Friday, April 30, 2004

'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for April 30

Guests: Charlie Cook, Harvey Levin, Larry Star


KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST (voice-over): Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?

Mission accomplished: A year later, and it seems closer to mission impossible. The deal is done in Fallujah. One of Saddam's generals is now heading Iraqi security in that city.

Michael Jackson arraigned, the sequel: No moon walk, no home movie, no live ego concert, but a new charge as the indictment is unsealed - conspiracy.

Twenty-five billion dollars for two guys who invented something while they hated each other's guts.

And now for something completely different: It's not "Monty Python's Flying Circus," it's a movie about "Monty Python's Flying Circus."

And coming to a TV near you this fall: The Howard Dean Show?

All that and more now on COUNTDOWN.



OLBERMANN: Good evening. The White House is often fond of puncturing those who oppose the war there, by noting if such-and-such had his way, Saddam Hussein would still be running Iraq - instead of one of his generals running Fallujah.

Our fifth story in the COUNTDOWN, tonight: In hope of ending the crisis there, this country has made a deal to have Fallujah patrolled by 1,100 Iraqis led by Major General Jassim Mohammed Saleh, a veteran not just of Saddam's army, but also of his elite republican guard. Mission accomplished. Here's Richard Engel in Baghdad.


RICHARD ENGEL, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In Fallujah, two U.S.

Marines killed, six wounded, another suicide bomber.

PSU RANGER RANDY WILLIAMSON, USMC: I've been blacking out for like two or three seconds and looking up and - you know, opening my eyes, barely being able to see.

ENGEL: The attacks as U.S. Marines pulled back from parts of Fallujah. Their posts taken over by a new Iraqi militia under U.S. Marine command, but led by one of Saddam Hussein's generals, Jassim Mohammed Saleh. He promised to bring peace.

COL. JOHN COLEMAN, 1ST MARINE EXPEDITIONARY FORCE: He's a man who stepped forward, who says he thinks he can be a part of the solution to the problem in Fallujah.

ENGEL: But it's not good enough for many Iraqis. NBC News has learned Saleh, a republican guard commander, was a key planner of the 1996 assault on the Kurdish city of Erbil, displacing tens of thousands of Kurds. That year, the state department's human rights report said "Saddam's perceived political opponents were summarily executed or disappeared during the campaign. There's no evidence Saleh was directly involved in war crimes.

GEN. BARRY MCCAFFREY, U.S. ARMY (RET.): Well, the Republican Guard formations were the best paid, best equipped. They were the Nazi S.S. troops of Saddam's regime.

ENGEL: Today, in Baghdad, protests by Shiite Muslim who, like the Kurds, were oppressed under Saddam.

(on camera): These Shiite demonstrator, many carrying pictures of fellow Shiites executed by Saddam's government, accused the U.S. of bringing back criminal from Iraq's past just weeks before it hands over power.

(voice-over): And there are doubts any Iraqi force will arrest insurgents in Fallujah like these in a video obtained exclusively by NBC News, standing in front of what appeared to be bloody American uniform. They vowed to keep fighting.

Marine commanders said today, they're not leaving Fallujah, waiting to see if General Saleh can produce results.

Richard Engel, NBC News, Baghdad.


OLBERMANN: And then there's General Saleh's former employer. Almost for the first time since the arrest of Saddam Hussein, there has been a development pertaining to the future of Saddam Hussein. As he awaits trial for a long list of crimes that will likely include the murder of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, many of whose bodies still lie undiscovered in mass graves, to build the case against him, Attorney General John Ashcroft has selected Tampa lawyer, Greg Kehoe. He will lead a team of 50 lawyers and investigators who will spend six to nine months scouring Iraq for evidence against Saddam and his ruling clique. Kehoe told the newspaper, the "St. Petersburg Times" that to prepare himself, he bought every book on Iraq and Islam he could find at Borders and Barnes and Noble.

His relevant experience includes a stint on the international criminal tribunal for the former Yugoslavia and also prosecuting members of the Outlaws motorcycle gang.

Not buying any of this is John Kerry. It, being the shortly to be 1-year-old quote, It was year ago tomorrow that President Bush informed the crew of the USS Lincoln and the world that "major combat operations in Iraq have ended. In the battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed."

Today Kerry at Westminster College in Missouri, Kerry tried to make the most of that statement as our correspondent Kelly O'Donnell reports, the democratic standard bare (PH) told an appreciative crowd that the U.S. is now facing its moment of truth in Iraq.


KELLY O'DONNELL, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Today in Missouri, John Kerry delivered his most detailed policy on Iraq in what amounted to an unusual equal time invitation from Westminster College after Vice President Dick Cheney was here Monday. His speech was labeled, "Kerry Bashing" in an e-mail sent by the college president.

DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And a senator from Massachusetts has...

O'DONNELL: Mr. Cheney referred to Kerry more than three dozen times.

CHENEY: Senator Kerry said...

Senator Kerry's record on that...

O'DONNELL: And questioned Kerry's ability to fight the war on terror.

CHENEY: Yet to the many nations that have joined our coalition, senator Kerry offers only condescension.

O'DONNELL: Today, with that in mind, Kerry shelled his overt attacks and laid out what he would do.

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This may be our last chance to get it right. We need to put pride aside to build a stable Iraq.

O'DONNELL: For the first time, Kerry urged the president to persuade NATO to commit troops, and reluctant nations on the U.N. Security Council, like France, Russia and China to send forces in what Kerry calls their "own self-interest." Kerry supports a new kind of figure, a high commander, an Arab-speaking diplomat to assist a new Iraqi government.

KERRY: To share the risk and reduce the burden on our own forces.

O'DONNELL: Beyond policy, Kerry added a kind of uncluttered imagery, usually accenting his speechmaking, on the every day sacrifices of military families.

KERRY: The truth is that there's an empty seat in the church pew on Sunday, There's an extra car in the driveway, and one less friend to phone for a movie on a Friday night.

O'DONNELL: Tonight the Bush-Cheney campaign dismissed Kerry's plan, saying it lacks any credible alternative. While observers say Kerry has yet to benefit from any doubts about the president's handling of Iraq.

CHUCK TODD, POLITICAL EDITOR, "THE HOTLINE": Iraq is the one issue that John Kerry has had - struggled with more so than any issue during this campaign.

O'DONNELL: Kerry, a veteran of one war, tested by yet another.

Kelly O'Donnell, NBC News, Fulton, Missouri.


OLBERMANN: Senator Kerry's speech may not draw any blood from the White House, but the Bush administration has taken its hits lately from the books of insiders and analysts. For the one that topped the "New York Times" best seller list, Richard Clarke's "Against all Enemies," to the pick-to-click "Plan of Attack" by Bob Woodward. And now out this afternoon, former ambassador Joseph Wilson's "The Politics of Truth:

Inside the Lies That Led to War and Betrayed my Wife's CIA Identity." In the book, Wilson names three men he considers suspects in the leaking of his CIA agent's wife's name to columnist Robert Novak in an attempt to embarrass him and to frighten other would-be critics. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) the list, Louis "Scooter" Libby, Vice President Cheney's chief of staff; Karl Rove, the president's chief political adviser whose name appears in the fourth sentence of Wilson's text; and Elliott Abraham (ph), a member of the National Security Council who played a prominent role in the '80s in the Iran Contra Affair.

Ambassador Wilson will be our guest Tuesday night here on COUNTDOWN.

Meanwhile, the faces, the viewers of ABC television in eight American cities will not see tonight are the 500 or so America war dead Ted Koppel plans to show and identify on the newscast "Nightline." The controversy over one broadcasting company's refusal to air the program on its stations has now touched the U.S. Senate where John McCain of Arizona has called the preemption, quote, "unpatriotic." Koppel's program will not appear on the eight ABC stations owned by Sinclair Broadcasting, they include the ones in Saint Louis, Jacksonville, Columbus, Ohio, major cities in three swing electoral states. Sinclair called the broadcast part of an anti-war agenda. Today in a letter to Sinclair's president, the Arizona republican wrote:

"Your decision to deny your viewers an opportunity to be reminded of war's terrible costs in all their heartbreaking detail is a gross disservice to the public, and to the men and women of the United States Armed Forces. It is in short sir, unpatriotic."

President Bush might have hoped to the swell of patriotism would rise and sweep him into a second term. The events in Iraq, his "mission accomplished" speech, the so-far fruitless search for weapons of mass destruction, and the many statements that this war was necessary, could counter all that.

Charlie Cook is an MSNBC analyst, a political analyst for the "National Journal" and editor of the "Cook Political Report." He joins us now to read some of the tea leaves.

Charlie, good evening.


OLBERMANN: Are thing like "mission accomplished" and the deal with the Saddam general in Fallujah ringing a little hollow right now politically? Or are mind already so made up that none of it matters in the particular?

COOK: I'd answer yes to both those questions. I mean, in terms of the "mission accomplished," I mean, is it a black eye? Is it an embarrassment for the administration? Of course it is. But, like any kind of shiner, any kind of black eye, it'll fade after a few days. I think the White House is probably really glad that the anniversary of the "mission accomplished" banner was May 1, and not November 1, the day before the election, now we have six months more to go.

And at the same time, the situation in Fallujah, this is obviously not what we wanted to do, I mean, I - you know, this is - the next worst of all options, but I think - you know, having urban door-to-door combat, we were probably going to lose a couple hundred Marines, I think they just tried to decide to do - to try one other thing before we go to that option, so both of these are horrible things to have happen, but we have six more months to go.

OLBERMANN: Is there a clutter buster anywhere in Iraq? The pictures of Iraqi prisoners being humiliated by American servicemen and the new one today where there's a British serviceman urinating on one of the prisoners? I mean, do these kinds of thing have the chance of evoking reactions either way that transcend party lines?

COOK: Well, I mean, I think, in Iraq, the public opinion - popular

support seem to be turning increasingly against us and this probably just

sends it up by a factor of 10. And to the extent that that comes back to

Americans, and we - you know, and people start saying, "gosh, this thing

is pointless. This thing - I mean, this is a quagmire how can we - I

mean, we'll never get out of this." That's when the pressure would start

going - getting put on the president. So, I mean, I think people have

been hanging in there with the president on this pretty much, but the odds

· I mean, things - the tables have been sort of - the leveling now, and getting to the point where we're almost to the tipping point where a Iraq starts going from being first an asset to kind of a wash and now increasingly a problem for the president and I think we're about to that tipping point, now.

OLBERMANN: If we are, where has the Kerry campaign been on that tipping point in Iraq? You mention that the president is - you know, getting dinged, essentially. If 2004 is like 2000, a couple of dings decides the vote in three states.

COOK: Yeah, but at the same time, for Kerry, I mean - you know, his position up until - you know, today's speech, but - you know, up until today, it's been kind of androgynous, I mean I - you know, I've heard it 10 times, his position, wasn't sure what it was. Really, that he's sort of uniquely bobbled this whole issue so that he has not been able to take advantage of it in any meaningful way. I mean, it makes you wonder whether the democrats would be better off right now if they'd Howard Dean as a candidate than John Kerry. Now, maybe Kerry will hit his stride on this, but he certainly hasn't yet. So, you've got an issue that's a horrible problem for the president that Kerry simply hasn't been able to take advantage of.

OLBERMANN: Dean's too busy selling his TV show, which we'll get to in a moment.

Charlie Cook of the "National Journal," "Cook Political Report," MSNBC

· many thanks sir, have a good weekend.

COOK: You same, Keith. Thanks.

OLBERMANN: One more political note. It may not have gotten him the Democratic nomination. It may in fact cost him the Democratic nomination, but Howard Dean's larger than life's persona may now get him a TV talk show. Being pitched to Paramount as the host of a gab fest, not a political show, exactly "more like," says his would-be producer, "a little Howard Beale, a little Dr. Phil, and a little Donahue all rolled into one."

The "Howard Dean Show" would be syndicated. They'd have to sell it to stations city by city. Not only are they going to go to Boston, they're going to Oklahoma City and Baltimore and Phoenix and Tampa, St. Pete. Yeah!

The COUNTDOWN opening with Iraq and politics: The anniversaries, the ramifications, and the talk shows.

Straight ahead, tonight's No. 4 story: Ga-ga for Google. Two students armed with a dream and intense dislike for each other and they're now set to become billionaires.

And later on, Michael Jackson in court minus Mark Geragos, minus the Nation of Islam, minus the outdoor circus, with eyeglasses. What sobered him up? Stand by.


OLBERMANN: Tonight's No. 4 story is up next: The land of dot-com, as the boom went bust, one company rose from the ashes and now you too can own apiece of the pie. The Google success story and the young men behind it.


OLBERMANN: It all began with the "find" function on the first home computers. A revolution in information retrieval that not even the loopiest of the science fiction writers could have imagined. And when "find" meant the Internet, there was born the search engine. Our fourth story in the COUNTDOWN: The foremost of the search engines is about to go out of entirely private public ownership and present its initial public offering. Which will make two guys, who six sears ago, weren't even friends, very rich, very fast. As their own search engine would that it, the dollar equivalent of 25 billion results in about 0.24 seconds.

George Lewis, tonight, from Los Angeles on the Googlers.


GEORGE LEWIS, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Google, hottest spot on the Internet - 200 million hits each day. The place where you look up everything from aardvarks to zebras.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And the Libby goes to Google!

LEWIS: Two former Stanford University classmates, Sergey Brin and Larry Page, launched Google in 1998, although they couldn't stand each other at first.

SERGEY BRIN, GOOGLE CO-FOUNDER: We both found the other equally obnoxious, I suppose.

LEWIS: They got over it.

LARRY PAGE, GOOGLE CO-FOUNDER: We thought, what we want to do is, very much to build something very big and very important.

LEWIS: They were feeling lucky. Some analysts think that when Google, based in Mountain View, California, goes public, the company will end up valued at almost $25 billion and that will make the two founders extremely wealthy.

