Monday, October 31, 2005

'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Oct. 31

Guests: Dana Milbank, David Gergen, Philip Giraldi, Heather Pranke

LISA DANIELS, HOST: Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?

Sam I am.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm pleased to announce my nomination of Judge Samuel A. Alito, Jr., as associate justice of the Supreme Court of the United States.


DANIELS: President Bush's third nominee to fill the O'Connor vacancy comes on Halloween Day. So is it a trick, or a treat?

The president's second term has been no treat - the Libby indictment, calls for Karl Rove's job, problems in Iraq, and high fuel costs. How can the White House get back on track?

Coming to America. Fire up those funny hats and sexy man-skirts. Charles and Camilla hit the Colonies. But will the new bride be a flop compared to Diana?

And on this Halloween, we take time to remember the great Mr. Jass and the one and only I.P. - what's-his-name. No, they're not real people, but it's causing real controversy this holiday.

All that and more, now on Countdown.

And good evening. I'm Lisa Daniels, in tonight for Keith Olbermann.

The phrase "trick or treat" has taken on new significance in our nation's capital this Halloween, Republicans embracing the nomination of Judge Samuel Alito to replace Sandra Day O'Connor on the Supreme Court as if it were a shopping bag stuffed with chocolate bars, Democrats left feeling as if their house had just been egged.

Our fifth story on the Countdown now, after the failed nomination of Harriet Miers, what no one can dispute tonight is that Judge Alito is qualified for the post. Currently, a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals based in Philadelphia, Alito also served as a lawyer for the Justice Department, as well as the top federal prosecutor for New Jersey, one of the largest federal districts in the country, the president feeling confident that this nomination will be better received than the last one was.


BUSH: In the performance of his duties, Judge Alito has gained the respect of his colleagues and attorneys for his brilliance and decency. He's won admirers across the political spectrum. I'm confident that the United States Senate will be impressed by Judge Alito's distinguished record, his measured judicial temperament, and his tremendous personal integrity.

JUDGE SAMUEL ALITO, SUPREME COURT NOMINEE: The Supreme Court is an institution that I have long held in reverence. During my 29 years as a public servant, I've had the opportunity to view the Supreme Court from a variety of perspectives - as an attorney in the solicitor general's office arguing and briefing cases before the Supreme Court, as a federal prosecutor, and most recently, for the last 15 years, as a judge of the Court of Appeals.

During all of that time, my appreciation of the vital role that the Supreme Court plays in our constitutional system has greatly deepened.


DANIELS: Before taking the bench, Samuel Alito argued 12 cases before the Supreme Court as a Justice Department lawyer. As for how he might rule as a justice on the court, 15 years of judicial decisions are already providing some clues.

NBC chief justice correspondent, Pete Williams, joins us now from the Supreme Court with more on the nominee.

Good evening, Pete.


The president could have followed the model that he set with Harriet Miers. He could have chosen another woman to succeed Sandra Day O'Connor. Or he could have chosen someone who isn't a judge. But he decided to follow the more traditional approach, choosing a judge with an extensive paper trail.


WILLIAMS (voice-over): The president turned to a judge with a long tenure on a federal appeals court.

BUSH: Good morning.

Judge Alito has served with distinction on that court for 15 years, and now has more prior judicial experience than any Supreme Court nominee in more than 70 years.

ALITO: Federal judges have the duty to interpret the Constitution and the laws faithfully and fairly, always keeping in mind the limited role that the courts play in our constitutional system.

WILLIAMS: Judge Alito's most controversial legal opinion came in 1991, when he voted to uphold a Pennsylvania law requiring women to notify their husbands before seeking an abortion. The Supreme Court struck that law down, and abortion rights advocates called for Alito's defeat.

KAREN PEARL, PLANNED PARENTHOOD: He has a demonstrated hostility toward access for women, and to make sure that women have the full range of reproductive health services that they need.

WILLIAMS: And when asked about it today, his 90-year-old mother said, quote, "Of course he's against abortion."

Civil rights groups also say Alito's rulings have made it harder to sue for race and sex discrimination on the job.

If confirmed, Alito would become the court's fifth Catholic, and perhaps because he and Justice Scalia are both Italian-American, Catholic, and conservative, he's been nicknamed Scalito. Both were born in Trenton, too.

But Alito's rulings also show an independent streak, allowing a woman from Iran to seek asylum in the U.S. based on Iran's treatment of women. And allowing parents to sue a public school for failing to protect their son from merciless bullying.

STUART TAYLOR, COLUMNIST, "NATIONAL JOURNAL": He seems likely to line up to the right of O'Connor on a number of issues, based on his opinions, but not very far to the right, unless he's holding something back in the opinions he's been writing as an appeals court judge.

WILLIAMS: His law clerks also say he has a sense of humor. They persuaded this Newark coffee shop to offer Judge Alito's Bold Justice Blend, which he often drinks.


WILLIAMS: And he showed that same sense of humor when he was a student at Princeton, writing in his school yearbook when he graduated, "Sam intends to go to law school and eventually warm a seat on the Supreme Court," Lisa.

DANIELS: You know, Pete, a lot of people have mentioned his independent streak. But today we heard a lot more comparisons to Scalia than to O'Connor. Based on what we know so far, Pete, how likely do you think Alito will be the next swing vote that O'Connor was?

WILLIAMS: Probably wouldn't play that role as much as she did. There's a thinking here that maybe Justice Breyer will emerge as the swing vote. But it's awfully difficult to tell now how he'll rule on the Supreme Court. Sometimes justices surprise the presidents who nominate them. Certainly not anything he would want the president to think now, but it does happen.

DANIELS: Pete, when he spoke this morning, Judge Alito made very clear his reverence for the Supreme Court. That word appeared a lot. Do you think that was a veiled signal that he will be reverent enough to uphold the court's precedence on rulings like Roe v. Wade?

WILLIAMS: Well, I think what he was talking about is reverence for the institution, this temple of law, this place where they take it seriously.

I think the question is, in the confirmation hearings, will he use the same sort of formula that John Roberts used so effectively in his confirmation hearings by saying that he respected Roe v. Wade as precedent? And, you know, that the Senate really couldn't pin him down on how he would vote on Roe v. wade or a future case questioning abortion restrictions. He said, I have to take them as I see them. But that may be a formula that Judge Alito will use too.

But he has a little more baggage there, because he's had some decisions on abortion, something John Roberts did not in his short time as a federal judge.

DANIELS: There is a paper trail. NBC chief justice correspondent, Pete Williams. Pete, thanks so much.


DANIELS: Even before this morning's announcement at the White House, the Republicans were sending out talking points on Judge Alito. No surprise, they were very pleased with that nomination.

But for the Democrats, it is a very different story. They wasted little time today before speaking out about the nominee and the president who picked him.


SEN. PATRICK LEAHY (D-VT), RANKING MEMBER, JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: It is a pity that the president thought his position was so weak, he had to bend to a narrow but strident faction of his political base.

SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER (D-NY), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: Now, it's sad that the president felt he had to pick a nominee likely to divide America, instead of choosing a nominee in the mold of Sandra Day O'Connor. Who would unify us.

This controversial nominee, who would make the court less diverse and far more conservative, will get very careful scrutiny from the Senate and the American people.


DANIELS: Many of the other Democrats on the Judiciary Committee, no less concerned, Senator Ted Kennedy also questioning the choice in a statement. Quote, "Rather than selecting a nominee for the good of the nation and the court, President Bush has picked a nominee whom he hopes will stop the massive hemorrhaging of support on his right wing. This is a nomination based on weakness, not on strength."

If Alito's nomination actually makes it to a hearing (INAUDIBLE) the Senate, one thing we can count on is that that man, "Washington Post" national political reporter Dana Milbank, will be there, catching every word.

Good evening to you, Dana.


DANIELS: So let's look ahead to these proceedings for a second. The president's conservative base, obviously very happy tonight. But do you think the Democrats are so outraged that this might be the extraordinary circumstance that the Gang of 14 once referred to when they reserved the right to filibuster on judicial nominees? What do you think?

MILBANK: Well, you really get the sense that both parties are really spoiling for a fight here, certainly the bases are. And you don't get the sense that this is another John Roberts, who can command half of the votes of the Democratic caucus.

So the Gang of 14 is, for all intents and purposes, dead. The Republicans say that ideology is not something that you can - an extraordinary circumstance. The Democrats say it is.

So this - you could very easily see this leading down the path towards the nuclear option. You can very easily see this becoming something of a referendum on abortion, which Roberts really wasn't, as Pete was pointing out, because he really did not have a paper trail.

DANIELS: At the early part of the second term, the president used to talk a lot about his political capital. We heard that phrase a lot. Judging from the polls, Dana, he seems to have lost a lot, especially when you compare it to just this summer, when he nominated John Roberts. Is the (INAUDIBLE) fight a fight that this president might actually lose?

MILBANK: Well, he certainly could lose it. The odds are always and still remain in his favor. It's not as if he really had the choice. The Democrats were coming out and suggesting that he have a consensus nominee. Well, when you start taking advice from the political opposition, you've got some problems.

And he did, really, the only thing he could do, and that is, rally the base. When you're sitting at 39 percent support in the polls, the base is all you have. He couldn't afford to do it any other way this time. Even if he loses, that was a necessary choice for him to make.

Now, the rough counting now is, he can probably get 52 votes. So if they can trigger the nuclear option and beat back a filibuster, then he gets through.

DANIELS: Some Democrats were saying today that the only reason he did it today was to take some of the attention away from Scooter Libby and the indictment and the resignation. Do you think that's just sour grapes? Or is there really some truth to that?

MILBANK: Scooter Libby, who's he? So...

DANIELS: I don't know. You tell me. I'm sure you're writing about it every day.

MILBANK: You know, the only surprise, I thought, was that they didn't try to wheel it out maybe at the same time Pat Fitzgerald was having his press conference on Friday. Look, they've been through this now. This is the third time through this. They knew who they were going to come out and select. They didn't have to go back to the books and check all of these things.

This, in politics, is what they call a page-turn. The president desperately needed to change the subject. And nobody could fault them for doing it. It's a perfectly legitimate way to do it.

I would point out that at Scott McClellan's briefing today, six of the first nine questioners were on Scooter and not Alito.

DANIELS: Well, it was actually an interesting White House briefing there. It just seems strange to me that the White House was bragging about the fact that Harriet Miers doesn't have the judicial credentials that many Supreme Court nominees have. Then they sort of do this 180, and now they're bragging about the fact that Alito is so well qualified.

MILBANK: I love the versatility of the arguments on all sides.


MILBANK: But yes, now we're saying exactly what we need is a male who is Ivy League educated, has been on the bench for 15 years. So, so much for that. Everybody can switch sides and take the other side's talking points, and we'll march from there.

DANIELS: "The Washington Post"'s Dana Milbank. We'll look for your article tomorrow. A pleasure talking to you, Dana. Thanks so much.

MILBANK: Thanks, Lisa.

DANIELS: Today's big announcement was definitely a distraction from the big elephant in the Oval Office. Can the president salvage the rest of his term with the same people that helped push his White House in crisis?

And what about those big-picture questions triggered by the CIA leak investigation? Forged documents, a break-in at an embassy, and a scheme to gain influence, troubling allegations about the buildup to war from a former CIA agent.

You are watching Countdown on MSNBC.


DANIELS: When he made his next choice for the Supreme Court today, President Bush had the ultimate opportunity to shift the attention away from the CIA leak investigation.

But in our fourth story on the Countdown tonight, the reality of the White House indictment is sinking in.

The vice president's now-former chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, is scheduled to make his first court appearance on Thursday. Libby will be arraigned on charges of obstruction of justice, perjury, and making false statements.

The vice president named Libby's replacements today. They are two inside staffers. David Addington, the vice president's legal counsel, will be his new chief of staff. And John Hannah will serve as the vice president's national security adviser. Libby had filled both positions.

But some Democrats are calling for the replacement of another major White House adviser. His name, Karl Rove, Senate minority leader Harry Reid saying that the president should keep his word and fire anybody involved with leaking the name of CIA agent Valerie Plame Wilson.

And just as ominous for the White House, public perception. A majority of Americans believe that Libby's indictment is part of the broader ethical problem in the Bush administration, that is according to a recent poll. And in another survey, 55 percent now view Mr. Bush's presidency as a failure.

And the line between legalities and ethics may not be one the Bush administration wants to rest on. Democrats have also been calling on the president to apologize for his administration's role in outing Valerie Plame, instead of expressing relief that so far only one official was indicted.

Let's call on David Gergen, editor at large for "U.S. News and World Report," and former adviser to four presidents.

Good evening, David. Always good to see you.


DANIELS: So let's start with what I just said. Do you think that anytime soon, David, we may see this president apologizing for his administration's role in outing Valerie Plame?

I'm laughing. I can't even get the sentence out. Do you think it's -

do you think we might see that soon?

GERGEN: I don't think so, Lisa. I, you know, it's going to be like Groundhog Day. You can keep on looking around, looking around, but you don't ever see it, you know, it's, it - No. I don't, I - as much as I think that he should take a page out of the Ronald Reagan playbook after Iran-Contra and come to the country for what Michael Deaver would call a national conversation, and to explain what's going on, to take the responsibility for it, and to open up his White House and bring in fresh blood, that's clearly not the course he has chosen to go.

He's, A, we've been hearing over the weekend, he's not going to bring in fresh blood. B, it's quite clear that he is not intending to apologize at all. And C, he moved very swiftly to throw down the gauntlet today with the choice of Mr. Alito for the Supreme Court.

