Tuesday, July 19, 2005

'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for July 19

Guest: Dana Milbank, Jonathan Turley, Leon Panetta, David Dreier, Mo Rocca, Kendall Coffey

KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST: The president has selected John G. Roberts as his Supreme Court nominee, and will make that announcement official exactly one hour from now.

A fierce confirmation fight awaits Judge Roberts. The good news is, though, that whether or not he is confirmed, Roberts will still be eligible for the new Supreme Court employee discount. Yes, even a rejected nominee will pay exactly what the justices pay for a new car, because now, for the first time in history, everyone in America gets the Supreme Court employee discount.

Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?

The first Supreme Court nominee of the 21st century. Reaction, judicial and political.

The CIA leak. Seventy-five percent of Americans not convinced the White House is cooperating fully with the prosecutors. But will it cooperate with Karl Rove Puppet Theater?

Flip-flops at the White House? Not political, literal. Is this any way to dress when you're invited?

And Jude Law is invited to go, you know, by the now ex-fiancee, Burnt Sienna.

All that and more, now on Countdown.

Good evening.

It's like the final live edition of "American Idol" or "The Apprentice."

Our fifth story on the Countdown, the process is over, and at 9:00 p.m. Eastern, 6:00 p.m. Pacific tonight, President Bush will reveal Judge John Glover Roberts of the District of Columbia Circuit Federal Appeals Court, as his nominee to succeed Sandra Day O'Connor in a live nationally telecast announcement you can see reported here on MSNBC by Brian Williams at the top of the hour.

And then the party starts. Mr. Bush passing up a chance to spill the beans this afternoon at a news briefing, they spilled on his behalf about 15 minutes ago, as we soon learned, the politics of programming providing an incentive to hold out for prime time, challenging the president to say as much as he could, without saying really anything much at all.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: First, I'm comfortable where we are in the proceeds. That's important for you to know. Secondly, that I have thought about a variety of people, people from different walks of life, some of whom I've known before, some of whom I had never met before.

Trying to figure out what else I can say that (INAUDIBLE) I didn't say yesterday that sounds profound to you without actually answering your question.

I guess the best way to put it is, I'll let you know when I'm ready to tell you who it is.


OLBERMANN: He is ready. In fact, the media was ready 75 minutes before he was, busting his secret, his choice of John Roberts, even before an off-camera, off-the-record briefing at the White House at 7:45 Eastern. The official announcement now less than an hour away.

NBC's chief justice correspondent is Pete Williams. And he joins us now from Washington. Good evening, Pete.



WILLIAMS: He's done just about everything at the Supreme Court except be a justice. He was a clerk there, he has argued there, so he certainly knows where the court is.

OLBERMANN: And perhaps the first thing that jumps off the resume at someone looking at the makeup of this court and the times that we live in and the news that we have been dealing with in the last year was that he clerked for the then-associate Supreme Court Justice Rehnquist 25 years ago.

WILLIAMS: Right. And, you know, here's a guy who is from very definitely the legal establishment here in Washington. He was a clerk to a federal judge, then a clerk to William Rehnquist, Harvard Law School. Followed that track right out of the paper chase from Harvard to clerking for two federal judges, and it's common to go from a district federal judge then to the Supreme Court.

And then he went into the Bush - the Justice Department, rather, under President Reagan, was a deputy solicitor general. That's the part of the Justice Department where they prepare and argue cases to the Supreme Court. So he got to know the Supreme Court from that angle.

Then he went into private practice for one of the most established law firms here in Washington, Hogan and Hartson, where he became part of that elite little group of lawyers here in Washington who practice before the Supreme Court. So he became an advocate before the Supreme Court.

And then now a federal judge for two years, appointed by the current president.

OLBERMANN: When he was in the solicitor general's office, there was a brief filed that stated that Roe v. Wade had been wrongly decided, which he signed onto. But the - whether or not, that does not necessarily mean that is an expression of his opinion. And I know that he was asked about this when nominated to the court of appeals.

Do we have an actual litmus test? Has he left a - the proverbial paper trail, and rather, never mind the paper chase, on that one issue?

WILLIAMS: Well, you know, one of the things about the fact that he's only been a federal judge for two years means that unlike, say, Michael Luttig, another young conservative judge from the Fourth Circuit, who was also very much in contention, Judge Roberts hasn't been on the court very long. So as a judge, he doesn't have much of a paper trail.

And, of course, his position, and the position his defenders will take, is that he was an advocate for a president who opposed Roe v. Wade. And that was his job then, to represent that view, just as when he went into private practice, he had to argue the views of the clients that he represented then.

So that's the difference, I think his supporters would say, and probably he himself would say, between being an advocate and being a judge.

