Tuesday, February 28, 2006

'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Feb. 28

Guests: Dana Milbank, Savannah Guthrie, Tom O'Neil, Ernie Banks

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

I forgot. Scooter Libby's defense team hires a memory loss expert, and it's not The Amazing Mesmo.

See if you can find anybody who remembers when the president's poll numbers were good. Thirty-four percent approval, on counterterror 43 percent approval, on Iraq 30 percent approval. And from the troops, on Mr. Bush's idea they should stay as long as necessary, only 23 percent agreement.

She cries, she poses, she wears a cross. Yes, Mrs. Smith goes to Washington, dazzling the Supreme Court and necessitating Anna Nicole Smith Supreme Court Puppet Theater. I'm here for the oral argument.

Will she next be followed to the high court by Howard Stern?


HOWARD STERN: Now I'm being told that CBS wants to file a lawsuit against me, which I believe is a personal vendetta from Les Moonves.


OLBERMANN: CBS does sue, reportedly for $500 million. Is $500 million still personal?

And Buck O'Neil does not take it personal.


BUCK O'NEIL: That committee, I know they were voting just like they felt it should be.


OLBERMANN: But they still won't say why they refused to elect the grand old man of baseball to its Hall of Fame. Buck O'Neil's greatest protege, Ernie Banks of the Cubs, joins us.

All that and more, now on Countdown.

Good evening.

Some days politics gives us conflict or statesmanship or eloquence. Today, it gives us freelance memory loss experts and Anna Nicole Smith at the Supreme Court wearing hair extensions.

Our fifth story on the Countdown, and what kind of a day was it? A day like any day that alters and illuminates our time.

More evidence that the Scooter Libby defense strategy is already scoring high points for ingenuity, if nothing else, a renowned memory loss expert telling NBC News that he has been hired by Libby's legal team to assist with what looks to be the I-was-busy-so-I-forgot defense, a modification of the Steve Martin ploy of 1977.

The man is Harvard professor Daniel L. Schachter, author of books that offer explanations for the, quote, "vulnerability of memory," writing in one of them that if we are distracted as an event unfolds, quote, "we may have great difficulty remembering the details of what happened."

And - wait, did I just say something about folds?

Whether Professor Schachter ever makes it to the witness stand, however, is debatable, Judge Reggie Walton having strongly scolded the Libby defense team, saying, quote, "We are not going to have a trial that boils down to who has the better memory expert, the defense or the government."

Libby's lawyers might be well served to put Anna Nicole Smith on retainer, her day in court, that would be the United States Supreme Court, going just swimmingly, the former stripper-slash-model-slash-20-something bride of an 89-year-old Texas oil tycoon finding a sympathetic audience today on the bench, several justices indicating they were concerned she may have been kept unfairly from pursuing a piece of her late husband's massive fortune.

Analysis and second-ever addition of Anna Nicole Smith Supreme Court Puppet Theater ahead on Countdown.

On a far more serious but no less strange note, this day also calling into question whether Americans in uniform are still firmly behind their commander in chief, an overwhelming majority of American troops who are actually serving in Iraq now saying in a poll that it is time for them to go home.

While still literally behind Mr. Bush, often serving as part of the backdrop at the president's recent speeches about Iraq, 72 percent of those troops surveyed by Zombie International for LeMoyne College in New York feeling they should exit Iraq within the next year. One in three of them said immediately, only 23 percent wanting to heed the president's call to stay as long as they needed, those numbers going a long way toward explaining these latest numbers from a CBS News poll.

Mr. Bush's job approval rating, proving it had not yet hit rock bottom, now at 34 percent, the new all-time low. That is overall. On fighting terrorism in the wake of the ports deal controversy, 43 percent, disapproval there is 50 percent. On his handling of Iraq, 30 percent approval, 30 percent. Three years ago next month, people were talking about Iraq and insisting it made George W. Bush one of the greatest presidents ever. Thirty percent.

This day in Iraq regrettably proving that the recent spate of sectarian violence there could and has gotten worse. At least 68 more killed. We also learned today from the Baghdad morgue via "The Washington Post" that more than 1,300 may have been killed since last week's attack on the Shi'ite shrine that kicked off the violence.

Time now to call in "Washington Post" national political reporter Dana Milbank.

Good evening, Dana.


Evening, Keith.

OLBERMANN: And beginning tonight with the president, both sets of those numbers certainly look bad, but let me ask you first about that poll in Iraq. Does not a whole class of political arguments in defense of the war go out the window if the troops are just as critical of the war as the president's opponents are?

MILBANK: Well, potentially. There are a couple of caveats there. It's an unusual poll in that it was done sort of person to person. A lot of other pollsters question the techniques used by John Zogby, who conducted that poll.

That said, it does certainly indicate other signs that the morale hasn't been great. The - it seems the Reserve units were much - the morale was much lower than in, say, the Marines.

You could put, perhaps, a favorable spin on it, and suggest that the troops were saying, We've done all we can here, we've completed the mission, let's get out.

OLBERMANN: How, though, might those numbers impact, if at all, the midterm elections, the congressional elections? Could Republicans in Red State districts with military bases wind up distancing themselves from the president on the subject of Iraq?

MILBANK: I'd be very surprised if these numbers or military families in general would turn against the president. But they hardly need another reason to. I mean, the - as you were indicating, the poll numbers overall are quite disastrous. There's another poll out today suggesting that by two to one, Americans think the country is on the wrong track. The president's not getting much credit for the economy.

And once that terrorism number slips down to 43 percent, that's sort of been his source of strength, and once that slips out from under him, then all the other numbers tumble.

OLBERMANN: And particularly that overall one in the CBS poll, 34 percent. How low can you go? Is that the bottom line?

MILBANK: Well, in that same poll, the - only 18 percent of the people had a favorable view of poor Vice President Cheney. So in theory, you could go lower. That's indeed lower than Nixonian levels, or even the lows reached by Carter.

In theory, Bush could go lower. But you have to think that he has sort of a hardened core of support there. The other poll out today had him at 40 percent. We're somewhere in the high 30s, presumably. That's still not a place where he's going to get any respect up on Capitol Hill to move his agenda.

OLBERMANN: Let's switch over to Scooter Libby, the I-was-busy-I-forgot strategy, Ask my memory loss expert. As these defenses get more and more bizarre, does Mr. Libby become more of a political story, or less of a political story?

MILBANK: Well, he'll continue to be a political story regardless. But what really is going on here is not, did Scooter remember this, or did Scooter forget, or does he need to reconstruct his memory and go back through his childhood, but can he pose enough obstacles to the government? He's demanding the president's daily briefs, and he knows very well, better than most people, that the administration's not going to turn that over.

So he wants to make a prosecution impossible. Sounds like the judge is not really going to go along with that, going to let him have some - not have the briefs, but have some descriptions of them.

So it's going to be hard for him to throw up the kind of defense he was originally proposing.

OLBERMANN: And speaking of judges and briefs and perhaps of throwing up, anticipating our Supreme Court coverage, the political impact of Anna Nicole Smith is what, exactly?

MILBANK: Well, people were saying they need, you know, after Sandra Day O'Connor departed, they needed another woman on the bench. I'm not sure this is exactly what they had in mind.

But I tell you, whenever I go up there, I still can't keep my eyes off of Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

OLBERMANN: "Washington Post" national political reporter Dana Milbank, dodging the ombudsman as we speak. As always, sir, great thanks.

MILBANK: Thanks.

OLBERMANN: Yet another poll out tonight showing an overwhelming majority of Americans unconvinced, still feeling Congress should block the Dubai ports deal if, or is it just when, the president approves that deal. Congress, as we know, may not get the power to block the deal. But today, as always, lawmakers did get a chance to hold some hearings.

And thus our Capitol Hill correspondent, Chip Reid, got the chance to attend the live version of deal-or-no-deal.


CHIP REID, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Just two days after authorizing a new investigation of the controversial ports deal, the president today reiterated his support.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If there was any doubt in my mind, or people in my administration's mind, that our ports would be less secure and the American people endangered, this deal wouldn't go forward.

REID: Critics accused the president of making up his mind before the new investigation has even begun, and questioned whether he's taking the investigation seriously.

SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: If the investigation proves to be a charade, if it's not truly independent and thorough, then the bipartisan legislation that we introduced yesterday will pass through the Senate and the House like a hot knife through butter.

REID: That legislation would give Congress the power to kill the ports deal, even if the president approves it.

Critics of the deal cite a new poll showing 61 percent of Americans say Congress should block the decision. Only 27 percent say they trust President Bush's decision.

On Capitol Hill today, critics from both parties zeroed in on this document, showing that in December, the Coast Guard found many intelligence gaps on the potential of the Dubai company to support terrorist operations. But the administration insists all concerns were resolved before the deal was approved.

MICHAEL CHERTOFF, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: We were certainly satisfied that we had everything that we needed. Coast Guard was satisfied.

REID: Adding to the controversy, today's online edition of "The Jerusalem Post" reports that the government of Dubai, which owns the ports company, participates in the Arab trade boycott against Israel. Today, a top American executive of the Dubai company appeared to concede the story is correct under questioning from Democratic senator Barbara Boxer.

SEN. BARBARA BOXER (D), CALIFORNIA: Do they support and respect the boycott?

Say it again?

EDWARD BILKEY, DUBAI PORTS WORLD: I would imagine they would.


REID: One leading Republican critic of the deal says his big worry is that instead of using the next 45 days to investigate the deal, the administration will use that time to lobby Congress to back it.

Chip Reid, NBC News, the Capitol.


OLBERMANN: You guys went to see Schumer and Chertoff when Anna Nicole was dancing at the Supreme Court? This is a serious case about territorial jurisdiction and eyeliner. Here it is.

But what is the next lawsuit about? CBS sues Howard Stern reportedly for half a billion dollars, reportedly for stealing their air.

You are watching Countdown on MSNBC.


OLBERMANN: There have been stranger moments at the Supreme Court, not that anyone could remember of them today, not with Anna Nicole Smith actually in the venerated chamber, in a case that, to her, means millions, but to the justices means merely a debate over federal jurisdiction over state-level lawsuits, and the chance to see Anna Nicole Smith in person, and more or less live.

