now for the 16th minute, our look at what happened to those temporary media stars once their 15 minutes of infamy came to an end.

Ten years ago today, an item on what was then a little-known Web site called the “Drudge Report,” introduced the world to the story of the president and the intern.  What started with a flash of a thong thrust Monica Lewinsky into a full-blown presidential scandal.  Ten years today.

She later gave her story in a tell-all book, briefly sold handbags, appeared in ads for Jenny Craig, and recently graduated with a master‘s degree from London School of Economics.  She‘s still single; the 34-year-old now trying her best to keep a low profile. 

Remember Linda Tripp?  She was Lewinsky‘s former friend vilified for secretly taping her conversation with Monica, spoofed by John Goodman on Saturday Night Live?  Tripp later discovered plastic surgery, radically changing her look.  She now lives a life out of the spotlight in Virginia. 

Now, of course, Hillary Clinton was made a part of the scandal and through it all, she stood by her husband during that dark year of his presidency.  Now, a decade later, she‘s speaking out to Tyra Banks about exactly how she felt. 


TYRA BANKS, HOST, “THE TYRA BANKS SHOW”:  How did you persevere during the darkest moment in your life? 

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D-NY), FORMER FIRST LADY:  Well, because I had tremendous faith, number one.  I really had to dig down deep and think hard about what was right for me and what was right for my family.  And I never doubted Bill‘s love for me. 

BANKS:  Were you embarrassed? 

CLINTON:  Well, you know, I would be embarrassed.  Sure, I mean, all of that.  I was just praying so hard and thinking so hard about what‘s right to do. 

BANKS:  Do women come up to you and ask for advice?  You know the point, “My husband stepped out on me and I‘m going through hell right now.  What do I do?”  Have they done that? 

CLINTON:  Yes.  All the time.

BANKS:  What do you say? 

CLINTON:  I say you have to be true to yourself.  You know, no one story is the same as any other story.  I don‘t know your reality.  I can‘t possibly substitute my judgment for yours.  But what I can tell is you must be true to yourself.  You have to do what is right for you. 


ABRAMS:  Peter, is this an honest account of her sentiments, or is this a campaign ad? 

BEINART:  You know, it sounded pretty sincere to me.  I mean, look, how could we ever really know what the truth is.  None of us will ever really know. 

SANCHEZ:  There‘s a good thing about it and that‘s (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

ABRAMS:  The what?

SANCHEZ:  I was like saying it‘s not an unknown fact that there are many Democratic operatives who talk about what it was like in the White House during that time. 

BEINART:  Yes.  But how Hillary Clinton herself made the decision to stay married to him.  I mean, that‘s pretty intimate stuff.  I think actually she comes off pretty well in this.

SANCHEZ:  You know, Dan, I have to disagree.  The reason I do is this looks like a political calculation.  It looks like something she decided to shed a tear and build up the momentum that she thought connected with women voters, particularly in New Hampshire. 

ABRAMS:  What do you think she‘s being misleading about?  What do you think the story is that she‘s not telling us, Leslie? 

SANCHEZ:  I think that for many years she was asked about her decision.  She‘s talked about how to do something that was true to herself.  There are many women voters and voters out there who believe it was a political calculation for her to stay with her husband so that she could eventually run for the position she seeks.

ABRAMS:  OK.  So that‘s being true to yourself. 

SANCHEZ:  Yes.  That‘s all I‘m saying.  That‘s all I‘m saying.

ABRAMS:  All right.  But that may be true to herself, right, which means that she‘s telling the truth about how she felt at the time. 

SANCHEZ:  She would never disclose these things unless she fundamentally felt that she could garner more votes.  That‘s the jaundice I look at look this.  You know, that‘s the way that many will people agree. 

BEINART:  Yes, that the jaundice you - yes, that‘s the jaundiced way that you and most Republicans look at.  It doesn‘t necessarily mean that it‘s true. 

SANCHEZ:  Many women voters -

BEINART:  I mean the fact - the Republicans deeply dislike the Clintons is not a news flash, but it doesn‘t mean everything they do is purely political. 

SANCHEZ:  The only - she earned that distrust herself.  That‘s all.

ABRAMS:  Leslie Sanchez, Peter Beinart, I‘ve got to wrap it up.  Good to see you guys.  Thanks a lot.

Up next, a 14-year-old makes a desperate call to 911 after coming face-to-face with a burglar in his home.  We‘ve got the 911 tape.  And later, the Smithsonian Museum hangs a picture of Stephen Colbert in its hallowed halls.  No joke.  He‘s up there with the presidents.  It‘s coming up in tonight‘s “Winners and Losers.”


