Wednesday, July 20, 2005

'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for July 20

Guest: George Takei, Howard Fineman, Gregory Garre, Jim Vandehei, Steve Hoddy

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

Where's the beef? Republicans welcome Roberts with open arms. And so do Democrats? Inside the TV announcement. He and the president got through it despite what the judge's son was doing during it.

Karl Rove, still a story, but not still a favorite in his own party.

Only 39 percent of Republicans saying he should not resign.

And the passing of a legend. The death of Scotty, the actor James Doohan. His "Star Trek" co-star, George Takei, joins us.

All that and more, now on Countdown.

Good evening.

If this is the big fight everybody anticipated over the first Supreme Court justice nomination of the Bush administration, it kind of makes you hanker for the good old days of the Clinton impeachment.

Our fifth story on the Countdown, the president urges the Senate to, quote, "rise to the occasion," provide a fair and civil process, and approve Judge John Roberts in time to have him wear the funny robes by the start of the fall session on October 3.

And the Democrats evidently choose to say, OK.

The biggest excitement over this nomination appears to have been from Roberts'5-year-old son, who was literally jumping up and down over it off camera while the president was announcing it last night. The Roberts Junior story in a moment.

First, 24 hours since the nomination was revealed, and not one of the 44 Senate Democrats have called outright for its rejection. If each side were to be limited to only one word to describe what they want from the hearings that will begin, probably at the end of next month or the beginning of September, the Democrats would choose "thorough" to flush out how much of Roberts'conservativism has been as a hired gun, a lawyer before the Supreme Court, and how much represent his own convictions.

For their one words, the Republicans would clearly choose "fair."

First Mr. Bush used it.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: My conversations with senators last night, we discussed how important it is that Judge Roberts get a fair hearing, a timely hearing, and a hearing that will bring the great credit to our nation and to the United States Senate.


OLBERMANN: If one "fair" was not enough, how about another from Senate Judiciary Chair Arlen Specter?


SEN. ARLEN SPECTER (R-PA), CHAIR, SENATE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: I hope that the rhetoric will be low to give Judge Roberts a chance to be heard. And I can assure you that the hearings will be full, fair, and complete.


OLBERMANN: And the nominee himself, meet and greets with the two party leaders in the Senate, Bill Frist saying the confirmation will happen per the president's schedule, Harry Reid saying Roberts has had an impressive legal career. And Roberts himself?


JUDGE JOHN ROBERTS, SUPREME COURT NOMINEE: I appreciate and respect the constitutional role of the Senate in the appointment process, and I'm very grateful to the senators for accommodating me and having me over here today, just after, the day after the announcement of the nomination. I'm very grateful for that. Thank you.


OLBERMANN: And lastly, there was the man about whom many conservative groups were worried, push up the announcement of the nomination, make it before Congress took its summer break, not afterwards. And they said you'd be giving Ted Kennedy a free day at the old shooting range.


SEN. TED KENNEDY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: The nomination of John Roberts to the Supreme Court comes at a time of heated debate and great division in America. What all Americans deserve to know is whether Judge Roberts respects the core values of the Constitution and falls within the conservative mainstream of America, along the line of Justice Sandra Day O'Connor.


OLBERMANN: Boy, going out on a limb there.

None of this suggest a giant political lovefest across the spectrum. NARAL Pro-choice America had an emergency demonstration against Roberts across from the Capitol. Earth Justice worried about a past Roberts decision, doubting the constitutionality of the Endangered Species Act. put out millions of e-mails today against him.

But if there's going to be a cross-party cockfight over this, Judge Roberts better leak a name, or a dubious military record better materialize out of nowhere.

For more on the supremely calm reaction, let's call on Howard Fineman, "Newsweek"'s chief political correspondent.

Howard, good evening.


OLBERMANN: This started even before the announcement, I think. Everything I've heard on the record, everything I've heard off the record suggests the Democrats are looking game strategizing this, looking at it as no reason to even try to bloody this nominee. Does that jibe with what you've heard?

FINEMAN: Well, I think they're trying to take the longer view. I think Democrats realize that they may face more than one, they're almost certain to face more than one Supreme Court nomination from George W. Bush. Do they try to unload on a guy, Judge Roberts, who's universally admired for his legal credentials, who's an affable, charming guy that everybody in town likes, who is a bedrock conservative but not a zealot, by all accounts?

Do they try to unload on a guy who's probably going to win confirmation anyway? Or do they say, You know, this guy ain't so bad, Mr. President. We want all of your nominations to be like this.

And I think some of the Democratic leadership would like to go that way, question him hard, but not pull out all the emotional stops.

