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'Verdict with Dan Abrams' for March 2

Read the transcript to the Wednesday show

Guests: Michael Smerconish, Laura Schwartz, A.B. Stoddard, Laura Schwartz, Justin Moore, Calvin Brinks, Al Roker

DAN ABRAMS, HOST:  Tonight: Chris Matthews joins us as we replay part of tonight‘s live interview with Barack Obama.

And Hillary Clinton releases a new 3:00 a.m. ad.

And a new report shows that all talk about ending congressional pet projects, is just that—talk.  It‘s tonight‘s Why America Hates Washington.

VERDICT starts now.

Hi, everyone.  Welcome to the show.

Tonight: Senator Barack Obama played HARDBALL here on MSNBC.  Just hours ago, Obama was grilled by Chris Matthews at the campus of West Chester University near Philadelphia about all aspects of the campaign.  Chris is with us.

Chris, one of the things you got out of Obama is how this tight race should ultimately be decided.  Let‘s listen.


SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  If - I also think we will have had the most popular vote and we would have won the most states.  Then I think most of the superdelegates who have not yet decided, I think, will recognize that we‘ve earned this nomination.

That‘s not guaranteed and I don‘t take it for granted.  But I think that at that point, I will have shown myself to be the strongest candidate to run against John McCain.

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST, HARDBALL:  Is that the only legitimate result of this campaign is one who gets the most elected delegates is the nominee?  Could you imagine how Senator Clinton being nominated in Denver at the last week of August, not having won the battle for elected delegates and you‘d support her?

OBAMA:  You know, I‘m not going to worry about that right now because what I want to do is to make sure that I‘ve won as many contest as possible, won as many delegates as possible, then I‘ll let, you know, the Poobahs of the party make a decision in terms of how they want to deal with it.


ABRAMS:  But, Chris Matthews, isn‘t he effectively saying, he doesn‘t want the Poobahs to make the decision about how to deal with it?

MATTHEWS:  Exactly.  Dan, you and I read it exactly the same way.  The news value here is he said, I will have earned it if I come out on top in delegate, states won, and popular vote.  I will have earned it.  Therefore, you dare not take it away from me in Denver.

ABRAMS:  But he‘s got to say that for now, right?  He‘s got to sort of play it easy with the superdelegates for now, but slipping in some hints there loud and clear.

MATTHEWS:  You‘re right.  It wasn‘t quite an ironclad, “I dare you not to nominate me if I get the most elected delegates,” but he was clearly saying, any reasonable person, any fair-minded person will see that I have earned it.  I think he laid down the moral marker which of course will mean a lot if the Democrats want to avoid trouble come August.

ABRAMS:  But before I play some more sound, in particular, of you asking him about Reverend Wright.  Look, you sat down with hundreds of politicians, how does Obama compare?

MATTHEWS:  Well, he‘s very elegant.  He‘s very calm.  I don‘t think he likes talking about the Reverend Wright, but he did.

I thought he was careful politically, gave the politically right answer on gay marriage, saying he‘s for civil unions which is Democrats usual default position.  I don‘t think there‘s a lot there in terms of deviance from the norm except that he does say that if he gets elected president, he‘s not going to believe the intel, he‘s not going to make the mistake John Kennedy made with the Bay of Pigs.  He‘s not going to allow it to be distorted the way many people believe it has been in this administration in the run up to Iraq.

He is tough.  He is very self confident.  I have to tell you that‘s what struck me.  Senator Clinton is earnest, determined, willful.  But this guy has this sort of elegance self confidence like, I‘m going to win this thing because I‘m winning it.  Senator Clinton says I‘m going to win it because I‘ve always expected to win it.  That‘s a different kind of feeling.

ABRAMS:  Obama‘s pastor, Reverend Jeremiah Wright came up tonight.  A student asked Obama how the controversy affected his spiritual life and later, you pressed Obama on how and why he didn‘t just leave the church.  Listen.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  How has this campaign and the situation with your pastor affected your spiritual life?  And how will that influence your presidency?

OBAMA:  That‘s an interesting question.  The - you know, I am - I am a Christian, I pray every night.  And when you‘re running for president, you pray even more.


OBAMA:  Although it‘s interesting, what I pray for the longer I‘m in this, is less about me and more about, first of all, making sure my family is OK.  But the second thing is that whatever I‘m doing is actually good for the people I want to serve and good for the country.

The longer I‘m in this process, the more you realize that you‘re going to be successful if you can get your ego out of it.  And focus on the job that needs to be done and what people are going through that I talk to every day.

You know, obviously, there‘s a flap in terms of my former pastor.  And that was a difficult moment.  You know, this is somebody, who on the one hand, is a good man, but said some things that I deeply disagree with.

And, you know, I tried to give a speech here in Philadelphia to indicate the broader context of the anger that still exists and the resentments that still exists between the races.  And, you know, my belief is that, you know, one of the important things about my Christian faith is that you forgive people, you try to understand them.  And, you know, ultimately, you know, judge is going to be—God is going to be somebody who‘s making judgments about many of these things.

