'Verdict with Dan Abrams' for March 26

Guests: Bill Press, Perry Bacon, Evan Strange, Stephanie Miller, Rachel Sklar, Bill Press, Mike Wells, Monica Lindstrom

DAN ABRAMS, HOST:  Hi, everyone.

Tonight: More fallout for Hillary Clinton over her now infamous trip to Bosnia as first lady.  We‘ve found additional misstatements in her claims beyond what we know turned out to be false memories about sniper fire.

And: More gaffes tonight from both candidates‘ spouses.  Bill Clinton is suggesting Obama needs to toughen up and take the hits.  And Obama detractors may have new ammunition against Michelle Obama over her patriotism.

Again, we‘re On Their Trail tonight, assessing who‘s really guilty of the day‘s misstatements, cheap shots and blunders.

Here to help separate fact from fiction, cheap shot from fair game:

MSNBC political analyst, Pat Buchanan; radio talk show host, Bill Press; and “Washington Post” politics reporter, Perry Bacon.

All right.  First up: The Clinton camp is still taking fire today over Senator Clinton‘s false claims of taking fire during her trip to Bosnia.  But now, it seems Clinton may have actually misstated another fact while explaining her first misstatement.


SEN. HILLARY CLINTON, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  We were, you know, very much told by the Secret Service and the military that we were going into a war zone and that we had to be conscious of that.  I was the first first lady taken into a war zone since Eleanor Roosevelt.


ABRAMS:  No, you weren‘t.  It turns out she wasn‘t the first lady taken into a war zone since World War II, that honor goes to Richard Nixon‘s wife, Pat Nixon.  Here‘s the report from NBC NIGHTLY NEWS from July 30th, ‘69.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER:  For her part, Pat Nixon became the first American first lady to visit a war zone since Eleanor Roosevelt, going to Pacific theater at the end of World War II.


ABRAMS:  Now, look, this in and of itself is not that big a deal.  I said I thought the media has overblown the Bosnia gaffe.  But I don‘t get how team Clinton which is also so careful about what they say could have blown it on so many fronts, Bill Press.

BILL PRESS, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST:  Yes, you know, look.  Pat Nixon, kudos to Pat Nixon, she was the first one.  Dan, I think they blundered on everything about Bosnia.  But, I think, the damage has already been done with the sniper fire and all the stuff about Pat Nixon doesn‘t really make it any worse have just underscores it to be as bad as it is.

ABRAMS:  But, Pat, I don‘t understand.  I mean, we always hear again and again that nothing that comes out of Hillary or Bill Clinton‘s mouth is a mistake.  That everything is done on purpose.  That they‘re so careful and yet, these things back to back just says that something is awry in the Clinton camp, no?

PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Well, something, I mean, Hillary made the mistake herself.  Her recollections were completely wrong.  She‘s got a bit of a credibility problem and a terrible distraction problem.

But I can understand the Eleanor Roosevelt reference even though it was mistaken because our own Andrea Mitchell says, she wrote the same thing and Wolfson on morning show, he read me clip after clip after clip where reporters were saying that Mrs. Clinton was the first one into a war zone since Eleanor Roosevelt.  So, she took it from the press.

ABRAMS:  Well, how about this thing, alright?  Well, how about this?  I‘m going to give Clinton a strike on this one, giving her the first one of the night.  But it‘s hard to believe that she made another dubious claim and need a fact-checking related to that trip to Bosnia as well.


CLINTON:  I was the first, you know, high profile American to go into Bosnia after the day the peace accords were signed.


ABRAMS:  I mean, I feel like we‘re filing on here but that‘s a misstatement, too.  It‘s flat out wrong.  The day the peace accord signed on December 14th, 1995, January 3rd, ‘96, the Defense Secretary Perry traveled to Bosnia.  Ten days later, President Clinton visited the troops stationed there.

Two months after that, Hillary Clinton made her trip.  The president and the Defense secretary probably qualified as high profile Americans to travel there before she did.  I mean, look, Perry, this is minor stuff, but it does make me ask, is there something going on in the Clinton camp?

These sorts of mistakes, it seems to me, one after the other, after the other and the press bashing them for them again and again, it seems that they would do something to sort of stem the tide.

PERRY BACON, THE WASHINGTON POST:  I think, they are trying to, you know, get beyond the story and try to explain it and they sort of stopped talking about it.  But her statements are surprising because like you said, they generally are careful.  I‘ve noticed, you know, that she‘s been criticized for overstating her role in that children‘s health program.  That was passed to another president, of course, Ted Kennedy is taking for it as well.

And she sort of changed her language slightly on that and sort of have been more, you know, accurate to some extent.  So, I‘m surprised that she‘s made these mistakes that—I don‘t think it‘s a staff thing, I think this is from memories—that she anything, they (ph) can‘t control them.

ABRAMS:  Really?  But, Bill, I mean, you know, these are not—you‘re the political insider.  Bill, you‘ve been following this stuff for years.  I mean, are these the sorts of mistakes that Hillary Clinton or Bill Clinton in his day would have made day in and day out?

PRESS:  No, I think it‘s very un-Clinton like.  And my suggestion is, Dan, that they ought to stop talking about Bosnia.  Well, it‘s just because that, you know, Bill Clinton himself says, when you‘re in a hole, stop digging, right?

ABRAMS:  Pat -

BUCHANAN:  Her problem, Dan, is this, I‘ll tell you.  It‘s we‘ve caught lying, we caught the S-CHIP thing, you‘ve got Bosnia thing, you‘ve got the peace agreement in Northern Ireland, now, reporters are going to be looking for this.  They‘re going to peek and look over everything she says.