(on camera): They refuse to talk about that for this story, but when we interviewed them two years ago, Google was making lots of money as a private company, surviving the dot-com bust and in no hurry to change.

BRIN: We don't have to go public, we don't have to raise more money, we keep adding to our cash base.

LEWIS (voice-over): But Google, profiled recently in "Wired" magazine, is under new pressure to go public.

CHRIS ANDERSON, EDITOR IN CHIEF, "WIRED": You raise money when your company's doing well, when the stock market is going with you. It gives you a liquid currency that you can use to defend against stiff competition when it comes.

LEWIS: And Google, known as a free wheeling place where employees work hard and play hard, faces tough competition these days from the likes of Yahoo! and Microsoft. Google will offer some of its shares directly to the public over the Internet, still trying to maintain its unconventional image, even as it enters the world of public companies.

George Lewis, NBC News, Los Angeles.


OLBERMANN: For more things you need to know about tonight's story, COUNTDOWN did some research through Google search engine, of course, to find our top four opening dot-com IPO's.

No. 4: ranked in $27.9 million. It survived the boom and bust and is still trading.

Three:, also still in business, $50 million on the first day.

No. 2: The infamous $82.5 million when it went public in 2000, went bust later in 2000.

And, No. 1: With $375 million on its IPO, Webvan, 18 months later, even before you had ever heard of it, the online grocery store declared Chapter 11.

COUNTDOWN now past No. 4 story: Google-eyed over Google stocks. Straight ahead, those stories that get no COUNTDOWN number, but in the place of honor in our news of the weird, we call it "Oddball." Including news of the special delivery, a baker's dozen. Ahhh.

And later, the wedding dress guy: First his marriage went sour, now his whole eBay sale has run aground as well. Wedding dress guy will be back on COUNTDOWN live.


OLBERMANN: We rejoin you with COUNTDOWN and, as we always do at this hour, we look away from Iraq and Santa Barbara and Washington and towards the places where the real news was made today, like Northwest Community Hospital in Chicago. Let's play "Oddball."

Oh boy, newborns. No, it's not the new ABC reality show, "Who Wants to Buy a Baby," this is maternity ward at Northwest Community in Chicago where between midnight and 1:00 p.m. On Tuesday of this week, 13 children were born, about twice as many as usual in a 13-hour stretch, and their genders, in order, girl, girl, girl, girl, girl, girl, girl, girl, girl, girl, girl, girl, girl - 13 consecutive girls. That's it, there's no other news about it.

And an Internet evangelist who claims to have 1,900,000 subscribers will lead a protest in front of the White House during which he will publicly proclaim that George W. Bush will not be reelected. And that's not the interesting part, this is: Bill Keller also points out that televangelist Pat Robertson has told his flock that the president will win the election in a landslide. Says Keller, "On November 2, either Pat Robertson or Bill Keller will be wrong. I have clearly stated in the past that the penalty for false prophet is to be stoned to death. I support that standard and am willing, I wonder if Pat is."

Hey, pay-per-view.

Throwing rocks or throwing something was on the mind of motorists in Los Angeles, this morning. On the five freeway, truckers, angry at the high price of diesel fuel, jackknifed their vehicles, blocking the highway, and left them there, taking the keys. That'll show those diesel fuel selling guys, huh?

And, what about the thousands of ordinary car drivers who were no doubt delighted by the high price of ordinary fuel? Well, it's Friday, and you all know what day of the week Friday is - never mind.

COUNTDOWN picking back up with our No. 3 story, your preview: What a difference an indictment can make. Michael Jackson facing the judge again, this time there is no way to rival, no film direction, no dancing on top of no SUV. What's with the new normal all of a sudden? We'll talk with Harvey Levin of "Celebrity Justice."

And later, the new lead for the Pete Rose movie has been announced, and given who the actor is, the movie might have a surprise ending. We'll explain.

These stories ahead, first here are COUNTDOWN's "Top 3 Newsmakers" of this day:

No. 3: An unnamed pilot for All Nippon Airways of Japan. He fell asleep at the controls for several minutes while in mid-flight, but was awakened by a government inspector who happened to be traveling in the cockpit. "He was only asleep for two or three minutes," said the inspector.

Here's a question for the inspector: You let him sleep for what reason?

No. 2: Carlos the Jackal. The infamous Venezuelan terrorist had his belt taken away from him before a court hearing, so he protested by going to the hearing wearing only his shirt and underwear. Now he has a new nickname, "Little Carlos."

And No. 1: Sergeant Jim Squance of the police force in Oxford, Ohio, who said that city will let its citizens start writing parking tickets. Months from now, when the riots start in Oxford, Ohio, remember we told you.


OLBERMANN: Last time he was arraigned, Michael Jackson danced atop an SUV for his fans, interlocked fingers with some of them and seen, in the judge's mind, at least, to have paid more attention to them than he did on the very serious charges facing him.

Our No. 3 story on the COUNTDOWN, this time he was arraigned, Mr.

Jackson limited himself to buying his fans pizza.

Your entertainment dollars in action, day 165 of the Michael Jackson investigations. And Jackson arrived 40 minutes early this morning for his arraignment in a Santa Maria courtroom adorned in a suit and tie and wearing what looked like prescription glasses, his family and brand new attorney Thomas Mesereau by his side. In front of him, the grand jury indictment was unsealed. There are now 10 charges against the pop icon, four counts of lewd acts upon a child, one count of an attempted lewd act upon a child, four counts of administering an intoxicating agent, and the last, a new charge, one count of conspiracy, which alleges 28 individual acts of child abduction, false imprisonment and extortion.

Jackson pleaded not guilty to the whole laundry list and made a brief statement as he left the courthouse.


MICHAEL JACKSON, DEFENDANT: I would like to thank the fans around the world for your love and support from every corner of the Earth. My family has been very supportive. My brother Randy has been incredible. I want to thank the community of Santa Maria. I want you to know that I love the community of Santa Maria very much. It's my community. I love the people. I will always love the people.

My children were born in this community. My home is in this community. I will always love this community from the bottom of my heart. That's why I moved here.

Thank you very much.


OLBERMANN: Among other post-court indulgences of his January appearance that will not be repeated, there will not be ice cream social at Neverland.

To talk about the arraignment and what we can expect as a result, we're joined now by the creator and executive producer of TV's "Celebrity Justice," Harvey Levin.

Harvey, good evening.


That new conspiracy charge, 28 accusations bundled together, well, clearly that it wasn't idea of some layman in the grand jury. You're a lawyer. Deconstruct that one for us.

LEVIN: Keith, well, we have been looking at this for months now. We know what this is about.

And we've been reporting it on "Celebrity Justice" and on your very show as well. There is a - what the prosecution in this case is going to try and do is not just put a kid up on the stand and have the kid say, I was molested. They want to paint a picture that Michael Jackson had a consciousness of guilt.

And the way they want to show this is by bringing two of Jackson's key employees center stage in this trial. They are people who worked for Michael Jackson during the time in question and people responsible for handling the accusers and his family. Their names are Frank Tyson and Vinnie Amen. They're about 25 years old. One is 24. One is 25.

And authorities believe - that's Frank Tyson there. Authorities believe that Tyson and Amen, seen right there, intimidated and harassed this family, held them hostage, and even tried to get them out of the country to Brazil. I spoke with Frank Tyson extensively a week and a half ago by phone. And he admitted to me, he said, yes, you know what? I did try to get them to Brazil with Vinnie, but we weren't trying to get them away permanently. It was just for a couple weeks on vacation. Prosecutors don't buy that.

They think Jackson put these two up to that and that's why they've charged him with conspiracy.

OLBERMANN: All right, so we also have the lewd acts, which have changed from seven counts in the original charging to four in the indictments. A, is this it, no more changes in what he's being charged with? And, B, is Jackson in better shape now legally or in worse shape?

LEVIN: Well, to some extent, I think he's in worse shape because this conspiracy is on the table.

And, Keith, again, I can't stress how important this is to the prosecution's case to be able to show that there was what they believe a conscious effort to scare the family, to intimidate the family and ultimately get the family out of the country so nobody could make a charge against anybody. So I think, to that extent, it is worse. I don't think these charges will change. As far as I know - and I've been talking to people involved in the case - there are no other children involved. This will be a stand-alone case.

OLBERMANN: Lastly, the tone of the thing today, Michael Jackson unplugged. His old attorneys wanted this. His new attorney got it.

Is there an explanation as to what the process was? What was the thinking? Was there thinking finally on his part and was there any explanation for those glasses?

LEVIN: I can't really explain the glasses. But, you know, I do know that there were a lot of talks with Michael Jackson after the disastrous first arraignment. He was so disrespectful. And it was clear to the lawyers, even Geragos back then, that this would be a fiasco if Jackson didn't show more respect.

Keith, I don't know about you, but he really did show it. But I was almost uncomfortable by the suit that he's wearing. He's just a little too Wall Street. I'm not sure I'm buying it.

OLBERMANN: Yes, but the red armband always just reminded that you it's not really an average Joe. Let's put it that way.

LEVIN: It is a nice accessory.


OLBERMANN: Harvey Levin of TV's "Celebrity Justice," as always, my friend, thanks for your insight. Have a good weekend.

LEVIN: My pleasure. You, too, Keith.

OLBERMANN: Continuing the third story with other news of celebrities and justice, five-sixths of a verdict today in the Jayson Williams case.

After four days of deliberation, a New Jersey jury acquitted Williams of the most serious charge, aggravated manslaughter, but convicted the former NBA player and announcer of four of six lesser counts, including covering up the shooting death of his limo driver, Gus Christofi. The jury could not reach a verdict on one count of reckless manslaughter. No date has been set for sentencing, but Williams faces a maximum of less than five years in jail, unless, that is, the state decides to push to retry him on that manslaughter count. There will be a conference on that on the 21st of next month.

And rounding out the justice statement, we told you last August that the way the court schedule was working out in his case, it was obvious that Kobe Bryant would not be on the American basketball team at the Olympics in Athens this August. Tonight, it is official. Bryant's agent has informed USA basketball that his client is with withdrawing from the Olympic roster because of - quote - "scheduling conflicts." You bet. But Bryant did express a desire to - quote - "keep an option open" to play for the Olympic squad if there were changes in the scheduling of his trial on rape charges in Boulder, Colorado.

That wraps up No. 3 tonight, crime and punishment. Up next, our second story. This is a late parrot. It's a stiff. Bereft of life, it rests in peace. It has run down the curtain and joined the choir invisible. This is an ex-parrot. A movie not by, but about these geniuses looms. I did not try out for it.

Then later, a fallen actor to play a fallen baseball star.

All that ahead, but, first, here are COUNTDOWN's top three sound bites of this day.



CONAN O'BRIEN, HOST: "American Idol" was on last night. And they voted off the guy that everyone has been telling me looks just like me. John Stevens. I just want to say, John, don't worry because you'll always have a future as a male model.


SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: We have to have more competition in the milk industry. Our farmers upstate don't get a fair price for the milk. And our consumers down here pay through the nose.

JEFF LIEFER, INDIANAPOLIS INDIANS: I went to the restroom. It was a perfectly normal thing to do during a game. I went in there and take care of my business. And when I went to leave the restroom, the handle didn't want to work on the door. Hey, I don't want to be remembered as the guy who got stuck in the bathroom. Hopefully, it will happen to someone else, so it won't be as much of a big deal.



OLBERMANN: A dead parrot, some lovely spam, and the knights who say "Ni," who wouldn't want to be a part of that? We'll meet those trying to join the Circus in our No. 2 story next.


OLBERMANN: This fall, I will celebrate 30 years of annoying my friends and co-workers with imitations and repetitions of the comedy sketches of the group Monty Python's Flying Circus. I've done it on this program. And if it has been annoying you, I apologize.

On the other hand, as our second story on the COUNTDOWN shows, it turns out I am hardly alone. There's a Monty Python movie in the works., not by them, but about them. And if you're going to have a Python movie, you're going to have actors who can do impersonations of the six men who made up the Python troop. And to find six good ones, you're going to go through a lot of bad ones.

COUNTDOWN's Monica Novotny reports now on the auditions, where she saw a lot of the bad, the good, and the completely different.

Monica, good evening.

MONICA NOVOTNY, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Good evening. That's putting it kindly.

Director David Eric Brenner, a Python addict himself, says he feels like he has won the lottery. His production company has licensed the rights to Graham Chapman's life and memoirs in order to make this movie. Now, so far, they have a name, "Gin and Tonic." They have a Web site.

They have the first draft of a script. And now all they need is a cast.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (singing): They won't play this song on the radio. I'll bet you they won't play this new song. It's not that it's bad or controversial.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Am I supposed to say something?


NOVOTNY (voice-over): There are fans and then there are fanatics.

DAVID ERIC BRENNER, DIRECTOR: When we announced this film, the e-mails immediately came flooding in. People were asking about the roles. Python fans essentially came out from wherever they were hiding.

NOVOTNY: Because devoted followers of Monty Python can't resist the call, auditioning for a chance to play one of the original Pythons in the soon-to-be-made film focusing on what life was really like for the British comic troop.

BRENNER: Really, they were the Beatles of comedy, so to speak. When they exploded, they were huge.

NOVOTNY: And though 26-year-old Jonathan Fielding (ph) was just a kid at the time, he was already busy spinning off their skits.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What's it say, sir?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can't tell. It's either Hebrew or Latin. I never can tell the difference.

NOVOTNY: And today, he's on the ultimate quest.

JONATHAN FIELDING, ACTOR: It is the holy grail, of course.

NOVOTNY: Well, the Python version.


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Now stand aside, worthy adversary.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: 'Tis but a scratch.


NOVOTNY: Fielding is willing to do just about anybody for a shot at playing his idol, Graham Chapman.

FIELDING: Monty Python has used fish a lot. It is a big motif in their movies, their films. And so I thought it would be nice to have a fish going through my head.

NOVOTNY: Even flying across the country to L.A. just for a tryout.

At this audition, checking is a Python moment.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And your favorite color? Yellow?












UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Please follow the black line.

FIELDING: Thank you.

NOVOTNY: And that's the idea behind the film, follow, but not too closely. For the faithful, that would be sacrilege.

BRENNER: If we were going out and going to redo the Monty Python sketch with other actors, we would fail miserably.


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: What will they do to me?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Oh, you will probably get crucifixion.


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Yes, first offense?


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: It's the best thing the Romans ever did for us.


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: If we did not have crucifixion, this country would be in a right bloody mess.


NOVOTNY (on camera): Well, how much time do you have?

FIELDING: I have one minute.

NOVOTNY: One minute. So a beginning, a middle and an end. Something that's very funny.

FIELDING: Yes, but I found it.




FIELDING:... truly a lot of bread. So if you'll just step through here...





NOVOTNY: And in a few moments, it is all over.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We'll call you. We'll call you names. You suck!

NOVOTNY: For now, Fielding waits for the callback, his hunger fueled

by old friends.


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: I want to buy some cheese.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Yes, certainly, sir. What would you like?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Well, how about a little red leicester?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: I'm afraid we're fresh out of red leicester, sir.



UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Gruyere, emmental?


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Any Norwegian Jarlsberg?










UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Double Gloucester?




NOVOTNY: For those of you who just can't wait for "Gin and Tonic," like yourself, in celebration of the 25th anniversary of "Life of Brian," that film is being rereleased beginning tonight in New York and Los Angeles and, in the coming weeks, in theaters throughout the country. And a music based on "The Holy Grail" is scheduled to open in Chicago at the end of this year.

OLBERMANN: Best bit they ever did. And I've always wanted to do it on a newscast. It is an interviewer. And he says, Mr. Bentist (ph) is sitting with us in our studios in Durham, which is rather unfortunate, in so much as we're all down here in London. I always wanted to do that.

What happens next for these actor, fanatics, nerds like me? Have they chosen anybody from the group?

NOVOTNY: They're all in a holding pattern. Essentially, the director described the performances that day as ranging from the hilarious to the horrific. And they've decided that they actually will come to New York after all and do an audition. That happens in June. And then late this summer, they're going to go to London. They have very high hopes for London. So, right now, everyone who has auditioned is on hold. They'll call back after London.

OLBERMANN: Well, all right, I'm covered in case we bail out on this show.

NOVOTNY: That's right.

OLBERMANN: COUNTDOWN's Monica Novotny, Brie, roquefort, Pont l'Eveque, Port Salut, Savoyard?


OLBERMANN: Saint-Paulin, Carre-de-l'Est.


OLBERMANN: Bresse-bleu?




OLBERMANN: No, you're supposed to say, sorry, sir, the van broke down.

Many thanks.

All of which segues us somehow to our nightly roundup of the unwashed, the unloved and the unrestrained, our news of Tinseltown and the great white way, "Keeping Tabs."

And as airtime for the TV show in question approached, Uri Geller was trying to sue Barbara Walters. You'll recall the controversial segment in "20/20" about five couples vying to adopt the newborn child of a 16-year-old girl. Well, world famous self-proclaimed psychic and spoon bender Geller says that was his idea. Geller says he had written a novel about just this subject, a reality TV show in which five couple competed to win a baby. He says ABC ripped him off, raising the questions, OK, if he's really a psychic, how come he didn't know ABC was working on a show and how come he didn't file for a copyright on it sooner than yesterday?

And they've cast the lead character in another new made-for-TV thing, a movie about Pete Rose. And if this isn't perfect. The troubled Tom Sizemore will play the troubled baseball hit king. The only stretch for Sizemore is that, at least as of now, the character of Pete Rose is not supposed to die in the movie Pete Rose. And I'm afraid Tom Sizemore only does roles in which he does die.


OLBERMANN: "Strange Days." "Enemy of the State."

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Who are these guys?

OLBERMANN: "True Romance." "Natural Born Killers." "Heat." "Devil in a Blue Dress." "Saving Private Ryan." "Flight of the Intruder."

TOM SIZEMORE, ACTOR: Why don't you take me to a bus stop and I'll wait there!

OLBERMANN: "Heart and Souls." And "Red Planet."


OLBERMANN: So look out, Pete.

Coming up, he's back and he's back in his wedding gown with the train this time. We'll ask him why he still has it.

But, first, here are COUNTDOWN's top two photos of this day, besides that one.


OLBERMANN: Life is cruel. Yes I know, this just in. But it's often cruelest to us in the most unexpected, most painful ways, not torrents of fair, just splinters of sadness or maybe clipped toenails of sadness.

Our No. 1 story on the COUNTDOWN, sometimes all you can eat is not all you can eat. And sometimes the guy willing to pay you $3,850 for your ex-wife's wedding dress is just fooling.

But Chuck-A-Rama in Taylorsville, Utah, has publicly apologized to Mr. and Mrs. Sui Amaama, on whom they called the cops 10 days ago when Mr. Amaama refused to stop eating all their roast beef at their buffet. But the restaurant chain still insists it never presented said buffet as an all-you-can-eat kind of thing and were their rights to cut Mr. Amaama off after 11 slices. The Amaamas are on the Atkins diet. While Chuck-A-Rama is offering an apology and a gift certificate, the Amaamas' lawyer is still hinting at a lawsuit in a case which would then be Amaama vs. Chuck-A-Rama.

And then there's Larry Star, our COUNTDOWN mensch of the week. You will recall that he decided to salvage what he could of love gone bad. He auctioned off the ex-wife's wedding dress on eBay and sold the thing by posing in the dress, not just on eBay, mind you, but also here on COUNTDOWN and on one of the network morning shows.

When the auction ended Wednesday, Mr. Star's ex-'s dress - by the way, that would make her an ex-Star - had sold for $3,850. But there's sold and then there's sold.

Larry Star joins us again live from Seattle.

Larry, good evening. Oh, you know, you always wear that.


LARRY STAR, SOLD EX-WIFE'S WEDDING DRESS: You know, there's a little stain here. I didn't know what it was.

OLBERMANN: I don't want to know what it is.

No sale? What happened?

STAR: The - he backed out of it. He said that I left my computer on and somebody made the bid for me. It wasn't me, you know, the kind of guy that you sat next to in school that said, my dog ate my homework, you know?

OLBERMANN: His dog ate his computer mouse.

So what are you going to do now? Do you relist this thing? Do you wear it on stage with your band tonight, or what do you do with it?

STAR: You know, I was actually going to use this forum to sell this beautiful wedding dress, used only 6,000 times. Look at this beautiful train.

OLBERMANN: There's just an outside hint of humor to this, he was going to say.

STAR: An outside hint of humor?

OLBERMANN: An outside hint of it. Some of it looked a little rehearsed.

You may not be aware of this. In fact, I can't think of a reason that you would be aware of it. But we kind of helped William Hung turn total adversity into a marketing blitz. Have we helped you, too? How are you exploiting this commercially?

STAR: I'm actually going to be at the Punchline comedy club in Atlanta next week, next Thursday, I believe. And then I'm going to go up to New York to do "Today."

It's just been a whirlwind and unbelievable. Still, I'm getting e-mails, 10,000 e-mails. It's just incredible.

OLBERMANN: So you can't sell it now, right? It's sort of a blessing in disguise that the guy backed out?

STAR: Right. Right. It's pretty much that - it's kind of my - it's like the Paul McCartney Beatle base. I can't sell it, you know?

OLBERMANN: So, clearly, we're going to suggest here that you better get on the marketing stick, though, because there's already - there's some items on eBay. There's one called wedding dress gown guy doll with a picture of one of those like Howard Dean dolls, only in a wedding dress being sold by some dude in West Virginia.

STAR: Oh, my goodness.

OLBERMANN: There's a wedding dress guy compact toolbox and car back vacuum, and a wedding dress guy Gymboree onsie romper. So you better get moving on the merchandising? Can you get anything together?

STAR: I want royalties. I have a Web site, I also have a Web site for my band,, which you probably see in the background.

My band - it's funny, they're - nobody is under 6'2" but me, 6'2" to 6'8". I'm 5'8", so when they huddle around me, I feel like Doug Flutie.

OLBERMANN: Well, I don't think you look like - or you feel like Doug Flutie dressed like that, but that's another story altogether - maybe in some of the days in Chicago. And, by the way, it looks like the band is really not at all interested in this anymore.


STAR: No, they're not.

OLBERMANN: Larry Star, a man, a band, and a gown.

Thank you, sir. Have a good weekend.

STAR: Thank you for having me. Take it easy, Keith.


Before we leave our No. 1 story tonight, one more thing you need to know about the worldwide marketplace that is eBay. The most expensive sale to ever actually close on the site, a Gulfstream 2 jet selling for $4.9 million in August 2001. But we're thinking the wedding guy doll might give that thing a run for its money.

Before we go, let's recap the COUNTDOWN five stories, the ones we think you'll be talking about tomorrow.

No. 5, mission accomplished. Nearly a year to the day after the president spoke on board the USS Lincoln with that banner flying behind him, the country cuts a deal with one of Saddam's former generals to run the security in Fallujah. Four, the Google guys, two former classmates who did not even like each other but who will now put their company on the stock market and earn around $25 billion for doing so.

Three, Michael Jackson muted, no dancing on cars, no signing autographs. He showed up early to hear the 10 separate charges now filed against him, pleading not guilty to all. Two, playing Pythons. Dozens show up to audition for a movie about the famous British comedy act. No, I was not among them. And, No. 1, sold to the highest hoaxster. The wedding dress guy, alias Larry Star, also stuck with his ex-wife's bridal wear after an eBay bidder turned out to be a faker. His heart is broken twice.

That's COUNTDOWN. Thanks for being part of it. I'm Keith Olbermann.

Good night and good luck.


Thursday, April 29, 2004

'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for April 29

Guests: Colonel David McIntyre, John Hargrave


KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST (voice-over): Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?

"I," says the president, "enjoyed it." He and the vice president met the 9/11 Commission. What did he tell them? Why did two commissioners leave early?

Ten more Americans dead in Iraq, and Pentagon intelligence says much of the insurgency was organized by Saddam Hussein's secret service long before he was toppled.

Should you smoke in your car with your kids in your car? Obviously no, but should there be a law against it?

And an empty school bus, a high-speed chase, and a naked hijacker.

What more could we ask for in a news story?

All that and more now on COUNTDOWN.


OLBERMANN: Good evening.

He probably told reporters in the rose garden that he enjoyed testifying at the 9/11 Commission this morning, and that he answered every question. They said afterwards that both President Bush and Vice President Cheney were "forthcoming and candid in their answers." But, in our fifth story in the COUNTDOWN, tonight, on the record, nobody is being either forthcoming nor candid about what they actually told the 9/11 commission today.

What did the president say and when did he say it? In a moment, the analysis from MSNBC's Pat Buchanan. First, our White House correspondent David Gregory has unearthed some of what the president told the commission - David.


DAVID GREGORY, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Keith, today's historic meeting lasted more than three hours. It was described as "cordial and productive." Several sources telling NBC News that the president revealed new details about the chaos of 9/11.

(voice-over): At the White House on the morning of September 11, officials were alarmed more attacks were coming, and an airliner heading from Spain to the U.S. was a big worry. They wanted permission to shoot it down if necessary.

And today, the president told the commission, he issued that order shortly after arriving at Strategic Command Headquarters in Omaha. He learned later, he said, that the plane turned back to Madrid, it was not part of the attack. It was just one example of the confusion of that day, an area of interest for the commissioners.

The president in the Rose Garden when the private session was over:

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think it helped them understand how I think and how I run the White House and how we deal with threats.

GREGORY: The 10 commissioners arrived this morning through a side entrance of the White House. The White House would not allow the session to be recorded, nor was a transcript made. Later the president brushed aside critics who questioned why the president insisted on meeting with the commission with Vice President Cheney by his side.

BUSH: If we had something to hide, we wouldn't have met with them in the first place. We answered all their questions.

GREGORY: As expected, a big focus today was that Presidential Daily Briefing from August of 01, a briefing which included references to al-Qaeda's desire to hijack airplanes. Sources familiar with the session said Mr. Bush stuck to his position that the briefing contained no specific threat information.

And NBC News has learned that today, Mr. Bush was critical of his former counterterrorism chief, Richard Clarke, who was questioned whether the White House did enough to unearth the 9/11 plot.

(on camera): In a rebuke to his own Justice Department, President Bush began today's session with the commission by criticizing Attorney General Ashcroft for his attacks on Democratic commissioner Jamie Gorelick. Aides said later, the president does not approve of finger pointing -



OLBERMANN: David Gregory at the White House, many thanks.

On the record thus far, about the meeting, only Mr. Bush, Scott McClellan, the statement from the commission and the Commissioner Jim Thompson, the former Republican governor of Illinois, but as we get from David, an outline at least, of what was discussed this morning. Let's go to former presidential adviser and candidate, MSNBC's own Pat Buchanan.

Pat, good evening.

PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC ANALYST: Hey, Keith, how are you?

OLBERMANN: Based on what David just reported, there was considerable interest in the president's actions, whereabouts, his time line on 9/11 - was this, as the president himself said, to help them, meaning the commission, understand how we, meaning the White House, deal with threats?

BUCHANAN: Apparently it was, but the commission, 95 percent of the questions, apparently, went to the president from one source. And everybody says the president was candid and forthcoming and we've got Lee Hamilton's statement just in, I think, Keith, he said "it was a marvelous meeting with the president. His comments were candid, forthcoming, excellent meeting, very productive."

So apparently, the president really told them sort of what happened, descriptive, stories, and probably very engrossing for what it was like in the chaos in the White House with the president going to Barksdale, Omaha, before heading home.

OLBERMANN: Now, as you said, that suggested - what Mr. Hamilton just released suggests, this is all described as cordial and happy and yet we hear from David Gregory that Mr. Bush took some sort of swipe at Richard Clarke in front of the commission. He criticized the attorney general for criticizing Commissioner Gorelick. That doesn't sound like it was entirely cordial and happy.

