Friday, April 29, 2005

'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' forApril 29

Guest: Linda Deutsch, Gregg McCrary, Thomas Adams, Rachel Adams

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

Nothing ticks off the average American faster than preempting his TV shows for a residential news conference.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't want to cut into some of these TV shows that are getting ready to air.


OLBERMANN: The fallout from what the president said and when he said it, on the next edition of "The Apprentice."


DONALD TRUMP: You're fired.


OLBERMANN: The fallout from what his ex-wife said. Debbie Rowe - some prosecution witness - calls him a great parent, calls him "my Michael."

Call them my Looney Tunes. Warner Brothers backs off. They will not morph into insect creatures from the 28th century, thanks to an 11-year-old boy from Tulsa, Oklahoma.

And that great Massachusetts buried treasure story? Not exactly as it first seemed. The treasure finders are arrested. One of them was a counterfeiter who had two different names. Oops!

All that and more, now on Countdown.

Good evening.

His critics and political rivals often insist that President Bush is out of touch with the average American, tone-deaf to the day-to-day lives they lead in the way Jimmy Carter would have been when he made the infamous so-called malaise speech.

It turns out that this kind of thing may only be provable outside the regular political process. Like, for instance, when a president calls a prime-time news conference on 25 hours' notice and expects universal television coverage of it, not realizing, or perhaps not caring, that it is the first night of the so-called May sweeps rating period.

And after first getting cold-shouldered by the networks, that president winds up honking off the viewers of such hit series as "The O.C.," "Without a Trace," and "Will and Grace," all of which get preempted. And shows like "The Apprentice," "Survivor," and "CSI," which got delayed in most parts of the country.

And, oh, by the way, that president holds his first prime-time conference in a year smack-dab in the middle of Turn Off Your Television Week.

The networks reversed plans. They covered the conference after all. But 75 percent bailed out early to make sure their 9:00 p.m. programs got to start on time.


BUSH: They appreciate the fact that the system now shows deficiencies early, so they can correct those problems. And it is working. OK.

BOB SCHIEFFER, CBS NEWS: So President Bush, he's been speaking for an hour.

"Survivor" is coming up right here next.

BRIAN WILLIAMS, NBC NEWS: The president isn't at his most exercised point of the evening, a solid defense of his No Child Left Behind education initiative...

BUSH: So final question, Hutch. I don't want to cut into some of these TV shows that are getting ready to air.

It is - that's right. I mean, it, obviously it is means-based when you're talking about...

SHEPARD SMITH, FOX NEWS: The president wrapping up his news conference in Washington.

"The Simple Life" is next.

BUSH: Listen, thank you all for your interests. God bless our country.

ELIZABETH VARGAS, ABC NEWS: And president George W. Bush wrapping up his fourth prime-time news conference, stepping away from the podium...


OLBERMANN: ABC the only network not to cut out early from the conference. Then again, it had only a Reese Witherspoon movie rerun planned.

To turn the familiar TV phrase on its head, we interrupt this president to join "The Apprentice," not yet in progress.

Joining me now, "Congressional Quarterly" White House columnist and MSNBC analyst Craig Crawford.

Good evening, Craig.


I was more irritated he preempted this show last night.

OLBERMANN: I got to go to a Yankee game, so I am beholden...


OLBERMANN:... to the president (INAUDIBLE)...

CRAWFORD: I feel, I feel better, I feel better.

OLBERMANN: Before we get to the substance of this news conference, and we want to go through it step by step, we can all look down our noses at the "The Apprentice" or the "O.C." and say, Hey, this is serious stuff here, you're supposed to be watching the president.

But that doesn't reflect reality. I mean, half the country does not care about politics to start with, and the rest of them often don't care about politics, especially if the alternative is watching "The O.C."

How could anybody in that White House have been unaware as to pick that of all nights to tick off those sort of, I'm undecided about you or about your entire field of politics viewers?

CRAWFORD: Well, you know, we were talking a couple weeks ago about it, you know, and I think it was Tom DeLay's sort of out-of-sync comments with the culture. And I was making the point, they don't watch prime-time television in Washington. They don't understand what the rest of the country is watching. And that is a problem. And I...

You know, Ronald Reagan, there was a great story about him. One of his close aides was asked once time, what did he do every night? He said he and Nancy liked to just sit up in the White House with TV tables and rays and watch prime-time television. Ronald Reagan's the only politician I've ever heard of who regularly watched prime-time television. And I think maybe it was good idea.

OLBERMANN: Or get somebody to do it for you, so you know...

CRAWFORD: There you go.

OLBERMANN:... not to do that on that of all nights. I mean, wait till next Tuesday or something.

All right, to the issues. Let's run the table. President going back to the magic wand analogy when he discussed gas prices. Here's the tape.


BUSH: The energy bill is certainly no quick fix. You can't wave a magic wand. I wish I could. It's like that soldier at Ford Hood that said, How come you're not lowering the price of gasoline? I was having lunch with the fellow. And he said, Go lower the price of gasoline, President. I said, I wish I could. It just doesn't work that way.


OLBERMANN: A rich and compelling anecdote there.

But the pitch, Craig, more refineries, more nukes to lower prices 10, 15 years from now. Is that going to that work?

CRAWFORD: Well, of course, it's very convenient to promise things that won't even come true, if they do come true, until long after you're gone, so you can't be held accountable.

And as far as a short-term fix, it is true. About all he can do is hold the crown prince of Saudi Arabia's hand and beg. Although Richard Nixon, in the inflation crisis during his presidency, he imposed wage-price controls, which was, I guess, heresy to talk about in these days.

OLBERMANN: Hold the prince's hand, by the way, and that's one less that he has to stab you in the back.

CRAWFORD: There you go, yes.

OLBERMANN: Or to use to increase gas prices.

The other big pitch last night, he changed Social Security. Here's the Social Security thing again.


BUSH: Today, there are about 40 million retirees receiving benefits. There will be more than 72 million retirees drawing Social Security benefits. And Congress isn't sure that their benefits will rise faster than the rate of inflation.

So I propose a Social Security system in the future where benefits for low-income workers will grow faster than benefits for people who are better off.


OLBERMANN: The key word in that condensation was obviously "benefits." Craig, the premise of this revised plan is what, and will it float?

CRAWFORD: Well, they've added a new element, talking about lower benefits for higher-income recipients of Social Security, as a way of cutting costs. And so now he is really in a position of where the lower-income constituency the Democrats have stirred up against the president's plan, now the president is stirring up the higher-income constituents.

It's almost like he's, you know, just sawing a circle under his feet in the floorboard. I don't know if this is making sense politically, adding this new element for everyone to attack. And certainly Republicans and conservatives in the House not going to go along with cutting benefits for wealthier people.

OLBERMANN: Two political controversies, apart from the stuff that has sort of been created by the Social Securities, and, as you suggest, may now spring up within the Republican Party over the Social Security increased tax, or increased load, if you will, that - on the rich.

It sounded last night as if the president is at the party, and instead of dancing with Tom DeLay and Bill Frist or the evangelicals on the whole issues of the judges and everything else, that he went out for a smoke in the bathroom.

CRAWFORD: Yes, I mean...


BUSH: I think people are opposing my nominees because they don't like the judicial philosophy of the people I've nominated. I mean, some would like to see judges legislate from the bench. That's not my view of the proper role of a judge.


OLBERMANN: But he's - but, you know, having said that, he did, however, step to the side on the issue of faith and whether or not that plays a role in these judge filibusters and all that. Did he to some degree cut off DeLay on the judges and Frist on the evangelicals?

CRAWFORD: To some degree. Keith, this president is very good at balancing one of the toughest balance beams in politics, which is to appeal to some of these evangelical Christian voters who are so critical to his political success, but keeping the tone fairly moderate, so that you don't frighten everyone else.

And that's what he was attempting to do. And, of course, this phrase, "legislating from the bench," is (INAUDIBLE), it's really empty language, in a way. It either means nothing, or it means everything anybody wants it to mean. It's not really a legal term, but it is a code phrase to evangelical Christians that you're talking about liberal judges.

OLBERMANN: All right. Also last night - we touched on the John Bolton nomination, and the president was unyielding on him.


BUSH: If you're interested in reforming the U.N. like I'm interested in reforming the U.N., it makes sense to put somebody who's skilled and who's not afraid to speak his mind at the United Nations.

Now, I asked John, during the interview process in the Oval Office, I said, Before I send you up there to the Senate, let me ask you something. Do you think the United Nations is important? See, I didn't want to send somebody up there who said, Well, that' not - it's not worth a darn. I don't think I even need to go.

He said, No, it's important. But it needs to be reformed.


OLBERMANN: Now, for whose benefit were those remarks made?

CRAWFORD: Well, it was something of a gauntlet thrown to the leadership of the U.N., for starters, if not the whole Security Council. I mean, this president clearly is disdainful of the United Nations. There's just no secret about that, going back to when he called it nothing but a debating society before the Iraq war.

And there is going to be an effort now. What I think's interesting down the road, Keith, is, I think Kofi Annan, the secretary general, eventually may go. I mean, the problems seem to be mounting for him. And I'm sure this administration would like to have a hand in seeking (INAUDIBLE) or picking his replacement while they're still in power.

OLBERMANN: And it's not going to be Bill Clinton.

CRAWFORD: Well, you know, that could be. Who knows? They got to change the bylaws of the Security Council.


CRAWFORD: Turns out a Security Council member can't actually be secretary general. But, you know, old Clinton could probably get around that.

OLBERMANN: Perhaps - I don't know, I think the current occupants of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue might not go for that (INAUDIBLE)...

CRAWFORD: They might have a problem.

OLBERMANN: Just a small one.

MSNBC analyst, "Congressional Quarterly" White House columnist Craig Crawford, as always, sir, great thanks for joining us.

CRAWFORD: All right. So long.

OLBERMANN: Also tonight, how much did the millennium bomber warn this government about 9/11 and al Qaeda? There are new reports of new evidence.

And actual breaking news in the Michael Jackson case tonight, as his ex stunned onlookers by testifying in his defense. It turns out, reportedly at the same time, Jackson lawyers were in another courtroom filing paperwork that might have cut her off from their kids. That's an interesting coincidence.

You are watching Countdown on MSNBC.


OLBERMANN: False alarm in the Middle East this morning. A series of weird postings on Islamist extremist Web sites today hinting at the possible death of Osama bin Laden. Supporters and opponents both rushed out denials.

Western intelligence still believes he is alive and holed up somewhere along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. Pakistan's president has said he thinks he knows where bin Laden was about 10 months ago.

Gee, thanks.

The real news is not about what bin Laden is doing now, but about what he might have been doing in the spring of 2001, which terrorist suspect knew about that, and how much that man may have warned our government about what became 9/11.

The man is Ahmed Ressam, the Algerian who pleaded guilty to being the would-be millennium bomber who planned to blow up Los Angeles International Airport in December 1999, arrested when he tried to smuggle a rental car packed with explosives across the Canadian border.

According to "Newsweek" magazine, once in custody, Ressam started providing American officials with very specific information about plans for a terrorist attack. This was three months before 9/11.

Among other things, Ressam telling authorities that al Qaeda commander Abu Zubaydah had been planning on his own attack on U.S. soil, big plans that included getting people hired at airports, blowing up airports, blowing up airplanes. Ressam also identifying Zacarias Moussaoui, who pleaded guilty last week, for his role in the 9/11 conspiracy.

While there is no evidence that the Ressam had specific knowledge of the 9/11 attacks themselves, his intelligence was the basis for at least part of the president's daily briefing, the one that was entitled, "Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S.," presented to President Bush by the CIA in August 2001, although that information was said to have been heavily watered down by the time it reached Mr. Bush.

All of it, and more, apparently adding up to another lost opportunities in the days, weeks, and, we now know, months before the 9/11 attacks.

Here to help us try to understand how it may have happened, Roger Cressey, who, as director of the National Security Council staff, used to be responsible for coordinating and implementing U.S. counterterrorism policy. And these days, of course, Roger is an MSNBC analyst.

Good evening to you, sir.


OLBERMANN: Is this as bad as it seems at first blush, or are we allowing hindsight to fill in some very big gaps in what Ressam would have known and would have been saying early in 2001?

CRESSEY: We're allowing hindsight to fill in some gaps. You have to remember, Ressam's operational knowledge ended in December of 1999.

The most interesting piece is the reference to Abu Zubaydah. Zubaydah was one of the people behind the millennium attempt in 1999, potential attacks in Jordan. Had we known, in the summer of 2001, that Abu Zubaydah was interested in infiltrating people in the United States, that would have caused those of us who knew Zubaydah to be even further concerned.

That said, Ressam didn't provide anything specific about a timeline related to a given attack. And we now know he had no knowledge of 9/11.

OLBERMANN: A cynic might say that any briefing that's entitled "Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S." is clearly going to be alarming no matter what, or should have been more alarming than it was, at least.

But there could be others who would be less cynical, who might now look at this and be inclined to say that precisely because Ressam's intelligence was watered down, even from what little he knew, no wonder President Bush told the 9/11 commission that he viewed that PDI as, quote, "historical in nature," and didn't really follow up on it.

Does it, in fact - does this story, to some degree, absolve the president?

CRESSEY: No, not completely. What we were missing in the summer of 2001 was specific, credible, corroborated information about an attack inside the United States. What we did not have, we did not have a timeline. We knew there was going to be an attack. The intelligence led us overseas.

I think what the 9/11 commission concluded was that there was a lack of imagination, a lack of being proactive and acting upon the information we had at that time.

Those of us in the counterterrorism community, Keith, we were fully seized with the issue. But again, this type of data would have been very helpful for us to further impress upon our principals that we needed to do something quickly.

OLBERMANN: Why would it have been watered down? Would it have been watered down because somebody followed that same kind of thinking that you just mentioned, that, well, all the other intelligence says overseas, so when this man says something here, he must be missing a piece of the puzzle?