ABRAMS:  Well, we look over it all the time.

BUCHANAN:  Yes, but she‘s going to make mistakes and now, she‘s got a bit of a credibility problem.  It‘s the Al Gore, we invented the Internet.  And after, everything he said was questioned.

ABRAMS:  All right.  Well, look, it‘s beyond the credibility problem because the NBC/”Wall Street Journal” Poll that just came out tonight, shows there‘s an impact, and I‘m not saying it‘s specifically from Bosnia, but she has first of all, Clinton versus Obama, head to head, she has gone down a little bit since March 7th to 10th to now, which is March 24th to 25th: Clinton was up 47 to 43, it‘s now tied, Obama and Clinton.

You look at Clinton versus McCain and again, Clinton has lost some ground lately.  Before, it was Clinton 37 to 45, now, McCain, 46 to 44.  And yet, when you look at Obama versus McCain, it‘s basically stayed the same.

I mean, you know, Perry, this is what it‘s all about.  I mean, when you start looking tat numbers and you say to yourself, and both their negatives are going way up as well, you say to yourself, something‘s got to be done.

BACON:  Dan, I think the bigger problem, the numbers, is not about Bosnia, it‘s about Barack Obama had arguably the worst period of his campaign, during the time we‘re talking about (ph) because the controversy about his minister.  The fact that he didn‘t lose any points, that she didn‘t gain any points against him is another—I mean, she‘s trying to prove that she‘s more electable, she‘s the more viable candidate against John McCain, take superdelegates pick her as opposed to Obama, that‘s a larger problem that she hasn‘t gain any points.

This controversy takes it on her instead of Senator Obama the time where she had him on the defensive about his pastor to some extent.

ABRAMS:  All right.  Clinton gets another strike here, giving us two strikes for Clinton, none for Obama.

Next up: Michelle Obama is now taking the heat for this comment made while campaigning for her husband in January.


MICHELLE OBAMA, BARACK OBAMA‘S WIFE:  We don‘t like being pushed outside of our comfort zones.  You know it right here on this campus.  You know people sitting at different tables - you all living in different dorms.  I was there.

You‘re not talking to each other, taking advantage of the fact that you‘re in this diverse community.  Because sometimes it‘s easier to hold on to your own stereotypes and misconceptions.  It makes you feel justified in your ignorance - that‘s America.


ABRAMS:  Blunder.  While it did not just happen, it‘s just been picked up and now in particular.  The substance of what she said, you know, maybe true but this just gives more to fodder to Obama‘s detractors, Pat, to say the Obamas aren‘t patriotic enough.

BUCHANAN:  Well, that‘s right.  She shouldn‘t have said that‘s America.  I mean, it is very natural for students, they do it.  I did it as a student.  We all got together at the table in the cafeteria with the guys from Northwest Washington even though we were from a city wide school.  People do that naturally when they are free.

They tend to associate with their own.  That is natural.  But she made it a knock on her country and she repeats this sort of thing and that‘s getting to be a real problem.  The idea is that, you know, that they are not patriotic, they don‘t really love the place and Wright sit right (ph) into them.

ABRAMS:  Bill?

PRESS:  I got to tell you, I agree with Pat on this.  Look, I cut Michelle a lot of slack because she‘s new to this and she hasn‘t been through it like the Clintons have.  She‘s going to make some mistakes but it‘s the “That‘s America” that stuck in my crawl because I remember, you know, my grandmother who doesn‘t like blacks is a typical white American.

And Michelle Obama said, I‘ve never really been proud of my country before.  Look, I know their love of the country, but I hear negative tone about America that I don‘t share and I hear it too often.

ABRAMS:  Perry, I mean, is this going to become a big political liability?

BACON:  I think it‘s a tough thing for them because one thing people like about Michelle Obama is she seems to be more candid and open and sort of talks like a regular person, I think, if you go to her eventually (ph) what the people say about her.  But there‘s a couple times that she says things that, I don‘t think is unpatriotic, I think, it‘s more like, things people don‘t like hearing even if there might be some kernel of truth of parts of what she said.

ABRAMS:  Yes, I mean, Pat, let me ask you this, Pat.

BUCHANAN:  Why is it America‘s fault?

ABRAMS:  Pat, are they going to create negative ads about Michelle Obama?

BUCHANAN:  I think they‘re going to put together ads with Reverend Wright, you know, the “G.D. America,” her statement, taken off the flag pin, a lot of these things.  And they‘ve got every reason to do.  I don‘t know why she‘s got to say that‘s America.

There‘s no doubt a lot of us are you know, maybe we‘re parochial or insular, a lot as people but it‘s not the fault of this great country, it‘s not the fault of America.

ABRAMS:  Well, the reason, Pat, is because not everyone talks like—not everyone talks like a politician all the time.  The problem is, when you‘re a politician‘s wife, you‘ve got to be really careful.

BUCHANAN:  That‘s the problem.  That she‘s speaking from the heart, Dan.  That‘s the problem.

PRESS:  I was just going to say, I mean, she‘s very active in this campaign, she‘s out there all the time.  She‘s not just, you know, accompanying him to events.  She‘s doing the whole events.  She‘s speaking a lot and, I think, she‘s going to be, or he‘s the nominee, she‘s going to be a target as well as Barack Obama.

ABRAMS:  Perry, you‘re shaking your head when Pat was talking.

