'Verdict with Dan Abrams' for Wednesday, August 6

Guest: Jonathan Alter, A.B. Stoddard, Brad Blakeman, Andrew Siff, Lisa Bloom, Kim Serafin, Penny Vandyke, Brian Reich

DAN ABRAMS, HOST:  Hi, everyone.  Welcome to the show.  The day after the McCain camp is mocked by Paris Hilton, they‘re at it again, releasing a new attack ad today asking, could a celebrity really help your kids?

But in reality, isn‘t John McCain actually a bigger celebrity than Barack Obama?  The John McCain who‘s made cameo appearances in “Wedding Crashers” and “24.”  We‘ve got the tape.

With us tonight: Jonathan Alter, A.B. Stoddard, and, Brad Blakeman.  Last week, Team McCain linked Obama to Paris and Britney.  This time around, they drop the dynamic duo but the theme of their attack remains the same.


NARRATOR:  Is the biggest celebrity in the world ready to help your family?  The real Obama promises higher taxes, more government spending.  So, fewer jobs.


ABRAMS:  That‘s right.  Is Obama too much of a celebrity to help your family?

The problem, McCain has been the “political prince of tinsel town” for years.  He appeared on the blockbuster film, “Wedding Crashers,” had a cameo on the show, “24,” and hosted “Saturday Night Live” back in 2002.  Obama appeared on “SNL” on 2007, but not as a host.

Here‘s a little sampling from “SNL” from the man accusing Obama of being a celebrity.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (as David Pemberton):  You‘re so lovely.

AMY POEHLER, ACTRESS (as Gillian Woodward):  Oh!

MCCAIN:  I could watch you for hours.

POEHLER:  Oh, my God, David, how did you get in here?

MCCAIN:  The door was open, Angel.  Shall I loofa your back?

POEHLER:  No, no, don‘t.  I just need a moment to myself.  I‘ll be in in a minute.

MCCAIN:  I‘ll be waiting, my love.  We were meant to be together.


ABRAMS:  Joining me now, “Newsweek” columnist and NBC News analyst, Jonathan Alter; A.B. Stoddard, associate editor of “The Hill; and, former Bush aide, Brad Blakeman.

You actually were there as to filming of that?

JONATHAN ALTER, NEWSWEEK:  Yes.  I went.  We meet a specific point of going.  You know, I also enjoyed in 2000 when McCain would do these little bits for on the bus because one of the ways he would entertain his fellow prisoners in Vietnam was he would recreated old Hollywood movies.  He‘d love movies, love celebrities.

I went with him once to a party loaded with celebrities in Hollywood and I went to that “Saturday Night Live” event and he did a great job.  He‘s a good actor.

ABRAMS:  Yes, he‘s a good actor.  And, Brad, I want to play another piece of sound from John McCain and then I want to ask you about his allegation that Obama‘s too much of a celebrity.


MCCAIN (as David Pemberton):  Hello, Gillian.  I missed you.

POEHLER (as Gillian Woodward):  What are you doing here?

MCCAIN:  The conference was cut short, so I rushed back to see you.

POEHLER:  David, you shouldn‘t sneak up on people like that.  You scared me half to death.

MCCAIN:  Forgive me, darling.  You know I‘d never hurt you.


ABRAMS:  So, Obama‘s too much of a celebrity, right, Brad?

BRAD BLAKEMAN, FORMER BUSH AIDE:  Yes, you bet.  After watching that performance, it‘s clear John McCain is cut out to be a politician.



ALTER:  He‘s great.

BLAKEMAN:  On the other hand, Obama is acting like a president.  He‘s not a president.  Look at that tour he‘d made at Europe.  This is a guy who has no substance, who has no record, parading as president.  That‘s where he‘s playing a role.

ABRAMS:  But see, the problem is, A.B., it seems to me that if you‘re going to accuse someone of something like this, and they clearly decide they‘re going to make this a theme in the campaign, that Obama is a celebrity, somehow the fact that all this, you know, Germans came out to see him, has become a negative for Obama and the McCain camp is now using that.

But if you‘re going to use the term celebrity, you can start talking about Paris Hilton, and you‘re going to start talking about Britney Spears, and yet you‘re the guy who‘s appeared on “SNL” and all these movies, it‘s a little tough to say, isn‘t it?

A.B. STODDARD, THE HILL:  I think that what we‘ve seen here is that John McCain is a bit part actor, but he‘s not a celebrity.  There‘s too many Americans that don‘t remember any of this, that haven‘t seen these cameo appearances.  They maybe know his on Leno or Letterman and can handle it, but don‘t know John McCain as a political celebrity or –

BLAKEMAN:  And thank God they haven‘t see it.

ABRAMS:  But let‘s remind them.  Here‘s another clip from “Saturday Night Live.”


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, ® ARIZONA (singing):  Memories like the corners of my mind misty water colored memories of the way we were—do I know how to sing?  About as well as she knows how to govern America.  Here‘s another gem for you.  Papa, can you hear me, papa can you see me—pretty annoying, huh?


MCCAIN:  John McCain is a funny guy, all right?  This is him on “SNL” but I want to ask about—Maureen Dowd went after him today on this, all right—saying, “John McCain is pea-green with envy.  That‘s the only explanation for why a man who prides himself on honor is engaging in a festival of juvenilia.  ‘John‘s eaten up with envy,‘ says one colleague, ‘his image of himself was always the handsome, celebrity flyboy.  Now somebody else is the celebrity.‘”

What do you make of that, Jon?

ALTER:  I think that‘s dead on.  He‘s a very funny, engaging, charming guy and he feels like the cool kid just passed him in the fast lane and he‘s not happy about it.  But the question is whether this works—to lash at Obama as an empty suit.  It would work if Obama were an empty suit.