Our fourth story on the Countdown, all rise in court. Dressed in a black dress with uncharacteristically modest cleavage, Ms. Smith wore visible blond air extensions and a cross necklace to the Supreme Court today. Those who have enjoyed Ms. Smith's flamboyant outbursts in the past were doomed for disappointment. She actually tried to avoid the media on her way into court.

Once inside, though Ms. Smith's lawyer said she was in tears for a good part of the hearing. Apparently she gets that way whenever the subject of her late husband comes up. It has nothing to do with the $474 million from his will.

These court sketches, of course, do not do justice to all that emotion. Thus we have resorted again to the new genre of news, Puppet Theater.


OLBERMANN: I'm here for the oral argument. I miss my husband. My husband - my husband - what's his name?

OLBERMANN: Howard. His name was Howard.

OLBERMANN: Yes, Howard. Howard.

OLBERMANN: Can we get on with the cross-examination? Heh heh heh.

OLBERMANN: Justice Thomas, that's not appropriate.

OLBERMANN: Shut up, rookie.


OLBERMANN: The spirit of tonight's puppet news apparently accurate, except the judges came closer to falling all over themselves than Anna did over herself.

One of the innocent bystanders there today, Court TV correspondent Savannah Guthrie joins me now from our nation's capital.

First a year of Michael Jackson, now this. Thanks for your time tonight.


OLBERMANN: So what was it like in there today? Was it was little less Supreme Court-ish than usual?

GUTHRIE: You know, Puppet Theater notwithstanding, the Supreme Court was its usual dignified self, as was Anna Nicole Smith. I mean, she really behaved herself. She sat in the back of the courtroom. It didn't seem like she was trying to draw attention to herself.

And the justices really focused on the legal issue at hand. They grilled the lawyers. And it seemed like they were sympathetic to Anna Nicole Smith's side. But we won't know for sure probably until late this summer, when they issue their ruling.

OLBERMANN: To the layman, the assumption would be these are the Supreme Court justices and the chief justice of the United States. They do not know who the hell this woman is. Yet here's the Associated Press quoting Justice Brier as saying, of her version of events, "It's quite a story." They at least know of her, don't they?

GUTHRIE: Well, I think they do by now. I think what you're really asking me is, do the Supreme Court justices read "Playboy" or watch "Access Hollywood"? I mean, the fact is, I think they know, of course, her history now. And some of these lower-court cases read like a paperback that you get at the supermarkets, really seamy.

But the issue before the court today is kind of an esoteric legal issue, and they treated Anna Nicole Smith like any other litigant that comes to their court.

OLBERMANN: With hair extensions. The - how is it possible that this is the typical case that represents conflicting jurisdictions between the state and federal courts on this issue?

GUTHRIE: Well, what you have here is a state probate court that sided with Anna Nicole Smith's former stepson and said she was entitled to nothing in the will, and that her former husband, J. Howard Marshall, had no intention to give her any money at all.

And at the same time, you have federal courts saying the exact opposite. And so what it does, it set up a conflict. You've got a federal court ruling, you've got a state court ruling. What ruling stands? And that's the issue before the Supreme Court.

OLBERMANN: If they do wind up ruling in her favor, obviously they're not ruling on the money, they're ruling on who has the jurisdiction. But what happens to the case? Does it go back to federal court? Do her chances of getting the money increase? Does she have to wear longer hair extensions? What happens?

GUTHRIE: Well, Keith, do you like litigation? Do you like really long litigation? Even if Anna Nicole Smith wins here, it's going back to the federal court, going back to the Ninth Circuit, where E. Pierce Marshall, her former stepson, is ready for a long, long list of arguments, other arguments he plans to make. I talked to him after the hearing today. He looked me in the eye and he said, I don't care if we have to spend another 10 years in court, she's not going to get a cent, not ever.

OLBERMANN: Well, there's always that videotape to keep playing again and again and again, and then there's the cosmetic work she could get done in the interim. Next time we see her, she might look really, really younger.

Court TV's Savannah Guthrie, good to talk to you on the program again.

GUTHRIE: Nice to see you.

OLBERMANN: Many thanks.

More big-time celebrity legal news. CBS has sued its former recent employee Howard Stern to the tune of a reported $500 million. Stern says CBS's boss, Les Moonves, is just trying to create a diversion from the fact that he doesn't know squat about running a radio network. I'm paraphrasing here.

McGruff he ain't. But this little fellow is still on the police force, helping to take a very small bite out of crime.

That's next here on Countdown.


OLBERMANN: For a little reminder that the latest in the intellectual thought or the latest test case in the courts will not necessarily prove to stand the test of time, we consult the historical calendar and note that on this date that in 1692, that refusing to sit around and be logical and calm when the situation called for panic, the good people of Salem, Massachusetts, began the investigation that would lead to the burning of witches in their community.

On that note, let's play Oddball.

We begin not in Massachusetts but in Ohio, for another episode of Gawga (ph) County Canine: Life in the Streets. Brutus here is the grizzled veteran of (INAUDIBLE) unit, the German Shepherd with 49 dog years on the force. A couple of more, and he retires with a (INAUDIBLE) pension.

But Brutus didn't count on his new partner, Midge (ph), a two-pound chihuahua with a nose for narcotics and a suicidal death wish. Well, a nose for narcotics, anyway. But don't be fooled, Mr. Drug Dealer. This chihuahua would rip your stupid face off if she got the chance.

Whatcha gonna do when Midge comes for you?

The sheriff's department is hoping Midge will make the perfect drug-sniffing doggie detective due to her incredible sense of smell, as long as she doesn't get stuck in the detective's holster.

To Surrey in England, for the unveiling of artist Sharon Baker's self-sculpture, made entirely out of bread. Do you get the pun? Sharon Baker. The five-foot-three-inch statue came out of the oven to a great reception, although, ow, her feet are crusty.

The carbolicious work of art then sliced up and eaten by the art enthusiasts on hand, most of whom enjoyed their Baker bread with a little bit of butter Elvis, thank you very much.

Also tonight, the Elvis of radio, Howard Stern, versus the Elvis of management, Les Moonves. Stern holds a stinging news conference, lashing out at his old boss. CBS responds with a $500 million lawsuit. Is it bad blood, or is there legal jeopardy here?

And could there be bad blood towards baseball great Buck O'Neil? He says, do not get angry with the voters who left him out of the Hall of Fame. My guest, his protege, Mr. Cub, Ernie Banks, is likely not so sure about that.

All that ahead.

But first, time now for Countdown's top three newsmakers of this day.

Number three, Clear Channel Radio hosting a semiformal event at the Milwaukee Art Museum, offering unlimited martinis for $30. Four patrons got so gassed they climbed up on a large statue of a goddess. Others, during the general bacchanalia that ensued, decided to rearrange the artwork. The police were called.

Speaking of the artwork, number two, the unnamed 12-year-old at the Detroit Institute of Arts must have seen that Monty Python sketch where the little boy started eating the paintings at the museum. He stuck his wad of gum on Helen Frankenthaler's (ph) 1963 abstract, "The Bay." The painting is now worth a little less than the million-and-a-half dollars it was before that gum stain. But it is a little more abstract than it was.

And number one, Kimberly Du of Des Moines, Iowa. The media is full to the bursting point with people like Ms. Du, who are accused of faking their own deaths. But seldom do they share her motive. She faked an obituary notice from the local newspaper, made up a fake newspaper, forged a letter from her mother describing her death in a car accident in December. She did this to avoid paying a couple of traffic tickets. And she seemed to be about to get away with it, until police pulled her over to give her another traffic ticket.


OLBERMANN: One of the men is, simply put, the highest paid performer in the history of radio and may yet turn out to be the highest paid performer in the history of broadcasting. He was the $600 million man.

The other was a guest star once on season four, episode 20 of "The Six-Million-Dollar Man" playing Bob Kemps.

Our third story on the Countdown, it's Howard Stern versus his ex-boss and former journeyman actor Les Moonves. Moonves, the chairman of CBS, suing Stern tonight, possibly for as much as half a billion. Stern saying it's a personal vendetta.

Hours after the famed shock jock held a news conference saying CBS was threatening to sue him, sue it did, late in the afternoon, charging Stern, his agent, Don Buchwald, his new employers, Sirius Satellite Radio, with breach of contract, fraud, unjust enrichment, and misappropriation of CBS Radio air time.

I've heard some bad shows on CBS Radio. Can I sue for misappropriation of my time?

CBS says Stern stole their time, in effect, by promoting his move to satellite while on the CBS air, in order to reach a subscriber target that would trigger a huge bonus. CBS says Stern never revealed that motivation. Stern says it was never a secret.

And while going after Moonves and CBS Radio Chairman Joel Hollander, at least he didn't bring up Mr. Moonves' other appearance as Pasqual in the February 25, 1976, episode of the CBS William Conrad detective series, "Cannon."


HOWARD STERN, RADIO HOST: The radio division at CBS is in shambles. It's in shambles. They are getting crushed. Ill-prepared, Les Moonves and Joel Hollander, the two stooges, are running this radio division right into the ground to record losses.

Now they're claiming I misused CBS air time. Why didn't they hit the dump button? They had complete control over content. They gave me permission. But now they want to turn around and sue me.

Why didn't you stop me if you didn't like what I was doing? And Les goes, "Well, I'm the one who kept you on the air, and I knew I could sue you afterwards."

This guy is a - he's the one perpetrating the hoax. He is a very good guy at picking television shows that you will like to watch. He cannot run CBS Radio. He doesn't know a thing about radio. He turns to me and he goes, "I can't believe I had to read about - I had to hear about Howard Stern leaving CBS on my birthday." I said, "What are you, 11 years old?"


OLBERMANN: To try to figure this out, I'm joined now by the senior editor of "In Touch Weekly" magazine, Tom O'Neil. Thanks for your time tonight, Tom.

TOM O'NEIL, "IN TOUCH WEEKLY": Great, thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN: I'm having trouble following the CBS logic here. Stern used their air to promote his own show, so instead of, as he points out, simply taking him off when he was a lame duck, they left him on - something you're never supposed to do, never - hi, I'm living proof of this - you let him do what he wants, and then two months later after he's gone, you sue him? I don't follow the logic.