BACON:  No, I understand what he‘s saying, I mean, I think the bigger issue for them is they, you know, when she makes a misstatement, he can‘t distance himself from her, she can‘t resign from the campaign—that sort of things.  So, I think, the role—I‘m sure there‘s an effort to make her, you know, speak more carefully in this kind of issues.

ABRAMS:  Yes, we‘re giving Obama a strike on this one, giving us two strikes against Clinton, one against Obama, going into the break.  Everyone‘s going to stick around.

Coming up: Bill Clinton at it again, is now saying, no one should have to resign from the campaign for making controversial comments.  The problem: His wife‘s campaign has called for Obama advisers to resign.

And: Chelsea Clinton refuses to answer a question from a student about how her mother handled the Monica Lewinsky scandal, saying it‘s none of your business.  Chelsea‘s 28 now, campaigning for her mother.  Should she be treated differently than any other adults on this trail?

Plus: It turns out those State Department contractors and employees weren‘t just snooping on presidential candidates.  They also snooped on other celebrities including Anna Nicole Smith.  Yet another reason Why America Hates Washington.

That‘s up in 60 seconds


ABRAMS:  Tonight‘s edition of Why America Hates Washington.  Because State Department workers snoop into passport files, today, we learned it‘s not just the presidential candidates either.  An internal review has uncovered at least 20 cases so far of government employees prying into the files of the rich and famous since last year.

Among them: the late “Playboy” playmate, Anna Nicole Smith.  State Department employees accessed her private files after her death in February of ‘07.  Presidential candidates are not the only ones left exposed by the system.

Another reason Why America Hates Washington.

We‘re back with more campaign misstatements, cheap shots and blunders, in a moment.


ABRAMS:  We‘re back On Their Trails tonight: Obama v. Clinton, assessing the day‘s biggest misstatements, cheap shots and blunders.

Right now, Senator Clinton is behind at our nightly scorecard with two strikes, Obama has one strike.

Next up: Bill Clinton hit the campaign trail in West Virginia today.  He lashed out at the resent resignations from both campaigns over controversial comments.


BILL CLINTON, FMR. UNITED STATES PRESIDENT:  I don‘t think any of these people ought to be asked to resign.  All these guys that say bad things about any other campaign, they say, should they resign?  My answer is no, they‘re repeating party line.  They ought to stay right where they are.


ABRAMS:  I‘m calling this one a Clinton blunder.

Where was he earlier this month when the Clinton campaign was saying this about then Obama adviser Samantha Power, quote, “We‘re calling on Senator Obama to make it clear, that Samantha Power should not be part of his campaign.  This is an important test for Senator Obama.  He has to make a public statement and separate himself from Samantha Power.”

Bill Press, how do you explain that one?

PRESS:  Look, here‘s my take.  Bill Clinton is right.  Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are wrong.  Barack Obama was calling for Geraldine - I mean, his campaign calling for Geraldine Ferraro to resign.  Clinton was calling for Samantha Power to resign.

I think Bill Clinton is right.  I think, we‘re spending much too much time whining about things that surrogates say and not enough what the candidates have said.

ABRAMS:  But, Perry, he may be right.  The problem is that he‘s at odds with the Clinton campaign.

BACON:  Yes, the Clinton campaign, as you point out, actually started this when they were very strongly and emphatically calling for Samantha Power to resign.  They spend an entire day doing it.  So, they did start this.

But I suspect, both sides are enjoying (ph) it right now.  It becomes like, you know, every day news becomes dominated by what, you know—I don‘t imagine Geraldine Ferraro talks to Hillary Clinton that often.  This has become sort of like, dominated the campaign cycle, I can understand why to president felt the frustration about it.

ABRAMS:  Go ahead, Pat.  Yes.

BUCHANAN:  Dan, good for my main man, Bill Clinton.

ABRAMS:  All right.

BUCHANAN:  Right, really.  He‘s exactly right.  What are we doing showing all these people to the walls.  He‘s criticizing his own wife‘s campaign.  Good for him.

Geraldine Ferraro, that was outrageous she was fired.  I can understand the Samantha Power thing to some degree because she called her a monster and everything and gave out the word that Barack wasn‘t serious about pulling troops out.  But I do believe politicians ought to stay by their people in trouble.

You know, loyalty is really one of the qualities you expect in a political leader and there‘s too much throwing folks over the side.

ABRAMS:  And Bill Clinton, I think, reiterated that when he said this:


B.                CLINTON:  If a politician doesn‘t want to get beat up, they shouldn‘t run for office.  If a football player doesn‘t want to get tackled or want to risk of an occasional clip, he shouldn‘t put the pads on, right?


ABRAMS:  Yes, the problem, Bill, is that that‘s not what the public wants to hear.  They don‘t want to hear about the fights all the time.  They don‘t want to hear all the time about the negativity.  They have to at least—the campaigns at least have to put on the aura of not wanting to do battle.

PRESS:  But you know what?  The public is wrong and the media is wrong.  I have not heard so much whining from the media in any campaign, anytime anybody says anything somewhat critical about the other.  Suddenly, it‘s all negative.  You know, grow up, that‘s what campaigns are all about.

ABRAMS:  I‘m going to make this personal.

BUCHANAN:  Dan, the best thing -

ABRAMS:  Hang on one second, Pat.

BUCHANAN:  The best thing Harry Truman did was to go out to Pendergast‘s funeral, the old criminal.  He stood by his buddy in his funeral.  And even people had disagreed, what Truman said, he was right to do it.

