Guest: Contessa Brewer, Pete Williams, Tanya Acker, Craig Crawford, Andrea Tantaros, Mark Williams, Nicole DeBorde, Clint Van Zandt, Robert Graysmith
DAN ABRAMS, HOST: Hi, everyone. Welcome to the show.
John McCain‘s relentless, negative attacks on Obama actually worked. A new round of polls tonight reveal a resurgent McCain, seemingly benefiting from his no-holds barred approach to Obama. And Obama himself is fighting back, releasing a blistering new attack ad on McCain‘s relationship with oil execs.
As always, we‘re On Their Trail: making the call on who won and lost the day, Obama or McCain.
First up: Team McCain mounts a comeback, apparently, buoyed by an entire week of bashing Obama. McCain‘s vaulted back in the polls a little more than a week after Obama wowed crowds in Berlin last week alone.
McCain blasted Obama for snubbing injured troops in Germany in a TV ad parts, of which turned out to be factually false. They claimed Obama would be willing to lose the war in Iraq just to win the election; compared Obama to Britney Spears and Paris Hilton; accused Obama of playing the race card.
In the words of John McCain, quote, “Americans want a respectful campaign,” or maybe not.
Those ads may have helped McCain erase a nine-point Obama lead in the Gallup daily tracking poll. Obama led 49 to 40 when he returned from Europe, but after a week of attacks, McCain drew even. He now trails Obama by just three in that poll. McCain actually holds a one-point lead in a new Rasmussen daily tracking poll. The first lead he‘s held in that poll.
And while these daily polls tend to fluctuate a lot, the first question tonight: Did these McCain attacks work?
Here now: Democratic analyst, Tanya Acker; MSNBC political analyst, Craig Crawford; and, Republican strategist, Andrea Tantaros.
Craig, did they work?
CRAIG CRAWFORD, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALSYT: Sure seemed to in the numbers. I think it stirred up a lot of Republicans who‘d been all that complacent about McCain.
So, he‘s rallied his own troops within the Republican Party with these attacks and, I think, he created some doubt on independent voters who are going back and forth on Obama. Here‘s a new face on the political scene and they haven‘t really made a firm decision. We‘ve been seeing these independents (INAUDIBLE).
This was a crack hit. I don‘t know if it‘s lasting or it‘s meaningful but it was a good crack hit that did erase the trip bounce that Obama got in the polls from his foreign trip.
TANYA ACKER, DEMOCRATIC ANALYST: I think they certainly worked and they worked for now but you can only talk about Paris Hilton and Britney Spears for so long, and as you pointed out, Dan, some of the things in these ads were just proven to be plain out false. So, look, I think there certainly -
ABRAMS: But are they working? Are they working?
ACKER: Sure they‘re working. They‘re working now but I think that because they‘re not really geared toward a lot of substance, they‘re not going to carry him through November.
ABRAMS: All right. Andrea, I want to listen to this sound byte and tell me if this matters.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “STUDIO B”/FOX NEWS/APRIL 14)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R-AZ) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Americans want a respectful campaign.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sure.
MCCAIN: They do. They want it. Now, people say, “Well, negative ads move numbers.” They may. But do we have to go to the lowest common denominator? I don‘t think so.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: Does it matter that he said that? I mean, basically, you can just say that, right? And then you can just do the opposite, right? I mean, you can.
ANDREA TANTAROS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Yes, that‘s politics. Someone is going to go negative first at some point. McCain just happened to do it.
I do agree with Tanya. I don‘t think this is sustaining. Ultimately, you‘ve got to give voters a reason to vote for you.
And I would caution Republicans. Don‘t jump up and start clicking your heels together. He‘s only tied. I mean, McCain is a known brand. He‘s had years of public service. He should be way ahead of Barack Obama.
I don‘t think Republicans should be jumping up and down and saying, “This is a win,” because we‘re just tied.
ABRAMS: Look. I think this is a temporary lose for Obama. I think we have to be very careful with these daily tracking polls. But it does seem that there has been some amount of success, if you want to call it that, on the part of these negative ads and I think that some of them have just been pure cheap shots but some of them are working.
Next up: Obama is getting into the attack game after taking fire from McCain for a week. Obama finally fired off an attack of his own, hammering McCain for the recent contributions he‘s received from loyal bigwigs.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, OBAMA CAMPAIGN AD)
NARRATOR: Every time you fill your tank, the oil companies fill their pockets. Now big oil is filling John McCain‘s campaign with $2 million in contributions because instead of taxing their windfall profits to help drivers, McCain wants to give them another $4 billion in tax breaks. After one president in the pocket of big oil, we can‘t afford another.
Barack Obama—a windfall profits tax on big oil to give families $1,000 rebate. A president who‘ll stand up for you.
SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D-IL) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I‘m Barack Obama and I approve this message.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: And, I mean, Andrea, this is a key issue, but part of it is sort of like blah, blah, blah, blah—George Bush and John McCain together. I mean, right? I mean, there is some element of that that makes this ad effective. You can say, “Well, wait a second. What happened as a result? But, oh, wait. McCain and Bush together—bad for John McCain.”
TANTAROS: Yes, you know, Democrats have actually taken a vacation from linking the two together for the last couple weeks. So, I knew it was coming back. I think most Republicans did. It‘s no surprise.