Now, there will be the rejectionist front. There will be the hard core pro-choice factions, the hard-core environmental factions. But so far, I was really struck, Keith, by Ted Kennedy's measured tone today, compared with what he did to Robert Bork. You've, we've shown that tape over and over again. "In Robert Bork's America..." you remember. There was none of that today.

OLBERMANN: Speaking to the leadership, though, Howard Dean is part of the leadership now. Is he going to be able to resist the opportunity to slam the first Supreme Court nominee from any Republican president in 14 years, even if he were, say, related to him?

FINEMAN: No. I mean, has Howard Dean resisted any opportunity? I mean, and luckily for him, it fits his personality that he's the fundraiser and the chief cheerleader for the hard core of the Democratic Party, which is the fundraising base. And Howard Dean's own particular fundraising base is really firm in the pro-choice, pro-gay rights, pro-gun control sort of secular liberalism wing of the Democratic Party, just as indeed George Bush's base is in among religious conservatives.

So Dean will keep speaking to them and keep raising money with them. And the theme will be that this is just the beginning, that this is the, perhaps, unthreatening first chapter in a long saga of George Bush's effort to remake the Supreme Court.

OLBERMANN: Howard, it was assumed over the weekend, and yesterday, it was assumed last night after the announcement, that part of the point of nominating a justice, any justice, now, was to try to take the air out of the Karl Rove story. But don't you need a controversy to take the air out of the Karl Rove story? I mean, from the president's point of view, is this the wrong time for some nonpartisanship?

FINEMAN: No, I think they'll take any diversion they can on the Rove and CIA leak story. By the way, though, I thought the CIA leak story and the Rove aspect of it was going to kind of slow down and lose altitude over the course of the week, because there really isn't much left now to know, except whether Patrick Fitzgerald, the special prosecutor, is going to indict somebody.

That may not be until October, when the grand jury runs out. So I think that was about out of steam. But I do think the administration moved up this announcement. I don't think there's much doubt about that.

OLBERMANN: Well, we'll be doing the story again in about 23 minutes, so it ain't dead yet.

FINEMAN: Whoops.

OLBERMANN: "Newsweek" and MSNBC's Howard Fineman. As always, Howard, great thanks.


OLBERMANN: So who is this man? We did not get a glimpse of his family life last night. He has a son who dances around presidents, as it proves. We'll get that belatedly in a moment.

First, a man who has known and worked with him for about a quarter of a century, Gregory Garre, the Washington law firm Hogan and Hartzen (ph).

Mr. Garre, good evening.

GREGORY GARRE, WORKED WITH JOHN G. ROBERTS: Thanks for having me on, Keith.

OLBERMANN: You and Judge Roberts clerked in succession for then- associate Justice Rehnquist, and then later you worked together in your firm, Hogan and Hartzen. If it's possible to take his personal temperament, his judicial temperament from that, what would it be?

GARRE: Well, he's just a wonderfully warm, likable person. If you didn't know his extraordinary legal credentials, you would think he was a regular guy. He has a great sense of humor. He's liked by everybody, and I think that's one of the reasons why, as your previous guest said, everyone in town is rooting for John to get confirmed.

OLBERMANN: Reporters obviously think how they perceive somebody or are perceived by somebody are the most important judgments on their characters and lives. But I actually found something interesting in some of the insider Beltway stuff today. John Roberts has frequently given his cell phone number to reporters, and was described by one of them today as having the general reputation of being a, quote, "mensch." Would you go along with those two statements?

GARRE: Well, you know, I think it's just another testament to how people who have dealt with John, either on the - on a - talking about cases, working with him, respect John for his intellect, and they just like John, because he's a warm, regular person.

OLBERMANN: The premise of him having been an attorney for so long, having been heard at the Supreme Court 39 times, and how he has reminded people and other people have reminded other people that often what he has said has been in his capacity as an advocate and did not necessarily reflect his own personal convictions about the case or the law, obviously some of the senators will want to know which is which. Do you have any inkling, any guidance for us as to how Judge Roberts will respond when those questions are raised and whenever he answers one, somebody will be there with one that's even a little deeper?

GARRE: I don't, Keith. None of us do. I think the important thing about his record, though, is to look at the breadth of cases that he handled in the Supreme Court, the diverse number of clients that he represented before the Supreme Court, from the federal government, to individuals, to corporations on all sides of the issues.

And I think if you look at that record, you see someone who made his reputation in one of the most interesting and challenging professions, practicing before the United States Supreme Court, and who is known today as perhaps the best advocate of his generation.

OLBERMANN: Mr. Garre, you wouldn't want to save everybody a lot of time here and tell us how he really feels about abortion and school prayer and endangered species, would you?