DANIELS: OK, play with me for a second. What if Karl Rove does somehow get indicted on something? Do you think that once the architect, as he's fondly called, is indicted - if he's indicted, we're just playing the if-game right now - that President Bush might change his course of action?

GERGEN: Oh, I think in that case, he would shake up his team. He would have to, because Karl Rove is so central to everything. And, I mean, you know, some people say it would take three people to replace Karl Rove.

And, you know, we've seen here in the last few weeks, with some of the bumbles the White House made, including the Harriet Miers nomination, you know, when Karl Rove is distracted, this White House, you know, has a really hard time being as effective.

So I think he would have to bring in other people.

But let me just stress, Lisa, we, at this moment, know there's an investigation that's continuing. I don't think we know which way it's going to go. There was some journalist sentiment this weekend saying they thought he was in the clear now. I think we really don't know whether he's in the clear or not. It's going to be totally up to the prosecutor, Mr. Rove, and Mr. Rove's lawyers, and the grand jury.

DANIELS: Now, it is possible that Vice President Cheney could be a witness in Scooter Libby's trial. Even Cheney's new chief of staff, David Addington, was reportedly consulted by Libby about Joe Wilson and his wife. And so he even could be drawn into questions of what Libby knew and when he knew it.


DANIELS: In your opinion, David, is the vice president now a liability for President Bush?

GERGEN: I don't - I think that - no, I don't - I think that basically, you can't separate out the vice president and the president that way. I think they are, they go up and down together. And that is, they're both very popular on the right. The president has renewed his popularity today with the Alito nomination. And Dick Cheney's always been popular on the right. They're both unpopular on the left.

And there are a lot of people in between who, you know, who are - have gone more negative on the administration against both the president and the vice president.

So I think they're actually joined at the hip in many ways, because Dick Cheney has been the single most influential vice president in our history. And, you know, so I think that he is seen as sort of integrated with George W. Bush, not as a separate player.

DANIELS: You know, when you look at second-term crises in the White House, and you know there are so many of them, do you think the president can get...


DANIELS:... by without firing somebody or apologizing? None of it?

GERGEN: Well, listen, I would have preferred a different course. I would have preferred the Reagan course after Iran-Contra, as I say, you know, go to the country, take the - you know, take some blame, introspection. Don't get down in the bunker. Don't go into denial.

And they've decided to go a very different way. They're going to fight, and they're going to fight by revitalizing their conservative base and trying to get there that way. I think it's going to - they'll probably get some victories along the way. But we're going to have a lot of tribal warfare in Washington, which can get a lot worse if there's a filibuster on this Supreme Court nomination. We don't, do not yet know if the Democrats plan to go that far.

But that would bring really, it would bring tribal warfare for the rest of the Bush presidency.

DANIELS: Well, we're going to have to wait on that one. David Gergen, adviser to four presidents and editor at large of "U.S. News and World Report," David, thanks for your time tonight. Always good to see you.

GERGEN: Good to see you again.

DANIELS: All right, from the serious to the silly, two traditions collide, Halloween and the bowling alley. That can only mean Oddball is next.

And something residents in one town are hoping will not become a tradition, fake tombstones that some parents say are not fit for children to read. Just take a look at them. The owner basically says, Hey, get a life.

Be right back.


DANIELS: I'm Lisa Daniels, filling in for Keith Olbermann tonight.

And as usual, we pause our Countdown now for a special Halloween edition of our world-famous stupid-news segment.

Let's play Oddball.

All right, we're going to begin in St. Paul, Minnesota, with a traditional Halloween sporting event, bowling with pumpkins. It's the fifth annual Great Pumpkin Bowl for fun and charity. Dozens turned out for the opportunity, yes, to smash a bunch of pumpkins without having to steal them from their neighbor's porch. It's good clean fun for everyone, except, I guess, the guy who gets to clean the pumpkin goo out of the bowling-pin gears. Yuck.

To beautiful downtown Burbank, California, for the 12th annual Halloween Howl competition. It's a costume contest for pugs, and, yes, their owners. And it's clear the little guys just love to dress up. Sleep away, we're waiting to hear who won. But Dog Vader was certainly the crowd favorite, until, of course, he shook off the helmet and revealed his hideous real head.

Finally, to Kedge (ph), Washington, for the longest motorcycle jump ever. No, it has nothing to do with Halloween, but the guys on the staff thought it was really cool. Twenty-five-year-old Brian Case, who is known to his friends as B-1, obviously broke the record for the longest jump, launching himself the length of a football field - that 310 feet - and landing safely on the other side. Yes! He is B-1. But a cool guy.

President Bush was the one who said those infamous 16 words in the State of the Union. But how did the claim ever make it to the speech? An intriguing tale of spies, break-ins, and forgeries that is coming your way.

And Charles and Camilla will be visiting the president this week. Not exactly the best time for house guests, you could say, but when really is a good time after you're trying to follow Diana?

Those stories ahead.

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

Number three, Emily the Cat from Appleton, Wisconsin. Four weeks ago, she escaped from her house there and disappeared without a trace. The family searched the neighborhood and local animal shelters. But after a month, they did begin to lose hope, until this week, when Emily turned up safe and sound 4,000 miles away in France, near the German border. She'll be coming home in a week or two. Maybe - well, it's a really long story. And we'll explain another time.

Number two, there is good news and bad news for Miss Christina Goodenow of White City, Oregon. The good news is, she won a million bucks in the Oregon state lottery this week. The bad news is, the law says you can't collect that money if you bought the lottery ticket with a credit card you stole from your dead mother-in-law. You just can't do it. It's very specific about that. So instead, she'll be charged with numerous counts of thefts, forgery, and, of course, possession of meth.

Number one, Will Johnson of Savannah, Georgia, who's been arrested for disorderly conduct after some drunken behavior at a Halloween celebration last night. Police say he was running around in the street yelling at cars while dressed up in a blue leotard, orange wig, and face makeup to look like one of the characters from the 1980s cartoon show, "Thunder Cats." Thanks to our friends at the Web site, he will be directly into our Mug Shot Hall of Fame.

Congratulations, (INAUDIBLE). Way to go.


DANIELS: And welcome back to Countdown. I'm Lisa Daniels in tonight for Keith Olbermann. Our third story tonight, two different reports on faulty forged and falsified intelligence leading us into war. One from the ramp-up to the current war raging right now in Iraq, and one from the war that some compare the current conflict to: Vietnam.

A new chapter in that difficult page in American history coming into better focus today, how we got into the Vietnam War in the first place. It was believed that in August of 1964, U.S. warships were attacked twice in the Gulf of Tonkin. President Lyndon Johnson used evidence of the second attack to get a resolution through Congress to open up the door to war in Vietnam.

But historians have long since concluded that the second attack never actually happened. It was faulty intelligence. Is this sounding familiar? A bad translation that led to the notion we'd been attacked.

And now according to The New York Times, there's evidence the National Security Agency deliberately falsified information to cover up the original mistake. Quote: "The NSA historian, Robert J. Hanyok, found a pattern of translation mistakes that went uncorrected, altered intercept times, and selective citation of intelligence that persuaded him that midlevel agency officers had deliberately skewed the evidence."

And it appears the intelligence community might still be keeping those missteps of the past under wraps today. An unnamed intelligence official telling The Times that NSA historians pushed for Mr. Hanyok's work to be released to the public over three years ago.

But by 2003, that idea was nixed in part out of fears that it would draw comparisons to the intelligence that led to the war with Iraq. Now the NSA disputes that, saying instead that the report has been delayed until all relevant materials can be declassified.

So now to the current conflict and a new theory about the claim now simply known as those infamous 16 words in the president's State of the Union Address. A new explanation for how those forged Nigerien documents, which link Saddam Hussein and uranium, made it past the intelligence community to become the centerpiece for the build-up to war.

Now the answer might lie with this man, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. This according to an article in The American Conservative magazine. After the attacks of 9/11, Berlusconi was allegedly eager to make friends with the Bush administration. He put pressure on his own intelligence people to provide evidence that would help in the broader war on terror.

The Italians floated information linking Iraq, Nigeria (sic), and nuclear weapons. But when the British government, the CIA, and the State Department reviewed the Italian claims, they were rejected. After another go at circulating the information, Joe Wilson was sent to look into the claims and Berlusconi's people finally put the forged Nigerien documents into public circulation.

Italian investigators have already concluded that the documents were produced in Italy on the diplomatic front. The fake papers were funneled into the American intelligence community through the Office of Special Plans. That's an alternative intelligence-gathering agency under the jurisdiction of then-Undersecretary of Defense Doug Feith.

On the public front, the documents were given to an Italian TV program owned by Berlusconi. That was in September of 2002. A month later, the fake documents were at the U.S. embassy and from there, they made it to the vice president's office and the National Security Council, circumventing the safeguards built into the intelligence community. And eventually made its way to the president's State of the Union Address that we all know took place in January of 2003.

So I am joined now by the author of that article, The American Conservative, former CIA officer Philip Giraldi.

Many thanks for joining us tonight. We appreciate it. Your article is so detailed, I'm going to start off with a hard one. Can you sort of give us an abridged version of how the forged documents made it all the way into the president's speech without anybody throwing them out? Just boil it down for us.

PHILIP GIRALDI, FORMER CIA OFFICER: Well, basically, what happened was that the normal procedures whereby intelligence that comes into the United States government is checked over before it goes to the policymakers, this procedure was called vetting, was circumvented. And it was essentially circumvented as you described it by the Office of Special Plans in the Pentagon, which had been set up basically to circumvent that it felt was not answering the needs of the policymakers.

So it was kind of a circular process whereby the fabricated information was introduced into the system from the bottom, up to the top, without being checked out along the way.

DANIELS: Now, you make a very important allegation, a big allegation in your article that the Niger documents might have been forged in collusion with the Pentagon's Office of Special Plans which you in your article say would explain why the administration went after Ambassador Joe Wilson. What evidence do you have supporting that?

GIRALDI: Well, there's not a whole lot of solid evidence. But the fact is that if you consider people at the top level of the administration going after somebody who ostensibly was just a critic, it doesn't really make sense unless there was a much bigger agenda that was being hidden. And that's what I'm suggesting.

And it is also true that the Italian who actually passed the documents that wound up in Washington, a guy named Rocco Martino, he later said to The Financial Times in London that he was engaged in what was a much bigger scheme that was a disinformation operation being carried out by the Italian government and also the American government.

DANIELS: But maybe it isn't bigger. Perhaps your critics would say, it is actually simple. I mean, are you sure that this isn't just one huge conspiracy theory that your article is sort of perpetuating?

GIRALDI: I don't think so. There's certainly considerable evidence that this was going on, that the intelligence was circumventing the system to create a case for war against Iraq which otherwise might not have been made.

And also, the whole question comes down to, was this bad intelligence?

I think everybody would agree that there was a lot of bad intelligence. Was it done through stupidity or through maliciousness? And this is really the question. Were people conscious that they were providing false and misleading intelligence or was it just a process that was something that was handled very clumsily?

DANIELS: Let me ask you this, Philip, do you think it is possible, feasible that the administration actually believed on some level that the documents were real?

GIRALDI: No. I don't think so. Because these documents went through several steps before they wound up at the administration and analysts at both CIA and NASA and the State Department pronounced them to be dubious.

The thing to bear in mind here is that unless accountability is established in this case, this kind of thing could happen again.

DANIELS: You know, we all remember when the former CIA Director George Tenet accepted responsibility for the uranium reference getting into the president's State of the Union Address. But from your research from your article, it almost appears that the CIA had very little to do with getting that faulty intelligence into the country, let alone into the speech.

GIRALDI: They were in fact completely out of the loop. That's a correct assessment, yes.

DANIELS: And why do you say that?

GIRALDI: Well, because the documents were not seen by people at CIA until very late in the process, after they were already in the hands of the policymakers at the National Security Council and in the vice president's office.

DANIELS: OK. So it's been nearly three years since it took for this truth, if it is the truth, to come out about the Niger documents. Why did it take so long?

GIRALDI: Well, I think there's a considerable reluctance on the part of both the media and the politicians to deal with issues that come out of Iraq. Essentially, the media did not fulfill its own responsibilities to be skeptical in the beginning. And the Democratic Party got on board of the Iraq war very quickly for its own reasons.

And as a result, I think that people in all areas are embarrassed now and are unwilling to confront the quite bad reality of what is Iraq.

DANIELS: Philip Giraldi, a contributing editor with The American Conservative magazine, also a former CIA agent. Thanks for your time. I'm curious to see what the reaction will be to the article.

GIRALDI: Thank you very much.

DANIELS: Coming to America. Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall get ready to jump across the pond. Can Camilla even begin to live up to the Diana hysteria?

And "you're fired," the Donald-Martha face-off, which business giant saw (INAUDIBLE) firing the other? Those stories ahead.

But first here are Countdown's top three sound bites of the day.


CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST, "Hardball": Welcome back to "Hardball." Howard Dean is chairman of the Democratic National Committee.

Thank you, sir, for coming in.

HOWARD DEAN, CHAIRMAN, DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL COMMITTEE: I'll tell what you the number one issue. The number one issues for me that I worry a lot about is first of all we have a very.

I think with the lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court, you can't play hide the salami or whatever it is called. So you've got to go out there.

So we do not think that Judge Alito is a great nominee.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Favre. And now - whoa! What happened here?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's the Burger King guy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What is going on? There's a fan on the field. He took the snap. This is incredible!