I think that voters want to hear candidates talk about gas prices. But when gas rises above $4 a gallon, voters become very sophisticated about the issue and I think this looks like a gimmick. I mean, traditionally, voters are also very skeptical about punitive wealth transfer programs, taking from one and giving to the other.
And I just don‘t understand how this is going to translate to voters with Barack Obama is pro-conservative saying, “I‘m going to take money that‘s not mine and give it to you so you can put more oil in your tank”?
That doesn‘t exactly sound like a -
ABRAMS: Look, whether it‘s good policy or not, Craig, the bottom line is—it is hard to suggest that it‘s not politically popular to say, “Taking profits from oil companies is good.”
CRAWFORD: Yes. Well, I like this ad for its blend of mild attack on character as well as issue. And, you know, presidential campaigns ultimately are about character and they‘re going after trying to say McCain‘s hypocritical with his campaign finance reform stance and the Bush third term argument. That is something that the Obama folks found did work right after the primaries ended, that Obama go back (ph) with that Bush third term argument -
ABRAMS: What about the $2 million in contributions, Craig? I mean, Craig, the $2 million in contributions seem to be—one of the big attacks here is the notion that he sort of changed his position on this and then suddenly gets all these donations from the oil companies.
CRAIG: Yes. And apparently they overstated the amount. But it was closer to $1 million than $2 million but sort of doesn‘t matter, I guess.
ABRAMS: Yes. I‘m not certain. I‘m not certain that that amount.
All right. Look, Tanya, you want to weigh in this real quick and then I‘m going to go to the next one?
ACKER: Yes, sure. Here‘s the thing. And I think it‘s a good ad because, one, we‘re talking about an issue that Americans care about. Now, it may be true that some of the things in the ad may be overstated, but we‘re talking about a key issue—energy, the economy, dollars in pockets, and these are the issues that Obama is going to have to keep honing in on.
ABRAMS: All right. This next one is sort of related. I‘m going to call that one, the ad a win for Obama.
But the next one relates to the same issue, all right? And this is one of the key issues in this campaign. Obama, it seems, flopping on offshore oil drilling. For weeks now, he‘s campaigned on his opposition to drilling, arguing it won‘t create short-term relief. He seems to be reversing his position, announcing that maybe he‘d be open to it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: If we can come up with a genuine, bipartisan compromise in which I have to accept some things I don‘t like, or the Democrats have to accept some things they don‘t like, and a change for actually moving us in the direction of energy independence, then that‘s something I‘m open to.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: All right. Tanya, I‘m going to put this in fair context. You can‘t discuss Obama flipping at all on offshore drilling without pointing out McCain flipped on the very same issue in the very same direction. But is it fair to call it a flip here?
ACKER: I do not think it‘s fair at all, Dan, because here‘s the reason why. The Bush years have so made us, so made (ph) -- politicians so reluctant to engage in any kind of compromise at all that that we now tend to think it‘s a bad thing. Obama has continued to say he‘s against the offshore drilling but he may have to go down that direction in order
(INAUDIBLE) to get some -
ABRAMS: But can‘t you say that about any issue, Tanya? I mean, any issue, you could take the position, “I‘m opposed to it but if it requires compromise, you know, I‘m willing to give in on certain things.” I mean, does it have nothing to do with the fact, Tanya, that when, in a CNN/Opinion Research Poll taken—would you support offshore drilling, 69 percent of people are saying yes, 30 percent opposed to it?
ACKER: I‘m not so naive as to suggest that that polling and the public support for offshore drilling might have something to do with this. But I think it‘s important to remember—it‘s also important to remember that Obama has said that any offshore drilling that he would support would be a part of a larger energy package. That we haven‘t yet seen Republicans get behind.
ABRAMS: You‘re not fine with (ph) it, Andrea?
TANTAROS: Can we roll -
ACKER: You know, compromise—compromise is a slippery slope.
TANTAROS: Oh, come on. Can we please roll some b-roll from the last couple weeks of all the Democrats that have gone after me and Republicans because John McCain flip flopped on this? I mean, this is a flip flop. We know Barack Obama is just another politician. Come on, Tanya.
ABRAMS: It‘s not quite a flip. I mean Obama, I mean, McCain is actually saying that we should now pursue this. Obama is saying he‘s open to it. I mean, there is a fundamental difference, right?
TANTAROS: Yes, he‘s known for also finessing and nuancing his positions very, ever so slightly, so he‘s straddling the fence. But, Dan, here‘s why I think it‘s a loss. I think it‘s a loss because it‘s going to seem like he‘s abandoning his base on this.
And when you lump it together with voting with Republicans on the FISA bill, when you look at his position nuanced on Iraq, then you add this, his base is saying, “Wait a minute.” Now, we know Bill Clinton abandoned his base but he did it after he got into the White House. I don‘t know. I don‘t think it plays well.
ABRAMS: Well, I think Bill Clinton‘s base may have been, you know, a more centrist base. But what do you make of that, Craig?
CRAWFORD: Well, you know, the flip flopping to me is just so 2004. I mean, we talked about it so much in that campaign. I‘m not sure if I think voters expect politicians to flip flop.
You know, I wrote a book of political rules and one of my rules is, you know, never keep your word when circumstances change. And that‘s the rule politicians follow.