OLBERMANN: The name that went out all day today, more than any other, more than any other, perhaps, in this whole process since Justice O'Connor announced she was going to retire, was Edith Joy Brown Clement of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.


OLBERMANN: Was - do you think now that perhaps she was something of a trial balloon, or did somebody just follow a false lead on that?

WILLIAMS: I think that she was considered and was a finalist, and as far as we are told, did come up here to Washington and have meetings at the White House. So I don't think that was misdirection. I think what you have here, Brian, is - Keith, rather - is a situation in which there was such a starvation for knowledge. I think maybe four or five people, total, in town, if you count Judge Roberts, knew who the choice was.

And in that, given that huge vacuum, it was a tile bathroom into which someone threw one golf ball, and that was Edith Clement, and that bounced around all day, and seemed like a lot more than it was.

But I think there was - it just shows you how little was known and how great the appetite was for what little was out there.

OLBERMANN: What wonderful imagery. NBC's chief justice correspondent, Pete Williams. As always, sir, thank you for your insight.

WILLIAMS: My pleasure.

OLBERMANN: Let's go over to the White House. Kelly O'Donnell with later details on this story as it breaks, the official announcement now about 53 minutes away, of Justice Roberts to be the nominee for the Supreme Court.

Kelly, good evening.


White House officials have been briefing reporters about some of what went behind the scenes that will culminate with Judge John Roberts being put in nomination tonight.

We now know the president considered 11 potential nominees. When he traveled to Denmark, on his way to the G8 summit, senior officials say that he took a briefing book that included 11 candidates. He interviewed five of those in person, one on Thursday, two on Friday, and two on Saturday.

Judge John Roberts was interviewed on Friday. He was interviewed in the White House residence. The meeting lasted about an hour and a half, and it included a tour of some of the behind-the-scenes areas of the White House, things like the Truman Balcony, the Lincoln Bedroom. The president wanted it to be a relaxed environment and a chance to get to know the 50-year-old judge.

So that's some of the details that is now coming out.

The president consulted more than 70 senators, saying that they wanted to have deep and wide consultation with the U.S. Senate. Now, there are some on the Democratic side who do not believe that it has gone far enough. But the White House insists that it has done more, and some say it has been unprecedented, attributing that comment to some of the Republican senators, who believe that they have had a fair opportunity to offer suggestions to the president.

That briefing is still going on. I ran out the door to give you these particular details. The judge was notified early today, told that he would be the president's choice. And again, he had his face-to-face meeting with the president on Friday, and the two are still getting to know each other. The president had reached his conclusion last night, senior officials say, but really reached a firm conclusion this morning when there were a few details that were not described to us that became firmed up.

So the choice is John Roberts, Keith.

OLBERMANN: Kelly, what are they expecting now in terms of the political dispute that is certainly going to follow from perhaps one direction, and perhaps both?

O'DONNELL: Well, one of the faces you will see a great deal more of is Fred Thompson, who our viewers know both as a former senator of Tennessee and an actor on television and in films. He will, in many ways, be the public face escorting this nominee through the process, because of his relationships with people on the Hill and his public persona, to try to assist John Roberts in getting the introductions that are necessary.

Part of why the White House wanted this to be announced with enough time before the recess, which is at the end of next week, is to give senators a chance to get face-to-face time with this nominee, to have private conversations, and to give all of the bureaucracy of the Senate an appropriate amount of time to do its own research on the background, the rulings, the thinking of this man, to be prepared to go forward with confirmation hearings.

Of course, the president has scheduled all of August for Crawford, Texas, his ranch, and so a lot will be going on during that time. He has also said the word that he wants the extreme groups that are pouring money into this and are expected to try to influence the process, even now that a choice has been made, encouraging them to sort of quiet down.

So the White House has rolled this out really trying to have this undercurrent of, we've consulted far and wide, we've picked what they consider to be a consensus choice.

And so beginning tomorrow, you'll see a lot of the next phase, which goes down the street to the Hill, Keith.

OLBERMANN: Kelly, we know you've got about 49 minutes to prepare for this announcement, so let me ask you one last question, with our thanks, and then we'll let you go. The staging of this, the televised announcement, that analogy was not made entirely in jest, that it sounds a little bit like the end of a TV reality series.

What is the thinking there at the White House for why the big show has been put on tonight?

O'DONNELL: Well, it will be a dramatic setting in the state room on what they call the state floor, where the nominee and his family will be present. Justice Sandra Day O'Connor will not be present. She has a speaking engagement in Spokane, Washington, tomorrow. So the outgoing justice will not participate.

