Wednesday, August 11, 2004

'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for August 11

Guest: Keith Olbermann, Gregory Rodriguez, Mickey Kaus, Jason Dearen, Luigi Militello


KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST: Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?

Another mole inside al Qaeda? Exclusive details tonight of the man U.S. officials believe may have been the human link between al Qaeda operatives here and in Pakistan. Now he's cooperating with the U.S.

The red states, the blue states, the purple states?

And what do you mean, liberals will have sex with conservatives if the conservatives vow tonight vote for George Bush?

Geopolitics, similarly simplified. Whack Iraq, the baseball game.


OLBERMANN: And the arrest of Mike Wallace in a limousine and meat loaf incident in New York City.

MIKE WALLACE, CBS: All it was - I was trying to protect my meat loaf.

OLBERMANN: Uh - yes.

All that and more now on COUNTDOWN.


OLBERMANN: Good evening.

Chastised in many quarters the last time it stuck its toe into the pool of grief that 9/11 remains, the president's re-election campaign today jumped in waist deep.

A television commercial called "Solemn Duty," in which the president personally and specificly refers to the days of attacks and invokes the memories of parents who were scared out of their wits that day.

Our fifth story in COUNTDOWN, if the ad had not already made T-minus 83 days and counting, one of the bigger events on this election calender, there are also questions tonight about why the Republican governor of California will not campaign with the Republican president of the United States.

And remarkably, about whether or not a small group of liberals is serious or hoaxing us, about offering to trade sex to any conservative who abstains. Abstains from voting, that is.

First the ad. In March, families and Democrats blasted the re-election campaign for an ad that only vaguely referred to 9/11, more with images and with words. That one was subtle. The new one to be aired in some local cities and already on national cable, is specific.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm George Bush and I approved this message.

My most solemn duty to lead our nation to protect us. I can't imagine the great agony of a mom or dad having to make the decision about which child to pick up first on September the 11th. We cannot hesitate. We cannot yield. We must do everything in our power to bring an enemy to justice before they hurt us again.


OLBERMANN: Joining me now, Gregory Rodriguez, contributing editor to the "Los Angeles Times," senior fellow at the New America Foundation. And good evening again to you, sir.

GREGORY RODRIGUEZ, EDITOR "L.A. TIMES": Good evening. Thanks for having me.

OLBERMANN: We'll get to the California part of tonight's news in a bit, but that ad first. I guess there's no way to say this differently, that kind of creep me out. It's almost a "Sophie's Choice" quality to it. Remember the movie from 20-years-ago.

And I suppose it's designed to creep me out. But is it going creep voters out in a good or in a bad way?

RODRIGUEZ: You know, my impression is like everything else in this country right now, it's going polarize voters. There are going to be some who voters resent being manipulated. They're going call it fear mongering, and they may be right.

And there will be others who are comforted by it. But in a sense, this is part of our culture. This constant - we sell products through fear. Last night's promos for the television, was West Nile Virus terrorism and power outages in California. So, we're constantly using fear to invite people to either buy products or vote for politicians.

OLBERMANN: The previous occasion, when the Bush campaign, as I said, just referred to 9/11 visually, it did get some questioning, if not a great deal about use of Ground Zero images.

Can the Democrats then come back and say, all right, we live in a time of fear mongering and this is it. This is exactly what we're talking about. This is the Bush campaign exploiting fear in a very direct and discomforting way.

RODRIGUEZ: It's really a touchy subject. So, if the Democrats say you're exploiting fear, then they could be accused of not taking the terrorism seriously. So in a sense, both sides can be burned by playing too much with this issue. It's a very emotionally charged issue. And I think either party must deal with it very carefully.

OLBERMANN: Let's move to the California connection or disconnection, that might be a better term. Governor Schwarzenegger said today that he could not campaign outside the state for President Bush, because since I'm governor now, I have to really work for the state of California. Of course, he's left the state to go to weight lifters conventions, to go promote his last movie. There's got to be a more substantial reason behind this.

Is it a rift between Bush and Schwarzenegger, and if so, whence does it spring?

RODRIGUEZ: You know what, I think, it's the simple fact that Schwarzenegger polls better among Californians than Bush does. Bush - the governor would not benefit from hanging around with the president for too long among his own constituents in California. So, in a sense, the governor doesn't need the president in a way that normally governor would need the support of presidents.

OLBERMANN: Fascinating. Will he be able to talk Schwarzenegger into crossing the state line and doing something for him?

RODRIGUEZ: You know what, I don't think so. The governor elected here by looking at the anti-establishment, by looking above bi-partisanship. By making himself a big partisan player, he's actually taking away some of his own capital. So, it's better that he stays here and seem above it all, than playing with the president. I think, it's probably a smart move for Schwarzenegger.

