DAN ABRAMS, HOST: Tonight: Obama takes the lead in superdelegates as Hillary Clinton is expected to get a big win in the West Virginia primary tomorrow.
So, will even a 30-point Clinton win change anything? And assuming it doesn‘t, why not an Obama-Clinton ticket?
We‘ll go at it with tonight‘s all star panel: Norah O‘Donnell, Tucker Carlson, and Christie Todd Whitman is with us.
Plus: Karl Rove giving Democrats advice as a paid pundit but still refusing to testify to Congress in person and under oath about his possible role in political prosecutions.
VERDICT starts now.
Hi, everyone, welcome to the show. Live from Burbank, California.
Tonight: A milestone for Barack Obama. Today, he finally surged ahead of Hillary Clinton in the superdelegate contest, taking away the only official lead Clinton still held. Obama now leads in the superdelegates by 279 to 276.5, and overall, 1,869 to 1,702.5. What is viewed by most as an insurmountable lead.
But this comes on the night before Clinton is poised to win a landslide victory in West Virginia tomorrow. The latest poll shows her ahead by as much as 36 percent and since shows no signs of backing down.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. HILLARY CLINTON, (D-NY) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: So, I think it‘s really important that people pay attention to what West Virginians do. This is going to be a crucial turning point in this election. And I want you to know that if you stand up for me tomorrow, I will stand up for you every single day in the White House.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: On the campaign trail Senator Obama is already conceding West Virginia as he tries to look ahead to the general election.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D-IL) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I am extraordinarily honored that some of you will support me. I‘m grateful.
OBAMA: I understand that many more here in West Virginia will probably support Senator Clinton. This is true.
OBAMA: But when it‘s over what will unify us as Democrats and what must unify us as Americans is an unyielding commitment to the men and women who have served this nation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: But tomorrow, a sweeping victory for Clinton seems all but certain in West Virginia and Clinton is expecting another blowout in her favor next Tuesday in Kentucky. In a campaign that has been defined less by the numbers and more by momentum, does she get nothing if she wins West Virginia by 30 something percent even though no Democrat has been elected to the White House without carrying West Virginia since 1916?
Joining me now: Former Governor of New Jersey, Christie Todd Whitman, who was also the head of the Environmental Protection Agency; MSNBC chief Washington correspondent, Norah O‘Donnell; and, MSNBC senior campaign correspondent, Tucker Carlson.
Thanks to all of you for coming on. Appreciate it.
All right. Ms. Whitman, let me start with you. Does she get anything if she wins West Virginia let‘s say by 30 something percent? Does it change anything?
CHRISTIE TODD WHITMAN, ® FMR. NJ GOVERNOR: I certainly she should but I doubt she will within the Democrat hierarchy. I mean, they want this to be over now, they really do. They are afraid the next couple of campaign stops are going to illicit some negative stuff on Obama from Hillary Clinton. That‘s going to make life harder for them in the long run, but frankly, it‘s not that far apart.
I mean, if you consider, particularly if you consider her having won Florida and Michigan. She has a good reason to say that she deserves to stay in the race and I think, if the she were on the other foot and things have reversed themselves, that you wouldn‘t hear quite this demand that you have today for her to get out.
ABRAMS: Norah, the question, I guess, is: Has so much changed since Indiana and North Carolina, right? I mean, the numbers were already troubling for Hillary Clinton before Indiana and North Carolina; they became a little more troubling after Indiana and North Carolina.
Has so much changed such that issues like momentum that we‘ve hear so much about, questions like that become absolutely irrelevant at this point?
NORAH O‘DONNELL, MSNBC CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Not according to the Clinton campaign. Certainly, the math is against her but today in West Virginia, she said that West Virginia is going to mark a turning point in her campaign. It is true that she will probably win West Virginia by a large margin, she‘ll win Kentucky next week by a large margin.
Barack Obama will win Oregon, Montana and South Dakota.
According to NBC News, I mean, it‘s the popular vote that her campaign is going for, a win in this popular vote. And at the end, if they count Michigan and Florida, it may end up a tie, if Clinton gets lucky. So, it‘s not even clear that she can even win on this new metric that she‘s been laying for.
In fact, I spoke with Terry McAuliffe, her campaign chairman today who said, “You know, take it to the bank, we are staying in this for the next three weeks.” They claim whether they get momentum or not she is staying in this.
ABRAMS: Let me play that. I want to play that piece of sound and I want to ask Tucker if he actually believes it. Here‘s Terry McAuliffe in his interview with Norah.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TERRY MCAULIFFE, CLINTON CAMPAIGN CHAIRMAN: Why are we going to win West Virginia? If Barack Obama were the nominee, how does our nominee not win West Virginia and Kentucky? Two critical swing states. They are purple states.
She is fighting. She is on this to fight, to win this thing. She has
we‘re going through to June 3rd. I know there‘s been a lot of commentary. Norah, I can unequivocally tell you, we‘re in through June 3rd.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: All right. But Tucker, what does that mean, we‘re in it to June 3rd? I mean, they used to be in it to the convention. Now, they are just in to June 3rd.
