Thursday, June 23, 2005

'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for June 23

Guest: Barry McCaffrey, David Gergen, Dana Berlinger, Katrina Szish

ALISON STEWART, GUEST HOST: Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?

Reality check. The defense secretary and a slew of generals answer to Congress about Iraq. Timetable? What timetable? Impotent insurgents? Depends who you ask.

First Nazis, now 9/11. An apology has been demanded following some political trash talk - I mean, rhetoric. The man dubbed Bush's Brain has opened his mouth.

A paternal twist in the search for Natalee Holloway. Police arrest a second Van Der Sloot, the father of a young man last seen with the missing girl.

Home repo. Why su casa no es su casa. A Supreme Court decision that could have could affect millions of American homeowners.

And Hermes, fully loaded. A entry into the diary of an angry rich woman, Oprah, a famed French boutique, and charges of racism.

All that and more, now on Countdown.

Good evening. I'm Alison Stewart, in for Keith Olbermann.

It could be said the war in Iraq has two battle fronts, one in Iraq, and the one here home. On the ground, the fight is against an insurgency that will not yield. In Washington, the fight over how well or not well the war is going.

When polls start showing an erosion of support for the conflict, and even war-supporting Republicans begin expressing their frustrations to those in charge, you have our fifth story on the Countdown.

The secretary of defense, and the war's top generals, put on the defense on Capitol Hill, Donald Rumsfeld, refusing to give an inch to his critics at today's hearing. He even came to the aid of the vice president for his recent remarks that the insurgency is in its, quote, "last throes."

No such luck for Dick Cheney from the top American commander in the Gulf. General John Abizaid's view of the insurgency was somewhat different.


GEN. JOHN ABIZAID, COMMANDER, U.S. CENTRAL COMMAND: I believe there are more foreign fighters coming in direct than there were six months ago. In terms of the overall strength of the insurgency, I'd say it's about the same as it was.

SEN. CARL LEVIN (D), MICHIGAN: So you wouldn't agree with the statement that it is in its last throes.

ABIZAID: I don't know that I would make any comment about that, other than to say there's a lot of work to be done against the insurgency.

DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF STATE: I've watched polls go from zero to 55 percent, back down to 15 percent, in six weeks. And anyone who starts chasing polls is going to get seasick.

My goodness, in the first part of world war II, we lost battle after battle after battle. And people said, Oh, my goodness, isn't it terrible? We're going to lose.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: In the last year, sir, the public support in my state has turned. And I worry about that, because that's the only way we'll ever leave before we should, is that the public loses faith in us.

And I'm here to tell you, sir, in the most patriotic state I can imagine, people are beginning to question. And I don't think it's a blip on the radar screen. I think we have a chronic problem on our hands.


STEWART: Perhaps the general not involved in the current conflict might be able to speak more directly.

On Capitol Hill, four-star retired general Barry McCaffrey spent his day briefing members of the Senate Armed Services Committee behind the scenes. Then he was kind enough to brief us on his thoughts on where things really stand.

General McCaffrey, thank you so much for your time tonight.

GEN. BARRY MCCAFFREY (RET.), U.S. ARMY: Yes, good to be with you, Alison.

STEWART: Since you were on Capitol Hill during today's testimony, in your opinion, have attitudes changed since we last had hearings like this?

MCCAFFREY: Oh, yes. I think there's an enormously troublesome atmosphere on the Hill. People are skeptical of what they're hearing out of the Pentagon. I think Secretary Rumsfeld's credibility has been damaged by serious misjudgments. And so I think the tenor of attention has changed very dramatically.

STEWART: Now, for those who fully supported the war, what kind of questions did they have now, two years into this conflict?

MCCAFFREY: Well, I think - you know, part of it, I saw a snatch of Secretary Rumsfeld's testimony when he countered that he had indeed said it wasn't a guerrilla war, that it was instead an insurgency. And so his comments were taken out of context.

It's that element of denial of the evidence at hand, an inability to listen to feedback, that I think has led the senior Pentagon civilian leadership into some serious misjudgments in the execution of a war that many of us thought was the right war, the right place, at the right time.

STEWART: You mention the insurgency. What is your take on the state of the insurgency right now?

MCCAFFREY: Well, I think we're at a crossover point. I mean, the elections were a huge step forward. This brilliant young Lieutenant General Dave Petraeus is creating Iraqi security forces. There's probably 60,000 of them out there, at least now, that are fighting. That's good news.

I think the Sunnis are starting to come into the political process.