OLBERMANN: Gregory Rodriguez, of the "Los Angeles Times" and the New America Foundation, once again, many thanks.

RODRIGUEZ: All right, thanks for having me.

OLBERMANN: Also politically, at or near the top of the security wish list for many American these days, economic security. The optimism or pessimism that voters might be feeling, has heavily polarized as just about everything else in this election. Let's just say, the glass that's half full, is probably the red glass. Half empty, probably the blue glass. And now there are a whole lot of other glasses that kind of murky purple. That would be the color you get when you mix red and blue.

Also the color the folks at Gallup have added to our political pallet. The red states, again, in case you missed it, those that voted for Bush by a comfortable margin in 2000. The blue states, those that heavily favored Al Gore. And the aforementioned, purple, are the battleground states where the margin of victory for either candidate four years ago, was just 5 percent or less.

Those are the ground rules, let's play the poll. A majority in of voters in red states telling Gallup, that they feel economic conditions in this country are getting better, 55 percent to 37 percent.

Nearly as wide a margin in the other direction in the blue states, 39 percent better, 51 percent worse.

And no surprise, the voters in the battle ground, purple states, falling somewhere in between, 47 percent better and 43 percent worst.

And one of the more cynical theories of politics, of course, is that whatever it is, somebody is making money off it. When applied to the Democratic Convention, the theory produces a surprising outcome. The big show in Boston was worth only about 1-10 of what cities fathers anticipated.

Suffix University, Beacon Hill Institute reporting, that Boston's expected the convention would give city's economy a boost of $154 million. While the number was pretty good there, they forgot to subtract. The institute says Kerry and friends brought nearly $157 million into the economy, but they also scared away $142 million.

How much did - the local businesses lost, because people avoided Boston during convention. Thus the actual economic boost was not $154 million, but a net effect of about $15 million.

After money as the alternative motive in politics, there's always sex. Ask Bill Clinton, Wilbur Mills, Wayne Hays, Gary Hart, Thomas Jefferson, Grover Cleveland, Gary Condit, Franklin Roosevelt - oh hell, I don't have the time to read the whole list, it is only an hour.

Suffice to say, a Web site called Hot Or Not, has invited it's members to vote on the attractiveness of the Bush cabinet. They note that Dr. Condoleezza Rice is not eligible, she is an advisor, not a cabinet member.

They also excluded Secretary of State Rumsfeld Because he's too famous.

Thus your winner, scoring a 9.2 out of a possible 10, this guy, Secretary of Commerce Don Evans. His high score obscures the fact, though, that he was only mentioned on 244 ballots, compared to Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao, who got an 8.1, but was voted for 2292 times. She was third overall. Secretary of Interior Gail Norton, fifth at 7.9., tied with Attorney General John Ashcroft. He got 167 votes and he knows who each of them was from.

Homeland Security Tom Ridge tenth at, 7.2, which the Web site rates a code orange of hotness. And then bringing up the end, Secretary of Health and Human Services, Tommy Thompson, tied for 14th at 6.2 out of 10. Chief of Staff Andy Card, a 5.9., 16th place. The vice president next to last at 5.8. And at the bottom, Trade Representative Robert Zolick, who got a 5.1. Could have been worse. Could have been - I don't know how it could have been worse.

There were other pictures, but I wanted to you stay for the whole hour. Anyway, if you thought that was absurd, another Web site claims, emphasize the word "claims," that it is offering to arrange liberal dates who will have sex with conservatives, if the conservatives pledge in writing not to vote for George Bush.

Promoter Nathan Martin (ph), claims this is legit. He says he will have a bus filled with willing models of both genders going through swing states - of Ohio next week. The name of this Web site, and alleged votes for sex organization, will be displayed prominently on the side of the bus. We cannot say that name here, but it sounds kind of like rock the vote. The only evidence that this is for real, is the groups claim that it completed, three such transactions in Florida last week, and one more in New Mexico. And presumably, anybody making that stuff up would make up better number than that.

Joining me now to analyze a newly admitted to, if not exactly a new facet of politics, is Micky Kaus, contributor to

Mr. Kaus, good evening.


OLBERMANN: Well, I've heard of naked politics before but this is ridiculous. Does this premise sound right to you? That a voter in this case, a Republican voter would trade his or her vote for sex?

KAUS: No. It sounds self-contradictory. The whole premise of the site is that Democrats are hipper and sexier and Republicans are uptight. If Republicans are so uptight, they're probably not going to go for this offer. There's sort of a contradiction. And also obviously, for every vote they win in this old-fashioned retail fashion, they're losing thousands if not millions by turning off people who think the Democrats have no family values. How could they say that after this?