I mean, even if you don‘t like his politics, even if you have no intention of voting for him, the guy is a smart guy, as McCain himself had said.  So, the whole subtext of this that he‘s nothing but flash, nothing but a rockstar isn‘t really connected to reality.  And generally, in politics, you‘ve got to have a grain of truth, (INAUDIBLE) to make it stick.

ABRAMS:  A.B., what do you make of that?

STODDARD:  I think that‘s true, but then again, Americans love to hate celebrities and we hate to love celebrities.  And there are these voters that are on the fence that are getting to know both of them, that are looking.  They‘re wary of Barack Obama and they‘re looking for a reason to oppose him and this is of the perfect reason, “Oh, he‘s vacuous, he is an empty suit, now, I get to resist him.”  That‘s why I think it‘s a fact there.

ALTER:  If they‘re looking for an excuse, A.B., I mean, if you don‘t want to vote for him and need some excuse other than that, you know, he‘s black, you can maybe say, “Well, he‘s a vacuous celebrity,” even though he‘s not vacuous.

BLAKEMAN:  Well, let me say this—the American people know what they saw in Europe.  They know what they see at home.  This is a guy who can read a teleprompter, who‘s adored by thousands of people, who doesn‘t like to debate, who‘s very uncomfortable unscripted.  The American people know what they see.


STODDARD:  I would disagree as well.

BLAKEMAN:  He acts like a celebrity.  And that‘s what he likes and what he‘s comfortable with.  And that‘s what he‘s stuffed (ph) with.

But, Jonathan, it does work, he got taken down nine points in the polls when McCain went on the offensive.

ABRAMS:  Yes, but that‘s changed (ph), he‘s come back.  And look -

BLAKEMAN:  It hasn‘t comeback.

ABRAMS:  It actually has according to the latest.

BLAKEMAN:  He‘s not.

ABRAMS:  Look, whether he‘s comeback to nine points is a separate question but—and the latest polls show Obama up by six or five nationwide.

BLAKEMAN:  Which is nothing at this time of (INAUDIBLE)

ABRAMS:  All right.  That‘s a separate question.

ALTER:  We‘re not saying he‘s a shoo-in, Brad.  The point is whether this is a smart thing to do.  You have his own mother saying that this Britney ad was kind of stupid.


ALTER:  You have John Weaver, Alex Castellanos—big names in the Republican Party, big name consultants who think this is—Ed Rollins, who think this is a stupid way for him to go.

ABRAMS:  And here‘s the problem, you got the Reagan Democrats, you got the suburban moms and you got the fans of “Wedding Crashers.”


ABRAMS:  Let‘s listen.


ABRAMS:  Wait, wait.  We‘ve got some clip, I want the clip.  I want the “Wedding Crashers‘” clip.

BLAKEMAN:  No more.


MCCAIN (playing a role):  Congratulations, Catherine (ph).


MCCAIN:  Phil, congratulations.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Thanks, sir (ph).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  (INAUDIBLE) grow up so damn fast.


ABRAMS:  I mean, look, I think it‘s great that McCain is in “Wedding Crashers.”  I love it.  But the notion that he‘s now accusing Obama of being a quote, “celebrity,” to me becomes kind of funny.

BLAKEMAN:  If it walks like a duck and acts like a duck, it‘s a duck.  This guy relishes, the celebrity, until he found out it doesn‘t work for him anymore and it is starting to hurt him.

ALTER:  Are you talking about McCain there, Brad?

BLAKEMAN:  No, I‘m talking about Obama.


ALTER:  They can be a celebrity.  Who doesn‘t want to be?  Look, Paris Hilton is famous for being famous.  And that‘s the definition of a—a celebrity that we love to hate where there isn‘t any substance -

BLAKEMAN:  And Obama‘s famous for being a nominee.

ALTER:  Well, OK, here‘s the question—if Obama is only famous for being famous, if there‘s no substance there, why is he the nominee?  How did he beat Hillary Clinton?  How any of this happened?  So -

BLAKEMAN:  Ask bill Clinton.

ALTER:  There, obviously, is a little more to this than the fact he is merely a celebrity.  It‘s got a little more substance -


ABRAMS:  A.B. has been shaking her head for about 90 seconds.  I have to let her say something.  Hang on.  Let me let A.B., go ahead.

STODDARD:  I kind of agree with both of them.  I mean, I do think it‘s the low road.  I also think it‘s effective.  I did believe that if you brought that original Britney Spears ad to McCain a few months and said this is what we‘re going to do, he would have said, “Not me, no way.”

But I do think it works and I also agree on the same time that, you know—Barack Obama, he created the image in Berlin.  He created a speech so that he could be photographed among hundreds of thousands of people in a swarm.  And there are people looking to resist Barack Obama and looking for a reason besides he‘s black and they found it.

ABRAMS:  Yes, what about the fact that John McCain is willing to impersonate John Ashcroft?

STODDARD:  I think -


ABRAMS:  Hang on, that was my way of getting (ph) to the clip.





UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Mr. Ashcroft, what plans does the Justice Department have to make our country safer?

MCCAIN (as John Ashcroft):  We‘ve got some really great stuff in the works.  There‘s a plan that would make the Arabic language or any thing that sounds like it illegal.  In addition, we‘re going back into 10 years of old files to track terrorist sleeper agents.  Foremost amongst them, Shaquille O‘Neal.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Shaquille O‘Neal—are you serious?

MCCAIN:  Yes, we learned that he was in a Middle Eastern-flavored movie entitled “Kazaam.”  I watched this film last week and from what I can gather, it is some kind of terrorist training video.