OLBERMANN: Well, we knew Zubaydah wanted to conduct attacks against the United States. That was no secret. What was interesting here is that he was interested in infiltrating individuals into the United States. You know, the PDB process is a very painful process. Sometimes good commentary and analysis is left out of the PDB because of space limitations. It sounds silly, but that's the way the process has worked in the past. So this could have been an editorial decision that obviously had some very important implications.

OLBERMANN: I think I called it a PDI before. I don't know what a PDI is. Obviously, as you said, it's a PDB.

Last question, part of this "Newsweek" story is that Ressam has stopped cooperating after basically brokering a deal so he wouldn't have to go to jail for 130 years. Apart from the legalities of it, what is the loss of him in term of information at this point? Is it potentially damaging?

CRESSEY: Well, the key loss is, his testimony is the grounds for us asking for the extradition of Abu Doha, who seems to be Ressam's control agent and a key facilitator in the al Qaeda network. If Ressam stops cooperating, we can't get Doha extradited from Great Britain to stand trial in the United States.

And that, frankly, is important. So I'm hoping the Justice Department comes up with a creative way to get Ressam reengaged.

OLBERMANN: Two hundred and sixty years. Terrorism expert Roger Cressey. As always, sir, thanks for taking the time to join us, Roger.

CRESSEY: Pleasure, Keith.

OLBERMANN: Also tonight, it is the underbelly of a seemingly harmless sport, an exclusive Oddball investigation tonight into fixed baby-racing. Yes, you heard me, fixed.

Now, their story kept changing every time they went on national TV, to say nothing of how one of the men kept changing how he spelled his own last name. Now police say they did not find treasure in the back yard. They stole and it put it in the back yard.

Stand by.


OLBERMANN:... segment planned for this evening. Brush up on string theory with Keith Olbermann. Unfortunately, one of the producers hid my textbook. So we will now go to the backup plan, wacky video.

Let's play Oddball.

We begin in Arlington, Texas, for another one of those wild baby derbies. But what began as a cute trend - child expose - has now become a cesspool of anabolic steroids and degenerate gambling.

The winner of this race, moving on to the finals next week in Dallas, and that's where the big money - Wait a minute. What's this? The little girl on the outside is throwing the race. She - little Mikey is the winner. She had the thing locked up. She just stopped.

Never in my 30 years of broadcasting have I seen a more disgusting display of the corruption at a sporting event. The whole thing makes me ashamed to call myself a follow-up of baby derbyism.

Worst Cosell impression I've ever done.

To Seattle, where students at Eastern Washington University, showing off the latest marvel of engineering, a bicycle made out of cardboard. It is the world's first recyclable bike, also possibly the world's first dangerously flammable bike, or the first water-soluble bike.

The only part of it that is not made over - made up from leftover paper tubes is the chain drive, which makes you wonder just how many restroom trashcans they had to pilfer through to build the thing.

The bike should be the favorite to win the university's upcoming Human-Powered Paper Vehicle Competition, although I have heard rumors that a guy made a Segway out of nothing but empty boxes of Jimmy Dean sausage.

Finally, country music news. Let's check in with Doug Supernaw, once at the top of the country charts. The singer today found himself in a courtroom in Amarillo, Texas, facing charges of marijuana possession. Police say they found it in Supernaw's hotel room.

They also found Mr. Supernaw himself. The singer represented himself in court. He said those drugs belonged to somebody else. He was found guilty. Listening to his defense, you wonder how a jury could have come to that conclusion.


DOUG SUPERNAW: It was a complete setup. I know exactly how much marijuana I had. And the marijuana that I had was gone.


OLBERMANN: But it was - you, you, you, you had...

Did it have anything to do with the minibar?

Never mind.

Back to the real news, well, the Michael Jackson news. The mother of two of his children proves a surprisingly friendly witness. And it is reported that as she spoke, Jackson's attorneys were in another court filing paperwork about ending her parental rights.

And the bride vanished three days ago. They don't know if she's been abducted or she ran away. But they are going to assemble for the Wilbanks-Mason wedding in Duluth, Georgia, tomorrow anyway.

These stories ahead.

But now, here are our Countdown top three newsmakers of this day.

Number three, school officials at Marshall Junior High in Clovis, New Mexico, they locked the place down after somebody saw a boy carrying something long in a wrapper into the school. Police were called. There were snipers on the rooftops. Two hours later, they found it. It was eighth-grader Michael Morrisey's burrito. He had made a 30-inch-long burrito for a school project on advertising.

Number two, Chen Ming Wang, (INAUDIBLE) New York Yankees pitcher from Taiwan, who makes his major league baseball debut tomorrow, opposed by number one, David Bush, the Toronto Blue Jays pitcher. Yes, Wang versus Bush.

The eternal struggle continues.


OLBERMANN: If you hadn't heard, the presumed bombshell witness for the prosecution in the Michael Jackson case, his ex-wife, Debbie Rowe, blew up in the DA's face yesterday. Turns out there might be more than met the eye, the syndicated TV series "Celebrity Justice" reporting that yesterday in another courtroom in California, Michael Jackson's divorce attorney refiled an old court order that would terminate all the parental rights of Debbie Rowe. Timing remains everything.

It's your entertainment tax dollars in action, day 529 of the Michael Jackson investigations. The second day of her testimony from the prosecution's closer looked more like she was pinch-hitting for the defense. Called to corroborate the testimony of the accuser's mother to say that she, too, had been coached and cajoled into doing a pro-Jackson video, Ms. Rowe instead saying, quote, "I was excited to do it. There were no scripts, no rehearsals, no threats," she says. And it only got worse for the prosecution. She went on to describe Jackson as, quote, "generous to a fault, good father, great kids" - or "great with kids." Oops!

Today there were books about kids, specifically, two picture books about boys in various stages of undress confiscated by authorities during the 1993 investigation, allowed into evidence in this case by Judge Rodney Melville today. Jackson, in fact, wrote an inscription in one of the books. Quoting it, "Look at the true spirit of happiness and joy in these boys' faces. This is the spirit of boyhood, a life I've never had and will always dream of. This is the life I want for my children."

The Rowe testimony continued to linger over the trial today like the smoke from yesterday's forest fire, especially in light of the curious filing against her parental rights by the Jackson divorce attorney. Only a cynic would suggest that the ex-Mrs. Jackson's testimony (SIC) had something to do with her surprisingly friendly testimony about her Michael. Well, then, we sure as hell got a lot of cynics working on "Michael Jackson Puppet Theatre."


"MICHAEL JACKSON": I hope she calls me a wonderful person, a great father, and generous and caring.

"DEBBIE ROWE": He's a wonderful person, a great father, generous and caring.

"MICHAEL JACKSON": That was lucky. I hope she calls my assistants opportunistic vultures.

"DEBBIE ROWE": His assistants are opportunistic vultures.

"MICHAEL JACKSON": What an amazing coincidence. I hope she calls me "My Michael."

"DEBBIE ROWE": There's different Michaels. There's, like, my Michael...



OLBERMANN: Back to the reality. I'm joined by the able correspondent of The Associated Press, Linda Deutsch, who's outside the courthouse in Santa Maria. Linda, thank you for your time tonight.


OLBERMANN: No trial in history has ever had a witness go that badly for the prosecution without somebody murmuring, Yes, somebody made a deal with somebody. Now we have this story, with paperwork attached, about a filing to terminate or try to terminate, if not actually terminate, Debbie Rowe's parental rights on the same day. Were they murmuring about the oddity of her testimony still in Santa Maria today?

DEUTSCH: Absolutely. I have not heard anything about this other report, so I can't comment on that. I do know that Debbie Rowe turned out to be an incredibly compelling witness for the defense, not for the prosecution. She was certainly very affecting in the courtroom. It was hard not to feel that this woman was being forthright and that she was talking from her heart.

OLBERMANN: Any sense that the prosecution would be trying to repair this by examining Rowe's testimony to see - I'm just speculating here - if there was perjury or she'd softened it in some hopes of getting more access to her kids, or are they letting it go?

DEUTSCH: I don't know what they're doing, but I think it's a little late now to try to do anything with her testimony. They had their chance, and it was - it was a very interesting piece of testimony. It had a lot to do with the conspiracy counts against Jackson. She obviously had some very strong feelings against his associates. She portrayed them as a kind of inside cabal that was plotting against him, rather than with him. And that is crucial, when you look at a conspiracy charge in which he is supposed to be the center of this conspiracy. She says no way, that they were plotting against him.

OLBERMANN: And obviously, the prosecution was, if not hearing that for the first time, they were hearing it as it was presented to the jury with probably just as much impact on them. Either yesterday or today, did Mr. Sneddon and his team show signs of having been thrown by what she said and trying to make some way back for themselves?

DEUTSCH: I think that prosecutors are masters of the poker face, and they never give up anything about how they feel about a witness. They did get her off the stand as quickly as they could, which was probably a good idea for the prosecution. The defense questioned her at great length. At first, they made an odd motion, which was to strike all of her first day's testimony. I think they didn't know what she was going to say on the second day. Once she gave her testimony the second day, Tom Mesereau said, We withdraw the motion. They were very happy with what she had to say.

OLBERMANN: I'm sure if they had the chance, they would have carried her out of the courtroom on a feather bed.


OLBERMANN: Special correspondent Linda Deutsch of The Associated Press in Santa Maria, helping us with the Jackson trial coverage tonight. Great. Thanks for your time and your insight, Linda.

DEUTSCH: Thank you.

OLBERMANN: And a bizarre case in Duluth, Georgia, continuing to befuddle authorities there, to say nothing of the 600 people scheduled to attend the Wilbanks-Mason wedding tomorrow, even though nobody has seen Jennifer Wilbanks since Tuesday night. Today her family offered a $100,000 reward. Police insisted they want that man, John Mason, to take a second lie-detector test, this one in their presence. And then the cops called off their search.

The 32-year-old marathon runner went out, says the fiancee, for a run on Tuesday night. She took nothing with her - no ID, no credit cards, only her running suit and a radio. Police have found nothing except some cut hair. They don't know if it is hers, even. The fiance passed a privately administered lie-detector test. He wants any police test to be videotaped. In Duluth, Georgia, they say they will not agree to that. Investigators also say flatly they are stuck.


CHIEF RANDY BELCHER, DULUTH POLICE DEPARTMENT: We have nothing at this point to show that there has been a crime committed. We've turned over probably every leaf in this city, so I have suspended all future searches as of this moment, unless some other evidence is brought forward.


OLBERMANN: That chief, Mr. Belcher, saying that the case was at the time - this time being treated as a criminal investigation. But he further added, quote, "It's a very real possibility she did get cold feet."

I'm joined now by Greg McCrary, a former FBI profiler, now a consultant on criminal behavior. Thank you for your time tonight, sir.


OLBERMANN: I don't mean to judge a book by its cover, but those photos of this woman - I don't know how recent they are. There's just a feeling about those shots, with her eyes sort of bugging out, that you look at that and say, Is she going to run or do something? What is it, from what you know of this case, that moves it out of the unexpected, possibly aberrational behavior category into the possibility of foul play category?

MCCRARY: Well, you have to begin with victimology. And keep in mind, the first phase of a criminal investigation is to determine whether or not a crime has been committed, and we're sort of in that phase right now. Sometimes, in some cases, it's a no-brainer. We know there's a crime.

Other cases like this, we're still struggling to find out what happened.

The key here will be victimology. That's the only thing really to go on, at this point. In other words, this woman, was she a stable, responsible adult who didn't act impulsively. Or if there was a history of impulsive behavior and doing kind of loopy things and that sort of thing, then that might push it toward the idea that she may have either staged her own abduction or run away. If not, then we may be looking at a potential abduction.

OLBERMANN: Can you give us a handle, at this point, on the relevance of this hair that has been found, if it's even hers? Does the idea that it was cut, as opposed to pulled, really mean anything? Couldn't somebody have pulled the hair out and then it and leave it as a false clue?

MCCRARY: It's possible. Keep in mind, though, that - what I refer often to as the "CSI" effect - we got to be careful about that, that a lot of the stuff that you find, even at crime scenes when you know this is the site of a crime, is artifact, isn't related to the crime at all, and as opposed to "CSI," where everything they find is related to the crime. Real life, it's much dicier, you're much less sure than in the program. So whether this hair has anything to do with - you know, with the crime or not - if it were staged or put there, I think it would be - you know, again, I don't know how it was found. I think it would be more prominent or something. It would definitely be - be sort of a clue that - if they want to stage it that way. So what this is about, you know, who knows, at this point.

OLBERMANN: Last question is about the lie-detector tests. The fiance's taken one in private, wants to take second one. First off, why wouldn't the police agree let him videotape it? It would seem like a small price to pay. But otherwise, besides that, has there ever been any real correlation shown between somebody's willingness to take a lie-detector test and the likelihood that they are criminally involved in a case? Is there any connection whatsoever between those two things?

MCCRARY: No, none at all, actually. I mean, you might be prone to think - we might be prone to think that someone who feels they're going to fail it wouldn't want to take it. I've been involved in a lot of cases where guilty people have come forward and taken a lie-detector or the polygraph exam, not done well, have been asked to provide DNA, when, in fact, there's DNA evidence, they've given it up freely. I don't know whether they think the lab is going to screw it up or people are going to misread the charts or what. But there's no correlation.

And again, I'm with you. I'm not sure why they're not willing to videotape the - videotape, you know, an exam. It doesn't - it shouldn't affect the exam at all. As long as there's a privacy and a confident examiner there, I don't think videotaping it would make any difference.

OLBERMANN: Greg McCrary, former FBI profiler, now a consultant on criminal behavior. Great. Thanks for your insight on this case tonight, sir.

MCCRARY: You're welcome.

OLBERMANN: In importance, there's no comparison between that story and this next one, but crime marched on. Buried treasure in the back yard. Well, how did stolen treasure from somebody else's roof? Different kind of a story. And a legal loss for Rush Limbaugh could be charges against him in the "pile o' painkillers" case. Those stories ahoy.

Now here are Countdown's "Top Three Sound Bites" for this day.