This will be about a 10-minute window, where the president and his choice will be able to make remarks. It is intended to be grand. It is intended to have the aura of history, because, as we all know, a presidential choice for the Supreme Court goes long beyond his tenure at the White House, could affect the American public for a generation or more.

So they wanted to give it a high drama setting, and that's what we expect tonight.

OLBERMANN: Especially a 50-year-old nominee. Kelly O'Donnell at the White House, great thanks.

To recap briefly what Kelly just reported, there were 11 potential nominees by President Bush, considered by President Bush, as he took that briefing book with him to the G8 summit two weeks ago. And five, ultimately five interviewees, the last of them on Saturday, Judge Roberts on Friday.

Politically, the president probably didn't know this, but historically, July 19, the date he selected Judge Roberts, has not been a particularly good day for liberals. It is the day George McGovern was born, the day Geraldine Ferraro was nominated, and the day Chappaquiddick happened.

On this nomination to the high court, the president would doubtless like the kind of lopsided conservative triumph any one of those names would suggest. Is there the chance he might get it?

Let's bring in Dana Milbank, national political reporter of "The Washington Post."

Good evening, Dana.


Good evening, Keith.

OLBERMANN: Let's talk first about the timing of this. Is there hard-and-fast evidence if - that this was wag the dog? Was this announcement pushed up? Was the decision made any more quickly just to try to eclipse the Karl Rove story?

MILBANK: Oh, there's no doubt about it. It was been reported in conservative, liberal, and down-the-middle publications, people close to the White House saying that this was indeed, we're going to wait till the end of the month. It was only pushed up maybe 10 days, two weeks. But they clearly wanted to bump Karl Rove out of the headlines and out of the top of your broadcast. And I believe they've succeed.

OLBERMANN: All right, so he's knocked him off the headlines and out of the front pages. But how does this, with the presentation of the name John Roberts, which will not mean much to the general public, and does not seem to be that kind of Ta-Dah! candidate that a woman justice would be, or a Hispanic judge - justice would be, how does this keep the Rove story off those front pages and headlines?

MILBANK: Well, look, we're going to go to a period now where we have these extensive biographies that will be done of him, gathered information in the Senate. Then you go into this long proceedings through the hearings, through the ultimate vote.

So this is going to dominate news up until the court begins October 1.

That's not to say the Karl Rove story won't make its cameo appearances. Of course it will. And it's likely to go on somewhat after this nomination ends. But this clearly is going to become the main game in town now.

OLBERMANN: And to it, let's get it started. Who did he just, who did the president just tick off the most? Has he got the liberals coming at him, or the rock-ribbed conservatives, or the moderates, both of them? Who is going to be alienated faction in this?

MILBANK: Well, so let's start with his wife. She asked for a woman to be nominated to this. And for six hours today, we thought it was, we were indeed going to have a Justice Clement. This was widely reported. But that's not happening.

So some disappointment, certainly, from the left that he won't, it won't an minority candidate, it won't be a woman.

This is not the most controversial in terms of a conservative nominee that he could have found. But it's certainly close to that end. So in a sense, he is picking a fight with the Democrats in the Senate, but not such an outrageous one that it's very obvious that they're going to be able to get their footing against him.

OLBERMANN: As I mentioned with Kelly O'Donnell, all day long, it was Judge Clement, Judge Clement this, Judge Clement that. We got to know that Judge Clement uses the name Joy and not the name Edith, which is her given first name. We got to know which one of those names was her maiden name and which was her middle name.

Why was she out there? Was it, as Pete Williams suggested, the golfball reverberating in the tile room, or was there an element of a float to that? Was it perhaps a trial balloon to see if he could sneak an easier-to-confirm, no-paper-trail moderate past everybody?

MILBANK: Hard to say what their motivation was. But it's pretty clear that this had White House fingerprints on it. The White House officials themselves weren't saying this, but their surrogates were. John Cornyn, a senator from Texas, even sent out an embargoed speech praising the selection of this particular justice.

So they were clearly encouraging us to believe this and to report it.

Then around, you know, 1:00, 2:00 this afternoon, the pushback began, and suddenly Michael Luttig is spotted in Richmond, all dressed up with his family, although (INAUDIBLE) he must have just been going to a nice lunch.

OLBERMANN: Dana Milbank, national political reporter of "The Washington Post," who said around 5:00 Eastern time this afternoon that we would have a name before 8:00. And as usual, was right on the money.

Great thanks, Dana.

MILBANK: Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN: The Supreme Court news has not knocked Karl Rove completely out of the headlines. A new poll spelling bad news for the White House regarding the probe, to say nothing of what Karl Rove Puppet Theater spells for the administration.