MATTHEWS:  When you hear divisive language, whether it‘s from your preacher or from anyone else, why didn‘t you walk out of that church?  Why when you heard that what you called controversial language, why did you go back give him $27,000 in contributions to his church?  Why didn‘t you say he‘s on a different side of this fight than I am?

OBAMA:  No, because I think that - you know, what‘s happened is we took a loop out of—and compressed the most offensive things that a pastor said over the course of 30 years, and just ran it over and over again.  There is that other 30 years.  I never heard him say those things that were in those clips.

MATTHEWS:  But you did say you heard him say controversial things.

OBAMA:  But I hear you say controversial things.

MATTHEWS:  But you didn‘t give me $27,000 either.

OBAMA:  No, but the point is this is a church that is active in AIDS, it‘s active on all kinds of things.  And so, you know, this is a wonderful church.  But as I said, you know, look at the amount of time that‘s been spent on this today, Chris, at time when we haven‘t talked about whole host of issues that are really going to make a difference.

MATTHEWS:  It will come back.  You know the Republicans will bring it back.

OBAMA:  Well, of course, it will come back.  And of course, the Republicans will bring it back.  But the question is: What‘s actually going to make a difference in the lives of people right now who are on the verge of losing their homes?


ABRAMS:  This is why I love Chris Matthews, not letting him get away just keep going, going, going.  Chris, but you see there, your last question, I think, was the most interesting one to me and that is about fact that the Republicans are probably going to come - are certainly going to come back at him with this.  And what he‘s saying is, well, you know what, I‘m hoping in effect we‘re going to be able to focus on the issues.  If he‘s going to be able to give that as his answer when he‘s dealing in the general election, if he wins?

MATTHEWS:  No, because if he gets to be the Democratic nominee the Republicans will try to give what we call in politics a big permission slip.  Like those big blown up checks people give to hospitals when they‘re contributors, big contributors.

They want to give a big permission slip to voters that they can use to say, I‘m not voting against them because he‘s African-American.  I‘m voting against him because he hangs around with America-haters.  And you know, what‘s go on there and you can bet on that, maybe happening.

And I thought he answered as well as he could.  But you know, that question of why did you give the guy $27,000 in contributions in your tax return in ‘05 and ‘06 after you admitted hearing controversial remarks out of him.  I think it‘s a challenge for him.  I think it‘s doable once you get to know him but it does mean a hurdle for him.

ABRAMS:  You also had interesting exchange with him about some personal issues, about his mixed race heritage, as well as his publicized battle to quit smoking.

Let‘s listen.


MATTHEWS:  What‘s it like to be a black kid with a white mom?

OBAMA:  Well, I tell you what, it‘s part of what America is about. 

You know, we‘re a melting pot.  And .


OBAMA:  What it—what I think did it for me was to give me a perspective that maybe is broader on some of the misunderstandings that people go through, but also an appreciation of everybody‘s cultures.

I mean, it‘s not just the fact that I have a black dad and white mom.  I‘ve got a sister who‘s is half-Indonesian who‘s married to a Chinese-Canadian.  I‘ve got a niece who looks like, you know, she‘s all mixed up.


OBAMA:  And, you know—so, when you get our family together, I‘ve said before.  I wrote a book.  I‘ve got family members that look like Margaret Thatcher.  I‘ve got family members that look like Bernie Mac.

MATTHEWS:  When did you have your last cigarette?

OBAMA:  You know -

MATTHEWS:  Was that the last time you cried?  What was that like?

Because that shows - I mean, Bush the president gave up booze.  I

always thought that was impressive thing about him.  I gave it up.  I know

how hard it is.  Just give it up cold turkey.  What was it like for you and

what advice can you give these kids?  You‘re obviously not going to tell

them -

OBAMA:  Don‘t start.

MATTHEWS:  Don‘t start. What is it takes, besides a lot of people are

watching you, which is in your case -

OBAMA:  Having your wife say on “60 Minutes” that if you see Barack

with a cigarette let me know.  That -

MATTHEWS:  No cheating.

OBAMA:  I fell off the wagon a couple of times during the course of it and then was able to get back on.

MATTHEWS:  But in many times in this campaign, did you have chuckle that you just couldn‘t get rid of?  Something weird that happened that was so crazy, that you just went to bed laughing about it?

OBAMA:  Well, I think that happens once a day.  But then I stopped watching cable news.




ABRAMS:  Chris, you got to give him credit on that one, huh?

MATTHEWS:  Yes, I think it was floating like a butterfly and stinging like a bee there, at least like a yellow jacket. Now, he took couple shots at me that sort of pushed me back, you know.  That was OK.

ABRAMS:  You know, and I thought your question though about the smoking is interesting, not just to—why he stopped smoking but overcoming difficult situations.  I think that‘s an important quality when you‘re talking to a potential president.

MATTHEWS:  Well, one of the things I noticed, this is dangerous because you get into sort of anecdotal thinking about people, but I was impressed when I heard that George W. Bush had given up booze.  I mean, it‘s a real addiction for a lot of people.  And whether it‘s a social addiction or it‘s a chemical addiction, when you quit it cold turkey, that requires a decision that you have to enforce not just talk about.