I wasn't scared of him, believe me.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For the kids, Halloween is the best. The candy, the pumpkins, the chance to, boo! And it's not bad either for those who say.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Holy cow! In a field of cow pies, pumpkin pie is a Halloween hallelujah for the cattle.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's cool! That's the coolest thing I've seen!

I've never seen a cow eating pumpkins!


DANIELS: Well, tomorrow is going to be a big day. You could even call it historic. Charles and Camilla are coming. Yes, I'll pause while you mark your calendars. Our number two story on the Countdown tonight, the official visit of the future king and queen of England.

It has been two decades since Prince Charles was last here with Princess Diana. Her memory still very vivid in the minds of many. But as our correspondent Michelle Kosinski reports, first the tiara, now the colonies. It is all part of the reinvention of Camilla.


MICHELLE KOSINSKI, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Camilla, now duchess of Cornwall, is ready to test the waters on this side of the Atlantic. Prince Charles' second wife may not radiate Diana's superstar quality which kept America riveted, but observers say Americans are fascinated by the Charles and Camilla love story, three decades in the running.

J.D. HEYMAN, SENIOR EDITOR, PEOPLE MAGAZINE: People are interested in Camilla because she was the wicked witch in the fairy tale in terms of the way she was betrayed. But she's an interesting woman. She never sought fame herself. She's been very loyal to Charles. And anyone who has ever met her said she is a woman of good humor. She's very gracious. She's unpretentious.

KOSINSKI: Cameras will no doubt follow Charles and Camilla across this country. But on "60 MINUTES" Sunday, Charles refused to discuss the relationship, saying he actually prefers to be out of the spotlight.

CHARLES, PRINCE OF WALES: These official visits are quite difficult. They're difficult to escape and go to places. It would be nice to do it privately. But I'll have to wait for another occasion.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But do you ever get to do anything privately?

CHARLES: Yes. But it is not so easy.

KOSINSKI: Their first stop, New York City, including the World Trade Center site and the United Nations. In Washington, D.C., lunch and dinner at the White House, followed by a weekend in San Francisco.

(on camera): Camilla, whom Princess Diana called "the rottweiler," has been much maligned in both the British and American press. But the tide may be turning. Just last week she appeared in some official sparkle, a tiara borrowed from the queen. And the Brits ate it up.

(voice-over): The tough British press is even starting to call her "chic." The palace hopes she will win over hearts in America.


in the media in this country, in the United Kingdom, that it is Diana territory. And she is probably going to go a long way to woo the Americans. But she is a mature woman. She is capable of doing that.

KOSINSKI: A new era for the House of Windsor. Camilla out of the shadows. And you can bet America will be watching when she does, says, and of course, what she wears.

Michelle Kosinski, NBC News, New York.


DANIELS: An easy segue then to our nightly round-up to celebrity and entertainment news, we're "Keeping Tabs," starting with the prince and princess of "you're fired," Donald Trump and Martha Stewart.

Well, it turns out Stewart thought her version of "The Apprentice" would replace Trump's edition. At least that was the original idea, she tells Fortune magazine. Now there was even talk of "The Donald appearing on her first show so she could say directly to his face, "you're fired." But that plan did not quite work out.

The big orange head decided to do a fourth edition of his "Apprentice," and his ratings have been better than Stewart's. One possible reason for that? "The Donald" is not afraid to fire people. In fact, he canned four "Apprentice" candidates in one breath in last weeks' Boardroom. But Martha goes for the much more mild "goodbye now." She is obvious lay pastel lover all way.

And on a much more somber note - a much more important note. Rosa Parks was mourned today. She was the first woman ever to lie in honor in the Rotunda of the U.S. Capitol. She is known as the essential catalyst to the civil rights movement and she has been praised for her courage and for her lifelong commitment to the cause. But in tribute today, it became ever more apparent what can be moved by one soul? What can be changed with one voice when the world is ready to hear it.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It has made such a difference for those of us who followed over the last 50 years.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She means a lot to me because without her, we probably would be still sitting in the back of the bus.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She was a lady who had courage and she had humility and she made a difference in the world.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So we are here not because Rosa Parks died, but because she lived.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I remember my father telling me about this colored woman who had refused to give up her seat. And in my child's mind, I thought, she must be really big.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For her, breaking Alabama law was obeying the Constitution. It was defending justice. She was tired, all right. She was tired of mistreatment.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you, Rosa. Thank you for not moving. And in so doing, moved all of us. Thank you!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The light that shone in the Capitol last night cast its beams all across this country and all across the world.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In our group we had a speaker once who spoke to our group. And what he said, I can witness. He said that a woman sat down and the world turned around.


DANIELS: Well, it's been an observance held for over 2000 years marking the end of summer, celebrating the harvest and acknowledging the souls of those who have passed on before us. Then, of course, there's the fun-sized snickers bars. Don't forget about them. I've been eating a lot of them. Our number one story on the Countdown tonight, Halloween officially marked tonight in the streets of suburbia by little boys and girls in costumes going door-to-door shamelessly, taking part in what amounts to a massive candy grab.

But this being a Monday means the actual partying began over the weekend, the yearly celebration in Madison, Wisconsin, saw more than 2,000 attendees and the riots: 447 people arrested Friday and Saturday nights combined, mostly college kids. That's down from last year's 455. Officials reporting that most of the arrests were alcohol-related.

Shocking, no doubt, to you. But it seems the city's mayor has had enough. The weekend's incidents caused him to question whether or not the celebration will be held next year.

Then there are there are the tombstones in Centerville, Minnesota. People there are so offended that several had to be removed. However, will I.P. Freely's family, say that fast, know where to find him? The grave markers actually serving as the Halloween decorations for Heather Pranke's front lawn, they include names like Ben Dover and Eileen Dover. Say it fast. And, well, a host of other names that you can see and say aloud to yourself when you have some private time. Many of Ms. Pranke's neighbors did and they complained to the city as a result. She replaced some of the signs but neighbors still aren't very happy, saying that none of the declarations are appropriate for young kids. Heather Frankie joins me now from her home in Centerville.

And, Ms. Pranke, thanks again for your time tonight. We appreciate it.


DANIELS: Talk to me, what's going on? Tell me about this dispute.

PRANKE: Well, basically there are just some people that are offended by our signs. We think they're funny. We were not here to hurt anyone's feelings or offend anybody. They're just supposed to be funny and, you know, sometimes people take life a little bit too seriously. You need to stop and laugh about it.

DANIELS: Do you feel like people there just don't have a sense of humor?

PRANKE: No, actually, we've had a lot of people that have supported us quite a bit. In fact, there's only a handful of people that are not supporting us, but most of the people are in favor, telling us to keep them up, don't take them down and we'll see you again next year.

DANIELS: I mean, you're not even smiling during this segment. I mean, it's a little funny. This is not a serious - we're not talking about Karl Rove here.


DANIELS: How did you come up with the signs' names?

PRANKE: Well, I had some of my girlfriends come over. And we spent the night making signs. And a lot of them came from "The Simpsons" or other nationally-known television shows.

DANIELS: So the people who are complaining to you, who are they, what are they saying?

PRANKE: Well, they're basically just neighbors. I don't know any of them. There's one that lives two houses down from me but they're basically just saying that they're inappropriate and my feeling is that if you think they're inappropriate for your 8-year-old, maybe you shouldn't tell them what they mean. Because to an 8-year-old all they are are names.

DANIELS: But what if the 8year-old.


PRANKE: . as a name.

DANIELS: What if the 8-year-old is like trying to pronounce it. You know how the little kids do that and they start to say it?

PRANKE: Yes, well, I guess - I don't know, I haven't heard an 8-year-old trying to say it. So it might be kind funny.

DANIELS: Well, you have kids yourself. What do they think about all of this?

PRANKE: Well, my 9-year-old, who would probably say the most, because I have a 4-year-old son too, but she's a little irritated, but for the most part, she thinks it's pretty funny.

DANIELS: OK. But what about when some parents say this isn't funny. I mean, this is bordering on offensive. Have you faced them, you know, face to face and told them what your reaction is?

PRANKE: I have not talked to any of my neighbors or the people that are upset face-to-face. I did talk to the lady who called and complained. And she called me on Monday night and basically told me what she thought.

But other than be that, I - you know, it's really just - it's to be fun. I'm a little upset that some people are kind of taking the spirit out of my holiday. My birthday is in October, so I have fun with it. And I don't think there's anything wrong with what we're doing.

DANIELS: All right, well, happy birthday. Happy Halloween. I'm sure some people on this show think it's very funny. Heather Pranke.

PRANKE: Well, we've had a lot of support. Thank you.

DANIELS: All right. Of Centerville, Minnesota, Heather, thanks so much. I will say that's one creative yard.

PRANKE: Thank you.

DANIELS: That's going to do it for this Monday edition of Countdown.

I'm Lisa Daniels in for Keith Olbermann. Thanks so much for watching.

I've been waiting for this, so let me do it. There I go.

Our MSNBC coverage continues now with RITA COSBY LIVE & DIRECT.


Thursday, October 27, 2005

'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Oct. 27th

Guests: Dana Milbank, Jonathan Turley, John Dean, Clint Van Zandt

KEITH OLBERMANN, MSNBC ANCHOR: Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow? De-constructing Harriet. The Supreme Court nominee withdraws. The official explanation, she will not reveal her counsel as White House counsel.

And down the CIA leak stretch we come. This much for sure, nothing during the day. This much also for sure, this grand jury cannot be extended. This much merely source reported, a perjury charge expected against Karl Rove. John Dean joins us for some last-minute analysis.

And why the World Series outcome was a bad sign for the administration.

As Florida continue to seem like New Orleans jr., a bad time for unconscionable oil company profit reports for the third quarter, a worse time for a new energy bill including $12 billion in tax breaks for oil companies.

And how come there are chocolate sprinkles all over my apple fritter? Those are not chocolate sprinkles. Sentencing for a crime so disgusting I may not even be able to tell what you it is.

All that and more now on Countdown.

Good evening. This is Thursday, October 27, 2005, and it is, believe it or not, cranky co-worker day. A time to celebrate, even to emulate, the office sour pus. Our fifth story on the Countdown at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington, D.C., there was a choice of nominees. For resident, cranky co-worker, because there's again a choice of nominees for the Supreme Court. Harriet Miers has with drawn her name from consideration. And if the official line is to be believed, the president was surprise and his staff, bracing for the impact of the end of the CIA leak investigation, felt rather like the poor guy tied to the railroad tracks who suddenly gets hit by a low-flying plane.

The first nominee in 18 years to withdraw. Miss Miers will remain White House counsel. Will even consult on the search for a new nominee. The straw here, officially anyway from the ex-nominee and from the president, Senate demands for records of her work as White House counsel. Miers herself writing to the president, "I am concerned that the confirmation process presents a burden for the White House and our staff that is not in the best interest of the country." Later clarifying that, "protection of the prerogatives of the Executive Branch and continued pursuit of my confirmation are in tension. I have decided that seeking my confirmation should yield."

Her staunchest supporter, the president, chose not to comment on camera. Instead he release a statement that he understood and shared her concern because "it is clear that senators would not be satisfied until they gained access to internal documents concerning advice provided during her tenure at the White House. Disclosures that would undermine a president's ability to receive candid counsel. Harriet Miers decision," he went on, "demonstrates her deep respect for this essential aspect of the constitutional separation of powers - and confirms my deep respect and admiration for her."

Still unclear how much Miers was encouraged to withdraw, considering that White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card was allegedly told the lay of the land in a phone call last night from the Senate majority leader, though Senator Frist today insisted it was her choice and hers alone.


SEN. BILL FRIST (R-TN), MAJORITY LEADER: She came to this decision on her own, based on what she has experienced and witnessed and with the request that are currently being made, and as she projected forward as to the hearings. Again, in the best interests of the country.


OLBERMANN: The blind trust told him so.

And in a strange role reversal, it was the lead Democrat in the Senate, the man who actually had recommended Harriet Miers as a justice nominee, who had the harshest words for her critics.


SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MINORITY LEADER: I believe, without any question, when the history books are written about all this, that it will show that the radical right wing of the Republican Party drove this woman' nomination right out of town.


OLBERMANN: Let's call in "Washington Post" National Political Reporter Dana Milbank.

Good evening to you, sir.


OLBERMANN: Based on the fact that he seem to project the blame in two opposite political directions, this has got to be one unhappy president.

MILBANK: Yes. I mean, it's sort of the last thing he needed right now. But let's think of it this way. In the short term, he really takes a hit. It is embarrassing.

On the other hand, think about this. He now gets a do-over here. He can win back the allegiance of the conservatives, which has really been his base for governing. So he can cement that relationship again which will help him over the next three years. And now he has a new nominee he can put out if you need to change the subject in the next few day. I don't know why he might need to do that. But there is that possibility.

OLBERMANN: We've heard the official explanation, before we move on to the subject of the next candidate, the client confidentiality for a White House counsel. We've also heard from many places that Bill Frist called Andy Card and after, perhaps, the decision had been made to withdraw the nomination, and told Andy Card, in essence, she's not going to be approved. Senator believe she is not familiar with constitutional issues. What is the real time line of event here? Who caused this? Did she jump or was she pushed?

MILBANK: Well, the technical term for this executive privilege argument is malarkey. She this is, of course, a nice thing to say. A good way to extricate yourself from this. But the fact of the matter is, she was up against a wall here. You had the ideological objections from the conservatives, but you had sort of the capability objections from just about everybody. I mean the chairman of the Judiciary Committee is saying she needs a crash course in constitutional law. So facing the prospect of this sort of embarrassing live televised bar exam, they decided to skip the hearings and do it this way.

