Guests: Pat Buchanan, Joe Turnham, John Kerry, Walter Storholt, Chris Blue, Monica Lindstrom
DAN ABRAMS, HOST: Tonight: Obama and Clinton stiff up the attacks and political punches on tax returns, experience, and somehow, on Whitewater prosecutor Ken Starr.
We‘re On Their Trail: Assessing the biggest misstatements, blunders and outright cheap shots.
And: It was bad enough that superdelegates, you know, the Democratic Party insiders, could override the will of millions of Democratic voters, but now, some superdelegates are basically demanding promises in exchange for their support—superdelegates gone wild.
And: Bush League Justice is back. The former Democratic governor of Alabama is behind bars in what may have been a political prosecution after allegations of Karl Rove‘s involvement and mysterious media blackouts during coverage of his story. The Democrats in Alabama are now demanding answers, as did Senator John Kerry who joins us.
But first: Yes, he can. Yes, Barack Obama can go negative if he needs to. So today, Clinton and Obama exchanged swipes, retorts, of and coming within minutes of the initial attacks.
As always: We‘re On Their Trail—keeping track of who is guilty of more misstatements, blunders, and cheap shots.
Here to help separate fact from fiction, cheap shot and fair game, “The New Republic‘s” Michelle Cottle; and MSNBC political analyst Pat Buchanan.
All right. First up: Clinton hammered Obama again today on the issue of experience.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. HILLARY CLINTON, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think it‘s imperative that each of us be able to demonstrate, we can cross the commander-in-chief threshold. And I believe that I‘ve done that. Certainly, Senator McCain has done that. And you‘ll have to ask Senator Obama with respect to his candidacy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: I‘m going to call this one a Clinton cheap shot. I‘ve said that her so-called 3:00 a.m. ad about who you want to answer the phone is fair game. She has every right to try to make national security and her experience or his lack there of in her mind, an issue. I don‘t think that‘s fear mongering.
But Clinton gets a strike on this one. What does it mean to quote, “cross the commander-in-chief threshold”? I‘m a lawyer. What is that standard? I‘d be happy to ask Obama about it as she suggests but Pat Buchanan, what exactly am I asking?
PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: You‘re asking about his competence and sagacity and wisdom. And it all adds up, I guess, to his experience and knowledge and the rest of it. This was not a very hard shot at Barack Obama. It certainly wasn‘t as hard as McCain has the experience and I‘ve got the 35 years of experience and he‘s got a speech, which is already in the McCain files for the fall campaign.
ABRAMS: Yes, but Michelle, my problem with is that we got to ask whether Obama passes the commander-in-chief threshold. I mean, again, she can make national security an issue but I don‘t understand what that means.
MICHELLE COTTLE, THE NEW REPUBLIC: Well, I‘m not sure she understands what that means because I‘m not sure what we‘re supposed to see as her having crossed the commander-in-chief threshold. But I think, the bigger issue here that a lot of Democrats are going to be upset about is:
It‘s one thing for her to say that she has crossed that had line and we don‘t know if Obama has. But it‘s generally considered bad form in a primary to bring the other team in.
So, for her to mention John McCain, I mean, this is something that whoever—if Obama winds up the nominee, he‘s going to have that sound byte played back for him. It‘s bad form.
ABRAMS: And look, and that‘s Obama‘s attack lately, has been linking Clinton with McCain as much as possible. I‘m going to rule this one a cheap shot. Clinton gets our first strike of the night.
Next up: The Obama camp sticking to it Clinton again today over her not yet releasing her tax returns. One of the few times Obama has delivered the first salvo. Clinton spokesperson Howard Wolfson accused the Obama camp of avoiding the more important issues.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HOWARD WOLFSON, CLINTON SPOKESMAN: He chose not to address those questions but to attack Senator Clinton. And that‘s what we‘re pointing out. And I for one do not believe that imitating Kenneth Starr is the way to win a Democratic primary election for president.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: Oh, come on. A Clinton cheap shot, the ultimate, in accusing your opponent of doing what you. Look, last night I criticized the pundits for assuming Clinton won on Tuesday because of negative attacks as opposed to her policies and debate performance. It‘s no question Clinton has been going negative and Pat, Ken Starr?
BUCHANAN: Come on. This is one of the great dumb similes of all time. Bringing up in a Clinton campaign Ken Starr again, so we can all go back to Monica and the blue dress and stuff? Wolfson should be given the weekend off. This was a gaffe.
ABRAMS: And Michelle, and how are questions about her tax returns any less substantive than Clinton‘s talk of whether Obama‘s speeches were xeroxing change?
COTTLE: I mean, this is all getting down to the wheeze and, you know, you can say it‘s a dumb move but it‘s also kind of a sinisterly clever move which is we‘re not in a general election. We are in a Democratic primary and Democrats are still smarting from when Hillary and Bill got run over by Republicans for all those.
ABRAMS: But wait.
COTTLE: So, anything (ph) that is going to bring that back?