GARRE: No, Keith. You know, certainly, I think there's going to be a lot of deep speculation and people looking at his decisions. But the people who know John couldn't be more happy about the president's nomination. He is going to be an absolutely spectacular justice on the Supreme Court.

OLBERMANN: Well, OK, I, you know, I had to try. Gregory Garre, head of Supreme Court and appellate practice at the law firm Hogan and Hartzen, former colleague of court nominee John Roberts. Great thanks for your time tonight, sir.

GARRE: Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN: And then there was last night's pay-per-view event, the first-ever primetime TV announcement of a would-be justice. The previous 108 were, simply put, not considered to be that interesting, nor was the topic, even before there was television. The only two people who appeared on the all-networks broadcast were the nominee and the nominator, except for one brief shot of Mrs. Jane Roberts, who appeared to be sweating.

Turns out she had good reason to be sweating. While the president tried to focus on the first court nominations since 1994, and John Roberts saw American history rise up to welcome him, the judge's 5-year-old son, also named John, was dancing around the White House state dining room just off camera, at camera right.

He would politely be described as full of energy. Whether or not John Roberts the elder makes the Supreme Court, we'll wait for the Senate's verdict, but John Roberts the younger has already joined a much more exclusive club, the show-stealing kids of political figures. The last inductee, the little Jack Edwards, who upstaged his father on the occasion of the latter's selection as the 2004 Democratic vice-presidential nominee.

That it could have been worse for either John Roberts or John Edwards is underscored by the vague memory of the appearance of Andrew Giuliani on the occasion of his father's inauguration as the mayor of New York in 1994. Just enjoy them while they're cute. There he is, waving to the crowd and mocking the speech of his own father. This guy is now 19 years old and heading to Duke to play top-level intercollegiate golf.

And lastly on this subject, once again we turn to our new genre of journalism to take you where the blogs can't go, where the newspapers can't go, and where the rest of television news simply cannot go. It's Supreme Court Puppet Theater.

And now, with an editorial on the nomination of John Roberts, here's the president and general manager of Puppet Theater Network.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In this time of great chaos and consternation in our fair land, we at the Puppet Theater Network are appalled that any president, no matter his, her, or its party, would nominate to the highest court in the land a man with no legal experience who is not even originally from this country, and whose sole position in the marketplace of ideas has been that of a newscaster for CBS Television.

John Roberts is a lovely man with lovely hair. But to make him a Supreme Court...

OLBERMANN: It's a different John Roberts.


OLBERMANN: John Roberts with CBS, this is John Roberts from the D.C.

District Court of Appeals. It's a different guy.


What about Scott Pelley?


Also tonight, no nevermind on the Karl Rove story. Another poll on the impact of the investigation on him and on the president, and the numbers are worse than the last one.

And a farewell to James Doohan. The death of the actor lovingly remembered as the man who heard "Beam me up, Scotty!" Mr. Sulu, his "Star Trek" co-star, George Takei, joins us next.

You are watching Countdown on MSNBC.


OLBERMANN: Even upon the occasion of his death, it is usually difficult to gauge an actor's impact on society. The persona the public learns and then knows may have nothing to do with the man himself.

Even with a truly famous performer, the variety of roles may leave different people with different impressions.

But not in our fourth story on the Countdown. Though it was but one of 100 roles he played on TV and film, though the original TV series lasted but three seasons, the actor James Doohan will always be remembered for one role, and, in fact, for one line he continually heard while doing that role.


WILLIAM SHATNER, ACTOR: Scotty, beam me up.


OLBERMANN: Scotty, James Doohan, is dead tonight, having died in his bed in his Redmond, Washington, home at the age of 85 this morning, not quite a year after he acknowledged that he had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's, not quite 53 years after he made his American debut, ironically enough, in a TV science fiction series called "Tales of Tomorrow."

But it was another sci-fi show that immortalized him, "Star Trek."


JAMES DOOHAN, ACTOR: Ah, they've taken over engineering. I don't know how many more of those Klingons are around, but we'll split up here and try to make it back to the bridge, aye.


OLBERMANN: James Doohan was born and raised in Canada, joining its army at 19, and it's your choice of all the servicemen who participated in D-Day, he may have become the one who would become the most famous.

It's got to be him or the actor Charles Durning, or the baseball immortal Yogi Berra. Doohan was an artillery lieutenant, the landing on Juneau Beach cost him his right middle finger, something he always managed to hide on screen. If you can imagine him playing an Indian in a show called "Hawkeye and the Last of the Mohicans," or as a guest star on everything from "Bonanza" and "Bewitched: to "Ben Casey" and "The Fugitive," good for you. If you can think of him only in the "Star Trek" context, and the six films, that's OK too.