ABRAMS: Yes. Well, look. I think, I‘m going to give this one a draw. I‘m not sure McCain will be able to get too much traction out of this, particularly, considering the fact that he absolutely flipped on it and Obama kind of flipped on it.
So, all right. Everyone is staying with us.
Coming up: Bill Clinton weighs in on Obama with what you could say is a less than glowing endorsement. And Paris Hilton‘s mom may have donated to the max (ph) to McCain but now she‘s furious with him for using Paris in a campaign ad.
Who won the day? Coming up.
And more details of a top government scientist who may have been responsible for the anthrax attacks. Days after his suicide, new questions tonight.
Plus, President Bush in Congress, shirking their responsibility to figure out how America can meet its energy needs. I‘ll tell you why it‘s another reason Why America Hates Washington, and coming up in just 60 seconds.
ABRAMS: Tonight‘s edition of Why America Hates Washington: Talk about putting energy independence on the backburner. Three years ago, Congress passed the Energy Policy Act creating a panel that would eventually recommend ways for the U.S. to meet its own energy needs. But, alas, since 2005, the “Washington Times” reports that panel has been empty. The president never nominated anyone to serve on it and neither did Congress.
Despite gas prices hovering around $4 a gallon, the White House says they don‘t plan on playing catch-up either, saying that time for such a commission has passed. Dropping the ball on energy independence and then giving up on it completely—another reason Why America Hates Washington.
Up next: Kathy Hilton slamming John McCain‘s celebrity ad pitching her daughter. It seems she wants her donations back. Coming up.
ABRAMS: Welcome back.
We‘re still On Their Trail: deciding who won the day, Obama or McCain. On the score card right now, we‘ve got one win, one loss for Obama and one draw.
The panel is back with us.
Next up: Bill Clinton finally talking about Obama. But it sure doesn‘t sound like he‘s enjoying it much. He was interviewed on ABC.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “GOOD MORNING AMERICA”/ABC)
KATE SNOW, ABC NEWS: Is he ready to be president?
BILL CLINTON, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: You could argue that no one‘s ever ready to be president. I mean, I certainly learned a lot about the job in the first year. You could argue that even if you‘ve been vice president for eight years that no one can ever be fully ready for the pressures of the office and that everyone learns something and something different. You could argue that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: Yes, you could argue that, Craig. You could. But, I mean—I mean, is he trying to hurt Obama subtly here?
CRAWFORD: Yes, saying you could argue that Obama is ready to be president. Not exactly a hearty endorsement. I think that‘s how it‘s going to stay. You know, everything I‘ve heard from people around Bill Clinton is he is still boiling angry about being called a racist back in that campaign in the primaries and I don‘t believe he‘s going to get over it.
ABRAMS: Well, here‘s more from that same interview with Bill Clinton.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “GOOD MORNING AMERICA”/ABC)
SNOW: Do you, personally, have any regrets about what you did campaigning for your wife?
CLINTON: Yes, but the ones you think. And it would be counterproductive for me to talk about it. There are things that I wish I‘d urged her to do, things I wish I had said. Things I wish I hadn‘t said.
But I am not a racist. I never made a racist comment and I never attacked him personally.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: I mean, Tanya, doesn‘t the Obama camp need to somehow figure out a way to get the Clintons on their side?
ACKER: I think that after Hillary Clinton‘s very full-throated endorsement, people are probably going to be ready to let sleeping dogs lie with respect to Bill Clinton.
ABRAMS: Apparently. But does that mean?
ACKER: You know, look. I think that—I don‘t think there‘s going to be a big push to try to get him to be a cheerleader at this point. He‘s clearly still very angry, very wounded. Look, here‘s a guy who Toni Morrison called the “first black president” and now he‘s on the defensive trying to suggest to the world he‘s not a racist, which I do not think he is for one second.
But, you know, I think that the feelings are still bruised. It‘s wounded. And, frankly, this is not his campaign. To the extent that there is a Clinton who‘s a player right now, it‘s Hillary Clinton and she‘s the voice that we should be like to (ph) hear.
ABRAMS: So, is this—considering what we talked about with the polls earlier, and this it‘s another reason for maybe Obama to think again about Hillary Clinton as a possible V.P., Andrea?
TANTAROS: You know what? I don‘t know about that, but let‘s do a little addition. 2008, let‘s see, plus four, 2012. That‘s exactly what the Clintons are thinking about here.
ABRAMS: But if they‘re thinking 2012, if that‘s what they‘re thinking about, they should be entirely behind Obama 100 percent.
TANTAROS: Well, I don‘t think—yes, you‘d think. But they are just they‘re so proud, they‘re so angry that they lost this thing and, frankly, I think it‘s a loss any time Bill Clinton comes out on the campaign trail, I think it‘s a lose for Obama. He got his wife completely off message. He‘s a distraction and I think he does the same thing for him.
ABRAMS: I think this is a loss for Obama. I think they‘ve got to figure out how to get the Clintons onboard. Maybe they have to have another meeting with him, sit down, and say to Bill, “Oh, you know, you‘re great and we love you and we need you.”
TANTAROS: Here‘s a ticket to China.
ABRAMS: Yes, exactly. You know, do something.
All right. Finally, it looks as though John McCain has lost a big donor, yes, Kathy Hilton, one-time big contributor and Paris Hilton mom, slamming McCain for his ad comparing Obama to Paris and Britney Spears as symbols of buffed (ph) fame.