ABRAMS:  And I want to speak with Bill Press just said about the media.  And I‘m going to make it seemed like he just said it about Perry, who‘s part of the media at the “Washington Post.”  He didn‘t specifically say, but, Perry, what do you make about that?  I mean, Bill is basically saying that the media covering this have been whining and complaining all the time about this one‘s got to go, that one‘s got to go, what do you make of it?

BACON:  Let me say two things.  First of all, it was not the media calling for Samantha Power to resign.  It was Bill Clinton‘s wife‘s campaign did that repeatedly over and over again.  The campaign has been very involved in sort of pushing out this sort, your supporters are mean (ph) than my friends.

The second thing is, I know, you know, I heard what Bill and Pat have said, but one of the campaigns, Senator Obama‘s campaign has talked all about changing the tone of politics and making it more civil.  So, in some extent, when they push out someone who isn‘t mean (ph), I understand that.  It‘s just sort of part of their message is we‘re different, we‘re newer, we‘re nicer on some level.

PRESS:  Dan, maybe my point got lost, my point is this.  That there‘s so much writing and complaining about how negative this campaign has got, listen, I‘ve covered negative campaigns.  Pat‘s covered negative campaigns.  This is not one of them.

ABRAMS:  But when you make it, Perry‘s point is, when you make it an issue, when you make civility an issue in the campaign, you got to live and die by it.

BUCHANAN:  Wait a minute, Dan, what about Merrill McPeak who‘s accused of Bill Clinton of being like (ph) to Joe McCarthy (INAUDIBLE).

ABRAMS:  All right.  Look, we gave the Obama campaign a blunder on that one already.  We‘ve addressed that issue on this program.

Giving us three strikes tonight against Clinton, one against Obama going into tonight‘s final round: Team Clinton in full damage control mode today over Hillary Clinton‘s false statements on Bosnia, firing up a memo attacking Obama for not wanting to answer question about his own record, quote, “He‘d have to deal with the fallout from this week‘s “Washington Post” report on his exaggeration of his role on immigration reform and housing policy.”

This one takes gall.  All right.  In that “Washington Post” article, they‘re eagerly pointing to, Clinton was attacked as well.  The front-page article titled: “Both Obama and Clinton embellish their roles” hammers Senator Clinton of inflating her role in legislation like the Children‘s Health Insurance Program.

I mean, Pat, this takes a particular level of gall to point to a “Washington Post” article that they were both criticized in.

BUCHANAN:  Yes, that‘s saying he‘s as bad as we are.

ABRAMS:  No, it‘s worse than that.

BUCHANAN:  That‘s the only defense they have.

PRESS:  Dan, you‘ve got to have a lot of hooks (ph) with the run for office, Dan.

ABRAMS:  This is beyond clip hooks (ph).  Come on.

PRESS:  Here‘s what I loved about that article.  That article showed that Obama‘s exaggerated what he did about immigration, housing and other stuff and it also shows Hillary‘s exaggerated roles on Ireland and Bosnia.

ABRAMS:  That‘s fine but Hillary can‘t then points to the article and saying, he doesn‘t want to deal with what‘s in that article.  It‘s crazy.


ABRAMS:  Clinton is getting a strike on this one giving us a final score, a bad night for Clinton on our daily scorecard of four strikes against Obama‘s one.

Pat Buchanan, Perry Bacon, thanks a lot.  Appreciate it.

We want to know your VERDICT about the latest Clinton and Obama clashes.  E-mail us at Verdict@msnbc.com.  Tell us what you think.  Be sure to include your name, where you‘re writing from.  We read e-mails every night in our P.O.‘ed box segment.

Coming up: Chelsea Clinton has been out on the campaign trail for months, refusing to answer questions from the press all along, including from a 9-nine-year old student reporter.  Now, a college student asked her about the Monica Lewinsky scandal, she won‘t answer it.  Should she be held to the same standard as anyone else on the campaign trail?

We‘ll talk to the students who ask the question.

And the folks over at FOX News want to sock it to Obama by constantly talking about Obama‘s former pastor, Jeremiah Wright.  They‘re now acting as if Wright is running for president, repeatedly calling his schedule changes breaking news.

Beat the Press is next.


ABRAMS:  It‘s time for tonight‘s Beat the Press: Our daily look back at the absurd and sometimes amusing perils of live TV.

First up: FOX News clearly sees Obama‘s former pastor, Jeremiah Wright as an opportunity to subtlety slam Obama.  They hyperventilate it throughout the day yesterday about Wright changing his schedule.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  There‘s breaking news coming out of Florida.  This time in Tampa, Florida, we‘d just gotten word where Barack Obama‘s pastor, his spiritual advisor, Reverend Jeremiah Wright has now cancelled what was supposed to be three nights of speaking engagements beginning tomorrow night.

MEGYN KELLY, TV HOST:  Well, folks, this is just in to FOX News. 

Reverend Jeremiah Wright is canceling his Florida public events.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, TV HOST:  Senator Obama‘s controversial pastor, Reverend Wright was supposed to speak out, just hours ago for the very first time since the scandal erupted.


ABRAMS:  Coming later on FOX News more breaking news about Reverend Wright‘s travel schedule.

Next up: It seems like CNN‘s Anderson Cooper is trying to appeal to a younger audience by using hipper language.  The newsman now is taking a page out of Phil and Ted excellent adventure, dude.


JAMES CARVILLE, CNN CONTRIBUTOR:  And James Carville, well, I‘m not of

the Washington world, I think that  -

ANDERSON COOPER, TV HOST:  Dude, aren‘t you Mr. Washington?


