'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for July 18
Guest: Howard Fineman, Craig Crawford, Patrick Lennon
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST: Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
It used to be, if anybody leaked a CIA agent's identity, they would no longer be in his administration. Today, he changed that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If someone committed a crime, they will no longer work in my administration.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Howard Fineman on the president's new tack in the Rove case.
And Craig Crawford on the Supreme Court, the president reportedly leaning towards a woman, reportedly speeding up the wheels in nomination, perhaps to knock Karl Rove out of the headlines.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: Well, thank you for telling me where I am in the process.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: You're welcome.
The London bombings, day 11. The bombs themselves in backpacks, not gym bags, not briefcases. Did the kind of bag make any difference? Would it make a difference to ban backpacks from our mass transit?
And, your honor, this is exhibit A for the defense. Why is this woman in a Miami courtroom naked? And is this the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth?
All that and more, now on Countdown.
If the Karl Rove case were a football game, you could easily say that this morning, the goalposts moved about 100 yards farther away. It's the continuing investigation into whether someone was criminally or ethically responsible for outing a CIA operative who was trying to trace possible contact between people who had weapons of mass destruction and terrorists.
Our fifth story on the Countdown, criminally or ethically used to be the president's threshold for firing anybody in his administration who might have leaked the agent's name, either one. But today, in a presidential media briefing, to paraphrase the old joke about slim and none, ethically just left town.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: We have a serious ongoing investigation here.
BUSH: And it's being played out in the press. And I, I, I think it best that people wait until the investigation is complete before you jump to conclusions. I will do so as well. I don't know all the facts. I want to know all the facts. Best place for the facts to be done is by somebody who's spending time investigating it. I would like this to end as quickly as possible so we know the facts. And if someone committed a crime, they will no longer work in my administration.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: That would presumably now require an indictment, a trial, and a conviction. And whether or not Karl Rove committed a crime, one of the reporters he spoke to now saying that the first time he'd ever heard Ambassador Joe Wilson's wife worked for the CIA, it was from Rove's lips.
Matt Cooper's first-person account of that phone call that nearly landed him in jail now part of the public record in this case, now that Cooper has scooped himself in the pages of his employer, "TIME" magazine.
Two years and seven days after Mr. Rove wrapped that phone call by saying, "I've already said too much," that and everything else discussed, information described by Cooper to his editor as "double-super-secret background," it is secret no more.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "MEET THE PRESS")
TIM RUSSERT, NBC NEWS: For the record, the first time you learned that Joe Wilson's wife worked for the CIA was from Karl Rove.
MATTHEW COOPER, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": That's correct.
RUSSERT: And when Karl concluded his conversation with you, you write, "He said, 'I've already said too much.'" What did that mean?
COOPER: Well, I'm not sure what it meant, Tim. At first, you know, I thought maybe he meant, I've been indiscreet. And then as I thought about it, I thought it might be just more benign, like, I've said too much, I've got to get to a meeting.
I don't know exactly what he meant. But I do know the memory of that line has stayed in my head for two years.
Before that conversation, I had never heard about, anything about Joe Wilson's wife. After that conversation, I knew that she worked at the CIA and worked on WMD issues. But as I make clear, made clear to the grand jury, I'm certain Rove never used her exact name, and certainly never indicated she had a covert status.
RUSSERT: The piece that you finally ran in "TIME" magazine on July 17 that says, "And some government officials have noted in "TIME" interviews, as well as to syndicated columnist Robert Novak, that Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame, is a CIA official who monitors the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. These officials have suggested that she was involved in her husband's being dispatched to Niger."
"Some government officials," that is Rove and Libby.
COOPER: Yes, that's (INAUDIBLE) among the sources for that, yes.
RUSSERT: Are there more?
COOPER: I don't want to get into it, but it's possible.
RUSSERT: Have you told the grand jury about that?
COOPER: The grand jury knows what I know, yes.
RUSSERT: That there may have been more sources.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "RELIABLE SOURCES," CNN)
HOWARD KURTZ, HOST: It was on double-super-secret background. What does that mean?
COOPER: Well, Howie, I can now reveal that it was a joke. Karl Rove, when we had the conversation, wanted it to be on deep background, and which I took to mean I could use the material, but not quote it directly, and certainly not attribute it. But I had to protect the identity of my source. When I wrote the note to my bureau chief just moments after the conversation with Rove in a slightly playful way, I echoed the line in the movie "Animal House" where John Belushi's wild fraternity is put on "double secret probation." So it was a little bit of humor.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Wormer, he's a dead man. Marmelard, dead. Niedermeyer...
Let's talk now to Howard Fineman, "Newsweek" chief political correspondent and MSNBC analyst.
Good evening, Howard.