ABRAMS: But the Clinton camp is accusing Obama of using Ken Starr tactics? I mean, come on! All right. No one disagrees with me. The Clinton camp gets another cheap shot here, giving her two strikes so far, none for Obama.
Up next: Fallout from Hillary Clinton‘s so-called 3:00 a.m. ad except this time, Obama‘s foreign policy adviser in an attempt to hit back at Clinton said something she should regret saying.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SUSAN RICE, OBAMA ADVISOR: Hillary Clinton hasn‘t had to answer the phone at 3:00 in the morning. And yet she attacked Barack Obama for not being ready. They‘re both not ready to have that 3:00 a.m. phone call.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: Huh? Team Clinton is talking about how ready she is while Obama‘s foreign policy adviser is saying, neither of them are ready? Who is she working for?
BUCHANAN: That‘s exactly right. They really, this team is really, they‘re showing really a lack of experience here. Look, they‘ve been knocked back after these three defeats last Tuesday. And I think that really, the team looks like it doesn‘t know how to handle these defeats. And I mean, to make a statement like that that your own guy is not ready, neither is Clinton playing on her field. It‘s very, very bad. This is amateur hour at the Obama camp.
ABRAMS: Michelle, you don‘t disagree, do you?
COTTLE: I don‘t know, I think this may play fall into, was it Michael Kinsley who said a gaffe in politics is where you actually say what is actually true? You know, of course none of these guys have answered the phone at 3:00 a.m. Come on.
ABRAMS: Yes, I mean, that is the one thing—but it‘s the one thing Democrats don‘t want. They don‘t want to be accused of being the people who aren‘t ready to answer the phone at 3:00 a.m.
COTTLE: I don‘t think John McCain is ready to answer either. I mean, none of them have had to do it.
ABRAMS: But they‘re not going to stick with McCain the way -
BUCHANAN: But this is McCain‘s issue. They‘re playing on McCain‘s issue. And Obama keeps playing on her strongest ground which was the red phone thing. I‘d move on to your own strongest ground.
ABRAMS: Obama gets the strike on this one giving us for Clinton and one for Obama.
Next up: With the Mississippi primary coming next week, the Obama camp is fanning the flames, dredging up this comment Clinton made in October while campaigning in Iowa, quote, from Clinton: “I was shocked that I learned Iowa and Mississippi have never elected a woman governor, senator or member of Congress. There‘s got to be something at work here. How can Iowa be ranked with Mississippi?”
Ouch. She since apologized. With the Mississippi primary on the horizon, that has to go down as a Clinton blunder. But team Obama‘s rhetoric went too far, quote, they say: “Throughout this campaign, Senator Clinton has shown disturbing pattern of writing off and criticizing states that she‘s lost or that she doesn‘t expect to do well in, including small states and southern states.”
I‘m going to give that one an Obama cheap shot. Had their campaign tried to minimize her losses? Yes. Questioned the caucus system? Yes. But, quote: “Criticizing states”, Michelle? I don‘t think so.
COTTLE: Well, you know, it‘s one of the things that play to the gut level here.
ABRAMS: I‘m a lawyer.
COTTLE: I mean, Mississippians are very sensitive about the fact that they always rank near the bottom in all these standards. They know what their reputation is. You know, they‘re very touchy about it. And, you know, he‘s pulling out all the stops.
ABRAMS: Yes. And Pat, look, there‘s no question that Obama has every right to pull out that statements. They‘re making ads out of this now in Mississippi. And even though Clinton has apologized about it, it‘s probably going to stick.
BUCHANAN: It‘s going to stick. It suggests to Mississippians who are proud folks, my ancestors are from there, that they‘re a little bit retarded and maybe not just a little bit socially and politically. In fact, I can‘t blame them for doing this. We‘ve been trying to live that thing down, Dan.
And I think it‘s going to hurt a bit Hillary but it is a sort of a cut and paste job that somebody, some guy said, aha. Look what we‘ve got. There‘s nothing wrong with doing it, if she said it. And she said it.
ABRAMS: All right. I‘m going to give, I‘m going to give them both
strikes on this. First one because of the Clinton -
BUCHANAN: A gold star (ph) to Mississippi.
ABRAMS: Well, I‘m giving Clinton the strike for the statement about Mississippi and Obama with that returning claim that Clinton has been criticizing states which I don‘t think is accurate. That gives us three strikes for Clinton and two for Obama going into the final round.
Hillary Clinton caught in a flip-flop this week over the issue of awarding defense contracts to foreign companies. The issue: A $40 billion contract to a European company. She suggested Monday: It was a threat to national security, quote: “I am deeply concerned about the Bush administration‘s decision to outsource the production of refueling tankers for the American Military.”
I‘m ruling this one a blunder because three years ago, she led the charge to secure a multibillion dollar contract for presidential helicopters for a group that included, Michelle, yes, European companies. You can‘t say one thing when you‘re not a candidate and another thing when you are, and not expect a strike from On Their Trail. Michelle?