Kathy Hilton saying of the ad, quote, “It is a complete waste of the money John McCain‘s contributors have donated to his campaign. It is a complete waste of the country‘s time and attention at the very moment when millions of people are losing their homes and their jobs. And it is a completely frivolous way to choose the next president of the United States.”
Andrea, when you are the candidate getting body slammed verbally by Kathy Hilton, there is a problem, is there not? And when she‘s right?
ABRAMS: I mean, is that correct (ph)?
TANTAROS: Well, Kathy Hilton actually just summed up, I think, what all of us think about the coverage of her daughter all these years. I mean, I can‘t believe even what we‘re talking about the Hiltons at times -
ABRAMS: Well, we‘re talking about it because John McCain put her in an ad.
TANTAROS: Hey, I thought the ad was infantile and sophomoric (ph). I‘ve said it before. This isn‘t a campaign for class president of a high school at Ridgemont High. This is a campaign for president of the United States.
And, Kathy Hilton, you‘re right—Kathy Hilton, talking about this, I mean, come on.
ABRAMS: But, Craig, I mean, look. You know, it is—look, it‘s silly, but on the other hand, does it show bad judgment on the part of the McCain camp that they put out this ad and have now had an extended period of people being able to say—even Republicans like Andrea—saying, “Oh, we‘re ashamed by this”?
CRAWFORD: But, Dan, we talked earlier about, you know, McCain winning the week and doing so well in the polls and this is one of the things that contributed to that. You know, I actually had a little contrarian view. I think that ad was kind of effective on one level. They went right at Obama‘s greatest strength which is his celebrity, that at his popularity, and they argued by comparing it to these two—but it was empty, that it was vacuum.
And that‘s the argument they‘re trying to make.
ABRAMS: Yes. I can‘t, look—real quick, Tanya, I can‘t imagine this is one of the ads that work but what do I know. Real quick, Tanya.
ACKER: I think that it did work to some extent but only to a limited extent.
ACKER: And to only—to a limited extent because again, he‘s trying to portray as Obama as a vacuous person but which is silly, and by the way, when Kathy Hilton starts to lecture you on how.
ABRAMS: I know.
ACKER: the nonsense that you‘re making, I think it completely back fired.
ABRAMS: All right, look. I‘m calling it a loss for McCain not just because Kathy Hilton is blasting him, but because he had, you know, no reason to go here. The ad is, I think, unnecessary, trivial. He‘s got people on the right now getting upset at him about the ad, etcetera.
At least on my score card, a final score tonight of two losses for Obama, one win, one loss for McCain, and one draw tonight.
Real quick, I need a one-word answer. Who won the day? Andrea?
ABRAMS: Wow. Everyone says McCain.
ABRAMS: I think, look, I think McCain won the day, too, because of those polls that show him coming up in the polls against Barack Obama. I guess the most important thing we heard today.
Tanya Acker, Craig Crawford, Andrea Tantaros, thanks a lot.
Coming up: The mother who waited a month to report her two-year-old daughter missing will not get immunity to start talking to investigators. And today, Caylee‘s grandparents are questioned by investigators as well.
Plus, three women volunteer for a CBS segment on losing weight before Labor Day. On week two of the project, let‘s just say, things didn‘t seem to be going so well. That‘s next in Beat the Press.
Your VERDICT—e-mail us at: Verdict.msnbc.com. Your e-mails are on the P.O.‘ed box at the end of the show. Please include your name, where you‘re writing from. Back in a minute.
ABRAMS: It‘s time for tonight‘s Beat the Press.
First up: Imagine this. You‘re a nutritionist brought onto CBS for a segment on women trying to lose weight by Labor Day. You give tips on helping them with that goal. On week two of the project, this happens.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “THE EARLY SHOW”/CBS/SATURDAY)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE REPORTER: Your starting weight is 201 pounds.
You want to lose 30 pounds. Step over here on the scale. I‘m sure it‘s not nerve-racking at all for you, Karla, is it? So actually, so, Karla went up. You started off last week at 118 pounds. And your goal is to lose 10.
Go ahead and step on that scale. I think that says, what it says is 119.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (INAUDIBLE).
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE REPORTER: Yes. The scale tells the tale. Come on over and step on. All right. (INAUDIBLE). She went up (ph).
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Maybe, we should check that scale.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: All right. Erica handled it well. The scale was off. But, yikes.
Next up: The “culture warrior,” Bill O‘Reilly had another segment on same sex kissing and focused on a singer, Katy Perry and her hit song “I Kissed a Girl” after she appeared on “The View” and Whoopi Goldberg kissed her. But in a rare show of intellectual independence, analyst Bernie Goldberg called out FOX for exploiting it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “THE O‘REILLY FACTOR”/FOX NEWS/THURSDAY)
BILL O‘REILLY, FOX HOST: I got a lot of mail from conservative, traditional Americans who said to me, “Look—we understand this isn‘t some big deal but we don‘t want our children subjected to this.”
BERNARD GOLDBERG, FOX NEWS ANALYST: It‘s all about creating a buzz and breaking through the clatter and it‘s the exact same reason that FOX News promotes (ph) this kissing segment all day today.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: Wow, Bernie Goldberg, very nice.