TUCKER CARLSON, MSNBC CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, look—they‘re going to lose as we all know. But he raises a really interesting question, which is: Why are all these people in West Virginia and Kentucky apparently going to vote for Hillary Clinton? They have television now in West Virginia, they can read. They know she can‘t win mathematically, but they are voting for her any way.
So, what does that tell you? People don‘t like to vote for doomed candidates. They really don‘t. They‘re voting against Barack Obama, this points up a very serious weakness in his campaign. And Terry McAuliffe, though he is the “Picasso” of spin, he‘s right.
This is something Democrats should pay very close attention to. This says something profound about Obama‘s weakness. Why are people voting for her now?
ABRAMS: Well, let me ask—Ms. Whitman, let me - I think the question may become, is West Virginia and its demographics, and let‘s put it up, the sort of perfect storm against Obama when you look at the numbers in West Virginia, it seems that all of the issues that help Obama, more people who are highly educated, higher African-American populations, all of that does not exist in West Virginia.
WHITMAN: Right. No, it doesn‘t. It does make it a perfect storm for Hillary. But I think Tucker‘s point is well taken. You‘ve got to figure out, why are they going to cast these votes tomorrow for Hillary Clinton as it appears the case? They are saying something and that‘s what the Hillary Clinton campaign is focusing on the superdelegates to say—look, it‘s more about just the delegate count and it‘s who is going to win in November against John McCain.
And is Obama‘s appeal universal enough to be able to overcome the kinds of trends you see in West Virginia or Kentucky? How much do we need them and how much can we offset it with new voters coming to the polls, can he really keep that up? Are these new people who are flocking to him now actually going to make it to the polls in November? And those are some pretty tough choices they‘ve got to make.
ABRAMS: But it seems to me, Norah, that was the question as of six weeks ago or you can argue six months ago.
But it seems to me that getting the superdelegates at this point to say—wow, West Virginia was a problem, therefore we have to think about Clinton. I can‘t see how the party is going to be able to walk away, how the leaders the party can walk out of this and say—yes every metric, every single one was going for Obama, but we‘re going to do exactly what we were assigned to do, which is say, we believe that one was more electable than the other.
I don‘t see them doing it.
O‘DONNELL: You‘re exactly right. Right. I mean, the superdelegates according to NBC News, Obama now leads in that. It is not yet, you know, a huge movement towards him, but slowly he is going to accumulate these superdelegates.
I think one of the really interesting points that was raised today by the “L.A. Times” and it has been raised by “The Daily Coast” before that, is that what if Clinton had dropped out of the race after Indiana and North Carolina and Barack Obama got beaten by Hillary Clinton if she was no longer in the race in West Virginia?
O‘DONNELL: That would raise the kind of questions that exactly Governor Whitman and Tucker Carlson are raising about, is there an anti-Obama vote out there. There is a new “Washington Post” Poll out just tonight that shows about a quarter of Clinton voters that they would rather vote for McCain. This is an issue for the party and I think that‘s the thing that drives the possibility of a joint ticket where Democrats will say, “We need it, we need it.”
ABRAMS: Well, don‘t get to that yet because we‘re going to talk about the joint ticket.. But, Tucker, final thought on this notion.
O‘DONNELL: Just teasing it.
ABRAMS: This notion that if Clinton hadn‘t stayed in now, that if she dropped out, that she still might have won the state of West Virginia.
CARLSON: Well, absolutely. I mean, there is a long history in politics of people voting for none of the above uncommitted, dead candidates. I mean, you could pick a lot of elections.
ABRAMS: Like in Michigan.
CARLSON: That‘s exactly right. This happens a lot. I do think her
look, there‘s no way to sort of spin it. Her being in the race is bad for Barack Obama. It points up his basic weakness.
On the other hand, I don‘t think there‘s any way to force her out. I don‘t think there‘s any way for Obama to do it without looking overbearing, without hurting himself. I mean, they have to endure it. I don‘t see any option the Democrats have except to let this sort unbelievable process that she‘s in control of, by the way, play out as long as she wants it to.
ABRAMS: All right. Everyone is going to stay with us.
Coming up, we know why so many pundits think an Obama/Clinton ticket is a terrible idea. But would it be good for the ticket? And has she earned that spot?
And the man known as Bush‘s brain, now getting paid by various media organization for his advice and analysis, he‘s been spending a lot of time in particular advising Obama. Is that real advice?
Plus: First it was baseball and steroids, now a senator taking on the NFL. Congress wasting time worrying about overseeing sports: Another reason Why America Hates Washington, up in 60 seconds.
ABRAMS: Tonight‘s edition of Why America Hates Washington: Congress‘ obsession with sports instead of the people‘s business. First, it was Major League Baseball and steroid scandal, now, a senator is going after the NFL for dismissing new videotapes that could further prove the New England Patriots cheated. The NFL has already fined Patriot‘s coach, Bill Belichick $500,000 for taping the opposing team‘s play call signal.