BUCHANAN: Well, I think the president may be right this - on the criticism of Ashcroft. Ashcroft, as I understand it was this: that they've released, apparently, they declassified some documents that point to Jamie Gorelick far more as a substantial figure in setting up this wall and the president was saying, "look - you know, this is - don't do this stuff out of school, let's treat the commission with respect."

I think that makes the president look good, the fact that he came out in the Rose Garden and he put the spin on it himself. OK, it was very favorable, but it is being backed up. I think he - I mean, it looks to me like the president and Cheney aced their oral exams, Keith.

OLBERMANN: And on that subject, I don't want to make you out to be a mind reader or anything, but I want to play a snippet of what you said here last night and then read you some of Jim Thompson's remarks that were made today. The tape first:


BUCHANAN: They'll be putting out the word that the president was brilliant, he was crisp, he was on top of his game, he was in control, it was the president answering all the questions.


OLBERMANN: That was Pat Buchanan last night. This is Governor Thompson in the "AP" this afternoon:

"There was some laughter from time to time. The president is a bit of a tease. There were no tense moments. I thought the president gave a five-star performance. I wish the American people could have seen it."

Well, you clearly got that one right, Pat, but to the point...

BUCHANAN: But Keith, I'll tell you what, Jim Thompson looks like cabinet material in the second administration to me.


OLBERMANN: And in any future Pat Buchanan administration.

But to the point, if this is accurate, if what Lee Hamilton said is accurate, maybe Lee Hamilton is a more neutral observer on this than Jim Thompson, did Mr. Bush miss an opportunity, both in terms of the good of the republic and the families of the victims of 9/11, and for his own political needs, did he miss an opportunity by not letting the American people see what Jim Thompson called "a five-star performance?"

BUCHANAN: You know, you got a very good - very good point there, Keith. But look, what you got to remember, when he's not under oath, and it's in private, and it's not being recorded, the president is first rate in personal communication. If it had been under oath there, and he's got to worry about everything he said, my guess is you would not have got that presidential humor.

I mean, what he got was he got them in the oval office, they're sitting there, they got all these notes sitting on their lap, he's got a tremendous advantage. Frankly, it turned out to be a brilliant coup by the president and a lot of folks were critical going in.

OLBERMANN: But it will now be a brilliant coup in an anecdotal sense.

BUCHANAN: Last question, Vice Chairman Hamilton, Commissioner Kerrey left after two of the three hour session, their offices both said they had previously scheduled appointments. Kerrey had a meeting with Pete Domenici.

I ran into Kerrey at the Yankees/Red Sox game on Sunday. If they said today, he'd left this once in a lifetime opportunity because he had to get back to New York to see the Yankees play again tonight, I would have an easier time believing that. What's going on here? How do you walk out of this meeting?

OLBERMANN: I do not know how you walk out of it. And Kerrey went to a meeting with Pete Domenici? He couldn't have put the lunch off for two hours? I think he showed disrespect for the president and vice president. You know, Bob Kerrey was on "Comedy Central" mocking the interviews coming up today. I mean, with Mr. Stewart there on "Comedy Central." Lee Hamilton said he had to introduce the Canadian foreign minister or something, he should have gotten somebody else to do it. And, I think that they did not respect their own commission. And I don't think they respected the president and vice president. I mean, in a private meeting in the oval office with Cheney and Bush about the most important event of our time. Not good.

BUCHANAN: And beyond just the respect and the obvious requirements -

· serious requirements, how could you not want to be literally the fly on the wall in that meeting? I don't, I don't understand it either. We're in agreement as usual.

MSNBC's Pat Buchanan, I'm sure we'll get more details on this in the ensuing days. We'll have more to talk about then.

BUCHANAN: You take it easy, Keith.

OLBERMANN: Thanks as always, sir.

Continuing with the fifth story: Response to Terrorism. If the president's meeting with the 9/11 Commission was unprecedented or nearly so, so was the news out of Los Angeles, today. Nobody knew how credible it was, but officials actually revealed what they knew about a terrorist threat there, including date and location. Emphasizing the information was uncorroborated, and the credibility of the source unknown, LAPD, nonetheless, told Angelino's they had been tipped as to a possible attack today at one of the malls near the federal building on Wilshire Boulevard in west Colonel David McIntyre Bob Faw World War II "Operation Tiger.",Los Angeles.

That could have been any of a dozen places, from the open-air 3rd Street Promenade in Santa Monica, to the Titanic Beverly Center just outside Beverly Hills. It would later prove the information consisted of exactly one phone tip called into the operations center of the Department of Homeland Security in Washington. An anonymous caller saying four people planned to blow up a mall in west L.A. The caller then asked, now can you make me a citizen? Officials nonetheless thought that the specificity of the threat meant the public had to know.


CHIEF WILLIAM BRATTON, LOS ANGELES POLICE DEPT.: It was specific to a date, today, the 29th. It was specific to a geographic area adjacent - in the vicinity of the federal building, and there was other information that I'm not at liberty to disclose, but enough information to warrant us taking the actions that we took.


OLBERMANN: Retired U.S. Army Colonel David McIntyre joins us now from Washington, D.C. He's an expert on terrorist threats and now teaches Homeland Security at Texas A&M University security.

And thank you for your time tonight, sir.

COL. DAVID MCINTYRE, U.S. ARMY (RET.): Good to be with you.

OLBERMANN: NBC News is quoting a senior U.S. intelligence official who's saying he's mystified by this threat, that there were no overseas intelligence reports that would confirm or corroborate it. That he saw the story first while watching cable TV and said, "what the hell was that about?" It's unclear how much or how little the officials in L.A. would have known the nature of this source, but did they make the right decision to go public anyway?

MCINTYRE: Oh, probably did. What this really shows, this is really a case study, and I'm so glad you showed this tonight because the American people are just getting a glimpse of what their law enforcement's dealing with every day. I talked, last week, with a junior law enforcement member down in Texas who's part of the terrorism task force. Now that he's in, working with the FBI, he's astonished at how much of this comes in on a daily basis, what he has to wade through, the hard decision that have to be made. So, did they make the right decision? Gee, we'll never know, except in retrospect nothing happened and I guess we just have to accept that's part of the way the life works today. I would rather have them make this decision and be a mistake than not say anything and we're reporting a different story, tonight.

OLBERMANN: In terms of public perception, there's been so much anxiety and even frustration over the nonspecific threat, the color codes, the general generalized statements, "look out for something, we don't know what." Even if this was just some yahoo calling in hoping to get a green card, was it worth making it public in the sense of reassuring people that occasionally, specific information does come in and it does get acted on and it does get passed along when it reaches some sort of minimum standard, like this apparently did?

MCINTYRE: Yeah, I think that's probably true. I think it's - I think the public should be reassured that we now have a large number of people working at communication systems that works in Washington and all the way down to county police and law enforcement at every level. That's very important. Now, are we going to get everyone right? No. Was this one exactly right? Perhaps not. But this kind of thing is taking place on a daily basis and that's a far cry from what we were doing only two years ago.

OLBERMANN: Does it serve, as a last question - does it serve perhaps, as a kind of unplanned dry run for a major city's counterterrorism effort? Or conversely and perversely, could it a dry run for terrorists?

MCINTYRE: Well, it's always a dry run for terrorists, they drop something and watch to see what we do and then do something a little differently next time. What it really should be though, the people this really ought to energize is the business community. And, if I have one concern right now, is that the business community is not taking this seriously enough. They have a responsibility for their employees, for their customers. They ought to be thinking about what happens, when it happens - when they come back next time, because these people are coming back.

OLBERMANN: Colonel David McIntyre, now of Texas A&M. Many thanks for your time tonight, sir.

MCINTYRE: Good to be with you, sir.

OLBERMANN: COUNTDOWN opening tonight with terror questions of the 9/11 Commission and in the aftermath of concerns in L.A. Coming up, tonight's No. 4 story: The secrets of war on the day that the World War II memorial opened in D.C. We'll also take you to another memorial. A key moment in that war is remembered, it had been officially denied for 40 years.

And, later another war: the war over smoking. Drive while you smoke with your kids in your car? Not if a California measure becomes law. Stand by.


OLBERMANN: Our No. 4 story is up next, a World War II secret is revealed at last, the rehearsal for D-day that went terribly wrong, and those lucky enough to survive were threatened with court-martial if they ever talked. They're talking now. Stand by.


OLBERMANN: Washington is known for its memorials to Washington, Jefferson, and Lincoln, for the Korean and Vietnam wars, nearly every union general from the Civil War who could swing a leg over a horse. There's also a relatively new and striking participatory one for Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the president who lead U.S. to victory in the Second World War. And in the fourth story in the COUNTDOWN, there is also a memorial for the 16 million men and women in uniform whom he led. The National World War II Memorial opened, though not yet dedicated, that will happen May 29. It was opened in advance because truly, with World War II veterans dying at the rate of 1,100 per day, the commission sponsoring the memorial would like as many veterans as possible to have the chance to visit. Organized veterans groups will start touring the site next week and the dedication ceremony is expected to draw as many as 800,000 people next month.

There had been another ceremony for some of the men of the Second World War. It was in a place you never heard of about a part of D-day you've also never heard of. Slapton Sands, England, "Operation Tiger." This was the warm-up for the allied liberation of Europe, D-day minus seven days. So secret, it was officially denied by this government for four decades. A denial that angered those who survived because they felt it dishonored those who did not. Our correspondent, Bob Faw, at the other World War II memorial.


BOB FAW, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In a ceremony medieval and modern, two American veterans returned to England for the first time in 60 years. Confronting their past and exercising demons.

ANNOUNCER:... and explosions make the factors as much like the real thing as possible.

FAW: But, just one week before D-day, in "Exorcise Tiger," the dress rehearsal for landings on Utah Beach, German gunboats torpedoed three lumbering American ships and 749 America servicemen died.

RONALD DREZ, WAR HISTORIAN: A very dangerous place to be.

FAW: They were sitting ducks.

CHARLIE BRUBAKER, SURVIVOR: Yeah. It is a terrible thing when you think about it.

FAW: Chelly Rubaker was a 20-year-old machinist mate, then. Radioman Steven Sadlon, also 20 then, survived by jumping into the icy waters of Lime Bay.

STEVEN SADLON, SURVIVOR: You ever want to see somebody just cornered, screaming and - you know, running around, burning. It's just a horrible sight.

FAW: Saddlen could only watch and listen to his shipmates dying.

SADLON: And they'd be screaming, "help, help!" Then after a while, you wouldn't hear no more "help."

FAW (on camera): Survivors say the operation here was so secret, some were threatened with court-martial if they ever discussed it, and the losses were so disastrous and embarrassing, "Exorcise Tiger" was hushed up, For 40 years the U.S. military wouldn't admit what happened.

(voice-over): Though many men were buried with honors in England, "Exorcise Tiger" was not publicized, much less hailed, leaving scars six decades later.

SADLON: Deep, deep bitter. What bothers me is all those people that died, they got no recognition. I can't get over it.

Good to so you.

Nor can Charlie Brubaker, he's the clown comforting hospital patients.

Because he survived when so many didn't.

BRUBAKER: I've been blessed and I want to give back.

FAW: Only this weekend when the two 80-year-olds joined commemoration ceremonies did "Exorcise Tiger's" wounds start to heal, and when they laid a wreath for the fallen.

BRUBAKER: And rest in peace and God bless you all.

FAW: And onlookers cheered, any lingering bitterness vanished.

SADLON: The words just can't say how happy I am of all this.

FAW: Another wreath laying for the fallen. More tears, more pride.

For "Exorcise Tiger," 60 years and for some, still only moments ago.

Bob Faw, NBC News, Slapton Sands, England.


OLBERMANN: Our No. 4 story, to borrow a phrase, "The greatest generation."

Straight ahead on COUNTDOWN those stories that will not get a number, but we have to include in our show, anyway - "Oddball," including one of the weirdest hijackings in recent memory, up next.

And later, it could not be "American Idol" if it didn't have a

controversy. After a week of accusations and mudslinging, the viewers may

have settled the question whether or not there's racism on the show. Stand



OLBERMANN: We rejoin you with the COUNTDOWN and immediately pause it to bring you the day's roster of the ridiculous, it's line up of the looney, in short, let's play "Oddball."

A Georgia driver collides with an empty school bus at about 6:30 this morning in the town of Doraville. As police arrive, the driver emerges from the vehicle, he's naked. He's also running from his car into the school bus. He shoves the bus driver out of the seat and takes off and soon, we have the COUNTDOWN car chase of the day.

So let's go to the "Oddball Scoreboard." Cop: 41, Morons, naked or otherwise who think they can elude cops: 0. But, this time the cops had extra help. The naked bus hijacker was stopped when the drivers of a concrete pumper truck and a tractor-trailer eventually pinned him to a retaining wall on a freeway. This all happened long before the bus was to have picked up the kids so they did not to have see a naked guy hijack their vehicle, nor did he have to hear them sing, "Hail to thee, the bus driver, the bus driver, the bus driver."

Meanwhile from Tabriz the north to Golestan the Caspian Sea, three little letters are defining life in Iran - UFO. State television has shown video of a sparkling white disk, not this disk but one like it, filmed over the capital city of Tehran on Tuesday night. It also reports a bewildering variety of colors in the night sky. Green and purple rays shooting out over some cities, red and blue ones over others. The popular theories on the ground, those are American spaceships, those are Martians who want to take over Iran, and from the spoil sports at the Astronomical Society of Iran, those are light patterns from the planet Venus filtered through impurities in the atmosphere.

Yeah, right, like there's a planet called Venus.

And now to the "Mr. Sprinkles Car Wash" in Springfield, Massachusetts. A man driving by it noticed a very familiar looking car waiting in line for a cleaning. It was his other car, a 1995 Honda Accord which had been stolen just a few hours earlier. He called police, they were waiting for the perpetrators as they emerged from the car wash. Arrests made for car theft and possession of 13 pounds of marijuana. For the punch line of this story, we give full credit to the writer Peter Johnson of the "Springfield Republican." "Why did the thief take the stolen car to a car wash?" he writes. "He wanted to make a clean getaway."