COTTLE: I think you‘ve got her on this one. I mean, obviously, what she was interested in three years ago was the job situation in New York. Now, she‘s running a national campaign. It‘s very—if you look, the people in Congress who are complaining about this, the ones who have jobs coming to their state like Jeff Sessions in Alabama. They‘re not quite so worried about the national situation than say, Nancy Pelosi with the bowing jobs out there. So, you know.
BUCHANAN: It‘s a flip-flop. But she came down and flopped on the right side this time, Dan.
ABRAMS: All right.
BUCHANAN: America first nationalism was always OK. (INAUDIBLE) to the game.
ABRAMS: Clinton gets the strike on this one. That gives tonight‘s final total four strikes against Clinton, two against Obama. Obama lost last night and a big comeback by Clinton losing tonight.
Pat Buchanan, thanks. Michelle Cottle is going to stick around.
Coming up: Superdelegates gone wild: a group of uncommitted Ohio superdelegates joining together, saying they‘ll only vote for Obama or Clinton if they meet specific demands for Ohio. This isn‘t what superdelegates were supposed to be doing. One of them joins me next.
And: Bush League Justice is back. The former Democratic Alabama governor is still in prison tonight despite allegations that a political prosecution led by Karl Rove put him there. The head of the Alabama Democratic Party agrees. Senator John Kerry is speaking out. They‘ll be here.
ABRAMS: Coming up: Is it appropriate for superdelegates to withhold their endorsement until Clinton or Obama meets specific demands? It sure sounds ridiculous to me. I thought they were supposed to be helping the party, not themselves. A Congress person who‘s advocating the power grab in Ohio will be with us.
ABRAMS: It‘s looking more and more likely that is superdelegates, Democratic Party insiders, are going to decide who will be the Democratic presidential nominee. It seems almost certain neither candidate will enough pledged delegates. In theory, these insiders are supposed to help the party choose to candidates most likely to win in November.
But now a block of Ohio superdelegates have banded together, and are trying to choose the candidate who best serves their interests. They‘re withholding any endorsements until the candidates tell them what they want to hear about the issues they care about most.
My next guest, an Ohio superdelegate was quoted in Politico.com saying, quote, “I‘m hoping superdelegates were uncommitted but have the economy as their major concern will gravitate to our group and use that power to gain additional attention.” Power? Additional attention?
So, now superdelegates are like a special interest group vying for power? The superdelegate system already seemed crazy and undemocratic. But this just sounds scary.
Here now, one of those Ohio superdelegates, Democratic
Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur. Thanks very much for joining us. Appreciate it.
REP. MARCY KAPTUR, (D) OHIO: Thank you, Dan, very much.
ABRAMS: All right. So, look, I just went after you in my introduction there. I‘m saying that this sounds insane. The idea that you guys are going to say, we‘re going to withhold judgment. We want to get the things that we want. That‘s not what the superdelegates are supposed to be doing.
KAPTUR: Well, Dan, I‘m gad you‘re spirited because we‘re spirited also. And our job is to represent our constituents and their deepest concerns which in the industrial heartland, relate to the economy. Today, “USA Today” had a headline about the economy even slowing more.
We want to hear more and we actually want to converse more. So that we can hear ideas that would help our region strengthen in the future, rather than weaken and hopefully, whole country. So, we‘re looking for more on the economy.
ABRAMS: But that‘s your job as a member of Congress to represent your district. My understanding from everyone in the Democratic Party is, the superdelegates are not—let me read what Howard Dean said: “They‘re not a bunch of cigar-smoking people making deals in the backroom and they were not created so the party elite control the nomination.”
It sounds to me, like you‘re talking about these cigar-smoking back deals. You‘re saying, unless you agree with us, it sounds like mafia-like, unless you agree with us, we‘re not going to deal with you. Superdelegates are supposed to be out there making sure that the most electable person wins. Not the person who best represents Ohio, isn‘t that right?.
KAPTUR: It‘s not just about winning, it‘s about governing. And if you don‘t understand what is really happening across the heartland, heartland in term of the economy, you won‘t be as effective as a president. We try very hard for over a year to talk to the candidates, too introduce them to those who have been affected by the economy in our region.
Ohio, unlike Illinois and New York, is really not a financial center. We are a production center. And because of their experience and their own regions, they bring certain skills to the table. We hope to use this time to educate and to inform and to converse.
ABRAMS: But that‘s what they‘ve been doing campaigning. I mean, when they‘re campaigning in Ohio, they‘ve been there for weeks campaigning.
KAPTUR: No, they haven‘t. They‘ve been at big huge rallies giving a formal speech.
ABRAMS: So, they haven‘t been in the back doors with the people
smoking the cigars and party insiders who -
KAPTUR: No, not cigars. We don‘t want that. What we want is we want them to meet with some of our business leaders.
ABRAMS: Why should you then (ph) meet with the people in California and Minnesota and every other state where the superdelegates are trying to hijack the process?
KAPTUR: No, I don‘t think people are trying to do that.