GEORGE WALKER BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If we're wise enough to create these accounts for people, there's going to be government oversight to make sure that people are treated fairly. And that's what you've got to know.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Index. Index funds.

BUSH: Yes, see? Index funds, whatever in the heck that means. Just kidding!

UNIDENTIFIED MICHAEL JACKSON FAN: Tabloid trash, kiss Michael's (DELETED)! Tabloid trash, kiss Michael's (DELETED)!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Michael! Michael!

JAY LENO, "TONIGHT" SHOW HOST: Boy, and I tell you something. They were working. They did as much as they could to get gas out of the - as much gas out of the prince as possible. Did you see it?


LENO: Did you see what - did you see how Bush distracted him? Now, see? Watch. Bush greets him here. Now, look - keeps him - now, keep your eye on Dick Cheney. Keep your eye - watch (INAUDIBLE). (INAUDIBLE) Do you see that?



OLBERMANN: You've seen it in real life. You've seen it on "Law and Order." Detectives doubting a story told by a criminal, a witness or even a purported victim using impeccable logic and remorseless analysis, break them down slowly. And finally, they find that one almost imperceptible weak thread that will unravel the entire case. Or one of the detectives suddenly realizes that the guy they're talking to has given out two different spellings of his last name.

Last week, Barry Villcliff and a friend supposedly found $100,000 worth of vintage cash buried near a house in Methuen, Massachusetts. Then it turned out that Barry Villcliff - with a "V" as in Victor - was actually named Barry Billcliff, with a "B" as in burglar. Oh, and Mr. Billcliff had a federal counterfeiting conviction on his record.

He and Tim Crebase were arrested at Lawrence, Mass. Police say the money they found was, in fact, stolen, found in a house they were repairing in Newbury, Mass., and then put in a crate, with the whole buried treasure story manufactured. The story was a tip-off, too, because Billcliff and Crebase couldn't keep their sagas straight and kept embellishing on them in interview after interview.


TIMOTHY CREBASE, THEFT SUSPECT: I was just helping pulling up the tree, and all of a sudden, I uncovered this crate with all these tin cans of money, bills after bills after bills after bills.


CREBASE: It was - it was unreal.

I started digging and digging, and all of a sudden, and I hit some - something, like a crate or something. So I cleared up all the dirt off of it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How big was the crate?

CREBASE: About this big. About this deep.

CREBASE: It was probably about yea big.


CREBASE: About yea deep.

The box just disintegrated, just - it was wood. And just being in the ground, it just, like, fell apart.

After I pulled up the first tine, I - one of the ones I hit with the shovel, so I obviously saw there was money in it, I ran back to the truck to find everybody. And I'm running around saying, Hey, guys, guys, where are you? I run back to the - where all the cans were. I rip off my sweatshirt, just start pulling out can after can after can.

Hey, guys! They looked at me, and I just dumped all the cans and...


CREBASE:... just everywhere.

BILLCLIFF: Pretty cool! Throws down his sweatshirt, all the cans roll across.


BILLCLIFF:... that there was at least money in one of them.

CHIEF JOSEPH SOLOMON, METHUEN POLICE DEPARTMENT: Was at 5:00 AM or was it 5:15 AM? Was it cloudy and raining or cloudy and misting? But not that it was in a crate that fell apart, and then a crate that was completely intact, and then it wasn't in a crate, it was in a can. So the big inconsistencies do help prove our story.


OLBERMANN: Police also point out that if the loot really had been stored a foot below the surface for 75 years, some of the bills probably would no longer be in near mint condition. And they've also issued warrants for two other men in this case now. The newspaper "The Eagle Tribune" of Lawrence, Mass., says Crebase has confessed. He and Billcliff are now out on jail. (SIC) And oh, by the way, how likely was Billcliff's future as a counterfeiter and a finder of dubious cans of antique paper money made by the face that his name was Barry Billcliff!

From piles of money to pile of pills, it's our nightly round-up of celebrity and entertainment news, "Keeping Tabs." And it begins with a legal setback for Rush Limbaugh. My friends, Florida supreme court declining by a vote of 4 to 3 to overturn or even review a lower court ruling that permits investigators to examine Limbaugh's medical records. The state seized those records in November, 2003, after it learned he had received about 2,000 painkiller pills in only six months, prescribed by four different doctors from just the one pharmacy near his home in Palm Beach. They have not been permitted to charge him, pending the resolution of his claim that seizing those records was a violation of his privacy. No charges still yet.

And you've doubtless heard about the poll that once suggested Walter Cronkite was once the most trust man in America. It was conducted by a Florida newspaper in 1979. And one of the runners-up was a fictional character named Charlie Hume. He was the managing editor of the apocryphal newspaper, "The Los Angeles Tribune," in the CBS television series "Lou Grant." He was played by a great actor named Mason Adams. Mason Adams has died of natural causes. He got three Emmy nominations in the five years that "Lou Grant" ran. He was an actor for 60 years, from radio to Broadway stage to a million television commercials because even if you did not recognize Mason Adams's face or his name, you knew his singular voice for Smuckers jam and countless other products.


MASON ADAMS: Now Smuckers celebrates 100 years of family-made goodness. With a name like Smuckers, it has to be good.


OLBERMANN: Mason Adams died in New York at the age of 86.

Also tonight: They were, quite frankly, terrifying looking. But now, thanks to an 11-year-old boy, this will not be the face of the next generation of Bugs Bunny and company. He joins us next. The kid, not Bugs Bunny.


OLBERMANN: Call it drawing a line in the sand or redrawing the map of cartoonland, or in the words of Yosemite Sam himself, "Draw, you long-eared critter!" You can fight meaningless progress. And in a moment, we'll meet the 11-year-old who saved, in part, at least, one of America's most revered institutions.

You may remember seeing it here on Countdown. In February, Warner Bros. announced "The Loonatics," revised, ultra-sleek, sharp-edged, flatly frightening mutations of Bugs Bunny and company. They were now superheroes from the year 2772, with names like Buzz Bunny. Quite a shock for old-timers like me and my guest that night, Harry Shearer, himself no stranger to animated entertainment. And as it turned out, quite a shock for some of the "Loony Tunes" younger fans, too. One of them, Thomas Adams, got a petition drive going to ask Warner Bros. to make their new characters entirely different for the "Loonatics" series, leave the old ones alone.

The company has listened, to some degree, Warner Bros. announcing that the "Loonatics" will consist not of completely new characters, but at least ones that don't look like somebody's nightmares.

Thomas Adams and his mother, Rachel, joining us now from their hometown of Tulsa. And I guess congratulations are in order here. Thomas, how'd you do this? I'm assuming it had something to do with the Internet.


OLBERMANN: What'd do you?

THOMAS ADAMS: Well, I - at first, when I first saw them, I didn't really like them. So when I went to school the next day, my friend, Ashton Hubbard (ph), had seen them and hadn't liked them, either. So we thought something needed to be done, and we started a paper petition. But it only got about 15 signatures. So I - we - I - my parents suggested that I should put it on the Internet, and they called Rod Copeland (ph), and I got the Web site started.

OLBERMANN: How many signatures have you gotten on the Web site?

THOMAS ADAMS: Well over 120,000.

OLBERMANN: That's a little bigger than 15 or 20 in person! Are you satisfied with what Warner Bros. says it's going to do about these "Loonatics"? Is this enough, or you still want them to get rid of this altogether?

THOMAS ADAMS: Well, I'm not really fully satisfied right now. Depending on what they look like, or what - yes, what they look like, then I don't like it or I do or...

OLBERMANN: All right, now, tell me one thing, though. This I don't get necessarily. A lot of guys your age like the characters who have swords for ears or they have electronic noses or whatever they've got. Why do you prefer the same Bugs Bunny that I loved when I was your age?

THOMAS ADAMS: Well, it's - he's not evil or dark or mean-looking, and neither are the other "Loony Tunes." But Warner Bros. is trying to turn them into that.

OLBERMANN: So Mrs. Adams, as a parent, have you always thought that the original "Loony Tunes" and Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck and Yosemite Sam were good entertainment for kids? There was a controversy about that when I was a kid, but did you think this was good stuff and should be left alone?

RACHEL ADAMS, MOTHER OF THOMAS ADAMS: I think they're great fun. I love them for kids.

OLBERMANN: Did you think your son's effort here was going pay off?

RACHEL ADAMS: Well, after he went on line instead of just using a paper petition, I could see success.

OLBERMANN: So let me ask you another one here, Thomas. You have changed the world, at least to some degree here, in defense of Bugs Bunny. We don't know how it's going to turn out. We're probably going to find out next week what these new characters are going to look like. The petition process has worked. You've gotten on the Internet. You going to go after anything else? Is there anything else you don't like in your life that you want to get rid of?

THOMAS ADAMS: Well, homework, but I don't really think I can do anything about that right now.


OLBERMANN: Yes, you'll be...

THOMAS ADAMS: So depending on what happens in the future...

OLBERMANN: Well, yes, good luck working on that homework thing. We were working on that about 1964, and I never got anywhere on it. So more power to you, if you can. Thomas Adams, his mother, Rachel, who have helped make the world partially safe for Bugs Bunny. Great. Thanks for joining us tonight.

RACHEL ADAMS: Thank you.

OLBERMANN: Oh, very nice. Excellent. That's Countdown. Thanks for being part of it. I'm Keith Olbermann. And there'll be soon an evil version drawn of me, no doubt. Let's see if I can get this right. Good night, and good luck.


Thursday, April 28, 2005

Transcript missing. Unable to find anything about this episode.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for April 27

Guests: Christopher Shays, Mark Borchardt, Savannah Guthrie

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

I'm willing to step back - the speaker of the House to fellow Republicans. The plan to end the ethics stalemate by ending some of the new ethics rules. Congressman Christopher Shays join us.

More oil refineries, more energy-efficient automobiles, and start building nukes again. The president outlines his new energy policy.

What do you know? It does fly. After $13 billion, it passed its first test. The biggest plane, the Airbus, and the pilot's imagery is...


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In a nutshell, you can say that you handle this aircraft as you handle a bicycle.


OLBERMANN: A bicycle with 555 passengers sitting on your shoulders.

And jail, or no football. A Wisconsin judge's choice to a convicted woman, donate your 12 Green Bay Packers tickets, or donate 90 days of your behind in Winnebago County Jail.

All that and more now on Countdown.

Good evening.

Though clearly not intended as such, today's decision by the speaker of the House to roll back the recent and, some say, partisan Ethics Committee changes, amounted to a virtual nonpartisan gesture. And the limited goodwill apparently will barely stay alive for the next 24 hours, the White House announcing at about 7:30 Eastern time tonight that the president will hold his first general prime-time news conference in about a year tomorrow night. And it apparently will not be a multiparty clambake.

Our White House correspondent David Gregory reporting that his sources indicate that the president will begin to turn up the pressure on Democrats, that he will accuse them of obstructionism, that he will paint the Social Security reform debate in those terms and the judicial nominees' controversy, and the nomination of U.N. ambassador-designate John Bolton, that he will make an opening statement of between 10 to 12 minutes, mostly about Social Security.

The president's suddenly convened, certainly unexpected news conference, scheduled for tomorrow night at 8:30 Eastern, 5:30 Pacific. Full live coverage, of course, here on MSNBC.

Mr. Bush thus stealing the thunder from the unintentional peacemakers within his own party. Earlier today, the message from the speaker about the Tom DeLay ethics quagmire was, full steam reverse. What it did for or to the majority leader is yet to be guessed at, but this afternoon, as he was trying to elude a cluster of reporters, there seemed no softening. He told them tersely, "You guys better get out of my way. Where's our security?"

It's the Democrats on the Hill, of course, who charge that the new rules were intended in the first place to shield Tom DeLay from a full ethics investigation. But it was the top Republican, House speaker Dennis Hastert, telling his fellow partisans behind closed doors this morning, that the only way to avoid an indefinite shutdown of the committee's activity was to give.

The ethics deadlock, he reportedly said, becoming a distraction for his own party, perhaps enough of a distraction that the speaker could momentarily forget Tom DeLay's name.


REP. DENNIS HASTERT (R), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Well, I'm willing to step back. We had a long discussion about that. I think we need to move forward in the ethics process. I think that there are issues out there that need to be discussed. I think that there's a member, especially on our side, that needs to have the process moved forward so he can clear his name.


OLBERMANN: That's Mr. Member to you.

Speaker Hastert asking for a reversal on the rules change, the Ethics Committee expected to grant his wish, Democrats saying this is step one to breaking a logjam. They need a part two as well, nonpartisan staff positions that became Republican staff positions need to become nonpartisan again.

Now they are wrapping up debate on the rules change. The vote was scheduled for just about 8:00 p.m. Eastern, running a little late, and expected to be overwhelmingly in favor.

Much more on the ethos of ethics inquiries in a moment with Congressman Christopher Shays of Connecticut. His day focused on the House Government Reform Committee, of which he is vice chair, and its hearings on another topic in which ethics plays a huge part, steroids in sports, particularly pro football.

A totally different kettle of fish from the last congressional steroid hearings, when baseball's bosses and superstars had to be dragged kicking and screaming to the witness table. And when they got there, some of them seemed to be pretending they were from other planets.

Football's hierarchy instead, players and owners working together, chose today to announce a strengthening of their already stiff anti-steroid program, tripling off-season tests, adding new drugs to the list of banned substances in the league, but warning, via a written statement from NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue, that new drugs and the imminence of genetic alterations means that, quote, "the $6 million man will no longer be a television fantasy but will instead become a near-term reality."

The commissioner has not watched prime time TV lately. "The Six Million Dollar Man," starring Lee Majors, went off the air in 1978.

But his point is taken.

As promised, I'm joined now by Congressman Chris Shays of Connecticut and the Government Reform Committee.

Congressman, thanks for your time tonight.


OLBERMANN: First, the steroids, and then the majority leader.

SHAYS: Sure.

OLBERMANN: Was my assessment correct that football and baseball made entirely different impressions on Congress on this topic?