That‘s apparently not enough for Arlen Specter who insists on meeting with the former Patriot‘s video assistant who turned over the new tapes tomorrow and holding a press conference afterwards. I get it, the government claims the league is accountable since it gets an antitrust exemption, but a little less time on sports oversight, and more on economic, war, whatever oversight would give us one less reason for America to Hate Washington.
When we come back: Does Hillary Clinton deserve the V.P. spot if Obama wins the nomination? Coming up.
ABRAMS: We‘re back. As Hillary Clinton continues to campaign in what most now believe as an un-winnable election for her. The campaign buzz no longer: Will she find a way to win but will she find a way to get the number two spot on a Barack Obama ticket in November?
Clinton biographer, Carl Bernstein, reporting this week, that sources close to both campaigns believe Clinton will want the V.P. slot but, to quote, “Several important Democrats aligned with Obama predicted that he—and Michelle Obama—will vigorously resist any Clinton effort to get on the ticket. Rather, Obama is more likely to try to convince Clinton to either stay in the Senator or accept another position in an Obama administration, should he win the presidency.”
But hasn‘t she earned that spot? And well, there‘s definitely a downside to having her, in the end, is she going to be denied the spot because some Obama supporters just don‘t like her?
Our panelist is still with us. Governor Whitman, what do you make of it?
WHITMAN: Well, she thinks she deserves the presidency. So, I‘m not sure she‘s going to be happy with the vice presidency. But I have to tell you, I‘d rather have her there than on the Supreme Court which is where I heard he might put her if he wants to get her out of the race. But no, it‘s going to be - it would be really tough.
It‘s one thing if you were one of that hoard of candidates who were in the field at the very beginning who really knew they weren‘t going to win and they were there to sort of show credentials and be considered for vice president and being someone like Hillary Clinton that has put time, so much effort, so much heart and money into this, to say—I‘m going to be the second string.
And for Obama, it‘s going to be very difficult to have somebody who clearly likes the media enough the way she does and has access to it to have that person standing right behind you all of the time.
ABRAMS: You know, look, Tucker—I‘m not one that believes that somehow you can ever sort of earn the role of vice president. I don‘t think there is such thing that sort of earning that position. But from practical perspective, I mean, would it be good for the ticket? Put aside whether the Obama supporters like her, whether they want her. In terms of the people who are going to, actually, go out and vote, would it be good for them?
CARLSON: Of course it would be. It would be good for the Democratic Party. Absolutely. She‘s getting voters he may not get. He is not getting any voters that she wouldn‘t get. In other words, he is getting Democratic partisans, people who are going to vote for the party no matter what. She‘s getting potential swing voters, people who on a certain day might vote Republican.
The problem is that his supporters and they matter to that campaign are true believers, they‘re you know, Starbucks baristas who read a lot. And they think that picking Hillary Clinton would be violating some essential principle. Truly, it would be selling out. And these are people who don‘t want to sellout. You know what I mean? Who won‘t believe it‘s morally superior to drive a Prius and then mean it. They absolutely mean it.
And so, I think, the Obama people might come under so much pressure that they don‘t pick her - look, I‘m not advocating for Hillary Clinton by any means, I‘d just think objectively she‘d be a good pick.
And Norah, let me read to you from Maureen Dowd‘s column in the “New York Times” on Sunday, “The lady in waiting would be surrounded by Obama disciples who disdained her for fighting dirty. And she would be miserable holding up the train of the young prince who usurped her dream, and derailing the post-nup she had with Bill to trade places. Could she really wake up every day in the back seat and wish him well, or would she just be plotting?”
I mean, look, I think it‘s a practical matter. It‘s hard to believe that Hillary Clinton wouldn‘t accept it. I mean, it seems to me the only question is, is she going to get offered it and the offer really mean it?
O‘DONNELL: Listen, I think that Hillary Clinton is a historic candidate because she‘s the first woman to be a credible nominee. And I find it hard to believe that she would turn down if offered the number two spot. I mean, she spent Mother‘s Day, you know, not getting breakfast in bed, like, you know, some other mothers or having, you know, dinner made or taken out to dinner. She spent 16 hours in the rain in West Virginia for a contest that‘s largely over.
This woman is a fighter. You have to believe that she wants to do something out there and she has won a large number of votes. I think there are a lot of messy details to work out. There‘s no doubt about it.
But, again, one of problems for Barack Obama is that it would fundamentally undermine which is the entire message of his campaign which has changed, and putting a Clinton on the ticket would suggest that there would be a return to the old days and that Bill Clinton would still be around.
So, it‘s a real problem for the campaign but I think there‘s going to be a lot of party leaders and lot of superdelegates who may push to make sure that she is also on the ticket.