James Doohan liked to tell the story of how, more than 30 years ago, he was complaining to his dentist that he'd been typecast in the role of Scotty, to which that dentist said, Jimmy, you're going to be Scotty long after you're dead. If I were you, I'd go with the flow.

Doohan said he took his advice, and, quote, "since then, everything's been just lovely."

It's an honor to be joined now by one of his co-stars in the TV series and the films, Mr. George Takei.

Our great thanks to you tonight, sir, and, of course, our deepest condolences.

GEORGE TAKEI, ACTOR: Thank you very much.

OLBERMANN: Fans run into danger when they think they know the man based on the performance. But the Scotty character seemed to be loyal, reliable, friendly, and irritable, but only when it was justified. How close was that to James Doohan, the man?

TAKEI: That fits Jimmy perfectly. He was a guy who was a consummate actor. But in this case, with Montgomery Scott and James Doohan, it was perfect fit. He brought his robust personality, his joy in life, his professionalism, and made that part of Montgomery Scott. Jimmy used to say, Montgomery Scott is 99 percent Jimmy Doohan, and 1 percent accent. And that really is true.

OLBERMANN: All of you, from the series and the films, have had literally hundreds of other roles. Yet these identifications, Mr. Sulu in your case, Scotty in his, are, as the famous dentist famously said, immortal. From the outside, that seems like both a gift and a burden. How did Jimmy Doohan see it?

TAKEI: Jimmy at first thought it was going to be a straitjacket, confining. And he did complain about it. But after that conversation with his dentist, he was able to embrace that, and he saw it as a great blessing. And that really is true. How many actors are going to be remembered for a character that they created, that's so much them?

You know, Scotty is going to live long and prosper, because Jimmy Doohan was such a rich personality and such a fine actor. And also, a great guy. A wonderful friend.

OLBERMANN: You mention the fans. I imagine at the beginning, the interactivity with the fans must have been a little frightening to all of you. How did he adjust to the endless processions of "Star Trek" events?

TAKEI: Not to Jimmy. Jimmy loved people. He loved, you know, getting together with people, and conventions were ideal. Here was, you know, hundreds of people, sometimes a few thousand, in one great big huge room, who loved him. And he loved them right back. And he, you know, not only enjoyed talking to them and sharing with them, but he enjoyed going out with them after the convention, eating and drinking. And that also defines both Jimmy and Scotty.

As you can tell from his physique...


TAKEI:... I mean, he loved eating, and he loved drinking. And, you know, he was actually of Irish ancestry, Irish Canadian. But he told me that, I've drunk enough of that Scottish libation in me to qualify me as a good Scotsman.

OLBERMANN: Those fans that we speak of would beat me senseless if I did not take this opportunity to ask you your perspective on the meaning of how Jimmy Doohan played that role. and how it fit in in the larger picture to the success of all the performances, of the whole premise of the series.

TAKEI: He was critical to it, because you know, the starship "Enterprise" ran on the skill and ingenuity and the creative problem-solving capacity of the engineer. And the big tension, the big drama, was always, Can Scotty do it in time? He would say, you know, the captain would say, We've got to do it in 10 minutes. And he would say, I need two days to do that.

But somehow he would manage to meet that challenge. And that's very much Jimmy, too, because we'd get rewrites at the last minute, and some of us were daunted by it. But he was able to get the words, and if not, create a situation that would fit the situation, and make the scene work.

He was very much the creator of the character of Montgomery Scott.

OLBERMANN: Lastly, Mr. Takei, is there one memory that has leaped out at you today as you've remembered your colleague and friend?

TAKEI: He was a great drinking buddy. He, you know, again, the joy and the fun and the embrace of everything. And one night, he said, you know, Where do you feel like going for dinner? And I said, I suggested sushi. And this was back in the '60s before sushi was popular. He said, Suss - suss - suss - what? He couldn't even pronounce it.

But I told him, It's a Japanese dish, and it involves raw fish. He said, Let's do it. Let's go. Which really captures his venturesomeness and his willingness to do something different and something exotic. And he loved sushi.

And so I'm kind of proud of the fact that I introduced Jimmy to sushi way back in the mid-'60s before anyone in America knew about it.

OLBERMANN: To boldly go where no Canadian had gone before.

George Takei, who begins a month starring in "Equus" at East-West Players in Los Angeles on October 26, our great thanks for your time, especially today, sir.

TAKEI: Thank you very much. We'll remember Jimmy.

OLBERMANN: Also tonight, a surprise from Capitol Hill. Take a look down on the left-hand side. All your congressmen and senators have been turned into dogs. Actually, it's a silly story and a serious one all at the same time.

And if where you are, you haven't been dodging hurricanes, you're probably almost wishing for the breeze. There is a killer heat wave.