HOWARD FINEMAN, CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, "NEWSWEEK": Good evening.
OLBERMANN: The president's statement today, that was no accident, was it, moving from, as it was put by Scott McClellan on the 29th of September in 2003, If anyone in this administration was involved in it, they would no longer be in this administration, to what the president said today, if someone committed a crime, they will no longer work in my administration?
FINEMAN: Well, you said earlier he moved the goalposts. I think he moved the whole stadium. I mean, he's in a whole other playing field now, because he's saying, in essence, that somebody has to prove there was a crime, and I won't act, he said, until that happens.
And I think that's because he now realizes, as Matt Cooper reported in "TIME" magazine this week, that Karl Rove did leak. I mean, that is a leak. What Matt described was, you know, the A-number-one example of somebody in the White House leaking something to a reporter, and that's exactly what Bush had said earlier on, two years earlier, he would bounce somebody for.
So they had to come out with another statement, and they did.
OLBERMANN: But realistically, the bar was just raised from involved in to committed a crime. But is it practical? I mean, let's say that the special prosecutor, Mr. Fitzgerald, actually gets an indictment against somebody in the administration, whether it's Karl Rove or a fill-in switchboard operator or whatever. Could the president really keep someone under indictment in his administration?
FINEMAN: No. The answer is no. So it's sort of - the notion that a crime means that it has to be, you know, convicted by a jury, I don't think that's the case. I think if Patrick Fitzgerald, the special prosecutor, indicts anybody in the administration, in the White House, that person is going to be on leave, and maybe a permanent leave.
OLBERMANN: Did anybody today, with the president's words, flashback to April 17 of 1973 with Ron Ziegler, who was Richard Nixon's press secretary, getting up, famously, and saying that Nixon's previous denials that anybody in his administration were involved or was involved in Watergate were now, quote, "inoperative"? Did it have that kind of ring to it today?
FINEMAN: Well, Scott McClellan didn't have to use that word. I dare say he'll never use that word. But in effect, the president took it out of his hands by expanding the scope. as we were discussing previously.
The problem that the administration has - one of the problems that they have politically, leave the law out of this - is that in the past years, Scott McClellan has gotten up in the White House press room and categorically said, he said, Look, I talked to Rove, I talked to these other people. They had nothing to do with it.
Now, you know, either they weren't telling him the full story, which seems obviously to be the case, or he's got his own credibility problems.
OLBERMANN: Not everybody will get Rove, Plame, the investigation, the special prosecution, Judith Miller. It is a very complicated story in many respects. But does this conceivably not sort of funnel all of it together in that same way that the Ziegler admission did in 1973? People get when you've changed your story?
FINEMAN: People get that. But I think that this is actually about something else and something bigger, Keith. I think, in a way, this is Washington's way of rearguing the justification for the war in Iraq, especially as it relates to weapons of mass destruction.
Let's not forget the big picture here, which is that part of the argument for going to war against Saddam Hussein was that he was on the verge of being able to acquire nuclear weapons. He had a hunger for them. He may have even been trying to acquire uranium yellowcake in Niger.
That's what Joe Wilson's op-ed page piece in "The New York Times" tried to knock down. And that's what set Karl Rove in Dick Cheney's office to war against Joe Wilson. Question, did anybody violate the law in protecting Cheney, in going after Wilson, and trying to defend the rationale for the war?
That's what this is about. In addition to the president's credibility, Keith, I think the president's numbers have slowly but surely been declining on his truthfulness. And I think it's because of questions that have been raised over the last year, year and a half, over the original justification of weapons of mass destruction.
OLBERMANN: Lastly, to invoke quite a different presidential administration, is this administration worried that it's beginning to look like Bill Clinton and his infamous parsing, in other words, Nobody in this administration leaked Valerie Plame's name, we only called her Joe Wilson's wife. That's entirely different.
FINEMAN: Yes, well, Bill - George Bush came into office saying, When I raise my right hand and swear oath of office, you can be proud of me in the White House, implicitly, criticizing Bill Clinton.
The other thing here is that Karl Rove's (INAUDIBLE) light versus darkness politics, where the details are left out, are ironically being turned back on him right now. Karl Rove is facing the kind of politics that he's used on other people for 20 years.
OLBERMANN: Howard Fineman of "Newsweek" and MSNBC, as always, sir great thanks for helping us sort this out.
FINEMAN: You're welcome, Keith.
OLBERMANN: The other big summer political big blockbuster, the Supreme Court. The president may have moved up the nomination timetable, may have picked the gender of the nominee. And it may have to do with Karl Rove.
And the latest on the London attacks. Evidence now that British intelligence investigated one of the bombers last year but decided he was no threat.
You are watching Countdown on MSNBC.