ABRAMS: It sounds like that to me.
KAPTUR: What we‘re trying is have a decent conversation about the
needs of the industrial heartland which are different than financial
centers. Houston and New York, I believe, I‘m not sure, and then,
obviously one of the candidates on our side is from Illinois. These are
very different economies and Pennsylvania and Ohio -
ABRAMS: But you‘re not answering my question. No, but you‘re missing my point. My point is: What is the role of a superdelegate?
I‘m not challenging the fact that as a member of Congress that you would go in and you‘d say, hey, listen we need to address the issues of Ohio. I would expect that‘s exactly what would you do. But as a superdelegate, I would expect you to have a very different obligation.
KAPTUR: My obligation is to represent the deepest concerns of the people who sent me to do a job for them. And I know that they want to hear more on the economy. They want to know specifics about how we are going to rescue economies that are in trouble. Michigan was put under a barrel.
ABRAMS: So, no difference in your role as a superdelegate and as a member of Congress, right? No difference. You‘ve the same obligations.
KAPTUR: I feel that my obligation is the people who sent me to do the job for them.
ABRAMS: Are you going to then, I would think if that‘s your position, then you should represent the people by saying, whoever they voted for in your district is going to be the people you‘re going to support.
KAPTUR: I think that they would want me to do whatever I can to use my leverage to make life better for them. If I can use this period of time to get more specificity on the economic proposals that these candidates will bring to the presidency, we will have done country and our region a favor.
ABRAMS: I‘m very concerned about the anti-democratic nature of these superdelegates. I have to tell you. But congresswoman, I appreciate your fervor and your willingness to fight for the cause. I don‘t in anyway begrudge for that. And I appreciate your coming on the program.
KAPTUR: Thank you for having us.
ABRAMS: Coming up: That former Democratic governor still behind bars tonight after new allegations emerged, including that Karl Rove might have been behind the prosecution. We called Dan Siegelman to be set free while he appeals. Now the Alabama Democratic Party agrees. We hear from them and Senator John Kerry joins us to weigh in on Siegelman‘s media coverage.
And: Earmuffs, please. Morning TV is supposed to be safe to watch with your kids. You‘re eating breakfast. You would not want to be eating or anywhere near your kids when Regis and Kelly were talking about certain medical side effects. Beat the Press is next.
ABRAMS: It‘s time for tonight‘s Beat the Press.
First up: A few weeks ago, after the Roger Clemens steroid hearings. We were struck that CNN‘s Anderson Cooper seemed more interested in something else.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, I heard stories that it makes your bits and pieces smaller, is that true?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: Apparently there is a bit of concern. That is a bit of concern for Cooper. It seems that that story wasn‘t the only one where he focused on so-called bits and pieces.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: So, up next, a shot. And what a shot it is? A naked Australian. No, it‘s not Michael Ware, for once.
Oh, boom. And he gets taken out. All right. And his beats and pieces are fine.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: And he went right for the bits and pieces. Yes, look, I never the term bits and pieces. I‘m guessing it‘s something like a child term akin to calling it a peepee (ph). But since bits and pieces is plural, I‘m trying to figure out what are the bits and what are the pieces?
Next up: This morning on “Regis and Kelly”, Kelly seemed particularly interested in a particular side effect of some medications. And when you hear the term, you can imagine why that made Regis and many of their viewers I‘m certain, a little uncomfortable.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KELLY RIPA, TV HOST: But it might cause anal leakage. (INAUDIBLE)
Why? Why dry mouth and anal leakage?
REGIS PHILBIN, TV HOST: I‘m responsible for anal leakage.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: Yum. Have some breakfast. Watch “Regis and Kelly” and think about, I‘m not even going to repeat it.
Finally, you have to wonder sometimes at the folks at ABC News.
They get all their material from their own heads, they come up with it. Here‘s Jon Stewart on CNN over two weeks ago talking about the Democrats and how they allocate delegates and then, ABC‘s Jake Tapper.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JON STEWART, TV HOST: Feel better (ph). Have a delegate in a trophy saying you‘re number one.
JAKE TAPPER, ABC NEWS: Democrats distribute delegates proportionately. It‘s kind of like T-ball where every child gets a trophy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: I don‘t know. Just asking, it sounds kind of familiar.
We need your help Beating the Press. If you see anything right, wrong, amusing or absurd, go to our Web site: Abrams.msnbc.com. Leave us a tip in the box.
Up next: Bush League Justice is back. Tonight, questions about whether Republicans in Alabama targeted the state‘s former Democratic governor for a political prosecution.
And later: The student body president of the University of North Carolina, that‘s her, found dead today. Shot multiple times near campus. We‘ll have the latest.
MILLISSA REHBERGER, UP TO THE MINUTE NEWS: Hello, I‘m Milissa Rehberger. Here‘s what‘s happening: Investigators are examining letters that arrived to Capitol Hill offices today, regarding this morning‘s bomb blast at the military recruiting station in New York‘s Time Square. Sources say the letters contained the photo of a man standing in front of the building and a message reading: Happy New Year, we did it.