Countdown continues.


OLBERMANN: In a drive to increase audience totals, this network will now be devoting parts of its day to broadcasting the news for dogs, and the news for fish, and the news for pigs. Fortunately, we already have a segment for that on this show.

Let's play Oddball.

To the nation's capital, where having dealt with such pressing issues as WMD in Iraq, abuse at Guantanamo Bay and steroids in sports, Congress is finally tackling the question that has been on everyone's mind since the summer of 2000: Who let the dogs out? Who, who, who, who, who?

Canine crusaders and their owners at the Senate's Commerce subcommittee on serious business, in fact. Every year, an estimated 10,000 pets, to say nothing of 1,400 kids, wind up drinking antifreeze. Additives in it taste sweet. The activists want the sweet taste removed, with a bitter one to replace it. Beltway insiders expect the next move for the increasingly powerful dog lobby, a new bill that would prevent them from having their family jewels removed.

The outskirts of Beijing, where the pigs are so tough, they have tattoos. Actually, they're given tattoos - smiling women, Chinese characters, Porky and Petunia, that kind of thing. The guy to blame here is a Belgian artist named Wim Delvoye.


WIM DELVOYE, PIG TATTOO ARTIST: First of all, they're very naked, so you can easily tattoo them. They don't feel it.


OLBERMANN: You know, like Angelina Jolie or Mike Tyson, Mr. Delvoye says the pigs are all given sedatives - real pigs, not Ms. Jolie or Mr. Tyson. Tattooist Delvoye also says that after he has his way with them, the pigs, though marked for life, are allowed to live out their lives as pets. You know, like Angelina Jolie or Mike Tyson.

And holy mackerel, let's go to Seoul, where "Fear Factor South Korea" is blowing up. Eschewing the catwalk for the fish swim, these wannabe mermaids have gone underwater to woo the finicky South Korean bathing suit consumer. It's a publicity stunt dunk tank full of six swimwear models and stingrays, eels and turtles, and some great bargains. In case you were interested, the brand looks like it's called Head. The bikinis go for $49.99. The whitefish $8.99 a pound, and the catch of the day is scrod.

Karl Rove hoping he did not wind up as the catch of the day, a new poll tonight suggesting his long-term security may not be quite what the administration thinks it is. Also, hell on earth, the birds. Dive bombing Tippi Hedren? No. These ones can imitate cell phone ringers. Run for high ground!

Those stories ahead, but now here are Countdown's top three newsmakers of this day. Number three, Kevin Shaffer of Kokomo, Indiana. That's Captain Shaffer to you, fire captain. Well, he has been fined 120 bucks by his own department because he took his truck to his house and used it to water his own lawn.

Number two, Bill Capell of (INAUDIBLE) City, California. Now he is a retired grocery store clerk, but soon he could be, thanks to genealogy, like in the John Goodman movie, "King Ralph" - he could become the 12th Earl of Essex. The 10th earl died last month in England. The 11th, Bill's cousin, is 61 years old, and he doesn't have any kids. That means Capell, at age 52, is next in line for the British title.

And number one, Nina Tassler, president of entertainment at CBS, announcing her fall line-up of movie spectaculars today, among them a mini-series about the late pope, John Paul II, along with the movies "Martha Behind Bars" about Martha Stewart and one about mutant killer giant vampire monster bats. Bats! And of course, there's the new "CBS Evening News," starring an anchor team made up of mutant killer giant vampire monster bats. Oh! Scary!


OLBERMANN: An ABC News poll Monday said that 53 percent of the public was following the Karl Rove story closely. (INAUDIBLE) a new poll, released today by Pew Research, there is good news for the White House. Only 48 percent say they're following it closely. But the bad news in tonight's number three story, 58 percent of them say Rove's to go, whether he broke a law or not, the deputy chief of staff even earning his own protesters at his latest public appearance at a reelection fundraiser for a Pennsylvania congressman last night.

But the undoing of the president's senior adviser may not be as much in the active sense as it is in the passive. Asked, "Is Karl Rove guilty of a serious offense," just under a third said yes. Nearly a half said they did not know. That undecided up-for-grabs group is nearly as large when you ask people of one party or another: 43 percent of Democrats don't know, 41 percent of independents don't know, 46 of Republicans don't know. Keep that last number in mind when you look at the full array of responses from Republicans: 46 percent don't know if he's guilty. Notably, that's more than believe he's not guilty, 38 percent. And maybe that last number, Republicans who believe he is guilty of something serious, 16 percent, is a surprise because it isn't zero.

One more number. The impact of all this on the president now seemingly tangible, 46 percent of all those polled by Pew would characterize Mr. Bush as "not trustworthy." In September 2003, that number was only 32 percent.