O'NEIL: Well, I think they knew that Howard would self-destruct on the air. All Howard had to do was just shut up, share the business terms of Sirius with CBS to honor his contract, and just be above board about everything, go out the door, claim that $600 million.

But they knew this big baby with a big mouth couldn't keep it in check. And he ended up benefiting $200 million while in stock while he was still an employee of CBS. The question is: Is Howard right? Did CBS know this or didn't they?

OLBERMANN: If you are Howard Stern and you're trying to restart in essentially a new medium, and you have this much money, even if you're getting sued for what still would be a lesser figure than your stock in the new company is worth, is it still not all publicity is good publicity? But on the other part of the equation, if you're Les Moonves, you're the chairman of CBS. Is that still true? Isn't CBS, in effect, right now still just promoting Howard Stern's radio show?

O'NEIL: Sure. But that may be worthless, in terms of what it's worth in the future, because I don't think Howard's in a very good spot here. If these terms are clear and CBS is right here, they have a right to these hundreds of millions of dollars that he made on their watch while promoting.

Because, remember, this was an accelerated - what Howard had to do was bring in enough subscribers to Sirius by a certain date, which he seemed to be doing on the air on CBS's nickel, even though they could have pulled the plug, and if he benefited that much from it, you know what? That's part of CBS's money, too. I think this is a big blunder on Howard's part.

OLBERMANN: But on the other hand, again, that original point, if you think somebody's doing something that damages you, and your option - your first option is that you have complete control editorially, and you can just say, "You're done, go home, and we don't have to pay you, because you violated the contract now," but you choose to deliberately leave him on in hopes that he's going to do something that allows to you sue him, is that not some sort of legal entrapment?

O'NEIL: I don't think so. I think they kept telling him, "Knock it off," and he just kept violating it, and they were stacking up his number of violations, and would give him the bill for it later. And he fell for it. All he had to do was shut his mouth, Keith, but Howard's not good at that.

OLBERMANN: Ultimately, this is about a, quote, "talent," unquote, my favorite term, leaving a broadcasting company to go work for another broadcasting company. Do you think that this is the right time for Mr. Moonves to be turning things like this into lawsuits, given the widely reported and presumed courting by him and people who work for him of a certain co-host of a certain morning program that I really am not supposed to mention without permission?


O'NEIL: Yes. But of course we all know what you're talking about. That has nothing to do with this. Les Moonves was mocked and ridiculed on Howard's show constantly, the same way that "David Letterman" makes fun of him. But David Letterman knows where to pull back; Howard never did and made this man an absolute laughing stock in the media world.

And now I think Les Moonves wants revenge. And he knew that Howard couldn't keep his big mouth shut, and I think that he's going to have to pay the bill for it now.

OLBERMANN: We will find out, I suppose, in the courts. Tom O'Neil of TheEnvelope.com and "In Touch Weekly." Great thanks for your time.

O'NEIL: Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN: And speaking of O'Neils, one of the classiest acts sports has ever seen, baseball's Buck O'Neil not elected to the hall of fame but saying now he's willing to speak on behalf of those who were.

New questions tonight about that vote. And speaking on his behalf, his friend, Mr. Cub, the hall-of-famer Ernie Banks.

And as revelers enjoyed the distraction from Katrina provided by Mardi Gras, we'll have the story of the smallest victims of the hurricane, the thousands of lost pets. That's next. This is Countdown.


OLBERMANN: Six months ago tomorrow, Hurricane Katrina swept on shore to the east of New Orleans. Within 24 hours, the mayor estimated that 80 percent of that city was underwater. It was the worst natural disaster in America history.

In our number-two on the Countdown, the use of that word "was" suggests the past tense here. It is hardly that for residents still searching and just once in a while finding their pets. That in a moment.

First, the traditional Mardi Gras parade and party snaking through the French Quarter in celebration of Shrove Tuesday. Thousands lining the street, although attendance obviously down from last year. Restaurants reporting brisk business, though only a third of the establishments pre-Katrina are open.

Hotel rooms are filled. Though, again, only 15,000 of the 25,000 rooms once available are available tonight.

Half the human residents of New Orleans are not yet back, though many are still trying. And as our correspondent Martin Savidge reports tonight, hundreds of members of the animal population, they're still looking to go home, too.


MARTIN SAVIDGE, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Now living in Las Vegas, 72-year-old Shirley Washington feared two loved ones never made it out alive from her home in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.

She was wrong.

SHIRLEY WASHINGTON, PET OWNER: I don't know what I would do without you.

SAVIDGE: Sassy and Kelly were rescued...


SAVIDGE:... and, over the weekend, reunited with the owner who had missed them so desperately.

WASHINGTON: Just searching, and hoping, and praying that I would get them back, and it's happened.

SAVIDGE: They are the lucky ones. Many Katrina pets still wait for their reunions, in cages at facilities like this one at a miniature golf course and arcade just outside New Orleans.

Since the first week after the hurricane, the group Best Friends has been collecting and caring for them. They've rescued 7,000 animals; 275 are still here, unclaimed or unwanted. Call them special-needs pets, so traumatized by Katrina or their life of loneliness afterwards, many just cower in the corner.

JULIETTE WATT, VOLUNTEER COORDINATOR: She's probably been out for about six months on the streets, you know. And thanks to all the food and water stations, she's managed to survive, but she's super, super shy.

SAVIDGE: Red's the exception. He's the fastest thing on two feet and two wheels. Struck by a car just after Katrina, he was partially paralyzed. Unable to care for the dog, his owner left Red.

WATT: His spirit is amazing.

SAVIDGE: But now another sad twist. Best Friends has lost its lease. The shelter must close. Volunteers are feverishly working to relocate the animals to other facilities around the country, determined to make sure none of these Katrina victims go homeless again.

Martin Savidge, NBC News, New Orleans.


OLBERMANN: On to our nightly roundup of celebrity and entertainment news, "Keeping Tabs."

And George Michael's speedy admission over his latest run-in with the law, charges of drug possession. Mr. Michael was found slumped over the steering wheel of a car on Saturday at Hyde Park Corner in central London, that according to a police statement.

"It is my own stupid fault, as usual," said George Michael in his own statement. "I was in possession of class-c drugs," he said, "which is an offense, and I have no complaints about the police, who were professional throughout."

Class-c drugs are the lowest category in Britain, including marijuana, tranquilizers and some painkillers. Conviction carries a possible jail term up to two years and a fine. Mr. Michael was previously arrested in 1998 for a lewd act in a public toilet in Los Angeles; he parodied that arrest in a music video.

An encouraging prognosis tonight for singer-songwriter Sheryl Crow, who is recovering from surgery for breast cancer. Her chances of a full recovery are excellent, says her publicist. Ms. Crow underwent surgery last Wednesday for what she described on her Web site as "minimally invasive surgery."

She said she will be undergoing radiation treatment, but that she had benefited from early detection. She urged other women to have themselves checked. She also said she would reschedule her North American concert tour as soon as possible.

Her former fiance, Lance Armstrong, also expressed confidence in Crow's recovery, saying he had spoken with her and her doctor.

Meantime, the fallout continues from the snubbing of one of baseball's most well-known ambassadors. It turns out the voters could have elected as many as they wanted to the Hall of Fame and they still chose not to elect Buck O'Neil. His greatest protege, hall-of-famer Ernie Banks, joins me next.

But first, time for Countdown's list of today's three nominees for "Worst Person in the World," not counting Hall of Fame voters.

The bronze to Principle Mike Neece at Ramona High School in Riverside, California. Two seniors there decided what the school needed was a snowball fight, in southern California. So they drove to the San Bernardino Mountains to load up their pickups. They drove the snow to the school and were promptly suspended because snowballs are considered dangerous there.

Mr. Niece, you need a week in January in upstate New York.

Runners up: Randy Beaty, Carlos Torres-Ramos, Humberto Ponce, and Enrique Pena, drivers on Highway 26 in Rock County, Wisconsin. You probably thought, "Too bad that drunk drivers don't crash into each other." Each of these men arrested after a four-car accident, each charged with drunken driving.

But tonight's winner: Brit Hume from FOX News at it again. Monday, he described the Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid as "factually challenged" after the senator said Dubai Ports World was taking control of our ports. Hume said they were not getting control of the ports, emphasis on the word control.

But as recently as last Wednesday, the situation was described thusly on FOX News, quoting, "The Bush administration was trying today to dig itself out of a political hole on the question of who should control some of the nation's ports." Who used that word control and then criticized the senator for using the same word? Brit Hume, today's "Worst Person in the World!"


OLBERMANN: The man some call baseball's greatest ambassador denied admission yesterday to its Hall of Fame, in what is scheduled to be his last opportunity for election. Today, he told the people who voted against him that he would be happy to speak at the induction ceremonies anyway on behalf of the 17 deceased individuals who they did elect.

Our number one story on the Countdown, that is Buck O'Neil in a nutshell. Ninety-four years old, first baseman on four pennant winners and manager of five more in the old Negro Leagues, the first man of color to be a coach in the major leagues, also told the rest of us who are still incensed at the snub not to be angry at those voters.

This while those voters continued to hide behind the cloak of anonymity, refusing to say who voted for O'Neil and the equally deserving Minnie Minoso and who didn't and why. This while it proves that the voting process that excluded O'Neil and the 83-year-old Minoso was a blank check, a yes or no ballot. The 12-member committee had 39 finalists to select from; it could have elected all 39, O'Neil and Minoso included, if it had wanted to.


BUCK O'NEIL, BASEBALL LEGEND: That committee, I know they were voting just like they felt it should be. They were looking at the records, and they're doing that, and that's the way they voted. Uh-huh, and it was nothing wrong, so don't feel bad with them for feeling that way. And don't you shed any tears, man, because I'm not going to the Hall of Fame, because I'm a hall-of-famer.




OLBERMANN: Explanations from that committee, though, have been few and cowardly. One who did speak up who apparently had voted for Buck O'Neil was Ray Doswell, curator of the Negro League's museum.

"Honestly," he says, "Buck has a lot of fans on this committee, and I think even the people who didn't vote for him are his fans, but they decided to vote with their conscience and the high standards of the Hall of Fame."