OLBERMANN: Of course there's also the issue of that Trade Representative Robert Zoeller, who we just showed but we can just leave him out of it again.

There's also a question of legality to this thing. There's a newspaper in Columbus, Ohio, an alternative newspaper that reported this story and they got ahold of a spokesman for the secretary of state of Ohio who said that it is a fourth degree felony to offer or accept anything of value to vote, or to not vote or to vote for somebody in particular, although apparently the law is unclear about whether or not sex constitutes something of value in Ohio. That may be a whole other story.

KAUS: In my experience, that's an uncertain question. This is low hanging fruit for any ambitious right wing prosecutor who wants to get a day's publicity by condemning these outside sex maniacs who are taking a bus through the state. I would say it also might have a problem with prostitution laws. I don't know how they're written but you're trading sex for something of value.

OLBERMANN: And I'm remembering just suddenly about Gordon Liddy and a story that he - a proposal he went into during the Watergate era in his early days working for the Nixon re-election campaign where he wanted to bring in low-level Democratic operatives during the 1972 convention and ply them with prostitutes and get all sorts of dramatic information the next day and put them on a Chinese motifed houseboat out in the harbor in Miami. So this may not a new story at all.

KAUS: I think the CIA proved that that technique didn't work. It reminds me of the famous Models for McGovern in 1972. This was a group you wanted to organize. Not a group you wanted to participate in. And I think that may be the secret here. Models for McGovern was an incredible scam. You got to organize all these beautiful women and pretend that you were engaged in some worthwhile political activity. So I'm a little suspicious as to who the beneficiary is here.

OLBERMANN: Lastly, if this is on the level and if it is legal, we could be entering an entirely new level of politics here. Could you see this kind of trade-off being used sort of higher up on the food chain? I mean, this certainly would liven up the electoral college or the Supreme Court, wouldn't it?

KAUS: Yes. I think it would probably take more - it would have to be more than sex to get a seat on the Supreme Court. It would have to be some sort of super alien sex that we don't know about yet. But - and the electoral college, maybe a little less. But still more than just a one-night stand.

OLBERMANN: Well, in any event, if it is true, it does bring an entirely new meaning to that term Bush campaign.

Mickey Kaus of Many thanks and good night.

KAUS: Thanks.

OLBERMANN: COUNTDOWN opening tonight with politics from polls to the X Factor. Up next, tonight's number four story, same topic. The Scott Peterson trial. Day two of the soap opera that is Amber Frey as we hear Mr. Peterson try to convince her he is in Paris when he really is in Modesto.

Later one of America's veteran reporters handcuffed and taken to the big house over meatloaf. Illegal meatloaf.


OLBERMANN: As we learned yesterday at the Scott Peterson trial, nothing works with a woman better than not telling her you are married and then rubbing a rose on her cheek just before a Christmas party.

Our fourth story in the COUNTDOWN, day two of the testimony of Amber Frey unintentionally amusing in the middle of an anything but amusing murder trial. We got a vivid word picture of that testimony yesterday from Jason Dearen, covering the trial for the newspaper, the "San Mateo County Times" and he has been good enough to join us yet again from outside the courtroom in Redwood City, California and good evening once more.


OLBERMANN: I'm gathering much of today's excitement was Amber Frey on tape and pertaining to the maxim that you can fool some of the people some of the time but you can't fool Amber Frey into believing you're in Paris when you're actually in Modesto, California. Is that right?

DEAREN: This time it was actually Brussels not Paris. He said he was in Brussels. And to try to prove his point, he said that he had taken up jogging recently and had stumbled on some cobblestones on the street and had bruised his hip. So that was one of the stories he told. I guess cobblestones mean Brussels.

OLBERMANN: Goodness! What else was there in this line today? It was an entire day of taped testimony as opposed to Ms. Frey as she appeared yesterday in person?

DEAREN: Right. There was very little testimony on the stand from Amber Frey today. Most of the day was spent looking at transcripts. Everybody in the courtroom was handed a transcript so they could follow along with these grainy, distorted recordings that were recorded by Amber Frey with the help of Modesto police. The jurors read along. Some of them looked bored. A couple of them had closed their eyes. There was a lot of yawning today from the jury. But some of the calls lasted for over an hour even. So it was a much more subdued day than yesterday and Amber wasn't on the stand very often.

OLBERMANN: Yesterday I asked what the courtroom's impression and the jury's impression of Ms. Frey seemed to be. I want to ask you the impression now made by these tapes on the persona of Scott Peterson. Could it hurt the prosecution that he seems less like a criminal mastermind and more like a small-town cassanova whose biggest mental leap is there are cobblestones in Belgium?