Coming up, back to the COUNTDOWN and your preview of our third story, tonight: If you're the leader of the free world and you're thinking about going to war, who are you going to call? Donald Rumsfeld? Evidently not. The secretary of defense's surprising admission tonight on "Hardball."

Then later, an old family favorite reaches the end of a long, long road. But first, here are COUNTDOWN's "Top 3 Newsmakers" of this day:

No. 3: Esteban Palafox of Stanton Island, New York. That worst of humans, the child beater, supposedly angry because his 10-year-old son had missed three days of school, he allegedly beat him with a piece of beef jerky. The 15 inch Slim Jim Hulk Size Stick.

No. 2: International Billiards rivals, Quinten Hann and Mark King. After 10 years of bitterness during World Snooker Championship, they have decided to settle all this in a boxing match. Boys, at least use cue sticks or pieces of beef jerky.

And No. 1: Continuing the imagery, Russia's first "Museum of Erotica" is opening in St. Petersburg, and its owner says the first big exhibit will feature private parts of the infamous lecherous, malodorous, (UNINTELLIGIBLE), good old Father Gregory Rasputin. He was murdered in 1917 by members of the Imperial Family who thought he was leading them to destruction. But, fortunately for the visitors to the Museum of Erotica, part of him was pickled.


OLBERMANN: Iraq tonight seems like a series incongruities, each one of them less likely than the last.

Trying to negotiate a peace deal in Fallujah, U.S. Marines are using Saddam Hussein's old generals as go-betweens. There's also a report that much of the resistance in Iraq was planned in advance of his own defeat by Saddam. And just to round it out, the secretary of defense told MSNBC's Chris Matthews tonight that it's true the president never really asked him whether or not this country should go to war in Iraq.

The third story on the COUNTDOWN, the Iraq war now, then, and before it even began. On the ground, the news is as grim as it has been in weeks. In a southern Baghdad suburb, eight U.S. soldiers were killed today and four more wounded. As they searched for roadside bombs, a suicide bomber in a station wagon detonated his charges. Another soldier died in the city when his convoy was hit by insurgents firing rocket-propelled grenades. And a 10th trooper was killed when a roadside bomb went off in the town of Baquba.

As of today, 533 American soldiers have died from hostile fire in Iraq, 100 of them in April.

Now to the unlikely horse trading in Fallujah. Marines who had been expected to try to take the city by storm are instead trying to talk their way to an end in hostilities, with mixed results. They have been speaking with four Saddam Hussein's former commanders who have made an offer they say will restore calm to that city: let them create a 1,000-man Iraqi militia for Fallujah so they can work out agreement with the insurgents who killed American contractors and soldiers, even giving some of them jobs with the new militia.

The Marines were for it until the Pentagon pulled them up short, accusing local commanders of freelancing a deal that had not been approved. An airstrike by three Marine F-18 Hornets followed all this, along with more clashing on the ground.

Back here, however, there were no clashes between the president and the secretary of defense about going into this war, nor, evidently, between the truth and Bob Woodward's account of how, other than National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, President Bush felt he did not need to ask any of the principles, including Donald Rumsfeld, about whether or not this country should go to war.

Here on MSNBC tonight, Rumsfeld with a surprising answer on "HARDBALL" when Chris Matthews asked him about Woodward's version, asked him if the president had ever asked him, should we go to war in Iraq?


DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: he did not ask me, is the question. And to my knowledge, there are any number of people he did not ask.


CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Does that surprise you, as secretary of defense?

RUMSFELD: Well, I thought it was interesting. He clearly asked us, "Could we win?" And I said, obviously, that the military are sure that they can prevail in that conflict, in terms of the changing of regime.

He asked if they had everything they needed. He must have asked 5,000 questions over a period of a year about this, that and the other things. What could go wrong? What about a humanitarian crisis? What about an environmental crisis? What about internally displaced people? What about a fortress Baghdad? Thousands of questions along those lines.


OLBERMANN: And tonight Secretary Rumsfeld added that had the question was not really necessary. The president's point was - quote - "He said I knew where Rumsfeld was," so he did not have to.

Just one of a series of startlers about Iraq tonight.

Let's get reaction from the former commander of the 24th I.D. in the Gulf War, now MSNBC military and national security analyst General Barry McCaffrey. Thanks again for your time, sir.


OLBERMANN: Well, goodness, I got Secretary Rumsfeld's point about how Mr. Bush knew where Mr. Rumsfeld was. But doesn't the act of taking this country to war at least require the military-end members of the Cabinet to sit around a table at least once and maybe as a formality raise their hands and say, yes, I'm in favor of this?

MCCAFFREY: Keith, I have a sense of total disbelief about the entire assertion.

I cannot understand how we could possibly have not had the most senior levels of the Cabinet personally solicited on their advice. I actually think it must have happened. They must be dissembling by saying there was not a narrow signing up for the war, yes or no. But I simply don't believe the president would have not consulted carefully with his most senior advisers.

OLBERMANN: So I think, in some senses, that's what Rumsfeld was saying, that there were 5,000 questions and they were all asked for particular details. But there was never the proverbial head count.

MCCAFFREY: Well, again, I think this is careful selection of words. I don't believe that the president of the United States didn't ask the secretary of defense, the secretary of state, and others, do you think this is something that will achieve our objectives? Do you agree with what I'm doing? What do you think, Don? I don't believe it.

OLBERMANN: As we said, it's been a day of...

MCCAFFREY: It would be worse if I did believe it, I might add. If did I believe it, I would wonder, what's going on here?

OLBERMANN: The day was full of a lot of questions, like what's going on here back on the ground in Fallujah. How did this negotiation with Saddam Hussein's ex-generals get started and did it hurt coalition efforts in that city?

MCCAFFREY: You know, it looks to me as if we're really making this up as we go along. I would like to see a negotiated outcome of Fallujah. There's about 10 downside risks of going into the city. If we don't take down this insurgency, if we have some nonsense fig leaf, a couple of generals, 1,000 guys that are going into this big city, we've lost almost a battalion's worth of Marine in fighting there over the last two weeks.

I think, in a tactical sense, if we back off the city, we may constrain in a strategic sense our presence in Iraq. The weak are despised. Strength is admired. This would, in my judgment, represent a fundamental misjudgment.

OLBERMANN: Lastly, General, there was an extensive piece in "The New York Times" today about Pentagon intelligence having constructed a pretty good link between the insurgency in Iraq today, in Fallujah and in other places, and a plan that was devised by Saddam's secret police long before the war actually started, essentially preparing a resistance even before you lose a war.

We've heard of this before. Obviously, there was a brilliant PBS special about six months ago about Winston Churchill putting 2,000 soldiers literally in holes in the ground in Great Britain in the event that the German had invaded there and overrun England. But still, a preplanned resistance, is that kind of unorthodox in war?

MCCAFFREY: Well, first of all, I certainly wouldn't compare it to the British preparedness to resist Nazi invasions This minority regime murdered 300,000 Iraqis.


OLBERMANN: Just mechanically, I guess. The comparison is mechanical or procedural.

MCCAFFREY: Yes, well, at the time, Keith, I said I thought there had been an audible called at the line of scrimmage to go to ground. We went in with inadequate military power. These people walked in with their guns, their money, their leadership. We didn't get into the Sunni Muslim area for weeks after the beginning of the attack.

Of course they set it up. And I think there's been a loose coalition from the start, not a command center or a bunker underground. But, clearly, lots of these Fedayeen, the SRG, the intelligence service went to ground and now they're trying to regain control of the country. They want control of Iraq back.

OLBERMANN: General Barry McCaffrey, as always, sir, thanks for your time. Thanks for joining us.

MCCAFFREY: Good to be with you, Keith. Yes.

OLBERMANN: Before we leave this disturbing topic, more disturbing picture from the ground. They're disturbing in this case because they allegedly show Iraqi prisoners being mistreated by Americans.

Shown first last night on "60 Minutes II" on CBS, these picture are said to have been taken in a prison near Baghdad. CBS says it has dozens more. No war on record has not brought out some degree of brutalization, physical or otherwise, on every side. Nonetheless, an investigation of all this is under way.

And Brigadier General Janis Karpinski, who was responsible for the prison and three others, has been suspended. So have 17 soldiers under her command, including six military police officers who now face court-martials.

And more controversy over ABC's already controversial decision to devote tomorrow's "Nightline" to a reading of the name of U.S. fatalities in Iraq. The broadcast has been canceled by eight ABC affiliates that happened to be owned by a company with a history of heavy donations to the campaigns of President Bush and other Republicans. The memorial edition of "Nightline" will not be carried by the eight ABC affiliates owned by Sinclair Broadcasting Group.

The nonpartisan Center For Responsive Politics says Sinclair executives have given more $16,000 in hard money, more than $120,000 in soft money to Mr. Bush and other Republicans since 2000 and nothing to any Democrats. Ted Koppel is to read the names and show the faces of more than 500 dead American service personnel, but not on the Sinclair ABC stations, which include the ones in Saint Louis and Columbus, Ohio. A Sinclair Group spokesman said that is - quote - "contrary to the public interest."

That concludes the third story on the COUNTDOWN. No. 2, next, like to smoke in the car? Got kids? Might want to think about avoiding California. And later, "American Idol" has been accused of a lot of things, sarcasm, fetishism, even cretinism. But racism?

Still ahead on COUNTDOWN.


OLBERMANN: Few agree it's a good thing to light up if there are kids in the backseat of your car, but is it up to the government to force you to stub it out?

Our second story on the COUNTDOWN is next. Stand by.


OLBERMANN: When in New York City you could still smoke a cigar in an office filled with women and enclosed by sealed windows, the state of California already had laws against smoking in the workplace. It was the first to pass regulation against smoking at bars and at restaurants. There are some laws there about smoking at the beach.

Our No. 2 story on the COUNTDOWN tonight, there soon may be another California ordinance that bans people from smoking in their own cars, specifically assembly bill No. 2997, which states: "A person shall not smoke a pipe, cigar, or cigarette in a vehicle in which there is a driver or passenger who is 18 years of age or less."

In other words, not all cars, just those with kids in them. So could possibly argue with that?

Apparently, John Hargrave. He is an Internet humorist and the editor of, self-described as the world's only comedy site.

Mr. Hargrave, good evening.

JOHN HARGRAVE, ZUG.COM: Hi, Keith. How are you?

OLBERMANN: Not bad. But, as I flash back as a former child myself, my queasiest memories are of riding in a car, windows closed, the driver, not one of my parents, but one of my parents friends, smoking like a chimney.

Why shouldn't that be illegal?

HARGRAVE: Well, I've been a passionate defender of smokers rights for the last nine years,,

OLBERMANN: Thank you for the plug.

HARGRAVE: Yes. And it started out when I saw my co-workers outside in the cold in the hail and sleet, kind of standing over an open sewer grate huddled together for warmth trying to take a drag off a cigarette. And, Keith, that's just wrong. I think that's unfair to the smoker. And what they're doing in California right now I feel is honestly a violation of our civil liberties.

OLBERMANN: But you feel this way in a rather - you come at it from rather left field here. You don't smoke, but you describe yourself as an advocate for smokers rights?

HARGRAVE: That's correct. And like you, I had smoking experiences growing up. My father smoked. My grandmother smoked. It was kind of a family tradition in my household. And aside from growing up with chronic asthma, I'm perfectly healthy today.

OLBERMANN: See. Exactly.

And you've - so you've never smoked?

HARGRAVE: No. Do not smoke cigarettes, no.

OLBERMANN: Well, I smoke pipes occasionally, cigars. I can go 12 hours. I can go 24 without nicotine, longer. Why can't parents hold off until the kid is out of the car? I mean, there is some indication that smoking parents do lead on occasion at least to smoking children. And I don't mean because they're in flames.

HARGRAVE: Right. Do you have kids, Keith?

OLBERMANN: No, not yet.


HARGRAVE: If you have ever had the joy of taking a long-distance road trip with five screaming kids, you can't wait.

OLBERMANN: Right. Well, don't you pull over and throw them out?


HARGRAVE: I suppose maybe they will be enacting legislation against that next, too.

OLBERMANN: Oh, they probably already have that one on the thing here.

HARGRAVE: Yes. Right. Throwing children from a moving vehicle I'm pretty sure is against some law.

OLBERMANN: But one of the arguments about this is that this is something that we should encourage people not to do out of respect for the kids and their health. But it occurs to me that no driver does anything in this country except out of fear of getting caught.

If there were not laws, nobody would stop at an intersection. They would be driving up on the sidewalk. Maybe what we're talking about here is not restricting the rights of smokers, but maybe we're restricting the driver's desire to drive everywhere at whatever speed they want.

HARGRAVE: Well, you may be right. I don't know if it's the smokers rights, the drivers rights, but I feel that it's our rights as Americans.

And, you know, what's going to be next? Are they going to make belching in front of kids illegal? Because if they come out with some kind of study that says that secondhand intestinal gas is dangerous for the kids, my own child will be taken from me, because I am very gassy.

OLBERMANN: Well, you are opening up an entirely new can of worms that we do not - or can of beans that we don't have time for.



HARGRAVE: I eat a lot of cheese, also.

OLBERMANN: Yes. Humorist John Hargrave.

As the late comedian Bill Hicks used to say, remember this, nonsmokers: Nonsmokers die every day.

Thanks for your time today, sir.

HARGRAVE: Thank you.

OLBERMANN: From smoke gets in the mirrors while driving to smoke gets in your eyes and other gauzy musical equivalents of the silly celebrity and gossip news we bring you each night under the title "Keeping Tabs."

We begin with "American Idol." All right, this is a show about singing. So perhaps the cries of it being rigged, being racist, can they be put to rest now? A record number of viewers called in and voted, and the young man who became public enemy No. 1, out of 28 million votes, John Stevens, was finally voted out of the program.