And: A bloody attack on a Jewish seminary in Jerusalem. Authorities say, a Palestinian gunman killed eight people and wounded nine more before he was killed.
Back to Dan Abrams.
ABRAMS: Coming up: The student body president of the University of North Carolina found dead at a half mile from campus, after being shot multiple times. The suspect is still on the loose tonight.
Plus: A long shot move on the court results in a big win for a high school team.
DAN ABRAMS, HOST: Coming up, the student body president of the University of North Carolina found dead just a half mile from campus after being shot multiple times. The suspect is still on the loose tonight. Plus, a long shot move on the court results in a big win for a high school team. That‘s in “Reality Bites.” In keeping with the basketball team, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid brought a game to a halt after a bad move on the court. Resulted in a blackout - his fault. It‘s coming up in tonight‘s Winners and Losers.
But first, tonight, in our continuing series, “Bush League Justice.” Word that some outraged citizens in Alabama are amplifying our call that the state‘s former Democratic governor, Don Siegelman, should be released from prison while he appeals his conviction. The Alabama Democratic Party now calling for his release as well and asking for a special prosecutor to investigate.
The fundamental claimed that he was prosecuted because he is a Democrat. In a minute we‘ll talk to the Alabama Democratic Party official who is trying to get some answers down there. But the most explosive charge in the case comes from a former GOP operative who claims Karl Rove, while he was in the White House, directed a campaign to bring down Gov. Siegelman. Serious questions echoed on this program by the governor‘s daughter and others, an allegation Rove denies.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DANA JILL SIMPSON, FORMER GOP OPERATIVE: He wanted me to follow Mr. Siegelman. He suspected that he was cheating on his wife and he asked me if I would follow him.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KARL ROVE, FORMER DEPUTY CHIEF OF STAFF OF GEORGE W. BUSH: I did not ask her or anyone to dig up dirty photographs on the governor. I‘ve never worked with her. I don‘t believe I‘ve ever met her. I may have shaken her hand at a fundraiser but she has never been working in a campaign in Alabama I worked in. I‘ve never asked her to do a darn thing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SIMPSON: As Karl Rove has said that and he feels so good about saying that. What I want to do is go and swear in front of the United States Congress and swear what he is saying is true.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: Did your dad think Karl Rove is behind this?
DANA SIEGELMAN, DON SIEGELMAN‘S DAUGHTER: Absolutely. He knows Karl Rove is behind this.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GRANT WOODS, FORMER ARIZONA ATTORNEY GENERAL: There are a million red flags on this case. That doesn‘t necessarily mean they all come to something. But it means there is too much out there for it not to be investigated.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: That former Arizona attorney general is a Republican. Joining me now is Joe Turnham, the chairman of the Alabama Democratic Party. Thanks very much for coming on. Appreciate it. All right. So what is the primary reasoning behind your party‘s call for him to be released pending appeal? I would assume it is very unusual for you to say, “Hey, let‘s fiddle with the justice system.”
JOE TURNHAM, CHAIRMAN, ALABAMA DEMOCRATIC PARTY: Well, it is not unusual in this particular case because this has been building with Alabama Democrats now for a number of years, really going back to 2002 in the Don Siegelman re-election. We dealt with this issue throughout the primary of 2006.
It is a daily occurrence at our state Democratic Party. There is probably not a Democrat and now a growing number of Republicans that don‘t feel like there has been some politicalization of our justice system.
And basically what the state Democratic Executive Committee was doing on Saturday was pass a resolution calling on some independent oversight to come in and to reassure the people of Alabama. We‘re in a state that has been through a lot in the civil rights movement - the Tuskegee syphilis study - to come give the people in this state some reassurance that partisan justice is not being practiced in the state. It would vindicate those that are prosecuting and it would vindicate those that are innocent. But we need some help. Alabama is about to explode.
ABRAMS: All right. Let‘s focus on this. What do you think are the major reasons that, and again, it is an extraordinary step. I‘ve laid out all the reasons that I think that he should be released pending appeal. I‘ve got a whole host of them, you know, ranging from the way that Karl Rove - these new allegations about Karl Rove being involved in the prosecution. We‘ve got, you know, a whole host of reasons. We‘ll put them up on the screen. I put those together as to the reasons that I was convinced that the governor should be released pending appeal. But what were your primary reasons for this?
TURNHAM: Well, I think the State Democratic Executive Committee was merely responding to what the masses of Alabama citizens right now are expecting. They want some independent oversight. We have a new attorney general, Attorney General Mukasey who said he was going to come in and bring some clarity to the DOJ and make sure any of these incidents were investigated.
All the State Democratic Executive Committee is asking is that an independent prosecutor come and provide some verification, and to give the people of Alabama reassurance that the partisanship and the politicalization of our justice system is not what is taking place in the Siegelman case and in any other type of justice issue in the state of Alabama.