OLBERMANN: If Matthew Cooper of "TIME" magazine, can invoke the movie "Animal House," so can we. "Over?" asked John Belushi rhetorically. "Did you say over? Nothing is over until we decide it is. Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor?"
Our fourth story on the Countdown, might the attention to the Karl Rove story become over because the president's search for a new Supreme Court justice is reportedly almost over?
Believe some accounts, and the selection process is now nearing an end, the president's announcement of a candidate to succeed Justice Sandra Day O'Connor to come any day now. Believe the president, and the search ain't over until he says it's over.
Exactly when that will be, he does not say. But if he hopes to have the whole confirmation kit and kaboodle completed before the court reconvenes in October, like he says he does, it had better be soon.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: We've consulted with the Senate. We will continue to consult with the Senate. I, I, I, of course, am the person that picks the nominee, and they get to decide whether or not the nominee gets confirmed. That's the way it has worked in the past, that's the way it's going to work in this administration.
I'm reviewing their curriculum vitae as well as their findings. I will sit down with some and talk to them face to face, those who I have not known already. I'm familiar with some of the people that are being speculated about in the press. And so I don't need to interview those.
But, of course, I'm going to take a very thorough approach.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: And I'd like to call in Craig Crawford now. His curriculum vitae includes "Congressional Quarterly" columnist, MSNBC analyst, author of the forthcoming book that is anticipated within politics the way the new Harry Potter book was anticipated...
CRAIG CRAWFORD, "CONGRESSIONAL QUARTERLY": Oh, yes!
OLBERMANN:... among 12-year-olds, "Attack the Messenger."
Good evening, Craig.
CRAWFORD: If you like Harry Potter, you'll love "Attack the Messenger."
OLBERMANN: Sell it any way you can, brother.
OLBERMANN: Has the timing of the court nomination, in fact, been accelerated?
CRAWFORD: Well, if we believe that buzz, and maybe it's true, we got to believe Rehnquist is going to retire any day now, because that was the buzz last week from pretty much the same crowd.
But, you know, the White House is playing a game of Twister here, Keith, because on the one hand, they want to delay naming this nominee as long as possible, to give the Democrat as little time as possible to fight that nomination. But on the other hand, they need something to step on the Rove story.
They may have found the best of both worlds by just creating all this speculation. Might be a woman. Might be this week. Could be a mainstream candidate. Get people talking about that. Maybe they can step on the Rove story without actually having to name a nominee right now.
OLBERMANN: But as to Rove and the story, would it really be deflected? Would it really step on it? I mean, there isn't a lot going on in the news, certainly domestically. Has what the Democrats have always wanted, a kind of timelessness, surrounded the Rove story, could they not pick it back up after a battle over the court subsides? Or, if it's not a household name or an obvious kind of fight, while there is a Supreme Court battle?
CRAWFORD: Well, if the prosecutor, Fitzgerald, keeps this grand jury empanelled for the full term, it's empanelled until October, then they - that's a built-in time frame where this story can always come back.
I think for the moment, it's sort of played out on the facts we know so far. But the thing about this story is, we keep getting new facts every day. So it could keep going in that sense.
But I do think the Supreme Court story would overtake things for a while. But (INAUDIBLE), you know, the thing about the Rove story, there was a silver lining in it for the White House, in that it stepped on the Iraq story, pushed it below the fold on the front pages of the newspapers.
OLBERMANN: But did the president today give the Rove story greater legs, with or without a nominee, concurrent or otherwise? Suddenly we're all talking about whether or not the president would fire somebody if he's only been indicted, or would he keep somebody who's been an unindicted co-conspirator? It's a bad menu list suddenly put out there, isn't it?
CRAWFORD: It is. And I think Democrats need to be clever and careful about how they keep this story going, because there is a danger, if they do let it get away from them, go below the fold, that this framework that the president and the White House is trying to set up will stick. In other words, if Karl Rove is not indicted or convicted, then it's not a story.
That's basically the narrative they want to put forth right now, and they might just get away with that.
OLBERMANN: All right, back to the court. Is that "New York Times" account correct? Did Laura Bush say that she hoped her president would appoint a woman to succeed Justice O'Connor because that is in fact what he's thinking of doing?
CRAWFORD: It was quite odd to hear that from this first lady. But she's been a little more out there lately, starting with the White House press correspondents' dinner back in May, when she delivered all the jokes and one-liners in place of the president, then went on a foreign trip. You know, going back to Hillary Clinton, kind of makes you wonder if she isn't setting up a run for, I don't know, senator from Texas or something.
It was not clear that she spoke for the president. My guess is, if she really wanted to influence him, she'd do that in private. And that was just something she just said on the fly.
OLBERMANN: Craig Crawford of MSNBC, "Congressional Quarterly," Countdown, or, in his case, countdown to publication of his book, "Attack the Messenger." That's two more plugs you owe me something for.