And having said that, it's a very violent, chaotic place. You know, we lose a battalion a month of soldiers and Marines killed and injured and wounded in action there.

So this is a very serious conflict. And it's a time to buckle down, to get the right equipment and training and leadership to the Iraqi security forces, and to make the political process work, so that we have a real government in January that the Iraqis can fight and die for.

STEWART: There was something that happened today on the Hill that was very interesting. There are two different versions of events circulating out there. You have Vice President Dick Cheney saying the insurgency is in its - and this is his quote, "its last throes." And General Abizaid not really backing him up when asked about this. Now, how big a problem is this disconnect for the administration?

MCCAFFREY: Well, you know, it's - I'm a great admirer of Vice President Cheney's, and I think General Abizaid's going - is a national treasure. I mean, this, you know, bilingual in Arabic, Stanford fellow, Olmstead scholar, we don't have better soldiers than Abizaid. I wish the vice president hadn't said "in its last throes."

I do believe actually in January, we may reach a tipping point in the war in favor of a new Iraqi state.

And having said that, look, there's going to be a lot of fighting going on there until next summer. And we shouldn't misunderstand, foreign jihadists are coming into the country, 4 or 5 million Sunni Muslims don't yet feel they have part in the new government. It's still a very violent and complex place.

STEWART: It's a long way until January. How important is it keeping the American public engaged, to have people continue to be interested in the success of Iraq?

MCCAFFREY: Well, I think that's vital. You know, I - one of my conclusions was that the public diplomacy is miserable. I actually, for the first time, Alison, fault the media for not aggressively paying attention to the real stories. And I think the armed forces and our diplomatic mission in Baghdad need to engage and let our battalion and brigade commanders explain what they're doing.

You know, for gosh sakes, we simply can't sit back and watch a $5 billion-a-month conflict go on, and not think that we're part of it. You know, manning the Army and the Marine Corps, which is now and under terrible recruiting problems, isn't the job of Army and Marine recruiting sergeants, it's the job of our high school principals and the president and the governors and, you know, that sort of thing.

STEWART: A lot of this comes down to communication in many situations. General Barry McCaffrey, thank you so much.

MCCAFFREY: Good to be with you, Alison.

STEWART: It is clear there is still division on the subject of the war in Iraq. But can the same be said about the war on terror? After all, in the wake of the September 11 attacks, Americans pulled together like never before.

Only that's not how the president's top political adviser sees it.

Karl Rove usually spends his time making things happen behind the scenes. But tonight he is front and center because of what he said last night at a fundraiser in New York City.


KARL ROVE, WHITE HOUSE ADVISER: Conservatives saw the savagery of 9/11 and the attacks and prepared for war. Liberals saw the savagery of the 9/11 attacks and wanted to prepare indictments and offer therapy and understanding to our attackers.

In the wake of 9/11, conservatives believed it was time to unleash the might and power of the United States military against the Taliban.


STEWART: Democratic lawmakers are angry, and many New Yorkers are mighty peeved as well. And if those New Yorkers are Democratic lawmakers, well, you can just forget about it.


SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: We understand that he's a political infighter. But there's a certain line that you should not cross. And last night, Karl Rove crossed that line. He didn't just put his toe over the line, he jumped way over it.

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), NEW YORK: So either he said something in a hasty, ill-conceived, reckless moment, or he said it deliberately, intentionally, as part of a continuing effort to divide Americans.

So the only way we'll know for sure as to what his real intention was last night, in New York City, is whether or not he retracts these comments and apologizes.


STEWART: We're now joined by David Gergen, an adviser to four presidents. He is now editor at large to "U.S. News and World Report," as well as a professor at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government. And he's fighting a pretty bad cold.

So David, thank you so much for being with us tonight.


STEWART: You're a veteran of many White House administrations, Republican and Democrat. What are your reactions to Karl Rove's comments?

GERGEN: Well, is something putting something terrible in the water in Washington these days? I mean, we've just had a spate of just crazy, meanspirited comments. First, you know, Senator Durbin, a Democrat, comes out and compares Guantanamo to the Nazis, and for which he properly apologized. But now Karl Rove comes along and swipes not just Durbin, but the Democrats, are almost impugning their patriotism as a party.

I'm just, I'm very surprised. And disappointed.

STEWART: Senator - yes, Senator John Kerry came out on the Senate floor just a little while ago, and he said that the president should expect a public apology from Karl Rove, and that he ought to fire him. What do you think about both of those ideas?