ABRAMS: But, Governor Whitman, it seems to me that it‘s kind of a hollow argument to say “because I‘m choosing Hillary Clinton as my vice president that that somehow abandons my entire campaign of change.” He‘s still the number one on the ticket. It doesn‘t seem to me that that changes it?
WHITMAN: No, not all. It does in perception though. And so much of what he is about is perception right now because people just don‘t know that much about him, really. His record is not that long. So, they don‘t know what they‘re responding to is the way he presented himself, the call for change. It‘s the perception. And so, that means for more him really than it might mean for someone else.
And putting Hillary on ticket is going to change that perception, that really, it‘s just more of the same and he‘s going to be relying on the old gang that been there before. That will disappoint a lot of people. And he does have other women in party from whom he could choose.
CARLSON: But I also (ph) would think.
CARLSON: If there‘s one thing the average American voter doesn‘t want, it‘s change. People don‘t want change. They want incremental improvement but subtle improvement. They don‘t want to uproot anything by its roots at all. They actually want someone on the ticket, I believe who is reassuring, no matter whom he picks. It will not be a radical.
He‘s not picking Bill Ayers as his running mate. He‘s going to pick someone with institutional ties, who reassures normal people that this guy actually knows what he‘s doing.
ABRAMS: This country is not ready for Tucker Carlson for president, and bottom line.
ABRAMS: All right. Thanks to my panel, appreciate it.
Coming up, Karl Rove - and Governor Whitman in particular, thank you, first on the show. Appreciate it.
Coming up: Karl Rove now getting to give advice to the Democratic candidates, but is it objective advice coming from a man who made his name taking Democrats down? Norah and Tucker will be back with us.
And today was Rove‘s deadline to agree to testify before Congress about whether he‘d push prosecutors to investigate Alabama‘s former governor just because he was a Democrat—so far nothing. The former governor, Don Siegelman joins us live.
Plus: A reporter discovers the perils of doing a live report at the county fair. Meet the Press is next.
What‘s your VERDICT? E-mail at Verdict.msnbc.com. Your e-mails are coming up in the P.O.‘ed box at the end of the show.
ABRAMS: It‘s time for tonight‘s Beat the Press.
First up, there has been a lot of talk about the possibility of a, quote, “October surprise” for Barack Obama that would involve new damaging information coming out right before the election. And for those who couldn‘t figure out when that would be, CNN‘s Wolf Blitzer helps us out with the chronology.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “CNN ELECTION CENTER”/CNN)
WOLF BLITZER, CNN NEWS ANCHOR: Well, what do you think? Had been the October surprise usually happens the October before November.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: Usually. That‘s when October is, that‘s why it‘s called an October surprise. The self-prescribed best political team on television.
Next up: Barack Obama say he doesn‘t wear a flag lapel pin generally because he felt it became a substituted for true patriotism after 9/11. Basically, he felt it became an empty symbol. A lot of folks on the right and on FOX News have gone after him for that. But it‘s going to be tough for FOX‘s Sean Hannity to argue that wearing a symbolic piece of metal is really that important.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “HANNITY‘S AMERICA/FOX NEWS)
SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS HOST: I haven‘t worn a wedding ring in 10 years. I can‘t stand wearing jewelry.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: Wedding ring, lapel pins, in the end it is just symbolism, right Sean?
Finally, entertainment reporter, Mark Allen was doing a live report at the local fair near Sacramento when he got more of a scoop than expected. Viewer warning: if you‘re eating, you may want to turn around.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “GOOD DAY SACRAMENTO/KMAX-TV/MAY 9)
MARK ALLEN, REPORTER: Give us a little whip in the entertainment news if you will.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Speaking of whip, I don‘t know if you know that we‘re showing you the business end of that cow right behind you. But - it‘s the brown one.
ALLEN: Hey there, traffic seems to be -
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Don‘t turn around. Don‘t turn around.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
Up next: Today was Karl Rove‘s deadline to agree to testify in front of the House Judiciary Committee about the prosecution of Alabama‘s former governor. The question: Was he prosecuted because he‘s a Democrat?
Rove still refusing to testify under oath. Why?
And later: The daughter in prison then repeatedly raped in an underground bunker for more than 20 years by her father is speaking out for first time. Coming up.
ABRAMS: Welcome back. You‘ve probably been seeing a lot more of Karl Rove lately. The man once known for doing President Bush‘s dirty work behind the scenes has forged a new career in the spotlight. To the chagrin of many on the left, Rove has gone from full time political operative to pundit for Fox News, “Newsweek,” “Wall Street Journal,” often offering his opinion on the Democratic race and even allegedly giving advice to Obama.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KARL ROVE, FORMER POLITICAL OPERATIVE: I think he ought to spend more time on the senate and less time on the campaign trail in May, June and July, and focus his efforts on some big issue.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: Many on the left view much of his quote, “advice” as propaganda. After all, his ties to the McCain campaign are well known. “The Washington Post” called him an informal adviser.