Those high standards, by the way, permitted them to yesterday elect Alex Pompez, a former racketeer in the Dutch Schultz crime family, who once owned the New York Cubans and later scouted for the New York Giants. And to honor the Negro Leagues, that committee also elected two white owners, J.L. Wilkinson of the Kansas City Monarchs and Effa Manley of the Newark Eagles, whose co-owner husband reportedly traded away at least one of the team's players because she was having an affair with that player.

These were not the regular Hall of Fame voters, but 12 so-called experts, at least eight of whom are, like me, members of the Society for American Baseball Research. Nine votes from them were required for election.

The voters were named Todd Bolton, Greg Bond, who's associated with the University of Wisconsin, and Adrian Burgos, Jr., an assistant professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Dick Clark, Ray Doswell, who mentioned, Leslie Heaphy, associated with Kent State, Dr. Larry Hogan from Union County College of New Jersey, Larry Lester, Sammy Miller, Jim Overmyer, and the late Robert Peterson, who passed away just two weeks, and Rob Ruck.

I contacted seven of them by e-mail, got four replies today. Each refused a request to say even how they voted on Minoso or O'Neil. Mr. Overmyer wrote, "The members of this committee were specifically asked by the Hall not to talk about their choices, and I have to respect the implicit promise I made to the Hall when I took this assignment."

However, baseball's Hall of Fame tells us it only asked the voters not to talk about their choices yesterday, as those choices were first being revealed to the public. There is nothing restricting the voters from speaking publicly now; they just won't.

Of the hundreds of players Buck O'Neil influenced, the first on the list has to be Ernie Banks. He broke in with O'Neil's Kansas City Monarch's in 1950. Three years later, he was with the Chicago Cubs. Six years after that, he won back-to-back awards as most valuable player in the National League. And in 1957, with 512 home runs and the indelible status as Mr. Cub under his belt, Ernie Banks went to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

He joins us now. Thank you for your time tonight, Ernie.

ERNIE BANKS, HALL OF FAME BASEBALL PLAYER: Thank you very much, Keith. Nice being on the show.

OLBERMANN: How did this happen? How did the committee to end all committees to honor the Negro Leagues and make some right out of all that wrong wind up not electing Buck O'Neil?

BANKS: Oh, Keith, I was totally disappointed in the results of this vote, and I'm in the Hall of Fame because of Buck O'Neil. I spent many time and many years with him. He's a scout and a teacher.

And he saw something in me when I first arrived with the Kansas City Monarchs that I didn't see in myself. And he's that type of person; he can really pull the skills that a person have out. And I just love this man. He's a great human being. And I was just totally disappointed that he did not make it into Baseball Hall of Fame.

OLBERMANN: As so many of us were. You know that these voters were unlike the other elections when it's writers or historians; these were amateur historians. These were mostly people from the Society for American Baseball Research.

I've been in that group for 22 years nearly. I write for them. It's one of my favorite pastimes. And after what the members of my group did here, I'm ready to resign in protest.

This may be a really off-the-wall idea, but when you heard about this vote about the Hall of Fame, did you think, even for a moment, "I don't want to be in any Hall of Fame where Buck O'Neil is not allowed to be a member"?

BANKS: Well, I thought about that a lot. I mean, I've known Buck, been around him, and seen him, and he got a lot of African-American players into Baseball Hall of Fame when he was on the committee, and that was his mission and goal in life, is to get more African-Americans into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

He did that. And I've really - although he didn't think about himself being in the Baseball Hall of Fame. He's a wonderful human being. And he really should be in the Hall of Fame.

And I'd like to see the committee stay intact and not disband the committee. Let the committee stay intact so next year that these other African-American players will have a chance to be in Baseball's Hall of Fame.

OLBERMANN: You mentioned, Ernie, what might be the ultimate irony and the greatest pain in all of this. Without Buck O'Neil reminding people what it was like and who played before the color line was broken, they wouldn't have had that vote yesterday, right? I mean, none of those 17 people gets enshrined. He was the man who raised the consciousness, wasn't he?

BANKS: Yes, he was. He was really - he really raised the consciousness. That was his whole mission in life as I was around him, is to raise the consciousness of this situation, where more African-American players could play in the major leagues, number one, but most of all to be in Baseball's Hall of Fame.

He got me in. He got Lou Brock in the Hall of Fame, Billy Williams, many of the players that Buck O'Neil was around. And when he scouted all the black colleges and all the black high schools and searched for black players to play in the major leagues - and he did that - and his goal was to get us in the major leagues and get us into Baseball's Hall of Fame. He's a remarkable human being.

OLBERMANN: He, of course, comes out last night and says, "Don't be upset about this." And now today he volunteers to speak at the induction ceremony about the men they selected instead of him.

Should we, as his fans, as his admirers say, "Hey, Buck, whatever you want. You got it. We'll shut up now"? Or should we continue to protest this? What do we do? There seem to be two conflicting things here.

BANKS: Well, just follow Buck O'Neil, and that's what I've always been and seen from being around him. This man is a leader. He's a genius. He understands people. He understands life. And he will do that. And he will keep this going.

He never gives up on situations and things that he believes in. He's not discouraged about any of this. He believes that he's came along at the right time, he's doing the right things. He started the Negro League Museum in Kansas City, and that was his goal, his mission, and many people resented that.

But he stayed on course with his situations. And all of us should learn from this man. He's an ambassador. He's a humanitarian. He's just a great human being. And we should follow him and lead - follow him and see what he has to say and just be with him. He's just a remarkable human being.

OLBERMANN: A yes or no on one other topic that's kind of gotten shunted aside. While you were starring for the Cubs in Chicago, Minnie Minoso was starring for the White Sox. He didn't get in, either. Is Minnie Minoso a hall-of-famer?

BANKS: Yes, he is. Now, that's two things. I'm glad you mentioned that, Keith. In my career and life, basically the same, Buck O'Neil encouraged me and developed me so I could get in the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1977.

And then when Minnie Minoso, being with him and seeing him play in this city, and being around him, to see how he played, he hustled, his love for the game, and the way he responded to people, was a big inspiration to me. It was a big inspiration to me and my life, which is following these two men.

OLBERMANN: Ernie, I'm out of time. Ernie Banks, great thanks for your time tonight.

BANKS: Thank you.

OLBERMANN: Buck O'Neil himself will be my guest live Wednesday night right here on Countdown. That's our program for tonight. I'm Keith Olbermann. Keep your knees loose. Good night, and good luck.

Our coverage continues now with Rita Cosby LIVE & DIRECT.

Good evening, Rita.


Monday, February 27, 2006

'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Feb. 27

Guests: John Harwood, Robert Hagan, Craig Thomshaw

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

The cooling-off period. Will the 45-day delay on the Dubai Ports World deal really tamp down the controversy, or will it just extend open season on the man who will ultimately say yea or nay, President Bush?

The neocon agenda. It's dead. Wishful thinking by Howard Dean? No, the conclusion of Francis Fukuyama, the founding father of the neocons. "Something," he says, "I can no longer support."

Can anyone, conservative or liberal, support this, an Ohio lawmakers bid to ban adoptions by Republicans?

Ted Baxter strikes again, day four of his petition to get this show canceled.

Baseball strikes again. Seventeen heroes from its old Negro Leagues, elected to its Hall of Fame. Its greatest living ambassador, Buck O'Neil, is refused admission. But they did elect two more white people.

And three great actors gone. We will remember Don Knotts and Dennis Weaver and especially, from "A Christmas Story," Darren McGavin.


DARREN MCGAVIN: You used up all the glue on purpose.


OLBERMANN: All that and more, now on Countdown.




OLBERMANN: Good evening.

To hit the cliche off the start, the living once again easy in the Big Easy tonight. Tourists back on Bourbon Street for the penultimate night of Mardi Gras, only two days shy of the six-month mark since Hurricane Katrina devastated that city, a welcome distraction from the difficult road that still lies ahead there.

Our fifth story on the Countdown, the politics of distraction taking a new twist tonight. On the one hand, pre-Lenten partying in New Orleans, a brief respite from issues of rebuilding. On the other, the disastrous federal response to the storm, just one of the distractions laying claim to President Bush's second term.

Bad news for the White House, it seems, coming in waves. The president's point man on Katrina, the former FEMA director Michael Brown, once again proving to be a less-than-willing scapegoat, telling NBC News in an exclusive interview that he was hung out to dry.

And the controversy over the secret NSA spying program, meanwhile, unlikely to go away anytime soon, despite the administration's to make it go away, the White House today rejecting a call by Democrats on Capitol Hill for a special counsel investigation of the warrant-free wiretapping.

Dick Cheney's weekend of male bonding gone horribly wrong, leaving a mark that has not yet faded, the blowback not so much the result of the vice president shooting his hunting buddy as about the delay in informing the media about the accident, the White House buying itself a delay from the fallout over the Dubai seaport deal, 45 days' worth, announcing over the weekend that it will conduct a new security review of that transaction.

Of course, the president gets the final say, and his aides already foreshadowing that the final answer will be yes.

Iraq still plagued with problems too numerous to mention here, a U.S. government report obtained by "TIME" magazine concluding that the litany of blunders in Iraq having more to do with poor planning by the Bush administration than even with the insurgency or the sectarian violence.

The long-term impact of Iraq on the National Guard here at home at the top of the agenda of the winter meeting of the National Governors Association, all 50 govs, including the president's brother, signing a letter to President Bush earlier this month, opposing cuts to the National Guard that are proposed in W. Bush's 2007 budget, for the president today, avoiding that sticky subject by thanking the governors for their support.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And I want to thank you for supporting our Guard troops. Many of you have been overseas and have seen our Guard troops in action. And I can't thank you enough for not only supporting the troops in harm's way, but providing great comfort to their families as well.


OLBERMANN: Let's call in "The Wall Street Journal"'s national political editor, John Harwood, for some analysis.

Good evening, John.


Hey, Keith. Apologies in advance for the scratchy throat.

OLBERMANN: I hear you.

It seems that when we talk now, almost every week the White House is trying to put out a new fire as the midterm elections are beginning to loom on that horizon. Does the GOP have a remedy, a Band-Aid to all that we laid out just now?