GERGEN: Well, I think that Karl, who is usually quite temperate in his remarks, should revisit them and submit edited and revised remarks for the record. I think about what it, about Democrats in general.

I mean, they, the Republicans got quite angry when Howard Dean, the Democratic chairman, said that basically the Republicans (INAUDIBLE) have become a white Christian party. And they were angry, and they were properly so. And I think that in the same way, you can't sort of go after Democrats as a group and say their first, their reaction to 9/11 was not to look for revenge, but to look for indictments of America and call in the therapist for the attackers.

I mean, that basically says they're milquetoast. They won't stand up for America. And that's not, obviously not true.

So I do think Karl should change his comments. But should the president fire him? No, I don't think he should. I think Karl should take care of this himself. And he's a tough guy, he can do that. But I, listen, we, Senator Durbin's not retiring from the Senate, nor should he. And the same, by the same measure, Karl Rove should not be fired from the White House.

STEWART: No matter your politics, most people would agree that Karl Rove is an extremely talented strategist. Why would he say something that could be classified as so extreme? What's the strategy?

GERGEN: Well, that's an extremely interesting question. And what appears to be happening, Alison, is that the Republicans have been ratcheting up the rhetoric in the White House here in the last week or two against the Democrats.

As the public mood has soured on the war, and Democrats are now beginning to call for timetables and pullouts and that sort of thing, and they're also opposing the president at every turn in the Congress, there's no, there's been an obvious effort in the White House, or decision in the White House, to step up the rhetorical attacks against Democrats.

So basically, the president went out and attacked (INAUDIBLE) standing in the way of all progress. And he, you know, he used this strong, very strong language against them a few days ago. Now Karl Rove comes forward and paints them with a, you know, just tars them with this terrible brush.

You know, so it seems that what they're doing is, they're trying to stymie criticism of their administration by basically questioning the motives and the patriotism of those who oppose them. And I, that, that's a tactic we've seen in American politics for a long time. And in the past, it's never worked. I don't think it'll work now.

STEWART: Do you think there's a potential for a blowback effect on the White House, especially when you start talking about 9/11? It's so sensitive.

GERGEN: I, well, 9/11 is such a delicate subject. And you will recall that America came together after 9/11. Democrats and Republicans stood together. It was a magic moment for a while, and the president - for which the president deserves a lot of credit for his leadership.

And then there was a split over Iraq. So I think that it's just historically inaccurate to say the Democrats are - were unwilling to stand up to the attackers on 9/11. They gave the president full and full-throated support for his response in Afghanistan. That was a unanimous, essentially a unanimous effort and a united effort.

So I just think that on this one, Karl Rove, who has been the mastermind of so much of what's happened within the Bush administration, I think he has gone over the line. I might say it does not appear that it was an off-the-cuff remark.

We have so much to do in this country. I think Americans are just sick and tired of the name-calling and the B.S. that's coming out of some of the political headquarters in Washington.

STEWART: David Gergen, we thank you for your thoughtful answers tonight.

GERGEN: OK. Thank you.

STEWART: The only thing lacking in our coverage of Karl Rove tonight is what our Keith Olbermann has to say about it. But we wouldn't leave you hanging. He has provided us with a blog on the subject. You can check it out at

And later tonight, Joe Scarborough's interview with Karl Rove. It can be seen on "SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY" at 10:00 p.m. Eastern right here on MSNBC.

Next, we'll go live to Aruba for details on the twist in the investigation into the disappearance of Natalee Holloway. Police arrested this man, the father of someone already under arrest in the case.

And the Supreme Court hands down disturbing news for homeowners.

And who will be the first justice to trade in a robe for retirement? We'll tell you who is ready to pounce when a vacancy sign is hung outside the high court.

Countdown on MSNBC.


STEWART: For two weeks, he's reportedly been using his position as an influential attorney and a trainee judge to attempt persuade the Aruban authorities to let him see his imprisoned son. Paul Van Der Sloot may get his wish. He may join his son in jail.

Our fourth story on the Countdown, the twist in the investigation into Alabama teen Natalee Holloway's disappearance.

Martin Savidge has been following this all afternoon. He joins us live from Aruba with the latest details.

Martin, fill us in.


On the island of Aruba, this one certainly is classified as a shocker, the arrest of Paul Van Der Sloot. As you point out, he's not only a prominent legal official on this island, in training to be a judge, he's an attorney. Of course, his son has been in custody for two weeks now. He was the 17-year-old youth that was in the, well, in the company of Natalee Holloway on the night that she vanished. That's what made his son a prime suspect.