ABRAMS:  Let me ask you, Brad, does this new celebrity attack mean that McCain can‘t do anymore appearances like that?

BLAKEMAN:  No, I hope he doesn‘t.  Listen, with his acting ability—this is the bottom line, this is another reason to vote for John McCain.  Do the American people want him doing more stuff like this not only as your president (ph)?


ABRAMS:  All right.  You know, I so enjoyed the Paris Hilton response to John McCain.  We played it yesterday, but, you know, that‘s OK.


ARIS HILTON, CELEBRITY:  Hey, America, I‘m Paris Hilton and I‘m a celebrity, too.  Only I‘m not from the olden days and I‘m not promising change like that other guy.  I‘m just hot.

But then that wrinkly white-haired guy used me in his campaign ad, which I guess means I‘m running for president.  So thanks for the endorsement white-haired dude.

And I want America to know I‘m, like, totally ready to lead.

Now, if you‘ll excuse me, I have to go pick out a vice president; I‘m thinking Rihanna.  I‘ll see you at the White House.  Oh, and I might paint it pink.  I hope that‘s cool with you, guys.  Bye.


ABRAMS:  Brad, your guy is in a public feud with Paris Hilton.

BLAKEMAN:  No, not all.  I think it is funny.  I think, Paris Hilton did a great job.

ABRAMS:  She did do a great job.

BLAKEMAN:  Wonderful.

ABRAMS:  Look, she‘s winning out of this, but does your guy—does John McCain really want to be in sort of a public exchange with Paris Hilton?

BLAKEMAN:  He‘s not.  It was a funny exchange.  Absolutely, take it in the spirit that it was given.  He gave it to Paris, Paris gave it to him.  That was funny.

ABRAMS:  His ad, his first ad wasn‘t that funny though.  I mean -

BLAKEMAN:  I thought it was very funny.

ABRAMS:  The first ad?

BLAKEMAN:  Yes, I did.  You got to get a sense of humor.

ABRAMS:  I guess, I didn‘t know that was supposed to be funny.  But, all right -

BLAKEMAN:  Yes, that was funny.

ABRAMS:  All right, fair enough.  Everyone is staying with us.

Coming up: The far right continues to mock Obama‘s call for inflating tires as a way of saving on gas mileage, a concept McCain and really, anyone who knows anything about anything, endorses.

And: Scarlett Johansson says the media only covered her e-mail relationship with Barack Obama because she‘s a woman.  What about the fact that Obama says it didn‘t really exist?

Plus, tax dollars going towards trying to get illegal immigrants to self-deport by turning themselves in to federal agents.  Another reason Why America Hates Washington is coming up in 60 seconds.


ABRAMS:  Tonight‘s edition of Why America Hates Washington: A new initiative from Immigrations and Customs Enforcement drawing more than a few chuckles.  It seems there so-called “Self Deportation Program” aimed at illegal immigrants is off to a slow start.  Shocker: The idea behind the program, turn yourself in and leave the country within 90 days.

So far, one of the nation‘s nearly 500,000 eligible illegal immigrants had turned themselves in.  In order to make the idea more enticing, ICE has put together an ad campaign targeting ethnic media in five cities.

Selling self-deportation with your tax dollars: Another reason Why America Hates Washington.

We‘re back with more.  And Barack Obama is being pummeled by the right for suggesting that Americans properly inflate their tires.


ABRAMS:  We‘re back.

Tonight, the right-wing media and the McCain campaign continuing to attack Obama over tire gauges.  Yes, it has come to this—Obama‘s sensible suggestion that people properly inflate their tires to help save gas has been over-inflated, and somehow, become a rallying cry for derision from the far right in particular.


SEAN HANNITY, FOX HOST:  He says the solution to our energy problems, if Americans will tune up their cars and inflate their tires.

ANN COULTER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST:  No, I like that one.  I‘m in the same spirit, I think the solution to our nonexistent healthcare crisis is my proposal that everyone eat an apple a day.

RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST:  They continue to push this tire gauge thing.  It‘s an energy plan.  They claim to have found proof somewhere that over-inflating your tires—if we all did it—would save something like 50,000 gallons or barrels a day or some such think.  It‘s just absurd.


ABRAMS:  All right.  So, McCain is raising money now off of the attack line even though McCain himself went a little off message last night.


MCCAIN:  Senator Obama couple of days ago said that we ought to all inflate out tires, and I don‘t disagree with that.  The American Automobile Association strongly recommends it.  But, I also don‘t think that that‘s a way to become energy independent.


ABRAMS:  Back with us: Jonathan Alter, A.B. Stoddard, and Brad Blakeman.

Brad, is this really, this is it?

BLAKEMAN:  This is the metaphor for a failed policy of Barack Obama.  The ridiculousness of the tire gauge, and that‘s all, it‘s taken a farce because it is farcical—his energy policy in total.  And it harkens back to the ‘70s when Jimmy Carter put on a sweater, put the thermostat and the White House (INAUDIBLE).


ABRAMS:  All right.  Let me ask you this, Brad, let me ask you.  Why is what Obama said any different from this comment from John McCain in April?


MCCAIN:  And I‘m sorry to tell you that the price of oil, as far as I can tell, is not going to go down anytime soon until we eliminate our dependency on it.  We can do that as a nation.  We can turn out the lights five minutes earlier.  We don‘t have to drive the extra block.


ABRAMS:  Is John McCain suggesting that his energy policy involves turning out the lights five minutes earlier, Brad Blakeman?

BLAKEMAN:  Not at all, but John McCain put out a comprehensive energy policy.  Unlike, Barack Obama who‘s against nuclear power, who is against drilling and exploiting our own resource.

ALTER:  Not true.