Rove said, quote, “I‘m not certain that I qualify as an adviser to McCain. I have friends at the campaign who occasionally ask for reactions.” So does this make Rove different than the other pundits, some of whom advise other candidates? Is there something more dishonest about Rove?
Joining me now, Roy Sekoff, founding editor of the “Huffington Post.” And back with us, Tucker Carlson and Norah O‘Donnell.
All right. Roy, is there something worse about Karl Rove?
ROY SEKOFF, FOUNDING EDITOR OF THE “HUFFINGTON POST”: Absolutely, Dan. I mean this is a guy who‘s made an entire career out of hoodwinking the American people. I mean let‘s not forget who we‘re talking about. There‘s a guy who was one of chief salesmen of the Iraq War. He outed Valerie Plame and almost was indicted for it. And he is also - let‘s see what other delicious things - firing U.S. attorneys for political reasons. Yes, it‘s a lot different, Dan.
ABRAMS: But how does this make him - but tell me why. I mean, but in terms of the quote, “advice and analysis” he‘s doing on television, right, what makes that part of it different?
SEKOFF: Oh, that‘s like asking Tiger Woods‘ caddie, who is going to win the U.S. open. I mean, you know, it‘s comical. This guy has shown us that he is not reluctant to lie, to forget about the facts to keep the American people in the dark. And that‘s the main problem with him suddenly being a pundit.
TUCKER CARLSON, MSNBC SENIOR CAMPAIGN CORRESPONDENT: Oh, I‘ve seen a couple of times in the tube. I think he‘s excellent, actually. He‘s better than I thought he would be. He‘s smart. He‘s got incisive things to say. And look, the thing about Rove - it‘s actually more honest situation than most. In a lot of cases you‘ve got people and most journalists are obviously liberal Democrats, and most sort of try their best to be objective.
And you kind have to guess about whether they are achieving objectivity or not. With Rove, it‘s Karl Rove. You know what I mean? You know exactly who he is. You know where he‘s coming from. A smart person takes that into account. Even a dumb person takes that into account. And so, everything is kind of out on the table and you can evaluate what you says, and turn on your own BS monitor. And if some of it sounds like spin, you take that in account. But I‘ve been kind of impressed, being in the pundit business myself for a while, by how good the guy is. Watch him; he‘s good, actually.
ABRAMS: Obama - I mean, this is advice for Barack Obama that Karl Rove gave in “Newsweek” magazine, “Your lack of achievement undercuts your core themes. It‘s powerful when you say America is not ‘Red States or Blue States but the United States.‘ The problem is you don‘t have a long senate record of working across party lines.”
I mean, the problem, Norah, is that‘s not really advice, right?
I mean that‘s a critique of Obama disguised as advice.
NORAH O‘DONNELL, MSNBC CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, it is a critique. But I think no one believes that Karl Rove is all of a sudden, you know, pitching for Barack Obama. I think everybody knows where Karl Rove comes from. And I think the genius of Karl Rove, whether you agree or disagree with him, even the things he‘s done inside the Bush administration, is that he is a brilliant political tactician. There is nobody, since I covered the White House, who knows the numbers, who knows demographics of congressional districts, who knows the delegate counts better.
I mean, really, only other than like Chuck Todd, who does the numbers like that, Karl Rove knows this stuff, lives it, breathes it, digs it. And so that‘s why, you know, he‘s a good source in that regard. But there‘s no doubt ...
ABRAMS: All right.
O‘DONNELL: He wants a Republican and he wants McCain to win even though he tried to destroy McCain in 2000.
SEKOFF: But Dan, wouldn‘t be good if ...
ABRAMS: But boy, it sounds like ... Go ahead. Go ahead.
SEKOFF: ... he identified the fact that he‘s a contributor to McCain?
Fox never says that.
CARLSON: But they don‘t need to tell people. Let‘s be real. It‘s Karl Rove. He is the embodiment of partisanship. He is, by definition, a partisan-Republican. Of course he donated to McCain. He donates - I mean that‘s who he is.
SEKOFF: He went after him and did the whole push-hold thing in South Carolina in 2000. What do you mean? Of course, he‘s supporting him.
CARLSON: OK. No, no. But you don‘t want a guy ...
SEKOFF: I understand that he‘s a partisan. I have less problem with Fox (UNINTELLIGIBLE) than Tucker.
ABRAMS: OK. Hang on.
SEKOFF: It‘s less of a problem with that. I think it‘s more of a problem with “Newsweek” and the “Wall Street Journal.” It‘s like these organizations - still, have to sleep with the enemy to prove that they are not under the sway of the right.
CARLSON: But listen to yourself. You‘re calling him the enemy. I mean the idea is that “Newsweek” is liberal and the idea of having a conservative there or a Republican there is itself is appalling. You don‘t like the guy‘s politics. I get that completely. That‘s fine.
SEKOFF: No, he‘s the enemy of truth. He‘s the enemy of reality.
He‘s the enemy of facts.
CARLSON: OK. All right. OK, fine.
This is actually kind of interesting.