OLBERMANN: But there is still some embarrassment, as you pointed out, a short term hit to be endured now. The reaction even from the Senate Republicans. You were good enough to give us a little advanced peek at your piece for tomorrow. Is this true about Trent Lott?

MILBANK: Dear, if it weren't so early in the morning, I would have wondered what he had had to drink. But he came out of the Senate and we asked him if there were good feelings in the Republican caucus and he started to sing "happy days are here again." Other senators were not quite so giddy but clearly there was relief, particularly among the conservatives. They weren't hiding the disdain for the nomination in the first place. Most of the angst, as you reported, was coming from the Democrats.

OLBERMANN: All right. As you suggested here, the president can now try to cement the relationship with the right with this with the next nominee. Presuming it is not Patrick Fitzgerald, which might solve two problem in once, where does he go? Can he afford another fight with anybody right now?

MILBANK: I'll tell you, the next question for Trent Lott was, how about Al Gonzales? And he just laughed. He thought that would be very funny to try that one again. So all the thinking is, he has to go with a conservative. However, that doesn't mean he has to go now back to the white male model of John Roberts. There are plenty of women. There are plenty of Hispanic judges who fit this conservative label. You can expect and bet a good amount of money on the president going back to his base.

OLBERMANN: If it's not conservative enough for that base, is that base now feel like they have instructed the president and can instruct him again on who would do we see a second nominee also fail?

MILBANK: Well, as the president once said, fool me once, shame on you remember. He won't get fooled again, as he said.

OLBERMANN: Sounds like a song title. Dana Milbank of the "Washington Post" with a series of different musical note here tonight. Great. Thanks, as always, sir.

MILBANK: Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN: For the actual implications on the court, I'd like to turn to the constitutional expert at George Washington University Law Professor Jonathan Turley.

Jon, good evening.


OLBERMANN: This idea that she was not conversant with constitutional issues. The message from Senator Lott to the White House last night. Was that a nice way of saying that this woman was simply this lawyer was simply in over her head?

TURLEY: Well, you know, the unfortunate thing is that she was portrayed in all of this as a virtual village idiot. And that's not the case. I was one of the first to oppose this nomination. But most of us did so not because she's not qualified as a lawyer, not that see is not smart, it's just that she lacked the type of credentials that would justify a nomination to the court.

In that sense, the president did her no favor in putting her through this gauntlet of pain. From the very moment she was nominated, most of us just were breathless and said, this is a terrible nomination. And the result is not just damage to the administration, but I think she's been put through a terrible disservice through all this.

OLBERMANN: So what do you expect then is coming down the pike in the way of nominee number two? Not merely in term of political orientation, but in term of judicial experience?

TURLEY: Well, I expect there's a lot of people who want to be the head of the actual team looking for a nominee because that tends to be a key to be the nominee. So everyone's rushing to be in front of the president when he makes the decision. Because if this trend continues, Jenna Bush is going to be nominated. So we're hoping that he's going to be a little more broad, a little less myopic. And I think in that sense, Attorney General Gonzales, who would be a natural choice, is probably not going to be the choice. If he picks another insider, it does not look great.

Now the first decision he has to make is, is he going to look at the whole list or is he just going to look at women and minorities. And, frankly, that's a very significant question. If he looks at all candidates on the merit, then certain people stand out. People like Michael McConnell in the tenth circuit, who has impeccable credentials, was put on the court of appeals with the unanimous vote and would get through a nomination. He is a very good and qualified nominee.

If he wants to start a fight and take a page from Karl Rove who, you know, has shown that controversy is not a bad thing when you're trying to avoid other controversies. And if he does that, then he could pick sort of the defcon four candidates. You know, the Edith Jones.

I mean if he picks Edith Jones, I think we would have a virtual immediate filibuster threat and he might lose. I mean that's the problem. If he starts a fight, he's not guaranteed to win it with someone like Edith Jones.

OLBERMANN: As fast as the process moves, whether it's a fight or not, will Justice O'Connor be hearing any vital cases that she would not have been theoretically had there not been this misstep? Is it could there be some impact on law in here?

TURLEY: It could be. I mean, the great irony here is that Sandra Day O'Connor's continuing to vote. And there's important cases, including abortion cases, coming her way. So this is a bloody nightmare for conservatives. You know the idea that all this infighting has kept Sandra Day O'Connor coming closer and closer to vote on abortion cases and other cases like that.

Now the key here is that if she leaves the bench before the opinions are actually released, her vote is negated. And so if it was a 5-4 decision, then they would have to reargue the case.

OLBERMANN: Extraordinary. Jonathan Turley, constitutional expert, professor of law at George Washington University. As always, sir, a pleasure to talk to you. Thanks for your time.

TURLEY: Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN: Also tonight, the other question in D.C., who outed the CIA Agent Valerie Plame? Will there be charges? Will they be tomorrow? The final hours, apparently, of the Fitzgerald probe. We'll talk with John Dean.

And as Wilma triggers long lines in Florida, mostly for gas, the summer of the hurricanes sparks outrage for consumers nationwide. Sky high gas prices meaning record profits for oil companies. You're watching Countdown on MSNBC.


OLBERMANN: They are standing in line in water up to their knees but they are standing in line. FEMA did not let their cities drown while reconfirming it's director's dinner reservations. But it certainly is not as popular there this year as it was last. Our fourth story in the Countdown. Florida and gas lines and gas profits and tax breaks for gas companies.

The president making his first visit to the damaged areas this afternoon, promising increased federal response to match that of state efforts. Yesterday his brother, Florida Governor Jeb Bush, blames himself for the delays there, asking residents to absolve FEMA. And remember that every Floridian had had plenty of time to prepare for Hurricane Wilma.

Accountability aside, it's pretty hard to stock up on something like say gasoline or electricity. Two million home and businesses still without power, including gas stations. Pumps inoperable without it. Those few facilities with power are quickly running out of gas, causing interminable line and equal amounts of anger.

Thus, this is not the most propitious of times for the administration, for the industry, for Floridian, for drivers nationwide, for the news to arrive of record profits for oil companies. Nor would it seem that it was a good time for the House to have approve an energy bill that allows more oil drilling in Alaskan wildlife refuges. It shields manufacturers of additives from lawsuits and it provides $12 billion in tax breaks and subsidies for oil company. In July, August and September of this year, several of them had profits approaching half that figure, $3 a gallon at a time. Exxon Mobil's were $9.9 billion. More than Boeing, Microsoft and Wal-Mart combined. Bad timing for that kind of publicity, as if shame has ever had anything to do with it. Here's our Chief Financial Correspondent Anne Thompson.


ANNE THOMPSON, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT, (voice over): While American consumers have suffered through months of record high gas prices, the oil companies have hit a gusher. This week, BP reported third quarter profits of $6.4 billion, up 34 percent. ConocoPhillips raked in $3.8 billion, an 89 percent increase. Big oil cashing in on worldwide demand and the disruptions of monster hurricanes.

Why? Because their profit margins went up faster than their costs.

CHRIS EDMONDS, PRITCHARD CAPITOL PARTNERS: We've gone from $40 oil to $60 plus oil in the last year. And so profits, obviously, were anticipated to be much higher. The real question here is, how long can that last? And if it lasts, what are these oil company going to do with those profits?

THOMPSON: It is the political hot potato. So much so, even Republican leaders this week, hearing voter backlash, urged oil company to use their profits to build new refineries to prevent future price spikes.

DENNIS HASTERT, SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: We expect oil companies to do their part to help ease the pain that the American families are feeling from the high energy prices.

THOMPSON: Though the House passed a bill to encourage construction of new refineries, the plants that turn oil into gasoline and heating fuel have a huge public relations problem.

GARY ROSS, CEO, PRA ENERGY GROUP: Nobody wants a refinery in their backyard. I mean that's why most of the refinery capacity is located down in the Gulf Coast. That's been a more accommodating market for them.

THOMPSON: But some, like consumer advocate Jamie Court, charged the oil companies deliberately keep the supply of gasoline low.

JAMIE COURT, CONSUMER ADVOCATE: An industry, like the oil industry, knows that if it just has bare minimum to meet demand, that any shock to the system will drive their prices and their profits up.

THOMPSON: Anne Thompson, NBC New, New York.


OLBERMANN: From outrage to mystery. Is this a fish bone? Or a holy relic? We'll consult the highest investigative authority: The Oddball I-team.

And we're all supposed to love thy neighbor but that does not mean you have to love thy neighbor's tree house. A construction drama over a little girl's playhouse when Countdown continues.


OLBERMANN: We're back and, once again, we pause our Countdown of the day's important political stories to fulfill our commitment to cover all the news, especially those stories relating to animals, vegetables and some minerals. Let's play Oddball.

A tree is not a mineral but look closer there, buddy, and you will see the face of Jesus. The rock in the bark of this Silver Maple. It might be Ron Silver. I can't really tell. But the tree is drawing quite a crowd outside the Hickey Freeman (ph) clothing factory in Rochester, New York. Although they could all be showing up for the affordable men's wear.

But when it come to seeing Jesus in inanimate objects, nothing tops the fish bone Jesus being sold on eBay. It is a crucifish. A couple in Luther, Oklahoma, says it's been holding on to this gem for years. It's brought them great luck. But now they say it's somebody else's turn. Well then, folks, give it away!

Back to Washington, D.C. where a runaway deer, perhaps hoping to avoid indictment in the CIA leak scandal, has been caught on tape in an upscale clothing store. The four-point buck first entered the down diesel store, got agitated by the racks of overpriced, retro trendy junk and rushed next door to the Ralph Lauren where he got himself locked in a changing room. It is here uncle buck had a fight with the other deer in the full length mirror until police came along and shot him with a tranquilizer. The deer came back later for two pairs of chinos.

Finally, to Sacramento, California. Hello. Home of Gibson, the world's smallest dog. Can that be right? Oh, no, no, it is the other one, the tallest dog. It's official, the Guinness Book folks flew out to measure. He's seven feet tall when standing upright, which means he could lick Shaquille O'Neal's face if he wanted to. Jealous, huh? You know you are.

Jealous of Patrick Fitzgerald because he knows what, if anything, is ahead in the CIA leak investigation? We'll have the latest. And John Dean will join us.

And how could the White Sox sweep in the World Series tip us off as to the outcome of the Plame probe? Those stories ahead.

But first, here's Countdown's top three newsmakers of the day. Number one, Phillip Morris Company. "The Wall Street Journal" reports that after years of having their scientists try to streamline the delivery of nicotine to the lungs, they're now working on an improved handheld inhaler to help combat illnesses, including smoking related lung diseases. As Churchill said, to beat Hitler, I'll fight alongside the devil.

Number two, Pete Tidd of Lions, Illinois. Better known as one of those Elvis impersonator. He had sued a town of Sisero (ph), saying his impersonation career was hindered after he stepped on a partially opened manhole cover on one of its streets and in so doing flipped said manhole cover onto his own knee. Now he can't do Elvis' karate kicks and splits anymore. Today, the jury gave him $600,000. Thank you. Thank you very much. (INAUDIBLE), everybody. (INAUDIBLE).

Number one. Our friends at the world's greatest Web site,, commemorating the White Sox World Series triumph as only it could with the headline, "Chicago beats Houston four times in one week. Record still held by Bobby Brown."


OLBERMANN: It is the eve of something. Whatever, it's clearly time. One reporter covering the CIA leak beat today called the vice president's chief of staff, Lewis Libby Scooter. Another was even more direct. She called him Libby Scooter. Our third story on the Countdown, the facts and you can count them on the fingers of both hands, a, the grand jury's term expires tomorrow and having been once extended already it cannot be so again, b, that the prosecutor can go to a second grand jury if he so desires, and, c, John Dean will join us in a minute.

And even as Mr. Patrick Fitzgerald is wrapping up his case, Karl Rove said to be engaging in a furious effort to convince investigators he did not commit perjury, according to reporters at the "Washington Post." Rove and his legal team arguing that any omissions in his testimony merely the forgetfulness of a very busy man.

Several news organizations having reported today what can be inferred from that, that Fitzgerald is still actively considering perjury charges against Rove. No such reports of last-minute legal maneuvering by the other White House aide at the center of the scandal, Lewis "Scooter" Libby. That is correct order. Even Mr. Libby's legal status up is in the air tonight.

There is, of course, history to turn to, as well as a surfeit of clues to scrutinize. Luckily for us, Richard Nixon's White House counsel, author and columnist John Dean is uniquely qualified to address both the history and the clues.

Good evening, John.


OLBERMANN: You started analyzing the Plame leak essentially as it was happening two years ago. Give us the final score here, the informed analysis on the eve of whatever this is. What, if anything, has Fitzgerald come up with?

DEAN: Well, what we do know is how little we know. That's the clear thing.

He's really performed as a prosecutor should, with zipped lips. Everything we know is largely what I would call triangulated hearsay. In other words, we know what witnesses have been asked by the grand jury or by the investigators through their lawyers who, indeed - then you can piece back together they're looking at things like perjury, obstruction of justice, as well as the underlying identities protection statute.

But we really don't have a very good fix on exactly where he's going.

OLBERMANN: There has been a lot of speculation that perhaps this investigation has widened. The length of time suggesting that it's not just the Plame leak anymore, but also perhaps the entirety of the selling of the Iraq war and the back-filling afterwards.

You wrote in your FindLaw column last week that this issue, national security, is a very gray area. "Was the Bush-Cheney White House operating in the best interests of the country or did they have a private agenda, oil fields in Iraq? Did Cheney, Karl Rove, and Scooter Libby believe they had national security reasons to discredit Wilson's claims and act accordingly? This is an area where there is no law."