ABRAMS:  Dude.  Hear that, dude?  Aren‘t you Mr. Washington?  Totally.

Finally: CNN bragging about exclusive pictures of Obama on vacation Monday, made them seem more like the political paparazzi.   Look at how far away they are when spying on Obama‘s vacation for this, quote, “exclusive shot.”


UNIDENTIFIED ANCHOR:  While she‘s out on the campaign trail, Senator Barack Obama is on vacation.  We‘ve got some exclusive pictures from his Virgin Islands vacation spot.


ABRAMS:  She was using and paid $3 for that chair.

And then yesterday, they got (ph) him outside the hotel.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER:  Hi senator, how are you?

OBAMA:  Just trying to be left alone.


ABRAMS:  The most trusted name in political tabloid TV.

We need your help Beating the Press.  If you see anything right, wrong, amusing or absurd, go to our website: Verdict.msnbc.com, leave us a tip in the box.  Please include the show and the time you saw the item.

Up next: Chelsea Clinton asked about Monica Lewinsky by a college student and snaps back, it‘s none of your business.  Why is she different than any other adults on the campaign trail?

The student who asked the question joins us.

And later: Not just another teacher sex story.  Literally, a wave of female teachers charged with having sex with underage students in one particular area: Tampa, Florida in just two weeks.

Coming up.


ABRAMS:  Welcome back to VERDICT.  Chelsea Clinton is no longer a kid.  She‘s campaigning across the country to help her mom get elected president.  But don‘t ask her about Monica Lewinsky.  In a minute, I‘ll ask this Indiana college student why he put 28-year-old Chelsea on the spot.  He asked her whether her mom‘s credibility was hurt by the infamous Lewinsky sex scandal. 


CHELSEA CLINTON, DAUGHTER OF SEN. HILLARY CLINTON:  Wow.  You‘re the first person actually that‘s ever asked me that question in the - I don‘t know - maybe 70 college campuses that I‘ve now been to.  And I do not think that‘s any of your business. 


ABRAMS:  It is not the first time Chelsea has taken unabridged questions.  She almost always refuses to talk to the press, even when it‘s a 9-year-old, quote, “reporter” asking a question. 


SYDNEY RIECKHOFF, KID REJECTED BY CHELSEA CLINTON:  I was going to ask her a question and then she said, “I‘m sorry I can‘t take questions from press.”  But she said, “I can have a picture with you.”  I felt like I was being treated like the rest of the press. 


ABRAMS:  I know.  It is awful, I admit.  But since everyone accepts that as the daughter, she must be treated differently, more carefully.  But why?  She‘s an adult on the campaign trail. 

Joining me now, Butler University student, Evan Strange, who asked Chelsea Clinton the now infamous Lewinsky question.  The host of “The Stephanie Miller Show,” Stephanie Miller.  “The Huffington Post‘s” Rachel Sklar.  And back with us, author and radio talk show host, Bill Press.  All right, Evan, first tell me, what led you to ask the question?

EVAN STRANGE, BUTLER UNIVERSITY STUDENT:   Well, first, I just want to say exactly what the question was.  I mean it wasn‘t just about Monica Lewinsky.  That was the last thing the question was about.  What I asked was basically what Chelsea thought of the criticism that Hillary got during the Lewinsky scandal and about how some people now say that it showed a sign of weakness and that maybe she‘s not a strong enough candidate to lead this country. 

And the reason why I asked is that the past few weeks is really - it‘s coming crunch time in the election just looking over what each candidate is believing and saying.  And just talking to my friends, a lot of them have the same question, you know.  And one of the big ones about Hillary is, you know, is she strong enough and people my age are asking that question.  And the one thing that‘s brought up is that scandal. 

ABRAMS:  All right.  I mean, Rachel, she‘s answering - it‘s a question and answer session, and she seems offended.  You know, “In 70 colleges I‘ve been to, no one‘s ever asked me that question.”  I mean the question that Evan just laid out so offensive? 

RACHEL SKLAR, “THE HUFFINGTON POST”:  Well, I think it‘s telling that in 70 - the question-answer sessions, she has not ever received that. 

ABRAMS:  No one had the guts Evan had, I guess.

SKLAR:  Well, yes.  But it‘s not just Evan.  It‘s also the press.  The press hasn‘t asked that directly to the Clintons.  This is a just giant elephant in the room that everybody talks about when they‘re not facing the Clintons directly.  That‘s why Tyra Banks made news when she got Hillary Clinton to open up about it. 

So I think that that speaks to the sensitivity of this issue.  Now, should Chelsea be speaking to the press?  I think so.  Yes, she‘s clearly a grown up.  She‘s clearly a surrogate.  That‘s clearly part of, you know, the package when you‘re in the arena.  But this particular question is pretty unique. 

ABRAMS:  Stephanie, I don‘t know.  When you‘re in a question and answer session, you sometimes get asked questions which are uncomfortable.  You say, “You know what?  I‘m not interested.”  But she seemed offended that someone is asking a question which, look, she may not want to answer.  I not saying she‘s obliged to answer, but she seemed offended by the question. 

STEPHANIE MILLER, HOST, “THE STEPHANIE MILLER SHOW”:  You know, this is a tough one, Dan, because you‘re right, she‘s not a child anymore.  But she was a child at the time of the adultery.  And I think it‘s that sticky private area.  I have to ask Evan, what did you mean by that?  Was Hillary‘s credibility hurt or does it not show her strength?  In what way?  Because of the - It reminds me a little of Dr. Laura blaming Mrs. Spitzer. 