Finally: A serious and much more serious note, a serious shot at the FOX News cameraman Chris Jackson traveling with the marines in Afghanistan. An IED detonated near their convoy. Jackson was injured in the blast but still managed to help save the life of a wounded marine.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “FOX AND FRIENDS”/FOX NEWS)
CHRIS JACKSON, FOX NEWS CAMERAMAN: The cabin was on fire and I jumped out. I went, grabbed the sergeant out of the shotgun seat, pulled him out. Now, the ammunition started cooking (ph) off. We checked him over, his leg was injured. We then carried him away behind the second armored Humvee because the ammunition from the first armored Humvee was cooking off and firing in all directions.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: The journalist who can make us all proud of his actions.
Up next: Investigators question the grandparents of missing toddler, Caylee Anthony, today. Her mother waited more than a month to report her missing. Now, her grandfather is talking about the tough questions he asked his daughter at a jailhouse meeting over the weekend.
We‘ll hear from him next.
And later, the anthrax attacks terrified the nation in 2001, allegedly, an inside job by a top government scientist. But not everyone thinks the feds have pointed to the right guy. We‘ve got some new details tonight.
ABRAMS: Welcome back. Breaking new details in the search for missing two-year-old Caylee Anthony. The State‘s Attorney‘s Office has confirmed that, quote, “someone asked about immunity for mom Casey Anthony in exchange for her offering up information, but the authorities say it‘s not happening. The spokesman for the State Attorney‘s Office released a statement tonight saying, quote, “We are not entertaining immunity for anyone involved in this case.”
This news comes hours after Caylee‘s grandparents met with investigators to go over the timeline of events. Caylee, last seen in the middle of June; her mother Casey waited over a month to report her missing. She is now charged with, among other things, lying to authorities. Casey‘s father, George Anthony, spoke to our Orlando affiliate, WESH, and says mom Casey still knows where Caylee is and expects her back for her third birthday on Saturday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE ANTHONY, FATHER OF CASEY ANTHONY: I asked her a couple of specific questions, where is she at? “Dad, she‘s safe.” I‘m worried about the family. So that‘s all I can really say.
She knows who has her daughter. She knows her daughter‘s safe. And I‘ve got to believe her that she knows everything is OK. And, I mean, do I think she‘s not again involved in something? Possibility. I don‘t know. If she‘s back for her third birthday, it‘s going to be a (UNINTELLIGIBLE) party at house where you have that huge cul-de-sac where I live at. That‘s where the party is going to be.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: Here now, Mark Williams, news director for Florida‘s WNDB, defense attorney Nicole DeBorde and former FBI profiler and MSNBC analyst Clint Van Zandt. Thanks to all you.
All right. Mark, just so I understand this, that‘s an astonishing statement, the notion that she‘s saying she thinks that Caylee will be back by Saturday and that she knows where she is? How would we then explain why she‘s still sitting behind bars?
MARK WILLIAMS, NEWS DIRECTOR, WNDB: Who knows? I mean, you know, we‘ve always heard about this mysterious babysitter or nanny that she allegedly dropped Caylee off with who has not been seen. And, of course, this took place during a jailhouse visit over the weekend when Casey told father George that, “Oh, yes. She‘s safe. I have a gut feeling. And she‘ll show up at her third birthday party.” I just find this unbelievable.
CLINT VAN ZANDT, FORMER FBI PROFILER: Dan, the only thing that‘s more absurd here is the mother standing up for the daughter and saying, “Oh, yes. She knows where she‘s at and everything‘s OK.” Dan, if she knows - number one, she‘s contradicted herself. One time she says, “I know where she is. She‘s safe. And I‘m afraid for the family.” But, at other times, she said, “You think if I knew where she was I wouldn‘t tell somebody?”
VAN ZANDT: You know, I mean, we‘ve got this contradictions flying against each other all the time.
ABRAMS: Nicole? I mean, as a defense attorney, how do you go about making sense of what do seem like contradictory statements?
NICOLE DEBORDE, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Well, I mean, this is pretty much a nightmare. As a defense attorney, there‘s only so much you can do to control a client and you can‘t duck tape their mouth shut. If they‘re going to continually talk and make absurd statements, there‘s almost nothing you can do about it.
On the other hand, it certainly starts to make a person wonder whether there‘s a psychological or mental health concern here.
ABRAMS: Yes. All right. Let me play this piece of sound again. This is from the grandfather. And remember those photos that came out of her partying? Well, it seems like the grandfather‘s offering up an explanation. Let‘s listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE ANTHONY: I think I heard you say now those were actually taken when Casey was pregnant, is that right?
If you look at the one and I don‘t want to be too overly dramatized.
When she‘s standing like this and sticking her belly, that‘s the child. That‘s going back three years ago or close to three years ago. The other ones where she‘s hanging onto a pole or she‘s having fun, stuff like that, those happened prior to June 13th.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER: OK.
GEORGE ANTHONY: Prior to it. We have documentation. A gentleman is getting a statement.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: Is that right, Mark? I mean, somebody has given a statement to the effect these were taken before June 13th?
WILLIAMS: I think some of them were taken before June 14th but again, Dan, as you know, those photos that were released late last week show her partying at The Fusion here in downtown Orlando. It‘s a party club basically.