And it‘s been a question of this campaign, can this guy deliver on what he‘s talking about.  Quitting cigarettes, I have a brother, who has the habit, and some in-laws, quitting cigarettes is very, very hard if you have started in your teens.  And as everybody, as he just said to these kids here, don‘t start in your teens because it‘s almost impossible to quit it later.  You don‘t smoke for pleasure, you do (ph) out of habit.

ABRAMS:  It‘s a lot harder to quit smoking than to quite cable news.

So, Chris Matthews -

MATTHEWS:  Well, I don‘t know.  I love it.

ABRAMS:  Chris Matthews, great stuff today.  Thanks so much for coming on.  Appreciate it.

MATTHEWS:  We‘ll be on tonight at 11:00, Dan.

ABRAMS:  Well, you can see the entire “HARDBALL College Tour” with Barack Obama tonight at 11:00 Eastern here on MSNBC.

Coming up: We‘ll play more of that interview and a new poll out today shows he‘s gaining against Hillary Clinton even in Pennsylvania.

Philadelphia talk radio host, Michael Smerconish joins us as we play more of the interview.

And: Clinton‘s out with new 3:00 a.m. ad.  This one is focusing on John McCain and the economy.  We‘re On Their Trail: keeping track of the candidates‘ misstatements, cheap shots and fair game attack.

Plus: Politicians all claim to hate pork.  We‘ll prove today, they just can‘t break the habit.  More than $500,000 of taxpayer money to study the fruit fly.

We‘re back with Why America Hates Washington in 60 seconds.


ABRAMS:  Tonight‘s edition of Why America Hates Washington.  Despite all the talk on Capitol Hill that ending congressional pet projects paid for with your tax dollars, there are far more pets running around this year.  The latest, quote, “pig book” is out today, detailing the biggest congressional porkers.

Some crowd favorites?  More than half million for olive fruit fly research.  Half going to research conducted in France.  $98,000 for a walking tour of Boydton, Virginia, population: 474.  We‘re also paying for a sheep institute in Montana, a Mother‘s Day Shrine in West Virginia and weed management in Idaho.

The pork is 30 percent pricier than last year.  And there‘s 337 percent more of it.

Another reason Why America Hates Washington.

We‘re back with more of the HARDBALL Barack Obama interview in a moment.



OBAMA:  What I know is, that we have excited the electorate.  We have brought people out, we have won every state—every kind of state, all across the country.  And I think that circumstance I will be the strongest nominee to go up against John McCain.


ABRAMS:  That was from Chris Matthews‘ interview with Barack Obama tonight in Pennsylvania, a state where Obama has been campaigning hard trying cut into Hillary Clinton‘s lead ahead of the April 22nd primary.

The latest Quinnipiac University Poll shows his strategy may be working, Obama was down 14 points in February.  Today, he‘s down just nine.

Before we play more of that interview, joining me now: Pennsylvania radio talk show host and columnist, Michael Smerconish; and, Democratic strategist Laura Schwartz.

All right, Michael, before I play more sound from the interview, you saw the interview.  You‘ve been seeing what‘s been happening in Pennsylvania.  Is Obama really making this sort of progress that these polls seem to be showing?

MICHAEL SMERCONISH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST:  I believe that he is and I‘m not surprised by it.  It‘s the second time that I‘ve had the opportunity to watch him in person, the first being the speech on race.  And his worst critics would have to accept that there is a magnetism about this guy.

And, you know, Dan, he‘s one of those candidates that the more you see him, the more you like him.  That‘s not true for everybody.  I‘ve been around for awhile now watching candidates on a local, state, and national level.

There are some that you want to hide and only roll out on television. 

He‘s not one of them.  The more exposure, the more people are drawn.

ABRAMS:  And I would think, particularly in the environment that we saw him in in this “HARDBALL College Tour” with all the cheering and all these students around, and these people who are truly passionate about him.  I think, you talk about the home team advantage, wherever he‘s going to be, if he‘s going to be in that kind of environment, he‘s going to have the home field advantage.

SMERCONISH:  Well, he‘s got, you know, to quote Bush 41, “he‘s got the big mo on his side.”  And I think that people want to be with a winner.  They want to go on Wednesday morning and wake up say, yes, that‘s the guy I voted for, that‘s the woman I voted for.  I voted for the winner.

Now, Chris, of course, was directing confrontational but that was very friendly audience as I think most college campuses would be.

ABRAMS:  All right.  Laura, I want you to also listen to this next piece of sound, this is Chris Matthews essentially laying out the 3:00 a.m.  hypothetical to Obama.

Let‘s listen to the question and how he responds.


MATTHEWS:  Let me give you a scene that may face you in the next year or two with the national security advisor calls you at 3:00 o‘clock in the morning and tells you that a couple of jet—commercial jets have been hijacked.  And they believe it‘s al Qaeda.

And as we know, al Qaeda always tries second time, tried for the World Trade Center in ‘92.  They came back in ‘01.  They‘re heading for the Capitol.  What do you do?

OBAMA:  Well, look, I am hesitant to engage in hypotheticals like that because .

MATTHEWS:  But it has been predictable.