HARWOOD: Well, they don't really have an easy remedy, but they have a decision to make, Keith. One of the things hanging over this year is, to what degree do Republicans think the way for them to get healthy politically is to run away from President Bush? We've seen that to some extent on Katrina, we've seen it on this ports deal.

There are some others within the party who think the only way that they can truly change the environment is to help President Bush's numbers go up a little bit, and to try to hang with him and sort of all rise together, if you will. But that's not working out so far, and it looks as if more and more Republicans are thinking the odds benefit them to put some distance between themselves and President Bush.

OLBERMANN: And how much of that defection, such as it is, that we have been seeing lately can or should be traced directly to this port deals controversy? Have the Democrats finally found a chink in the GOP stronghold on national security?

HARWOOD: Keith, it's not often that Democrats can have a weapon or an issue to try to portray President Bush as Barney Fife on national security, but they've got one in the ports deal. You look at the polling, there were two new polls out today showing large majorities of the American people think this is a bad idea.

And one of the things that happens is, when you get an issue like this, that, to the ordinary person on the street is a no-brainer, no, we're not going to have a country in the Middle East controlling U.S. port terminals, even if the White House thinks this is a silly opposition. It's very tough for politicians to get out from under that.

I've talked to a couple of governors in the last few days who say, You won't believe the heat we're getting from constituents. Talked to a Republican senator today who indicated he was likely to support the administration, but said, That's easy for me, because I'm not up for reelection this year.

OLBERMANN: Yes, that's - this thing is visceral. This is not about the logic behind the thing, or even the security behind the thing. But then that raises the question, are - is logic or something else being applied to a situation in which the decision here is to make a 45-day delay? Does that just not extend how long people can react to it viscerally? I mean, nobody's going to argue people out of their presuppositions on this, are they? Not (INAUDIBLE).

HARWOOD: Well, that's right. But this is another sort of visceral judgment, that the administration is hoping that if you delay it 45 days, quiet down the whole sort of talk-radio storm and the storm in print, that the fever will break, if you will, and that when they get to the other end, if they have members of the White House, senior Republicans, who've sort of been talked back from the cliff, saying, Well, now we've been satisfied because of all these questions, that maybe they can get it through.

I think it's going to be a close call, because you've got a lot of Senate seats up, and Republicans know that Democrats are going to cut ads that say, Hey, these are the guys who voted to turn our ports over. That could be a very effective November advertisement.

OLBERMANN: Meanwhile, in the interim, any slow news day, you've got an automatic lead story, which is, what's the latest on the Dubai ports deal?

HARWOOD: Exactly.

OLBERMANN: Last thing here, there's another report on the Internet today, it's not the first one, concerning the long-term job prospects of the vice president. The current events magazine "Insight," conservative publication, quoting GOP sources that envision Dick Cheney retiring within a year. This has been speculated about since well before the '04 election. Is there, is this just more of the same speculation-wise, or is there some there there?

HARWOOD: Keith, I don't think Dick Cheney's going anywhere. There's been a lot of speculation that he would step down and Condi Rice would be put in position to run. But I just don't think that's another decision, a confirmation fight, that the administration wants to take on. And so I think we're not going there. I think Dick Cheney's going to be there through the end of the term.

OLBERMANN: Well, we'll let the chips or the buckshot or birdshot fall where it may.

"Wall Street Journal" national political, John Harwood, feel better.

HARWOOD: Thank you very much.

OLBERMANN: And thanks for your time tonight.

Also tonight, the judge in the CIA leak case shedding some light on his wishes for that trial. It is still more than 10 months off, if we're lucky. But it's never too early to set some guidelines so people can start fighting them, Judge Reggie Walton issuing an order today allowing either party in the case to subpoena journalists or news organizations, by deciding this issue so early, the judge apparently hoping to give all reporters who may be asked to testify time to appeal, and the appellate courts plenty of time to hear those arguments, the judge also narrowing the requests from Scooter Libby's defense teem for the highly classified documents it wants to develop his defense.

Instead of granting the defense complete use of the president's daily brief memo, or PDB, Mr. Libby's lawyers must instead summarize the general subject matter of the documents and limit their use to three specific time periods.

As we mentioned earlier, day after tomorrow, think of it as if it were February the 29th, though there is no such date this year, will mark the six-month anniversary since Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans. Thus tonight, the images of Mardi Gras celebrations in the French Quarter undeniably heartening to see.

And yet, as Martin Savidge reports for us from New Orleans, it is hard to talk about any real comeback for the city when many of its citizens have yet to come back.


MARTIN SAVIDGE, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Bourbon Street then, Bourbon Street now. The Ninth Ward then, and now. Six months since Katrina, New Orleans is a town with two faces. Mardi Gras, the Comeback City, and just blocks away, the city where most haven't come back.


SAVIDGE: Alon Samore (ph), then.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But we're going to make it work. Now, we'll be back. Remember I said that. I'll be back.

SAVIDGE: And him now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's depressing that's what it is, it's frustrating.

SAVIDGE: Homesickness brought him back for Mardi Gras. Like many, he's had a head-on collision with reality, slow or no insurance payments, federal red tape -

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I feel like I'm lost.

SAVIDGE:... and the city's lack of a real plan.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Trying to figure out what to do.

SAVIDGE: This was Margaret Tolliver (ph) when we first met.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I should have the right to come back in my home.

SAVIDGE: But hanging on is wearing her out.

She got a FEMA trailer in November, she got the electricity for it last Thursday.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't know what the future's going to bring.

SAVIDGE: New Orleans' already reduced population may soon face a second exodus, as the frustrated give up and go. That's a big worry for Johnny Blanchard (ph), who just reopened his uptown restaurant.

Of the 81,000 businesses hit by Katrina only half are back in business.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The biggest question, I think, for our business is, can the population change sustain us in the long haul?

SAVIDGE: And there's another big question. Could it happen again? The Army Corps of Engineers says it'll have New Orleans' levee system restored by the start of this hurricane season.

COL. LEWIS SETLIFF, ARMY CORPS OF ENGINEERS: The program is just over 40 percent complete.

SAVIDGE: But there's only four months to go.

The city itself is struggling to stay afloat. New Orleans is $120 million in debt, and somehow needs to find an additional $200 million just to cover things like police, fire, and garbage collection after the party's over.

(on camera): So as they try to forget their cares this Mardi Gras, many in New Orleans are wondering if they and their city will be here next year, Keith.


OLBERMANN: Martin Savidge in New Orleans, great thanks.

From a city struggling to make it to a foreign policy facing the same kind of uphill battle, Iraq and neoconservative agenda. One of the architects of neocon says it is in as much trouble as Iraq is. We will hear from him.

And an unusual front in the culture wars, one state posing legislation to ban gay couples from adopting kids. So another politician there answers by trying to ban Republican couples from adopting kids.

You are watching Countdown on MSNBC.


OLBERMANN: It is just three months now since congressman and decorated vet Jack Murtha was denounced on the floor of the House of Representatives as a, quote, "coward" for having even suggested we make a quick exit from Iraq.

Our fourth story on the Countdown, now William F. Buckley is saying we should get out, and fast. And a conflict-resolution organization with the improbable name The International Crisis Group issuing a warning today. Iraq, it says, is on the verge of an all-out civil war between the Shia and Sunni populations, and the international community should prepare for the real possibility that the entire country could destabilize.

As MSNBC's chief Washington correspondent, Norah O'Donnell, reports now, not only is this perceived as a failure of policy, but also as a failure of an entire doctrine. And one of those who sees it that way is the virtual creator of that doctrine.



In Iraq today, the three-day-old curfew was lifted. An uneasy calm after a wave of sectarian violence killed hundreds of Iraqis following last week's attack on the Shiites' holy shrine in Samarra. Now Iraq is teetering on the brink of civil war, and the reason is the failure of neoconservativism, says Francis Fukuyama.

FRANCIS FUKUYAMA, AUTHOR, "AMERICA AT THE CROSSROADS": It was an overestimation, I think, of the importance of American power in bringing about the, you know, democracy in general.

O'DONNELL: What's stunning is that Fukuyama is one of the leading architects of neoconservatism. But three years after the invasion, he now says it was misused in Iraq.

FUKUYAMA: You know, conservatism is as American as apple pie. This is a long-standing tradition, this American idealism, to see ourselves as a model for the rest of the world.

O'DONNELL (on camera): So what's wrong?

FUKUYAMA: You know, the problem, really, was the overmilitarization of the means. I think we've spread democracy through political influence, through the example that we set, through funding.

O'DONNELL (voice-over): In his new book, Fukuyama says the Bush doctrine, launching preemptive wars to defend America, it is now in shambles.

(on camera): How have your friends, other neoconservatives, reacted to you speaking out?

FUKUYAMA: I suspect a lot of people are sharpening their knives as we speak.

O'DONNELL (voice-over): He says his apostasy comes from growing frustration, a failure of planning, a need for realism. First, Vice President Cheney claiming the U.S. would be greeted as liberators.

FUKUYAMA: They expected to be down to 25,000 troops by the end of the first summer after active combat was over.

O'DONNELL (on camera): Another example, a leaked National Intelligence Council assessment from July 2004 that warned Iraq would achieve "tenuous stability" in the next 18 months, or, worst case, could dissolve into civil war.

(voice-over): Back then, the president dismissed the study.

BUSH: And they were just guessing as to what the conditions might be like.

O'DONNELL: But even as some criticized the president, Mr. Bush today told the nation's governors gathered in Washington his strategy for spreading democracy will work.

BUSH: The freedom agenda is a powerful part of our country's desire to lay the foundation for peace, and it's making a difference.

O'DONNELL: The president remains optimistic, even as critics charge neoconservatism has failed America, and needs to be replaced by a more realistic foreign policy agenda.

For Countdown, I'm Norah O'Donnell in Washington.


OLBERMANN: There is some good news out of Iraq tonight. Even though the second deadline set by the kidnappers of American journalist Jill Carroll has now passed, both the American ambassador to Iraq and the Iraqi interior minister say she is still alive.

But they do give convicting information about where she might be. According to the ambassador, Iraq's interior ministry has information about where she might be held. According to that interior minister, they do not know where she is, and suspect she may have been moved by her captors.