BLAKEMAN:  Barack Obama is putting a Band-Aid on a patient that needs open heart surgery.  It just doesn‘t make sense.  And this is a metaphor for a failed policy.

ABRAMS:  Go ahead.

ALTER:  OK.  This is just going to the well again and trying to make your opponent into a cartoon.  They‘re trying to say that this is the totality of Barack Obama‘s energy policy.  And they‘re trying to “Jimmy Carterized” him.  That‘s what this is really about.  When Carter wore the sweater and right-wingers at that time said, “Oh, that‘s his whole energy policy, to wear sweaters.”  If we‘d actually listen to Jimmy Carter in 1970s, we wouldn‘t be in this pickle.

Then, Reagan came in and Bush, they didn‘t want to do anything to get energy independence.  McCain voted with them all the time on doing nothing to get independent.  Now, they‘re claiming that they‘re the ones who are serious about this and they‘re claiming that Obama doesn‘t have an energy plan, is just not true.

ABRAMS:  Let me play a piece of sound from Obama and then I want to get A.B., her thoughts on it.


OBAMA:  They know they‘re lying about what my energy plan is, but the other thing is, they‘re making fun of a step that every expert says would absolutely reduce our oil consumption by 3 percent to 4 percent.


OBAMA:  It‘s like—it‘s like these guys take pride in being ignorant


ABRAMS:  You know, A.B, Obama seems to be enjoying this one.  I mean, there seems to be a little gleam in his eyes, he‘s responding to McCain.

STODDARD:  What‘s interesting about Barack Obama is that he‘s very good at the comeback.  Often, he waits too long though, and you‘ve been hearing in recent days, Democrats are concerned that McCain‘s attacks are so effective and they‘re coming on so quickly and so strong that Barack Obama hasn‘t been responding quickly enough.  And obviously, I thought it was very effective comeback.

It is—I mean, again, I agree with everybody on different points.  Context has no home in politics and it‘s absolutely false to say that this is his comprehensive energy plan.  At the same time, I understand it was an opening for the McCain campaign because he got out ahead of Barack Obama on the energy issue and to Americans who are hurting, his more of sort of all of the above, “kitchen sink” policy sounds more reasonable right now than Barack Obama.

ALTER:  You know, the thing that happened this week, that kind of went under the radar, but was very important on the energy front, is that Obama essentially flip-flopped on really -

ABRAMS:  He said he‘d be open.  He said he‘d be open to it, he‘s not supporting but if they were part of the more comprehensive plan - yes.

ALTER:  Right.  But because McCain has flip-flopped on so many issues, he can‘t really hit Obama for flip-flopping in this.  So, it was very shrewd defensive move by Obama going into this debates, 69 percent of the public supports more drilling.

ABRAMS:  Right.

ALTER: So, he‘s now taken an issue off the table that McCain will not be able to attack him on or be able to say, hey, in a certain, you know, as part of the comprehensive solution, more drilling is part (ph), he‘ll eliminate that.

ABRAMS:  Yes, real quick, Brad.

BLAKEMAN:  What Barack Obama‘s M.O. is, is he puts up a policy that he waits to see how the wind blows and then flip-flops on it.  He‘s done it time and time and time again.  And all McCain is doing is driving a wedge for once and for all, being on the offense.  I think that‘s great.

ABRAMS:  But, McCain, and we have like a whole list of things McCain flip-flopped on.  I mean, you‘re not going to deny that, right, Brad?



BLAKEMAN:  When you have a political career as lengthy as John McCain‘s, you change your position all the time.

ABRAMS:  This campaign, I‘m talking about -

ALTER:  You can have drilling, McCain was against it until June 23rd.


ABRAMS:  And I don‘t even know that you can call—I mean, look, Obama is not entirely consistent, but McCain has completely flipped from one side to the other.  Obama is now saying he still doesn‘t like it, but if it was part of a necessary - sort of a necessary evil, I don‘t know if that‘s -

ALTER:  That‘s a hedge.

ABRAMS:  It is a hedge.  It‘s a hedge (INAUDIBLE) - but I‘m sure, Brad -


BLAKEMAN:  I think Obama should do a photo op with his (INAUDIBLE) motorcade.

ABRAMS:  All right.  Jonathan Alter, A.B. Stoddard, Brad Blakeman, thanks a lot.  Coming up: The feds are reportedly closed the investigation to Heath Ledger‘s death tonight without enforcing a subpoena against Mary-Kate Olsen.  Why?

And fireworks on FOX News, between an anchor and a former vice presidential candidate over who really knows how Washington works.  That‘s next in Beat the Press.

What‘s your VERDICT?  E-mail us at verdict@msnbc.com. Your e-mails during the P.O.‘ed box at the end of the show.  Please include your name, where you‘re writing from.  We‘re back in a minute.


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

First up: Things got testy over on FOX yesterday between FOX‘s Heather Nauert and Geraldine Ferraro over who knows what about what.


HEATHER NAUERT, FOX HOST:  The whole idea of wanting to run out the clock I think would be so offensive.

GERALDINE FERRARO, GUEST:  Except you don‘t understand what‘s going on in Congress.  What‘s going on Congress.


NAUERT:  Wait, that sounds insulting here.

FERRARO:  I‘m not being insulting.  I served there.  I saw what happened.

NAUERT:  I was a lobbyist in Washington for seven, almost eight years.  I know how the place works and I know that people don‘t get a whole lot done.


ABRAMS:  All right.  I never live in Washington and never been a congressman.  But I have to say, I like both of them, (INAUDIBLE) guys.