You are watching Countdown on MSNBC.


OLBERMANN: If George Bush has his way, he will be Justice John G. Roberts, born January 27, 1955, in Buffalo, New York, currently serving on the D.C. Court of Appeals. He will be the president's nominee to the United States Supreme Court to fill the vacancy that has been created by the retirement, the imminent retirement, of Sandra Day O'Connor.

I'm joined now by Georgetown University Law Professor Jonathan Turley.

Always a pressure to talk to you, Jonathan.


OLBERMANN: Well, he has my birthday. I suspect that's not the reason President Bush selected him.

TURLEY: I think that's the entire reason.

OLBERMANN: What is the headline in the career of John Roberts?

TURLEY: Well, the headline is that there's no headline. He's one, he's what I once identified a few weeks ago as the leading blank-slate candidate. He is someone who's extremely smart, but someone who's only been on the court a short time. So he has very few cases or opinions to pin on him.

But he has been an active litigator before the Supreme Court. He's a very talented man. But he has litigated many controversial cases. And when he worked at the solicitor general's office, he was the author of a brief that sought to overturn Roe v. Wade. Many people in the Roe v. Wade debate believe that he is hostile to pro-choice positions.

OLBERMANN: Was that his own position, though? Is it clear that that was his position, or one he was advocating on behalf of his employer, the president of the United States, or even on behalf of the solicitor's general's office?

TURLEY: You just gave the theme of the future confirmation hearings.


TURLEY: That was indeed the issue when he was confirmed for the D.C. Circuit. The White House argued that these are - he was simply being a good lawyer. He was representing his client, and you can't blame him for the positions of an administration.

However, it is clear that John Roberts does, I believe, support these views. If you want to rate John Roberts, I think that you would have to give him very high scores for intelligence. I mean, he will be the perfect play-pal for Scalia on the court.

In terms of controversy, there will be more controversy for him than some of these other candidates. But what is there is probably not enough to sink him. It's mainly inferred positions from his past litigation.

OLBERMANN: Are there also inferred positions that could come up in these hearings that relate to his membership in the Federalist Society, or his clerking for then-Justice Rehnquist, or any of the other things that were much earlier in his career?

TURLEY: I doubt we'll see those, you know, Have you ever been a member of the Federalist Society? questions. He's clearly a favorite of the Federalist Society. And that society has become a dominant conservative force.

But I also think that in term of the most controversial aspects, is that Roberts will be asked directly for his positions on things like Roe v. Wade. He's not going to be able to get away with what Clarence Thomas said, which is, Gee, I just never thought about it. He's going to get some very pointed questions.

And then we'll see if the Republicans are just going to muscle it through, whether they're just going to say, you know, Don't answer those questions, and we'll rely on our majority votes.

OLBERMANN: Confirmed by the Senate to the D.C. District Court of Appeals in 2003 by a vote of 14 to three, Biden, Cole, Feinstein, Edwards voting for him, Schumer, Kennedy, Durbin voting against him. Is there the possibility that those Democrats who supported him two years ago could point to anything in his time on the appeals court and say, My goodness, I never should have voted for him in the first place, and I'm not going to let this man become a Supreme Court justice if I can say anything about it now?

TURLEY: Well, nothing has happened since he's been on the court of appeals that would be considered controversial. He's had very few opinions. And so those people who voted for him on the court of appeals would have to switch their votes simply because of the position that he's going to be going into.

Now, he is not the most experienced candidate. He has, however, two aspects that the White House truly wanted. One is, he's ideologically consistent, and two is, he's very young. I mean, this is a White House that, if they could, would have appointed a stem cell. I mean, they want someone very young who's going to be on that court for decades.

OLBERMANN: A stem cell?

TURLEY: An ideologically consistent stem cell, yes.

OLBERMANN: It's - I'm sure that would not be something that they would put on the resume, as they sit him down before the Senate, would it?

TURLEY: The - hello? I'm sorry, I didn't...

OLBERMANN: I guess we're out of time. Georgetown University law professor Jonathan Turley, Jon, thanks for your time tonight, appreciate it.

TURLEY: Thank you very much.

OLBERMANN: We'll turn to the other D.C. controversies when we continue. The Karl Rove probe, a political debate on whether the president has lowered the bar in doling out punishments.

And if you were invited to the White House to meet the president, any president, what would you wear? Flip-flops?

Stand by.

OLBERMANN: Not to inside the newspapers and the middle of the newscast by the Supreme Court nomination, we will debate the politics of the Karl Rove investigation and a debut for you, Karl Rove Puppet Theater.

And tonight's dramatic Supreme Court announcement, more on the president's first shot at fitting a judge for the black robes, Justice Roberts.