I mean is there something Hillary did wrong here?

STRANGE:  Well, first of all, I mean I just want to say exactly how my question was phrased.  It wasn‘t about Monica Lewinsky.  It wasn‘t about the scandal.  It wasn‘t about what happened between, you know, Bill and Hillary.  It was about, you know, tough things that she has gone through in her life and how it‘s made her stronger and why she should be president because of it - because of that.  And that‘s the answer I was looking to hear, but I didn‘t hear it. 

MILLER:  OK.  Well, that‘s fair because Hillary has talked about it

herself.  She has said, “You know, everybody knows what I‘ve gone through,”

and -

ABRAMS:  All right.  But look, this is a bigger issue.  Let me play this piece of sound.  This is from a piece that NBC‘s Maria Menounos did.  She was on the Clinton campaign.  Listen to this and let‘s talk about it. 


MARIA MENOUNOS, NBC CORRESPONDENT:  She has been adamant about what she will and won‘t do on the trail. 

C.                CLINTON:  Don‘t believe everything you read. 

MENOUNOS:  Especially not taking questions from the press. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Miss Chelsea, can I talk to you?

MENOUNOS:  The Clinton campaign staff turned down our request for an interview with Chelsea as they have done with all the other press.  Even when we walked with her to the car, our casual greeting was kept strictly off the record and we were not allowed to record any audio. 


ABRAMS:  I mean, Bill, what is this?  I mean why is it that Chelsea Clinton, an adult - she‘s 28 years old.  She‘s on the campaign trail for her mother.  Why is it that she‘s off limits to everyone even though she‘s out there campaigning?

BILL PRESS, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST AND AUTHOR:  Yes.  First of all, let me say, just for the record, I know Evan had the best of intentions.  I think the question was out of bounds.  I think it was offensive.  I think it was out of line.  And I think Chelsea handled it beautifully, and told him it was none of his business.  So just for the record - just to put myself on the record.

ABRAMS:  But what‘s out of line about his question?

PRESS:  Well, because, look.  I don‘t think you should drag Hillary into Bill‘s adultery or Mrs. Spitzer into Spitzer‘s adultery.  And I certainly don‘t you ought to drag their then-teenage daughter into what her husband did which was so morally wrong.  So I mean just give her a break. 

Now, let me come to your question about - you know what?  Chelsea

she is 28 years old, Dan.  You‘re absolutely right, which means she can answer any question you ask her or she can choose not to.  I tend to give family members, whether it‘s Romney‘s sons or McCain‘s daughter, or Clinton‘s daughter, a break.  Now, if you want to meet with the press, fine.  If they don‘t, there‘s nothing in the first amendment that says they have to.

ABRAMS:  Right.  But the problem is, Stephanie - and I want to play this other piece of sound - when it comes to issues she wants to weigh in on, like the Bosnia controversy, Chelsea does choose to at least say something.  Here‘s what she said. 


C.                CLINTON:  Well, sir, I think that my mother‘s on record in having talked about this.  And as for what she said, I mean, yes, I was there as well.  And I‘m so honored. 


ABRAMS:  All right.  But there, she‘s talking, Stephanie, about something in the same time period.  I mean your point was that she was a child then.  We‘re talking about the same period in the late ‘90s when she was also a child.

MILLER:  Well, she was only being used as a bullet proof shield then, so that‘s entirely different.  You‘re right.  I think it‘s important, Dan, to say in no way, no matter what you think, is Chelsea Clinton being pimped out in any way.  I think that‘s important to say at this juncture. 

But I know what you‘re saying.  If you‘re going to be on the campaign trail, you have to answer questions.  But I agree with Bill, though.  I just think this is private life and it‘s out of bounds.  I don‘t think it‘s relevant to her as a leader.

ABRAMS:  But here‘s the problem Rachel, and I don‘t mean to attack Stephanie, but the problem is that you get to use language like that and they are rightfully, you know, angry about it.  The Clinton campaign says, “You know what?  You guys used language that‘s unacceptable.” 

And then the conversation shifts because they‘re right, that there is certain language that shouldn‘t be used when you‘re describing a daughter, et cetera.  But there is language, isn‘t there?  That you can‘t- I mean we can‘t not be able to talk about it at all. 

SKLAR:  Absolutely, but you can talk about it in terms of impeachment, the official stuff that went on.  I think that sort of when you personalize it by the used the word Lewinsky - I mean, we all know about the sordid details.

ABRAMS:  She‘s on the campaign trail. 

SKLAR:  Yes.  Absolutely.  I‘m talking about, you know, the impeachment was a big deal and it should be something that is fair game.  But when you‘re talking about sort of the lewd phraseology, that‘s different than saying like one should be open to questions.  I think that all the candidates‘ children who are stumping ought to be open to questions. 

And I do agree with Bill that there‘s a different standard for family members, but they shouldn‘t have to deal with questions that enter that particular area.  I think that that‘s standard for all candidates. 

ABRAMS:  Evan, you want to respond?  You seem kind of irritated.

STRANGE:  I mean my only - not only a question, but when I asked the question itself, I wasn‘t trying - Obviously, I wasn‘t trying to - it wasn‘t to pry into their private lives.  It wasn‘t to pry, you know, what went on at the dinner table.  It was about, you know, why is she the stronger candidate, and how did she bounce back from this hard time in her life?

SKLAR:  Sure.

STRANGE:  And why is she such a strong person now.  And that‘s what

people want to know - and that‘s what people my age want to know.  And

that‘s why I asked the question.  It‘s not because I wanted -

ABRAMS:  Stephanie‘s trying to get us into trouble again. 