OBAMA:  Oh, well, the - don‘t think anybody predicted 9/11.  And so, we don‘t know what kinds of circumstances are going to come up.

Here‘s the important thing about that 3:00 a.m. phone call.  What you want is somebody who is, first of all, going to get all the facts and gather up good intelligence.  The second thing you want is somebody who is able to analyze the situation, the cost and benefits of action.

And one of the things that we know is this president didn‘t do is to weigh the costs of going into Iraq versus potential benefits of it.  We want somebody who‘s going to be decisive, and I won‘t hesitate to strike against somebody who will do us harm if that‘s what‘s required.

But the most important thing that you need is somebody who is going to exercise good judgment.


ABRAMS:  Laura Schwartz, Hillary Clinton has been trying to use this as a sword against Obama, this notion of, what would he do at 3:00 a.m. if he got that call?  Would he be ready for it?  What did you think of the answer?

LAURA SCHWARTZ, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST:  Well, I think it showed his thoughtfulness and this thought process but he could have hit it a lot harder and much sharper.  I thought this is the weakest of what I thought was an overall good interview with Chris Matthews.  It would have been nice for him to say, I‘m not going to answer hypotheticals.  But pointedly (ph), I get the Air Force in the air and I‘ll find out if we really do know what their target was, how many people aboard, what do we risk?

And I think he sort of said that but was sort of over a long kind of rolling answer.  But again, this was the only point that I thought was his weakest but that is where Hillary Clinton is going to hit him hard.  He‘s going to get this question over and over again.  He needs it make it more concise to the point.

ABRAMS:  Michael, did he need to be more specific on this and show that he knows who to call, where to go, what to do, et cetera?

SMERCONISH:  Taken in the context of the totality of the interview, I happen to think this is his strong suit.  Because, Dan, what he said and has been saying that I‘ve been applauding as someone middle of the road or slightly right of center who is a Republican, he‘s the only guy talking or woman talking about Bin Laden and Abu al-Zarqawi.

This guy says time and again, we have diverted our attention from al Qaeda into Iraq.  I should be focused on Waziristan and Pakistan, I mean, I find it to be appalling as someone who twice supported the current administration that Bin Laden lives and is in northern Waziristan presumably.

And no one, we‘ve outsourced this to Musharraf, he‘s got no incentive.  We‘ve paid him a fortune, no one as we go to bed tonight appears to be looking for Bin Laden.  And Barack Obama, of all people is talking about that issue.

ABRAMS:  But Michael, that doesn‘t seem to be something that people, I guess this is your point, is that people aren‘t really giving him enough credit for that?

SMERCONISH:  Well, he was ridiculed for it.  He was ridiculed by my party.  He was ridiculed by Hillary Clinton when he first—remember when he first was the one who said, if Musharraf won‘t do something about it, then we need to launch attacks in those tribal regions of Northwest Pakistan.

And lo and behold what, three months ago, we took down the number three or so they tell us of al Qaeda.  And we did precisely what he was ridiculed for advocating months ago.

ABRAMS:  Let me play another piece of sound.

SCHWARTZ:  Exactly.  He got to talk about that tonight which I think

is so - because he did, Michael, you‘re so right he got so much flack for

that last August.  And it‘s it‘s about time we find out that, hey, if we

actually target where we believe Osama Bin Laden is -

ABRAMS:  Here is Obama talking about Hillary Clinton in the war vote.


OBAMA:  I think it does bear mentioning that Senator Clinton voted for the war.  And I say that not because it is something that‘s in the past but it points to judgment in the future.  I think Senator Clinton was much more cautious, she got swept up in the arguments that were made by the Bush administration.  And I think that what you want in the next president who has confidence and judgment to move in a different direction.


ABRAMS:  Michael, fair attack?

SMERCONISH:  Absolutely a fair attack.  I mean, the reality is, I was wrong about it in supporting it.  We‘re there based on a false predicate.  The predicate was WMD in Iraq.  There are no WMD in Iraq, why are we still there?

Again, that‘s me, the white guy Republican middle of the road asking that question.

ABRAMS:  Laura, real quick, final thought.  Could you come back later? 


SCHWARTZ:  Yes, it was absolutely right move by saying she sort of got swept up in it, he really almost was like the elder statesman sort of like, oh, that‘s OK, Hillary doesn‘t have the best judgment but I do.  Yes, that‘s a winner, especially in front of anti-war audience.

ABRAMS:  I want a final question to you, you‘re the Pennsylvania guy.  You know Pennsylvania politics as well as anyone.  What‘s going to be the final outcome there?

SMERCONISH:  She is still the favorite.  You‘d have to say that it‘s probably Hillary by single digits, low single digits.  By the way that‘s not much of victory because of the proportion in voting.  She needs a knockout blow.

I‘ll tell you this: she‘s not getting a knock out blow and he may beat her.  And if he does, she‘s done.

ABRAMS:  Hey, Michael.  We got to have you on the show more often.  We love having you on.

SMERCONISH:  You got to bring up something where I disagree with this guy, so I have credibility when I go back on the radio tomorrow with my audience.

ABRAMS:  Look, we‘re happy to mix it up on this show as you know.  So, please come back.