DEAREN: Well, I think that is one of the things the defense will point out in cross-examination. He's being sincere here. Obviously, these conversations are taking place within a week after his wife disappeared. So you have to take this all with a grain of salt. But he didn't know these were being recorded and she did. So she's playing along with him and kind of goading him. Almost sometimes leading him into saying certain things. I think that will definitely help Peterson's cause when it comes to cross-examination which will probably happen sometime in the middle of late next week.

OLBERMANN: Last question. Really sort of fact of the day, question. We know know what their favorite movies were. Hers was "Bubble Boy" and his was what?

DEAREN: His was "The Shining."


DEAREN: Yes. Her attorney, Gloria Allred afterward said she thought that was the blockbuster of the day. But, as we all know, "The Shining" is a horror film starring Jack Nicholson where he chases his wife and son around an abandoned hotel trying to murder them. So, that wasn't the best moment for Scott Peterson.

OLBERMANN: Kind of a bad call. You always want to go with something from Disney. Jason Dearen of the "San Mateo County Times" at the Peterson Trial, once again, great thanks.

DEAREN: Hey, thanks a lot, Keith.

OLBERMANN: While we are here, yet another curious development in the Kobe Bryant case. Yesterday, the alleged victim sued Bryant in civil court. And today, the prosecution asked for a delay in the criminal trial. They are supposed to start two weeks from Friday, but the district attorney's office has filed for an extension. It says it does not have all it needs, evidence, decisions, et cetera.

Time frame not mentioned, but under the so-called speedy trial law of Colorado, proceedings must begin no later than six months after the defendant's plea. That in this case, that works to the middle of November. Prosecution also appealing to the state supreme court for a reversal of the decision that gives the defense a three-day window to question, the alleged victim's sexual activity.

Unstated in all this, the continuing murmurs about last week's report that all this is leading up to one thing: Bryant pleading guilty to a lesser charge and then settling with his accuser financially.

COUNTDOWN now past No. 4. story. Up next, the U.F.O. watch. Last night, we took you to the actual watch tower in broad daylight. Now we'll tell you what our cameras found out after the sun went down. "Oddball" is next.

And later, wack Iraq, another example of the paint ball wars gone horribly, horribly wrong. Stand by, COUNTDOWN continues.


OLBERMANN: We're back. And from the No. 1 story on the COUNTDOWN one night, to our starting of our segment of bizarre news the next. Such is life's rich pageant. Let's play "Oddball."

Last night we introduced you to Judy, the woman in Cooper, Colorado who has erected the country's only known U.F.O. watch tower. Apparently being 20 plus feet off the ground, puts you in prime E.T. viewing position. Because, Ms. Messeline (ph) told us she has seen at least 19 U.F.O.'s.

It was still daylight in Colorado when we conducted our live interview. So, we had the camera crew stick around with Judy and her friend after dark just in case. And they came back with this remarkable footage.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's a plane. It's blinking.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That is a plane.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Over there, but not there.


OLBERMANN: Well, at least we got to see the famous blinky plane of Cooper, Colorado. Judy Messeline (ph) says five space ships did show up right after the camera crew left.

You know, if these aliens really are super intelligent beings, they would bring their own damn cameras and just drop off a tape.

In the meantime, keep watching the skis! Oh, look here they are.

There were injuries in Argentina, mostly broken bones, nothing life threatening, but it was scary. And where if you were looking to book a ski vacation in August choices are limited. But you're going to go with a facility that insists on regular maintenance of its ski lift, not this place.

This was the second time in 2 weeks that a cable snapped at the Bara Loche (ph) Ski Resort. This time causing 6 chairs to slide down the wire crashing into other chairs. Twenty-four skiers stranded, bunched together, high above the slope, waiting for hours to be rescued. Twenty-two of them waited anyway, two guys got tired of hanging around and found their own way down. Bye-bye!

And finally, speaking of winter games, we are just days away now from the opening ceremonies of the 2004 winter Olympics in Athens, Greece. All right. I know. Summer Olympics, please don't tell that to those whacky South Koreans. They are celebrating the event by dressing up as penguins, or dressing up penguins in the national team jersey. And they've got monkeys, too. Look, monkeys! It's South Korea's animal in English, animal cheerleading team. The zoo keeper says he organized the event as a way for animal to have more interest in the Olympics. No, really. He actually said that. And the zoo keeper is still walking around without his own keeper.

"Oddball" now in the record books. Up next on COUNTDOWN tonight, the No. 3 story. New details about an American-born al Qaeda operative who may be the human link between terrorists here and in Pakistan.

And why the brewing political battle over the president's pick to head the CIA may be a furious but brief storm. Andrea Mitchell will explain. These stories ahead.

First, here are COUNTDOWN'S top 3 news makers of the day.