That's ahead.

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

Number three, Gueri Lugo, convicted in Massachusetts of drug trafficking. He appealed, claiming the jurors rushed to judgment because they were not given one of the smoking breaks they had requested. The appeal now denied, the court saying he's just blowing smoke.

Number two, Venida Crabtree of Oxford in England. She had passed her driver's test on only the 40th try. Venida is 50 years old. She says she spent tens of thousands of dollars since 1972 on driving instructors.

And number one, Gerry Thomas of Paradise Valley, Arizona, who was the inventor of the TV dinner, he has passed away at the age of 83. Mr. Thomas, of course, will be cryogenically frozen along with some peas, a hard, gelatinous mass of gravy and the kind of cherry dessert that never quite thaws out.


OLBERMANN: Whether or not it was the White House's true intent, the Supreme Court nomination of Judge John Roberts did knock the Karl Rove case off the front page. But it did not close the investigation. Our third story on the Countdown: new poll numbers not only indicating that three out of every four Americans don't believe the White House is cooperating fully in the investigation into the Valerie Plame leak, perhaps more importantly, 53 percent saying they are following this issue closely.

As special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald and his grand jury continue to probe the leak and Rove's reported involvement in it, the ball was really only touched by the bit players today, the pollsters, those who leak about the investigation of the leak, and John Kerry.

All of them in a moment. First, the president with a "no comment" earlier today, surprising only because of the exact wording of the question.


QUESTION: In light of the concerns that the CIA leak investigation is distracting from your agenda, has Mr. Rove or any of your aides offered their resignation? And what, short of a crime, constitutes a firing offense?

GEORGE WALKER BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I appreciate your bringing that up. My answer really hasn't changed from 24 hours ago. It's the same answer. I'd be glad to answer another question, if you've got one. I - I - I - I mean, I'll be glad to repeat what I said yesterday, which is there's an ongoing investigation and people shouldn't, you know, jump to conclusions in the press until the investigation is over. And once the investigation is over, I'll deal with it.


OLBERMANN: So asked if any of his aides might have offered their resignations over this, the president would not deny nor confirm. That people should not jump to conclusions, as he says, may be right on the money. But when they jump, that they jump only on party lines is evidently not true. That ABC News poll not only suggests widespread disbelief that the White House is being transparent with the special prosecutor's office, it even suggests most Republicans believe that, only 47 percent of Mr. Bush's own party saying the administration was cooperating fully, 25 percent of independents buy the White House line, 10 percent of Democrats.

How important is all this? About three quarters call it a serious matter, 4 in 10, very serious, and as we mentioned before, more than half the nation following the issue closely.

Thus they may have already heard of John Kerry's e-mail today to his 2004 supporters, asking them to join an on-line petition to call for congressional hearings on the case, an e-mail in which Kerry wrote, "How many more times will Karl Rove make President Bush eat his words and shred his credibility before Karl Rove does the honorable thing and leaves the White House?"

That 53 percent following it closely may have also read an unusual "LA Times" report that largely slipped through the cracks, that paper quoting people familiar with special prosecutor Fitzgerald's inquiry who say that the federal investigators have been told - that's the terminology, have been told - it's not clear if it's referring to witness interviews or grand jury testimony - have been told that Rove and Lewis "Scooter" Libby, quote, "were intensely focused on discrediting former ambassador Joseph C.

Wilson IV in the days after he wrote an op-ed article for 'The New York

Times,'" that, "Rove's interest was so strong that it prompted questions in

the White House. When asked at one point why he was pursuing the diplomat

so aggressively, Rove reportedly responded, 'He's a Democrat.'"

So is that piece of information provided to prosecutors what all of this has been about, from the day somebody started the ball rolling that exposed the CIA work of Joseph Wilson's wife right through to the current running story that somebody or one of the somebodies is Karl Rove?

Is it just politics from front to back, or is it something more? Tonight, both sides of this story. I'm joined by Leon Panetta, the former chief of staff to President Clinton, former California congressman, currently director of the Panetta Institute. Mr. Panetta, thanks for your time tonight, sir.


OLBERMANN: Also with us, Representative David Dreier of the 26th district in California, 2004 co-chair of the Bush-Cheney campaign in his home state. Congressman Dreier, thank you for...

REP. DAVID DREIER (R), CALIFORNIA: Good to be with you, Keith, and with my former colleague, as well.

OLBERMANN: Gentlemen, let's violate the rules of political television and try not to interrupt each other, and let me ask the questions. Congressman, I'll start with you. Did the president backtrack yesterday? Didn't he say last year and the year before that if somebody in his administration was involved in leaking the identity of Valerie Plame, he'd get rid of that person? Didn't he change the rules yesterday when he said it was guilt required, that he'd fire anybody who'd broken the law?