Next up, the “Associated Press” reported on President Bush‘s visit to South Korea where he‘s met by some protesters.  Here‘s the quote, “‘I don‘t have anti-U.S. sentiment, I‘m just anti-Bush and anti-Lee Myung-bak,‘” president of South Korea, “said Uhm Ki-woong, a businessman who was wearing a mask and hat like other demonstrators in an apparent attempt to conceal his identity.”  The “Wall Street Journal” points that apparently businessman, Uhm Ki-woong, age 36, wearing a mask and hat did not exactly conceal his identity.

Finally, the trio at “FOX and Friends” once again heralding the successes in Iraq and they said that a new Kentucky Fried Chicken in Fallujah as evidence.


BRIAN KILMEADE, FOX HOST:  The first Kentucky Fried Chicken in Fallujah.  It‘s now open for $3.50.  They‘re having dinner in Iraq.  Fallujah once a stronghold for the insurgents, today, and with improved security, the KFC is a huge hit.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Do they have a drive-thru window?

KILMEADE:  They don‘t, they get in, get out.  And so far, they do it safely.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  That‘s right.  It‘s amazing, isn‘t it?


ABRAMS:  It is amazing, but according to a spokesperson for KFC, it‘s just not true.  The store is not actually a KFC, so the chicken maybe fine, but no kernel, not finger-licking good, and not quite as amazing as it was made out to be.

Up next:  We‘ve got breaking news in the investigation into Heath Ledger‘s death.  It is now closed, leaving many questions for Mary-Kate Olsen unanswered.

And coming up: Crazy 911 calls making cops go crazy.  This one was just released.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I‘ve got a situation here with subway.

I want (INAUDIBLE) sandwiches and (INAUDIBLE) and the other one I asked for some things sandwich.  I didn‘t get what I paid for on the first sandwich that I ordered.


ABRAMS:  It is a real problem.  We have other examples coming up.



ABRAMS:  There is breaking news to report tonight.  Federal officials have closed the investigation into Heath Ledger‘s death.  Now, Mary-Kate Olsen, reportedly getting a pass on talking to authorities for a second time. 

The Associated Press reporting the feds closed their investigations into Heath Ledger‘s death without talking to Mary-Kate Olsen because, quote, “They don‘t believe there‘s a viable target.”  This after she twice refused to talk to investigators without immunity and after authorities had issued a grand jury subpoena but executed it.  Mary-Kate was the first person called by a masseuse who discovered Ledger‘s body after an accidental overdose in January.  She sent her security detail to his apartment.  Authorities reportedly wanted to talk to her about some of the prescription drugs. 

Joining me on the phone now is WNBC reporter Andrew Siff.  He‘s in front of Heath Ledger‘s former apartment.  Andrew, what do you know about them dropping the investigation? 

ANDREW SIFF, WNBC REPORTER (on the phone):  Well, Dan, I think one of the key points is there was a question as to why the investigation was still open.  Because if you consider that the New York City medical examiner had relatively quickly determined the cause of death was accidental drug overdose, it raises the question what was last to be investigated.  They definitely had unanswered questions, such as why did Mary-Kate Olsen not tell everything she knew to authorities or tell anything she knew to authorities, and why did she get that first phone call.  But once the cause of death was determined by the medical examiner, law enforcement agencies had to come up with a theory to continue to pursue it. 

ABRAMS:  All right.  Let me bring in attorney and anchor of “In Session,” Lisa Bloom and “In Touch Weekly” senior editor Kim Serafin. 

All right.  Lisa, explain to us the legalities here.  They apparently had actually had her name on a subpoena, but they never served her with it? 

LISA BLOOM, ATTORNEY AND ANCHOR OF “IN SESSION”:  Right.  Any attorney can file a subpoena and hold it for as long as he or she wants and just use it when you need it.  That‘s not difficult to do.  They‘re using this as leverage to try to work out this deal with immunity.  But Mary-Kate Olsen was really digging in her heels through her attorney, “No, I‘m not testifying without the immunity.”  In my view, in the stare-down today and Mary-Kate Olsen, the feds blinked.

ABRAMS:  Why do think they did that? 

BLOOM:  I think, number one, they don‘t really care that much about prescription drugs, accidental deaths.  Look at Anna Nicole Smith.  It happens a lot.  We should care, but I don‘t think there‘s a lot of law enforcement resources put into this.  They don‘t want to fight Mary-Kate Olsen and her team of attorney year after year on this.  This is just not worth it them.  It was an accidental death, not a homicide.  As to who gave him the Vicodin and the OxyContin, I just don‘t think they want to pursue it. 

ABRAMS:  Andrew, do you agree with that? 

SIFF:  Well, I think the issue is what would they have learned if they had pursued it all the way to the end?  He had five prescription drugs, and two of them there was no legal prescription.  Might they have learned how he obtained them?  Possibly, but what would that have really unlocked in terms of why Heath Ledger died? 

I think there was a question of resources, time and the theory that there was not a crime worth pursuing.  At least that‘s what we‘re hearing at this point.  Worth noting that the NYPD had already closed the investigation and that the Manhattan District Attorney‘s Office didn‘t have an ongoing investigation.  That gives you some insight into the idea that the DEA was a last agency really looking into this.  It really only focused on the prescription drugs. 

ABRAMS:  So Kim Serafin, there‘s still a number of unanswered questions then about Mary-Kate‘s involvement, right?  She‘s the first one called when Ledger‘s body was discovered.  She sent her security guards to the scene.  The NYPD did not interview her - did not get to interview her as part of the investigation.  The lawyer twice refused request from the DEA for interviews with her.  So, we are now left with the news coming tonight that this investigation is closed with a lot of the unanswered questions. 