Now he is in behind bars. The question is exactly why, and that's the point that investigators don't give us direct answers to, only to say that he is now being held and being questioned in connection with the disappearance of the 18-year-old girl from Alabama.

For Anita Van Der Sloot - that is the wife and mother of two suspects in this case - it was a devastating day. This is what she had to say just moments after she had been told of her husband's arrest.


ANITA VAN DER SLOOT, HUSBAND AND SON DETAINED: This is something that is so bizarre, so bizarre, that my husband, who is a man full of integrity, who worked for 50 years in the (INAUDIBLE) department, that he got taken like this without any evidence, without anything, that I was just furious.


SAVIDGE: Right now, let's go to the opposite end of the spectrum, and that is reaction from the family of 18-year-old Natalee Holloway. They've been looking for her now here now for over three weeks, and they seem to suggest that they have been suspicious of the father from the very beginning.

Here's what the family had to say today.


MARCIA TWITTY, NATALEE HOLLOWAY'S AUNT: From the very beginning, from the very night that Beth got down there, she just said, I know he knows something.


SAVIDGE: That is a reference to Beth Twitty, who is the mother of Natalee Holloway.

So you have this major development in the case. What you don't know tonight, Alison, is it a major break, or is it merely just another major announcement, the arrest of the father? The interrogation is going to continue, no doubt, not just this evening, but through the day tomorrow. Whether we will learn more about the disappearance of Natalee Holloway remains to be seen, Alison.

STEWART: And Martin, has there been any discussion of any specific evidence that links all Paul Van Der Sloot to Natalee's disappearance?

SAVIDGE: No, none whatsoever. I mean, there has been stuff that has been talked about that is totally unofficial, and not even coming from the investigation directly, and that is, perhaps the reason authorities want to talk to him is that he changed his statements or gave conflicting statements. You might remember, last weekend, he was questioned by police for about seven hours.

The other thought is that maybe he did something to try to cover up for something that his son did. But again, that's speculation that's talked about here. That is not information coming from the investigation itself, Alison.

STEWART: We do under...

SAVIDGE: We don't know.

STEWART: We do understand. Martin Savidge, following the Natalee Holloway investigation, thank you so much for joining us tonight.

From the serious news of the day to the seriously weird news of the day.

Hoo boy, taking a (INAUDIBLE) little summer dip to a whole 'nother level.

And later, going the extra mile for man's best friend. New hope for dog owners with pets who might be fighting cancer.


STEWART: I'm Alison Stewart, taking care of important business of keeping you informed while Keith Olbermann is away.

Now on with that important business with a segment full of swimming deer and cows in their underpants.

Let's play Oddball.

Fitness experts say one of the best ways to maintain heart health is swimming laps. Apparently in Michigan, this applies to deer too, we think. Maybe that's why this Esther Williams wannabe decided to get in a little cardio today in the Shelby Township pool. The deer hopped a fence to get in couple of laps, apparently but had a little trouble getting out. You all know how hard it is to grip those wet ladder rails.

Just as animal control showed up, the deer found the stairs. He does, I swear. Hopped out of the pool and made his escape without even stopping to towel off. Now, if we could just teach this deer to ride a bike, I'm thinking triathlon.

To Montvliet (ph), France, where finally, there's a support bra strong enough to hold a 100-pound set of udders. That's a whole lot to lift and separate. Actually, artist Florence Lucas (ph) has designed a whole line of lingerie for today's cows. It was modeled this week in Normandy. The fabric is the same stuff you find at Victoria's Secret, only there's way more of it. It's colorful, delicate, lacy, little mischievous. Guaranteed to send the bull in your life stampeding over the cliffs of desire.

Eminent domain. The Supreme Court weighs in and makes it much easier for the government to come in and take your house and your property away from you.

And the machine that's ready to kick into full gear once one of the Supremes resigns.

And later, Oprah Winfrey may have hit the very top of Forbes' list of most influential celebrities. But little good that did her in Paris this week. Oprah's shopping showdown ahead on Countdown.

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

Number three, Norreasha Gill of Lexington, Kentucky, happened to be the lucky 10th caller on WLTL's radio call-in 100 contest to win $100,000. She told her kids they could go on a shopping spree and buy a new car, new home. Then she went down to the station to pick up her check. But instead, the station manager gave her a 100 Grand candy bar. Ms. Gill is now going to court to get her cash.