SMERCONISH:  All right.

ABRAMS:  And Laura, you‘re coming back later in the program.

So, what‘s your VERDICT on Obama‘s interview?  E-mail us at:  Tell us what you think.  Be sure to include your name, where you‘re writing from.  We read emails every night in our P.O.‘ed box segment.

Coming up: We‘re On Their Trail with tonight‘s misstatements and cheap shots of the campaign.  The Obama campaign is fighting back tonight after a top Clinton advisor admitted he‘s been talking about Obama‘s pastor problems with undecided superdelegates.

Plus: For those long time fans of the hard hitting substantive show “Nightline” on ABC, you may not want to watch what‘s coming up because that show not what it used to be.  That‘s coming up in Beat the Press.


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

First up: CNN‘s Anderson Cooper seems to have a problem with certain terms that people used, including the term “the media.”


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN CORRESPONDENT:  You know, it‘s the term “the media,” it‘s such a stupid term to use.  It‘s kind of a ridiculous term.  It‘s just easy label to throw around.


ABRAMS:  Ridiculous term.  Last night, he informed of us another term he doesn‘t like, particularly when the, quote, “media” used that term.


COOPER:  I think too many folks in the media throw around the term racism far too often is not something I would do.


ABRAMS:  Too many folks in the, what?

Next up: FOX has been covering Senator Obama‘s former pastor nonstop for almost three weeks in a clear corporate effort to smear Obama.  They act as if Reverend Wright not Obama is the candidate.

Last night, among the new developments we learned, the Trinity Church held a prayer service in support of Wright.  And Reverend Wright attended that vigil.  That is a new development as well.

And Reverend Wright didn‘t speak at the vigil at Trinity Church, new development.  Stay tuned for new developments about Reverend Wright‘s moment by moment schedule.

Finally: ABC‘s “Nightline” got start with the Iran hostage crisis, legendary anchor Ted Koppel at the helm, had been long lauded for covering the most important issues of the day from war to international stories few are willing to tackle.

The last night‘s segment on: doggie yoga—doga.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Release down and inhale lifting high.

ANNOUNCER:  The first Doga exercise video comes out later this year.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Canting is an important part of yoga the chant today is Doga doga doga dog.


ABRAMS:  Ted Koppel must be so proud.

Up next: We‘re On Their Trail, assessing today‘s misstatements and cheap shots on the road to the White House.  Tonight, tempers flaring on the campaign trail, Bill Clinton went on tirade apparently in front of group of superdelegates over, among other things, the media‘s treatment of Hillary and Bill Richardson.

And later: Al Roker follows group of Detroit‘s Drug Enforcement Administration agents as they go undercover posing as drug dealers, Al has the tape and he joins us coming up.


ABRAMS:  Welcome back.  Tempers flaring on the campaign trail.  Bill Clinton apparently went on a tirade in front of a group of superdelegates.  And Barack Obama traded jabs with a Pennsylvania voter on tape.  As always, we‘re on their trail, assessing the day‘s biggest misstates, cheap shots and blunders. 

Here to help us separate fact from fiction, cheap shot from fair game, A.B. Stoddard, associate editor for “The Hill,” and still with us Democratic strategist, Laura Schwartz. 

All right, first up, Bill Clinton met privately with a group of California superdelegates Sunday reportedly lost it when the issue of Bill Richardson endorsing Obama came up. 

The “San Francisco Chronicle” reporting he said, quote, “‘Five times to my face, Richardson said that he would never do that.‘  A red-faced, finger-pointing Clinton erupted.  The former president then went on a tirade that ran from the media‘s unfair treatment of Hillary to questions about the fairness of the votes in state caucuses that voted for Obama.  ‘It was one of the worst political meetings I have ever attended,‘ one superdelegate said.”

I‘m going to have to give that one a Clinton blunder.  Yet another instance where Bill Clinton making negative headlines for his wife‘s campaign but Clinton wasn‘t alone.  Today, Obama‘s Pennsylvania charm offensive went off the rails after he was confronted by an over-eager voter looking to get his picture snapped with Obama. 


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I just want a photograph.  Take you two seconds, Senator.  (UNINTELLIGIBLE)  I mean, I‘m not asking for an autograph, just a snapshot for my grandmother.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  You know what, just take it.  (UNINTELLIGIBLE)  I won‘t be smiling you‘ve wearing me out.  Just take the shot.  Take a shot. 


ABRAMS:  I‘m reluctant to call this an Obama blunder because that guy seemed so annoying, like such a nuisance.  And he was reportedly hounding Obama all day.  But, you know, A.B., what does he need that for? 


EDITOR, “THE HILL”:  The problem with the  - you just have - doesn‘t matter how tired you are, you have to fake it.  The problem with these rallies and events is that someone gets close to the candidate.  They‘re usually either there with friends or family members or office mates or going to tell everybody they ever met afterwards about how it went. 

On this word of mouth kind of spread that happens after this close contact is really important.  It is a strike against you even if the person was rude and you‘re exhausted.  It‘s a strike against you if you lose your cool on trail. 