CRAWFORD: OK. Bring back Puppet Theater for this story, maybe.
OLBERMANN: Yes, we'll do what we can. Great thanks, Craig.
OLBERMANN: Also tonight, Oddball saves a panda. No, we're not kidding. We gave this American bouncing bear such air time that rescuers in China learned how to save a panda the right way. Well, we'd like to think it was us responsible for this.
And a T-ball game, talk about responsibility, is getting national headlines. That is not a good thing. It is because of a coach who could earn a nomination as today's worst person in the world.
OLBERMANN: Time once again to pause the Countdown to bring you our consumer advocate segment, assuming, that is, that you need Countdown on your side when it comes to pandas, cockroaches, and sprint racing cars.
Let's play Oddball.
To the Tristate Speedway in downtown Haubstadt, Indiana, where this guy had a bad Sunday. Sweet. No, actually, Brad Sweet, sprint car racer. He's evidently abandoned the traditional four lefts make a circle style of racing, for these controversial three lefts and a right. Sweet took one of the four turns there just a little too hard, lost control, and tumbled over the wall into the pit area.
Of course, nobody gets hurt in Oddball. Sweet hopped out of the buggy, went and got a funnel cake, and then took a ride to the hospital, where he checked out just fine.
To Sichuan (ph), China. You may remember the panda stuck in a tree. Heavy rains and flooding inspired the monochromatic mammal to climb for safety. Ten days later, this adult female panda decided she liked the tree and she wanted to stay in the tree.
Well, you and I have encountered this before, Bouncy the bear, and how authorities in Missoula, Montana, dealt with his treehouse, tranquilizer darts, trampoline, and cross your fingers on the rebound bounce.
Doubtless, the Chinese saw this tape. We have played it exactly 1,114 times here on Countdown. So he tranquilizers, well, they have plenty of those left over in China after all those protests. But trampolines? Oh, how about an old box spring? Even sedated, possibly because she saw the box spring, the panda would not let go. So they went up and got her, and they made sure all them other pandas saw what they did to her on the way down.
Don't tell me nobody there remembers Tiananmen.
Then finally to Plano, Texas, and the Cockroach Hall of Fame. The curator, Michael Bohdan, sells pest control products by day, but dresses up cucarachas like celebrities by night. That was Imelda Marcaroacha. Then Liberoachi, then this excellent exoskeleton was Marilyn Monroe from "The Seven-Year Itch." And Roachy O'Donnell. Actually, the seven-year itch can be caused by cockroaches.
Located in a suburban Dallas strip mall, the hall has taught Bohdan a thing or two, not about roaches, but about people. What's interesting, he tells the Associated Press, is that people are afraid of seeing cockroaches running across their kitchen at night, but their guard drops when they see them wearing a tutu or a bikini.
That's not their guard dropping, Mr. Bohdan, it's their jaws, and it's not necessarily just because of the roaches.
Also tonight, Lisa Meyers reports new details from London linking the suicide bombers both to training camps in Pakistan and to al Qaeda.
And in Iraq, again the awful phrase is used, civil war. Even for that tortured nation, it has been a shattering week of insurgent attacks, and the worries seem to grow with the body count.
These stories ahead.
But now here are Countdown's top three newsmakers of this day.
Number three, the unnamed meat department manager of the supermarket in Keskamet (ph) in Hungary. Tenderloin was $13.95 a pound there. Then he declared a sale. He cut the price to $4.40 a pound. Then he called his wife and told her to come into the store and buy 47 pounds. He is under arrest.
Number two, police officer Sanjeen Panda of the state of Orissa in India. He and his men raided a theater where 200 people were watching a porn movie. That is illegal in India. Officer Panda made the 200 men (audio interrupt) again, then took them to the public square, where he made each of them do 10 sit-ups.
It worked great, except that we hear that some of the people who watched all of those men doing their sit-ups now get their jollies watching 200 men at a time doing sit-ups.
And number one, speaking of movies, a cinema fan in Sydney, Australia. The unnamed 19-year-old recovering from surgery to reattach his nose. It was bitten off after he and another man got into an argument over whether or not the new Bruce Willis film, "Sin City," was any good.
Wait a minute. You're telling me one of these two guys thought it was good?
OLBERMANN: Eleven days since the terror attacks in London, and as the picture continues to get clearer, it also continues to get worse. Native-born terrorists, trained or at least briefed in Pakistan, and their leader turns out to have been previously investigated by British authorities and cleared.
Our third story on the Countdown: The outline of the plot grows more discernible, but what about its mechanics? Tonight, the physical dimensions of the bombs. Could they only have been carried in backpacks, not, say, duffel bags? Could you increase defense against bombs like that by barring backpacks, or is that just too simplistic? An expert joins us in a moment.