The red-headed 16-year-old drew the ire of millions last week when he got more votes than each of the three divas who had been favored by the judges. But after his performance this week, Simon Cowell offered this critique. "It was like chocolate ice cream and an onion." Well, that's better than Simon, who's just like an onion.

A newspaper ran the headline, "Could This Guy Kill American Idol?" hypothesizing that if Stevens would have won, the show would have been canceled. Can we have both, please?

Speaking of franchises about to go belly up, how about the Hollywood Walk of Fame? Once, one of three criteria needed to be met, great talent, great career longevity, or just great age. Apparently, you can go 0 for 3 and still get your own star on the walk of fame. Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, still weeks from their 18th birthday, are now immortalized outside the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood. They are the first twins to get a star, a single star, this despite the efforts of their publicist, who has been asking the media to stop referring to the pair as the Olsen twins and instead start calling them Mary-Kate and Ashley.

Five more words are required here. Don't necessarily curb your dog.

Television's only 57-year-old overnight success is getting married again.

The property mogul just proposed to long-term girlfriend Melania Knauss. For Donald Trump, first an Ivana, then a divorce, then a Marla, then a divorce. Now Melania.

Trump says the wedding date will be in a - quote - "not too long period of time." No truth to rumors she gets six weeks to get him more business or he tells her, you're fired.

And in the spirit of the Donald, we'd like to take this opportunity to bring on a little bit of shameless self-promotion. Switch on "Last Call With Carson Daly" tonight after "Conan O'Brien" on your local NBC station and you'll see his special guests, Lorraine Bracco, me, and Carson's own wisdom tooth removed from his own mouth just before airtime. I'm afraid the tooth was the most interesting of his guests. Be there. Aloha.

Tonight's top story, driving off the road and into the history books next.

First, here are COUNTDOWN's top two photos of this day.


OLBERMANN: It was one of the most popular songs of 1905. In a time when the sales of sheet music determined such things, it was, in fact, so popular that it was still in the top 20 in 1906 in Brazil. "Come away with me, Lucille, in my merry Oldsmobile." When Teddy Roosevelt was president, an Oldsmobile could be merry, but today, all it apparently can be is old.

Our No. 1 story on the COUNTDOWN, 107 years of automaking is over.

They have manufactured the last of the Oldsmobiles.

As you watch this report from our correspondent Kevin Tibbles, consider this. If you own an Olds, as of this afternoon, it just became a classic car.


KEVIN TIBBLES, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Harry Patterson (ph) of Cincinnati is a car lover. And his passion, the Oldsmobile.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a 1973 Delta 88 Royale.

TIBBLES: Going back 40 years, he's had five Oldsmobiles. He currently owns four. But today, his collection became history.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was handsome looking. It had sleek lines on it. It was a very clean vehicle. It dressed up nicely. It looked nice with the top down.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (singing): In my merry Oldsmobile.

TIBBLES: One hundred seven years after the first Olds, today, in Lansing, Michigan, G.M. rolled out the last copy of the last model, the Alero. Named for its founder, Ransom E. Olds, the brand was soon dogged by its name, old.

ANNOUNCER: The young mobiles from Oldsmobile.

TIBBLES (on camera): The car that had so much muscle in the '60s and '70s eventually lost its traction with consumers. Surpassed by both imports and other manufacturers in both style and appeal.

(voice-over): Story Oldsmobile of Lansing was there for the good times, the glory years.

LEO JEROME, STORY AUTOMOTIVE GROUP: You went to a country club, you didn't drive a Cadillac. You didn't drive a Lincoln. You drove an Oldsmobile.

TIBBLES: But cars like the 442, Delta 88 and Toronado quickly became a thing of the past. By the '80s, Oldsmobile' image became stodgy.

The response?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (singing): This is not your father's Oldsmobile.

TIBBLES: And no advertising campaign could save it.

Billy Sliecker (ph) worked in the Lansing plant for 50 years.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The memories the people who got of the Olds will still always be there.

TIBBLES: Gone the way of the Studebaker, Packard, DeSoto, the last Olds will come to rest a few miles from the plant at the Oldsmobile Museum.

And for Harry Patterson.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Driving that car in the open air, until you experience it, there's no way to describe it, especially when you've got a nice girl sitting next to you by your side.

TIBBLES: A love affair for more than a century, heading down the highway to history.

Kevin Tibbles, NBC News, Chicago.


OLBERMANN: And it matched his hat.

Before we leave our No. 1 story and Oldsmobile, one more thing you need to know. It's COUNTDOWN's favorite Oldsmobile of all time, the 1921 Touring Car discovered in the back of a feed store in Fontana, California, then made into a star in the opening segment of "The Beverly Hillbillies," black gold, Olds, that is.

Let's recap the top five COUNTDOWN stories, the ones we think you'll be talking about tomorrow.

No. 5, conversation with the commission. The president and the vice president spent three hours meeting privately with 9/11 commissioners inside the Oval Office. Sources say the president stuck to his premise that he received no specific threat information in an August 6 briefing on al Qaeda in 2001. Four, the official and unofficial memorials to World War II. The war memorial opens and so do memories about the rehearsal for D-Day, so secret that survivors could not talk about the 749 American fatalities.

Three, the current war in Iraq, the secretary of defense confirming to Chris Matthews that he was never asked for his advice about whether or not to go or no-go on the war against Saddam Hussein. Two, banning smoking in your car with your kids in your car, California legislators considering a law that would make it illegal to light up if you're riding in a car with your kids. And No. 1, goodbye, Olds friend. The 107-year-old brand is now history. The last Oldsmobile ever rolls off the production line.

That's COUNTDOWN. Thanks for being part of it. I'm Keith Olbermann.

Good night and good luck.


Tuesday, April 27, 2004

'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for April 27

Guests: Montgomery Meigs, Tom Oliphant, Fletcher Lamkin, Kate Meyer


KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST (voice-over): Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?

Twin fires light the midnight skies in Fallujah, Iraq. U.S. forces have had enough. The Marines versus the insurgents.

The John Kerry medal controversy: A "Boston Globe" columnist writes he was a witness within five feet and saw what and how John Kerry threw. The columnist joins us tonight. As will the president of Westminster college. He told his campus he was surprised and disappointed that Vice President Cheney turned his speech there into a campaign stop.

The death of Princess Diana, dismiss this as tabloid gossip mongering if you will, because Scotland Yard won't it may send its top cop to interview Prince Charles.

And Moammar Qaddafi, you may have won the Publisher's Clearinghouse Sweepstakes!

All that and more now on COUNTDOWN.


OLBERMANN: Good evening. And it all comes rushing back. The grainy images of explosions lighting up a midnight sky rendered green by night vision cameras, videotaped firefights, recorded too close for comfort, but also too compellingly to be ignored.

Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN: Saturday may be the one-year anniversary of the president declaring an end to major combat operations, but today in Iraq, in Fallujah and in Nabil, it sure looked like any commemoration of Mr. Bush's words would be purely semantical. Our correspondent Richard Engel now, on the dramatic turn-back towards combat, particularly in the Sunni Triangle - Richard.


RICHARD ENGEL, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Keith, a major setback for the ceasefire in Fallujah. The day actually began with optimism, with both Iraqi police and U.S. Marines talking about starting joint patrols in Fallujah tomorrow. But just hours later, those same U.S. Marines were launching some of the heaviest airstrikes in weeks.

(voice-over): Tonight Marines pounded the al-Jolan neighborhood in northwest Fallujah with two AC-130 gunships and tanks.

KARL PENHAUL, POOL REPORTER: There've been multiple cannon rounds, we're told - we're being told 105-millimeter Howitzer cannon rounds from that Specter gunship have slammed into that position. We're seeing some secondary explosions, some sparks coming from there.

ENGEL: The target, two buildings that insurgents have been shooting from in the last two days. Yesterday's fierce firefight confirmed what some in the military suspected.

SCOTT PETERSON, "CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR": What it really did was confirm fears that some of the Marine commanders had been having that the insurgents were using the ceasefire to basically rearm, regroup, and hone their - hone their defenses so that they could there - so that basically they would be ready for the Marines if the Marines decided that they were going to roll into Fallujah.

ENGEL: The al-Jolan neighborhood has seen the most intense fighting in the last month.

RAJIY CHANDRASEKARAN, THE "WASHINGTON POST": It's a hot and volatile neighborhood. The Marine patrols really aren't able to pierce into the heart of the area. And often what happens is if they are receiving fire from positions in that neighborhood, they call in airstrikes.

ENGEL: As tonight's strikes were underway, the Marines using loudspeakers, warning people to surrender. At the same time, from the minarets of mosques, chants "Allah hu Akbar": "god is great," a call not to lose faith.

The images were transmitted live across the Arab world including on the Arab TV network, al-Jazeera, a prominent Sunni cleric called into the station describing the American strike as, quote, "a crusader crime."

Today was the deadline for militants to hand over heavy weapons and Marines entered the al-Jolan neighborhood twice and were fired on each time.

(on camera): There are serious concerns that tonight's airstrikes may have completely jeopardized the ceasefire and that the offensive, both sides appear to have been planning may not be far away - Keith.


OLBERMANN: Richard Engel based in Baghdad, many thanks.

The Marines now, poised for attack inside Fallujah the Army parked outside Najaf, it seems that the urban warfare U.S. troops skipped on the march into Baghdad a year ago may have finally come back to greet them.

General Montgomery Meigs served as a commander of the ah Army and the U.S. Army in Europe, and also was NATO commander in Bosnia.

General, for your time, thanks again, and good evening.

GEN. MONTGOMERY MEIGS, U.S. ARMY (RET.): Hi, Keith. Good to be with you.

OLBERMANN: A lot of the thinking as this situation in Fallujah got worse and worse was that eventually this would have to be decided, not just with firepower, but with intense firepower, less police work, more war-like. Is that what we're seeing today? Is that what we're going to see in the coming days?

MEIGS: Yeah. If you could not break these people down with negotiations and have the fence-sitters in Iraq see them basically capitulating, then it was going to get to this kind of a situation where you got to go in and break their back.

OLBERMANN: My choice of analogy here, is not meant to demean nor to diminish that it's life and death there, but do you see Fallujah, particularly, as if it were a kind of recipe, where the U.S. could wind up using either too much firepower and mess the thing up or use too little firepower and mess the thing up?

MEIGS: Oh, yeah. I mean, look, in this part of the world, everyone is watching to see whether the Americans will go and defeat this crowd. However, you have to do it in a manner that they perceive as just. If you overcommit, if you create a lot of collateral damage, if you allow some sort of an information campaign to get going that makes you look like a crusader criminal, as we've heard, and it can be substantiated, that's a problem. But, you got to go in there and take the guys down.

OLBERMANN: In Najaf, meanwhile, 64 killed outside the city, but still the restraint seems to be in play. Troops staying outside of the holy sites in the city itself, but obviously that cannot go on indefinitely. Are we in the position that Rick Francona had suggested last night of essentially hoping that the other clerics deal with Moqtada al-Sadr themselves, and is there a shelf-life to that hope?

MEIGS: Well, I suspect the strategy has to be, you go in the backdoor with Moqtada al-Sadr. You try to get the more senior Shiite clerics to close him off; you create safe ground for them to maneuver on him politically and culturally. You don't have the senior clerics to deal with the situation in Fallujah. Here you've got fighters - foreign fighters, you've got the Sunni hardliners, it's a different situation. So, you can do one with sort of a soft hand, the other with a hard hand.

OLBERMANN: Last point, just to update as we get closer to this deadline - we've heard a lot of analysis about the June 30 turnover, but not a lot of alternatives at this stage to what seems to be in progress. What would your suggestion be to enable the military situation to proceed the way you feel it should there?

MEIGS: Well, first of all, you got to get somebody that you can invest sovereignty in that's relatively credible with the Iraqi people and can compare - prepare for the election. Remember, that is a huge task. Secondly, you've got to make sure that the military commander on the ground is the sole and final determiner of what safe and secure environment is and when lethal force can be used. That's the formula from Bosnia and Kosovo, it's absolutely critical.

OLBERMANN: General Montgomery Meigs, as always sir, great thanks for your time.

MEIGS: Good to be here.

OLBERMANN: Good. Thanks, sir.

The other stories of Iraq tonight, are about the people that were there, some who survived and some who did not, like the three U.S. servicewomen, the Witmer sisters of Madison, Wisconsin. Today news that all of them have come home for good. Twenty-year-old Specialist Michelle Witmer, of the 32nd Military Police Company, was killed on the 9th of this month in an ambush in Baghdad. Her twin sister, Sergeant Charity Witmer, has been a medic with the 118th Battalion. The third sister, 24-year-old Rachael Witmer, had been serving in the same police company with Michelle. A National Guard spokesman said the decision was, in essence, mutual, that the remaining sisters, already home on grief leave, wanted to stay there, and that commanders of each of the surviving sister's units thought would be best if they did not return to Iraq, both for their own safety and for that of their units on the chance that Iraqi insurgents might actually target them.

Another poignant homecoming, also in Wisconsin, Private Joseph Wagner is tonight back with his mother in the town of Altoona, in that state. You will recall that Mrs. Patrice Confer was diagnosed with terminal cancer less than a month ago. The Army initially refused to let her son come home from Iraq. She was on our program last Thursday. On Friday, the military reversed its decision. But, her son did not get home until today because of what were described as "troubles on the road that sidetracked him," those would be an uprising near Tikrit.

Tonight however, mother and son are again together for two weeks - that is how much time the Army is giving him.