Iraqi police raided several homes on Saturday, hoping to find Ms. Carroll before Sunday's deadline but found nothing. The 28-year-old freelance journalist has been missing since gunmen killed her bodyguard and snatched her off the streets of Baghdad on the 7th of January.

He's one of the greatest ambassadors any sport has ever known, and today major league baseball repaid Buck O'Neil with one of the greatest sports snubs of all time.

And caught on tape, you are not seeing things. Liftoff, we have liftoff. They were OK.

Next, on Countdown.


OLBERMANN: On this date in 1841, future general Robert E. Lee and his wife celebrated the birth of their fifth child and third daughter, Eleanor Agnes, known in the family as Wig (ph). What this has to do with anything will be self-evident in a moment, provided you can remember the name of the car that Beau and Luke Lee drove in the series "The Dukes of Hazzard."

Let's play Oddball.

Oh, call it Luke 2, Frank.

We begin outside Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, with the Countdown car chase of the week, which you enjoy guilt-free, as always, because no one was seriously injured. I say this now, because you will not believe me later.

Checking the Oddball scoreboard for the year, we can see it's cops 16, guys who think they can escape the cops, O-klahoma. Two men in the car had just robbed a bank. they had led the police in hot pursuit for more than 60 minutes at speeds of more than 100 miles an hour.

So how many miles did they travel? Stay tuned for the answer, coming up later in the program.

But these rural roads were not built for your "Dukes of Hazzard" the

General Lee antics. So after an amazing jump right about there - airborne

the driver loses control and smashes into a nearby tree. Oh, my. I say again, no one was seriously hurt. The two men in the car were able to walk away from the crash, until they were arrested.

But now, this modern-day Thelma and Louise, who are actually guys and did not go off a cliff, but the jump was kind of the same, they'll be walking the line in the Big House.

To Italy, where, now that the Olympics are over, the citizens can finally relax and start smashing each other in the face with fruit again. The annual festival town (INAUDIBLE) and horrible eye injuries that is the Battle of the Oranges. Thousands turn out each February to commemorate some ancient uprising thing where they did this with rocks.

They chose oranges for the reenactment because they're slightly less deadly, and also an excellent source of vitamin C. But I've asked it before and I'll ask it again. Orange you glad they didn't choose coconuts?

Finally to the Vada (ph) City Aquarium in western Japan, where the star attraction is clearly he trained Beluga whale show. Hey, are you a big fat whale? Are you a big fat whale? Yes, you are.

All the whales here have talent, but there is one that people come from miles around to see, Alya (ph), the whale who can blow smoke rings. Well, bubble rings, but, you know, still. Alya's trainer says it's something some whales do in the wild, but they usually have to go to the surface to get the air. Here in the tank, all he has to do is jam his scuba hose into her old blow-hole, and look at it go.

You know, Aquaman used to do something like this. And where did he end up? Just sayin', Alya. Get an agent.

From animal theater to political theater, some Republicans in Ohio want to bar gays from adopting kids, so a Democrat has a proposal of his own, ban Republicans from adopting kids.

And he's the memorable father from a Christmas time classic, paying tribute to the late Darren McGavin.

That's ahead.

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

Number three, Steve Jones of Shreveport, Louisiana. Read in the paper something about the local Power Ball lottery had an unclaimed winning ticket worth $853,000, thought, I bought a Power Ball ticket. Now, where did I put it again? He found it under his bed. It was the winning ticket.

Number two, TheCarConnection.com, out with its list of the wackiest street names in the country. Its runner-up was the Heather Highland, Pennsylvania, artery named Divorce Court. But its winner, from Traverse City, Michigan, Psycho Path.

Number one, the Roman professional soccer club UT Arad. It traded one of its players, defender Marius Ciara (ph), to another team, Rego Horia (ph), and received in exchange 33 pounds of meat. The player who was traded for the meat, Mr. Horia, got the message. When you are traded for 33 pounds of meat, you need to retire from soccer and do what he did, take a job as a construction worker in Spain.


OLBERMANN: It is posited that they are unfit to be parents and should be prohibited from adopting children, because exposure to them could adversely affect a child's morality and social acceptability. In our number three story on the Countdown tonight, one Ohio state representative believes those unfit parents are gay people.

One of his colleagues, though, a state senator has a different idea. He wants to prohibit adoption by Republicans. In a memo to colleagues soliciting support for his legislative proposal, Ohio State Senator Robert Hagan wrote, credible research exists that adopted children raised in Republican households, though significantly wealthier than their Democratic-raised counterparts, are more at risk for developing emotional problems, social stigmas, inflated egos, an alarming lack of tolerance for others they deem different that themselves. Senator Hagan adds, I've spoken to many adopted children raised in Republican households who have admitted that well, it's just plain boring most of the time.

The joke, meant to skewer a legislative proposal that is anything but satire, a bill introduced into the Ohio state legislature that would prohibit gay men or women from adopting children or acting as foster parents. Sponsored by state Representative Ron Hood of Ashville, cosponsored by Cincinnati-area representatives, Ohio already bans same sex partners from joint adoption. Advocates are pushing for ballot initiatives banning gay adoption in as many as 16 states, just in time for this year's congressional elections.

This despite the fact that 520,000 children are in foster care nationwide right now according to the North American Council on Adoptable Children and 120,000 of them available and in need of immediate adoption. The sponsor of the Republican adoption ban of 2006, State Senator Robert Hagan of Youngtown, Ohio joins us now. Thank you for your time tonight sir.

STATE SEN. ROBERT HAGAN (D) OHIO: Thanks for inviting me Keith, glad to be here.

OLBERMANN: Do you worry that we're at such a divided state in politics today that some Democrats will look at your proposal and deliberately ignore the joke and support it. And some Republicans will look at your proposal and deliberately ignore the joke and lash out at it?

HAGAN: Yes and yes. Some of my Democratic colleagues would like to support it and some of us including myself, have strange feelings about Republicans and how they act and how they would bring children up in this world. And some Republicans of course - I don't know where they're at on half these issues. I'm kind of embarrassed, in fact, that they offer these absurd pieces of legislation, but Keith, this is what happens in legislatures across the land. They're divisive. They're pieces of legislation that not only divide people, but put wedges between us politically and it could in fact backfire in some cases. But the fact is, I've touched up most of this with a little bit of humor, so that at least they can see the absurdity in the whole process.

OLBERMANN: But your state's house speaker, who is a Republican, has already said that this anti-gay adoption bill is not going to go anywhere as long as he has anything to say about it, so why bother with a response that someone is clearly going to latch onto and subtract the humor from?

HAGAN: That's today and tomorrow with term limits, you have legislators Keith, new people coming in with pretty much new and same ideas. And I say that jokingly, but they keep recycling the same ideas. The speaker of the house was an adoptee and he's a very funny humorous guy. He said that he was raised in a Republican household and a Democrat household and he ended up as a Republican, his brother, biological brother was raised as a Democrat or raised as a wolf, so there's obviously some distance between the two of them. And I think it's kind of funny. But the mere fact is he has a sense of humor. He understands the process and hopefully he will kill this bill. But I certainly wanted to show that the absurdity of it all was basically why I introduced it.

OLBERMANN: Are there statistics - you just told this story apocryphal story about the raised by wolves and all the rest of that, but are there statistics about kids adopted by gays and gay couples and how they turn out and whether the homes are better or worse or no difference? Is there information?

HAGAN: Well, Keith, the only information I have relative to the believing that gay couples are just as suited as heterosexual couples is the American Academy of Children's Doctors and those doctors and some others have said quite frankly that they do a commendable job and an equal job. But that's not the real issue here. In Ohio alone Keith, we have -

I think there's 2,900 young kids waiting for adoption and 19,000 that are in foster care. That's the real issue here and parenting is the real issue here. And playing these games about dividing people is not acceptable. And I certainly want to do everything I can to show the absurdity of it. Is my bill absurd? You betcha. Is his bill absurd? Absolutely. Does he have scientific proof that gay couples cannot raise children? He does not. Do I, that Republicans are bad parents and have some problems psychologically? I don't have any scientific proof. I have a couple of ideas that they're bad, but it's not scientific.

OLBERMANN: Ohio state Senator Robert Hagan, good luck with getting it through people who don't see the humor in it and great, thanks for your time tonight.

HAGAN: Thanks for seeing the humor Keith, appreciate it.

OLBERMANN: If you do not look behind that headline, Senator Hagan's bill would seem like the ultimate expression of a feud between the political parties. While we're on the subject of feuds, let's give you the headlines of day four of the Bill O'Reilly petition to get this show canceled and replaced by a Phil Donahue redux.

Ted Baxter has spoken again. But perhaps the oddest development comes not from Fox nor MSNBC, but from CNN. Howard Kurtz' media program, "Reliable Sources." He spent part of a segment called the media minute covering this, that's right, CNN's coverage of Fox's attack on MSNBC.


HOWARD KURTZ, CNN: Fox's Bill O'Reilly must really be annoyed with his MSNBC rival Keith Olbermann talking all those shots at him. He would prefer the very liberal Phil Donahue.

BILL O'REILLY: In the interest of fairness, we have a petition on billoreilly.com to bring Phil back. And how upset is Olbermann?

OLBERMANN: Bill O'Reilly has launched an on-air campaign and an online petition to get this newscast canceled. Not very. Olbermann loves this feud. Happy days are here again, the sky's above are clear again.


OLBERMANN: Maybe both of them just can't help themselves.

Well, great. Now I've sung on all news TV networks. We also have news of a small cottage industry creating petitions. Here's the original one on O'Reilly's Web site. You could read the names of who had signed it, until they took that page down because some of the names seemed to be fictitious. Mr. Keith is Great from Faloofah, Montana, for instance, Look at My from Ratings Drop, North Carolina, someone identified simply as Falafel N from The Shower, Wyoming and Andrea Mackris from How's Your Cash, PW.