Number two, an unidentified dental worker from Howland, Ohio, charged with the seemingly simple task of buying the office pool's Mega Millions lottery ticket last weekend. Instead, she actively bought an Ohio state Lotto ticket, which won the jackpot.

Now she and 10 co-workers are $15 million richer.

And number one, Sanjay Kumar Singh, arrested in India for plotting to steal a car. Apparently not his first time. (INAUDIBLE) he is accused of being involved in at least 56 car thefts and 20 burglaries. And in his spare time, in between heists, he was the crime reporter for the local paper.

That is on-the-job training.


STEWART: It sounds a little intimidating, eminent domain. (INAUDIBLE) a very real get out (ph). Our number three story on the Countdown tonight: The government's right to seize your home just received a broad stamp of approval from the Supreme Court of the United States. In a 5-4 decision, the nation's highest court ruled that local governments may now condemn people's homes and businesses for private economic development, in effect, granting cities expansive power to bulldoze neighborhoods for shopping malls or hotel complexes in order to generate tax revenue.

The case centered on a working-class neighborhood in New London, Connecticut. But according to the majority opinion, the city had formulated, quote, "economic development that it believes will provide appreciable benefits to the community, including but by no means limited to new jobs and increased tax revenue." Justice John Paul Stevens added that localities must, as always, compensate property owners and that state governments were free to restrict condemnations (ph).

But for Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, that was not acceptable. Quote, "Any property may now be taken for the benefit of another private party." O'Connor wrote in her dissent, "The beneficiaries are likely to be those citizens with disproportional influence and power in the political process, including large corporations and development firms."

The residents of Fort Trumbull (ph) had argued that the city had no right to take their property, except for highways, schools or other public projects. Matthew Derry, whose family has lived in the neighborhood for more than 100 years, said, quote, "I'm not willing to give up what I have just because someone else can generate more taxes here."

We're joined now by Dana Berliner, an attorney for the Institute of Justice and one of the two lawyers who represented the families of that New London neighborhood. Thank you so much for being with us tonight, Ms. Berliner.


STEWART: Let's talk directly about your clients. What's next for them?

BERLINER: Well, they never wanted to leave. They still don't want to leave their homes, and they are standing firm.

STEWART: What's their next legal avenue?

BERLINER: That's something that we're looking into. We're looking into the next legal avenues for them, and we're also looking into what's next for the country. The Supreme Court has told us that we've got to go to the states, and that's where we're going to be taking the battle.

STEWART: Let's talk about this a little bit. Is it the Court's decision itself or is it the breadth of the decision that troubles you?

BERLINER: The Supreme Court got it horribly, horribly wrong today. Five members of the Court said that it's a good enough reason to take someone's house away because that someone else can make more of a profit on that land. That is an incredibly sweeping decision, and it puts every single home, small business and church in the entire country at risk.

STEWART: But what about the idea that the lawyers would need to prove their case that it would benefit a neighborhood, and perhaps it could with so many jobs, prosperity could come out of this, out of new offices, new buildings, new businesses?

BERLINER: Actually, the Court did not say that anyone had to prove anything. In fact, these homes, 11 homes are being taken for something. They have no idea what. Four are being taken for an office building the developer has already said it's not going to build. All they have to do is have a plan and...


STEWART:... have to have a viable plan, correct?

BERLINER: They have to have gone through planning process. And cities know how to go through a planning process. That's no restraint at all.

STEWART: The majority opinion, also, the property owners must be compensated. Can you explain to us how the government will set a value for these homes?

BERLINER: Well, supposedly, the government gives fair market value. But how are you going to compensate an 87-year-old woman who was born in her house from having to leave? She doesn't care about money. There's no compensation for those kinds of losses.

STEWART: I hear a certain passion in your voice when you talk about this. You sound very angry. Can you explain to me why?

BERLINER: Our Framers put protections in the Constitution that were supposed to protect all of us, and today the Supreme Court just read out part of the Bill of Rights, and that is going to - it's really going to hurt everyone in the United States. Most decisions only affect a few people. This one really affects everybody, except politically connected private developers.

STEWART: And you touched on this briefly, but I'd like you to flush it out for me a little bit. The answer's on the state level, at this point?

BERLINER: Absolutely. Every state also prohibits taking private property for private use. And many states give greater protection than the federal Constitution does, and that's something we're going to be pursuing very aggressively. And we think that the Supreme Court got it so wrong that the states are going to go with what the dissent said.

STEWART: Dana Berliner with the Institute of Justice, thank you so much for taking the time tonight. We appreciate it.

BERLINER: Thank you.