Could Mr. Fitzgerald be going further than the Plame leak into that area without law? Would it be opening Pandora's box in some way?

DEAN: Well, his mandate is really to look at the identities protection act and see if there was a violation there. He also can look at things around that investigation.

He doesn't have a mandate, per se, to investigate whether we went to war properly or improperly or if there are misrepresentations to Congress, but yet he could stumble into those things.

When I raised the problem of national security, if these men, say, deliberately went out to try to deal with Joe Wilson, and were dealing in a context where they thought they were defending and protecting national security, that's probably a legitimate defense in this area.

As a say, it is a gray area of law. There is no black letter law in this area. And it could indeed influence, first, whether the prosecutor even brings a charge and then, indeed, how they would defend a charge if they were charged.

OLBERMANN: I mentioned that we could count on you not just for analysis here but also history. One of the other theories about this process, in fact, coming down to virtually the final hour is that it should not have taken Patrick Fitzgerald nearly two years to find out who leaked and who lied about leaking, that he must be, perhaps, negotiating an immunity deal with somebody in exchange for information.

You have some familiarity with that process. Do you think it's plausible in this instance? Is somebody on either side of the ball trying to make a deal?

DEAN: Keith, I first thought that was possible when John Ashcroft recused himself very early in the case, before Fitzgerald was appointed even, that somebody had broken, at least maybe Robert Novak had come forth. And they knew a lot more than they thought they knew, and that's when they started putting some pressure on.

We've gotten, again, hearsay press reports that a couple people may, in the vice president's office, have turned and begun friendly witnesses for him. So there is a real possibility that this is why it has extended the distance it has.

We also know, from what he said in court when he sought the contempt citations against Cooper from "Time" magazine and Miller from the "New York Times" that, indeed, he was ready to wrap up his case right then.

So it's loose ends at this point, now that he has Judith Miller, and he has her testimony, and he did get Cooper's testimony. So I think it's pretty much tidying up things, and seeing where he is, and making those very final decisions at this point.

OLBERMANN: We know - at least, we think we know of meetings among Mr. Fitzgerald and Rove's lawyer, and some contact with the representatives of Mr. Libby and Mr. Fitzgerald.

How daunting personally is it to be in the White House and be faced with the trial, even if you're not the one who's going to be on trial? How strong is the urge to look at that prospect of trying to maintain a job at that kind of public level, and just say, "No, I'm going to throw up my hands and say I don't like this game anymore"?

DEAN: Well, it's very difficult to be under investigation. And it was difficult during Watergate. It was difficult when I talked to the people who were involved in Iran-Contra. It was difficult for the Clinton White House, when they were not sure where it would turn next and who would be called next, when staff is having to hire lawyers.

No one ever briefs anybody in these situations, so everybody is living off of the grapevine. And it's very confusing. It's unsettling. It's difficult to plan.

So these are tough times. Thinking historically, though, another thing that - I was thinking way back to your intro, and that's the fact of Rove's potential "I don't recall" defense. And I was thinking about how Haldeman tried that defense and lost it and got persecuted - prosecuted - maybe he felt persecuted - for perjury.


OLBERMANN: Yes, a fitting reference there. This was, in fact - this was, in fact, H.R. Haldeman's birthday today, just to mention that in passing.

DEAN: Is that right?

OLBERMANN: Last point - yes. Jim VandeHei of the "Washington Post," who's been covering this, and I were on this show last night discussing this. And I feel like we kind of tripped over something that we both knew but even we were not focusing on and a lot of people are not. It might be a gold nugget here, in terms of this story.

The assumption has been that, even with indictments - tomorrow is a finish line of some sort for the White House. I heard the phrase, "They're waiting to exhale at the White House," used.

But if there's one indictment of one person in the White House, even if it's the copier repair man, there's a trial. There's testimony. You've got Scooter Libby the witness, Karl Rove the witness, who knows who else the witness.

What does that prospect do to an administration's ability to simply function?

DEAN: Well, that opens up - that's really a potential Pandora's box, just the one indictment alone and that kind of testimony. Because, at some point, the Congress is going to have to take some institutional responsibility and realize, "Maybe there is something amiss down at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue."

Now, that will certainly happen if there's a change in '06 between who controls the Congress now and then. But that's really the threat at this point that will open up a broader investigation.

OLBERMANN: Well, we'll see, or perhaps we'll begin to see, tomorrow, we hope. John Dean, White House counsel to Richard Nixon, author of "Worse than Watergate." As always, sir, my great pleasure to speak with you.

DEAN: Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN: By the way, the president's schedule tomorrow includes remarks about the war on terror.

And one final note on all this, as if the current White House were not having enough fun, there are the bad augurs to worry about, the bad augurs from the baseball World Series. It ended last night. The Chicago White Sox beating the Houston Astros 1-0 to sweep the National League champions in four straight games.

Now, somebody predicted that here. I just - I don't remember who that was that said it was going to be a sweep.

The White Sox, of course, had baseball's second-longest winless streak in the World Series. They had not won since 1917. Now they have shortest streak.

This is where the CIA leak investigation begins to come into it. The White Sox not only eliminated themselves from that list of the top five longest droughts, but they also squeezed a very interesting new team on to that list: The Houston Astros.

After the Cubs, Indians, Giants, Rangers - Rangers being the team the president used to own - now the Astros fifth, the Astros. If you watched any part of the last two games of the World Series, you saw them seated just to the right from the camera's perspective of home plate, former President Bush and former First Lady Barbara Bush.

As the Astros slowly suffocated from lack of offense, there the Bushes were on TV for nine or more innings at a stretch, waiting just as quietly and helplessly for the team's demise as his son and his staff are sitting there right in the bull's eye in Washington waiting for the indictments, if any.

But this would not be enough of an augur if it were just, "Oh, the president's parents were at the Astros games and the Astros lost." It's that they lost to the White Sox, the Chicago White Sox, who play their open games on West 35th Street in Chicago's 11th Ward.

Last year's presidential vote in the 11th Ward, courtesy of our friend, Jim Warren of the "Chicago Tribune," Kerry 12,008, Bush 4,981.

Cute, but still not ominous, except for one last detail: Who is the U.S. attorney for the 11th Ward, in fact, for all of northern Illinois? Patrick Fitzgerald, with offices on South Dearborn Street in Chicago, just about four miles due north of the home of the new they-just-won-it-for-the-first-time-in-88-years-by-a-sweep, world champion Chicago White Sox, U.S. Cellular Field.

This tree house has nothing to do with the CIA leak. No, in Brentwood, California, this is the big story right now.

And can smoking make you stupid? A new study weighs in on that, as we bring you the return of "I Quit," our campaign to help you quick - kick the habit. Talk about sounding stupid. I'm the number-one example. That's next. This is Countdown.


OLBERMANN: With the housing market being what it is, if you could get a famous architect and builder to put one up for you for a fraction of his regular price, would it matter to you that the house was up a tree?

Our number two story in the Countdown, it isn't the would-be owners objecting, it's the neighbors. This is in Brentwood, California, one of the tonier neighborhoods outside L.A.

And as our correspondent Mark Mullen reports, construction isn't just up a tree. Right now, it's also up a river without a paddle.


MARK MULLEN, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): When Gwyn Lurie and Les Firestein moved into their home, they wanted to give their 18-year-old daughter a gift she could enjoy in the future.


Since we got married, we talked about building a tree house.

MULLEN: Using mostly salvaged wood and glass, they enlisted the help of their friend, Roderick Romero...

RODERICK ROMERO, TREE HOUSE BUILDER: This house will last as long as the trees last.

MULLEN:... who offered to build a 10-square-foot tree house for the bargain price of free burritos and a bed while he worked. Thing is, Romero is a world-renowned builder of elaborate tree houses for celebrities, like Donna Karan and Sting.

His tree houses, a featured gift in this year's Neiman Marcus Christmas book. Starting price for the public, $50,000.

The project was going well, construction of the tree house nearly complete after eight days. Then everything came to a stop after one neighbor filed a complaint.

LES FIRESTEIN, HAD TREE HOUSE BUILT FOR DAUGHTER: I think it's too nice. I think, if it looks like the little rascals' shed, people would leave it alone.

MULLEN: The neighbors' complaint? Someone in the tree house might be able to view the neighbor's pool and hot tub in the distance.

LURIE: We made the house so that none of the windows were facing their yard and that they had their privacy in their backyard, which we understood.

MULLEN: Still, based on a lone anonymous complaint, the city of Los Angeles issued an order halting final construction until a building permit is secured.

FIRESTEIN: If the city wanted to pursue somebody, I thought they should go after the Keebler Elves, because they have an entire cookie factory in their tree.

MULLEN: For now, the little girl will just have to play in the yard, while her parents fight bureaucracy and a grumpy neighbor over a tree house.

Mark Mullen, NBC News, Brentwood, California.


OLBERMANN: If you think that was ridiculous, welcome to our nightly round up of celebrity and entertainment news, "Keeping Tabs."

And a military tattoo is supposed to mean a display of close-order drilling and other exercises. Do not tell that to Prince Harry of England, known at the British version of West Point, Sandhurst, as Cadet Wales. Talk about something on display.

Harry, halfway through his training, reportedly forced to drop trou during a parade after a sergeant caught wind of a rumor that Harry had tattooed the name of his girlfriend on his back side. Well, presumably, he'd had somebody else tattoo the name. He ain't Elasti-Girl.

As Harry began to comply, reportedly he was stopped, according to the British tabloid, "The Sun," with his pants at about knee level. Purportedly, the amused instructor agreed to take the prince's word that the royal heinie had remained un-inked.

Tonight, we reintroduce you to our effort to help you stop smoking, or our series known as "I Quit." First the bulletin news: According to new research, one more bad thing smoking can do to you. It can make you stupid.

The University of Michigan's Addiction Research Center reports cigarette smoking was negatively related to I.Q. and thinking. Proficiency tests examined smokers for the speed and accuracy with which 172 of them, long-term smokers, performed short-term memory and verbal and math reasoning tasks.

Less striking but still evident, a connection between smokers and weaker verbal and visual spatial reasoning. Duh! So maybe part of your problem quitting smoking has been you've been getting dumber.

It's three months since I quit and, I swear, I think my brain fog has been lifting. If yours isn't, consider trying to cut through it with the grossest thing you can imagine. In my case, it was the experience of having a benign tumor cut out of my mouth. For you, it can be whatever you need to summon to your mind some very personal, very disgusting consequence of your smoking, real or imagined.


OLBERMANN (voice-over): We mentioned a viewer who put a fresh pack in a clear jar of water and watched the poisons leech out. Viewer Marcelle Pieland (ph) took that a next step. He put cigarette butts in the jar of water and every morning, or any time he felt like smoking, he unscrewed the lid and took a big breath.

For 35 years, I had forgotten something I'd experienced as a kid, a great lesson from school, in the old days before political correctness. Sixth or seventh grade this must have been. They showed us post-mortem slides of a healthy lung and of a lung with cancer from smoking.

I ran all the way home. And I can recall coming in through the neighbor's yard, over the back fence, and into the side door of the house, so I could get to my mother faster than usual, so could I make her promise to lock me in my room if she ever caught me smoking cigarettes.

Well, to be fair, I've never smoked cigarettes. But the point being, as gross as talking about the blood and guts part of the removal of the tumor might have been, the next day, I saw four people walking around this office chewing Nicorette gum.

The idea of getting cancer or heart disease because you smoke is supposed to gross you out.


OLBERMANN: For more ideas and to post your own quitting experiences, please to go our web site, and look for the "I Quit" section. We will do the TV version every week, but the web site support is available every minute.

So is this. It's not your average store surveillance video. It's showing an act of revenge so gross that the betting is 6-5 that I will not get through the segment. That's ahead.

But first, time for Countdown's list of today's three nominees to covet the title of "Worst Person in the World."

Taking the bronze, an unnamed doctor at South Tyneside District Hospital in England. A woman named Paula Dadswell waited there for a doctor for two hours with her son who had bad cramps. Finally, one of them showed up riding a unicycle. He'd been riding up and down the ward on a unicycle while she and her little boy were waiting.

The runner up, Mark Barondess, a consultant to the group, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America. They figured they had to do something to thwart all those drugs coming in from Canada over the Internet at low prices, so they hired a publishing firm and a series of authors to write a novel called "The Karasik Conspiracy" in which terrorists conspired to kill thousands of Americans by poisoning the medicine coming in from Canada over the Internet.

But the winner, Clark Galloway, vice president of operations of Benefit Management Administrators Inc. of Caledonia, Michigan. One of the company's receptionists, Suzette Boler, took four days off, unpaid, to say goodbye to her husband, Army Specialist Jerry Boler, before he shipped out to Iraq. They had been married 22 years.

When she got back to work, Benefit Management Administrators fired her. "We gave her sufficient time to get back to work," Mr. Galloway told the "Grand Rapids Press," and then added, "We're totally supportive of our troops and anything that is necessary to equip them and to encourage them as a company."

Yes, anything except not firing their wives as they ship out to Iraq.

Clark Galloway, V.P. of Benefit Management Administrators Inc. of Caledonia, Michigan, today's worst person in the world!


OLBERMANN: I'm going to warn you right now: I may get physically ill during this story. I assume there's a chance you might join me.

If you don't want to go inside the mind of a man who exacted his revenge on a grocery store by sorting his own excrement, drying it in the sun, powderizing it with a cheese grater, and then sprinkling it in the baked goods department, you'd better go watch Bill O'Reilly.