And a little more tonight about Pat Tillman. A sports memorabilia company says it will not taking easy advantage of the chance to exploit the former football player's death in battle in Afghanistan. Corporations like the Donruss Company stockpile uniforms worn by athletes in the major sports and usually cut them up to swatches which are then attached to trading cards, some of which later sell for hundreds of dollars a piece. A uniform worn by Pat Tillman was one of at least 20,000 purchased by Donruss, but it was never cut up for use in cards. Now with Tillman's death, Donruss says, it never will be cut up. The company's chief executive officer said that were it to be auctioned off, it might sell for at least $25,000 if it was sold in swatches on the cards, it might earn the company as much as $4 million in additional sales over the next three years. Instead, Donruss says it will give the uniform to Tillman's family. On the other hand, two companies in the replica uniform business say now they expect, at a later date, to contact the Tillman family about making tribute uniforms with his name and number on them.

The fifth story travels back to the Middle East now, and two more elements, before and after pictures, if you will, from the war on terror. There's been an attack in Damascus, Syria, a city where Palestinian extremists have had their headquarters, and a country where at least 10,000 people were slaughtered by the secular Asad regime in 1982 in hopes of ending a terror campaign by the Muslim brotherhood. Witnesses and Syrian officials say the attackers opened fire with automatic weapons and grenade launchers, and did so near the Iranian and Canadian embassies and a building that once housed a U.N. headquarters. One official said, two attackers had been killed, two wounded, and that a policeman and a civilian had also been killed. A car bomb may have been detonated. Security forces have the area sealed off. No word as to who was behind the attack.

And to round out the fifth story on COUNTDOWN, rejoining the family of nations has its positives and its negatives. Ask Libyan leader, Moammar Qaddafi. Arriving in Brussels, his first visit to the West in 15 years, but Colonel's photo-op was interrupted by a protester brandishing an envelope. Qaddafi may have been off the A list all this time, but it has not dulled his political reflexes. He just kept smiling and shaking hands while security with, not so much, great alacrity tried remove the unidentified man who wound up finally flinging the envelope at the colonel and missing him. The man might have mistaken Qaddafi for the actor Ian McShane, who plays the lead on the new HBO series "Deadwood." It's possible he was just asking for an autograph. Keep smiling.

COUNTDOWN opens with all the day's headlines on the war on terror:

The good, the bad, and the weird.

Still to come, The war of the medals controversy: The GOP questions Kerry; Kerry questioned Bush; we'll question somebody who was there.

But up next, tonight's No. 4 story: The death of Princess Diana. No matter how you feel this conspiracy theory might be a silly thing, Scotland Yard is taking it seriously. So seriously they may interrogate the prince. Stand by.


OLBERMANN: Tonight's No. 4 story up next. Prince Charles could soon be answering questions from Scotland Yard's finest. The topic: The death of his ex-wife. Stand by.


OLBERMANN: It is one thing for the president and vice president of the United States to go before an investigatory commission and answer questions about the worst attack on this nation's soil in two centuries, as they will day after tomorrow, but it is something else, simultaneously nowhere near that important and yet in a way, more compelling still, for the police to raise the possibility of interviewing the heir to the British throne about the possibility that the death of his ex-wife was not an accident.

Our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN: The ultimate tabloid story suddenly gets serious around the edges. Scotland Yard may question Prince Charles. Here's Tom Costello in London.


TOM COSTELLO, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Britain's top policemen went to Paris to reconstruct Princess Diana's final hours, from the Ritz Hotel, where she died with boyfriend, Dodi al-Fayed, through the Paris streets her chauffeur took, trying to avail (ph) the pursuing paparazzi, and finally to the tunnel where their car crashed, killing all three.

Sir John Stevens is promising a thorough and conclusive investigation.

SIR JOHN STEVENS, COMMISSIONER, LONDON METROPOLITAN POLICE: Every single aspect of conspiracy theories, and the like, will be looked at by my team and then we'll reporting to the coroner.

COSTELLO: French detectives concluded five years ago that Henri Paul caused the accident by speeding and driving drunk, but Dodi al-Fayed's father has always alleged a conspiracy; charges that gained traction when a former butler released letters from Diana in which she expressed fear that Charles planned to kill her in a traffic accident.

(on camera): All the conspiracy theories led the royal coroner to open an investigation. The hope is he can put the theories to rest once and for all. But to do so, the police may have to take their investigation to the royal family.

STEVENS: If in fact there is a need to interview Price Charles, we will interview Price Charles. That's a fact.

EVE POLLARD, ROYAL WATCHER: I think the British want to do this to lay another ghost to rest and to stop the conspiracy theories.

COSTELLO (voice-over): Theories that, even today, have many convinced it could not have been a simple traffic accident that took the life of the people's princess.

Tom Costello, NBC News, London.


OLBERMANN: The royal controversy, our No. 4 story in the COUNTDOWN.

Coming up, those stories that could not earn a COUNTDOWN number, but are weird enough, shocking enough we have to tell you of them anyway. "Oddball" next.

What does Mars have to do with northern Virginia?

And later, a college kid, he's short on cash and financial aid, but he decides to overnight it in the library - for eight months.


OLBERMANN: We rejoin you with COUNTDOWN and immediately pause it to bring you the pure unbaked cookie dough of news, the tantalizing, but ultimately meaningless headlines that always follow after I say "Let's play Oddball."

Mars, from time and memorial, mankind's obsession in the heavens. Did life unfold there? When? Where did it go? Did it grow into cities? Who was in charge? Good news, the last question has just been answered. The planet Mars is officially under the jurisdiction of the northern Virginia district of Little League Baseball, Incorporated. The regional administrator there wanted to stimulate kids about science and technology, so he petitioned little league headquarters to annex Mars in his district. So, if there are little leaguers on Mars, who are watching right now, your regional playoffs, this spring, will be in McLean, Virginia. There will be gravity issues, the pull is about a third less on Mars than it is on Earth, which might affect Martian homerun hitters or perhaps explain Barry Bonds.

Back on this planet, it's COUNTDOWN car chase of the week. And we have a developing situation on the major freeways of Oklahoma City, which means it's time to check the "Oddball Scorecard," and we see it is cops -

39, guys who think they can escape the cops - zip. Although, must admit a powerful Ford Mustang, some fancy driving will improve your odds just a bit. Not sure, but I think this man may have been a stunt driver on "T.J. Hooker." Check out how he maneuvers through two police attempts to spin him out of control. Weee! Quality driving, but he can't avoid the wall on spin No. 3, but he will not give up there. This out of control fugitive will do anything to escape. He mocks the fabric of our traffic laws by driving backwards on the freeway! But, it comes to an end the way all chases come to an end with the perp in handcuffs. He'll have plenty of time to drive backwards where he's going - the big house.

And lastly, to the one constant un-ebbing source of "Oddball" news - eBay. We've seen a lot of ugliness there, but never quite like this. Seller, "horseplaypublishing" is auctioning off a wedding dress, and you may have noticed there, he's also wearing it. "I found my ex-wife's wedding dress in the attic when I moved," he writes, "I was actually going to have a dress burning party when the divorce became final, but my sister talked me out of it. 'That's such a gorgeous, some lucky girl would be glad to have it.'" True enough. One fashion hint though, to that luck girl who'd be glad to have it: No tattoos!

And one more note from his sales pitch: "Thank the Lord we didn't have kids. If they would have turned out like her or her family I would have slit my wrists." That's salesmanship.

COUNTDOWN picking back up in a moment with the No. 3 story. Your preview: John Kerry's Vietnam protest, now a tempest in the race for the White House. A witness to the ribbon or medal tossing joins us to recall what really happened that day.

And later, as they said in the movie, "What do you suppose happened to the car that runs on water with a pinch of something or the razor blade that never gets dull?" What do you mean you've invented an inscrutable tire?

These stories ahead, first here are COUNTDOWN's "Top 3 Newsmakers" of this day:

No. 3: Livia Ungureanu of Romania, the 4-year-old girl fell out of a balcony, three stories up. Terror gripped her family until she landed right on top of a stay dog. Both of them sustained only minor injuries. Livia has now adopted the dog. They just kind of fell into the relationship. Sorry.

No. 2: Two boys in Fort Myers, Florida, now facing felony charges for making a keilbasa bomb. They stuffed homemade napalm and two aerosol cans into a - into the sausage and they thought it was funny. Funny? Desecrating a sausage is funny?

And No. 1: The late Tony Mullan, who was Ireland's champion clay pigeon shooter. Before his death, he asked that he be cremated and his remains dispersed into 50 shotgun shells, with which his friends can go out and shoot clay pigeons. In loving memory of Tony - pull!


OLBERMANN: Once upon a time in this country, presidential politics was simultaneously vicious and gentile. Accuse your opponent of fathering an illegitimate child during one campaign, cooperate in the next opponent in the next campaign it keep secret the fact that he was in a wheelchair.

Our No. 3 in the COUNTDOWN, tonight: If we are not quite that vicious anymore, we certainly are nowhere near that gentile. Two more pieces of evidence of that in play, tonight. A college that was expecting a foreign policy speech and instead got a campaign stop, and an eyewitness account of the John Kerry thrown medal controversy.

The Kerry story first. The presumptive presidential nominee had long claimed that at a 1971 protest by Vietnam veterans against the war, he symbolically threw away not his Vietnam medals, but only some of his decoration ribbons. Over the weekend, a 1971 interview with Kerry from a Washington television station turned up in which Kerry seems to use the terms medals and ribbons interchangeably. Republicans declared that a flip-flop and suggested maybe Kerry really did throw away his medals, including three Purple Hearts.

Tonight, on MSNBC's "HARDBALL," Kerry explained why those terms were indeed interchangeable.


SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The medals and ribbons are the same thing, fundamentally. The ribbons are medals. They're the ribbon that's attached to the medal. You wear them every day and it's a symbol of your medals.


OLBERMANN: And, more importantly, an eyewitness reported what he saw Kerry throw or not throw that day.

Tom Oliphant was "The Boston Globe" correspondent at the protest. He is now one of the paper's leading columnist. Mr. Oliphant joins us from Washington.

Good evening, sir.

THOMAS OLIPHANT, "THE BOSTON GLOBE": Good evening, Keith. How are you?


Your column today was clear and emphatic. And, forgive this, but what did the presidential candidate throw and why did he throw it?


OLIPHANT: I think this is one of those cases where perhaps the facts get in the way of a good shouting match.

OLBERMANN: So what was it? What did you see? You were five feet

away from it


OLIPHANT: Well, yes, right up until the moment. He reached into his pocket and he took out maybe six or seven - I called them decorations just to avoid this food fight for a second - ribbons, I guess it would be called. It was all he had with him from Massachusetts. He had been wearing them on his fatigue shirt all week.

He took them out and he had them in the palm of his hand and it was a small enough collection that he could make a fist over it while he waited his turn. And then I watched him from - you're right - from a distance of about five feet go to the front of the fence, say something very briefly, quietly, and sort of lob more than throw. It was like he was just beginning to warm up in the bullpen. That wasn't a fastball he threw.

OLBERMANN: So what you saw that day was not only that John Kerry didn't throw any of his own medals, and using that word very particularly, into that pile, but he didn't have the medals with him either?


The thing to remember is, this is the anti-war movement, Keith. In today's politics and theater, everything is scripted, right, even when you go to the can. But, in those days, nothing was scripted. And when they all assembled here from all over the country, there was no plan even to turn in medals. It was an idea that developed in the week, mostly because the police built had a fence in front of the Capitol. And so when Kerry left Massachusetts, the only stuff he took with him was stuff he was going to wear on his fatigue shirt, much as someone in uniform would wear on his blouse or her blouse. And that's all he had with him. So there were no medals to throw even if he had wanted to, which he didn't.

OLBERMANN: But that, of course, then brings the whole thing back with the Republicans of today, back to the semantics of this, the idea that he may have said, I gave back my medals or I threw away my medals. You note that in the military, all decorations, ribbons, bars, medallions were referred to collectively as medals.

John Kerry said that. We just heard him say it from "HARDBALL." Does anybody else say that? It rings a distant chord for me.


OLIPHANT: In my life, my dad, rest his soul, had a Bronze Star from his service in the Pacific during World War II. And I remember asking him about his - it came in a box, the medal part of it, and there was a lapel ornament and a ribbon.

And one time, I said, what do you call the smaller things and he just said, they're all the Bronze Star. And that's the most important fact, I guess I can tell you, is on that day and on every day since, whether he's correct or not, John Kerry has never acknowledged any distinction between those words. I sometimes wonder what would have happened to this controversy if he had just used the word decorations.

OLBERMANN: Well, lastly, since our point in this segment is that everything has turned into politics now...

OLIPHANT: Thank you.

OLBERMANN: Do you want to do a disclaimer? Is there a point-of-view acknowledgement or something we should put in and attach to your reporting here?

OLIPHANT: Oh, absolutely.

My wonderful, genius daughter in her fourth job in politics joined the Kerry campaign two weeks ago and exerts a magical, mystical hold on my writing and ideas. It accounts for everything I say.


OLBERMANN: Well, at least you admit it, sir.

OLIPHANT: There you go. I do.


OLBERMANN: Tom Oliphant of "The Boston Globe," many thanks for your time. A pleasure to have you on the show, sir.



OLBERMANN: And a Vietnam-era dispute over words and intentions finding a 21st century analogy in Fulton, Missouri. That's where Vice president Dick Cheney launched a new campaign offensive yesterday, delivering a stinging indictment of Senator Kerry's record on defense.

But while the speech drew rounds of applause at the college that served also as the stage for Winston Churchill's Iron Curtain speech, not everyone was pleased with it. The president of the college, who, like the media, was told this was to be a major speech on foreign relations, sent this e-mail to the entirety of his campus: "Frankly, I must admit that I was surprised and disappointed that Mr. Cheney chose to step off the high ground and resort to Kerry-bashing." He goes on to write, "We had only been told the speech would be about foreign policy."

The man who wrote that, the president of Westminster College, Fletcher Lamkin, joins us now from Missouri.

President Lamkin, thank you kindly for your time tonight.

FLETCHER LAMKIN, PRESIDENT, WESTMINSTER COLLEGE: Thank you for inviting me on the show, Keith.