First, the grim picture from London. Our senior investigative correspondent is Lisa Myers - Lisa.
LISA MYERS, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Keith, Western intelligence sources tell NBC News that an admitted al Qaeda operative has told interrogators he took one of the London bombers to a terrorist training camp in Pakistan.
(voice-over): Today, the Pakistan connection became indisputable, with solid evidence that three bombers visited there and that two met with al Qaeda operatives. This is the leader of the bombers, Mohammad Sidique Khan, entering Pakistan last November, along with Shehzad Tanweer. Authorities say the two stayed in the country four months. Another bomber, Habib Hussain, also visited Pakistan. U.S. sources say this al Qaeda operative now in U.S. custody, Mohammed Jenay Babar (ph), has told interrogators he took Sidique Khan to a suspected al Qaeda training camp in Pakistan during a previous visit.
LT. COL. RICK FRANCONA, MSNBC ANALYST: Al Qaeda was involved, at the very minimum, in the training, both in ideology and the combat skills required to conduct this operation.
MYERS: Pakistani authorities say that Tanweer also met with a different al Qaeda operative while in Pakistan and visited extremist Islamic schools. Western intelligence sources say there's an increasing sense the London attacks were planned and directed in Pakistan but directed by al Qaeda. And if so, how high did the plot go?
ROGER CRESSEY, NBC NEWS TERRORISM EXPERT: The intelligence community has believed for some time that any attacks against the United Kingdom or the United States must be authorized by the al Qaeda leadership now in hiding.
MYERS: British authorities acknowledge that the lead bomber, Sidique Khan, came up in a previous terror investigation and was deemed not a threat by British intelligence, so he was never even questioned - Keith.
OLBERMANN: Lisa Myers in London. Lisa, great. Thanks.
Now about the bombs and what they were carried in. We've seen the security images again and again, kids wearing backpacks, big backpacks, hiker-sized. Were the dimensions of the backpacks necessary for the stability they provided? Would it do any good to ban backpacks, even try to ban them, from public transportation in this country?
Joining us now, Patrick Lennon, 22 years with the United States Secret Service, currently president, founder of his own firm, Lennon Security Corporation. Mr. Lennon, good evening.
PATRICK LENNON, FORMER SECRET SERVICE AGENT: Good evening, Keith.
How are you?
OLBERMANN: First - I'm all right. Yourself, sir?
OLBERMANN: From what you've seen and read of the London bombings, were the backpacks likely chosen as a means of concealment in a crowd, or did the bombs need as much space as packs of that size would provide?
LENNON: No, I think the backpacks were used because it was a means of
· it's an everyday occurrence. People, students carry those to the schools, to subways. It's just a natural way of getting things in and out. So I don't see - that was just a way of just getting things in without being suspicious at all.
OLBERMANN: Continuing on the subject of the actual physical requirements of pulling that off, the question of stability of an explosive device - I've heard a lot of speculation that whether you strap the device to your chest or wear it in a backpack, one of those ways - those are the only ways you can be sure you have complete control of it. Just carrying it in a briefcase or a gym bag would not be good enough in a suicide bombing situation. Is that correct?
LENNON: Well, I think if you're - it depends on what the purpose is when you're going in to do that type of deed. If you're going in as a suicide bomber, obviously, you're probably going to strap it to yourself. If you're going in just to place it on a train or in the depot or something and then leave, then to carry it in with a backpack or a briefcase or something like that, that's probably the best way to go. If you ban - for example, you had said earlier, if you try to ban backpacks, what are you going to ban next? I think it's an idea of anything that goes in there has to be checked, and that's not an easy task.
OLBERMANN: obviously, you couldn't have universal enforcement if you banned anything from mass transit. I mean, would it do any good whatsoever? Would it reduce the odds at all if you did say, Well, the backpack is the most likely device in this country for a suicide bomber, per se, as opposed to somebody who's leaving a bomb, let's try to prevent them from being used in mass transit? Would it make any impact whatsoever in reducing the odds?
LENNON: Well, again, any type of security, you want to put the odds in your favor. To ban - like I said, to ban backpacks or ban anything is going to be tough. One of the things you must think about in any type of security situation is the security awareness. Other than just sweeping the - -for example, sweeping the area of the transit area, of the depots, and then having people go through different types of metal detectors or X-ray machines is really - that's probably putting the odds in your favor. Whether the public accepts that, that's another story.
But as far as bringing in briefcases, carrying in the explosives on your person or in a backpack - and what they did - they supposedly did in London - that's going to be very hard to be able to detect. But the security awareness is probably the biggest thing of all. And the public out there has to be vigilant, and it's not just the responsibility of law enforcement but everybody out there is the responsibility.