Why did they take those down? Wait, there are at least two other petitions now in play, one at the Web site the DailyKos urging Fox news Chairman Roger Ailes to fire O'Reilly for quote, willfully distributing inaccurate information about such things as the 9/11 Commission, hurricane Katrina, Planned Parenthood. There's another at the Huffington post saying its signatories have become increasingly worried about the health of the host of your 8:00 p.m. EST show and suggesting Fox hire to replace Mr. O'Reilly, Phil Donahue. But the headline and then we'll drop this topic for the night, appears to be something of a palace coup within the walls of Fox news itself. Late this afternoon, newscaster Shepard Smith seemed to surprise Mr. O'Reilly with a live camera in his own newsroom.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And take a live look in the back of the newsroom. The floor mat says the spin stops here, look at that, O'Reilly is schooling somebody on his staff. Turn it over to (INAUDIBLE) his long-time assistant. Now he's asking the cameraman, you're not putting me on television, are you? There is angst (ph). No, O'Reilly's angry. Where is Olbermanm? Let's just throw something at Olbermann, Bill. See you in a minute. We love you Bill. Thank God for you. She likes it too.

OLBERMANN: Oh, here we go. She enjoys it she likes it, too. She likes what? Anyway, Mr. Smith seems not to have gotten the memo about not mentioning me by name on Fox. And if you're wondering about that process and its origins incidentally, back in 1998, Mr. O'Reilly tried to mention my name and he mispronounced it, Olbermann, just par for the course. Remember the slogan, Fox, not facts.

Also tonight, major league baseball holds its last special hall of fame election for players and executives from the segregated Negro leagues. The shocking results, 17 are elected, including two white team owners, but not including the famed ambassador of baseball, Buck O'Neil.

And what many of the unofficial Diana sleuths have been saying for years turns out to be officially the truth. The driver who crashed the car in which she died was living a double life. That's next. This is Countdown.


OLBERMANN: He was an overnight celebrity at the age of 83, turned into one of the faces of baseball by the Ken Burns documentary. Buck O'Neil, a living link to the great stars who had been prevented from reaching the major leagues because of the color barrier that would not fall until 1947. Himself, Jackie Robinson's teammate with the legendary Kansas City Monarchs, later their manager.

Even now at the age of 94, one of the great ambassadors in any sport. And at our number two story in the Countdown today, baseball might as well have told Buck O'Neil to get lost. This was the day the game elected to its hall of fame 17 heroes from the era of the Negro leagues, the last such election scheduled, ever, and Buck O'Neil was not elected.

A special committee first selected 94 candidates, then pared it down to 39 finalists, today announced the 17 inductees. O'Neil did not make the cut, nor did Minnie Minoso, himself prevented from playing in the majors until he was 27 years old because of the color of his skin. Minoso, playing most with the Chicago White Sox, went on to record the sixth highest batting average in all of baseball during the prime of his career 1951 through 1963.

Snubbing Minoso and O'Neil apparently for all time is extraordinary enough, but only baseball could make it worse. In honoring the Negro leagues, it managed to exclude O'Neil and Minoso, but it did elect two white people. James Leslie Wilkinson was the founder of those Kansas City Monarchs, Jackie Robinson's team before he broke the color barrier with the Brooklyn Dodgers. Wilkinson was a white businessman.

And today's election also had a hall of famer out of Ethel Manley (ph). She was the owner of the Newark Eagles of the Negro-American League. It sounds almost impossible to believe, but she too was white. She was married to a black man and she pretended to be as the term was then, passed as a light-skinned black woman. Most of the 17 electees today were entirely deserving. Such legendary figures as Sal White (ph) and Biz Mackey (ph) and Jose Mendez (ph) will achieve in death and in the hall something they were denied in life.

But just to twist the knife a little further into Buck O'Neil, the special committee elected Alex Pompez (ph), owner of the New York Cuban's team in the '30s and '40s, also an organized crime figure, part of the mob of the infamous '30's gangster Dutch Schultz, indicted in this country and in Mexico for racketeering. He's in the hall of fame for all time. Buck O'Neil is not. It's not merely indefensible. For all the many stupid things the baseball hall of fame has ever done, this is the worst.

Moving from that controversy to the endless controversy surrounding the death of Princess Diana in Paris in 1997, in a higher quality of fodder tonight for conspiracy theorists, it's official. The driver who crashed her car was indeed a French spy. That item topping our list of celebrity and entertainment news in keeping tabs. Chauffeur Henri Paul was blamed for the crash by the French police who contended he was drunk and on drugs while driving at high speed.

Now the government has revealed that many investigators have surmised over the years, that he was also working for the domestic arm of the French secret service around the time of the accident. The British team reinvestigating the crash is asking the intelligence agency for all files pertaining to Henri Paul to see if he was working for it the night of the crash. But sources tell the "Times" of London that that because of the quote, incredible bureaucracy of the French justice system that request is so bogged down, the investigation might not be finished until 2007.

Speaking of endless investigations, there's Britney Spears. Put that in the segue hall of fame. The pop tart rushing to a Malibu hospital late last week, the Spears camp saying the trip was made to care for her infant son who was apparently constipated maybe from sitting on mom's lap while she drove. That sugar coated tale though is allegedly just that, a story. A source telling Jeannette Walls of msnbc.com that the real reason for the visit, Ms. Spears was once again with child. She was throwing up and had stomach cramps says the source. Not true, says a spokesperson, not pregnant. Maybe she had just been listening to her husband's new rap recording.

Also tonight, an awful weekend for film and TV. Three beloved stars are gone, including the actor who was the centerpiece for the new classic "Christmas Story." That's next. But first on the Countdown's list of today's three nominees for worst person in the world. (INAUDIBLE) distillery in Scotland, today it turned out 12 barrels of whiskey, according to a recipe unused since the 17th century. The stuff is 92 percent alcohol. Three years ago our Secret Service admitted it had been monitoring that distillery because the difference between distilling high alcohol whiskey and making chemical weapons was quote, just a small tweak.

The silver to the international soccer star David Beckham, who says he's struggling to help his son with his math homework. His son is six years old. Says Mr. Posh Spice, quote, it's done totally differently to what I was teached when I was at school. So that remark also takes care of any grammar homework that Beckham junior may take home.

But the winner, him again. On the air, he actually reproached his guest Mike Farrell. You lose credibility when you use personal attacks. Mr. Farrell pointed out that Billy might have discovered that some gain credibility using them to which O'Reilly replied, I don't do personal attacks here, mister. We don't do personal attacks. Well, other than calling Neal Gabler a rabid dog and Ralph Nader a loon and Bill Moyers a fanatic and Barbara Boxer a nut, Jimmy Carter a fool and John Kerry a sissy. I got a suggestion, Bill, start another petition. Demand that somebody give you your credibility back. Bill O'Reilly, today's worst person in the world.


OLBERMANN: It is a film that has gradually sneaked up on everybody and become the "It's a Wonderful Life" of this generation. For 24 hours every Christmas, a cable network simply plays and replays and re-replays the 1983 movie "A Christmas Story." Tonight, in our number one story on the Countdown, the actor who was the center of that new classic who provided the gravity without which the wild saga of a 1940s childhood in Indiana would have seemed a little silly is gone. Darren McGavin has died. We will reflect on his passing and "A Christmas Story" in a moment.

First if you believe in that stuff about death coming in threes, it was a horrible weekend. Don Knotts passed away late Friday night at a hospital in Los Angeles. Generations have come and gone since his last appearance on the "Andy Griffith Show," yet his fidgety character Deputy Barney Fife is among the immortals of entertainment. He had a huge second hit as the would be swinger landlord with the late John Ritter in the series "Three's Company." It was a departure from his earliest nervous persona which began on the original "Tonight Show" with Steve Allen in the 50's. He was reprised in films like "The Incredible Mr. Limpet" and "The Reluctant Astronaut." Don Knotts was 81 years old.

Today came news that his TV contemporary Dennis Weaver has also died. He also came to prominence as a TV deputy, as the limping sidekick to James Arness on "Gunsmoke." Then came "Gentle Ben" and his role as a New Mexico lawman on assignment in New York, "McCloud." And perhaps his finest moment as the innocent driver menaced by a seemingly living tractor-trailer truck in the TV movie "Duel," directed by Steven Spielberg more than 30 years ago. Like Don Knotts, Dennis Weaver was 81. In fact, they were just 47 days apart.

Darren McGavin was a little older. He was 83. His TV roles ran the gamut from the routine Mickey Spillane's "Mike Hammer" in the '50s to comedic, "Murphy Brown"'s father in the '80s to the cultish and the bizarre, the "Nightstalker" in the 70's. That last series has been cited as the inspiration for everything from the "X Files" to "Buffy the Vampire Slayer." But when all is said and done, it will probably be as the old man, little Ralphy's father, Mr. Parker in the compilation of the memories of the American satirist, Gene Shepherd (ph) for which he will be remembered.

Each year, each time it's shown, "A Christmas Story" gets seemingly a little funnier and McGavin's performance seemingly a little better, whether swearing in indecipherable rage at the forever smoking furnace or insisting the major award he's just received must be Italian because the box is marked fragile, for finally producing his son's dream Christmas present, the red rider BB gun, Darren McGavin seems to represent fatherhood, fatherhood at least as seen by a 9-year-old boy. We're joined now by the LA Bureau chief of "TV Guide," Craig Thomsaw, thank you for your time tonight sir.

CRAIG THOMSAW, TV GUIDE: I'm glad to be here.

OLBERMANN: Let me start with the context of that picture. Am I right about this? Much like, "It's a Wonderful Life" has "A Christmas Story" kind of sneaked up on people and became a Christmas ritual?

THOMSAW: It's kind of the perfect Christmas movie for cynics who don't want to admit you're cynics because they have no angels, no Santa, no talking barn animals. It's just what Christmas is supposed to be. You got a family, Darren McGavin, really was the centerpiece for it because he's kind of that dad you wish you always had who would be gruff and mean, but still kind of gets you what you want in the end and takes you out for Chinese food at the end.

OLBERMANN: After the dogs next door steal the turkey. I suggested before that for all the work of the kids in this film, Ralphie himself there and Flick getting his tongue stuck to the frozen pole, if you don't have Darren McGavin in there as the representative of the seemingly, the entire adult world, most of this would have been just silly and a kid's flick. Give me a real assessment of his work in the film.

THOMSAW: He could have done it as - I remember the first time I saw it thinking all right, it was another story about the mean dad and he gets his comeuppance in the end. But he played it as a realistic dad, again the one you wish you could have had who was kind of tough but actually cared for his kid and also had great taste in art as evidenced with the lamp. You always wanted to have your dad appreciate fine art like that. He was the one who really made it real. He didn't make it just some crazy fable. He made it real and made you kind of want to be a part of that family.