DREIER: The short answer to your question, Keith, is no, he did not. What he said in September of 2003 was that if someone violated the law, they would be dealt with. And he's consistently said that. And I believe that the president made it very clear. An investigation is under way.

And you know, the thing that is really kind of throwing me here is you quoted that "LA Times" story. I think there are a lot of people who are after Karl Rove for one reason: He's a Republican, and he's been a Republican who's had incredible success. You know, we've - we've got today a 5 percent unemployment rate, GDP growth of 3.8 percent and a $94 billion reduction in our federal deficit. And because it's summer, people don't seem to want to talk about that kind of success that we're enjoying.

Yes, there's an investigation under way. Let's let it run its course, rather than going through the trial right now in the media. People are focusing on this, Keith, according to your survey, because so many people are talking about this issue.

And Leon and I enjoy engaging in discussions of major public policy questions. That's something that we've both spent years doing. And frankly, I'm very encouraged with so many things that are happening here in this country today, that to spend time talking about an investigation that is taking place is, to me, really, for lack of a better term, a waste of time.

OLBERMANN: Mr. Panetta, if Karl Rove or Scooter Libby or anybody else did leak the knowledge that Valerie Plame worked for the CIA but did not know she was undercover or didn't violate the law in doing so, is this, as Congressman Dreier says, still raised to the level of a major policy issue?

PANETTA: Well, I don't think there's any question that when there's a leak that comes out of the White House that involves somebody who works at the CIA, that that's a serious matter. And it's because, very frankly, people who work at the White House have to operate by a higher standard. The president basically established that standard early on. He said that people who work at the White House shouldn't even show the appearance of impropriety.

Well, clearly, you have now a situation where Karl Rove did, in fact, leak information here. Whether's is a crime or not is going to be determined by the grand jury. But clearly, there was a leak intended to try to discredit someone.

And for that reason, I think it violates the standard that the president basically established at the White House. And let's not forget. The president - the only currency a president has is trust. And trust is dependent on making sure you abide by the standards you establish at the White House.

OLBERMANN: Quick thoughts, gentlemen, each of you, on President Bush's nomination tonight of Judge John Roberts to the Supreme Court? Congressman Dreier, you go first.

DREIER: Well, I think it's great news. I don't know Judge Roberts myself, but the reports that I've gotten on him from a wide range of people, the fact that he had strong bipartisan support in the United States Senate, the fact that he's a young man with a great career ahead of him, I think, bodes very well for his future. And we're looking forward to the confirmation process.

OLBERMANN: Mr. Panetta, when he was nominated to the appeals court and got a 14-to-3 vote in favor of him from the Senate, including Biden, Kohl, Feinstein and Edwards, will he get Democratic support in some quarters? Or how do you see this playing out?

PANETTA: Well, I suspect that this is a judge who's a pretty good - certainly, an intellectual record. He's got a good reputation for integrity in the jobs that he's had. And I guess I'll let the Democrats, as well as the Republicans, take their time and look at his credentials. But clearly, this is somebody who doesn't bring, it seems to me, any right or left tinge, at this point. Let's give him the opportunity to be looked at by the people in the Senate. And hopefully, he - you know, he'll have a chance to face the American people in terms of his credentials.

DREIER: I think we should have the vote right here, Keith! And let's settle it, OK?


OLBERMANN: Both sides of two stories tonight, Karl Rove and the president's nomination of Judge Roberts. California congressman David Dreier, great. Thanks, sir.

DREIER: Good to see you, Keith.

OLBERMANN: And former congressman Leon Panetta, great. Thanks to you, as well.

DREIER: Thanks.

PANETTA: Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN: For understanding a complex story like the Rove one, polls, e-mail, news stories, even debates are good, in their way. But a new kind of journalism has emerged in the last six months, a genre we can use to take us where no television cameras may go. We've heard a lot about what Matt Cooper and Karl Rove and others have told the grand jury in suburban Washington. We haven't seen it, of course, until tonight, until the premier of "Karl Rove Puppet Theater."


"GRAND JURY": Until October we're doing this?

"PATRICK FITZGERALD": OK, let's get started. First witness. For the record, your name is?

"KARL ROVE": Well, I'd rather not use names.

"PATRICK FITZGERALD": Hey, buddy, you're Karl Rove, and you're the deputy chief of staff at the White House.

"KARL ROVE": Let's just say I'm Darby Rove's husband. She's Mrs. Darby Rove, and her husband works in the administration. And that's on double super-secret background.