No. 3, Darryl Wolski from Winnipeg, Canada organizer of the first hockey gladiator's tournament. The pay per view event was shut down by provincial police. Why? Because at this hockey tournament, they were going to eliminate the middleman. No hockey games. Just hockey fights.

No. 2, Lorig Carkoudian of Silver Spring, Maryland. She organized a nurse in at the local Starbucks, because in their shops, the coffee chain will not permit mothers to naturally feed their children. Actually, they do, but you have to pay them $3.99 for it. It's called a double breastaccino.

And No. 1, Patrick Conaty of Leeds, Alabama. As a Pentecostal layman, preached to passers by. Conaty dressed up as Jesus, drenched himself in fake blood, announced he tried to get a crucifixion permit from the city and got up on a 14-foot-tall cross in front of his salon. Leeds police officer Wendall Carter literally ordered him down off the cross. Officer Carter, can you travel to New York? I have some people I need to you repeat that order to, sir.


OLBERMANN: This will not fall under the same category as Mohammad Naeem Noor Khan. He was the Western intelligence agency's man kind of inside al Qaeda, until somebody in the administration released his name to the media on background on Sunday night, blowing his cover and allowing a number of al Qaeda suspects, according to Pakistani intelligence, to - quote - "run away."

But our third story on the COUNTDOWN is a little different than that. We already knew that Mohammed Babar was arrested and had pleaded guilty to terror charges.

But, tonight, as correspondent Pete Williams reports exclusively, like Khan, Babar has apparently flipped and started to cooperate. And the stories he's told have left the counterterrorism people mighty excited.


PETE WILLIAMS, NBC JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): U.S. officials tonight say this man, Mohammed Junaid Babar, has turned out to be a tantalizing figure into the investigation into the al Qaeda plot to attack the five buildings in New York City, Washington, D.C., and Newark.

It turns out he also met top al Qaeda leaders earlier this year in Pakistan. Babar was actually arrested in March, and, as NBC News reported last week, pleaded guilty in secret in June, admitting his part in a plan to bomb targets in London. A huge sweep by British police broke that up in late March. Babar was born in the U.S., raised in a New York City suburb, but has no love for his birthplace.

MOHAMMED JUNAID BABAR, DEFENDANT: I did grow up there, but that doesn't mean my loyalty is with the Americans. My loyalty was, has always been, is and forever will be with the Muslims.

WILLIAMS: Now authorities are exploring a possible connection between Babar and members of another British cell arrested last week, which included Eisa al-Hindi, the man believed to have done most of the surveillance of the U.S. financial buildings himself.

NBC News has learned that investigators now have proof that al-Hindi was actually in the U.S. at the time the buildings were cased.

As for Mohammed Babar, investigators are also exploring a trip he admitted taking earlier this year to South Waziristan, a remote part of Pakistan near the Afghan border now thought to be the center of al Qaeda's top planners. He met there with a man U.S. authorities confirm was a top al Qaeda official and delivered night-vision goggles, waterproof clothing and money. U.S. authorities say Babar is now cooperating with them and his family has been placed in the witness protection program.

A terrorism expert says the U.S. has made big strides at uncovering all the recent leads.

BRUCE HOFFMAN, TERRORISM EXPERT: Our ability to connect the dots and to link disparate al Qaeda activities in a number of different countries has improved exponentially since September 11, 2001.

WILLIAMS (on camera): That intelligence is paying enormous dividends. Officials tonight say operations to round up more al Qaeda operatives are now under way.

Pete Williams, NBC News, Washington.


OLBERMANN: To the subject of the confirmation hearings for the man the president wants to see charged with the collection and dissemination of those intelligence dividends, director of central intelligence-designate Porter Goss.

This chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Pat Roberts, this morning saying confirmation hearings for the Florida representative could begin early next month, maybe even earlier, a fast-track process that will be according to some reports fast, but not smooth. Representative Goss stepped down as chairman of the House Intelligence Committee yesterday, but will stay on as a congressman until his confirmation.

Yesterday, Democrats held back a bit on Goss. Not today, Senator Rockefeller of West Virginia calling his nomination - quote - "a mistake." And the filmmaker Michael Moore has released a transcript of an interview he did with Goss on March 3 of this year for the movie "Fahrenheit 9/11" in which Goss says - quote - "I couldn't get a job with the CIA today. I am not qualified." Goss spoke of his lack of language and computer skills. He is of course presumably speaking about getting a job as a CIA agent, not the director. He already had a job as a CIA agent in the 1960s.

So storm warnings on Capitol Hill, but this may wind up being weather that is both very heavy and very brief. Earlier this evening, I spoke with chief foreign affairs correspondent Andrea Mitchell.