Those are the numbers. What about the facts? I'm joined now by Jim VandeHei, White House correspondent of "The Washington Post." Good evening, Jim.

JIM VANDEHEI, "WASHINGTON POST": Good to see you, Keith.

OLBERMANN: A bunch of thunderclaps in this story in the last two weeks, but since Matthew Cooper's media junket Sunday morning and the president's remarks about firing anybody who broke the law, it seemed quiet. What, if anything, is going on at the grand jury or in the wake of the grand jury?

VANDEHEI: Right. You know, the special prosecutor in this case has really been tight-lipped, so everything that we're learning is from people who've either gone before the grand jury or they're lawyers who've represented people before the grand jury. So it's really hard to tell exactly where this is going.

But what we do know is it's scheduled to wrap up probably by October. And I think you'll probably see a lull in the coverage, mostly because until we can get in the mind of Fitzgerald, we really don't know what crime he's going after. So I think once he comes out with a report, or comes out with indictments or clears everyone's name, that's when you really will have a media obsession.

OLBERMANN: On that point, is the betting now that the special prosecutor, Mr. Fitzgerald, is probably not looking to charge anybody under that statute that prohibits revealing a covert agent's identity? Is it looking more and more like a perjury or withholding evidence investigation?

VANDEHEI: Right. According to lawyers who've been involved in this case, they think he's probably looking at three things, one which is the core crime. Did someone in the White House knowingly leak the identity of a covert operative, knowing that the government was trying to keep that person secret? That's a very hard crime to prove. So people think, if anything, maybe he's looking at perjury or obstruction of justice. And if you think of sort of Washington scandals past, that's where a lot of people have gotten in trouble because they're much easier to prove, and it'much easier to sort of screw up and maybe tell one story, you know, the first time you're before a grand jury or talking to prosecutors, and then tell a different one the next. And that's - that's the danger that some lawyers see officials might be in jeopardy of here.

OLBERMANN: To that point, there is a story on the Web, on the "American Prospect," site which may not be acceptable at face value because that is a pretty rock-ribbed liberal operation...


OLBERMANN:... but it's another one of those "what prosecutors have been told" stories, unattributed otherwise. And this one says that the first time the FBI interviewed Karl Rove, he did not tell them anything about having had a conversation with the "Time" reporter, Mr. Cooper, and that they are none too pleased about that. Does that story, based on what you're hearing, have any legs?

VANDEHEI: Right. I have no idea if that story is accurate or not. What I do know is that Karl Rove has talked to prosecutors on five different occasions in, basically, a one-year period. So clearly, they're interested in him. They're interested in knowing, What did he know? When did he know it, and who did he share it with? You know, I think we know more about Karl Rove's role in this than we do about anyone else's because, clearly, allies of his are telling people sort of what he did know. And they say, Well, he had heard about this from reporters and then shared it sort of generically with another reporter, which would seem to suggest he's not in any trouble.

I think what prosecutors are trying to figure out is, did he learn that from reporters? You know, did he leak that information? Did he know the status of Valerie Plame, who's the central figure in this?

OLBERMANN: Lastly, give me your impression, as somebody who has been covering this fairly consistently, do these poll numbers, both the ABC numbers at the beginning of the week and the ones today from Pew that suggest that evidence - or interest in this is fairly serious, somewhere around half the population - does that number seem right to you? Does it seem high? Does it seem low?

VANDEHEI: I think it's amazing if that many people are actually following this case closely because as a reporter who's trying to write on it, it's very complex and I think it's a difficult storyline to follow.

I think one thing to watch for and to keep in mind is that the president is so loyal to Karl Rove. This guy is so central to his success and to this presidency. He's certainly stand by him and stand, I think, by any administration official involved in this, unless, as he said earlier this week, someone is proven to have committed a crime.

OLBERMANN: Jim VandeHei, White House correspondent of "The Washington Post." As always, sir, great. Thanks for your time tonight.

VANDEHEI: Have a good night.

OLBERMANN: Also tonight, seems the country has divided also into those places where it's too hot and those places where it's too wet. There's been a wave of deaths in the desert Southwest, living up to its title. And gender equality coming to the world of illegal celebrity sex tapes. Colin Farrell in court, trying to protect his long-playing video, if you know what I mean. That and today's "Worst Person in the World" ahead here on Countdown.


OLBERMANN: My apologies to viewers, to fans of "Star Trek" and to those who had deep affection for the actor DeForest Kelley. I made a mistake earlier in this broadcast, and people were good enough to e-mail in and correct it. Obviously, James Doohan, who passed away today, who played Scotty on "Star Trek," was not the first member of the cast to pass away. DeForest Kelley, who played Dr. McCoy, died in 1999. I'd love to attribute the mistake to being in a hurry or a rush, but I just screwed up and missed it. So my apologies.