ABRAMS:  Laura, I want to ask you about the Clinton - Bill Clinton

apparently erupting at the superdelegates‘ meeting.  Now, we also learn

from ABC News they‘re reporting that, “Sources with direct knowledge of the

conversation between Sen. Clinton and Gov. Bill Richardson prior to the

governor‘s endorsement of Obama say she told him flatly, ‘He cannot win,

Bill.  He cannot win.‘”

Again, it seems to me that, again, that‘s not good news for the Clinton camp. 

LAURA SCHWARTZ, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST:  No, and just think if somebody had a video phone at that meeting the other day.  I mean they would be playing video footage all day long.  I mean everybody can visualize President Clinton with his red face, and like pointed his finger, and it was five times, not four or six but five times Bill Richardson said he wouldn‘t do this. 

I mean this is not the time to be blowing up.  This is the time to be talking about the credibility of your wife, her experience, her as your best friend, her as the policy maker.  Any day that you don‘t is a lost day, and that‘s what happened today. 

HAMMER:  All right.  So the Clinton and Obama camps are both going to get a strike here, although the one against Clinton more significant I think than the one against Obama - giving us one strike each. 

Next up, the Clinton camp releasing new 3:00 a.m. ad today.  But this time, they‘re not going after Obama.  They‘re attacking John McCain for what they say is his inability to deal with an economic crisis. 


VOICE OVER:  It‘s 3:00 a.m., and your children are safe and asleep.  But there‘s a phone ringing in the White House and this time, the crisis is economic.  Home foreclosures mounting, markets teetering. 

John McCain just said the government shouldn‘t take any real action to the housing crisis.  He‘d let the phone keep ringing.  Hillary Clinton has a plan to protect our homes, create jobs.  It‘s 3:00 a.m., time for a president who‘s ready. 


ABRAMS:  I mean, A.B., they love these 3:00 a.m. ads.  I‘m not going to give a strike on this one.  What do you make of it? 

STODDARD:  I thank the Clinton campaign for doing this for us.  I mean this is a joke, a complete joke.  First of all, it‘s low budget and fits into their budget because it looks like they used the footage from the last ad. 

And second of all, economic crisis don‘t take place with urgency at 3:00 in the morning.  The markets are closed, leave me alone and everybody else.  It‘s cute, it‘s a desperate attempt to position herself as John McCain‘s general election rival.  But it‘s a joke. 

ABRAMS:  And you know what else?  Laura, I mean you‘ve also got the fact that the old Clinton 3:00 a.m. ad had a different child than the new one.  Why, because as it turns out in the old one, that girl grew up to become an Obama supporter. 

SCHWARTZ:  And an active supporter that‘s volunteering for him. 

ABRAMS:  Yes.  So look, I mean -

SCHWARTZ:  Yes.  Well, somebody - Number one, will somebody just answer that phone?  It drives me crazy.  It just drives me crazy.  And who is up at 3:00 a.m.?  A.B. is right - I mean I‘m convinced here Hillary must be insomniac. 

ABRAMS:  You know, look -

SCHWARTZ:  But I mean, enough already. 

ABRAMS:  I don‘t know.  I wasn‘t going to give her a strike on this.  We don‘t have the graphics for it.  But I think she deserves a strike on this one based on - A.B.‘s point is right - the economic crisis at 3:00 a.m.  She should have gotten strike.  We‘ll finish that up at the end. 

Next up major blow back today from the Obama camp over yesterday‘s revelation that Clinton advisors are now actively using Obama‘s former pastor, Rev. Wright to woo superdelegates. 

Obama supporter and California congressman George Miller blasting the Clinton camp saying on a conference call today, saying, quote, “I think the superdelegates find it offensive.  If they want to work the low road, they‘re welcome to it.  But I don‘t think that will turn people in their favor.”

Last night, I called this Clinton strategy cynical but fair game. 

I also think it‘s fair game for Obama to try to use it to their advantage. 

But A.B., it‘s interesting who is the one saying this here. 

STODDARD:  That‘s right.  George Miller, congressman from California, is known in the congress as the shadow speaker, he is the closest confidante and right arm of Nancy Pelosi.  Most of Nancy Pelosi, the house speaker‘s inner circle have endorsed Obama like George Miller. 

But this is the first time that you‘ve noticed we‘re seeing a quote coming out of someone talking about the way that the mood of the superdelegates, their reaction to the tactics used in the campaign.  And this is not good for the Clintons. 

ABRAMS:  Yes.  All right.  So I‘m going to have to rule this one - we‘re not going to give any strikes on this one.  But we were able to amend the scorecard based on A.B.‘s correct assessment of the economic necessities at 3:00 a.m. that don‘t exist.  And so our total - two strikes for Clinton, one for Obama tonight.  A.B. Stoddard and Laura Schwartz, thanks. 

Up next, exclusive undercover video of Drug Enforcement Agents conducting drug raids in the city with the highest murder rate in America.  Our pal, Al Roker, got the access.  He joins us with a couple of those agents. 

And later, an out-of-control tractor trailer barreling down the road the wrong way for over 20 miles before crashing.  Coming up in 60 seconds.