OLBERMANN: Well, we hear that, but what does that practically mean? In other words, when I get on the subway next, which probably will be Friday in New York, what am I looking for?
LENNON: Well, I guess you're probably - like what everybody's thinking right now is - thinking backpacks. But for example, if you were on a train and you saw something sitting - somebody got up from the train and left a briefcase, what would you think? Would you call the conductor? Would you try to stop the train? Those are the questions that people have to be aware of to be proactive. And I'm not too sure that the public is aware of how to be proactive in that case. And what would they do under a situation like that?
OLBERMANN: Patrick Lennon of Lennon Security, formerly of the Secret Service. Great. Thanks for some of your time tonight, sir.
LENNON: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Suicide bombs now linking England with Iraq, London with Mousaib (ph). The link is not so firmly established yet. At least 55 are dead on and beneath London streets, and 11 days later, the world is still horrified: 98 dead in Mousaib outside Baghdad after a suicide bomber blew himself up beneath an oil tanker on Saturday night, the world just adds them to a list. Our correspondent in Baghdad is Mike Boettcher.
MIKE BOETTCHER, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Even in a country numbed by constant bloodshed, the past six days have been shocking. In six days of suicide bombings and ambushes, the death toll is approaching 200. The surge in violence comes after a highly publicized spring offensive, Operation Lightning, a joint U.S. and Iraqi mission aimed at demonstrating the new Iraq government could control its own capital. Now al Qaeda leader Abu Musab Zarqawi has launched his own offensive, threatening to take back Baghdad.
Wednesday, almost two dozen Baghdad children perish in a suicide attack. Throughout Iraq, 28 die. Friday, the death toll mounts, with 10 suicide bombings in the Baghdad area alone. Another 33 are killed. Saturday, another suicide bomber detonates a fuel tanker in the small town of Mousaib south of Baghdad, 107 die in Iraq on the bloodiest day of the week. Sunday, five more suicide attacks in Baghdad, 25 die.
Most victims were Shiite. Most insurgents are Sunni.
(on camera): So alarmed is Shiite Grand Ayatollah Ali al Sistani, considered by many the most powerful man in Iraq, that he summoned Iraq's vice president on Sunday and demanded action against what he called a genocidal war, strong words raising the specter of a Shiite-Sunni civil war.
(voice-over): Retired Army general Barry McCaffrey told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee today he believes Iraq is already in the middle of a low-grade civil war.
GEN. BARRY MCCAFFREY, U.S. ARMY (RET.): U.S. Army and Marine Corps are incapable of sustaining this campaign. The question of U.S. military forces for Iraq at the start is a moot point.
BOETTCHER: But what is not moot, the unrelenting determination of the insurgency, determined to test the commitment of U.S. forces, the will of the Iraqi government and the spirit of its people. Mike Boettcher, NBC News, Baghdad.
OLBERMANN: Last Thursday marked exactly 19 months since Saddam Hussein was captured. It was not the turning point in Iraq that many thought it would be. Whether or not his trial could be that, we could find out as early as two months from now. For their first criminal case against the former dictator, prosecutors have chosen an infamous 1982 massacre of more than 150 people in the Shia village of Dujayl, 50 miles north of Baghdad, air strikes and imprisonment following an attempt there on Saddam's life.
It he's not convicted and executed in the Dujayl case, which is expected to come to trial in September, he may be charged with even greater crimes, like the chemical weapons attack that killed an estimated 5,000 Kurds.
Also tonight, you would not have thought there could be an atrocity of a kind at a tee-ball game for 7 and 8-year-old kids. You would be wrong. In short, you will not believe this story. And how not to make a good impression on the judge. In the back there in a Florida courtroom. We're assuming this was not a pro bono case.
OLBERMANN: A basketball coach who spanked his teenaged player whenever he missed a shot, a hockey dad who killed another player's father in a post-game brawl, a baseball mom who kicked an 11-year-old boy on a rival team. And she was the secretary of the local Little League.
Our number two story on the Countdown: As somebody once said, youth sports leagues organized by adults would be great for the kids if only the adults would go home as soon as they finished organizing them. And if the three nightmares I just mentioned made you think it could not get worse, you have not been to Fayette County, Pennsylvania, near Morgantown, West Virginia. You'd better sit down for this one, a coach allegedly giving one of his players money to injure one of his own teammates in tee-ball. The kids are 7 and 8, and the victim is autistic. Here is Mike Taibbi.
MIKE TAIBBI, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The headlines are shocking, that a Little League tee-ball coach in suburban Pittsburgh paid one of his players to intentionally injure another one, a teammate with autism, to improve the team's winning chances.