Meanwhile, a week ago today, they postponed America's return to space, the launch of the shuttle Discovery. The original fear had been it might have been damaged by one of what seem like monthly Florida hurricanes. It wasn't that, of course, it was a faulty fuel sensor that triggered the scrubbing. But today, NASA got back on the horse, announcing Discovery will fly next Tuesday at 10:38 AM Eastern.

It was not a weather delay, but it turns out the shuttle was just about the only thing in this country that has not been touched by weather. Our number two story on the Countdown tonight: the heat wave and what was Hurricane Emily, Emily slamming into Mexico for the second time in three days earlier this morning. Now it is just a tropical storm, but forecasters are still predicting another 15 inches of rain and major flooding, a vacationer at Texas's South Padre Island summing it up - quoting here - "I think it was blown out of proportion." No pun intended, of course.

It never fails, of course. It never has. Part of the country drenched, the water with nowhere to go, other parts parched, saying, Send it here. The Northeast has been muggy and hot almost without pause for more than a month. But the hot spot is almost any point in a circle whose arc goes from Denver to Las Vegas. Our correspondent, Mark Mullen, is in the middle of that in Phoenix.


MARK MULLEN, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Summer has gone from just sweltering to downright dangerous in parts of the country. Several temperature records were broken again today, with thermometers going over the 100-degree mark across the Midwest and West. On the tarmac at Denver International airport, workers faced 120 degrees, ice water jugs at every gate.

TRAVIS KRASON, RAMP SERVICE AGENT: Feels like you have three suns shining on you.

MULLEN: Frontier Airlines brought in 15 extra baggage handlers to make sure everyone working outside got a break every hour. The heat has forced airlines to stop carrying pets in cargo compartments. At the Denver Zoo, workers gave animals hosedowns, and polar bears got physicals. In the Midwest, drought browning lawns, wilting flowers. In some places, turn on a sprinkler, face a steep fine. Heat's no stranger to Las Vegas, but 117 degrees is. And Rosie Jones (ph) struggled to stay cool.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Raise the windows, you know, try to get air through there. Sometime, it feel like the heat coming out of a stove.

MULLEN: In Phoenix, air-conditioned shelters were open for the homeless.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think I'm ready to go back East.

MULLEN: Back East, the kids were having some hot fun in the summertime, but there were concerns, especially for seniors.

(on camera): Here in Phoenix, temperatures have been above average every day since June 29, with at least 12 heat-related deaths and at least five more days forecast for temperatures which could top out at 111 degrees. Mark Mullen, NBC News, Phoenix.


OLBERMANN: Segueing over to our nightly round-up of entertainment and celebrity news, "Keeping Tabs," and another reminder, never have sex anywhere where there are cameras. A Los Angeles judge has now given the actor Colin Farrell a temporary restraining order prohibiting one of his old girlfriends from distributing - that means selling - videotapes of what Farrell's lawsuit refers to as "the intimate matters depicted." A full hearing on the TRO scheduled for three weeks hence.

The ex-girlfriend is former "Playboy" model Nicole Narain. Her new business partner actually contacted Farrell's agent, offering to cut him in on the video deal, which Farrell should understand is the Hollywood equivalent to giving money to Mother Teresa.

And television news has lost another one of its giants. Paul Duke, who worked for everybody from the Associated Press to "The Wall Street Journal" to PBS, has died. In 1974, he became the local anchor of a public television show in Washington. When he retired from that same chair two decades later, the show was a staple of national public affairs broadcasting, aired on 300 stations, getting four million viewers, which would be more than any program in cable news, or even those cable networks that pretend to cover news. The program was called "Washington Week in Review."

But before that, Paul Duke spent 11 years as a correspondent for NBC. He was our first on the Watergate beat. The University of Pennsylvania gave him a John Chancellor Prize in 1999 for a lifetime of journalistic excellence. Paul Duke died at his Washington home of leukemia. He was 78 years old.

Also tonight: Cell phone ringing driving you crazy? Wait until you hear what it's doing to birds, birds who can mimic sounds like cell phones. That's next.

But first, time for Countdown's list of today's three nominees for the coveted title of "Worst Person in the World." There's Gary Moody, the main man who we told you about last month, arrested for being a peeping tom while under the seat of a ladies'outhouse. His excuse to the judge, he was in the toilet tank looking for his wedding ring.

Also making the cut, baseball pitcher Kenny Rogers, arraigned on charges of assaulting two TV cameramen. He caught another cameraman videotaping the arraignment and screamed at him. Kenny, a quick helpful hint. The next time you say you're sorry in public, try being sorry.