It is critical that the people of this state be given independent
assurance that that happens. And that‘s one reason the Democrats have been
reaching out to our friends in the United States Congress and the House
Judiciary Committee and other places. Just asking for some -
ABRAMS: I‘ll tell you what. You know what really bothered me? I‘ve got to tell you. When we talk about releasing impending appeal, the idea that it took them a year and a half to get Siegelman‘s attorneys a transcript just so that they could appeal. To me, that seems crazy. The fact that he was, instead of giving him the usual 45 days to go get his affairs in order, the judge ordered him as soon as he was sentenced, shackled him, said get into prison and yet, there are all these questions about why he was prosecuted.
And I just - that says to me with the new questions and then there are all the regular appeal issues that came up in this particular case with jury tampering and some other issues. But I think this is so important to maintain the faith in the justice system that I see no reason why in the interim period, they don‘t just say, “We‘re going to release him for now. He can always go back if we have to send him back. But while he appeals, while we sort this out, we‘re going to release him.”
TURNHAM: Well, Dan, too, as much as Democrats love Don Siegelman and feel he was done wrong in all these cases, I think there goes to the heart of it a basic fairness of the justice system. And do Alabama citizens have the assurance that people will not be prosecuted based on religion or political affiliation or whether they are D and R and independent. All we‘re asking for is the DOJ and the congress to come to Alabama and make sure that our system is pure and that the decisions that have been made are in fact done in the essence of justice and not in the essence of political vindictiveness. That‘s really an American value. That‘s all we‘re asking for.
ABRAMS: What do you make of the allegations about the relationship between the various people involved here? The lead prosecutor, who eventually stepped down, was married to an important Republican operative, et cetera. When this case was ongoing, was the party out there asking some hard questions about this?
TURNHAM: Well, I think the party has been very respectful of the justice process. We‘ve not been demeaning to individuals. We‘ve not attacked the jury system. We Democrats very much believe in the jury system and the things that are at the bedrock of our justice system.
But with that said, Alabama is under a great deal of stress and pressure because of the linkages that have been made all the way back to Mr. Rove, to the White House. We‘ve been saturated in this state with Scanlon and Abramoff.
Alabama has been ground zero for a lot of things that have happened that have been affiliated with partisan justice. And all we want is some vindication through the congress and through the top level and through the Attorney General of the United States, to make sure, to come down here and either to vindicate these prosecutions and/or to give Alabama some sense that it is fair.
ABRAMS: Joe Turnham, thanks very much for taking the time. Appreciate it.
TURNHAM: Thank you, Dan.
ABRAMS: Also tonight, the other bizarre twist in this case. A week and a half ago, “60 Minutes” followed up on our story on the Siegelman case. Lo and behold, the story failed to air in parts of northern Alabama. That‘s right. The segment on the Siegelman case, and just that part of the show and just in Alabama, was blacked out.
The station manager at first blamed technical problems on CBS in New York, later said it was a problem with the local station, quote, “I assure you there was no intent whatsoever to keep anyone from seeing the broadcast. This was a colossal coincidence.”
The incident caught the attention of the FCC Commissioner Michael Copps who asked, quote, “Was this an attempt to suppress information on the public airwaves, or was it really just a technical problem?”
And on Capitol Hill, Sen. John Kerry, a member of the Senate Commerce Committee, is also seeking answers. Massachusetts Senator, John Kerry, joins me now. Sen. Kerry, thank you very much for taking the time. We appreciate it.
SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), MEMBER, SENATE COMMERCE COMMITTEE: Glad to be with you. Thank you.
ABRAMS: Why did you write this letter to the FCC?
KERRY: Because the American people have a right to know whether the airwaves are being abused or whether or not they have proper access to information. It is very simple. I don‘t know the answer to that question. But I do know that there are questions raised by the circumstances and people have a right to know that their airwaves are not being censored.
ABRAMS: I mean it is a pretty amazing coincidence that this segment goes black, only this segment and only in Alabama.
KERRY: You got the question and that‘s exactly what we put to the FCC.
ABRAMS: What can the FCC or the senate do? What kind of power do they have? What kind of repercussions could there be?
KERRY: Well, we don‘t have the power, obviously, of a direct sanction but we do have the power with respect to legislation in the future, not to mention that the FCC has responsibility for the licensing of these airwaves. So if a station is being abused in that license, if the public is being abused in their right to know and to be safeguarded, that could have an effect on the license and it could also effect on future legislation.
ABRAMS: Sen. John Kerry, thank you very much for taking the time. We appreciate it.
KERRY: Thank you very much.
ABRAMS: Now to “Reality Bites,” a dose of reality caught on tape. Tonight, an incredible full-court shot at a high school basketball game in Oregon. It was the final game of the season for the senior who let one fly from the opposite free-throw line, beating the buzzer by a fraction of a second, and sending his team to the state playoffs.
Up next. The student body president of the University of North Carolina murdered just a half mile off campus. Her car found today. We‘ve got the latest coming up.