STEWART: Today's close decision underscores once again how divided the Supreme Court can be, and it signals the potential intensity of a broader issue. What will happen if a Justice retires? If President Bush gets the chance to make a Supreme Court nomination, a pitched battle over the confirmation is all but guaranteed. As our correspondent Norah O'Donnell reports, the rival camps are already digging in.



Whether it's the public display of the 10 Commandments, allowing gay marriage, or the battle over the legalization of abortion, the Supreme Court is the front line in America's culture war. And that's why any expected vacancy on the Court will no doubt lead to an ideological mega-battle. Today leading an unprecedented coalition of conservative groups is C. Boyden Gray.

C. BOYDEN GRAY, FORMER WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL: Oh, I don't know if I'm the godfather, but I am probably the senior member of this group.

O'DONNELL: Gray calls himself the air traffic controller.

GRAY: The RNC has a call on Tuesdays.

O'DONNELL: Coordinating a network of conservatives prepared to spend tens of millions of dollars.

GRAY: Because we know the other side is well organized, extremely well organized and extremely well financed.

O'DONNELL: Gray is a battle-hardened veteran of the nomination wars. As White House counsel to President George H. W. Bush, he shepherded Justice David Souter and Justice Clarence Thomas through confirmation hearings. He now advises current White House counsel Harriet Miers, plays bridge with Chief Justice Rehnquist, but says the real battle could come if Justice Sandra Day O'Connor retires because she is a moderate.

GRAY: If it were Sandra Day O'Connor, Justice O'Connor resignation, or Justice Stevens, that would trigger World War Three.

O'DONNELL: But war has already broken out. Conservatives launched a preemptive strike with this television ad.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Democrats will attack anyone the president nominates, but a Supreme Court nominee deserves real consideration.

O'DONNELL: Conservatives believe it was an instant attack that scuttled the nomination of Robert Bork. Less than an hour after President Ronald Reagan nominated him, the reaction was immediate.

SEN. EDWARD M. KENNEDY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: Robert Bork's America is a land in which women would be forced into back-alley abortions.

O'DONNELL: Leading the successful fight against Bork was Ralph Neas, who today leads a legion of liberals as head of People for the American Way.

RALPH NEAS, PEOPLE FOR THE AMERICAN WAY: We have a team of battle-tested veterans.

O'DONNELL: Neas's war room of 45 computers is already up and running.

NEAS: It's our obligation to make sure that the American people know what's at stake and that we've got to be very careful that the right wing doesn't take over the Supreme Court and turn back the clock seven decades on the issues that they care about the most.

O'DONNELL (on camera): The reason that those on the right and on the left are on red alert is in part because there's not been a vacancy on the Supreme Court in 11 years. That's the longest period since the Civil War. And experts say that if there is a retirement, an announcement could come as early as next week. Norah O'Donnell, MSNBC, Washington.


STEWART: A scientific breakthrough for dogs and the people who love them all because one family refused to give up when the vet told them their pup had cancer. And a breakthrough of another kind for the royal family, a college degree for the young man that would be king, with the best grades the Windsors have ever seen.


STEWART: Any dog owner will tell you they'd do just about anything, no matter what it cost, for their pup. So when Seattle resident Nina Hallett was told there was a small chance they could cure the cancer that was slowly taking the life of her golden retriever, Comet, she didn't hesitate. Our number two story on the Countdown tonight: the lengths that us two-leggers will go to save our four-legged companions. And here's how Comet's unique ordeal may help so many others like him. Countdown's Monica Novotny now with the story of this lucky dog. Hi, Monica.

MONICA NOVOTNY, Countdown: Hi, Alison. You know, most people who have pets will say they're like members of the family, and they will do just about anything for them, even if it means asking someone to find, say, a cure for cancer.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're a pretty happy guy, aren't you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The question is, How important is your animal to you? And we're doing what we would for any other family member.

NOVOTNY (voice-over): Chasing a cure for man's best friend.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're a good boy.

NOVOTNY: Six-year-old Tyler has lymphoma. He needs a bone marrow transplant to save his life. And what used to be impossible just might happen because now dogs are being cured of one of the most common canine cancers, Tyler's hope for a cure thanks in part to veterinarian Edmund Sullivan and this canine pioneer, Comet, diagnosed with lymphoma 18 months ago. When Dr. Sullivan told Comet's owners the only treatment, chemotherapy, would extend the dog's life by just one year, they decided that wasn't good enough.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We really wanted to see if there was some way that we could help him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They sort of said, Let's find a cure for him.