OLBERMANN: From lip-lap (ph) to flip-flops. Is summer footwear appropriate dress for an invitation to the White House? Northwestern University's lacrosse team sparking a fashion debate. And tonight's big Supreme Court announcement. what impact will Mr. Bush's pick have on shaping the high court? Stand by.


OLBERMANN: It is such a no-brainer publicity-wise that seemingly, the only championship sports teams that don't get invited to meet the president at the White House are the winners of the Hastings-on-Hudson, New York, Little League.

Our number two story on the Countdown: You'd think they'd all have this down by now, but they don't. Members of the Northwestern University championship women's lacrosse team, meet President Bush. President Bush, meet the members of the Northwestern University championship women's lacrosse team. They'd be the ones wearing the flip-flops, sir.

Here it is, the obligatory team picture with the prez. Four out of the nine Northwestern players in the front, nice dresses, with flip-flop shoes. Kate Darmody bought a new Anne Taylor sundress for the occasion, donned white pearls, and seeking footwear which she said would go well with my outfit and at the same time, not be that uncomfortable, but at the same time, not disrespect the White House, she chose flip-flops. Not just any flip-flops, special $16 models with rhinestones.

Nobody at the White House complained, but a headline in "The Chicago Tribune" screamed Kate Darmody's brother's e-mail to her when he found out, quote, "You wore flip-flops to the White House?" The Northwestern players were actually surprised at the backlash. They did not wear sneakers or anything, as many of the University of Michigan softball champions did. That's part of the same event at which 14 college championship teams met Mr. Bush.

We have the White House, we have fashion colliding, a good opportunity to consult a political authority who also once appeared with me on another network and showed off the fact that he was wearing bright red pants, none other than TV personality Mo Rocca.

Good evening, Mo.

MO ROCCA, TELEVISION PERSONALITY: Good evening, Keith. Thank you.

OLBERMANN: So what of this flip-flop flub flap?

ROCCA: Well, I think the girls are being coy here. They clearly were making a statement. What they were saying is, Hello, Mr. President, we know that the White House has a pool. Hello! Where is it? And bring us some frothy drinks and beach towels, while you're at it, pool boy.

I mean, look, the fact is, footwear says a lot. It's very symbolic. And I think that's why all serious court watchers are going to be looking at John Roberts' feet when he comes out. What is he wearing? It says a lot about a candidate we don't know a lot about.

For instance, is he wearing what Clarence Thomas wore at his presentation, which were two-toned spectator shoes that said to the public, I want to bring America back to the 1920s? Or is he wearing what Ruth Bader Ginsburg wore? I doubt it. He's probably not going to be wearing Birkenstocks. These were very radical. They were saying, If you think these are radical, check out my pits.

He could be wearing what David Souter was wearing. We all remember that. David Souter was sort of a wild card. He lives alone. He wears red shoes. Or is he a consensus candidate, like Sandra Day O'Connor, who wore espadrilles, comfortable shoes, kind of sexy, but the heel is made of a rope. It's actually made of rope, which sort of is - bespeaks a sort of Western conservativism and independence, something that conservatives value, but liberals respect, as well. She also would wear stilettos at times, when she needed to bring both sides together.

OLBERMANN: We don't need to go there. Mr. Witness, what's your shoe size? Historically, have we had controversy on this level of the flip-flops in the White House regarding other visitors?

ROCCA: Well, clothing controversies we've had. In 1857, Chief Justice Roger Taney attended an event at the White House. He wore his robes but nothing underneath. He was, in the parlance of the time, going commando. Now, President James Buchanan was very, very excited about this. But this is why Taney is held in disrepute. That and the Dred Scott decision.

The whole point here is that I really believe that the presentation of John Roberts at this time is really to take away attention from the other scandal brewing in Washington, which is Karl Rove's footwear. At a state dinner the other night, he was seen wearing these. And let's face it, I mean, the man has, like, Fred Flintstone feet - I mean, big, fat feet that should not be in shoes like that.

I just had a horrible image of Bob Novak's feet when he wears flip-flops because his talons actually curl over the front.

OLBERMANN: Yes, but Mo...


ROCCA:... scraping the ground and...

OLBERMANN: We also just got a terrible image of your leg again.

You've done this to me on two different networks.

ROCCA: It's hyper - I'm hyperextended.

OLBERMANN: I understand. You know, I'm just thinking, this is really just a remark by me, as opposed to a question, because we don't have time left...

ROCCA: I do want to make one thing very clear. If John Roberts has had toe cleavage surgery - that's the removal of corns or bunions or even a small toe in order to squeeze into Jimmy Chews or Manolos - that's going to be a clear sign of how he'll vote on physician-assisted suicide.