SHAYS: Oh, it was night and today. Baseball refused to cooperate from day one. We had to subpoena them. They gave us a document that conflicted with what they told us. Baseball, major league baseball, said, you know, they would - five strikes and you're out. They didn't tell us that you could have fines instead of suspensions.

Then they said, well that was a mistake, and it was a drafting error, and it wasn't really there. And then they tell us the week after the hearing that they voted to take it out.

I mean, they were close to being as - they were as uncooperative as you can imagine.

Now, contrast that with the NFL. They cooperated from day one. They've been - had a steroid policy for over 15 years. It's a strong policy. They testified under oath that people haven't had a second bite of the apple, because in only two instances did they have a repeat, and both of those individuals retired. So effectively, they were out.

OLBERMANN: What the commissioner, Mr. Tagliabue, said, though, about genetic alterations to athletes' bodies, can Congress get ahead of that somehow?

SHAYS: Well, I don't think we can get ahead of it, but at least we

won't get too far behind. I mean, it's going to be a tough issue. But we

· but it wasn't just the NFL that was so terrific. It was having two high school football coaches. One high school football coach suspended 10 of his players, taking such a, I think, a very clear and important stand.

So they're letting us know, though, that major league - that National Football League is telling us that, you know, they're getting - the people they're getting have already been doing this stuff, and now they're trying to get them to stop.

OLBERMANN: Goodness.

Well, turning to Mr. DeLay and the Ethics Committee, the speaker's comments today, the prospect of rolling back some of these rules changes, the vote tonight, I'd like your overall view on these things.

SHAYS: Well, it was a huge mistake to have amended the rules in January. And it's - we're doing the proper thing right now to restore them to the way they were. In other words, we were basically saying you couldn't investigate a Republican unless the Republican agreed. And you couldn't investigate a Democrat unless the Democrat agreed.

And then your - the change had basically said, and if you did not have it, an investigation within 45 days, it disappeared. Well, that was just, I think, a big mistake. And what made it even worse was it - even no matter how well intended some may have thought it was, it was done in a partisan way. The minority of the Democrats weren't consulted. And they didn't participate, even though the committee is 50-50 Republican-Democrat.

So we are restoring it to the way it is, allowing the chairman and the ranking member, the Republican and Democrat, to work out whatever their - whatever remaining differences that exist.

OLBERMANN: I would guess that nobody has interviewed you this month without quoting your words about Mr. DeLay back to you. But with my apologies, for the sake of the viewers' attention span, you told the Associated Press - and let me read the quote - "Tom's conduct is hurting the Republican Party, is hurting this Republican majority, and is hurting any Republican who's up for reelection."

And you also told some of your constituents in Connecticut, quoting again, "He is an absolute embarrassment to me and to the Republican Party."

Has your view changed at all since those statements? And if not, what is it about his behavior that would embarrass you and would be hurting the Republican Party?

SHAYS: Well, I think that it was embarrassing that we changed our rules in November, our House Republican rules, to say that if you were indicted, you didn't need to step down. And that was done solely to accommodate the majority leader. That was a huge mistake, and that was very embarrassing, and one that we then undid in January.

To be admonished three times in one year, to have been admonished before, he - Tom is, is frankly, a very engaging person, and I think he is basically a very good man. But he pushes ethics to the limit. And sometimes he goes over the edge. And when he does that, he embarrasses himself, and he obviously embarrasses us, given that he is our majority leader.

OLBERMANN: There have been times in the last few months with Mr. DeLay's pursuit of the Terri Schiavo legislation, and just Sunday, with Senator Frist's involvement with the religious broadcast, where it seems as if Republican leadership is not just shifting to the far right, but leaping there. Is that your sense? Are you worried about the future of moderation in your own party?

SHAYS: Well, I'm clearly worried about the future of moderation. I think that our founding fathers believed we should govern from the center. The bell curve moves to the left or the right, and it moves more to the right, and I think that's good. I'm comfortable with a center-right focus.

But Barry Goldwater, quite a conservative, warned us that when you play to religious groups that you invite extraordinary intolerance, because people who have strong religious views believe that God has told them that's what is the truth, and anyone who doesn't believe in that, doesn't believe in the truth, and doesn't believe in God.

That's what you unleash when you appeal, or attempt to appeal, to the

· to such a religious base.

OLBERMANN: Lastly, I must ask you about the breaking news from the White House that there will be a prime time press conference tomorrow. And again, it's David Gregory's report, and I wouldn't doubt it. But it's not official yet. But obviously he is saying that the president will be accusing Democrats of obstructionism. Is this a, in your mind, an appropriate place to take political discourse at this moment?

SHAYS: Well, I hope he does more than that. I hope he explains what he believes in and why he thinks that important things aren't moving forward.

But, I mean, there are many of us who believe that the president is right to focus on Social Security. But we believe that Medicare is a crisis, and Social Security will be a crisis if we don't deal with it. And that's, I think, not an insignificant difference.

OLBERMANN: Congressman Chris Shays, vice chairman of the House Government Reform Committee, in the wake of the steroids hearings today, in anticipation of the ethics rules vote tonight and the news conference tomorrow.

Our great thanks, sir.

SHAYS: You too.

OLBERMANN: From congressional football hearings to a continuing congressional football, to congressional hearings that are becoming a congressional football.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee may interview as many as 19 new witnesses about the U.N. ambassador-designate John Bolton. With several Republicans having forced his confirmation vote back to May 12, the Associated Press, quoting an unnamed committee aide, who says the 19 are former intelligence officers and subordinates of Bolton, all of whom reported to the committee their own past problems working with him.

The White House is also upping the ante, to say nothing of tomorrow's remarks, fearing a Bolton rejection could reflect on the president, especially it would be the former secretary of state, Mr. Powell, who would have contributed to that political defeat.

"The New York Times" reporting that political adviser Karl Rove personally lobbied Senators McConnell, Kyl, and Specter on Bolton's behalf, that Vice President Cheney, meanwhile, met with other senators and phoned still more of them yesterday to try to close the gap in the Republican wall of party loyalty.

That question I asked Congressman Shays a little while ago was not something clever or new, the one about moderation in the Republican Party. It was the man he invoked, Barry Goldwater, who famously said that "Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice," and a moment later added, "Moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue."

Colorful and enduring words. Not as frequently remembered that three-and-a-half months after he made those remarks, Mr. Goldwater lost the presidential election to Lyndon Johnson by 23 percent of the popular vote, by 38 states, and by a margin of 431 electoral votes. He was George McGovern before George McGovern was George McGovern.

It seems as if every generation, one or both parties learns that while extremism in the defense of liberty may not be a vice, it also isn't as much of a crowd-pleaser as it inevitably first seems.

As our White House correspondent David Gregory reports now, that lesson may have just begun with the current occupants there.


DAVID GREGORY, MSNBC WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As the president is learning, the hard part about second-term politics is not your enemies, but your friends. And lately, it's moderate Republicans giving the president the hardest time.

New Hampshire Republican Charlie Bans (ph).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think the Republicans are more polarized than they ever have been.

GREGORY: From the fight over Social Security, to the battle over John Bolton's nomination to the U.N., to the prospect of ending filibusters for judicial nominees, and the GOP-led drive to intervene in the Terri Schiavo case, the White House appears out of step with Republican moderates.

Marshall Whitman (ph) once worked for Republican Senator John McCain and is now a senior fellow at the Democratic Leadership Council.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Many of the moderates feel that the party has moved too far to the right and that the conservatives have too much influence within the high councils of the party.

GREGORY: Mr. Bush's first term was marked by unprecedented party unity, because of 9/11 and the party's determination to retain the White House. Now, some liberal analysts argue, moderates facing their own reelection are hearing concerns from their constituents.

E.J. DIONNE: They see these arguments about what they see as kind of-

· as weirdly ideological issues, and they ask, Why is Washington obsessed with these things, and not the things that I care about?

GREGORY: For the president, the consequences of these Republican defections are serious. On issues like Social Security, where there is unanimous Democratic opposition, Republican moderates hold the balance of power.

SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R), MAINE: The Republican in Congress want to assist the president. We might not agree with him on every issue. But by forging compromises, we can help him advance his agenda.

FRANK LUNTZ, REPUBLICAN POLLSTER: If the rhetoric were a little bit less heated, if there were a little bit less anger articulated in some ways by the Republican leadership...

GREGORY (on camera): Such friction is nothing new in a second term. Indeed, President Clinton went through the same thing. Still, if it keeps going on this way, all the political capital Mr. Bush talked about after his reelection may have to give way to compromise.

David Gregory, NBC News, the White House.


OLBERMANN: Also tonight, will high gas prices bring more gas refineries? How about more nuclear plants? So plans the president.

And the long-ago plans of Michael Jackson. The idea was, she'd bear him some kids. Today, though, she may have bared his soul on the witness stand.

You are watching Countdown on MSNBC.


OLBERMANN: There has been only one new nuclear energy plant opened in this country since they cut the ribbon in 1987 at Clinton Power Station in Illinois, a scant 60 miles from the state capital, Springfield.

At the other Springfield, Mr. Burns may have reassured all that "A lifetime of working with nuclear power has left me with a healthy green glow."

But that is not part of President Bush's push, as today he brought constructing nukes in this country back to the table.

Part, as our correspondent Tom Costello reports, of his second speech about energy in as many weeks.


TOM COSTELLO, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): With Americans paying 23 percent more at the pump than just a year ago, and world oil demand outstripping production, the president today called on Congress to give him an energy bill by this summer to begin weaning the country off foreign oil.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Our dependence on foreign energy is like a foreign tax on the American people. It's a tax on jobs, and it's a tax that is increasing every year.

COSTELLO: With U.S. oil refineries already working at capacity, the president today suggested using closed military bases to build new refineries, something experts say the U.S. badly needs.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If we could increase the capacity here, we would have less reliance on these imports. And that would give us more flexibility, and I think end up serving the consumer well.

COSTELLO: The president also wants new nuclear power plants. Today, just 20 percent of U.S. power comes from nuclear plants, compared to 78 percent in France.

BUSH: Nuclear power is one of the safest, cleanest sources of power in the world, and we need more of it in America.

COSTELLO: But the last time the U.S. built a nuclear plant, or an oil refinery, was in the 1970s. Why?

ED SILLIERE, ENERGY MERCHANT CORPORATION: The price of oil has not, until recently, it has not been high enough to encourage those alternate energy investments.

COSTELLO: And many Americans still fear nuclear power. But with oil now at $51 a barrel, the president thinks it's time to reevaluate. He's also calling for other alternatives, including new natural gas terminals, clean coal technologies, cleaner fuels like ethanol, and tax credits for fuel-efficient cars.

Critics say the proposed incentives don't go far enough.

REP. EDWARD MARKEY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: Only when the president says that he is going to dramatically increase fuel economy standards will OPEC begin to understand that we mean business.

KEN COOKE, PRESIDENT, ENVIRONMENTAL WORKING GROUP: And building more refineries that cause more pollution and probably more accidental deaths is not the way out of the problem.

COSTELLO (on camera): The president's proposals offer long-term solutions. In the short term, it's likely to be a long, expensive summer for drivers.

Tom Costello, NBC News, Washington.


OLBERMANN: So now that you can't afford to drive, maybe it would be cheaper to take the newest, just-tested Airbus, as the comedian said, combining the benefits of the two worst forms of transportation, airliners and buses.

And yesterday, the buffalo were at the tennis courts. Next, they'll be enjoying a nice barbecue.

Well, enjoying might not be the right word for it.

Stand by.


OLBERMANN: Once again, we're back with our special segment devoted to weird news from the animal kingdom, weird news from the United Kingdom, and miscellaneous.

Let's play Oddball.

We start where we started last night. Pikesville, Maryland, hello.

That escaped herd of nine bisons roaming through the tennis courts of the upscale gated community - Buffy, I don't understand this. We moved here to get away from buffalo of that kind.

All the animals were eventually contained, and today the Baltimore County Police officers - Baltimore County? - who corralled the herd were rewarded for their bravery with a handsome plaque recognizing them as the Buffalo Brigade.

So this story would seem to be a happy ending for all involved, unless you count the buffalo. Farmer Buzz Berg (ph), who raised those nine plucky escapist buffalo, which fascinated a nation with their one-day field trip to play tennis in the suburbs, Buzz Berg says, quote, "They're going to the slaughterhouse."

And now we know where he got that name, Buzz.

To Somerset, England, where quick thinking may have saved the life of Matthew Stevens (ph) after he was bitten by a Brazilian wandering spider, one of the deadliest arachnids in the world. Right after he was attacked, Stevens took a picture of the spider with his cell phone camera. That enabled experts at the hospital to determine that he needed an antidote, and fast.

It was a very smart thing that he did, taking the picture, that is. How Mr. Stevens got bitten by the world's most dangerous spider has got to be one of the dumbest things we've ever heard.


MATTHEW STEVENS, BITTEN BY SPIDER: I was cleaning out the Cornetta machine. And squeezed the cloth, and I thought there was a (INAUDIBLE) got in my hand, because I leapt and shook the cloth, and it was a spider. Went to pick it up, it bit me, and then I let it go. And I went to pick it up again, and it bit me on the other hand.


OLBERMANN: Don't touch the Cornetta soft ice cream machine. Do touch them poisonous spiders twice, if you can. Pure genius.

Back home here in the States, today's the holiday that used to be called Secretaries' Day but now has a new name that's too long to fit on a balloon, "Happy Administrative Professionals Appreciation Day." Obviously, that was dreamt up by a temp. Office workers in Mobile, Alabama, celebrating by letting off some steam at the First Annual Typewriter Toss. And if you still had to use a typewriter, you'd want to toss it too.

For some reason, the machines were all protected by bubble wrap, possibly because the cost of replacing them in the museum now came out of the salaries of the administrative professionals themselves.

Now, if Michael Jackson had a typewriter, would he have thrown it at the mother of two of his children today? She testified about his parenting skills and how she had previously lied about them.