ABRAMS:  Now to a horrifying reality caught on tape.  A tractor trailer barreling down a highway the wrong way for over 20 miles in Canada, threatening hundreds of motorists before rolling offer an embankment and crashing in a ball of flames.  The truck driver was pronounced dead on the scene.  His family says he may have gone into a diabetic shock.  VERDICT will be right back.


ABRAMS:  We‘re back.  The special agents and task force officers in the DEA Detroit division have one of the most dangerous jobs in America.  Al Roker Entertainment and Spike TV were given exclusive access to follow group of these agents for new series premiering tonight called “DEA.”

You get a firsthand look at what it‘s like for special agents to go on undercover missions posing as drug dealers.  They bust down doors, execute drug raids and put their lives on the line of fire.  We‘ll speak to Al Roker and two of Detroit‘s finest DEA agents in a minute.  But first, here is some of “DEA.”



UNIDENTIFIED MALE DEA AGENT:  I was the first one through the door.  I encountered Rosemary in the bedroom.  When I saw her, she had a gun in her hand. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE DEA AGENT:  Get on your stomach!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE DEA AGENT:  It was a tense situation, but she decided to drop the gun and nobody was hurt. 




VOICE OVER:  In a matter of seconds, the raid team has secured the house and subdued the suspect. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE DEA AGENT:  She happened to have handgun loaded with the magazine in the pocket. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE DEA AGENT:  Possessing a semi automatic handgun is a felony.  That alone could get her six years in prison.  Within a few minutes, agents found the dealer‘s stash. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE DEA AGENT:  We were able to recover the heroin, looks like about 60, 70 grams of heroin.  There‘s some money and also another assault weapon. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE DEA AGENT:  Now, we‘re trying to figure out if she wants to cooperate.  She might want to try to flip on her source which we‘re trying to do. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE DEA AGENT:  The suspect is advised of her rights. 

She waives them and agrees to talk to the officers. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE DEA AGENT:  You‘re in a lot of trouble.  What we‘re going to do - this is what I‘m going to propose to you, OK?  You do something for me tonight.  You get somebody that delivers us an ounce and half of crack right off the street, OK?  You‘re going to walk away from this like it was just a bad day. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE DEA AGENT:  When I‘m trying to fool the suspect, what works for me is just trying to get comfortable with them. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE SUSPECT:  I mean, I don‘t want to be arrested but I‘m in trouble. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE DEA AGENT:  Hell, yes.  And the ship is sinking. 

VOICE OVER:  Facing 16 years in prison, the suspect finally agrees to set up her crack cocaine supplier.  But it‘s a dangerous operation, and time is now major factor.  7:00 p.m. - DEA Group 14 is headed to their second raid of the day.  Their plan - use a flip drug dealer as bait to catch her cocaine supplier. 



UNIDENTIFIED MALE DEA AGENT:  Bring your hand back!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE DEA AGENT:  Got the gun?  (UNINTELLIGIBLE) If you do, it‘s cool, just tell me. 

VOICE OVER:  $1400 worth of crack is recovered at the scene.  It‘s perfect leverage for (UNINTELLIGIBLE) to use to flip the supplier. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE DEA AGENT:  Step over here.  Now, I understand you‘re kind of well-known down here.  You have a couple of different spots.  You‘re in serious trouble. 

It can‘t get any worse for you two ounces of crack you‘re (EXPLETIVE DELETED). 

He doesn‘t sound like he‘s going to cooperate.  So we‘ll lock him up and we got him a total of 50 grams.  So (UNINTELLIGIBLE) We‘ll get him arraigned in the morning. 


ABRAMS:  Joining me now, NBC‘s Al Roker, executive producer of “DEA” and two of the agents from the program, DEA agents Justin Moore and Calvin Brinks.  Thanks very much for coming on.  Appreciate it. 

All right.  Agent Moore, look.  We‘ve seen a lot there of the busts themselves.  But I‘ve got to believe that the period leading up to the bust, the period leading up to knocking down the doors may be the hairiest part. 

JUSTIN MOORE, DEA AGENT:  Yes, you know, it can get a little intense at times.  But that‘s what we train for and prepare for. 

ABRAMS:  And Agent Brinks, when you talked about flipping there in that clip we just played, they talked about getting one drug dealer to flip, do any of the agents actually pose as drug dealers? 

CALVIN BRINKS, DEA AGENT:  Well, there is opportunities where we will

agents will be undercover with the flip but more in this case here we‘re using a flip to get to the next level.  But there are cases where we use undercovers. 

ABRAMS:  All right.  Al, look.  This is unique access that you got here.  How were you able to get access to be able to film all this?   

AL ROKER, PRODUCER, “DEA”:  Well, you know, I had done a special couple of years ago on methamphetamine, and got involved with the DEA then and saw the work that they were doing.  I thought, I don‘t think people really understand what goes on with the DEA.  And I thought this would be a really unique opportunity to show what they do and so it took us about a year to work this out. 

We spent over six months in Detroit embedded with these guys.  And what I think people are going to see - there hasn‘t been this kind of access in over 35 years allowing cameras this deep into what goes on in the DEA.  And as you said, Dan, what you‘re going to see is not just the bust but what leads up to it. 