OLBERMANN: Andrea, give me lay of the land, first off. When are we going to see these confirmation hearings for Porter Goss and just how much skin are the Democrats going to try to flay off him during it?

ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC CHIEF FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: I think they'll try to get a lot of skin off of him. But I think that they have been intimidated.

This has been sort of a brush-back pitch, because what the president is basically saying is, I dare you to block this nomination. What if there is another terror attack? Then I can go out on the campaign trail and say, see, the CIA would have been in better shape if they had confirmed Porter Goss. And now there's still an acting director and it is all the Democrats' fault.

So this is basically a win-win proposition for George Bush, the way the White House, at least, sees it. They have put someone up. They look as though they're doing something. And if he doesn't get confirmed, it is the Democrats' fault.

OLBERMANN: But do the Democrats then come back first with the fact that Mr. Goss signed that letter from the committee to George Tenet last fall criticizing the CIA's handling of prewar intelligence? Did the administration conceivably open a brief, probably fruitless in terms of not getting the nomination across, but something of a feeding frenzy on the topic of prewar intel?

MITCHELL: Well, there could be more vulnerabilities there, and not that one, because Porter Goss came late to the game in terms of criticizing the CIA. But that report, which he approved at the end of June, basically lays out a lot of the criticisms that were made by the 9/11 Commission.

So he kind of was trying to get on the right side of the politically correct deal, which is to criticize the CIA and use it as the scapegoat for all of the other flaws that were throughout the system. Where that creates problems for him is, if he does get confirm, the people within the agency are very resentful and are not necessarily going to be all that cooperative with him, because they really deeply resent it.

There was a very strong letter from George Tenet to Porter Goss when he came out with those criticisms, saying that they were patently absurd. And so it could improve his posture with the committee members, but not with the CIA itself.

OLBERMANN: Andrea, the final point here. On a big political dynamic, could this be so tempting for the Democrats, because there have been so few changes in the Bush administration? Thus, there have been very few confirmation hearings. Does this become sort of a metaphor, an opportunity for the Democrats to play pin the tail on anybody that they might not be able to resist?

MITCHELL: Absolutely.

I think that's the bigger problem. This could become a full-blown reexamination of all of the past intelligence failures pre-9/11, post-9/11, prewar intelligence, postwar intelligence. This could be a big examination, a key point in the campaign, because, in answer to the first question that I didn't quite answer, probably the end of August, beginning of September, after the Republican Convention is when they're going to finally get their act together. I doubt that they could get it together sooner.

OLBERMANN: Just one more element to throw into the campaign mix.

MITCHELL: Exactly.

OLBERMANN: Andrea Mitchell, as always, Andrea, our pleasure. Great thanks.

MITCHELL: Thank you. My pleasure.


OLBERMANN: Still ahead here on COUNTDOWN, the latest attraction on a New Jersey boardwalk is causing controversy, and not just because of its poor grammar. Who is up for a game of whack the Iraq? And later, back to school means back to Bambi, the hunting hoax uncovered right here on COUNTDOWN. All that ahead.

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


ROLAND MARTIN, HOST, "FISHING WITH ROLAND MARTIN": Today, we're going to bass fish in Crawford, Texas, with a very special guest, President George W. Bush.


MARTIN: The president caught a nice crappie. And, Barney, I don't know if he...

BUSH: He licked it.

MARTIN: Barney likes to be a part of the fishing experience. Of course, then we put it in the bucket, so we can eat it.

MARTIN: Boy, have I had a great time today fishing with the president. The president had to take off for some important business.

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We have to get this economy moving because there is nothing worse than an unemployed flying Elvis. We have got to get it going, guys.

ALAN KEYES (R), ILLINOIS SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: To the notion that people of national reputation - on abortion.



OLBERMANN: Coming up, Mike Wallace and the meat loaf that was worth

getting arrested over. And in the paintballs' crosshairs, Iraq and Bambi -

· next on COUNTDOWN.


OLBERMANN: Despite the helmets and the protective gear, the sport of paintball is inherently dangerous. I don't mean physically dangerous. I mean bad taste dangerous. Remember the Bambi hunters from Las Vegas, guys supposedly hunting naked women with paintball guns? More on them in a moment.

But, first in our No. 2 story on the COUNTDOWN, paintball wars meet a real war. And mixed in just for bad measure, the ever dangerous elements of carnivals and gratuitous rhyming. It is at the boardwalk at Wildwood, New Jersey. It is called Whack the Iraq.

And if the name doesn't tell you everything you need to know, correspondent Byron Scott of our NBC station in Philadelphia, WCAU, will.


BYRON SCOTT, WCAU REPORTER (voice-over): Whack the Iraq is a paintball game on the Wildwood boardwalk between Oak and Cedar Streets. There are depictions of Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden. A live human target ducks and dodges, and that neon sign, Whack the Iraq.