ABRAMS: Breaking tonight - the University Of North Carolina Chapel Hill student body president. The student body president shot and killed. Eve Carson‘s body found on an affluent Chapel Hill street with multiple gunshot wounds, at least one to the head. Tonight, thousands mourning for the premed student who taught science to Chapel Hill elementary students and spent summers volunteering in Ecuador, Egypt and Ghana. Here‘s a clip of Eve Carson talking about her experience in Ecuador.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
EVE CARSON, MURDERED UNIVERSITY OF NORTH CAROLINA CHAPEL HILL STUDENT BODY
PRESIDENT: All of the people around Najin(ph) for a couple hours walking would come to this distance. At some days, I would like shadow specific doctors, but most of the time I was in the back wing of the hospital where the emergency room was and where the overnight patients were. So I saw a lot of surgeries. I saw a few childbirths. I caught a baby.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: Joining us now, Chapel Hill reporter Walter Storholt of WCHL radio; on the phone, Capt. Chris Blue with the Chapel Hill Police Department; and former prosecutor, Monica Lindstrom. All right. Chief Blue, let me ask you first. Any update or progress in the investigation?
CAPT. CHRIS BLUE, CHAPEL HILL POLICE DEPARTMENT (on the phone): Not since our latest media release this afternoon. We are currently running down a number of leads and information continues to come in. We very much appreciate that. And as you may know, we did recover her vehicle this afternoon and we‘re processing that at this time. We are hoping it will yield information to assist us.
ABRAMS: Walter, any sense of whether this is a random crime or not? I would assume the captain probably doesn‘t want to speculate on that. So what do we know about whether this is believed to be a random crime or not?
STORHOLT: As far as we know right now, that this is most likely a random crime. The police can tell you that. That is certainly their opinion. That‘s kind of the feeling on campus right now. This took place and that the campus right now is in this state and it is just not a good situation for folks here, a lot of people in mourning. And folks are trying to deal with this right now.
But there‘s not a sense on campus that Eve Carson was targeted or anything of that nature. It is kind of how the feel of the fact that it was a random act violence and a very sad one at that.
ABRAMS: So Capt. Blue, and I don‘t know how much you can talk about this but, again, she was the student body president. Is there any indication that that had anything to do with this?
BLUE: We don‘t have - of course, we‘re not ruling anything out at this point. But we also don‘t have any reason to think there was any specific targeting going on. But it is early enough for us to want to exploit every single lead and we‘re doing that now. But we don‘t have any reason to think there was any specific targeting. But we just don‘t know.
ABRAMS: Is there anything you can say about anybody who was seen at the scene or anything? That anyone who may have seen something could identify?
BLUE: Well, we very much want to hear from anyone who might have seen or heard anything suspicious in the neighborhoods where Miss Carson was found or in any of the neighborhoods near campus yesterday morning. We also would like to ask anyone who ever saw her vehicle since around 1:30 yesterday morning, between the hours of yesterday morning and maybe midday today, to let us know.
We have recovered the vehicle and are processing it now, but its whereabouts could be important if it was seen somewhere. The vehicle is a blue 2005 Toyota Highlander with Georgia plates on it. And if anyone has any information about the vehicle or its whereabouts over the last 36 hours or so, we would love to hear from them.
ABRAMS: All right. If you can just stand by for a minute. Eve Carson‘s murder marks the second day in a row a Georgia student was identified as the victim of a fatal shooting near a college campus. Eighteen-year-old Lauren Burke was shot and killed Tuesday night, just off the Auburn University campus in Alabama. Monica Lindstrom, no reason to believe that these would be in any way linked, right?
MONICA LINDSTROM, FORMER PROSECUTOR: So far, we haven‘t received any information that links the two. But we know that the investigating agencies in both of them are keeping very tight-lipped, and that‘s really good they‘re doing that. Because when they release too many details, they can‘t basically decipher between good leads and bad leads, so they‘re keeping tight-lipped.
And another thing like we just heard the investigator comment on, they‘re keeping their mind open and looking at everything. We‘ve had too many investigations lately where boyfriends or girlfriends or close family members aren‘t investigated right away. Evidence gets lost. And we‘ve even had a case recently where they didn‘t even look at the car for three to four weeks until after the girl was missing. They‘re clearly going to in this case, so they‘re doing a good job.
ABRAMS: Capt. Blue, when was the last murder you had on the campus of the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill?
BLUE: That‘s a good question, Dan. I can‘t tell you off the top of my head.
ABRAMS: A while ago?
BLEU: Thankfully, it has been a while. This is a safe, wonderful community and our town and our university are very much intertwined. It‘s been a horrible tragedy for everyone here.
ABRAMS: All right. Captain, thanks very much. Appreciate it. Walter Storholt and Monica Lindstrom, thank you.
Up next, will tonight‘s big winner or loser of the day be actor Jeremy Piven, who didn‘t fool two models with his identical text messages to both. And comedian and senate candidate Al Franken, made to look foolish when his company was fined by the State of New York. Or Paris Hilton who fooled the paparazzi into thinking she had a transformative experience with a personal guru. Tonight‘s “Winners and Losers” is next.