MILLER:  But Evan, I think that‘s something you ask Hillary.  You don‘t ask her daughter.  I just think, you know - Let‘s be sensitive.

STRANGE:  Well, it‘s not every day a 20-year-old gets the chance to talk to a presidential nominee.  So I‘m going to take the next step.

ABRAMS:  Fair enough.  I‘ve got to wrap this up, but before we get another call about the term that Stephanie used, it‘s unacceptable.  We agreed that - we all agree on that.  Stephanie, I‘m sorry you out.  You know, we‘ve had - this has been an issue.  We don‘t need another issue.

ABRAMS:  Dan, I‘ve always been unacceptable.  I‘m sorry.  I was just making a point. 

ABRAMS:  I know you were.  I know.

PRESS:  Hey, Dan.  Why does this always come up every time I‘m on your channel, right? 

ABRAMS:  Evan Strange, Stephanie Miller, Bill Press, Rachel Sklar, thank you, guys. 

PRESS:  Thank you, Dan.

ABRAMS:  So I‘m guessing a lot of people are going to have something to say about this - verdict@msnbc.com.  Tell us what you think.  Be sure to include your name, where you‘re writing from.  We‘ll read E-mails as we do every night in our “P.O.‘d Box.” 

Up next, a wave of arrests in Tampa, Florida.  Three female teachers accused of having sex with underage students in two weeks.  One teacher even allegedly giving a student a pair of her underwear, calling him hundreds of times.  Three people?  Two weeks?  What is going on in the same part of Florida that brought us sex teacher Debra Lafave? 

And later, “Reality Bites” for Knut, the German polar bear who zoo keepers say is now a publicity addicted psycho.  We‘re back with that in 60 seconds.  


ABRAMS:  Now, to “Reality Bites,” a dose of reality caught on tape.  Tonight, keepers at the Berlin zoo are calling Knut, the polar bear a publicity addicted psycho saying he recently howled with rage when denied an audience.  Knut, rejected by his mother at birth and controversially raised by zoo keepers, became a center of a media phenomenon dubbed, “Knut-mania,” even making the cover of the German “Vanity Fair.”  They referred to him as international superstar. 

But now, keepers want to send him to another zoo.  I guess there‘s a rehab of sorts so he will get less attention.  Knut, the Paris Hilton of polar bears.  VERDICT will be right back.  


ABRAMS:  We‘re back with tonight‘s “Crime Scene.”  A major sex scandal in Florida.  Tampa in the middle of a wave of arrests of female teachers accused of having sex with male students.  In less than two weeks, there have been three women arrested.  Here‘s NBC‘s Martin Savage. 


MARTIN SAVAGE, NBC CORRESPONDENT:  First came the arrest of a middle school math teacher, 28-year-old Stephanie Ragusa, charged with having sex with a 14-year-old.  Investigators monitored phone calls between the teacher and student in which Ragusa allegedly acknowledged having sex with the boy. 

Last Thursday, another arrest - 45-year-old high school honors English teacher Mary Jo Spack.  She‘s is accused of meeting a 17 and 18-year-old student at a liquor store, leaving them to a motel room where allegedly more students joined the party.  Spack was reportedly overheard having sex with one teen in the shower. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I can‘t believe it‘s happening.  I don‘t know what to think or what‘s going through their heads.

SAVAGE:  And then, Monday night, a 40-year-old substitute teacher, Lisa Marinelli, a married mother of two, was picked up by sheriff‘s deputies and charged with unlawful sex with a minor.  The 17-year-old victim told detectives he‘d had sex with Marinelli ten times.  Authorities say they believe it. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  There‘s phone records, the text messages, the underwear, their statements.  And the rest, I‘m going to keep to myself for the time being. 

SAVAGE:  The arrests stir memories of yet another notorious Tampa teacher - 25-year-old Debra Lafave.  In June 2004, the middle school teacher was arrested for having sex with a 14-year-old male student in her car, her condo and her classroom.  Martin Savage, NBC News, Atlanta.


ABRAMS:  What the heck is going on in Tampa?  Sudden rash of teacher-student sex crime?  It‘s unbelievable. 

All right.  Joining me now, Mike Wells, who‘s a reporter for the “Tampa Tribune,” and Monica Lindstrom, former prosecutor.  Mike, what is going on in your area there? 

MIKE WELLS, REPORTER, “TAMPA TRIBUNE”:  Well, we‘re not calling it an epidemic.  But since 2005, we‘ve had about ten teachers in Hillsboro County and surrounding counties who have been charged with similar charges.  We can‘t say.  We are shocked every time it happens. 

ABRAMS:  Yes, but I mean three cases in two weeks?  And I‘ve got to believe that the local - you know, a lot of the parents, et cetera, are going to be saying, we‘ve got to change our hiring practices here. 

WELLS:  Well, they are saying that.  We are getting a lot of comments on our stories online where the parents are expressing they‘re a little fed up with this happening over and over.  The local school board is going to be having an emergency meeting later next month to address hiring ethics, those issues and just to get to the meat of the matter. 

ABRAMS:  All right, but you know, Monica Lindstrom, the bottom line is when you look at the statistics in Florida, all of Florida, for non-forcible sex offense arrests for 2006, men are arrested, 3,257, women 234.  Women still a tiny, tiny percentage of the people who have been arrested there for this type of crime. 