O‘DONNELL: I think, Dan. I think the biggest issue -
ABRAMS: Let me ...
O‘DONNELL: I think the biggest issue biggest issue ...
ABRAMS: Yes, Norah.
O‘DONNELL: ... he contributes to these media organizations is to make sure that he properly does disclose his involvement with the McCain campaign. Because all of us at networks try to make sure that the pundits are - people who are partisans disclose that. He says he‘s an informal adviser who has conversations. But he is the one who trained Steve Schmidt.
O‘DONNELL: He is the one who trained Nicole Wallace. They speak with him probably every day. And so he has got - and the networks and the news organizations have to make sure that he fully discloses even though he may not be paid on that campaign, just how much advice he‘s providing the campaign.
ABRAMS: I‘ve got to finish this up by quoting Bill Burton, the Obama campaign press secretary, “Wouldn‘t taking his advice be a little like getting health tips from a funeral home director?”
Roy Sekoff, Tucker Carlson and Norah O‘Donnell, thanks a lot.
CARLSON: That‘s pretty good.
ABRAMS: We have some breaking news tonight on Karl Rove who has once again refused to testify under oath in front of congress in connection with an investigation into the prosecution of the former Democratic Alabama Governor Don Siegelman. Rove faced the deadline today from the House Judiciary Committee to agree to voluntarily testify about what role, if any, he played in Siegelman‘s case, and whether Siegelman was prosecuted on corruption charges because he‘s a Democrat.
The committee cited this program in their request to have him testify under oath. After Rove‘s attorney, Robert Luskin told us, in no uncertain terms, Rove would testify if subpoenaed.
Last month, Luskin told the House Rove would only speak to the committee if no transcript was made and if it was not under oath. And tonight the Associated Press reporting Rove is now saying he‘ll only agree to respond to questions in writing; translation - today the deadline came and went. So the big question tonight, what will the House Judiciary Committee do now? Will they try to force Rove to testify as they‘ve threatened to do?
Joining me on the phone is the former governor of Alabama, Don Siegelman. And we‘re joined by Scott Horton, a Columbia school lecturer and contributor to “Harper‘s Magazine,” who has written about what he believes are Rove‘s connections to the case.
All right. Scott, let me start with you. What do you think the house is going to do now?
SCOTT HORTON, CONTRIBUTOR TO “HARPER‘S MAGAZINE”: Well, I think you know, they‘ve got to go to the subpoena route next and they have to continue to press using all the levers that they have. And in fact, it‘s interesting. You know, there‘s a lawsuit going on in the District of Columbia to enforce the subpoenas and the Justice Department responded to this lawsuit saying that, “Hey, the congress and House of Representatives have the right to use all of the powers at their disposal in reviewing and approving nominees, in appropriating funds, that‘s their appropriate tool. And so I think the gauntlet has been thrown down at him.
ABRAMS: All right. But, you know what Karl Rove is going to say, right? I mean if push comes to shove, he‘ll then say maybe executive privilege. His lawyers talked about executive privilege. But I don‘t understand legally if Rove is saying as he has that he‘s had no conversations with the White House about Gov. Siegelman. What‘s the executive privilege issue?
HORTON: But that‘s exactly right. I mean not only that, but Karl Rove has given interviews to the “Birmingham News” on Fox. He gave an extended interview to “Gentleman‘s Quarterly” about all this.
HORTON: And if he were going to seriously invoke executive privilege, he can‘t run around doing that. I think effectively, he waived it.
ABRAMS: Gov. Siegelman, what do you think the key question that Karl Rove ought to answer is?
DON SIEGELMAN (D), FORMER ALABAMA GOVERNOR: Well, I think that you have covered them in previous shows. I think he needs to answer questions as to whether he had conversations with anyone on his staff or the White House staff, staff of the Department of Justice or staff of the U.S. Attorney or friends relating to the impact that a prosecution of Don Siegelman would have on the upcoming gubernatorial election in 2006.
I think those questions were adequately covered by John Conyers in his request for documents and seeking information from both. So, you know, I think the House Judiciary Committee and John Conyers are on the right track and I agree with Scott Horton, that it seems like the next logical step and only one that can be taken that will preserve the constitutional power of the Judiciary Committee is to seek the subpoena. And we should also keep in mind that during Watergate, that‘s exactly what Peter Rodino did. And, you know, the executive privilege was not a bar to receiving the tapes that exposed the president‘s misbehavior and abuse of power.
ABRAMS: Governor, what about the fact that Karl Rove‘s attorney tonight is saying that he‘ll answer written questions from the committee?
SIEGELMAN: Karl Rove has learned how to talk to talk. He hasn‘t learned how to walk the walk. You know, he talks about testifying. And then, when it comes time to walk the walk, you know, he skates. And I think congress needs to, you know, call him on the carpet, get him before the committee. And again, he can either lie under oath or take the fifth. Either one will be fine. But they have to - I believe and of course I respect the judgment of the committee and John Conyers. But in order to seek the truth, we‘ve got to have Karl Rove before that committee.