ABRAMS: But the date is so important, right? I mean because -
ABRAMS: The reason that these photos became so significant was because there was the suggestion, there was the belief that she was partying after the date when her daughter went missing. Is that now in question?
WILLIAMS: No, I don‘t think that part is in question because as you see, some of the photos that were shown were five days after Caylee went missing. The photographer says he has a time stamp on that. So it‘s pretty well set. Five days after her daughter was missing, she‘s not looking for her daughter. She‘s out having a great time.
ABRAMS: Clint, the problem is it‘s almost like with the information that we get out of this, it‘s almost like “Confucius say, blank,” and then you have to try to make sense of what it is that they‘re talking about.
VAN ZANDT: What drives me nuts in this case, Dan, is you‘ve got this young woman, 22 years old, who has the key. She knows where her daughter is but she‘s sitting there with her arms crossed, not telling anybody. Her mother is saying, “Yes, she‘s not really lying. She‘s just telling different stories.”
And now you‘ve got someone coming forward saying, “Let‘s play make a deal. I tell you what, maybe she‘ll tell you what happened to the little girl if you give her immunity.” Immunity be damned, this woman knows what happened to her daughter or did something to her. And she is the last person in the world that ought to get a deal just to satisfy our curiosity.
ABRAMS: And yet again, Nicole, in the ever confusing angles of this case, her lawyer is saying, he didn‘t ask for immunity. The authorities are saying, someone asked for immunity. I mean, nothing about this case makes any sense.
DEBORDE: No, it‘s very confusing and of course, any defense attorney who is offered immunity is probably going to take that kind of a deal because what that actually means is that the person who confesses or gives information might not be prosecuted for giving that information or confession. So it‘s a big deal to receive immunity.
VAN ZANDT: Dan, this is one of those cases where they say, “Do you swear to tell the truth,” and everybody crosses their fingers before they talk.
ABRAMS: Mark Williams, Nicole DeBorde, Clint Van Zandt. If you‘ve got any information again, the Orange County Sheriff‘s Department 800-423-TIPS.
Up next, major developments in the deadly 2001 anthrax attacks. A suspect in that case commits suicide as the Justice Department closed in on him. But now, new details about his fascination with a college sorority that could provide some important clues. Still, not everyone thinks the feds are pointing the right guy.
And coming up, an excuse to run panda video. Yes, San Diego Zoo put on a birthday bash, two rare great giant pandas and we‘re going to show it in 60 seconds.
ABRAMS: Now to “Reality Bites,” a dose of reality caught on tape. This is what is known as a ratings ploy. We bring you a panda party at the San Diego Zoo, where sisters Zhen Zhen and Su Lin celebrated their birthdays. The rare giant panda cubs marked the occasion with a jumbo-sized frozen cake. Zhen Zhen is a year older than her sister. The pandas are on loan from the Chinese government. They‘re only 1,600 of them left in the world. This has nothing to do with the fact that I watched “Kung-Fu Panda” on the plane late yesterday.
ABRAMS: Bizarre details emerging tonight about the government scientist who took his own life just as the investigation was heating up into the deadly anthrax attacks. NBC‘s Pete Williams has more information about top anthrax suspect Bruce Ivins.
PETE WILLIAMS, NBC CORRESPONDENT: In the community around Fort Dietrich, Maryland, home of the Army‘s bio-weapons lab, Dr. Bruce Ivins was well-liked, playing in a band and at church and volunteering at the local Red Cross. Neighbors said they liked and trusted him.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Now, we thought this guy is really a saint. That was the impression we always had.
P. WILLIAMS: But at a court hearing two weeks ago, a therapist said as long ago as a year before the anthrax mailings, Ivins plotted violent attacks.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE THERAPIST: As far back as the year 2000, the respondent has actually attempted to murder several other people, either through poisoning. He is a revenge killer.
P. WILLIAMS: Last week, he took an overdose of painkillers at home and died two days later. His lawyer blamed, quote, “the relentless pressure of accusation and innuendo.” The FBI says the heart of its case is a DNA fingerprint of the anthrax sent through the mail. Officials say it matches anthrax found at the Fort Dietrich lab where Ivins worked in a container the FBI believes only he had access to. The FBI‘s Joseph Persichini who oversaw the case says the DNA test was a big breakthrough.
JOSEPH PERSICHINI, FBI: That science has been developed while we were investigating so I think that makes it so unique.
P. WILLIAMS: That will be controversial. Some outside experts say they doubt DNA analysis of anthrax can be that definitive. Officials also say they determined that the postage, prepaid envelopes, the letters came in, were actually purchased at a post office just a few blocks from the Fort Dietrich laboratory. As for a possible motive, Dr. Ivins filed for patents on the military anthrax vaccine he helped develop and some investigators believe he stood to gain financially or professionally.
ABRAMS: Joining me now Robert Graysmith, author of “Amerithrax: The Hunt for the Anthrax Killer” and former FBI profiler Clint Van Zandt.
I want to start with another development, though, today. Federal officials say that Ivins was obsessed with a sorority, Kappa Kappa Gamma, going all the way back to his days in college in Ohio. Well, it turns out the deadly anthrax-laden envelopes were sent from a mail box less than a hundred yards away from an office used by the Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority chapter at Princeton University. All right, so Mr. Gray Smith, have the feds, do you think, made a compelling case?