NOVOTNY: Dr. Sullivan quickly finding researchers who said...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We do this every day in humans. There's really no reason why it couldn't be done in a dog.

NOVOTNY: They were right. Step one, finding a bone marrow donor, a dog related to Comet with a matching blood type. Then a round of radiation for Comet, similar to this. Next, blood from the donor dog, retrieved and healthy stem cells removed, all done by the same machine used for humans.

(on camera): So how does it work?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, it essentially extracts the blood from the donor dog, and then through a centrifuge process, just sort of sucks off the stem cells out of the bloodstream.

NOVOTNY (voice-over): Those healthy cells then transplanted to Comet, who today, one year later, is cancer-free.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He still runs five or six miles a day, six days a week.

NOVOTNY (on camera): Now, Comet is not the first dog to ever have had this procedure done. In fact, researchers have performed hundreds of stem cell transplants on dogs experimentally over the last 40 years, perfecting the procedure for humans. So now many say it's time to return the favor.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a completion of a circle. It really is.

NOVOTNY (voice-over): The treatment is not without costs. Dogs spend two to four weeks in isolation after the transplant to prevent infection. And as with people, there are no guarantees, and of course, no insurance.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: His overall bill was $45,000. We suspect that other dogs, it'll be $20,000, maybe $25,000.

NOVOTNY: For a potential cure, these families say, that's a bargain.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The continued walks into the meadow, throwing a stick so he can retrieve it, all of that stuff is big benefit to us. You can't put a pricetag on that.


NOVOTNY: Now, the hardest part of the transplant procedure is simply finding a related donor match. Animal siblings are easier to track, of course, if the dog comes from a breeder, though even then, there are no guarantees. In Comet's case, for example, they received blood samples from several siblings before finding a match. Finally, his donor eventually made the trip to Washington state from Florida.

STEWART: Now, do the dogs feel any kind of pain during this, Monica?

NOVOTNY: You know, it's different for each dog. I mean, for the donor dog, it's very little pain because they get a light anesthetic as they go through the procedure. For the dog that's receiving it, they do have to go through radiation...


NOVOTNY:... such as like for a human. You know, and then they're also in that isolation for two to four weeks. So it's not easy, but they say, ultimately, the rewards can be great, if it works.

STEWART: And how cute is Comet?

NOVOTNY: Comet and Tyler were both so sweet.

STEWART: Monica Novotny. Thanks so much. Great story.

NOVOTNY: Thanks.

STEWART: All right, taking a swift dive into the murky waters of tabloid gossip and celebrity tales. Get out your snorkel for a little segment we like to call "Keeping Tabs." OK, so the Countdown team stumbled on these pictures. Do you recognize this woman, the one on the right? No? How about now? Yes. Ladies and gentlemen, the triumphant return of Courtney Love to "Keeping Tabs."

Stage manager's shocked. Seen here on Tuesday with Pamela Anderson at the Hollywood premiere. OK, talk amongst yourselves. Flitting from coast to coast and court to court on various assault and drug charges has led to sort of a reverse before and after situation. Here is what Courtney Love looked like in 2004, before her court-mandate drug rehab. And here's what she looks like after rehab. And I know there's an Anna Nicole joke in there somewhere, but it just seems way too mean. I can't do it.

And from the "How to make you really feel old" file: Prince William is a college grad. I remember when that kid was born! Prince William graduating from Saint Andrews University in Scotland today with a master's of arts degree in geography. So he's the guy you want on your Trivial Pursuit team when you land on blue! It is one of the highest academic achievements of any royal ever. His father, new stepmother, grandfather and even grandmother, the queen, all made it to the ceremony.

So what is next for the young prince? First he's off to New Zealand to join a mountain rescue team. Then he'll work in an international financial institution in London, then learn about land management on a country estate. Finally, says he want to sign up for military training at Sandhurst, where his younger brother, Harry, is already in residence.

Coming up: Prince William won't be getting a special graduation gift from Hermes from Oprah. Why? They wouldn't let Oprah in the store. Now they'll be feeling have the revenge of Harpo.


STEWART: There's no questioning the power of Oprah Winfrey. The Oprah book club - total rainmaker. Oprah's favorite things - it's back-order central if she coos about a company's face cream or brassiere or T-shirt. Our number one story in the Countdown tonight: What retailer in his right mind would dis Miss O?