Well, actually that would be the same thing, wouldn't it? Better go watch Paula Zahn.

Our number-one story in the Countdown, truly a story my producers forced me to do - let me just remove my earpiece here so I don't have to listen to this again. OK.

As Don Teague reports from Dallas, there's an entirely new meaning tonight to the phrase, "Revenge is a dish which people of taste serve cold."


DON TEAGUE, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): What security cameras in this Dallas grocery store caught the man in lopsided shorts doing earlier this summer is both illegal and disgusting.

WILL RAMSEY, PROSECUTOR: He takes his own fecal matter and spreads it to the wind over the food going to the public.

TEAGUE: Behrouz Nahidmobarekah faces sentencing today after his conviction on two charges of tampering with consumer products. During his trial Wednesday, prosecutors told jurors Nahidmobarekah sprinkled his own feces over pastry products after drying it and shredding it with a cheese grater.

RAMSEY: It's just so disgusting. And you know what? People get hurt.

TEAGUE: Store management became suspicious when customers complained the pastries smelled and tasted terrible.

CLARK BIRDSALL, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: You've got to acquit him.

TEAGUE: But Nahidmobarekah's defense attorney told jurors there's no proof his client's actions were dangerous.

BIRDSALL: It's OK to be angry at the defendant. I am. But you've got to follow the law.

TEAGUE: Nahidmobarekah admitted spreading the feces, but said he meant it as a joke.

Don Teague, NBC News, Dallas.


OLBERMANN: Yes, barrel of laughs, huh? If you're still with us, the upshot here, the defendant was sentenced today for tampering with food products to a fine of $3,000 and five years in jail. That's right, he got a number five for a number two.

Well, if we have to wade through this, I see no reason we should be the only ones. We're joined now by Clint Van Zandt, former FBI profiler and now an MSNBC analyst.

Well, the stuff has truly hit the fan, so, Clint, profile away. Who is this disturbed individual?

CLINT VAN ZANDT, FORMER FBI PROFILER: Well, I've got my boots on to join you on this one. You know, disgust is what you and I and everybody feels. Disgust, it's a powerful emotion, and it's this uniquely human trait.

And sometimes, when we want to exact revenge on someone, we say, "What is something that's very disgusting I can do? What's one of the worst things that I would like to do myself, and then how can I push that off on somebody else?"

You know, when you feel powerless, when you feel helpless, and when you say, "How do I take control?" Doing something like this, you know, you can go back - this guy can go back and sit in his cab and say, "Boy, did I get him today." You know, "Everybody got a piece of me, so to speak."

OLBERMANN: Yes. Is it better or is it worse that he used the cheese grater? Does that make him less nuts or more nuts?

VAN ZANDT: Well, I guess it starts with when he first applied the grater, somewhere along the course of that.

But, you know, what's, I think, special about this guy, Keith, is that he did it seven months. I mean, whoever was on a doughnut fix, you know, if there were cops going in there getting doughnuts, they probably changed to bagels. But, you know, for seven months in a row, he did this over this period of time.

So there's planning, there's forethought. You know, this is so bad, the only thing I can think of - I was in Korea 10, 15 years ago. And I went to this open-air market. And I saw these little kittens and dogs. And I thought, "Boy, these are neat. They're available for adoption." And they were really available for dinner.

OLBERMANN: Yes, it wasn't adoption.


OLBERMANN: Lastly for a moment, analyze for me not the perpetuator in the crime but the people who've spent all day talking about it, like, say, my producers. Are they getting a vicarious thrill here? Do I have to be worried that my producers are potential powderized-poop terrorists?

VAN ZANDT: You've got a strange staff there, buddy, OK?

OLBERMANN: Well, we knew that going in. But I'm relating it specifically to this story.

VAN ZANDT: Yes, no, no. Other than that, you still have a strange staff. But, you know, part of it is, we look at something like this and we say, "That's gross. That's crude."

But if I really wanted to get somebody, how would I get them? And then we'd say, "I'd never do it, but I want to take a step back and see how he did it," and there's a probably a few of your people that would like to say, "What did the doughnuts really taste like?"

OLBERMANN: Yes, well, I can probably identify them by name, but I'll choose not to. Cliff Van Zandt, the MSNBC analyst, former FBI profiler, and no doubt never prouder of either of those roles than just now.

VAN ZANDT: Just now.

OLBERMANN: Many thanks.

VAN ZANDT: OK. Thank you.

OLBERMANN: That's Countdown. I'm Keith Olbermann. And after that story, it is the appropriate time for me to remind you, as I sometimes do, that the program was produced by Greg Cordick (ph). Dennis Horgan and Rich Stockwell are senior producers. Stockwell stood up briefly for me on this. Thanks.

Izzy Povich is what is laughingly described as executive producer.

"No, it'll be a good story!"

Good night, and good luck.

Our MSNBC coverage continues now with Rita Cosby LIVE & DIRECT. Good evening, Rita.

RITA COSBY, HOST: Good evening. Thanks so much, Keith.


Wednesday, October 26, 2005

'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Oct. 26th

Guests: Jim VandeHei, Maurice Hinchey

KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST (voice-over): Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?

The CIA leak investigation: Is there blood in the water? Is there even any water? More headlines, not much news though the grand jury met today and the prosecutor met with the judge supervising the grand jury. Whatever it is, congressional Democrats want more of it, 41 of them write to Patrick Fitzgerald asking him to expand his investigation to see if administration claims about Iraqi nuclear desires were themselves illegal.

Stopped in time: A San Diego 2-year-old wanders in front of trains, not once, but twice. The trains literally stop in time. What was the boy's mother doing?

And all this damage caused by a six inch piece falling off a military jet, it is unbelievable! Of course, it is unbelievable because we got it wrong. Tonight the Countdown apology hall of fame inducts Countdown.

All that and more now on Countdown.


OLBERMANN: Good evening. It is not on the level of 43 years ago this week when the city and the country knew something was going on involving Cuba and great peril. But until President Kennedy addressed the nation, no one could have known it was the Cuban Missile Crisis. The country, especially its political centers, were rife with intense rumor, speculation and huge headlines made up almost exclusively of question marks.

Our fifth story on the Countdown: another day of huge headlines with almost no detail. The impending denouement to the CIA leak investigation described in The Washington Post today as potentially a "political tsunami," even though still nobody really knows if the water is 20 feet high or it's a puddle or if it is even headed this way.

With just three days remaining before the grand jury's term is set to expire, special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald, meeting with members of the jury, and was prepared to outline possible charges, according to The Washington Post, in an update just before 6:00 Eastern this evening; having, according to a similarly timed New York Times update, postponed at least until Thursday any public announcement of a decision.

Once done with the jurors, Mr. Fitzgerald meeting also with Chief Judge Thomas Hogan of the U.S. District Court in Washington, the second time in the last few weeks that the judge and Fitzgerald have met. This procedural footnote: It would be possible for this judge who is in charge of this grand jury to extend the life of the grand jury at Mr. Fitzgerald's request.

Business as usual today for two of the reputed targets of the investigation. Karl Rove and Lewis "Scooter" Libby joining other officials today at the daily White House senior staff meeting. NBC News tonight confirming an earlier report from the political publication Roll Call that Mr. Rove's attorney, Robert Luskin, met briefly yesterday at his own law offices with Mr. Fitzgerald.

And Mr. Libby walking into the White House today on crutches after having broken a bone in his foot. For now, at least, the walking wounded at the White House, merely a literal term, not a figurative one.

White House correspondent Jim VandeHei of The Washington Post knows just about all anybody outside the grand jury or the prosecutor's office can know. And he joins us again tonight.

Good evening, Jim.


OLBERMANN: The quotation I gave from your late afternoon update on The Post's Web site that Mr. Fitzgerald was prepared to outline possible charges, plus what our White House correspondent David Gregory reported tonight, that the lawyers involved in this case believe he has decided on some charges but not on others.

Does all that mean there are indeed going to be charges and we just don't know how many or against whom?

VANDEHEI: Right. It turns out the only person more secretive than President Bush and his administration are Fitzgerald and his investigative team. We still do not know. There are still folks telling us that Karl Rove does not know if he is going to be indicted. And we all know that we will know the answer by Friday.

All the lawyers we're talking to in the case fully anticipate charges, some indictments at least by Friday. But it is not certain who it will be. Obviously a lot of the attention has been focused on Scooter Libby, the chief of staff to the vice president; and Karl Rove, the top strategist to President Bush.

OLBERMANN: The two details that we have from today, Mr. Fitzgerald meeting at midday with the judge who is supervising the grand jury, and reportedly having met with Mr. Rove's attorney yesterday. That seems to be a pretty reliable story. Would either of those meetings be unusual or telling events?

VANDEHEI: No. I think when you get down to crunch time in one of these investigations and you have a client who could be a target or may be a target in the investigation, you're going to be talking to the prosecutor and trying to figure out every way you can to keep your guy from getting indicted.

I think there has been a lot of negotiations over the last couple of weeks with people that could be caught up in this probe making sure that they don't get caught up in it. And I think that what we're seeing is a lot of loose ends being tied up.

But also, this unexpected flurry of activity, and we reported this morning that Fitzgerald had FBI agents going through Joe Wilson's neighborhood as recently as Monday night, talking to neighbor to try to figure out if they knew that his wife actually worked for the CIA before she was publicly outed in Bob Novak's column in July of 2003.

OLBERMANN: I'll get back to the meeting with the judge in a moment. But that - you raised the point that I also wanted to get to, the sort of sore thumb that sticks out of the theory that all of this has been wrapped up. You addressed it, as you mentioned, in your piece today, that the FBI interviews of two of Valerie Plame Wilson's neighbors asking if they knew before they read it in the papers that she worked for the CIA, the replies, I gather, were no, we didn't. But secondly, how could this all be wrapped up if the FBI was still doing field work as of 48 hours ago?

VANDEHEI: Right. Well, you could still put together an indictment and just add different facts that you want to present to the grand jury. That's certainly plausible. I mean, what is surprising is, is we all knew that these neighbors existed for the last couple years, why didn't they deal with this earlier?

I mean, there's been articles written about Wilson long ago that quoted some of these neighbors saying how shocked they were to learn that Valerie Plame was in the CIA. They all thought she was an energy consultant or, as one neighbor told me, they thought that she was just another soccer mom with kids. So this seems relevant to the investigation, but I think he had already built a good portion of that and was just compiling more information.

The other thing we learned is that Tuesday night he was also reaching out to another mid level former associate of Karl Rove to ask another question about Rove and his activities before Plame's name became public. So that does suggest that there is this last-minute flurry of activity that I think a lot of lawyers in the case did not expect because they thought that they knew that Fitzgerald knew what his charge would be and where he was going, and was just trying to talk to the grand jury before he made it public.

OLBERMANN: And then this tantalizing sort exclamation point on today's events, this lunchtime meeting with the judge. Are there other explanations for it besides the ones that would jump to mind, that he might be discussing the prospect of an extension of the grand jury since this is the judge who would have that process, would be responsible for that process, or that who knows? It's sealed indictments? Are there any other explanations on the table regarding the meeting with the judge at this late hour?

VANDEHEI: We'll have some details of that in tomorrow's paper. But there area a lot of explanations that you could have. This is the judge in the case, so they have to deal with a lot procedural things. But I do not think that you will see any extension of this grand jury. We will know by Friday what is going to happen here.

OLBERMANN: And I already alluded to it, your terminology about the White House bracing for the kind of political tsunami that swamped Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan in their second terms, and could change this presidency's course. Is that - either way, whether there are extensive indictments or not, I mean, is the White House getting out of this scot-free if there is only one indictment and everybody else is a witness? Or are there degrees of tsunami here, I suppose, is what I'm asking?

VANDEHEI: Right. Well, you hit on a key word: witness. I mean, if somebody is indicted, this doesn't end. I mean, then we have a trial. And if you're talking about a trial, a lot of those witnesses will be people from inside the White House. And you would continue to have through this process a discussion about what happened with those weapons of mass destruction before the war and how the White House had justified going into Iraq.

And that is going to continue to be a distraction because you have people in the White House that would be involved in that trial. And you would have this constant distraction of talking about something that is obviously something the White House would not want to spend the next couple years talking about. And that is this allegation that they've hyped intelligence to justify the war in Iraq.

OLBERMANN: Anybody who is over the age of 25 years old has seen how one story can overcome a White House for two years. Jim VandeHei of The Washington Post, for whom it has been busy season and for whom it may shortly get busier yet. Thank you, again, Jim.

VANDEHEI: Take care.

OLBERMANN: If Karl Rove winds up indicted or if he doesn't but somebody else does, and he becomes a key witness, we'll be hearing a lot more of one name: Robert Luskin. The attentive viewer, the very attentive viewer, will recognize him as one of the many former federal prosecutors who served as guest analysts during my coverage on this network of the Clinton-Lewinsky investigations. Seven times he was on. There is now every chance that Mr. Luskin will become one of those people other former federal prosecutors analyze in the Rove-Libby investigations. Washington is still a very big small town.

And even apart from his MSNBC credentials, as our chief Washington correspondent Norah O'Donnell reports, Luskin has an unlikely resume for an attorney for the president's brain.



Karl Rove has been called the most powerful and most brilliant Republican strategist in history.


N. O'DONNELL: He's a ruthless tactician, dedicated to crushing Democrats, which has left many wondering why he hired a liberal for a lawyer.

In fact, Rove's counsel, Bob Luskin, sports a shaved head, a gold earring, and loves his motorcycle. And that makes him an odd duck, say some, among Washington's A-list criminal attorneys.