And the sentencing dilemma that has put Green Bay, Wisconsin, at the center of not just the football world, but also the judicial world. Go to games, and you go to jail.

Those stories ahead.

But now, here are Countdown's top three newsmakers of this day.

Number three, the late Bredo Morstoel. Years ago, he was cryogenically frozen in the small mountain town of Nederland, Colorado. Gradually, a cult has built up around him, leading to an annual festival.

Frozen dead guy days.

Now, his grandson says the family no longer supports the event, wants it canceled. Says one member of the Nederland Chamber of Commerce, quote, "He'll stop the festival over my frozen dead body." (INAUDIBLE) replacement, sir.

Number two, Greg Brenneman, CEO of Burger King, noting his is the only fast-food restaurant with a veggieburger on the menu, and that it sells an average of three of them, three per day, per restaurant. Maybe if you put some bacon on it.

Number one, 20th Century-Fox. The studio remaking the classic 1943 film "My Friend Flicka," the heartwarming story of a young boy and his horse. The horse was Flicka.

Monday, on the set of the new "My Friend Flicka," they killed Flicka. It was an accident. A stunt went wrong. The animal services monitors on the set exonerated the producers. Yes, that's what they told us employees when they killed off Fox Sports Net too.


OLBERMANN: Monday on the set of the new "My Friend Flicka," they killed Flicka. It was an accident. A stunt went wrong. The animal services monitors on the set exonerated the producers. Yes, that's what they told us employees when they killed off Fox Sports net, too!


OLBERMANN: They anticipated her performance the same way Michael Jackson's fans anticipated his 13-minute-long video for "Thriller" back in 1983. A famous director, John Landis, a famous voice of horror, Vincent Price, Michael Jackson himself, and best of all, Michael Jackson's woman. Your entertainment and tax dollars in action, day 527 of the Michael Jackson investigations. And today, just as in the video, she showed up - on the witness stand. Karen Brown is our reporter in Santa Maria.


KAREN BROWN, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): She is Michael Jackson's ex-wife, mother of his two eldest children, and now Debbie Rowe has taken the stand as a key witness in the case against him. Rowe is expected to testify that she, like the accuser's mother, was coerced into saying nice things about Michael Jackson on videotape and that Jackson himself asked her to do the interview.

LAURIE LEVENSON, LOYOLA LAW SCHOOL: I think the prosecutor's case will be stronger if they can show that Michael Jackson really ran the tight ship. And that's one thing that Debbie Rowe might be able to offer.

BROWN: Legal expert also believe that the prosecution will try to ask Rowe about the details of her marriage to Jackson.

LEVENSON: The prosecution will try desperately hard to get into the intimate nature of the relationship between Debbie Rowe and Michael Jackson, but this judge doesn't want to allow it.

BROWN: Meanwhile, returning to the stand was Jackson's former personal videographer, who shot the accuser and his family in a rebuttal video praising the singer. Hamid Muslehi testified that he never saw the family being coached or memorizing lines from a script.

MICHAEL CARDOZA, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: That flies in the face of what the mother of the accuser said.

BROWN: After nearly nine weeks of testimony, the prosecution is expected to rest sometime in the next week.

(on camera): Legal experts say the one thing that may make Debbie Rowe a problematic witness is that the jurors may not like the fact that at one time, she gave up her parental rights to her children. In Santa Maria, Karen Brown, NBC News.


OLBERMANN: To get inside the trial, we turn again to attorney and Court TV correspondent Savannah Guthrie. Savannah, good evening.


OLBERMANN: Give us the overall impact of Debbie Rowe's first day on the stand.

GUTHRIE: Well, there was a lot of energy when she walked into that courtroom, and not just because we had had all this boring phone record testimony right before her. She was really emotional on the stand, breaking down a few times as she talked about her children and wanting to be reacquainted with Michael Jackson.

And as she finished her testimony today, this afternoon, it was kind of a cliffhanger because she was asked about the interview she did for that rebuttal video for Michael Jackson. And she was asked if she was truthful in her answers, and she said she wasn't truthful when asked about his parenting skills. But she didn't go any further about what she said that was not truthful, so I suspect we're going to hear a little more about that.

OLBERMANN: Obviously, that would be the start of testimony tomorrow, if she comes back, or when she come back a second day. Is there something else? I mean, is there something else they're building up to that has a similar kind of emotional punch?

GUTHRIE: I think there is. You know, she's testified so far that she didn't see the questions in advance and that she wasn't scripted. But I think we're going to hear from Debbie Rowe that as she got there and did this interview, she was told again and again what to say, that she was rehearsed before they even sat down and shot the interview, and that if she didn't give a sufficiently enthusiastic response, that the Jackson people wanted her to do it again.

It's particularly telling that the raw footage of this interview was three hours, but she says the interview actually went nine hours. That would seem to buttress that claim. I'm getting all of this from Tom Sneddon's opening statement, so Debbie Rowe better make good on his promises.

OLBERMANN: Did Jackson have any particular reaction to seeing her in there? Was the possibility of interaction seen between them?

GUTHRIE: Well, I really had my eyes fixed on him because I wanted to see if they exchanged a look. I thought she looked over at him a few times, in particular, when she said, He's my friend, and I wanted to be reacquainted with him. He was looking in that general direction, but with that long black hair, it's really hard to see what he's looking at, whether he's looking at the witness or sort of fixing his eyes on a point in the wall and thinking about who knows what. He didn't seem to make direct eye contact with her, and he didn't follow her in or out of the courtroom.

OLBERMANN: It wasn't just her today. The earlier testimony for the prosecution was this fellow who shot that rebuttal video, Mr. Muslehi, who said he never saw the accuser or his family rehearse. He never saw scripts. Which would seem to counter what the prosecution had hoped he might say. Has there yet been a prosecution witness whom any member of the jury might look at and be willing to loan $5 to with any reasonable expectation of getting the $5 back?


GUTHRIE: Well, that's one way to put it. You know, there's no question that a lot of the prosecution witnesses have baggage. I mean, we had this witness earlier in the week who was testifying under a grant of immunity from prosecution. Other witnesses have come in and tried to assert their 5th Amendment privilege against self-incrimination. On the other hand, this is not the prosecutor's fault. These are the people who were associated with Michael Jackson, and the prosecutors have no choice but to put these people on. They got to dance with the ones that brung them, so to speak.

OLBERMANN: Yes. Savannah Guthrie of Court TV. Debbie Rowe day 2 tomorrow. Be there. Aloha. Great. Thanks, Savannah.


OLBERMANN: Also tonight, aviation history or just aviation hype? Biggest plane ever flies. Well, of course it flies. They didn't build it as a paperweight. Another story the producers are making me cover. But shock in Poland. News that the old communist regime there had a man at the Vatican spying on Pope John Paul II, and he was a Polish priest. These stories ahead.

Now, though, here are Countdown's top three sound bites of this day.


CONAN O'BRIEN, HOST, "LATE NIGHT WITH CONAN O'BRIEN": Over the weekend in Indianapolis, more than 30,000 fans attended a "Star Wars" convention - 30,000 fans. Yes. Experts say it was the highest concentration of celibate men since they elected the new pope.

UNIDENTIFIED JACKSON FAN: Innocent! Innocent! Innocent!

UNIDENTIFIED JACKSON FAN: Innocent! Innocent! Innocent!

UNIDENTIFIED JACKSON FAN: Innocent! Innocent! Innocent!


GEORGE WALKER BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I went to Fort Hood the other day and sat down with some of our troops. And we had dinner. Lunch. In Texas, they call it dinner, the noon meal, and supper, the evening meal. I'm trying to standardize the language. We sat down for lunch.



OLBERMANN: For a record-breaking second day in a row, it's another edition of stories my producers made me cover. The Airbus A-380 completes its first test flight. Look, seems to me, if they spent $13 billion developing what appears to be a zeppelin with jet engines taped to it, the damn thing better fly. Moreover, when they unveiled it, we covered it. When they drove it down the tarmac to make sure the wheels didn't fall off, we covered it.

Now the wire service reporters at Blagnac in France for this four-hour "Let's see if she doesn't crash, brother" test today, they're comparing this to the milestones of aviation history - the Wright Brothers at Kitty Hawk 101 years ago this December. That's comparable. First ever flight in human history, and the latest Airbus test flight. How about the first commercially successful transatlantic passenger plane? Compare it to the birth of the 707? I don't think so. No 707, and we're all still swimming to the Irish coast.

Or a comparison to the 747, which until today was the largest plane ever in the sky. Its maiden voyage, February 1969. Maybe this is in the ballpark. But the 747 and the Concorde, they only went into the skies 19 years after that first transatlantic plane. This thing today, this is just a ferry with wings. And they've even compared it to this - a year ago, the first privately manned spaceship which pierced the atmosphere. That one went into outer space. This one is going to go to Singapore!

And for all the money and the 35 years of experience with jumbo jets, it only goes 5 percent farther than the 747 did. Still, ever since the Hindenburg, there's been that same guilty thrill coursing through our collective veins, the ones that the fans get at the auto races. What if it goes blooey?

Our correspondent at Lakehurst, New Jersey, was Herb Morrison. Our correspondent in France is Rehema Ellis.


REHEMA ELLIS, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It soared into the air, making aviation history, the Airbus A-380, the size of a football field and the latest weapon in the business battle to control the skies, the milestone flight just a four-hour run over France's Pyrenees mountains. But the crew of six took no chances and wore parachutes. The test pilot said the plane handled beautifully.

UNIDENTIFIED PILOT: In a nutshell, you can say that you handle this aircraft, this large aircraft, as you handle a bicycle.

ELLIS: Today's test flight isn't the only gamble by Airbus. The European consortium behind the super-jumbo is betting bigger is better and that the A-380, designed for long-haul travel, will change the way the world flies.

(on camera): It's designed to carry 555 passengers in three cabins but can be configured to fly more than 800.


(INAUDIBLE) opportunity to surprise the passenger. We haven't had that since - since - since Concorde and the 747.

ELLIS (voice-over): And on board, other surprises, too. The Airbus can be fitted with a flying playground, a casino, gym, even a jacuzzi. But safety is still paramount. FAA rules require are all passengers must be evacuated in 90 seconds in the event of an emergency. Now at Goodrich in Phoenix, tests for the Airbus's evacuation slide are underway.

You can park 70 cars on the Airbus's 262-foot wing span, but it's too big to park at the gates. Airports like New York's JFK are making changes. Already, 154 planes have been ordered, a direct challenge to Boeing. Boeing has countered with its new 787 Dreamliner, betting a smaller jet which can fly into more airports is what passengers and airlines will want, rather than the super-jumbo.

RON NEIDL, CALYON SECURITIES AVIATION/AEROSPACE ANALYST: It's going to take longer to get on board. It's going to take longer to get off board. It's probably going to take longer for you to retrieve your luggage.

ELLIS: So far, no U.S. airlines have ordered the giant Airbus. But the first scheduled passenger flight is due to take off next year from Singapore. NBC News, Toulouse, France.


OLBERMANN: So from the topic of giant over publicized entities that cost billions to the topic of giant over publicized entities that cost billions. Our nightly round-up of celebrity and entertainment news, "Keeping Tabs."

And Pat O'Brien of television's "The Insider" is out of rehab, having checked himself in late last month saying he had an alcohol problem. He will rejoin his show a week from Friday. I tried to reach my old colleague from CBS and NBC, and he said something about leaving me a voice-mail message, and I said - no!

The oddest of possible sequels, from Pat O'Brien to a papal spy. The state agency in Poland that is still sorting through the endless documents of that country's communist era today accused a Polish priest of having spied on the late Pope John Paul II while they were both at the Vatican. The Institute of National Remembrance says Father Konrad Hejmo informed on Karol Wojtyla while he was pope and while he was supporting Poland's Solidarity movement in the early 1980s. Hejmo, who was on TV in Poland for much of the month of March with insider reports on the pope's failing health, says the allegations are absurd. But now that he thinks of it, maybe the man he met and gave documents to in the '80, who he only knew as M - maybe he could have been, quote, "on the other side, working for the East Germans."

And from documents suggesting a papal spy to a diary detailing an entire presidency. Harper-Collins publishing brought the global rights to produce President Reagan's diaries in book form. He made entries daily and was quite candid in his assessment of events and world leaders. That according to the chairman of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library Foundation, Frederick Ryan (ph). Reagan did not know he was writing for public consumption. The foundation decided that, it says, after a lot of deliberation, Mr. Ryan, calling his insights very historic and unique. No comment from Mrs. Reagan.

Also tonight, creative sentencing in Wisconsin: go to jail for 90 days or give up your tickets to Green Bay Packer football games. Apparently, this is not the no-brainer it would appear to be for most of us. Stand by.


OLBERMANN: It's nearly 12 years now since I did the calculations, so I could not possibly recreate them - show my work, as the teachers used to say. But the conclusion was if you signed up for the waiting list for season tickets for the Green Bay Packers football team, at the then current rate that people were giving up their tickets, you would only have to wait for about 500 years.

Four of the tickets, though, might become available, at least for part of next season. So says a Wisconsin judge. Last night in "Newsmakers," we mentioned this little story, and today America went berserk. The background now from our correspondent Kevin Tibbles.


KEVIN TIBBLES, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For Green Bay Packers fans, football is religious, and filling the seats at Lambeau Field is something not to be missed. So when you're convicted of a crime and the judge gives you the option of going to jail or giving up your Packers tickets, what do you do? That's the dilemma now facing 59-year-old Sharon Rosenthal (ph) of Appleton, Wisconsin, convicted of pilfering $3,000 from a labor union. The judge got creative at sentencing: 90 days in jail or donate her family's four seats, these four seats, to three home games to the Make a Wish Foundation. Ohio judge Michael Chickennetti (ph), who also uses creative sentencing, says it works.

MICHAEL CHICKENNETTI, OHIO JUDGE: You teach them. You make them learn from their mistakes. You make them suffer some humiliation, a little bit of embarrassment. But the point gets across.