NBC 10 spoke with a number of people at random, both inside the range and passersby. And while most thought the game was over the top, others did not.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is great. It's great. If my hands weren't full, I would whack him a few times.

SCOTT: And still others didn't know what to make of it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't know. I'm not sure. I don't know if I like it or if it's going to be a problem.

SCOTT: Operators of the game say they received some complaints. The fine print, if you will, is hung just beneath the neon sign. It reads in part, "The game is intended to insult only one person, Saddam Hussein." Still, there is that neon sign.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's what grabs me.

SCOTT (on camera): The sign?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The sign, Whack the Iraq. That's harsh.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is a fun game. A lot of people take this place too seriously. Wildwood is a place for fun and enjoyment. We're not trying to offend anybody here. We're not trying to make any enemies.


OLBERMANN: Correspondent Byron Scott ducking to paintballs on the boardwalk at Wildwood, New Jersey.

As we mentioned, controversy seems to follow paintball like, oh, turpentine probably does. It was just a year ago last month that a Las Vegas man claimed he was opening a ranch there at which paintball aficionados for tens of thousands of dollars could chase and hunt and capture naked women. He even had a video to prove it. He even came on this program and insisted it was legit, even when confronted with his own statements to frowning authorities that it had been a scam to sell this pornographic videotape.

As we continue to celebrate COUNTDOWN's back-to-school week, our favorite moments from the newscasts so far, we bring knew in capsule form the saga of Michael Burdick, a gullible reporter who covered Burdick's story as if it were fact, and the nation's righteous indignation over something that never actually happened.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): Michael Burdick is riding a wave of publicity you just can't buy, with interviews on national TV, complete with clips from his shocking video production of naked women being hunted.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I said, this is crazy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman says he is having the paintball hunts investigated.

OLBERMANN: Let's go straight to the horse's mouth on this, the man decide in almost every newspaper in the country in the last few weeks, Michael Burdick.

There is no hunting of naked women with paintball guns, is there?

MICHAEL BURDICK, "HUNTING FOR BAMBI" CREATOR: I wouldn't say that. I would definitely say my tape shows quite a bit of it.

OLBERMANN: All right, besides that tape, has there ever been a public hunting of naked women with paintball guns?

BURDICK: Yes, there has.

OLBERMANN: All right, you're charging $4,000 or $6,000 or $10,000 per hunter. And the videotape that you distributed shows the hunter chasing several different women. And you say the women who don't get caught are paid $2,500 each and the women who do get caught are paid $1,000 each, which would mean, sir, that if a guy chases five women and hits one of them, you have to pay the women $11,000, but the customer is paying you $10,000 max.

BURDICK: Well, obviously, we don't have five women out there, then.

It wouldn't be a sound business plan now, would it?

OLBERMANN: What is the business plan, then?

BURDICK: Two women.

OLBERMANN: Two women. That's $5,000. And you charge as little as $4,000?

BURDICK: No, sir, $5,000 to $10,000. And it was an all-inclusive event, including airfare, lodging, food and so forth. And we decided to remove that and put it at a flat $6,000 and let our clients figure out their own way to get to beautiful Las Vegas.

OLBERMANN: We told you so. The founder of hunting for Bambi admits it was all a hoax. There were never any real hunts for women in the woods of Nevada. There were never really any hunters who were willing to shell out between $4,000 and $10,000 to participate in the paintball hunt for Bambi. The city of Las Vegas knew it was all a farce.

Michael Burdick admitted as much to the Vegas attorney when it did an investigation of his business. But for some inexplicable reason, Mr. Burdick decided to come on the show anyway and he stuck with the farce.

OLBERMANN: The mayor's office wanted me to mention that, as it is, they're looking into criminal charges against you, especially if you've actually conducted one of these Bambi hunts. Do you still want to claim that you've actually conducted one of these Bambi hunts?

BURDICK: Absolutely.


OLBERMANN: But, in May, Mr. Burdick finally fessed up in court. He pleaded guilty to doing Bambi business without a license. He got a six-month sentence suspended and a fine of $1,105, or does, as the case may be.

Next up, paintball, the TV political series. From serious news like that to our nightly rendering and rending asunder of the world of celebrity and gossip. We call it "Keeping Tabs."

And if one report is correct, the actress Reese Witherspoon has put the vanity back into "Vanity Fair." She's on the cover of the September issue of the magazine of that name, also starring in the upcoming movie of that name. But the newspaper "The New York Observer" reports today that the only reason she's the cover girl is that she threatened to sue if she was not.