ABRAMS: The other big development tonight, an independent investigation into the case was reportedly shut down last fall by an appointee of President Bush. In a just released memo, written by investigators of the Office of Special Counsel, it was disclosed that Scott Bloch, the head of the agency, halted an investigation conducted by his own task force that was looking at whether partisan politics played a role in the prosecution of Gov. Siegelman. This news comes as a separate FBI investigation that Bloch‘s controversial tenure heats up. Bloch‘s offices and home raided last week; computers and records seized. Gov. Siegelman, what was your reaction when you heard about that?
SIEGELMAN: Well, it was pretty clear to me that - at least it seems clear to me that someone told Bloch to shut down that investigation and he did. It was also interesting that the investigation was shut down when the task force was about to request documents from the Department of Justice. This is important because the House Judiciary Committee had requested documents from the Department of Justice. And the Department of Justice has thumbed their nose at the committee.
We have requested and my lawyers have requested under the Freedom of Information Act those same documents and we were told we could not see those documents by the Department of Justice. It is telling that - I think, that when push came to shove, someone said shut down this investigation.
ABRAMS: Yes. No, look, I agree with you. I agree with you on that and the fact that they are raiding his office and his home tells you there‘s a lot of concern about what he‘s been up to. Governor, we‘re going to stay on this. Look, even if most of the other media is not going to cover the story, we‘re going to stay on it. So please let us know if there are any developments in the story and we‘re going to stay on top of it.
SIEGELMAN: Well, I thank you.
ABRAMS: Scott Horton, thanks to you as well. We appreciate it.
SIEGELMAN: Thank you.
HORTON: Thank you.
ABRAMS: Up next, the woman held in an underground bunker by her father for over 20 years and repeatedly raped by him, is speaking out for first time.
And remember when “Saturday Night Live” seemed to be Hillary Clinton‘s savior. Not any more. It‘s “Reality Bites” in 60 seconds.
ABRAMS: Now, to “Reality Bites,” a dose of reality caught on tape. Tonight, the race between Clinton and Obama once again fodder for the folks over at “Saturday Night Live” last weekend. And if you thought they were in the tank for Hillary Clinton, you might want to think again.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AMY POEHLER, ACTRESS (playing as Hillary Clinton): With my recent victory in Indiana and Sen. Obama‘s in North Carolina, we remain exactly where we were four months ago - hopelessly deadlocked. Therefore, this nomination is going to be decided as it should be by the superdelegates, based not on primary results or caucuses or delegate counts or popular votes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: We‘ll be right back.
ABRAMS: Welcome back. The daughter in the horrific sex dungeon case is speaking out for the first time. Now, 42-year-old Elisabeth Fritzl, seen here, was imprisoned by her father, Josef Fritzl, in this underground prison for 24 years where she was forced to father seven of his children, three of them were also held in the secret bunker Fritzl built.
Elisabeth is now in a hospital with all of her children and according to her sister, is recovering surprisingly well.
In her first comment since her release, she told her sister, quote, “I can‘t believe I‘m free. I never want to see his face again.” And now Elisabeth‘s ex-boyfriend is wondering if he‘s to blame what happened to her, that maybe Fritzl read the letters he sent her. He says, quote, “She had spoken of running away with me and getting married. But he must have known of her plans. Now, I fear he must have found the letters and flown into a rage.”
Here now, clinical psychologist Jeff Gardere, the bureau chief of Austrian Radio and TV Hanno Settele. And joining us on the phone is Jennifer Spaulding who, in 2001, was kidnapped and held captive for months in an underground bunker in upstate New York. Her captor has since been caught and is serving 18 to life. Thanks to all of you for coming on. We appreciate it.
ABRAMS: All right. Hanno, let me start with you on what we‘re learning about what she is saying. She also said, “I can‘t believe I‘m out. I didn‘t think I would ever see you again,” referring to her sister. “It‘s all too much for me. I don‘t ever want to see him again.” She went on - this is her lawyer - went on to say, “Elisabeth is very happy to be rediscovering the world. She is very keen to go outside and feel the rain on her skin. Elisabeth and children who lived in the cellar have no concept of time and of the future.”
So Hanno, is the report we‘re getting about her well-being all coming from her sister?
HANNO SETTELE, BUREAU CHIEF, AUSTRIAN RADIO AND TV: Most of it is coming from her sister and some of it is coming from the authorities also. They want to make sure that all of these stories that are being made up around her get into perspective. Of course, they will not see an awful lot, especially they will not release any photographs or pictures of the woman which is her last line of defense. She becomes a circus attraction once her picture is out there.
ABRAMS: And you mean her current picture?
SETTELE: I mean her current picture, yes. Right.
ABRAMS: OK. Let me - Dr. Gardere, the police in this case are now getting counseling. We‘re told that what they saw down there and the stench was so terrible that the officers now need counseling. Is that surprising?