TIBBLES: And for many Packers fans, it's a no-brainer.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's pretty hard to give up Packer tickets, and so, yes, I would probably do the 90 days.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'd go to jail. No choice.

TIBBLES: In Wisconsin, Packers seats are gold, sold out since the 1960s, a 30-year waiting list for season tickets. Even president Bob Harlan, who's heard it all, says this is new.

BOB HARLAN, GREEN BAY PACKERS PRESIDENT: First time I've heard this. I know they've been involved in divorce cases, but this is the first time I've heard of a possible prison sentence.

TIBBLES: As for Sharon Rosenthal, she's still deciding: three months in the slammer...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That defendant now is probably the most infamous cheesehead in the state of Wisconsin.

TIBBLES:... or forgoing her chance to see the Pack. Kevin Tibbles, NBC News, Chicago.


OLBERMANN: So the choice was, you can not go Packers games and then you do not have to go to jail, or you can go to both. Mrs. Rosenthal evidently has just made up her mind. Breaking news, according to a local newscast in Green Bay, Wisconsin, who are indeed quoting her attorney as saying she's going to give the tickets to the Make a Wish Foundation instead of keeping them and going to jail.

I'm joined now by Mark Borchardt, motion picture director and writer and director, I should say, lifelong Green Bay Packers fan. Mr. Borchardt, good evening.

MARK BORCHARDT, WRITER/DIRECTOR: Hey, Keith. How're you doing?

OLBERMANN: Well, I'm OK. This news about her making up this mind - her mind on how the tickets were going to go. Does it surprise you that a Packer fan would give up their tickets for anything?

BORCHARDT: Well, you know, she can rest easy now because she's not going to be in jail and she can be in her living room. How about that?

OLBERMANN: I would guess everybody, in one way or the other, would have seen this as a no-brainer. I mean, if you're not a Packer fan, of course, you give the tickets up. And if you are a Packer fan, of course, you would never give them up, right?

BORCHARDT: Yes, it's a - I'm sure it was a tough decision for her, but you know, now, like I said, you know, she's - the tickets will be enjoyed by others. I'm sure she's enjoyed many, many games, you know, and so she's spreading the wealth, so to speak, and justice is served.

OLBERMANN: Is the lack of understanding of this, of what it means to be a Packer fan nationally, does that come from the fact that unless you are from Wisconsin, you could have no idea what kind of an anachronism the Packers really are? I mean, Green Bay has about 100,00 residents. This is like having one of the top teams in baseball operating out of Muncie, Indiana. Green Bay's the last small city team in America with a big league sports franchise. Is that the heart of the affection for the team?

BORCHARDT: Yes, I think so. I mean, it's one of those cases where you just got to be there. I mean, I was up there, I think, last season. It's just fantastic, the energy and the enthusiasm. And you know, it's just legendary all around, so you got this whole dynamic going. And it's just great, man, to have the Packers in your state.

OLBERMANN: Could you imagine a reverse of this situation that this woman just decided upon, that there might be fans who are on that waiting list who'd love to go see a game who would perhaps commit a crime or lie to Make a Wish to get those tickets?

BORCHARDT: No, no, no. You don't have to do that. I mean, life has a plan. It's all worked out very beautifully, so you'll never have to dip into that negative realm. If you need those Packer tickets, if you really need them, you'll have them, man, without scarring any moral tissue whatsoever. You'll do good.

OLBERMANN: The idea of the cheesehead hats - I mean, I was a sportscaster for about 25 years, and I never really understood them. They seem neither practical nor complimentary. Why wear a big piece of foam rubber shaped as a piece of Swiss cheese?

BORCHARDT: Keith, Keith, they are practical. I mean, if you're playing, you know, in the late summer, it's great, man. Your head don't get burned. I've got one in my office, man, where you can drink bear out of it. You know, you just hold it in your hand like that, so put your beer right in there. So there's practicality to that, Keith.

OLBERMANN: Would the worst thing that could happen - as we watch pictures of President Bush visiting the Packer camp last year - would the worst thing be for somebody in this situation to be not - to be actually offered the choice of giving up the tickets or going to jail, but both of them occurring during the season? In other words, not only would you be in jail, but you wouldn't even be able to watch the games perhaps on TV?

BORCHARDT: Yes, that'd be a double negative. That wouldn't be good.

OLBERMANN: Well, we appreciate your time, Mark Borchardt, the writer/director, at work on his next film, "Scare Me," and also at work on his next season, his 28th - that'll be 28 years as a Green Bay Packers fan. Great. Thanks for your time.

BORCHARDT: Yes. Absolutely. Thank you.

OLBERMANN: You take care.

That's Countdown. Thanks for being part of it. I'm Keith Olbermann. The woman has made up her mind. She's giving the tickets to Make a Wish, rather than going to jail for 90 days. Packers have a bad season, 90 days in jail is like a bad - OK, never mind. Good night, and good luck.


Tuesday, April 26, 2005

'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for April 26

Guest: John Harwood, Dana Milbank, Michael Musto

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

He gets an event with the president, he gets the warm words of the president, he gets a ride back to D.C. from the president. Tom DeLay has a friend at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Had he not dived out of a moving vehicle, he might be in U.S. custody now. So we are told about the terrorist al-Zarqawi, a near-miss in February, so we are told.

And I can't bring this on the plane?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've seen automotive transmission, an automotive wheel, blenders, some knives that would make your skin crawl.


OLBERMANN: What the TSA does with that stuff you can't bring on board. Would you believe it gets sold on eBay?

Speaking of sales, these images earned somebody a million bucks. Mr. Pitt with Ms. Jolie and Ms. Jolie's son on vacation. Did Angelina put the lean on Jennifer Aniston's hubby? Inquiring minds want to know. And you and me as well, apparently.

All that and more now on Countdown.

Good evening.

He is being followed by more investigators, media, and pundits than even Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. There are ethics inquiries, complaints about the violent undertones to his public comments, and embarrassing revelations of a quote in which he not only said judges need to be intimidated, but he said it in 1997.

However, disproving Mrs. Harry Truman's advice that if you want a friend in Washington, you had better get a dog, Tom DeLay has at least one pal left, George Walker Bush, occupation, president, the president inviting Mr. DeLay to tag along to a Social Security roundtable in Galveston, Texas, DeLay's home district, more or less, the always carefully screened, heavily Republican audience at a Bush event cheering for the embattled majority leader even before it began, minutes later, his most powerful friend giving a little shout-out of his own.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And I appreciate the leadership of Congressman Tom DeLay in working on important issues that matter to the country.


OLBERMANN: The president also saying that he talked privately with Congressman DeLay backstage, and they flew back together on Air Force One to Washington.

This quote was probably not among the things they discussed, "The judges need to be intimidated. They need to uphold the Constitution," Mr. DeLay told "The Washington Post" in September 1997, adding that if they did not do what he wanted, quote, "We're going to go after them in a big way."

So the saga of justices denied by DeLay is a little older than we are thinking.

In a moment, more on how the president's surprised, maybe even shocked, his audience in Galveston with one question he asked them.

First, here for a few questions about Mr. DeLay is "Wall Street Journal" political editor, John Harwood.

Good evening, John.

JOHN HARWOOD, POLITICAL EDITOR, "THE WALL STREET JOURNAL": Hey, Keith. And you forgot one other parallel between DeLay and Brad Pitt. Tom DeLay gets stalked by the media on his beach vacations too.

OLBERMANN: No doubt.

The most obvious question about today's events first. Why is the president embracing a man who would hardly be listed as his best friend historically, instead of the other options, like distancing himself or, at least, as he sometimes does, feign indifference?

HARWOOD: Keith, the short answer is, he needs Tom DeLay. The president's trying to get Congress to do a lot of things that are very difficult right now. Social security, that's one of them. Action started in the Senate today in the Finance Committee. He's trying to get them to agree on a budget resolution. There are big splits between the House and the Senate. And he's also trying to get them to move on energy. The high gas prices are a major concern of this White House.

And so Tom DeLay is somebody who does get things done on the Hill. The White House has concluded, Keith, that he is likely to survive this storm, and they're going to win some brownie points from conservatives and fellow Republicans for standing up for him.

OLBERMANN: Obviously, this is not how the president acted during the Trent Lott controversy late in 2002. Is what you were just talking that about there, the principal difference, from Mr. Bush's perspective, as to why the two stories got different handlings? Or were the - did the details the reason that the stories so - were treated so differently?

HARWOOD: Well, the circumstances are different, and the president is at a point of major need on the Hill right now.

But there are also differences in the circumstances of the problems that Trent Lott and Tom DeLay had. Remember that what Trent Lott had to say about praising Strom Thurmond and his segregationist campaign in 1948 really conjured up images of a Republican Party that George W. Bush was explicitly trying to campaign against. Remember, he was the compassionate conservative in 2000, trying to banish the idea of race baiting or racial politics - wedge politics as a factor in Republican success, and Trent Lott was on the wrong side of that with those comment he made.

OLBERMANN: All right, back to today. The impact of the president's support, would it be fair to say that Mr. DeLay was in critical condition but is now expected to pull through? Or how would you characterize it?

HARWOOD: Well, I think the White House had concluded he was going to pull through even before today. But any good story helps Tom DeLay at this point. He's still not out of the woods. It's dependent on what else comes out, whether there are other revelations. There is a whole lot of media attention on him right now.

And if the two parties do succeed in jump-starting the ethics process on the Hill, which has been stalled in a partisan stalemate, we don't know what that's going to find for Tom DeLay.

But, you know, I think the odds makers in Washington are thinking these days that Tom DeLay is likely to serve out his term, and probably remain Republican leader during that time.

OLBERMANN: But to that last point, there's news tonight from the Associated Press story. They're quoting a source. We're not sure who that is. But they say that Doc Hastings, who is the chairman of that House Ethics Committee, has conceded to his colleagues off the record that the only way to break the deadlock in the committee is to roll back the rules changes that, whether they were intended to or they were not intended to, they did protect Mr. DeLay for the first part of this year.

Could that news do as much damage to him as today's photo-ops with the president did him good?

HARWOOD: Well, it certainly depends on what the substance of the details that go before the committee. But the House speaker, Denny Hastert, has been signaling for a few days now that he thinks that the way to get past this impasse, which has become a political obstacle, impediment for Republicans, is to roll back some of those changes, or at least permit a vote on rolling them back.

And the odds are that with moderate Republicans who are uncomfortable about the DeLay situation, were uncomfortable about the rules changes in the first place, those - if it were put to a vote, those changes likely would be rolled back.

OLBERMANN: John Harwood of "The Wall Street Journal," its political editor. Great thanks, as always, John.

HARWOOD: My pleasure.

OLBERMANN: Also tonight, another mysterious edge to the ever-mysterious case of James D. Guckert, professional name, Jeff Gannon. Two Democratic members of Congress filed a Freedom of Information request and have now gotten the Secret Service records of his visits to the White House during his tenure as a reporter, maybe.

And maybe less to this story than meets the eye, but there is still something unexpected about those visits, at least at face value. There were more of them than there were press briefings. Guckert-Gannon said that's what he went to the White House for, for press briefings. Yet the FOI request by Representatives John Conyers and Louise Slaughter revealed that he was waved into the White House by the Secret Service 196 times in two years, and only 155 of those visits were for White House press briefings.

Two more were for presidential briefings, leaving 39 occasions where his presence could not be explained based on the Secret Service record. And on 14 of those, according to the news Web site Raw Story, quote, "Secret Service records show either the entry or the exit time missing."

Easily explained, or another conspiracy?

Let's ask Dana Milbank, national political reporter for "The Washington Post," and its - earlier this year, its White House correspondent, sitting gamely alongside or nearly alongside Jeff Gannon.

Good evening, Dana.


Good evening. I am also your Jeff Gannon correspondent.

OLBERMANN: That's true. I'm sure that's at the head of your resume.

A hundred and fifty-seven press briefings plus 39 other visits. Is that a plausible ratio for a White House reporter, especially in terms of the other visits?

MILBANK: Well, the implausible part is why somebody would want to go to so many briefings. He certainly went to a heck of a lot more than did I during that time.

But it is plausible, and it's explainable. I think that we're basically down to 24, the people who have been examining this, 24 days when it wasn't actually a press briefing. But sometimes, the president will have some event in the Rose Garden that the press is invited to, or there'll be some unannounced briefing known as a gaggle.

So as much as I'd love to engage in the conspiracy theory here, I don't think it adds up.

OLBERMANN: So much, though, has been made of the distinction between this hard pass, permanent media credentials, for which have to be fully vetted, and the day passes, where they basically make sure you are not armed or a recent criminal, which Gannon-Guckert got all this time.

But do you know of anybody else in any White House who has ever gotten more than 100 day passes a year? Is that the all-time record?

MILBANK: I certainly imagine that it is.

Now, here's an interesting thing. This wouldn't have occurred in the Clinton administration, because they had a rule - it was actually not set up for reporters, it was set up because of the James Carville problem. They had people who weren't White House staff waving in, is the technical term for it, too many times. So if you waved in more than 10 times in a 30-day period, there'd be an alert sent out to the White House, and that - then you'd be cut off at that point.

So Gannon could not have gotten away with this under those rules.

Clearly, the Bush White House has changed the rules as far as that goes. There's plenty of people coming in on day passes. But this number is probably without precedent.

OLBERMANN: And the Carville thing has nothing to do with the hair situation (INAUDIBLE).

No, this got left behind as the more sordid elements of the story emerged, but originally, a lot of this was about White House security. And here it is again, at least on the surface, 14 times when the Secret Service records don't indicate when he went in or when he left. But I gather that is not as unusual as it would seem to the layman.

MILBANK: Not really. I've come equipped to give you a demonstration, so that when I log into the White House, I show them my White House press credential, I enter a security code, get cleared in. But when you go out, you just sort of wave the pass in front of a machine that goes beep. Sometimes the machine doesn't go beep, and you leave anyway. I suspect that on these 14 occasions, Gannon waved but did not beep.