ROBERT GRAYSMITH, AUTHOR, “AMERITHRAX: THE HUNT FOR THE ANTHRAX KILLER”:
Well, just listening now, it certainly is compelling but there was a reason I ended my book with the parable or the cautionary tale of Richard Jewell and Dr. Hatfield‘s(ph) statements about his life had been destroyed. I still want to be careful but it does sound very intriguing.
ABRAMS: All right. Clint, I want to read this thing from “The New York Daily News,” and this is disturbing if it‘s true - that, “FBI director Robert Muller was beaten up during President Bush‘s morning intelligence briefings for not producing proof the killer spores were the handiwork of terrorist mastermind Osama Bin Laden. ‘They really wanted to blame somebody in the Middle East,‘ the retired senior FBI official said.” What do you make of that, Clint?
VAN ZANDT: Well, I‘ve heard of things, allegations like that before. I can tell you my experience in 25 years is that when these types of cases, the bureau never caved in. They never said, “OK. Let‘s set a straw man up and knock him over again.” Now there are people who have come up. We‘ve made reference to Richard Jewell. We‘ve made reference to others. You know, Richard Jewell, like supposedly Dr. Hatfield(ph) who was just cleared and given $5.8 million for the problems the government created for him. Some suggest both of these men in these two separate cases made themselves suspects by what they said or did. That doesn‘t excuse an overzealous investigation.
But, Dan, after 9,100 or more interviews in this case and the circumstantial evidence that I‘ve heard so far, it sounds like they‘ve got a good chance of having their man.
ABRAMS: And, Mr. Graysmith, I mean, look, this is a case that you‘ve been following for a long time now. Without that DNA that we were talking about before, where did Ivins sort of fit among potential suspects in this case?
GRAYSMITH: Well, you know, their previous suspect, person of interest, was a virologist. The fact that he‘s a microbiologist really fits and hearing about for instance the anger, you have to realize that “Amerithrax,” the code name for the anthrax killer, was an extraordinarily cruel man. I remember the timing on the letters so soon after 9/11 and the fact that I had given him the benefit of the doubt for mailing anthrax and not knowing the microns are so small that they could go through the pores of the envelope and contaminate other letters. But he continued to send the letters, so you were looking for somebody awfully cruel. I‘ve always been a little concerned about the Princeton mail box, though, because even though that was a regular post box, that day, it was being used as a storage box and I always wondered if there was some cross contamination involved.
ABRAMS: That‘s interesting. And you still think that that‘s an issue?
GRAYSMITH: Not an issue but you always want to leave your mind open to certain things. I remember that when Mohamed Atta was - you know, the White House was calling the FBI every two hours after the first victim, Bob Stevens‘(ph) death, because Atta had shown up in Boca Raton at a pharmacy and looking for apparently anthrax antibiotics.
GRAYSMITH: But it turned out to be a contamination on his hands, so that was a misplaced rumor.
ABRAMS: Right. And look, that is - the concern of course, is the notion that the investigation was somehow politicized but we‘ll continue to discuss this. Robert Graysmith, Clint Van Zandt, thanks very much.
GRAYSMITH: Thank you.
VAN ZANDT: Thank you.
ABRAMS: Up next, well tonight‘s big winner or loser, Hollywood star Mary Kate Olsen reportedly seeking immunity before she‘ll talk about the death of her friend Heath Ledger; Brangelina twins, starring in a magazine photo shoot that makes them the world‘s most expensive babies; or yours truly with his most expensive suit alongside star singer Mariah Carey on “The Jimmy Kimmel Show”? Plus, your E-mails, we call it the “P.O.‘d Box.” We‘ll be right back.
ABRAMS: It is time for tonight‘s “Winners and Losers,” and back with us, the ever popular, Contessa Brewer. Contessa, your fans missed you last week.
CONTESSA BREWER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: My fans are your fans, Dan. All right. First up, Mary Kate Olsen, reportedly demanding immunity before she will speak to authorities about Heath Ledger‘s accidental overdose death. Olsen was a close friend of “The Dark Knight” star and the first person called when a masseuse discovered him unconscious in his Soho apartment. According to “The New York Post,” Mary Kate is the only person connected to the case who, by the way, has not yet spoken to investigators.
Olsen‘s lawyer claims the actress has nothing to hide saying in a statement today, quote, “Mary Kate Olsen had nothing whatsoever to do with the drugs found in Heath Ledger‘s home or his body, and does not know where he obtained them.”
But Dan, you‘ve got to wonder. If she doesn‘t know, then why are the Drug Enforcement Agency officials so intent on talking to her?
ABRAMS: The point here is if it‘s true that she is asking for immunity, there is something going on. What is that? I don‘t know. But, just as important, is the fact that she is now getting all of this horribly negative press. That‘s why I think she is a loser today.
BREWER: How is that any different than the last five years for her?
ABRAMS: Yes. That‘s a fair point. But this is kind of different. I mean this is not like, you know, “Oh she dresses badly. Or “She doesn‘t eat enough. Or “She is not nice to people around her.” This is about an investigation.
BREWER: You know way more about Mary Kate than I thought.
ABRAMS: Thank you. You like that I rattled that out.
ABRAMS: By the way, I didn‘t prepare that.
BREWER: Right. I know.