OLBERMANN: A spokeswoman for the vice president says it's her understanding that the college was made aware that - quote - "Senator Kerry's different views on foreign policy would be mentioned throughout the vice president's speech." Is that correct or was your institution kind of blindsided?

LAMKIN: I don't think it's blindsided.

I think it was a miscommunication. I'm sure both the people we talked to meant to say the right thing, but it was certainly our interpretation of what was said that it was going to be a speech on foreign policy. And certainly I'd like to clarify a few things that I said in that e-mail, Keith.

First of all, it was an internal e-mail. It was meant for students, staff and faculty, as it's addressed. I think it's been taken out of context quite a bit. It was meant to express that my interest is in balance. I would like a balanced view of the issues expressed on this historic campus and it was my intention that that happen and that's why we issued the invitation to Senator Kerry.

OLBERMANN: So do you expect Senator Kerry at some point to speak at Westminster?

LAMKIN: Yes. He will be here on Friday. And I think it will be his chance to state his view of important issues that face this nation.

And I want it to be made clear, Keith, that I in no way, shape or form intended to in any way criticize our vice president. He certainly was free to say the things that he said and it was appropriate in a political speech. But because it was a political speech, I wanted to also in the interest of balance issue an invitation to Senator Kerry to state his views.

OLBERMANN: So the gist of this is, regarding the vice president's speech, if you had been told explicitly Mr. Cheney wants to go to where Churchill invoked Stettin and Trieste and talk foreign policy, and by the way, he is going to wrap it up with about 10 minutes of a kind of standard campaign speech, would the speech have gone on as planned? In other words, you didn't have a problem with what he said, just that it was somewhat surprising to you?

LAMKIN: That's absolutely correct, Keith. I had no problem with what he said. I just felt that we had built a different context here on the campus. And I needed to explain that to our students, staff and faculty. And I'm interested in balance, a balanced view of the issues being presented on this historic campus. And that's really the long and short of it.

OLBERMANN: Well, we commend you on the search for balance and we hope that you have better luck finding it than we in the news media have in the last three months. It's quite a campaign.

LAMKIN: Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN: Fletcher Lamkin, president of Westminster College, thank you for joining us, sir.


OLBERMANN: And we round out tonight's No. 3 story, the theory that everything is political, with evidence that the loathing between the parties now reaches down so deeply into the soul, if any, that it can be expressed only in song.

First, as you may have seen on COUNTDOWN last week, the operatic tribute to Donald Rumsfeld, not content to let his opacity speak for itself, soprano Eleanor Wall (ph) has set his news conference musings to music, lending a whole new dramatic range to the secretary's most metaphysical of moments.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (singing): As we know, there are known knowns. There are things we know. There will be some things that people will see, will see.


OLBERMANN: But not to be outdone by Rumsfeld aficionados, a group called Punk Voters has put out an album called "Rock Against Bush." Highlights includes original tracks like "Moron." Then there's the wishful "Sink, Florida, Sink," and finally, the track, that is sure to get you going when the Patriot Act has you down, the upbeat "Paranoia Cha-Cha-Cha."

And that, they say, is just volume one. The fat lady or somebody has sung, signaling the end of our third story on COUNTDOWN. Everything is political.

Still ahead of us tonight, story No. 2, the new invention that could permanently deflate terms like flat and blowout. And later, the hits just keep on coming. Air America has not even been on the air a month and already there's a shakeup at the top.

But, first, here are COUNTDOWN's top three sound bites of this day.



CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Are they going to drop this nonsensical stuff? Don Evans, the secretary of commerce and the president's good friend, said you look French the other day. Are they going to try to build the idea that you're like Mike Dukakis?

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think the American people can see through it. Maybe they ought to get really nervous in the White House, because I understand Karen Hughes was born in Paris.


KERRY: They better worry about it.


MATTHEWS: Hah! Tit for tat.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I told him, when he starts talking about standards, make sure it's the kind of language we all understand. See, that's part of the problem. The medical terminology is like really different from English.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's pretty inspirational. The dog is exceeding what I thought he would be able to do. And I think it's working great. Hey, if this dog can do it, so can I.



OLBERMANN: It could eliminate the rattling of the jack in the trunk of your car, could put an end to the countless stubbed toes from angrily kicking yours or others' hubcaps, which, of course, means it could get scuttled by skeptics or vested interests.

Our second story on the COUNTDOWN is all about it and it's next.


OLBERMANN: One of the most underrated films of all time a 1951 Alec Guinness picture called "The Man in the White Suit." Ostensibly, it's about a scientist who invents a fabric that never gets dirty and can never wear out. In reality, it's about how everybody, clothing manufacturers, the media, the workers, even other scientists, has a vested interest in making sure the indestructible cloth never sees the light of day or they will all be out of work.

Our No. 2 story on the COUNTDOWN, not the man in the white suit, but the man with the indestructible tire. And if you watch this report from our correspondent Mike Taibbi long enough, you may smell just a whiff of that backlash felt by the Alec Guinness character.


MIKE TAIBBI, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In a warehouse on the edge of Boulder City, Nevada, a couple of 60-something dreamers secretly nurture a dream it turns out they've independently shared for nearly three decades, to find the holy grail of the tire industry, a synthetic replacement for rubber that would make cheaper, safer, simpler and wholly recyclable tires.

It was Richard Steinke an inventor who grew up in a Cincinnati orphanage, who came up a new urethane compound he says performs better than rubber, though he won't say what's in it.

(on camera): This is the secret sauce?


TAIBBI: The Coke formula that's kept under lock and key?

STEINKE: That's right.

TAIBBI (voice-over): Still, Steinke didn't know how to turn his secret into a real tire until he met Rick Vannan, the retired research and development chief at Goodyear.

RICK VANNAN, INVENTOR: We would change the industry forever.

STEINKE: When Rick and I got together, it was like the Wright brothers.

TAIBBI: Does their invention fly?

VANNAN: It's just like having my first child.

TAIBBI: We watched those parts of the process we were allowed to watch and wondered whether these revolutionary automobile tires, which take only seconds to make and can be made in any color, would work as well as the low-duty solid tires that Steinke had been making for years for tractors, golf carts and wheelbarrows.

Then we went out to the Las Vegas Speedway to try the tires ourselves. As (INAUDIBLE) single-compound tires, there's no possibility of tread separation. And these tires are also designed to run flat for hundreds of miles of normal use.

(on camera): They say there are only two kinds of drivers, those who have had a tire emergency and those who will.

(voice-over): So we let all the air out of one tire and, for good measure, filled the side wall and tread full of holes, and a series of hard, hairpin turns, no problem.

(on camera): In fact, at cruising speed, I can't tell the difference.

(voice-over): There are already skeptics, like tire expert Asa Sharp (ph).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I didn't grow up in Missouri, but I would have to answer it as a Missouri person.

TAIBBI (on camera): Show me.


TAIBBI (voice-over): And even if the new tire is what its inventors say it is, Sharp says it would be years before they could be fitted to existing tire and vehicle technology.


TAIBBI (on camera): Decades?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I would think so.

TAIBBI: That's not what Steinke and Vannan say. They say, in a year, two years at most, the rubber tire industry as it functioned for a century will come to a stop, its replacement ready to roll.

Mike Taibbi, NBC News, Boulder City, Nevada.


OLBERMANN: Mark Mason of Massachusetts could have used the Steinke-Vannan tires. The second part of our No. 2 story tonight will evoke images from a dozen movies, a driver going across a drawbridge that suddenly begins to open.

Mason, with his two kids in the backseat of their minivan, was crossing a nearly century-old bridge in Gloucester, Mass., when without warning the thing started to rise and open up. He knew he could not turn around and go back. He had no choice, instant scene from "The Blues Brothers."


MARK MASON, MOTORIST: And that, you know, could take a shot that it did. A smaller car or a motorcycle, we'd be talking a whole different story.


OLBERMANN: Outcome, nobody hurt. The bridge with its mind of its own possibly thrown a'kilter when it was crossed by a truck too heavy for it. And the tires on Mason's car, all four of them, flat.

With the second story in the books, time to turn the glossy pages with the pictures of the aftermaths of Botox and late nights on Sunset Boulevard, say hello to Hollywood. It's time for "Keeping Tabs"; 2002 Academy Award-winning best actress Halle Berry has filed for divorce from her husband, the singer Eric Benet, six months after they separated. They'd been married for a little over three years.

It's her second marriage. The previous one to the former baseball player David Justice ended in divorce in 1996 owing to some degree to her complaint that rather than paying attention to her, Justice preferred to watch Dan Patrick and me on "SportsCenter." Sorry.

All start-up enterprises have their shaky periods, especially in broadcasting. Still, when your radio network has been on the air for 28 days and the co-founder just vice president for programming are both adios, it's a little bit more than shaky. Such is the news from the liberal talk network Air America. Co-foudner Mark Walsh, who made the announcement of the network's launch, has now stepped down as CEO. Vice President for operations Dave Logan has - quote - "been replaced."

Some veteran programmers suggest the problem with the network is less the on-air product and more the initial business strategy, especially the selection of some weak-signaled stations. That's "Tabs."

Our top story is next, valiant college student overcoming homelessness to chase a dream or just a really promising creative writing major. That's ahead.

First, here are COUNTDOWN's top two photos of this day.


OLBERMANN: It is a complaint as old as school itself. I'm literally living in the library. If have ever said it, you might want to rethink it after you hear the story of Steve Stanzak. Then again, as our No. 1 story on the COUNTDOWN tonight suggests, you may also want to rethink the story of Steve Stanzak.

This would be Steve. He is a 20-year-old sophomore at New York University. This would be New York University. It is located in Greenwich Village in the heart of downtown Manhattan, not quite Ivy League, not quite beatnik, more like the best of both words. So there is Mr. Stanzak on a $15,000 scholarship and unable to find another penny with which to pay for housing, thus choosing to live for eight months in the sub-basement of the university's Bobst Library, showering at the apartments of friends, getting all his nourishment from bagels and original juice, and then getting profiled in today's "New York Times," oh, and chronically the entire experience on his Web site.

Did we mention Mr. Stanzak's major? Creative writing.

Kate Meyer is an NYU sophomore, news editor at "The Washington Square News," the student-run paper that broke this story.

Ms. Meyer, good evening. Thanks for your time.



OLBERMANN: So, NYU responded to all this by getting Steve Stanzak a free room immediately, so immediately you wouldn't believe it. But about believing the story of him living in the library, separate the truth from the urban legend for us. Was he really living in the library?

MEYER: Yes, he definitely was really living in the library.

Since September, he has been sleeping for six hours a night on three chairs in the basement level of the library and has been using the library bathrooms to clean himself. And he has definitely been living there. He has been chronicling it, as you said, on his Web site. And students all over campus have known about it for months, regardless of whether the university knew about it until last week, apparently. But it was known on campus that he definitely was living in the library.

OLBERMANN: How much of it was necessary homelessness, if you will, and how much of it was a guy who was perhaps putting too much creative into his creative writing major?

MEYER: Well, I think that Steve definitely thought that he had to live in the library. For him, this was a necessary thing.

For any one of us, I don't know. I personally don't think I would live in the library, but he thought that he needed to do that. He was using it as kind of an experiment for his writing, but it definitely wasn't something that he chose to do over another viable option, to live in housing or to live in an apartment in the city. This was what he thought he had to do to stay at NYU.

OLBERMANN: I lived on campus at Cornell for three years. And clearly parts of our libraries there were much nicer than my dorm room. Did you get a sense of how bad this really was a setting for him? I mean, it's described as the sub-basement of the place.

MEYER: Well, the sub basement is our study lounge.


MEYER: So it's not really as dark and decrepit as it may sound.

But NYU housing, on the other hand, is the best in the country. So there is a pretty fair discrepancy between NYU housing and an apartment on Fifth Avenue and the basement in Bobst Library. So...

OLBERMANN: All right, end result of this for him, do you have a sense yet what - is this going to be a book? Is it going to be a TV movie? What's going to happen at the end of all this?

MEYER: He originally was planning on writing a book all along. So I think he is still planning on doing that. He wants to take a break I think from all of the attention he's been getting and just get back to living a normal student life.

And he is very - from what I gather, he is very devoted to his studies and he takes academics very seriously, obviously. Otherwise, he wouldn't have gone to all this trouble to stay at NYU. So I think he really wants to focus on that and in the future write a book.

OLBERMANN: And if he were not dedicated to his studies, he wouldn't be living in a library. Obviously, that would be the joke that would have to be made at the end of it.



OLBERMANN: Kate Meyer, news editor of the New York University student paper, "The Washington Square News," thanks for your time tonight and for setting up straight on this story. Appreciate it.

MEYER: Thanks.

OLBERMANN: And in the spirit of education, we leave tonight's story with some math. How much money does it take to attend for one year as an undergrad at NYU? According to New York University's office of undergraduate admissions, average $41,100, tuition, room, board, expenses and, of course, library privileges.

Let's recap the five COUNTDOWN stories, the ones we think you'll be talking about tomorrow.

No. 5, fighting back on in Fallujah, U.S. forces pounding insurgency positions, exchanging gunfire with rebels in the daytime and sending in rockets and AC-130 gunship to light up the night sky. Four, investigating royalty, the British police opening up the possibility - and it is just that at this point - of interviewing Prince Charles as part of a new inquiry into how his ex-wife actually died.

Three, political perspective. Eyewitness Thomas Oliphant of "The Boston Globe" backs up John Kerry's assertion that he threw away his military ribbons, not his military medallions, at a war protest 33 years ago and that the terms medals and ribbons were interchangeable. Two, an end to tire trouble. An inventor and a retired tire researcher - retired tire researcher - say they have perfected a new compound that performs better than rubber when it comes to meeting the road.

And, No. 1, Steve Stanzak, the NYU student hard up for cash, possibly hard up for ideas for his creative writing class, lived in the university library for the last eight months and now has gotten a free room.

That's COUNTDOWN. Thanks for being part of it. I'm Keith Olbermann.

Good night and good luck.