ABRAMS:  A large 30-year-old man breaks into a Mesa, Arizona home thinking that no one‘s there.  But 14-year-old Michael Six was home.  The frightened teen heard a commotion downstairs.  He calls 911, locks himself in his bedroom and all he has to protect himself with is his Louisville slugger baseball bat.  The burglar had broken to his sliding door downstairs, then proceeded through the house room by room.  And he gets to Michael‘s room.  Here‘s the tape of the 911 Michael made as this was happening.



MICHAEL SIX, CAME FACE TO FACE WITH A ROBBER:  My house is being robbed.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE 911 DISPATCHER:  OK.  Are you inside or outside.

SIX:  Inside.


SIX:  Someone just broke in my house.  I don‘t know.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE 911 DISPATCHER:  And are you inside, yourself?

SIX:  In my room.


SIX:  Fourteen.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE 911 DISPATCHER:  Can you get outside at all?

SIX:  No.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE 911 DISPATCHER:  You can‘t get out of the window?

SIX:  No.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE 911 DISPATCHER:  Are you still locked in your room?

SIX:  They‘re breaking in. 


SIX:  Yes. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE 911 DISPATCHER:  You need to get out the window.

SIX:  I can‘t.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE 911 DISPATCHER:  Can you hide in the closet?  Can you get out the window at all?



SIX:  Sorry, man.


ABRAMS:  We‘ve got more of that tape.  Thomas Gonzales Garza is the man the 14-year-old Michael Six fought off with his baseball bat. 

Joining us now is Detective Chris Arvayo with the Mesa Police Department.  Thanks a lot for coming on the program.  I appreciate it.   All right, so what happens right after we hear him?  I guess the 14-year-old is hitting the burglar with his baseball bat, right? 

DETECTIVE CHRIS ARVAYO, MESA POLICE DEPARTMENT:  That is correct.  The commotion you hear in the background on the phone call is, in fact, the 14-year-old Michael striking the suspect with a baseball bat.  What happens after that is the suspect runs to the backyard, tries to flee police and we eventually find him a few yards down and take him into custody without any further incident. 

ABRAMS:  Was he injured? 

ARVAYO:  Michael - he wasn‘t injured enough for us to seek medical attention for him.  He was OK.

ABRAMS:  All right.  Let me play a little bit more of the 911 tape. 


SIX:  He just broke in my room.


SIX:  A big Mexican guy.


SIX:  He went outside.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE 911 DISPATCHER:  OK.  What color of shirt and pants is he wearing.

SIX:  I‘m not sure.


SIX:  Yes.  I‘m going to the cops. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE 911 DISPATCHER:  OK.  Good.  Black shirt, black shorts?

SIX:  Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE 911 DISPATCHER:  OK, hang on.  Slow down though, OK, because whoever it was he jumped the wall on the south side.  Are you with a police officer?

SIX:  Yes.


ABRAMS:  All right, when you caught the guy, did he say anything about getting whacked by a kid with a baseball bat? 

ARVAYO:  Yes, he did.  Eventually, when things calmed down, we were able to do a post Miranda interview.  Not only did the suspect admit to the burglary, he did give some details as to what happened when he broke into the 14-year-old‘s room.  He did state that he was surprised and caught off-guard to see what he did and what he saw was a 14-year-old that was ready to defend himself and his property. 

ABRAMS:  And the 14-year-old also apologized, right, after hitting the guy? 

ARVAYO:  He did.  When you hear that, it‘s not something you expect to hear.  However, it‘s almost refreshing to hear that, because you think about a 14-year-old doing what he did and taking the risk that he did to protect himself.  It‘s one of those things. 

ABRAMS:  Here‘s a little piece of sound from Michael Six. 


SIX:  I went into my closet, got the phone and called 911.  The guy was going through each of the rooms one by one. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER:  What were you thinking at the time? 

SIX:  Better have a bat ready.  When he came into my room, he was standing over, like, across me, looking away from me.  And then when I finally saw him there, I got the bat and I hit him in the back and shoulder. 


ABRAMS: How much time is this guy facing? 

ARVAYO:  Well, that‘s hard to tell at this point.  He was booked on several felony counts, including burglary, aggravated assault on a minor, criminal damage, trespassing.  So they are all felony charges and they do face prison time. 

ABRAMS:  Detective, thanks very much for coming on the program.  I appreciate it. 

ARVAYO:  Thanks for having me. 

ABRAMS:  Up next, in “Winners and Losers,” Barack Obama‘s hopes of winning in Nevada get a major boost.  Eddie Murphy calls it quits with his wife of two weeks.  And Sean Penn upset at a paper who called his pal a dictator.  Obama‘s big win, thanks to a judge‘s order; Eddie Murphy‘s big marriage that couldn‘t be shorter; or Sean Penn‘s big defense for the dictator south of the border?  Which will be tonight‘s big winner or loser?