THOMAS BROADWATER, PENNSYLVANIA STATE TROOPER: The child was warming up with another player. He got hit in the head pretty hard with a baseball.
TAIBBI: Tee-ball is Little League's low-impact minor league, the first step in organized ball for the smallest and youngest kids. The alleged victim in this case is 8, and it was a 7-year-old who reportedly blew the whistle on his coach, Mark Reed Downs (ph).
BROADWATER: The coach had approached him, asking him to hit the boy in the face with a baseball and he would give him $25.
TAIBBI: The coach faces charges of criminal solicitation and assault.
He's denied the allegations.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) he wouldn't want to do it just for - to be vindictive towards the child. I mean, it had to be because he wanted to win.
TAIBBI: but the idea that even at this level, winning can be that important has been raised once again. Mike Taibbi, NBC News, New York.
OLBERMANN: Making an abrupt left turn now to our nightly round-up of celebrity news and gossip, our segment "Keeping Tabs." In the movie "Two Weeks Notice," the actress Sandra Bullock's character was overlooked by Hugh Grant. And while you were sleeping, she was overlooked by Peter Gallagher. In "Miss Congeniality," she was overlooked by Benjamin Bratt. But in real life, she's hooked herself a TV motorcycle mechanic. She's married Jesse James. Not that one. He's dead. Jesse James of "Monster Garage" fame, or trivia, depending on your point of view. The two tying the knot on Saturday at a ranch north of Santa Barbara, California.
Still not that interesting, except the guests, believing they were attending Miss Bullock's 41st birthday party, came in casual attire. They were sitting on bales of hay and were stunned to see the blushing bride gliding down the aisle to exchange vows and rings. By the way, she made his out of steel. And what's not to love about a woman who can weld? It Ms. Bullock's first marriage, Mr. James's third.
Make it one-and-a-half for the actor Jude Law, divorced from wife number one since 2003 and now apologizing to the second future ex-Mrs. Law for cheating on her with the nanny. One of his kids' nannies, not his own nanny, although He seems to need one. Mr. Law publicly apologizing in a statement to the British Press Association to his 23-year-old fiancee, model and actress Sienna Miller. It read, in part, quote, "I just want to say I'm deeply ashamed and upset that I hurt Sienna and the people most close to us." The couple has been engaged since December. There's been no comment from Ms. Miller's representatives regarding the statement or the continuation of the engagement or the fact that she has the same name as a crayon.
Jude Law, of course, is perhaps the only British actor yet to appear in a screen adaptation of a Harry Potter novel. No doubt he'll get the opportunity eventually. To no one's surprise, it's still true, the kids love it - 6.9 million copy of "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince" being sold in its first 24 hours of release here. That's on top of two million in the United Kingdom. According to Scholastic, the book's U.S. publisher, it raked in more than $100 million, far outpacing the weekend's top two grossing films, one of which of was for kids, "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory." Children are reading. Plus, the stronger ones can knock their parents cold by hitting them over the head with the 672-page book.
Also tonight, before the judge could throw the book at her, she threw her clothes at him. A new meaning to the legal term habeas corpus. That's ahead.
But first, time for Countdown's list of today's three nominees for the coveted title of "Worst Person in the World." There's baseball's top camera basher, Kenny Rogers. Today he turned himself in to the cops on the assault charges one of the cameramen brought, and gets a mug shot here for himself, soon to be appearing on his bubble gum card.
Also nominated, Wayne La Pierre, president of the ever-popular NRA, the National Rifle Association. He's moving the group's 2007 convention out of Columbus, Ohio, after the city council there passed a ban on assault weapons. As a result, La Pierre tells the city, 65,000 people will not be coming to your wonderful convention center. Hundreds of exhibitors will not fill your halls with their latest guns, outdoor gear and hunting accessories.
I'm confused. Oh, I get it. He thinks that's a punishment! OK.
They're bad, but they're not as bad as today's winner, Debra Lafave, the 24-year-old Tampa school teacher accused of having had sex with a 14-year-old student. Her attorney says plea negotiations have broken off because the prosecution demanded Lafave go to the Florida state women's penitentiary, and, quoting him, "To place an attractive young woman in that kind of hellhole is like putting a piece of raw meat in with the lions."
Raw meat in with the lions. I guess that's how you could have described putting those 14-year-old boys in her classroom, huh? Huh? Debra Lafave, today's "Worst Person in the World"!
OLBERMANN: Justice is supposed to be blind, but you can forgive Judge Gerald J. Klein of Miami-Dade County in Florida if he keeps his eyes wide open all the time now. Last year, he was minding his business, conducting a hearing in the courtroom, when the defendant started suddenly taking off his clothes.