RYAN LIZZA, NEW REPUBLIC: He is known as a colorful guy in Washington. He is famously the first lawyer who argued before the Supreme Court wearing an earring, believe it or not.

N. O'DONNELL (on camera): Bob Luskin is at first glance an unusual choice for Karl Rove's attorney. But Luskin tells me that when he first met Rove, he told him, your politics are not my politics and if that's a problem, there are plenty of Republican attorneys in this town who will represent you. But Rove told Luskin, what counts is relevant experience.

(voice-over): In fact, when Rove got into legal trouble, he called on his old friend, Republican super lawyer Ben Ginsberg, who said Luskin was the man for the job.

LANNY DAVIS, FMR. CLINTON SPECIAL COUNSEL: Bob Luskin is a lawyer perfect for this situation that Karl Rove faces. He understands politics. He had a career in journalism. And he is a great lawyer. And there's simply nobody better.

N. O'DONNELL: Luskin is what you might call super smart: Harvard University, Harvard Law School, and then a Rhodes scholar. After working as a speechwriter for vice presidential candidate Geraldine Ferraro, he was a Justice Department prosecutor. He then spent much of his career as a white collar defense lawyer.

He was the go-to guy for those in the Clinton White House under investigation, and frequently appeared as a lawyer pundit on television.

ROBERT LUSKIN, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Grand juries are not like cheese, they don't go bad.

N. O'DONNELL: In a sign of just how much is at stake in the CIA leak investigation, Luskin is now called "Rove's brain," a nod to Rove's title as "Bush's brain."

Legal sources say Luskin still has deep ties inside the Justice Department, and its special prosecutor, Patrick Fitzgerald. That may be one of the main reasons Rove hired him and why Luskin, albeit liberal and flashy, may be just the lawyer to save Rove from legal jeopardy.

For Countdown, I'm Norah O'Donnell.


OLBERMANN: Some on Capitol Hill want the Patrick Fitzgerald investigation to expand. We'll talk to one representative who says the president's claims about Iraqi designs on nuclear materials should be examined to see if he or others in the administration broke the law by presenting them.

And the battalion was the same, the sacrifice has been the same, but the reactions of their families to the deaths of two Ohio servicemen have been entirely different. That may encapsulate the national divide and debate over the war in Iraq. That story ahead. You are watching Countdown on MSNBC.


OLBERMANN: I would like to think we respect history here by noting so often the anniversaries of events that are of a particular date and the juxtapositions they create with current events. Others think I am just obsessed with anniversaries.

But in our fourth story on the Countdown tonight, if there actually are going to be indictments in the CIA leak case revealed tomorrow or Friday, the relevant anniversaries will be doozies. Tomorrow is the birthday of the late H.R. Haldeman, President Nixon's chief of staff. And Friday is the 29th anniversary of the day the late John Ehrlichman, Haldeman's deputy, entered prison, after his conviction on charges of conspiracy, obstruction of justice, and perjury.

How did we all get here? The CIA leak story so far as recounted for us by White House correspondent Kelly O'Donnell.


KELLY O'DONNELL, MSNBC WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The background, 2003. President Bush makes a controversial claim in his case for war.

BUSH: The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.

K. O'DONNEL: The president suggesting Saddam could become a nuclear threat. But those 16 words were later retracted. The White House admitted the statement was built on faulty intelligence. That prompted a debate. Should President Bush have made that claim at all?

Joseph Wilson, a former U.S. diplomat in Iraq and Africa had been sent by the CIA to Africa to check out clues about Saddam. He went public in a New York Times op-ed, claiming the administration twisted the intelligence for war.

And that's when the leak controversy began. Commenting on the Wilson story, columnist Robert Novak wrote that two administration sources told him Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame, was a CIA operative who played a role in sending him overseas. That publication exposed Plame's secret status. And an investigation was launched into who revealed her CIA identity.

Early suspicion focused on Bush political guru Karl Rove. But the White House defended him fiercely.

SCOTT MCCLELLAN, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I've made it very clear, he was not involved. That there's no truth to the suggestion that he was.

K. O'DONNELL: But since then, two reporters say Rove was their source on Plame. And Cheney's chief of staff, Lewis "Scooter" Libby, was named by another reporter. So what now?

Special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald may be looking beyond the original issue: Was the leak itself a crime? Former federal prosecutor Randall Eleison (ph).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You start looking at one possible violation and end up maybe not even charging that violation. But you do end up with a perjury or obstruction of justice case.

K. O'DONNELL: Kelly O'Donnell, NBC News, the White House.


OLBERMANN: Another expansion of the charges is being championed by a group of congressional representatives. They want to know whether the administration and the president in particular deliberately lied to them about the uranium claims, and in doing so, broke the law. The effort is spear-headed by New York Congressman Maurice Hinchey who, along, with 40 other representatives, wrote a letter to prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald asking him to investigate the reason for the current probe.

Namely, whether the president's references to uranium in his 2003 State of the Union Address and in other pre-war documents submitted to Congress violated two different statutes that the prohibit, quote, "knowingly and willfully making false and fraudulent statements to Congress in documents required by law," and, "conspiring to defraud the United States."

The scope of Representative Hinchey's request does not stop at the president. He also wants Mr. Fitzgerald to investigate uranium comments made by the then-National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, then-Secretary of State Colin Powell, and the defense secretary, Donald Rumsfeld. Representative Hinchey joins us now from Washington.

Great thanks for your time tonight, sir.

REP. MAURICE HINCHEY (D), NEW YORK: Well, thank you, Keith. It's a pleasure to be here.

OLBERMANN: The administration retracted those 16 words from the State of the Union, the CIA blamed itself for letting them go through the vetting process. Would not some kind of deliberateness to a falsehood there be hard to prove, considering that someone has already said this was an error and accepted blame for it?

HINCHEY: Well, I don't think so. I think that it is clear that what happened here was a falsification of information. That falsification was done very purposefully in spite of the fact that all the information that we have indicates that the CIA was telling the White House that there was no firm or solid, let alone definitive evidence that there was a weapons of mass destruction program in Iraq; and certainly no evidence that there was a nuclear weapons program.

And based upon a number of sources, including that provided by Ambassador Wilson as a result of his investigation in Niger, no evidence of a nuclear program in Iraq. Nevertheless, the White House went ahead and sent that information to the Congress. The president delivered it in his State of the Union Address.

In a speech in Cincinnati in October earlier that year, he mentioned the mushroom cloud. And that image was used over and over again by high ranking administration officials to strike fear in people in the Congress and I think across the country.

OLBERMANN: In your letter today, the examples that you cited from President Bush were indeed, as you point out, made to Congress. But the one that is mentioned from Condoleezza Rice was made in a newspaper article. Colin Powell's uranium reference was made in Switzerland. Mr. Rumsfeld's was made in a news conference. How could those statements be considered as breaking laws governing falsehoods told to Congress when those statement were not made in Congress or to Congress directly?

HINCHEY: Well, we cite two different laws. One has to do with statements made directly to Congress, or written information delivered to Congress. And those are the first two examples that we cite in the letter. There's a second law that provides information that may be indirectly delivered to Congress by high-ranking officials in the statements that they make with regard to very pertinent information which is currently before the Congress.

There were attempts being made at that time by members of the Congress to hold back on any war efforts in Iraq, because of the fact that the information was distorted and not clear. And because many of us believed and now are quite certain that the CIA and other intelligence agencies were telling the administration that there was no justification based upon so-called weapons of mass destruction, and certainly not on the basis of enriched yellowcake uranium coming from Niger into Iraq, no justification for going to war.

And so those statements are very important, the ones that you just mentioned. And they are, we believe, violations of federal law.

OLBERMANN: Your party was adamant in 1998 and 1999 that the entire independent counsel process regarding President Clinton had been to some degree corrupted and had become and attempt to hamstring an administration by keeping it in a constant state of being investigated, really for political reasons. Why would what you're proposing to Mr. Fitzgerald not be deserving of the same kind of criticism from Republicans?

HINCHEY: Well, clearly, we're in a very, very different state. We've now just lost 2,000 American servicemen and -women killed, 17,000 more than that injured, many of them very, very seriously. Some people estimate as high as 100,000 Iraqis, at least half of them, civilians, women and children, killed as a result of this action. This is a very, very serious action.

In addition to that, the security of this country has been compromised. Our integrity around the world has been put into deep, deep question. And as a result of all of that, we are now finding ourselves in very, very serious trouble. If this kind of activity is allowed to go unquestioned, unexamined, as it is not being examined by the Congress, and the Congress should be examining it, if it continues to go unexamined, our whole democratic republic is put into jeopardy here and the future of this country is in serious trouble. This need to be examined and that's why we're asking the special counsel for the attorney general to look into it.

OLBERMANN: Lastly and briefly, have you heard back from him yet? Do you expect to?

HINCHEY: No. We don't expect to hear back from him. His investigation is independent. It was just our intention to bring to his attention very pertinent facts. It is entirely likely that he was very much aware of those facts already and may have been going in that direction. Of course, we don't know. But we felt an obligation as members of the Congress, because the Congress had been deceived by this administration, and because the American people have been deceived with this whole question of so-called weapons of mass destruction, we felt an obligation to bring these matters to the attention of the investigator in this case, Mr. Fitzgerald.

OLBERMANN: Representative Maurice Hinchey from the 22nd District of New York, thanks for talking with us tonight, sir.

HINCHEY: Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN: The lighter fare tonight, in case haven't noticed that fall has arrived, there is this unmistakable clue: the pumpkin catapult. Clear!

Did that pumpkin come smashing down on this house? It's not pumpkins and it turned out it was also not a piece from an F-15, as we and others reported. An apology Countdown-style, coming up.


OLBERMANN: We're back and we pause our Countdown because Halloween is right around the corner, which can mean one thing: It is pumpkin-smashing time. Let's play "Oddball."

Beginning in Mercer County, Ohio, hello. And that there is farmer Bob Scott (ph) with your standard pumpkin trebuchet. We've seen a lot of these things but rarely does anyone think to get a camera down to the point where the pumpkin actually lands. Cool! Farmer Bob says he only smashes the deformed pumpkins no one would buy. I would hate to see what he does with the goats nobody wants. And liftoff.

Speaking of deformed vegetables, we take off to the Great White North for the story of a Canadian farmer whose carrots are purple. It has got nothing to do with the tightness of his overalls. They're purple on the outside. Orange - thank you, they're purple on the outside, orange in the middle. And they taste sweeter, too. The farmer believes it is something to do with the soil. But he is not taking any chances. He is loading the whole crop up in a trebuchet and launching it into his neighbor's yard.

Finally, Halloween week just would not be complete without the obligatory costume fire safety demonstration for all the little kiddos. Here a New York fire chief shows us why if you're going as a fairy or witch this year, it's particularly import to keep away from an open flame. And never ever allow anybody with a blowtorch to approach and you attempt to set your costume on fire. Remember, parents should also always keep safety in mind before allowing kids to dress up like firewood or oily rags and paint cans. Only you can stop trick or treater fires.

Also tonight, a dress-up story of a much different variety. Here's Camilla in public wearing the Queen's jewels. Has global warming thawed the head of the House of Windsor.

And conflicting stories about a mother whose two-year-old son and the two trains the boy nearly wandered out in front of. There are several explanations and none of them are very happy ones.

Those stories ahead. First here are Countdown's top three news makers.

In at three the First Lady Laura Bush telling the American Urban Radio Network that young people are more likely to get jobs if they don't first get tattoos. Well, she said, if you're tattooed on your face or your arm where people can see it, most employers probably would not hire you. Mrs. Bush lauded the work of one program in Los Angeles which removes gang tattoos. After which those young people, she said, can go out and find a job with a silk screening business, with a graphic business, with restaurants, with bakeries. It is just a strange, strange story.

Number two, Monica Cirinna, member of the city council of Rome, Rome, Italy. She's gotten a ban passed there on forcing goldfish to live in bowls. Reportedly part of her argument, the bowls cause the goldfish to go blind. Another strange story.

And number one, today's dumbest criminal. The identified man walked up to a pharmacy counter at a supermarket in Lincoln, Nebraska, and announced it was a stick-up and he wanted the money. One of the pharmacists recognized his voice and called him by his first name. The guy immediately fled, suddenly remembering when you're trying to pull off a robbery, you do not want to go where everybody knows your name.


OLBERMANN: The proof that the crossing of the plateau of 2,000 American dead in Iraq is not some arbitrary bit of math based on our fondness for round numbers is probably to be found in the adamancy of the arguments of the military establishment about its meaning. It argued first that the count by news organizations was wrong and that the plateau had not yet been crossed. Then it argued the plateau was meaningless and being used by some with a specific agenda.

Our third story on the Countdown tonight, even as the arguments echoed, the total reached 2,001. The announcement coming today, the soldier was killed last night in a vehicle accident near Camp Bukka, a U.S. detention center in southern Iraq. The soldier's identity being withheld until the family was identified. But he was number 2,001.

The response to service deaths in Iraq is not unanimous. It rarely is no matter venue, no matter the apparent inescapability of a cause of the war. And you don't have to go to different ends of the country to see the divide. You can find it from the families of two men, both in their 20s, both in the same Ohio reserve unit. Both of them killed in Iraq.

There, as Jonathan Alter reports for us tonight, is where the similarities end.


JONATHAN ALTER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A bittersweet family reunion this month in Ohio for the returning 3rd Battalion, 25th Marine Reserves. Not everyone came home.

The 325th, famous for its heroes in the World War II battle of Iwo Jima, lost 48 soldiers in Iraq. More than its share of the 2,000 now dead since the war began.