ABRAMS: But I think in the end, she‘s - I‘m sure her lawyer is going to let her talk and I‘m sure she is going to - they‘re going to be able to work this out if the immunity thing (UNINTELLIGIBLE).
BREWER: I think if you are a real friend, you‘d talk to authorities. Loser in my book.
OK. Next up, the first photos of Brangelina‘s twins revealed today in “People” magazine and in British publication “Hello.” Brad Pitt and Angelina reportedly were paid a record-breaking $14 million for those photos which they say they were going to donate to charity. Already, a controversy has erupted over the broad smile young Vivien is sporting. Parenting experts say, Dan, that babies don‘t smile until they are at least two to four months old. And young Vivien and Knox were reportedly born just three weeks ago.
I say reportedly, because rumor mill is working overtime that they may have been born, say, in June when “Entertainment Tonight” first reported it. And therefore, the babies would actually be about two months old on the verge of smiling.
ABRAMS: All right. Here are the losers, all right? The losers are the “parenting experts,” quote, unquote, who are examining the smile to assess whether that could actually be the smile of a child of a particular age. I mean, honestly, you look at the photo. Is it a smile? Is it a mouth open?
BREWER: Is it gas?
ABRAMS: Right? I mean, who knows what that is, the idea that, “Oh, that shows us how old the child is.” I mean, again, I don‘t have children so I‘m going to get a lot of -
BREWER: You‘re not a dad, but you played one TV.
ABRAMS: I‘m going to get a lot of parents, I think, saying to me, “Dan, what do you know?” And that is a fair question to ask in this regard. I respond by saying I still find it hard to believe you can assess anything from that photo as to using just the smile to determine age.
BREWERS: OK. Well, I say they‘re winners, because, A, they hit the genetic jackpot. I mean, they‘re going to be beautiful babies and most expensive babies in the world. But, was it (UNINTELLIGIBLE).
ABRAMS: Maybe the parents don‘t always have beautiful children.
BREWER: If there are two beautiful parents, they always do. One ugly parent, one beautiful parent -
ABRAMS: I‘m not going to start naming names.
BREWER: Our last topic of the night, “The Jimmy Kimmel Show.” There he was last week, talking to superstar Mariah Carey? Oh, yes, and then a familiar face came out and shared his, well, his experience with the earthquake that hit southern California.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS (on camera): But the first thing I do of course is call my news desk and say, “You know, I‘m convinced there was an earthquake. It was definitely an earthquake. I‘m pretty sure.” And so they say, yes, yes. So then I go on the air.
JIMMY KIMMEL, HOST, “THE JIMMY KIMMEL SHOW”: Right.
ABRAMS: I‘m on live on the phone, “Dan Abrams joins us from West Hollywood to tell us what he felt.” And you know, the truth is what I felt was not much.
KIMMEL: Yes, right.
ABRAMS: What I felt was kind of small ...
ABRAMS: ... kind of a little bit of movement. What are you seeing outside? He‘s like a real estate agent who‘s like opening the door to show like someone an apartment stuff.
KIMMEL: It didn‘t slow people (UNINTELLIGIBLE).
ABRAMS: No, no, you know there was a crack in the floor that I think was probably there before. So, you know it was - there was not a lot to report.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BREWER: You know what? You were charming, you were funny. I‘m not just sucking up. I have to say, look at, you are versatile - one minute earthquake reporter next minute -
ABRAMS: Here‘s why I was a loser, because everyone in the audience, every single person was there to see Mariah Carey, all right?
BREWER: Even Mariah Carey was impressed.
ABRAMS: I mean, at one point, it was like a pretty funny comment. No one laughed. Jimmy Kimmel said, “All the people are here to see Mariah Carey.” I‘m like -
BREWER: I think you are a winner.
ABRAMS: I‘m like - great. OK.
BREWER: And does everyone watching.
ABRAMS: Contessa Brewer, as always, thank you.
Time for the “P.O.‘d Box,” your chance to tell me what you hate or love about the show. First up, some responded to guest Brad Blakeman‘s comment Thursday that Barack Obama spent less time in Europe than the average American.
Ken Underwood, “The average American spends more time in Europe than Obama did? I must be in the wrong United States, because I can‘t afford to take a vacation to Europe.” A lot of you with that response to Brad.
Many weighed in about McCain‘s campaign ad comparing Obama to Paris Hilton and Britney Spears.
Meritt from Ithaca, New York says, “To think that McCain‘s campaign wasn‘t playing the race card in their recent ad is absurd. Why didn‘t they select Oprah Winfrey, Tom Cruise, Bono, or a number of other celebrities for that comparison, celebrities who actually are remotely interested or even participate in the same arena of talking about policy as the candidates.”
Meritt, because they wouldn‘t have made the silly point that they were trying to advocate. Look, I think it‘s a dumb ad and an ineffective one. But racist? They didn‘t pick Oprah, Cruise or Bono because they‘re real celebrities, not national punch lines. But look, I hear you.
That‘s all the time we have for tonight. You can E-mail me about the show at email@example.com. Please include your name and where you‘re writing from. Visit our Web site - you know, they told me we don‘t have any more time, Contessa. I couldn‘t do the last E-mail. There is someone out there and I forget who it was, whose E-mail I wanted to read. We didn‘t get to Daniel.
BREWER: Tomorrow. Daniel, tomorrow.
ABRAMS: See you, then.
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