But the winner, Paul Eibeler, the president of Take-Two Interactive, makers of the video game Grand Theft Auto San Andreas, the company today announcing, yes, it's true, as its critics have already discovered, you can access pornography encoded into the game. So it's going to produce a new version of the game that identifies it as being rated Adults Only. This after they'd already sold 35 million copies of this piece of crap. Paul Eibeler, today's "Worst Person in the World"!


OLBERMANN: If you saw the Hitchcock classic "The Birds," there is that moment in the restaurant where Tippi Hedren tries to explain to the town's characters that the birds have actually banded together and are now running organized strafing missions against the people. And one guy with an Irish accent says, "It's the end of the world!"

Our number one story in the Countdown: Well, actually, this is the end of the world. The birds have begun to learn how to mimic the ring tones on cell phones. So far, we've only confirmed that this is happening in Germany. There, says Richard Schneider of the NABU bird conservation center near Tubingen, it is the jackdaws, the starlings and the jays. Now, he thinks they're doing it largely to annoy the humans who visit the bird sanctuary. Some have even learned the crazy frog song, a popular European ring tone that actually hit the top of the British pop charts. It's the end of the world!

Social commentary and frustrations aside, here at Countdown, it also means it's another excuse for a good old-fashioned show and tell. Joining me now from the Earthquest Center in Pine Mountain Valley, Georgia, bird expert Steve Hoddy, who brought props. Steve, good evening.

STEVE HODDY, BIRD EXPERT: Good evening. How are you doing?

OLBERMANN: OK. First, does this news from Germany surprise you? Apparently, the birds do this so well that people think their phones are actually ringing.

HODDY: Boy, well, it doesn't surprise us at all. Our birds here will actually call our dogs and call their names and whistle for them. And the dogs will come running in, looking to see who's calling them. So it's no surprise to us. In fact, these birds have picked up quite a few vocalizations on their own. Right, D.J.?

OLBERMANN: Yes, I was going to ask there, have any of your friends - tell us who your friends are. And have any of them been able to imitate cell phones?

HODDY: Well, this is D.J., and he does a perfect ring. If you listen really close - OK, D.J., what does the phone do? What does the phone do? What does the phone do? Can you do it?

D.J.: (ringing sound)

HODDY: Very good! Very good. Did you hear that?


HODDY: I don't know if you could hear that. He wasn't - very good,



HODDY: And it rings. And then this is a scarlet macaw, and Kevin Gaines (ph) and - what does he do when the phone rings?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, when a phone rings, what do you say? What do you say, Rainbow? What do you say, Rainbow, when you hear a phone ring?

HODDY: You better (INAUDIBLE)...



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, good birdie. That's right.

HODDY: How about some congratulations for Rainbow? What do you say?

High five. Say high five.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Give me a high five.



HODDY: High five. Very good! Very good.


OLBERMANN: So - yes, so we have all these things that work together with what's going on in Germany. But Steve, I mean, the one conclusion from Germany that actually scares me, this idea that the birds...


OLBERMANN:... hello - are learning - learning to do this...


OLBERMANN:... largely in order that they can...


OLBERMANN:... that they can - they can get the reaction out of people. I mean, is that true?


HODDY: Oh, absolutely. The birds are so intelligent that they have learned to...


HODDY:... to be able get the people to respond...


HODDY:... to them. They might throw it a piece of meat or some bread or something, and they've been able to associate, by making the sounds that attract people, that they get rewarded, is what it sounds like.

OLBERMANN: Thus, is there any way to stop this...


OLBERMANN:... once it's started? I mean, do the birds then teach each other from one continent to the other, and eventually, we'll be hearing this deep in the Amazonian jungle? We'll be hearing a ring tone from some bird that learned it from 5,000 birds miles away?

HODDY: Well, pretty soon, I think they'll probably be reading the papers and teaching us all lessons of nature. We're actually working with these birds down in Chehaw (ph) Park in Albany, Georgia, where we're going to be working this coming year and teaching people more about the natural world and using wildlife as our ambassadors to be able to teach people just how interesting these birds really are.

OLBERMANN: Well, all you need to do is teach one of them to say, Answer your damn cell phone, and it's all over.


OLBERMANN: Thank you!


OLBERMANN: Steve Hoddy, along with Rainbow, D.J. and Murphy, at Earthquest Center in Georgia. And D.J., Rainbow and Murphy, I know you guys can hear every word and understand every word I'm saying. You ain't fooling me. Many thanks, guys.

That's Countdown. I'm Keith Olbermann. Keep your knees loose. Good night, and good luck.