The planning - the intricate planning, synchronization, then even more importantly what happens after that flip, that slowly but surely these guys work their way up the drug chain.  Those huge international drug busts you see, most of those start because of the street-level work that task force, like the guys here in the DEA in Detroit, do working with local law enforcement agents and the local county prosecutors. 

ABRAMS:  Agent Moore, I mean look.  We‘re seeing a lot of busting of doors coming in, in this videotape.  Is there more of that when it comes to drug crimes than other types of crimes? 

MOORE:  Well, you know, again, we do these investigations and try to get to point where we can get a search warrant for those residents where they may be selling or storing narcotics.  So any time on this show when you see us going in and actually busting the door down, we have obtained a search warrant for that door.  So it goes - it‘s something we do a lot in narcotics work. 

ABRAMS:  Al, was there any concern about safety?  I mean this looks like, you know, we see these shows like “Cops” et cetera.  But how about - I would assume when you‘re sitting there - when your team sitting there with cameras following these guys around in what looks like sometimes violent confrontations that there must have been some concern. 

ROKER:  Absolutely.  But you know, fortunately, we had great crews.  We had great cooperation from the DEA.  At no time would we do anything or would they put us in any sort of danger.  But our crews were all wearing flak jackets and bulletproof vests, pretty much the same stuff the DEA guys were wearing. 

And we‘re very fortunate I had great executive producer on the ground there, Russell Muth, who really did great job with his camera crews.  And after awhile, you know, we were there for weeks before we even started shooting, just so that we knew what was going on.  And we had the trust and we understood what the DEA was expecting of us and them for what we were doing. 

ABRAMS:  Well, Al Roker, thank you, as always, for coming on.  And agents Moore and Brinks, thank you for coming on.  And we also thank you for what you do every day, appreciate it. 

“DEA” premiers tonight at 11:00 p.m. Eastern on Spike TV. 

Up next, will tonight‘s big winner or loser be Ted Turner who warns we could all soon be doing the unspeakable; the husband of the U.S.  senator caught doing the unsavory; a pro tennis player who must be uncomfortable after beating his head with his racquet; or this guy, yes, that‘s his job. 

Plus, we‘ll read your E-mails in the “P.O.‘d Box.  Send them at, what we‘re doing right and wrong.  Include your name and where you‘re writing from.  Coming back here.


ABRAMS:  It‘s time for tonight‘s “Winners and Losers” for this second day of April, 2008.  Our first loser, Russian tennis pro, Mikhail Youzhny.  Instead of taking out his frustration on the tennis ball, he beat his head in over and over with his own racquet.  After blood started pouring down his face, the match was halted.  He got a break, they patched him up he went on to defeat what have been a frustrated and annoyed opponent. 

Loser radio executive Thomas Athans, the husband of Michigan Democratic Senator Debbie Stabenow, admitted to using the Internet to make a date with a prostitute and paid her $150 for sex at a hotel in February.  The senator issued  this statement earlier today, quote, “This is very disturbing and serious.  Obviously, it‘s a deeply difficult and personal matter.”

Worth noting, compared to New York Governor Eliot Spitzer, it sounds like he got a bargain. 

But our big loser of the day, Ted Turner, who said this on the “Charlie Rose Show” about global warming. 


TED TURNER, MEDIA MOGUL:  So it will be eight degrees hotter in 10 - not 10, but in 30  or 40 years.  And basically none of the crops will grow,  most people will die and the  rest of us will be cannibals. 


ABRAMS:  Good thing he is not still running CNN because he also called Iraqi insurgents, who are trying to kill American troops, patriots. 


TURNER:  I think that their patriots in that they don‘t like us  because we‘ve invaded their country and occupied it. 

ABRAMS:  Nice.  Our bigger winner of the day - this guy, who by the looks of this recent photo shoot with Brazilian model, Giselle Bundchen may have one of the most sought after jobs in America.  He gets to, you know - he just gets to do that for a living. 

Time for the “P.O.‘d Box,”  your chance to tell me what you hate or love about the show.  In our segment, “Teflon John,” we go after the media for ignoring John McCain‘s flip-flops and blindly buying into the Straight Talk Express.  It seems some viewers want to  give the media a free pass. 

First up, Raymond in Tampa, “I think that since McCain has no opponent for the time being, he also gets a reduction in press coverage.”

Maybe, Raymond, but that doesn‘t make it right or fair. 

Vanessa Lawrence, “Why do people think the media is pro-McCain?  McCain is just not an interesting topic.  Obama might be the first black president and Hillary might be might be the first woman president.  McCain isn‘t all that interesting compared to them.”

Maybe not.  But he could still be the next president and should receive the same scrutiny as other candidates. 

Sunshine from Peoria, Illinois says, “He‘s made numerous flip-flops on his positions - And I lost the rest of this one.  (SHOWN ON TV:

“He‘s made numerous flip-flops on his positions, errors on his statements and mismanaged his own campaign.  However, the media constantly scrutinizes everything Clinton and Obama say.”)  But anyway, she basically agreed with me. 

That‘s all the time we have for tonight.  Joe Scarborough has got John McCain on tomorrow.  See you tomorrow.



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