ABRAMS:  It‘s time for tonight‘s “Winners and Losers” for this 17th day of January 2008. 

Our bronze winner - comedian Stephen Colbert, now joining the ranks of American presidents with his portrait hanging in the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery.  All right.  It happens to be right between bathroom near the American presidents‘ exhibit, but it‘s still there.  The painting portrayed Colbert standing in front of a fireplace which bears another portrait of himself on it, yet another portrait within that. 

Our silver winner, Barack Obama, whose hopes of winning Nevada getting a major boost today after a judge knocked down a lawsuit that would have prevented casino workers from caucusing at special precincts set up on the Vegas strip.  A teachers‘ union of Clinton supporters filed the suit, saying the special caucuses gave too much power to the casino workers who, not so (UNINTELLIGIBLE), are expected to vote in large numbers for Obama. 

But the big winner for the day?  Singer John Mayer for showing that chivalry isn‘t dead even if your relationship is.  Mayer came to the defense of ex-girlfriend Jessica Simpson who‘s been berated by Dallas Cowboys fans for distracting current boyfriend and Cowboys‘ quarterback Tony Romo.  Before the surprise loss to the New York Giants in the playoffs, Mayer wrote on his blog, “That girl loves Texas more than you know.  Please don‘t try and take that away from her.

On the losers front, the bronze loser, actor Eddie Murphy.  Just two weeks after exchanging wedding vows with new wife Tracie Edmonds in a romantic sunset ceremony on a private island off the coast of Bora-Bora, the couple decided to call it quits.  The honeymooners reportedly started fighting right after the ceremony. 

Our silver loser, actor Sean Penn, on the attack again.  This time, against the generally liberal “San Francisco Chronicle” after they dared to labeled his pal, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, a dictator.  Penn wrote a livid letter to the, quote, “increasingly lame-brained paper” arguing that Chavez is in fact, a democratically elected leader, not a dictator.  I guess violently silencing your opponent, cracking down on free speech and trying to become president for life, doesn‘t qualify you as a dictator in Penn‘s book.


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR:  Awesome.  Totally awesome. 


ABRAMS:  But the big loser of the day?  TV‘s Dr. Phil whose recent bedside visit to misfit mom Britney Spears could land him in a courtroom.  The California Board of Psychology now investigating whether the TV doc broke the law by practicing without a license when he counseled Spears at her hospital room.  A complaint filed against Dr. Phil also accuses him of discussing or divulging a patient‘s medical condition with the media.  The board can even turn the case to the District Attorney where criminal charges could be filed. 

Time, now, for our e-mail segment, your chance for you to tell me what you love or hate about the show.  First up, we devoted a lot of time talking politics on the show recently.  Veronica Cutteridge in Evansville, Indiana, “I know the election is very important, but I really like your extensive coverage of crime and punishment around the country.  Have you forgotten about Drew Peterson?”

No, we haven‘t forgotten about him.  I just don‘t want to get into the business of reporting on every one of his hare-brained theories about his wife is alive while he does nothing to help find her.  We‘ll continue covering it.

In our segment, “On Their Trail,” we fact-check the presidential candidates, exposed their misstatements while out campaigning.  Evie Henderson of Oriental, North Carolina, “It seems to me that with your legal background, the ‘On Their Trail‘ segment would be just your cup of tea in sifting the falsehoods from the facts.”  Well, I hope so Evie.  We intend to do it regularly.

Many of you have taken issue with my coverage of Hillary Clinton.  I criticized Obama last night for refusing to discuss and debate the real possibility of a terror attack here when a new president takes office.  Julie Burns in Austin, Texas, “Your bias toward Hillary is showing.  She‘s using all kinds of Rovian tactics, including fear mongering and you‘re giving her a free pass.  Please stop shilling for her.” 

Julie, I hope you watched our first block tonight, when I went after Hillary.  Samuel Ravelo also apparently agrees, “You know very well that it doesn‘t matter who is in office.  Every president will do their best to keep us safe.” 

Oh, come on, Samuel.  I guess that means it‘s not worth discussing or debating?  Because they‘ll do their best.  Doing the best is not the same of how they will do.  It‘s a legitimate issue that Democrats have to debate and discuss. 

We want your e-mails and your ideas for what our new E-mail segment should be called.  We got some great ideas so far.  I want you to keep them coming.  It‘s  If we pick your idea, you‘ll get free MSNBC swag, my on-air appreciation.  I have to tell you, we‘ve got one that we‘re leaning towards now for the name of the segment.  It‘s a good one.  But we‘re still going to take a few more suggestions before we call it.  That‘s all the time we have for tonight.  Up next, stay tuned for the premiere of “FORBIDDEN LOVE.”  See you next week.



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