KIM SERAFIN, SENIOR EDITOR, “IN TOUCH WEEKLY”:  Sure.  And in fact, the masseuse actually called Mary-Kate three times before calling 911.  So I think people still wonder about that.  And of course, as you mentioned, Mary-Kate sent her security guards there.  People, you know, sort of wonder really what happened, why was Mary-Kate called and what did she know about it.  And obviously, we‘ll never probably really know about that. 

Look, I think she probably did the right thing.  I think people still wonder, but she‘s also got a career.  I mean, this is someone who is really acting now.  I mean, she‘s in the “Wackness.”  She was in “Weeds.”  She‘s doing a spot on “Samantha Who.”  She‘s trying to move on, trying to focus on her career.  So for a PR aspect, I think she probably handled it as best she could though questions will definitely linger, I think. 

ABRAMS:  Here‘s what her lawyer had said, all right?  “We provided the government with relevant information including facts in the chronology of events surrounding Mr. Ledger‘s death and the fact that Ms. Olsen does not know the source of the drugs Mr. Ledger consumed.”  That‘s the official statement from the lawyer.

BLOOM:  From the attorney.

ABRAMS:  Right.

BLOOM:  That‘s not Mary-Kate under oath and she never will be under oath now. 

ABRAMS:  But if it‘s the Drug Enforcement Agency that had the questions, it has to be about drugs, right? 

BLOOM:  I would think so.  I think the questions would be, “Mary-Kate, did you use these drugs?  Where did you get the drugs?  Do you know which third party got these drugs and gave him to Heath Ledger?”  And you know, we all say, “Well, it‘s just prescription drugs.”  Twice as many people die from prescription drug overdoses or interactions as from illegal drugs, Dan.  I think it is a serious problem that should be looked into.  Who gave this stuff to him without him having a prescription?  That is a crime.  Is this just a case of celebrity justice where the wealthy and powerful celebrities might belittle, that she‘s an A-list star with a lot of money? 

ABRAMS:  Let‘s be honest. 


If she wasn‘t a celebrity, she definitely wouldn‘t have been charged in connection with this case. 

BLOOM:  I don‘t know that.

ABRAMS:  They do point out they don‘t prosecute these types of illegal prescription drug use almost ever. 

BLOOM:  Yes, that‘s true.  But she was able to say, “I‘m not going to talk with the authorities.”  And she was able to surround herself with her attorneys and her attorneys to fight for immunity the way that an ordinary person probably would not do - couldn‘t afford to do.

ABRAMS:  Kim, does this go away, or does this continue to haunt her? 

SERAFIN:  You know, I think people will continue to wonder about it though.  As you mentioned, you know, the NYPD didn‘t want to interview her so she was sort of ruled out from in that sense.  I think when it first happened, people wondered, what‘s going on.  It sort of did make her look suspicious, especially the calls, especially since we don‘t really know what happened on those calls, why she was called first.  So I think the suspicions will always remain a little bit.  But because this has been pushed aside, because she‘s going ahead with her acting career, I think she can move past it. 

ABRAMS:  Lisa Bloom, Kim Serafin, Andrew Siff, thanks a lot. 

BLOOM:  Thank you.

ABRAMS:  Coming up, ridiculous 911 calls wasting law enforcement time.  One just released is of a man calling after a Subway sandwich shop left the sauce of his sandwich.  We have some tapes of the worst offenders.

And when mountain-top golfing backfires.  “Reality Bites” is coming up in 60 seconds. 


ABRAMS:  Now, to “Reality Bites,” a dose of reality caught on tape.  Tonight, when mountaintop golfing goes wrong.  This guy hiked all the way to the top of a mountain in the Canadian Rockies in Alberta with his golf club and balls.  He tees up the perfect shot, then accidentally sends his backpack over the side of the cliff.  It‘s a long way down.  This one might be gone for good.  Hopefully, the wallet and car keys were in the other bag.  Be bright back. 


ABRAMS:  We‘re back.  911 is the country‘s most well-known phone number, 380 a minute, 200 million calls a year.  But 911 centers across the country are also plagued with stupid nuisance calls, people calling with questions, complaints, requests, none coming close to an emergency.  Recently, a Jacksonville, Florida man called 911 to complain about his sandwich. 


911 OPERATOR:  Jacksonville 911.  911, hello.

REGINALD PATTERSON, 911 CALLER:  I‘ve got a situation over here at Subway sandwich shop.  I ordered two sandwiches and I asked for everything on one sandwich, and the other one I asked for the same thing on the other sandwich.  I didn‘t get what I paid for on the first sandwich that I ordered, so I brought the sandwiches back and asked if I could get my sandwiches made the way they were supposed to be made since I paid for them.  They locked the door on me.  They got the sandwiches that I paid for inside their store.

911 OPERATOR:  Sir -

PATTERSON:  I‘m not leaving here until I get what I paid for.  I‘m not going to sit here and pay $12 or $10 for some sandwiches and don‘t get what I paid for.


ABRAMS:  Reginald Patterson.  I‘m laughing, but this is serious stuff.  He was arrested, charged with making a false 911 call.  He doesn‘t really seem like he understands why calling 911 to complain is a big deal. 


PATTERSON:  You can basically say I was going on emotions because I was a little ticked off.  I‘m not going to deny that.  I was a little ticked off, but I held my composure the whole time and I felt that it was not right for them to do that. 


ABRAMS:  Are you kidding me?  Before we play more of these nuisance 911 calls, somewhat a big problem there, here now is Penny Vandyke, shift supervisor at Prince George‘s County, Maryland 911 Call Center, and Deputy Chief Brian Reich with the Bergen County, New Jersey Sheriff‘s Department.  Thanks to both of you for coming on.  Appreciate it. 

All right.  Penny, how big a problem is this? 