(on camera): At this sad milestone, not all families of the 325th agree on the war. We talked to two sets of parent with two very different perspectives on what their sons died for and why.

JODY DAVIDS, LOST SON/WAR SUPPORTER: I will go out to Wesley's grave and find things that have been left there.

ALTER (voice-over): Mike and Jody Davids' son Wesley was killed by an improvised explosive device in May, the day before he turned 20.

J. DAVIDS: I can say that I'm proud to be a citizen of a country that will stand up and go fight for the freedom of the Iraqi people.

ALTER: Paul Schroeder and Rosemary Palmer's son Augie was killed along with almost all the men shown here when their troop carrier was blown up in August. He was 23.

PAUL SCHROEDER, LOST SON/WAR CRITIC: Here's Augie. This is really a band of brothers, if you will.

The last conversation I had with Augie two weeks before he died. He said this is less and less worth it.

ALTER: The Davids' son Wesley wrote a letter in the event of his death.

J. DAVIDS: "I hope that you can find comfort in the fact that I died for you all, my family, and the country that I love. Don't be angry. I knew the risks and chose to accept them. Nobody made me do it."

We're extremely sad about Wesley's death. But we're not angry.

ALTER: The Schroders are.

SCHRODER: I have come to the conclusion that my son's life was thrown away. That his death was a waste. The Marines and the army have been good at clearing out places. But they can't hold them. When you do something repeatedly, over and over again, expecting a different result, that is the definition of insanity.

ALTER: The families differ on whether it is possible to support the troops and oppose the mission.

MIKE DAVIDS, LOST SON/WAR SUPPORTER: If you're trashing the mission, it degrades their morale. And impedes them from being able to do their job well.

ROSEMARY PALMER, LOST SON/WAR CRITIC: I think it is more patriotic to speak up. When the emperor has no clothes. The president has no plan. Then you have to speak out.

ALTER: They may not agree but they're both in pain.

J. DAVIDS: Hundreds of people showed up in the pouring rain on the day of his funeral to respect and honor Wes and his sacrifice.

SCHROEDER: We anticipate difficulty at Christmastime. And the other time will be his birthday, which also happens to be mine. I don't think I'll celebrate my birthday anymore.

ALTER: A growing family of grief as the war grinds on. Jonathan Alter, NBC News, Cleveland.


OLBERMANN: That grief perhaps most evident to those of us on the outside via the somber rituals of the military funeral. Magnum photographer Paul Fusco set out to chronicle that beginning in November, 2003. Since that time, he's traveled to funerals in 27 different cities and towns throughout the country. Here now are some of the images he captured as described by Mr. Fusco in his own words.


PAUL FUSCO, PHOTOGRAPHER: The soldiers, the deaths of the soldiers, the funerals of soldiers have not become a national event. It was taking place in people's home towns in small sections of the Bronx. But it was not a national story.

A lot of people came up at this church in Vermont. A lot of veterans showed up. And a lot of American Legion people showed up. Women and men to show their love for the family. And for the pain and sacrifice they went through.

A small town, Ellsworth, Minnesota. The whole town showed up. Kyra (ph) is holding a flag. She's 20 years old. Her husband was 20 years old.

It's the family saying goodbye.

This family showed up on a lonely road in Pennsylvania. No houses around. They knew about the boy from the town next door. That had been killed in Iraq.

The local press and I were treated the same way. We were shut out as much as they could by the military people overseeing the funerals because they always said, the family didn't want any press. But you were never allowed to approach someone from the family to ask if that were true.

I saw different things, different themes in different funerals. I did not realize it until I started looking at my photographs. Each was a little different.

His mother leaving the church to follow her son to the huge cemetery in the Bronx. They saw me. They knew what I was doing. I was not invisible. But it wasn't my role to engage them. It was just to watch and try to get something that was meaningful and insightful about the reality of this war.


OLBERMANN: The work and the thoughts of the photographer, Paul Fusco. Also tonight, another mother accused of endangering her two-year-old. This time it involved trains. This time tragedy was averted.

And another big change at CBS News. A new president and it is a big surprise.

Countdown continues.


OLBERMANN: A shocking crime probe in San Diego tonight. A mother under investigation for trying to lure her son in front of oncoming trains. Yes, plural. Trains.

And hear, when life hands you lemons, we here on Countdown make something sort of resembling lemonade. Tonight we induct ourselves to the Apology Hall of Fame.


OLBERMANN: Mothers killing their own children. We seem to get at least one horrifying, unimaginable story about it every month. Just a week now since a San Francisco woman threw three of her infants off Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco. Tonight in our number two story, another similar nightmare apparently averted just in time along the railroad tracks and then the trolley tracks of San Diego.

Details now from Countdown's Monica Novotny.


CAPT. GUY SWANGER, SAN DIEGO POLICE: We've not determined the cause of why she acted in this way. There doesn't seem to be a pattern of any previous mental issues with this woman. But that's the stuff that we're looking at in the investigation right now.

MONICA NOVOTNY, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Tonight, 22-year-old Rachel Garta remains in custody. Though exactly what happened on the trolley track last night in San Diego remain unclear. Garta, arrested on suspicion of attempted murder and felony child endangerment, her 2-year-old son taken into protective custody after bystanders told police an almost unbelievable story.

LT. SHELLEY ZIMMERMAN, SAN DIEGO POLICE: Witnesses reported that the woman had walked the 2-year-old out on to the tracks when a train was approaching. The train engineer actually had to make an emergency stop in order not to hit the child. And when another trolley came, they did the same thing, is that they walked on to the tracks again and actually another witness reported that they saw her push the child onto the tracks.

NOVOTNY: But now, a different story surfacing. Investigators saying a disoriented woman may have attempted to board the freight train, thinking it was a trolley. Then crossed the tracks for an approaching trolley, only to turn back, leaving her son in the tracks. The trolley operator saw the child and managed to stop in time.

SWANGER: We had no information, no evidence that the child was shoved out on to the tracks.

NOVOTNY: Garta, evaluated at a local mental health facility but not hospitalized. Tonight she remains in jail, awaiting her Friday arraignment. The little boy waiting for what happens next.


NOVOTNY (on camera): Police tonight are telling us, the felony child endangerment charge will stick but the attempted murder charge could be dropped because so far, there are no witnesses saying this woman deliberately pushed her child with the intent to kill him. Of course, we'll know more after Friday's arraignment. Keith?

OLBERMANN: Countdown's Monica Novotny. Great thanks.

No segue possible tonight into our round-up of celebrity and entertainment news, "Keeping Tabs." We'll just note that a tiara is an unusual piece of headgear to wear to a party unless everybody else there is also wearing a tiara.

Bingo. Camilla Parker Bowles, now the Duchess of Cornwall, wearing it for the first time. There is nothing like a girl's first tiara. All other women at the clambake were wearing them. Queen Elizabeth loaned that one to her new 58-year-old daughter-in-law and even seated her next to the gala's guest of honor, King Harold of Norway.

Royal watchers citing the diamond encrusted tiara as further evidence of Camilla's acceptance into the royal family by the queen herself but she still doesn't ever get to be queen herself. Ever, no way, forget about it, sister.

A long rumored change of management at CBS News. President Andrew Hayward will step down in 12 days and apparently leave the company at year's end. That's the time his contract expires. He's been at the post for 10 years. None more fateful than 2004 when a fumbled investigation into President Bush's National Guard service record, so called Killian memos may have hastened both Hayward's exit and the retirement of CBS Evening News anchor Dan Rather.

Hayward's exit may not have been a surprise. The name of his successor certainly is. It is Sean McManus. Since 1996, the head of CBS Sports. McManus is the son of the legendary ABC sportscaster Jim McKay who himself was originally a newscaster. Like McKay's mentor, Roone Arledge did at ABC, McManus will head both the news and sport divisions at CBS.

And that requires an editorial comment here. The world of electronic journalism has change since Roone Arledge's time. It a 24-hour media now, demanding 24 hours of concentration. You can't live in this world and also in another one like sports. It just can't be done.

This reminder, please join me Friday for my weekly appearance at my old "SportsCenter" tag team partner Dan Patrick on his show on ESPN Radio as we talk about that World Series and other big sports stories. 2:00 p.m. Eastern. 11:00 a.m. Pacific - Oh. Yeah. You're right. The news and sports thing.

Well, about Mr. McManus at CBS, never mind.

Sometimes when we juggle too much at once, mistakes can happen. Remember this house from "Oddball"? Well, we reported what caused the remodeling. That wasn't exactly true. And that means we have a new inductee into the Apology Hall of Fame. That's ahead.

But first the Countdown's list of today's three nominees of the coveted title of the worst person in the world. Bronze winner. The Pentagon's Multinational Security Transition Command of Iraq. It brought armored Mercedes Benz cars for senior Iraqi policemen. Seven of them for $1 million. Caveat emptor. Not only was the armor inadequate, but Pentagon mechanics found inadequate suspensions, low quality brakes and low quality tires. Kick the tires.

Runner up, an unnamed former student at the University of Washington who has been back visiting the campus, going into the women's dormitory, knocking on doors, and telling residents, A, he could tell their fortunes by examining their feet, or B, he was a psych student analyzing women's feet. He was in fact a foot fetishist. He has been caught.

But the winners, the editors of The Associated Press story about Secretary of State Rice was illustrated with this picture. But they thought the photo was not bright enough. It needed to be adjusted so could you see her face better. They have gone back to the original and apologized to Secretary Rice and the readers because the brightened photo looked like this. Zzzzzzzttt! The secretary of state with the x-ray eyes! The editors of Today's worst persons in the world!


OLBERMANN: Last night, we brought you a story in our world famous and award-winning "Oddball" segment about a small chunk of an airplane that fell off and wrecked a house in South Carolina. This six inch pylon ejector foot from an f-15 Strike Eagle, we reported, fell off the plane it caused this damage to a house near the Seymour Johnson Air Force Base. We thought there was something odd about a six inch piece of metal doing that much devastation, that's why we featured it on "Oddball." As I was reading it, I thought, that looks like the hurricane damage from Florida.

It was, as the say, too odd to be true. Our number one story on the Countdown, if you'd told me we had to issue a correction to this story today, I would have guessed it had to do with Seymour Johnson. That part is true. It was the video of the house that we had wrong.

This is the actual home of Miss Cindy Williams house was struck by the falling pylon foot. But the damage while certainly extensive was nothing compared to what we showed you last night. That's because this house was in Florida and wrecked by Hurricane Wilma.

We had the wrong video. It was a mistake. The palm trees and extensive flooding should have been hint to somebody or even to me as I saw it just as you did on the air. It's gaffs like that that is appalling in the fine reporting we do in the "Oddball" segment each night. We have no excuse. And so for the air force, and the Pentagon, for Cindy Williams and for Seymour Johnson, wherever you are, we humbly enter ourselves in our own Apology Hall of Fame.

I have sinned against you. Sorry.


SEN. DICK DURBIN, (D) IL: If I read this to and you didn't tell you it was an FBI agent describing what Americans had done to prisoners in their control, you would most certainly believe this must have happened by Nazis.

Some may believe my remarks crossed the line. To them, I extend my heartfelt apologies.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let's get crazy, get some - hire a hooker. If you agree with this, just look at me and say, "yes."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm sorry I did it. I'm sorry it offended people.

I apologize to people this has offended.

DAN RATHER, FORMER CBS ANCHOR: It was a mistake. CBS News deeply regrets it. Also, I want to say personally and directly, I'm sorry.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Personally, I didn't think it would have offended anyone -


If it did, we apologize.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm sorry, so, so sorry that...

DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: To the Iraqis mistreated by the U.S. Armed Forces, I offer my deepest apologies.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I apologize to anyone who was brought into this unnecessarily.

ASHLEE SIMPSON, SINGER: I feel so bad my dancers played the wrong song. I have no excuse. That's why I did a hoedown. I'm sorry.

JANET JACKSON, SINGER: Unfortunately the whole thing went wrong in the end. I'm really sorry.

BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT: I know my public comments and my silence about this matter gave a false impression. I misled people including even my wife.

KOBE BRYANT, BASKETBALL PLAYER: I'm so sorry. I love my wife so much.

SEN. TRENT LOTT, (R) MS: In order to be a racist but you have to feel superior. I don't feel superior to you at all. I don't believe any man or woman is superior to anyone else.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But did you always hold that view?

LOTT: I think I did.

TONYA HARDING, ICE SKATER: I feel badly for Nancy. I feel really lucky it wasn't me.

JAY LENO, TALK SHOW HOST: What the hell were you thinking?

HUGH GRANT, ACTOR: I think you know in life pretty much what is a good thing to do and what is a bad thing and I did a bad thing. There you have it.

STEVE IRWIN, TELEVISION PERSONALITY: Sweetheart, who do you want to be when you grow up?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Just like my daddy.

IRWIN: Poor little thing. I'm sorry, Matt.

ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER: Yes, I've behaved badly sometimes. For those people I've offended, I want to say I'm deeply sorry about that and I apologize.

RICHARD NIXON, FORMER PRESIDENT: Some of my judgments were wrong and some were wrong. They were made in what I believed at the time to be the best interest in the nation.

JIMMY BAKKER, TELEVANGELIST: Please forgive me, I have sinned against you, my Lord. And I will ask that your precious blood...


OLBERMANN: That's Countdown. I'm Keith Olbermann. Someday I'll learn how to do the crying thing. Keep your knees loose, good night and good luck.

Our MSNBC coverage continues now with RITA COSBY, LIVE AND DIRECT.

Good evening, Rita.