GARDERE: Not surprising at all. We know here in the United States that when law enforcement officials get involved in very horrific cases, that they usually are debriefed by the police psychologist, police surgeons and in this case, this is what the police officers need because this is probably one of the most horrific things that they‘ve ever dealt with. So in order for them to continue to function in an optimal and professional way, they do need to get this counseling. It‘s a fantastic idea.
ABRAMS: Jennifer, it‘s going to take her a while, don‘t you think, to be able to even get out into the world at large.
JENNIFER SPAULDING, HELD CAPTIVE IN AN UNDERGROUND BUNKER: Oh, definitely. Definitely. It‘s going to take a long time. I mean, I tried to jump back into my lifestyle like nothing happened, and then I ended up just falling apart and becoming a mess. So it takes a long time. I mean I had panic attacks, ended up in the hospital a few times. So it‘s very hard to recover.
ABRAMS: Doctor, that‘s got to be a concern, right, in treating her. I mean her sister is saying she‘s getting along surprisingly well. We‘ve heard these wonderfully inspiring stories about how she‘s looking forward to life in the future. But they have to be very, very careful here.
GARDERE: Yes, they really need to be careful Dan, that they don‘t, you know, overshoot her progress too quickly. What we‘re seeing is, this is a very resilient woman who has relied on her strength as a woman, but especially as a mother to take care of her three children in that bunker, the horrors that she has gone through with her father. So she has that internal strength, that internal fortitude. And so she‘s making a remarkable progress but they should not be fooled into thinking that she‘s going to be well so quickly. So she does have to take her time. Miss Spaulding is absolutely correct. If they push her too quickly, she may relapse.
ABRAMS: All right. Doctor, Hanno and Jennifer, thanks so much for joining us. We appreciate it. We‘re going to stay on the story.
Up next, we‘ve got tonight‘s “Winners and Losers” and your E-mails are coming up in a minute.
ABRAMS: It‘s time for tonight‘s “Winners and Losers” for this 12th day of May, 2008. Our first loser - Las Vegas judge Elizabeth Halverson, suspended and accused of judicial misconduct for allegedly forcing her former bailiff to give her back rubs and put her shoes on.
The judge would allegedly fall asleep on the bench and take frequent naps while at work, a problem her doctor attributes to her sleep apnea and diabetes. Nevada‘s Disciplinary Committee will rule whether the judge will be banned from the bench permanently.
Loser, Jeff Archuleta, father of “Idol” favorite, David, who just got himself banned from rehearsals of the hit show for meddling in his son‘s performances, after he insisted on altering the lyrics on one of David‘s songs on last week‘s show, which “Idol” producers had to pay for. Now the only place you‘ll see him is in the stands.
Our big loser, O.J. Yes, we‘ve long known what really happened. But now his former manager has written a new book and says Simpson confessed to him shortly after being acquitted of double murder. And remember, if it doesn‘t fit, you must acquit. Well, O.J.‘s former manager also claims he showed O.J. how to bloat his hands so the glove would have no chance of fitting.
Our big winner of the day - Jimmy Fallon. Today NBC officially named him as Conan‘s replacement, after Conan has left to take over “The Tonight Show” from Jay Leno. The former “SNLer” said he‘s been practicing opening monologues in his living room every night for the last three years. So have I!
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 after Friday night‘s show when I said many say the Democrats and some in the media are spending too much time attacking Hillary Clinton‘s comments when her candidacy has all but over.
First up, David Jones writes, “As long as Sen. Clinton is still actively campaigning for the Democratic Party‘s nomination, anything she says on the campaign trail is fair game.”
David, I‘m not saying it‘s not fair game. I‘m just saying her attacks are becoming increasingly irrelevant to the race. And I thin some Obama supporters are focused more on her than on winning the general election.
Beverly Moses from Washington, D.C., “I think that you are absolutely right in pointing out that the Democrats, especially Obama supporters, should stop focusing on Hillary. Now is the time to focus on McCain.”
But Susan from Phoenix says, “Why shouldn‘t Democrats react to Clinton‘s statement about having the support of white voters? She‘s talking the racial code - she‘s making sure to remind voters with a racist bent to be sure to remember to vote for her not the black guy. She deserves to be hit right now.”
Susan, as I said Friday, she shouldn‘t have said it. But I keep hearing from viewers like you saying, why don‘t we spend more time covering John McCain. And then, I tried to do it Friday. My guests wanted me to go back to Clinton-bashing. That‘s all I‘m saying.
That‘s all the time I have for tonight. You could E-mail me about the show at email@example.com. Please include your name and where you‘re writing from. And we will see you right back here tomorrow night for our special after-hours primary coverage starting at 11:00 Eastern. Are we going to have a band again? We had a band last time. Yes! Yes! I‘m told we‘ve got - the band is back. For our late-night coverage since West Virginia, Clinton‘s favored by over 30 points. I don‘t know how close it‘s going to be, but it‘s going be fun. See you then.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.