PENNY VANDYKE, 911 CALL CENTER SHIFT SUPERVISOR:  We deal with 911 calls that are really not emergencies daily. 

ABRAMS:  Every day?

VANDYKE:  Every day.

ABRAMS:  And did you - have you found a lot of these calls beyond non-emergencies, they‘re just total nuisance calls? 

VANDYKE:  Yes.  Sometimes, there are people calling for barking dogs, or wanting to know what time it is, the date, the weather, things that are not really emergencies at all. 

ABRAMS:  It‘s unbelievable.  Let‘s play - this is a guy calling 911 on a Burger King order. 


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE CALLER:  I‘m at a drive-thru right now.  I ordered my food three times.  They‘re mopping the floor inside and I understand they‘re busy.  They‘re not even busy, OK?  I‘ve been the only car here.  I asked them four different times to make a western barbecue burger.  They keep giving me a hamburger with lettuce, tomato, and cheese, onions and I said, “I am not leaving.  I want a western burger.”

911 OPERATOR:  OK.  What exactly is it you want us to do for you?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE CALLER:  Send an officer down here.  I want them to make me -

911 OPERATOR:  Ma‘am, we‘re not going to go down there and enforce your western bacon cheeseburger.


ABRAMS:  Deputy, I mean - you know, it‘s hard for me not to laugh.  And then you and I are talking about the fact that this, on a serious note, requires a diversion of resources. 


DEPARTMENT:  Absolutely.  It is certainly a diversion of resources.  And it puts people in jeopardy because they‘re tying up 911 lines.  They‘re tying up the circuits.  They can be diverted from the radio where a cop is calling for help because they‘re listening to supposed 911 call. 

And it‘s a problem and it‘s important that we educate the public.  It‘s important that if people are making these calls, they get prosecuted for it. 

ABRAMS:  Yes.  Here‘s another one - this is a series of calls from people - as Penny Van Dyke was mentioning a moment ago, people just requesting information. 


911 OPERATOR:  Arlington 911, what is your emergency?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE CALLER:  Yes, I just want to - may I ask what time is it, please?

911 OPERATOR:  What time is it?


911 OPERATOR:  It‘s 3:05 p.m.




911 OPERATOR:  Arlington 911.  What is your emergency?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE CALLER:  Is it Tuesday or Wednesday?

911 OPERATOR:  Well, that‘s not an emergency, but it‘s Tuesday.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE CALLER:  OK.  I‘m confused.  We already in the summertime, or are we still in the wintertime?  I‘m confused.

911 OPERATOR:  It‘s spring.


ABRAMS:  You‘ve had that happen? 

REICH:  I was a dispatcher years ago and I had people calling me to check the correct time.  “911, what‘s your emergency?”  “Can you tell me the correct time, please?”

ABRAMS:  Did you say, “Hey, this is serious stuff”? 

REICH:  Yes.  Well, you say, “No I can‘t.  Please don‘t call 911 for this.”  It‘s a problem.  I mean, you have the people that call for the ridiculous, and you also have those that have criminal intent there.  They‘re planning on doing it.  Swatting is kind of like years ago when people would call up and order pizza to their friends‘ house.  They‘re spoofing their caller ID in order to simulate somebody else‘s number, much like a spoofed URL in an E-mail or on a Web site.  They‘ll spoof a caller ID to make it look like it‘s coming from your house and say, “I just killed my family and there‘s a hostage situation,” and then the SWAT Team responds. 

ABRAMS:  You charge them with something?  I mean -

REICH:  They were definitely charged with that, because that‘s beyond stupidity.  It‘s criminal.

ABRAMS:  Here‘s another one of the stupidity ones. 


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE CALLER:   I‘d also like to be connected to Domino‘s Pizza, please, in Arlington.

911 OPERATOR:  This is 911.  911 is for police and fire emergencies.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE CALLER:  Well, I can‘t get through on Pizza Hut line or 411.

911 OPERATOR:  Well, Ma‘am, 911 does not connect you to Domino‘s Pizza.


ABRAMS:  You know, Penny, the funny thing is a lot of times, 911 operators are, you know, maligned.  We always talk about it.  You see these big cases where the 911 operator may not have done the right thing in certain cases.  The vast majority of the time, of course, they‘re doing the right thing.  They‘re doing the hard-working jobs every day and they‘re dealing with, in part, these nuisances. 

VANDYKE:  Yes.  We average 4,000 to 5,000 calls in a 24-hour period.  Over half of those are not even emergency calls, duplicate calls from cell phones or just, you know, people playing on the phone.  If it‘s a wrong number, you know, they should stay on the phone so we can, you know, tell them not hang up because we‘re going to have to call you back, and that ties up the line even further. 

ABRAMS:  Yes.  We are out of time.  But here‘s another one where a police officer admitted he took marijuana from a criminal suspects and baked it into brownies and then calls 911 saying that he thinks he may have overdosed. 

REICH:  It‘s incredible.  It really is.

ABRAMS:  Penny Vandyke, Deputy Chief Reich, thanks a lot.

REICH:  My pleasure.

VANDYKE:  Thank you.

ABRAMS:  Up next, will tonight‘s big winner or loser be Scarlett Johansson, accusing the media of sexism after she was called out for exaggerating her E-mail relationship with Barack Obama; or Mini-Me accusing his ex-girlfriend now of pushing the two-foot, eight-inch actor down and leaking their now infamous sex tape.  Plus, the “P.O.‘d Box,” coming up.


ABRAMS:  It‘s time for tonight‘s “Winners and Losers.”  And with us again is MSNBC‘s Contessa Brewer.