ABRAMS: It‘s time for tonight‘s “Winners and Losers” for this 6th day of March, 2008. Our bronze loser - actor Jeremy Piven who‘s living up to the playboy image of the character Ari Gold he plays on the HBO show, “Entourage.” Piven reportedly busted texting two different models he met recently at a party in New York City. The exact same message, “Come meet me.” Only problem, the women knew each other, compared the messages and called him out on his two-timing texting ways.
Our silver loser - Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid for turning out the lights - not a budget battle - but at his grandson‘s prep school basketball game. Reid inadvertently tripped over the wire that powered the game‘s scoreboard, drawing the close game to a screeching halt.
But our big loser of the day - Al Franken, who the State of New York fined $25,000 for not carrying workers‘ compensation insurance for his company for almost three years. If he was still a comedian, probably be funny. But when you‘re running for senate in Minnesota, it‘s called an attack ad.
Our big winner of the day - Paris Hilton, for fooling the paparazzi following her last weekend. She cruised around with a strange bearded man she called her personal guru seen here on this footage from TMZ. It turns out Hilton had turned the tables. He‘s an actor. It was a stunt for a new TV show from Ashton Kutcher of “Punked.” In the show, celebrities will apparently be punking the paparazzi and the entertainment press with manufactured stories, a show we want to stay away from.
Time for the “P.O.‘ed Box,” our new E-mail segment, your chance to tell me what you love or hate about the show. Last night, in “On Their Trail,” I defended Hillary Clinton‘s now infamous “3:00 a.m.” ad as fair game. Again, someone called it fear-mongering. I believe she has every right to make national security an issue in the campaign.
Karen Repasky from Campbell, Ohio, “Dan‘s right on this one. The phone ad is no big deal. Give the American electorate a little more credit. We‘re somewhat informed and intelligent at times.”
Bonnie Van Slyke from Charlestown, Rhode Island, writes, “You‘re right. There‘s nothing with Hillary‘s ad. Fear-mongering is putting out news about terrorist attacks that‘s over two years old.”
But Bobby Sawyer from Springfield Missouri, “I can‘t believe you don‘t
think Clinton‘s “3 a.m.” ad is fear-mongering! Showing adoring little
babies sleeping while a menacing voiceover plays and a phone rings in the
background reminds me more of the trailer for ‘When A Stranger Calls.‘”
Last night I pointed out that despite Clinton‘s wins in Ohio and Texas, the pundits are still reluctant to give her any credit, saying she only won because she went negative.
Dan from Iowa, “I think you missed the point. She made misstatements and the media spent more time on her attacks than substantiating the facts. The timing is what gave her election. Like it or not, that‘s what gave her the wins.”
It just couldn‘t have possibly been the voters in those states identified with her message or were influenced by her debate performance as the exit polls suggest?
I said last night I think the DNC should allow Michigan and Florida new votes so that the voters in these states will have a say in the selection of the Democratic nominee. Carol writes, “In contrast to Michigan, Florida had both Obama and Clinton on the ballot. There is no need to have a re-election in Florida.”
Carol, there‘s no argument to count Michigan now since Obama wasn‘t even on the ballot. But since neither candidate officially campaigned in Florida and the voters knew it, I need to keep faith in the system it‘s important to have a new vote.
Holly Dee from Las Vegas, “I don‘t think that Michigan and Florida should hold ‘do-overs‘ for the Democratic Party. The states knew this was the penalty. They chose to break the rule and now they must pay the price.”
Holly, this isn‘t about the party and paying prices. It‘s about the voters. They shouldn‘t have their votes ignored because of the idiocy of party insiders.
Finally, Polly Osborne from Seattle writes about our ongoing Bush League Justice series on the former Democratic governor of Alabama sitting behind bars tonight in what may have been a politically motivated prosecution.
“Your coverage of the Former Gov. Siegelman‘s case is enlightening and I‘m disgusted that our current leadership would allow such an obvious injustice to occur.”
Polly, we‘re going to stay on this case. We‘re not done. And “Bush League Justice,” that series, is going to continue.
As always, thank you for your feedback. We read your E-mails daily. Please write to us at Abrams@MSNBC.com. Please include your name and where you‘re writing from.
Before we leave you, we have some sad news to report about a member of our show in the MSNBC family. Jennifer McNamara, a dedicated technical operations associate died in an accident early Wednesday morning after her shift here where she enthusiastically worked on our election coverage. She was 29 years old.
Jennifer graduated from the University of Florida. She brought her love for movies and theater production to her adopted hometown of New York. Jennifer devoted herself to several volunteer causes, including AIDS Walk New York. One colleague described Jennifer as, quote, “one of the most liked people at “30 Rock.” And she was.
Our thoughts and prayers are with Jennifer‘s family and her many, many friends here at NBC and elsewhere. That‘s all for tonight‘s show. See you back here next week.
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