And now, in our number one story in the Countdown, it's happened again, this time a woman, a young woman, 24-year-old Nicole Babb (ph), who suddenly discarded a blue robe-like garment and decided to present all her evidence. The stag (ph) here was, it wasn't even Ms. Babb's turn. She was waiting for her bond hearing on charges of grand theft and identity fraud when she suddenly decided to submit her motions, which included getting down on all fours.
Why she did this? Nobody knows. Bail was set at $5,000. And when someone in line or waiting gets fidgety, now you know why they're often told, Keep your shirt on! Judge Klein is either inspiring this in some way or he's just wildly unlucky. He's a part-timer, called in to help when the system caseload gets too heavy.
On February 4, 2004, another one of Klein's days on the Miami-Dade bench, as we'll show you in a moment, the male defendant took off his clothes. Is it just that it's too hot in there?
As we try answer that question and 1,000 others, Judge Klein has earned himself an enviable position in the Countdown Hall of Fame, one of the few individuals inducted in two separate exhibitions in the same wing of the place, the "Hall of Legends." As we take the tour, look for the first defendant to appear before the judge, if you know what I mean.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good evening.
OLBERMANN (voice-over): The Hall of Fame is a big imaginary building, but not so not big that we could afford to devote an entire wing to just dumb criminals and another one to only wacky stunt men and a third to only drunken idiots who got themselves stuck in a trash can. There's just not enough room. Especially since we had to enlarge the animal wing to accommodate the huge bouncing bear crowd.
So here in the Hall of Fame's great hall - yes, that's right, there's a hall inside the hall, bear with us here - each of these individuals whose bizarre actions have brought us joy, bewilderment or just great videotape over the years has his own little plaque. It is here that the Countdown Hall of Fame honors the legends.
Who are these people? Well, they're everyman and everywoman caught on tape in strange situations either of their own making or of someone else's.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What are you talking about? You're crazy.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're crazy? (INAUDIBLE)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you just hit me?
OLBERMANN: Perhaps they got drunk and did something stupid, or perhaps they didn't get drunk at all and still did something stupid.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's a bubbling cauldron of hell, and I advise upon (ph) no human being on the face of the earth, you will die if you go over those falls. I reached out and touched the face of God, and he smiled. Thank you.
OLBERMANN: Or they're just run-of-the-mill weirdoes and show-offs out for our attention. We're not too proud to oblige if they make it strange enough.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yo!
OLBERMANN: Some of the legends are dumb criminals and some are really dumb criminals.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And you readily admitted your involvement in the robbery and stated that you were forced into it to pay a drug debt.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm a drug dealer, not a bank robber! I'm the one with the drugs. He was the one that robbed (INAUDIBLE) I'm the mother-(DELETED) drug dealer!
OLBERMANN: Some of them are television personalities, others are just personalities caught on television.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get out of Taiwan! Get out of Taiwan!
ELTON JOHN: Yes, we'd love to get out of Taiwan if it's full of people like you! Pig! Pig! Rude, vile pig!
OLBERMANN: And one is here because he solved the Countdown magic equation: High pressure sales guy plus four-foot samurai sword, plus live TV equals...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The nice thing about these - (INAUDIBLE) Ow! Oh, that hurt!
OLBERMANN: His partner entered the hall on the write-in ballot.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We may need emergency surgery in the studio.
OLBERMANN: Many of our legends are Guinness World Record holders, as well. You wouldn't believe how easy it is to get into that book. Mixed in are the true stuntmen and the daredevils, like the all-time great Felix Baumgartner. This guy goes out there and performs all manner of unsafe acts, literally risking death on a regular basis. And for what? So we can have 30 more seconds of really cool video. Felix, we salute you.
And we salute you, Miss, Universe, the klutziest supermodel on earth. We salute every celebrity who ever had a glamour shot taken at 3:00 AM in some Arizona drunk tank. And we salute the true legends, those caught in unbelievable but unfilmed situations, who later, for some reason, defying belief, agreed to reenact the event for the cameras
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There was only one thing I had that I could use, my tongue.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And as odd as this looks, with her hands and legs tied, Benee Lance (ph) called her office, not police, for help.
OLBERMANN: The Hall honors all of these wild stunts, feats of strength, strange people and even stranger things they do. You may call them dopes, you may call them maniacs, you may call them miscreants, and you may even call them common criminals. But here, here on this ground, we call them the legends.
ROBERT BLAKE: Shut up!
OLBERMANN: The Countdown Hall of Fame. And to think only seven of those people out of about, what, 100 in there - only seven of them even went to court, let alone to prison for the rest of their natural lives. Go figure.
That's Countdown. Tucker Carlson drops in next, so you can see what kind of situation his "SITUATION" is in. Stay tuned. I'm Keith Olbermann. Keep your knees loose. Good night, and good luck.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END