A French one, apparently. while visiting Paris last weekend, the talk show host and media mogul was turned away from upscale retailer Hermes after asking to be permitted to pop in after hours. According to accounts, Ms. Winfrey saw people in the shop and politely asked the clerk if she could quickly buy a watch for Tina Turner, with whom she'd be dining with later that evening. No, they said.

Allegedly, it was not a case of mistaken identity, an FOO - friend of Oprah - telling "The New York Daily News" that the clerk who came to the door said, quote, "We know who you are." Winfrey promptly called to inform the company's president she'd be taking her gift-buying bucks elsewhere. They issued an apology earlier today. "Hermes regrets not having been able to welcome Madame Oprah Winfrey and the people accompanying her to give them all the attention and service that Hermes is committed to giving each of its clients in the world. Hermes expresses its sincere regrets for any misunderstanding that the circumstances could have caused."

The company claims that the people Ms. Winfrey saw that evening were there for a private PR event. Otherwise, they say, she would have been accommodated.

Now, not to inflame Franco-American relations or anything, but (INAUDIBLE). That means, What's up with that? For an answer, we turn to "US Weekly" magazine style editor Katrina Szish. Katrina, thank you for being with us tonight.


STEWART: All right, is this an anti-celebrity thing or an anti-American thing or it's been suggested it might have been a race thing or are we dealing with a French thing? What thing is this?

SZISH: I mean, you know, the stories are flying back and forth right now. Hermes, as we just saw, has their story. The FOO, friend of Oprah, as you said, has their story. So we're waiting for, you know, the ultimate confirmation. But my guess is that Hermes is Hermes. They're a legendary fashion brand. It's not necessarily about being French. It's not necessarily about being a celebrity. Basically, Hermes calls its own shots because everybody is dying for one of their bags, whether or not you're Oprah.

STEWART: And one of these bags costs what?

SZISH: Oh, they can cost roughly any - you know, $6,000. They can -

· depends on if it's alligator or croc or something fabulous, then you're getting up above $10,000.

STEWART: Now, how bad press-wise is something like this even for a high-end luxury designer? Is this a problem?

SZISH: I think it's most important to note that Hermes is very much a French brand, very much an international brand. It's not like this was an American brand we're talking about. And in that case, I think this would be much more harmful. Hermes is legendary. People are still going to want their...


SZISH: I think they're going to be OK.

STEWART: Was the apology the right way to go?

SZISH: Yes, it was. Some people have called it wishy-washy. Again, you know, everyone loves Oprah, so they are very mad that Oprah didn't get to shop. But I think the apology was the only thing they could do at this point.

STEWART: Now, it's interesting you said that they're mad that Oprah doesn't get to shop. Her core audience is the average woman, and the average woman really doesn't buy a $6,500 handbag. Does she have the risk of starting to look like, I'm a celebrity, and I want it and I want it now?

SZISH: I think she has to tread lightly. If there really were any sort of racial overtones to this, then, obviously, that is a problem and she does deserve to speak out. And we're waiting to find out if that is the case. But otherwise, if she's going to, you know, whine, so to speak, about not being able to add to her wardrobe or buy Tina Turner an expensive watch for a dinner present, she runs the risk of being a little bit too fabulous even for her own audience.

STEWART: Well, you deal in celebrities and celebrities who align themselves with products. Can you explain to us how important that is for some retailer or some designer? They're usually dying to have a celebrity associated with their wares. How does it - does it translate into retail sales or does this translate into cachet?

SZISH: I think a little bit of both. Definitely, a lot of the newer brands out there, or a lot of the more kind of mass market brands definitely benefit some someone like Oprah touting their name on air. I think, again, some of the larger brands that have been around forever, celebrity endorsements are not - they're still going to remain. But again, from a retail perspective and just a cachet perspective, certain brands certainly benefit that.

STEWART: So Hermes-gate has about 12 hours on it?

SZISH: Yes. I think Hermes is OK.


STEWART: Katrina Szish of "US Weekly," we thank you so much for your time and for your heroic efforts for getting here on time.

SZISH: No problem. Thank you.

STEWART: Had somebody with a motorcycle, but I don't know the details.


SZISH: Planes, trains and automobiles.

STEWART: We appreciate it so much.

SZISH: Thanks, Alison.

STEWART: And that is Countdown. Thanks for watching. I'm Alison Stewart, in for Keith Olbermann. And now that "War of the Worlds" has finally debuted in the United States, my Cruiseapalooza is over. Nothing personal, Tom, but...

Keith will be back tomorrow. "THE SITUATION" with Tucker Carlson up next. Have a good night.