OLBERMANN: TV personality Mo Rocca...

ROCCA: Thank you.

OLBERMANN:... impeccably dressed for the occasion, as ever. Great.

Thanks for joining us.

ROCCA: Sure.

OLBERMANN: He and I go to a boxing match, we have to wear tuxedos to cover it, but the guys in the middle of the ring would be standing around in shorts.

If you think all that was inappropriate, time to turn to our nightly round-up of entertainment of celebrity news, "Keeping Tabs," starting with Jude Law and Sienna Miller and the nakedness of the latter's ring finger. Yesterday, Law publicly apologized to his fiancee, Miller, confessing he had had an affair with his children's nanny. Today, Miller showed up for her Shakespearean performance in London not wearing the $36,000 engagement ring she got from Law last Christmas.

Wait a minute. The former co-star of the Fox series "Keen Eddie" is playing Shakespeare somewhere? Refund!

Shakespeare was just about the only name not floated for the Supreme Court vacancy. The big announcement, Justice Roberts, as President Bush would have it. That's next. This is Countdown.


OLBERMANN: And to our number one story on the Countdown now. On the broadcast network newscasts tonight, this is how little we really knew about what was really going on until about 7:45. ABC News reported that Mr. Bush did not make up his mind until this morning. CBS said he had decided over the weekend, after having met privately with only one candidate, Judge Edith Clement, by whom we believe they meant Judge Joy Clement.

In the moments before we join Brian Williams for the president's official announcement of John Roberts as the would-be next member of the Supreme Court, I'm joined by Kendall Coffey, former U.S. attorney for the southern district of Florida. Mr. Coffey, good evening. Thanks for your time.

KENDALL COFFEY, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: Hey, thanks for having me, Keith.

OLBERMANN: All right, 15 names, at least, were floated at various times here seriously, 11, we understand from the White House, were actually considered, 5 were put into the form of interviewees, and John Roberts of the appeals court in the Washington district was selected. What is your reaction to that selection?

COFFEY: Well, I think he's really ignored short-term political advantage. He's a second-term president. He doesn't need to be concerned about gender or anything like that. What I think the president has done is picked a jurist who can redefine this Court for decades to come. We're not just talking about a single member, we're talking about replacing Sandra Day O'Connor, the pivotal swing vote that really transforms the balance of power perhaps for many years to come.

This is a very, very talented, very conservative man who, from the standpoint of the president's long-term philosophy, probably represents the strongest choice possible.

OLBERMANN: Given those four Senate votes to confirm him to the appeals court two years ago, the four Democratic votes in favor of him, and given the fact that he is 50 years old, and as you say, given the lifespan and the longevity of Supreme Court justices, he could influence this Court for literally decades, perhaps three of them, if not more - is there going to be more opposition to him on the part of the Democrats because of this potential for longevity?

COFFEY: Well, not initially. He's got such a limited track record of judicial experience, he's hard to attack. I think what the strategy's going to be is to try to set the parameters for a confirmation hearing so that he can be aggressively questioned about a judicial philosophy that up to now is not really defined in written judicial opinions. One of the many ironies of the process is you're really better off having 20 months of judicial experience, rather than 20 years, such as the other people who were being considered for this position.

OLBERMANN: As Jonathan Turley said earlier, there was the brief that he wrote or authored or presented on behalf of the solicitor general's office regarding the believed-to-be mishandling of Roe v Wade - is that authorship of that or whether or not he simply signed onto it - is that, as Jonathan suggested, going to be the focus of the confirmation hearings, do you expect?

COFFEY: It's certainly going to be one of the issues, but something that someone does as a lawyer for a client is clearly less conclusive than an opinion they might write as a judge. So I think that what is especially, in many ways, well thought out about this choice is you've got someone with rock-solid conservative credentials, impeccable Republican credentials, served in various administrations, clerked for Rehnquist, obviously, appointed to the federal appeals court bench by this judge (SIC), and yet who really is very hard to criticize.

OLBERMANN: Kendall Coffey, former U.S. attorney, who presented Al Gore's case to the Supreme Court. Mr. Coffey, again, great. Thanks.

COFFEY: Thank you.

OLBERMANN: That's Countdown. I'm Keith Olbermann. We'll see you again at 9:00 Pacific, midnight Eastern, for the reaction to the president's Supreme Court nominee. Brian Williams next with our coverage of Mr. Bush's announcement, then Tucker Carlson with a special edition of "THE SITUATION." We should also mention here this was the cross between the old excitement of the political conventions and the finale of "The Apprentice." Who has the political equivalent of Donald Trump selected? We know it's Justice John Roberts. Here from New York is Brian Williams.