OLBERMANN: So that, I think anybody who has an ID card would know exactly what you're talking about, as - pulling mine out from NBC here. You just do that, and you're not, I mean, you're not going to stick around to make sure you're logged out.

MILBANK: No, it beeps. But the other thing is, with a day pass, you just drop it in the slot after that. So if there's any doubt as to whether he actually left, they have the pass sitting there in this box. They can count out the number of passes issued in the beginning of the day, the number collected at the end of the day. And as long as they add up, they're OK.

OLBERMANN: So the upshot of all this is, though, they got some headlines, the two representatives, Freedom of Information filing results were largely free of information.

MILBANK: Free of information, except that he should get a Congressional Medal of Honor for attending so many briefings.

OLBERMANN: I'm sure that would add to his military reputation.

Dana Milbank, the national political reporter and the former White House reporter of "The Washington Post," who also gives demonstrations. We appreciate that. Thank you, sir.

One last political note, proving once again that in public discourse, nothing is more dangerous than outdated information. Back to Galveston, Texas, and the president's visit there today, in a fond remembrance of a local event, a local event that has evidently changed a little bit since he was last in town.


BUSH: Do you still have Splash Day? You have to be a baby boomer to know what I'm talking about. I'm not saying whether I came or not on Splash Day. I'm just saying, do you have Splash Day?


OLBERMANN: President probably thought all the laughter was about the bawdy reputation he remembered from his youth about Splash Day early each May, on Galveston's East Beach. What he did not know, evidently, was that Splash Day is, well, it's now Gay Splash Day. In the '40s and '50s, there were appearances by Johnny Weissmuller and Esther Williams. More recently, not so much. It's a fully lesbian and gay event. Not Esther Williams, but some guys dressed as Esther Williams. Surprise!

Also tonight, the quest for Osama bin Laden's deputy in Iraq. It's a scene right out of a spy thriller, or perhaps an Orwell novel. The U.S. military says we almost had Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

And this sequence of events. There's a stock trader on Wall Street. Then 9/11 hit just blocks away. Then he went into the Marines, and today the hearings begin. Did he murder two Iraqi prisoners? Or were they about to murder him?

You are watching Countdown on MSNBC.


OLBERMANN: By definition, cliches sound dumb. But the dumbest of them all is, close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades.

Because, of course, there come days when we are actually are talking about closeness and hand grenades. And today is one of those days.

Once again, we are told by U.S. military or intelligence officials that we nearly captured a hated terror suspect. For years, that was Osama bin Laden exclusively, until the story began to sound a little too much like the fictional leader of the resistance in 1984, Goldstein.

Now, again, we were supposedly close to getting Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

Our correspondent in Baghdad is Richard Engel.


RICHARD ENGEL, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The story unfolds like a spy novel. Once again, the most wanted man in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, used his instincts and cunning to avoid capture.

GEN. RICHARD MYERS, CHAIRMAN, JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF: I think in general, the intelligence is getting better. Having said that, we still don't have Zarqawi.

ENGEL: But they almost did. U.S. military sources tell NBC News Zarqawi was traveling to a meeting in Ramadi on February 20 in a pickup truck. Wary, he had a scout vehicle out front. Task Force 626, the elite special forces unit, had set a trap with surveillance drones in the sky and checkpoints on the road.

The scout vehicle was pulled over. Zarqawi's truck, about a half mile back, made a quick U-turn and headed in the opposite direction.

U.S. special forces chased the truck but believe Zarqawi jumped out as it drove through an underpass. Apparently, that way, he wouldn't be seen from the air.

Zarqawi then slipped into a nearby safe house as U.S. forces stopped his pickup.

Zarqawi was gone. But U.S. forces did find his driver, personal M-16 rifle, laptop computer, and more.

Military sources say the computer was "like finding Zarqawi's brain."

It was filled with contacts, statements, and photographs of Zarqawi.

Where? In the My Pictures file.

Also seized were about $100,000 in cash and a bag full of small plug-in hard drives. The U.S. military thinks Zarqawi used the hard drives to pass on information to his operatives.

So how does Zarqawi elude capture?

STEVEN SIMONS, RAND CORPORATION: He's physically courageous, he is extremely cruel to his enemies, and he is seen to be fighting a noble cause.

ENGEL (on camera): U.S. military officials tell NBC News Zarqawi has told his operatives Baghdad is too hot right now to use as a base, not to settle here.

As for Zarqawi himself, the latest U.S. intelligence is, he remains in western Iraq.

Richard Engel, NBC News, Baghdad.


OLBERMANN: And then there's something else we were thought to be close to finding, except first, during the ground war in Iraq, it didn't turn up. After the war per se, it still didn't turn up.

Two lead American inspectors then said they were never there in the first place. And today, the last sliver of a possibility that there were weapons of mass destruction in the decade before the this country invaded Iraq officially vanished.

The final report of the Iraq Survey Group has been released. And as if written for the personal consumption of a still-doubting Vice President Cheney, it says that on top of Iraq being WMD-free before the war, there's also now evidence that there was no evidence that any WMD was moved from Iraq to Syria before the war for safekeeping.

The report says Saddam Hussein moved military products back and forth across the Syrian border and nonmilitary stuff as well, but that in two years of investigation and interrogation, hundreds of Iraqi officials, quote, "uniformly denied any knowledge of residual WMD that could have been secreted to Syria."

So no WMD in Iraq after 1992, and no WMD hidden by Iraq in Syria in 2002. Oops!

A much less serious oops on our hands, buffalo on the tennis court. Where's John McEnroe? Is he still doing that show? No? How could you tell?

And the mother of the 5-year-old handcuffed by police is speaking out.

And apparently, she is moving out too.

Stand by.


OLBERMANN: So we had a meeting. And I said, We had elephants on the show, then last night there were two tigers. It's beginning to smell in here. And I said, No more animals. So after the elephants stampeding the Korean restaurant last week, what have we got tonight?

Let's play Oddball.

(singing): Oh, give me a home where the buffalo roam, and the deer and the antelope play mixed doubles.

Pikesville, Maryland, hello. A herd of nine buffalo escaping from a farm this morning and walking three miles into a nearby gated community. Oh, there's going to be hell to pay at next month's owners' meeting.

Police used more than 10 squad cars and a helicopter to corral the group of bison into the tennis courts. They kept the beasts busy working on their backhands until an animal control trailer showed up.

Here you see a victorious buffalo vaulting over the net to congratulate his opponent on a well-played match. He will move on to face Andre Agassi in the semis.

That's not a doctored photograph.

Once the trailer arrived, police led the herd out of the tennis area, and then watched helplessly as it turned around and headed back into the tennis area. They finally had to take down a section of fence and back up the trailer.

Interviewed after the incident, one of the buffalo explained that for a long time, they'd all wanted to meet Steffi Graf, and they thought she might have been there.

The beasts never made to it Methuen, Massachusetts, but somebody with a need to hide some money obviously did. Two men digging around a tree in the Boston suburb - actually it's closer to Lowell, Mass. - two men digging found a rotting crate filled with tin cans full of money, bills, $18,000 in 100s alone, plus 20s, ones, and twos. The oldest was from 1899, and the newest from 1929. Also coins.

That should tell you how long this loot has been in the ground. Net value to collectors, around 100 grand. And no, the money was not left there by Andy Dufresne for "Red" Redding to pick him up and use it to go meet him in Mexico.

Obscure movie reference.

Also tonight, after 9/11 unfolded blocks from his Wall Street office, he joined the Marines. Today, the beginning of their inquiry into whether or not he murdered two Iraqi prisoners.

And the story they are forcing me to cover tonight. Oh, Brad Pitt got divorced because of Angela Jolie, Angelina Jolie. That's it, huh? OK.

Those stories ahead.

But now, here are Countdown's top three newsmakers of this day.

Number three, Sharon Rosenthal of Appleton, Wisconsin. After being found guilty of felony theft, the judge offered her a deal, 90 days in jail, or pay your debt to society by donating the 12 tickets you have for three Green Bay Packers football games next season to the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Considering that the waiting list for Packers tickets is about 500 years long, she's still thinking about it.

Number two, an unnamed man in Fresno. Security guards heard somebody pounding from inside the trunk of a car. No, not a witness in a mob trial, a wannabe thief who managed to lock himself into the trunk of the car he was trying to break into.

Continuing the theme of competence displayed, number one, David Carpenter of Miami, arrested by the Florida Highway Patrol after he drove his motorcycle through traffic at speeds of over 140 miles an hour. He tried to escape by going the wrong way on a highway. They wound up chasing him from a plane. The troopers finally found him and his bike and his appointment calendar showing that next week, he was to take his physical to become - a Florida Highway Patrol trooper.


OLBERMANN: It has all the details of the movie, "A Few Good Men," only made real and made more complex still by having been transplanted into actual conflict, where the clearest of days are the ones that are only shrouded by the fog of war, not those eclipsed by it. Did 2nd Lieutenant Ilario Pantano, who left Wall Street for the Marines after part of Wall Street was blown up on 9/11, kill two Iraqi prisoners in self-defense last year, or was it murder?

The Marines Article 32 hearing, essentially the grand jury stage of the prosecution, opening today in Camp LeJeune in North Carolina. And our correspondent, Mark Potter, covered it. Mark joins us now. Good evening, Mark.

MARK POTTER, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Good evening to you, Keith. That hearing that's under way now at Camp LeJeune, that Article 32, is a pre-trial investigation into whether there's enough evidence to actually bring about a court-martial. The hearing could last about a week. At issue are life-and-death questions involving 2nd Lieutenant Ilario Pantano, who is now charged with premeditated murder for shooting and killing two unarmed Iraqi detainees last year. If he is convicted, he could face the death penalty or life in prison.

Pantano, however, says that he shot the men in self-defense, telling NBC News "DATELINE" that the two men spoke in Arabic, began moving toward him, ignoring his order to stop.


2ND LT. ILARIO PANTANO, U.S. MARINE CORPS: I gave them a command in

Arabic to stop. They continue. Then there was a moment of quiet. I felt

· I could feel, like, the oxygen getting sucked out of my lungs. I could feel that this thing was happening. There was this beat, and they both pivoted to me at the same time, moving towards me at the same time. And in that moment of them - you know, of them disobeying my command to stop and pivoting to me at the same time, I shot them.


POTTER: But two other members of that platoon questioned that account, suggesting that Pantano might not have been threatened. They will testify at the hearing this week. In the charging document, the Marine Corps that the 2nd lieutenant shot the two men in the back, leaving their bodies on display as a message to others. Pantano categorically denies that, again and his attorney says it's unfair to second-guess a Marine risking his life in combat.


CHARLES GITTINS, LT. ILARIO PANTANO'S ATTORNEY: Armchair quarterbacking is what I call it. You put young Marines in a position where they could lose their life if they make a mistake, and then you second-guess them after they act to protect themselves. That is the wrong message being sent to the guys who have to go and put boots on the ground in a very dangerous place.


POTTER: At the end of the hearing, the investigating officer will write up his recommendations on whether the charges should stand. The decision on whether there is to be a court-martial and whether it is to be a death penalty case rests with the commanding general here. And by the way, Keith, the attorney says that he has not yet decided whether he will put Pantano himself on the witness stand. Back to you.

OLBERMANN: Mark Potter, reporting from Camp LeJeune in North Carolina on the case of the 2nd lieutenant, Ilario Pantano. Great. Thanks, Mark.

The night's other legal news might not be a series of flashpoints equal to that story, but each is worth your time. Turns out the handcuffing of children in school may not be as rare as we thought. A police chief in Bethlehem, West Virginia, cuffed a 7-year-old boy at an elementary school there last Friday. After that boy, who had been running from teachers, kicked the police officer, Chief August Banke (ph) says, the cuffs were not on tightly, and that he removed them soon afterward when the boy agreed to behave. It was not the first time that Chief Banke had been called to the school to deal with that boy, and school officials say they were following protocol in calling him that time.

Meanwhile, Inda Akins, the mother of the 5-year-old girl handcuffed in St. Petersburg, has taken her daughter out of the public schools there and she's moving out of the state of Florida. So says school superintendent Clayton Wilcox. The newspaper "The St. Petersburg Times" is reporting that a month ago, her landlords tried to evict her from their apartment. We told you yesterday Ms. Akins had fired her attorney and that he learned of his dismissal from the syndicated show "A Current Affair," which signed Ms. Akins to a contract for at least one interview, in which she insists that the assistant principal was targeting her daughter.


INDA AKINS, MOTHER OF HANDCUFFED 5-YEAR-OLD: I told them that this certain person was bothering her and that I told this person to stay away from her.

That's the first thing that you see on the TV. And I told her several times to stay away from my daughter. If they would have left her alone if they - Ms. D (ph) wasn't in there bothering her, it wouldn't have never happened. When I got there, the police was already there, and she was already in the back seat of the police car, handcuffed. They wouldn't even let me near her. She was screaming and hollering for me. I was trying to act on what was going on, and they wouldn't tell me nothing, just told me to stay back because they're investigating. They told me if I didn't go back to my car that they was going to arrest me for disorderly conduct.


OLBERMANN: And there is a new story from the same school at which Ms. Akins's daughter was handcuffed. It seems coincidental. Authorities think so. But as our correspondent, Kerry Sanders, reports, the mother of the 6-year-old now in a coma isn't sure.


KERRY SANDERS, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): At Fairmount Park elementary school in St. Petersburg, Florida, the school where the 5-year-old girl was handcuffed by police, new questions now of the impact that event five weeks ago may have had on other students. Almost a month after the temper tantrum and the arrest, 6-year-old Etrevian Johnson (ph) shocked both school staff and his family. School security cameras show him walking towards his classroom, where a substitute teacher was waiting. He turns the corner. For 22 seconds, he's off camera, then reappears heading quickly down the hall, out a gate and off campus, running across the street. Six-year-old Etrevian was hit by a passing car.