So do you think it‘s fair then when these women are arrested to say, you know what, maybe it‘s more important to send the male teachers a message and as a result, maybe they should be a little softer on the women because the maybe some of these older boys 16, 17, 18-year-olds wanted to have sex with them? 

MONICA LINDSTROM, FORMER PROSECUTOR:  Absolutely not, Dan.  You know, the question on everybody‘s mind is are these women going to get off because justice is supposed to be blind.  But unfortunately, when it comes to women sex offenders and male sex offenders, the men are punished ten times more than the women are. 

I mean look, Debra Lafave got off with probation and house arrest since she had sex with a 14-year-old.  So it‘s clear that women are not being punished.  Justice is supposed to be blind, but not in Florida, I guess. 

ABRAMS:  But when you talk to these some of these psychologists, some

of them will tell you that they believe that the women who engage in this

are victims a lot of the time.  They‘re either -

LINDSTROM:  Well, well.

ABRAMS:  They either have alcohol problems or they have, you know - whatever the problems may be, and that‘s the reason that they did it.  And as a result, the court is a little more sympathetic to them. 

LINDSTROM:  It shouldn‘t be.  Who cares what the reason is?  They are in a position of authority and power and they are misusing it and having sex with children - people under the age of 18 and 17.  I don‘t care what the reason is.  I don‘t care what their excuse is.  They broke the law and we should punish them for it whether they are men or whether women.  Bottom line. 

ABRAMS:  Well, regardless, it seems like Tampa may not be the best place to - You wanted to say and make a quick and final point, Mike? 

WELLS:  Yes, well, in the case of Lafave, you know, you had the victim‘s mother who didn‘t want her son to testify.  And so, I think the prosecution had its hands tied a little bit. 

ABRAMS:  Look, I agree with you.  I think that that case was handled exactly the way it should have been.  Monica and I will debate this on and on.  Mike Wells, Monica Lindstrom, thanks a lot.

LINDSTROM:  Thank you, Dan.

WELLS:  No problem.  Thanks.

ABRAMS:  Up next, will tonight‘s big winner or loser be Tiger Woods who lost it on the golf course with a photographer; “American Idol” contestants who are at risk of losing it due to a flu outbreak; or French President Nicolas Sarkozy after pictures were revealed of his new wife losing her clothes. 

Your e-mails in the “P.O.‘d Box,” verdict@msnbc.com.  Tell us what we‘re doing right and wrong.  We‘re going to be reading them, coming up.


ABRAMS:  Time for tonight‘s “Winners and Losers” for this 26th day of March, 2008.  Our first loser, “American Idol” contestants.  Apparently, the flu is going around so fast that a meeting was called to teach the idols to avoid catching it.  According to “TMZ,” some idols were even seen wearing medical masks.  Maybe that explains this performance.  I don‘t know, I guess that was a bad one. 

Our second loser, Samantha Power, Barack Obama‘s former foreign policy adviser who resigned after calling Hillary Clinton a monster.  She‘s since said she hopes the incident would overshadow the content of her new book.  While promoting her book last night, Power continued to get publicity mileage out of the controversy, talking about it at length, staking it to Clinton saying she‘s amazed Clinton is trying to get so much political mileage out of it.  Can you say pot and kettle? 

But the big loser today - Tiger Woods.  Tiger came out while swinging the woods.  Apparently, according to the “L.A. Daily News ,” during Sunday‘s final round in the WGC championship in Florida, a photographer clicked a picture during Tiger‘s back swing on the ninth hole.  Woods dropped a pair of profanities and said the next time a photographer took his picture, he would break his neck.  And this is what he said when given the chance to apologize.


TIGER WOODS, GOLF ATHLETE:  He caught me right when I was in transition on my down swing and I flinched.  It hit a left and luckily, the wind‘s coming off left or that ball would have been in the water.


ABRAMS:  Maybe so, but cursing out and threatening a sports photographer for that? 

Our big winner of the day - French president Nicolas Sarkozy.  No, not for his visit to the U.K. or his pledge to send more French troops to Afghanistan.  No, he‘s today‘s big winner because he‘s married to her - Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, seen here in a photograph  set to be auctioned off at Christie‘s next month. 

Time for the “P.O.‘d Box,” your chance to tell me what you hate or love about the show.  Many of you wrote in p.o.‘d that I said I thought the press is making way too big a deal of Hillary‘s misstatement about her trip to Bosnia.

Darren Atinsky from Fort Lauderdale, “For you to give a free pass to such outrageous conduct and a deliberate lie is inexcusable.  How many lies does someone have to tell for people to hold them accountable?”

Darren, I didn‘t give her a free pass.  I was one of the first to go after her for being inaccurate when it happened last week, and again when she backpedaled.  But I still think that the significance of it is being overplayed.

Cheri Moore, “Anyone who‘s ever gotten off a military transport under sniper fire in broad daylight does not forget where they are or whether they were dodging bullets or not.”

Larry Barat, “You‘re absolutely right in defending Hillary against the media over her misstatements about her tarmac experience in Bosnia.   Setting aside whether she intentionally misstated the fact, it‘s ridiculous for Washington pundits to suggest Sen. Clinton‘s entire foreign policy pivots on this.”  I agree. 

And last night, I went after voter fraud architect Rush Limbaugh for attacking me after I called him out for encouraging Republicans to vote in the Democratic primaries.  I said it was un-American, in Ohio, possibly illegal. 

Cleta Feltner writes, “You‘re the only one who stands up to Rush Limbaugh.”  Thank you.

That‘s all the time we have for tonight.  See you back here tomorrow.



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