The paper says Witherspoon was scheduled for the front page, but "Vanity Fair" editors saw a photographic portfolio of Olympic stars and they suddenly wanted to switch off and put Michael Phelps, the swimmer on the cover. A few lawyer letters later and Phelps was out and Witherspoon from way downtown, bang, was back in. No comment from her or her people.

Still ahead here on COUNTDOWN, the mayor of New York City says there will be an investigation into why two taxi and limousine inspectors arrested Mike Wallace last night. Meat loaf gate - next.


OLBERMANN: Before he became the avuncular face of "60 Minutes," Mike Wallace was a national celebrity for asking tough questions at night, which also often left the recipients of those questions furious. That was on the series "Night Beat," which ran in 1956 and 1957.

It turns out everything old is new again. Our No. 1 story on the COUNTDOWN, last night, Mike Wallace, 86 years old, got yet another degree of national celebrity for asking tough questions at night, which left the recipients furious, furious enough to arrest him. The long version of the story in a moment from an eyewitness.

The short version is this. Mr. Wallace was picking up an order of meat loaf to go. After returning to the street, he found his driver being quizzed by a couple of New York Taxi and Limousine Commission inspectors. He asked what was going on and the next thing he knew, he'd been handcuffed and arrested.


MIKE WALLACE, "60 MINUTES": So all it was, was, I was trying to protect my meat loaf.


OLBERMANN: New York City's Mayor Bloomberg says he will investigate both the incident and the charge from the head of the city's cab drivers union that the taxi inspectors are - quote - "out of control" and that if he had been Hispanic or black, Mr. Wallace would have spent the night in jail or Rikers Island.

As it was, Mr. Wallace got home in time to enjoy his meat loaf, but not until after police charged him with disorderly conduct. They said he lunged at them.


WALLACE: I find it difficult to lunge into bed, let alone lunge at a couple of cops who were angry.


OLBERMANN: If I live to be 86 years old and I'm still on TV and I can still lunge at anybody, I will think of myself as a human god.

Anyway, to our witness. The restaurant was Luke's Bar and Grill on 3rd Avenue in New York. Its owner is Luigi Militello, and he has been good enough to join us by phone.

Mr. Militello, good evening. Thanks for your time.


OLBERMANN: So tell me what you saw. What happened last night?

MILITELLO: Well, Mike Wallace had ordered in advance, like he usually does. And upon arriving, he spent about five minutes inside. When his order was ready to go, he took it outside and observed two TLC inspectors questioning his driver, routine. He was double-parked, license, registration.

And he was inquiring to what all was going on, and the next thing you know, they were a little aggressive with him. I had overheard, because they were screaming: "Watch your lip. Get in the car," at which point, he said, I'm not giving you any lip. And there was some other dialogue.

And the next thing you know, he was manhandled, thrown to the car and handcuffed.

OLBERMANN: You know Mike Wallace as a regular customer. Can you ever see him lunging at anybody, let alone at two peace officers?

MILITELLO: No, I could not.

OLBERMANN: I'm sure your experience with the police in New York City is the same as mine has been as a native, that they're the best. They're surprisingly reasonable, even. It's when you get the traffic cops and the others on the fringe who get a uniform and think they're Roman emperors or something.

Would this incident that you saw have shocked you even if it had not involved Mike Wallace?

MILITELLO: To a degree, I would say so. It was totally uncalled for.

It could have been avoided with just a, "Move the car."

OLBERMANN: So what this boils down to is, he's asked, what is going on here? He's concerned about his driver. And they overreacted? Is that a fair assessment of what happened last night?


OLBERMANN: Hmm. Have you heard from him since, by any chance?


OLBERMANN: How is he? Is he all right? Has he recovered from the ordeal, both physical and otherwise?

MILITELLO: He's very well. Yes, he has.

OLBERMANN: The bottom line, I guess, last question, probably the most irrelevant one, is, in your opinion, is your meat loaf at your restaurant worth being arrested over?

MILITELLO: I guess some people think it is.


OLBERMANN: Have more people ordered it tonight than previously?


OLBERMANN: It's now a world famous meat loaf.

And Mr. Militello was good enough to send some over here. And we'll now test it. I don't have the full treatment of it, just the meat loaf itself. But I'm going to give you a test here, Mr. Militello.


OLBERMANN: Stand by a second here.

Just a second. I'm enjoying it.


OLBERMANN: It's very moist. It carries itself. It doesn't need ketchup. It doesn't need any sauce. It's excellent. Haul me away, if that is what is required.

Luigi Militello, the owner of Luke's Bar and Grill in New York, thanks for the interview and thanks for the meat loaf as well.

MILITELLO: Thank you for having me.

OLBERMANN: That's COUNTDOWN. Thanks for being part of it. I'm Keith Olbermann. Good night, and dinnertime.