CHANTELLE ROSS, MOTHER OF INJURED BOY: I just wonder what was going through his mind at the time. Was there a fear? It seems like in the video, he was running from something. Are the teachers threatening them, saying, Well, maybe, you know, if you're bad, they'll put handcuffs on you? And I just have to wonder at that time, was he thinking that? Was he saying, Well, you know, I really don't like the substitute. She's mean to me. So I wonder if she's going to put handcuffs on me.

SANDERS: School board administrators in this Florida district say they don't buy it and question whether the young boy and his mother could have known anything about the handcuffing incident, even though it happened last month, because it was kept mostly quiet until this past week.

CLAYTON WILCOX, PINELLAS CO. SCHOOL SUPERINTENDENT: I find that, you know, honestly, almost a bizarre connection. While I understand the mom's in pain, I just don't see any connection to that.

SANDERS: The one who could best answer why he ran, if he feared being handcuffed, would be Etrevian. But he's in a coma in intensive care. Doctors tell his mother they're not sure he'll survive.

ROSS: It's like a nightmare. I keep waking up, a reoccurring dream, and I'm still in it.

SANDERS: Kerry Sanders, NBC News, St. Petersburg, Florida.


OLBERMANN: A different kind of mystery from San Jose, California, by way of Las Vegas. And time again to put down that food, if you're eating any. The woman in the Wendy's chili fingertip case says she is eager to face charges and she knows the way to San Jose. The finger in question, key to the case. Anna Ayala originally claimed to have bitten down on it while eating her chili at a San Jose Wendy's about a month ago, and she even filed a claim against the franchise owner. But authorities have now charged her with attempted grand theft on suspicion that she planted the fingertip herself. They say that Wendy's lost millions of dollars due to bad publicity.

Today in Las Vegas, Ms. Ayala made her first court appearance since her arrest last Thursday night, and she waived extradition, a decision that will expedite her transfer back to San Jose.


ANNA AYALA, SAYS SHE FOUND FINGERTIP IN CHILI: I'm ready to go back and fight this.


OLBERMANN: Ready to go back as she might be, she's also charged with grand theft for an unrelated case, and no stranger to lawsuits, having filed several in recent years seeking cash settlements. Her lawyer, Rick Aler (ph), says she has, quote, "nothing to hide," but authorities don't know, for instance, who was attached to the rest of the finger.

Also tonight, from the finger mystery to the great confiscation mystery. What happens to all the stuff that TSA takes away from you at the security checkpoint? Did you know that you could buy your belongings back on e-Bay? And 526 days of Michael Jackson investigations reaching their crescendo, the ex-wife under oath and on the stand. Not yet, of course.

All those stories ahead. Now here are Countdown's top three sound bites of this day.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, look at that. Some showers. That's the rain we're going to get tomorrow.

ALICE COOPER: OK. That's a tornado, right?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, no, it's not a tornado yet, but it's a very intense thunderstorm. All right?

COOPER: Where's Ann Arbor? There's Ann Arbor.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And then - then...


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, that's what you are.

COOPER: I am cool.


JAY LENO, HOST, "TONIGHT" SHOW: Hey, see Kobe Bryant in the papers?

Spent $50,000 on a ceremony where he said his wedding vows again.

Apparently, he wasn't listening the first time.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We asked them, Would you please rate President Bush's sexiness on a scale of 1 to 10? He only got a 2.1 from American women. Only Indonesian women, interestingly enough, found him slightly sexier at 2.2. I wasn't expecting any 9s or 10s, but I thought there'd be certainly some that were over 5. He's a fit guy, you know? He runs. He's not an unattractive man, but apparently, he's not very sexy.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I got to tell ya, I think I'd become a lesbian.



OLBERMANN: It did not start on that December day in 1996, but it can be said with certainty that it had already begun by then. The fact that the majority of passengers on domestic flights act as if they have not only never flown before, but they act as if they have never even left their own homes before.

That was when a woman in first class on a flight from Los Angeles to Newark, New Jersey, brought aboard as her carry-on luggage a tree. She fully expected the tree, which was more than four feet tall and in a planter that was at least three feet in diameter - she fully expected it would fit in the overhead compartment. She was surprised when it did not. She complained to the flight attendants.

I never did find out what they did with the tree. They might have put it in the co-pilot's seat and made him stand all the way to Newark. But I know what would happen to it now. For safety concerns, it would have been seized. And as Countdown's Monica Novotny reports tonight, it turns out it would have then been sold.


ROBERT WEBB, PA BUREAU OF SURPLUS: This is a machete-type knife.

MONICA NOVOTNY, Countdown (voice-over): From the unthinkable to the unmentionable, it's hard to believe what we leave behind. Even today, people will try to get just about anything past airport security.

MARY BETH ENGGREN, PA BUREAU OF SURPLUS: It makes me wonder what goes through people's minds.

NOVOTNY: And if you're wondering what airport screeners do with all your stuff, the National Transportation Safety Administration offers it up to several state surplus offices, including this one in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Here sorters pick through boxes from eight Northeast airports - carefully. More than 60,000 pounds delivered every 90 days. Most are everyday items. Scissors, nail clippers and pocket tools top the list. But it doesn't end there.

WEBB: I've seen automotive transmissions. I've seen automotive wheels, blenders, some knives that would make your skin crawl.

NOVOTNY (on camera): So far, the TSA has intercepted more than 18 million items since 2002, 7 million of them just last year. And now that lighters have been added to their list, that number is only going to grow.

KEN HESS, PA BUREAU OF SURPLUS: We're looking forward to the higher-end Zippos.

NOVOTNY (voice-over): And now you can buy back what you left behind on line on e-Bay, if you can find it. Currently up for sale: 40 pounds of nail clippers, 100 pocket knives, a purple sombrero, 35 pounds of scissors.

ENGGREN: One woman sent them to Iraqi school children. Another woman informed me there were 35 pounds of plastic-handled scissors. She never had to buy scissors again in her life.

NOVOTNY (on camera): So we did a little digging to find our favorite

things that people actually tried to get on planes, like, if you can

believe it, two-and-a-half gallons of corn oil, a helium tank, this big

black salamander, and a power drill - a few of those - and lots of these

· handcuffs, the metal kind, and the furry kind.

HESS: I haven't seen any live animals yet, but I'm expecting that any time soon.

NOVOTNY (voice-over): And sometimes, some things even find their way home.

ENGGREN: A woman in California called, and a pair of embroidery scissors had been handed down for generations in her family. And oddly enough, we were able to reunite her with her scissors.

NOVOTNY: So if you don't want to find you things here, remember, if it looks like any of this, you can't take it with you. For Countdown, Monica Novotny.


OLBERMANN: Thirty-five pounds, plastic-handled scissors, NTSA, $49.31. Thirty-five pounds plastic-handled scissors, NTSA, $42.72. Fifty pounds of steel scissors. Fifty more pounds. Twenty assorted padlocks with keys. Let's see what else have we got on the e-Bay auction. One hundred pair assorted steel scissors. Fifty stainless steel Swiss Army-type knives. Lot B2, assorted NTSA confiscated pocket knives. There's about 30 of those. And then, of course, best of all perhaps, a rotary plow in excellent condition, seized by the NTSA. Somebody was bringing that on as carry-on. Won't fit over the (INAUDIBLE)

Like they've never been out of their own homes before.

Purple sombreros, automotive transmissions, blenders and machetes, which of course, sounds like the inventory of one of the rooms at the Neverland ranch. And like a perfect segue to our nightly round-up of celebrity and gossip news, "Keeping Tabs," it's your entertainment and tax dollars in action, day 526 of the Michael Jackson investigations.

First to testify today, Cynthia Montgomery, who is the travel agent who testified that she was asked to arrange a one-way trip to Brazil for the family of the accuser in this case in March, 2003. That trip was abruptly canceled. The jury then heard from a Hamid Moslehi, a videographer hired to shoot Michael Jackson's rebuttal video after the Martin Bashir documentary. He corroborated Ms. Montgomery's story, to a certain degree anyway. He testified that he had overheard a Jackson associate talking about sending the accuser's family to Brazil. The key word here today was Brazil.

Moslehi is back on the stand tomorrow, followed by the week's big witness - we don't mean that in terms of her size - the ex-Mrs. Jackson, the mother of his two oldest kids. Everybody, would you please greet Ms. Debbie Rowe!

Two British tabloids stand accused, meanwhile, of endangering Prince Harry. The pictures are the evidence taken by staff photographers of "The Sun" and "Daily Mail" newspapers of the prince and his girlfriend on safari in Botswana. The press secretary to Prince Charles says the photographers were driving dangerously close to Harry's Jeep, putting his and their lives in danger. You will recall similar charges after his mother's death. Both tabloid papers deny the prince was ever in any danger. We'll see what the photographs say.

And speaking of photographs, at first glance, it's just a couple on a beach with a kid. Ah, but wait. Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie at an exclusive resort. Was the child rented, or is it hers? Did she break up the marriage? Did this story get debated today at the U.N.? Did I just sense the imminence of another edition of stories the producers made me do? You bet I did!


OLBERMANN: We're finishing tonight with another edition of stories the producers made me cover.

If there had never been a Jennifer Aniston, a Brad Pitt or an Angelina Jolie, I don't think we would have lost much. I'm sure they'd say the same thing about me, if they even bothered. Although, gee, it was pretty good.

That having been said, I'm in a distinct minority on this. Enough people care enough that "Us Weekly" reportedly spent close to a million dollars to get pictures of Mr. Pitt and Ms. Jolie, along with Ms. Jolie's son, at a family-friendly resort in Kenya, hard evidence, people say - well, my producers say in gushy, gasping tones that make them sound like high school sophomores - that Ms. Jolie broke up Mr. Pitt's marriage.

Here it is, the smoking gun - a kid, a pail, a shovel, an actor and an actress. Case closed! She's a hussy. He's a - a - a guy. And more truly than would film of them romping naked down Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood, shots of Pitt and Jolie with Jolie, Jr., indicate she's his girlfriend. And Mrs. Pitt, Jennifer Aniston, who filed for divorce a month ago yesterday, did not jump, she was pushed.

For meaning in this, as in so many other areas of life, we turn now to Michael Musto, entertainment columnist of the newspaper "The Village Voice." Good evening, Michael.


OLBERMANN: OK. Start me from the beginning. Why do pictures of the two of them with her little boy mean that she broke up the marriage?

MUSTO: Keith, there's a shovel.


MUSTO: There's sand.

OLBERMANN: Oh, of course!

MUSTO: Equals adultery. No. You know what? It's really a million dollars down the drain because you could get movie still that are hotter than these. However, there is enough corroborating evidence to make this a real story. For example, when "Page 6" went with it in "The New York Post," neither publicist of the stars called back for comment. That means where there's smoke, there's fire, don't you think? Also there was another getaway because they seem to go on a lot of these private getaways far away and then alert the press. And people did catch them actually canoodling, not just collecting sea shells. So you know, people's idea that Angelina is the whore of Babylon really seems to be catching on with a little reality here.

OLBERMANN: Now, this part is the part I care about, that - as you just mentioned, how the pictures come to be. They're professional quality. They have long lens at an exclusive resort in Kenya. And there's the story in one of the New York papers that, as you suggested, Angelina Jolie may have tipped off a photo agency as a deal, Take the pictures but leave us alone until after the vacation? Do you buy that?

MUSTO: It sounds bizarre, but that's the kind of thing celebrities usually do. They go away on a retreat, and then they alert the press. You know, Michael Jackson wears an oxygen mask and then says, Don't notice me. People do contradictory things when they're famous. And I think Angelina wants the cat out of the bag, and this could only help her and Brad's movie, "Mr. And Mrs. Slut" - 'Smith." And I think...


MUSTO: I also think this will vindicate Jennifer because she was portrayed as the evil one who, you know, wanted to have a career instead of a baby. Actually, it was Brad who wanted a piece.

OLBERMANN: So what is next for all three of them, in your crystal ball prediction?

MUSTO: I actually just got a phone call. It's all over already. Angelina's back with the brother. Brad is back with Gwyneth. They're raise little Apple Pitt.


MUSTO: No, no, no, no, no. I'm the wrong person to ask. I thought Britney and Jason were going to last a whole week. So I don't know. I just hope these two stick it out and collect lots of lovely sea shells and promote their movie. And the public will forgive them. They finally forgave Ingrid Bergman, so...

OLBERMANN: Yes, but why - and that's a great point contained in what you're saying there about Ingrid Bergman. Why, given that these are actors, and marriages of actors have been breaking up, like, once every three hours since Charlie Chaplin made his first movie - why does there seem to be still shock attending all this?

MUSTO: Mainly because we're lied to so frequently and so insistently. And Angelina even gave interviews after the break-up of Jen and Brad, saying that, Oh, I was just consoling Brad. I would never break up a marriage. Not only is she the whore of Babylon, her nose is growing. She's the new Pinocchio. Just all kinds of things are growing, and it's really distasteful, but I wish everybody so very well.

OLBERMANN: Obviously, as we can tell from the tone of your voice.


OLBERMANN: Somebody said this is - Hollywood is just high school lived with just more expensive cars and rides to the dance? Is that correct?

MUSTO: Well, Brad and Jen were always the - you know, the high school the football cheerleader and - football captain and cheerleader to me. And I believed in them. They were my Gibraltar. We need to believe in something, as the world spirals. They betrayed us. They broke up. And Angelina is now the evil, you know, girl from the wrong side of the tracks who comes to the high school and breaks everything up.

OLBERMANN: And brings her 3-year-old son with her, which is the worst of the whole thing. Any man will tell you, if the son is there, too, this is - the woman is going for the ring.

MUSTO: Well, the kid is safer there then at Neverland, OK?

OLBERMANN: Oh! That's a great finish. Michael Musto, the expert to whom we turn when celebrities get free from their leash, thank you for your time, sir.

MUSTO: Thank you.

OLBERMANN: That's Countdown. Thank you for being a part of it. I'm Keith Olbermann. I'm still not sure I care about that last story, but whatever. Good night, and good luck.