CONTESSA BREWER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT:  All right, Dan.  First up, Scarlett Johansson blaming sexism for the Obama E-mail hoopla.  Earlier this summer, the actress bragged to “Politico” that she and Barack Obama are E-mail buddies, that he‘d written to her about a, quote, “silly debate question.”  Obama was quick to diss the star saying Johansson doesn‘t even have his personal E-mail address. 

Johansson now calls the Associate Press, quote, “It seems to me to be like a product of extreme sexism.  If this was Kal Penn or George Clooney, there wouldn‘t be any question about it.”

Hello, loser for bringing it up again. 

ABRAMS:  But if it had been George Clooney or Kal -

BREWER:  She‘s saying that he wouldn‘t have had to distance himself from them. 

ABRAMS:  What, so she‘s saying he‘s lying? 

BREWER:  No, but she just thinks that he wouldn‘t have had to diss her back if she had been a male. 

ABRAMS:  If George Clooney claimed to have an E-mail relationship with Barack Obama he didn‘t have, he would have gotten called out on it. 

BREWER:  Maybe not, because that would have been much cooler. 

ABRAMS:  She‘s one of our losers.

BREWER:  Up next, actor Verne Troyer, also known as lovable, little Mini-Me is suing his ex-girlfriend for $20 million accusing her of throwing him to the floor.  And he says she leaked portions of the now-infamous sex tape the two made while dating Troyer - 

ABRAMS:  We need to get that off the screen.  It‘s disturbing. 

BREWER:  Troyer‘s lawyer said, quote, “When you pick up a two-foot, eight-inch human being and throw him to the floor, it hurts.”  News flash, it hurts when you‘re a six-foot, four person, too. 

OK.  His ex, Ranae Shrider says the suit is ridiculous, and that she‘d like to thank Troyer for the, quote, “lasting gifts” he imparted her with. 

ABRAMS:  Imparted her with.  Yes -

BREWER:  I know what that means. 

ABRAMS:  I‘m not even going there as to what that may mean. 


But here‘s the thing.  Do you think he‘s really angry about getting, quote, “thrown down?”  He‘s angry that she leaked the sex tape. 

BREWER:  No, he‘s angry because she kept it in the top of the closet where he couldn‘t reach it.  Like, hello, if you (UNINTELLIGIBLE).  It‘s true. 

ABRAMS:  Is that really what happened?  They kept it in the house? 

BREWER:  He hid it on the top of the closet apparently -


ABRAMS:  I thought you made that up. 

BREWER:  Angry.  Angry little man. 

Our last topic here, a new study by the Parents‘ Television Council claims married sex on TV is virtually nonexistent and portrayed as boring.  But adultery and promiscuity - well, jeez, you can‘t get away from those.  Those steamy activities are featured by a margin of nearly three to one.  The study goes on to say that Hollywood is actively seeking to undermine marriage by consistently showing it in a negative manner.  And yet some behaviors that were too taboo for TV are now glamorized.  I mean, think threesomes, partner-swapping, sex with prostitutes - the list goes on from there.

ABRAMS:  You know - is it really that they‘re trying to make marriage seem a particular way, or is it just more exciting to do a show that shows scandal and - right? 

BREWER:  I mean, maybe unmarried sex actually is more exciting than married sex. 

ABRAMS:  I‘m not - you know what? 

BREWER:  You‘re not married and I am. 

ABRAMS:  Right, and you realize I‘m not putting you in a position - no I‘m not. 

BREWER:  Here‘s what I have to say. 

ABRAMS:  I‘m not asking you.

BREWER:  The fact that the Parents‘ Television Council is encouraging more sex on TV, albeit it married sex, isn‘t that, of itself, loser? 

ABRAMS:  Contessa Brewer, as always. 

Time for the “P.O.‘d Box” your chance to tell us what you hate or love about the show.  Seems to miss my point last night about John McCain jokingly volunteering his wife Cindy for the racy Miss Buffalo Chip competition.  A called it a win with a wink and a nod because people might appreciate McCain joking about it.  A lot of you took me literally. 

C.J. from Castle Rock, Colorado, “McCain states on national television that his wife would be a good candidate for a hoochie parade and this is a good thing?”

Come on, C.J.  There are a lot more substantive issues to get worked up about. 

And lot of you went after me for last night‘s “Beat the Press.”  Actress Amanda Peet was making a good point on “Good Morning, America,” that people should listen to doctors and experts about autism and not celebrities.  But I thought it was funny that she became a celebrity spokesperson to tell people not to listen to celebrities. 

David Nowlin from Austin Texas writes, “It‘s nice to see someone using that megaphone to say, ‘Hey, I‘m not an expert, and you know what?  Most of us in Hollywood aren‘t experts.‘”

ABRAMS:  I agree.  I wasn‘t disputing that.  I‘m just saying it was like this, “I‘m on as a celebrity.  I‘m on as a celebrity and I‘m saying, ‘Don‘t listen to celebrities.‘” 

Michael Kirwan takes a shot at me for saying that Paris Hilton‘s rebuttal to the McCain ad was funny and clearly written by someone else is what I said.  “Hey Dan, a little snotty asserting that Paris Hilton didn‘t write her own commercial.  John McCain and Barack Obama didn‘t write their ads either.  I call that remark a lose for you.” 

BREWER:  Oh, no.

ABRAMS:  It‘s a fair point.  I mean, you know - 

BREWER:  Snotty. 

ABRAMS:  Well, I get beat up a lot. 

BREWER:  Poor guy. 

ABRAMS:  That‘s the time we have.  You can E-mail the show verdict@msnbc.com.  Please include your name and where you‘re writing from.  Our Web site is Verdict.MSNBC.com.  Anything else? 

BREWER:  No, that‘s all I got. 

ABRAMS:  See you tomorrow.



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