OLBERMANN: To your knowledge, did Darren McGavin like that film? Did he like being identified for that one role? An old friend of mine before she passed away was Elizabeth Montgomery and I traveled with her on a couple of occasions and she never got to go more than five minutes without somebody asking her to switch her nose like she did on "Bewitched." Did Darren McGavin get that kind of recognition for this film and could he abide it?

THOMSAW: We could, although it came after "Kolchak: The Night Stalker" which is probably equally in everybody's mind I think when you remember Darren McGavin. That was another role that could have been nothing, but his sense of humor, his choice of suits because apparently that he, he chose that Kolchak outfit. He kind of made that character his own too. You don't often get to have two roles like that in a time. You sometimes can just be remembered as the third guy from the left in a dinner scene somewhere, but he had two of these great roles. Who wouldn't want that? That's kind of great break if you're an actor.

OLBERMANN: How can you do that though? As almost everybody gets that kind of intense identification with an audience based on one character. You get it with one character. You don't get multiples. There is nothing in common. The old man and "Kolchak the Night Stalker" have nothing in common other than Darren McGavin. What does that tell us about him as an actor?

THOMSAW: It says what I always liked him in anything that he did, a guest appearance, whatever it was, he just seemed like a regular guy. In Kolchak, he seemed like ultimately a funny guy but a regular guy you could see sitting next to in a bar after he killed the vampire. He'd tell you he killed a vampire and you would actually believe it because he just seemed like a regular guy. The dad in "Christmas Story," same thing, a very realist guy that you could see sitting with the next day. He tells you the story about the dogs taking the turkey and you would enjoy it because he just seemed like a guy you want to know. There's a continuum there.

OLBERMANN: No matter how absurd, maybe that's the continuum, no matter how absurd the situation might have been, he pulled it off somehow.

THOMSAW: You just wanted to know him. A lot actors, you wanted to know the characters, but I always felt like I wanted to kind of know him too. There was just something about him that kind of shown through everything he did.

OLBERMANN: Darren McGavin who throughout the decades I'm sure to come will be remembered by TV and movie audiences who never saw him in anything else and will recall this great film. Helping us remember Darren McGavin. Craig Thomsaw, of "TV Guide," helping us remember Darren McGavin tonight, Craig, thanks for your time sir.

THOMSAW: Thank you very much.

OLBERMANN: That's Countdown for this the 1033 day since the declaration of mission accomplished in Iraq. I'm Keith Olbermann. Keep your knees loose. Good night and good luck.

Our MSNBC coverage continues now with Rita Cosby live and direct. Good evening Rita.


Friday, February 24, 2006

'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for February 24

Guest: William Bastone, Richard Wolffe

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

What happens in Plamegate stays in Plamegate. The judge in the Scooter Libby case rules the special prosecutor can keep the name of the Plame identity leaker a secret.

The secret is out in the ports contract crisis. Andy Card told the president about it a week ago Thursday. The White House had said Mr. Bush found out from news reports.

And oh, by the way, it isn't just six ports involved over which Dubai Ports World will have influence. It's 21. They just forgot to mention the other 15.

Speaking of forgetting, the star of the documentary about the 35-year-old man who awakens in a New York subway remembering nothing of his life?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Film is great, but it just seemed a little too good to be true.


OLBERMANN: What, just because the film was called "Unknown White Male," and the guy's e-mail address was "unknown white male"?

Also on the Web, can you sue if the Web site The Smoking Gun includes your mug shot among its foxy felons?

And how about Fox felons? Bill O'Reilly starts a petition to get this show canceled. No, I'm not kidding. And no, I'm not paying him.

All that and more, now on Countdown.

Good evening.

Before a U.S. district court in our nation's capital today, Scooter Libby's lawyers referred to the president's daily security briefing as "the family jewels." Special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald called them "the family jewels." Judge Reggie Walton described them as "the family jewels."

Our fifth story on the Countdown, can we come up with a less salacious name for these documents, especially given that Mr. Libby' wants to get his hands all over them?

It's still up in the air whether Team Libby will eventually be allowed copies of the highly classified president's daily briefs from the time period in question, the judge deferring on the matter of the "family jewels" until the CIA can report back on how hard it would be to gather all the material.

Libby's lawyers claim he did not take notes during those briefings, so needs a reminder about what security matters he was dealing with back in 2003 and 2004, Judge Walton today ruling that he will be allowed to have copies of notes he took for 11 months between '03 and '04 while he was the vice-president's chief of staff, Judge Walton ruling, though, that he will not be allowed to know the name of the other government official who first told about Valerie Plame's CIA work and identity.

What did not come up today, the Libby defense filing that ostensibly argues that the indictment should be thrown out because Mr. Fitzgerald's role as special prosecutor, they claim, is unconstitutional.

MSNBC's David Shuster spent his day at the courthouse monitoring the hearing, and joins us now.

David, good evening to you.


OLBERMANN: Is this right? Libby's lawyers essentially want to get their paws on the "family jewels," the PDBs, because, they say, Mr. Libby can't remember what he was dealing with in 2003? Is that the flagstone of the case here, memory loss?

SHUSTER: Well, there are two ways that Scooter Libby can win in this case, and that is, first of all, if the case cannot go to trial. And so that's why the judge strongly suggested today that he was not going to allow Scooter Libby to get his hands on the PDBs, both because the judge wasn't sure they were material or relevant to this case, but also because the judge pointed out that that would spark huge fights with the White House, which, according to the judge, might sabotage the case.

The second way that Scooter Libby wins is if this does go to trial, and the jury sees his contradictions, in other words, the testimony that Scooter Libby gave to the grand jury, which is at the heart of the perjury case, and the jury determines, well, even though that contradicts seven government witnesses and a couple of reporters, the jury might say, Well, Scooter Libby made some innocent mistakes because he had some memory problems.

And if they conclude that, as opposed to that these were intentional lies, Scooter Libby could get off. That's why you had the defense today saying to the judge, Look, Scooter Libby's entitled to show that he was focused on national security, and why you have the prosecutor, Patrick Fitzgerald, say today that, no, Scooter Libby was consumed by the Wilsons in July of 2003, and therefore, he should have known what the truth was when he testified.

OLBERMANN: Speaking again of the Wilsons, the two officials who leaked the identity of Valerie Plame, are we any closer to knowing both identities than we were when we spoke last night?

SHUSTER: Well, we know that one of the officials, and that it came up today, is that the person who was on the receiving end of one of these leaks in June of 2003 was Bob Woodward. And there was another reporter who at that same time got the leak. And there were some indications a couple of months ago that Woodward got it from a State Department official, possibly Richard Armitage, the undersecretary of state for Colin Powell.

But what the judge said today is that it's not relevant. The judge suggested that the issue at hand is, did Scooter Libby tell the truth when he was talking about his conversations with Tim Russert and Matt Cooper, and that Bob Woodward and the other reporter who were involved in this other leak, that that's irrelevant.

And also, the judge pointed out that the government official, whether it was Armitage or somebody else in the State Department, the judge said there's no evidence that that official had any conversations with Libby, which might have colored Libby's memories of who he got the information from.

So the judge says, said it's irrelevant, and that's why he's not letting Libby's team have that information.

OLBERMANN: Something else the judge said today, and gather that you think this is very important, as do I, that the investigation is still ongoing. Does that offer us any clues as to who Mr. Fitzgerald might still be looking at?

SHUSTER: It doesn't really offer us any clues, but again, it gets to the idea that the way Fitzgerald has conducted previous investigations is, he sort of operates up by going up the pyramid, and that perhaps Libby is just one step in that.

And that's why, again, the judge said because of the sensitivity, because of the nature of the ongoing investigation, and the fact that the investigation continues, that's why he wasn't willing to disclose the previous information about who leaked in June of 2003, because the judge suggested that get, that was getting to the overall strategy of the investigation, and the possibility that there might be charges against other people, forget about Scooter Libby, there might be other charges against other White House officials in the months to come or perhaps the years to come, depending on how the Scooter Libby case goes.

OLBERMANN: Lastly, and I know this is silly, but you mentioned the word sensitivity. Can you explain to me the insistence on calling the PDBs the family jewels? Does nobody there realize that there's a double entendre there?

SHUSTER: Well, that's actually a reference to Vice President Cheney. When the White House was opposing the 9/11 commission and didn't want to turn over the PDBs to the 9/11 commission or an independent inquiry, it was Vice President Cheney who described these as the family jewels.

I suppose it's a bit ironic that Scooter Libby now could possibly somehow harm Vice President Cheney's family jewels, if Scooter Libby were to testify against the vice president in the way that prosecutors think he might be able to. But we'll see.

OLBERMANN: We'll just need to watch out for birdshot in the family jewels.

David Shuster, as always, great thanks for joining us. Have a good weekend.

SHUSTER: Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN: Speaking of sharing secrets, if not birdshot, the vice chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence placing blame for the recent spate of intelligent leaks firmly on the shoulders of the Bush administration. In a letter to the new director of national intelligence, John Negroponte, the Democratic senator, Jay Rockefeller, reams the White House for revealing classified information.

The culprits, according to him, mainly executive branch officials looking to forward a political agenda. The letter cites a recent news report that Scooter Libby was authorized by his superiors to disclose classified information in order to make a case for war in Iraq, refers to Bob Woodward's revelation in his book "Bush at War" from 2002 that he was given plenty of access to classified info.

The letter also criticizes the president for revealing previously classified information about a reported al Qaeda plot to fly a plane into what was previously known as the Library Tower in L.A.

In theory, Senator Rockefeller wrote the letter to exhort Mr. Negroponte to carry a message to the White House, noting that, quote, "Given the administration's continuing abuse of intelligence information for political purposes, its criticism of leaks is extraordinarily hypocritical.

"Preventing damage to intelligence sources and methods from media leaks will not be possible until the highest levels of the administration cease to disclose classified information on a selective basis for political purposes.

"The president," it concludes, "and other senior members of the administration must set the example for others to follow."

Joining us now, "Newsweek" magazine's White House correspondent, Richard Wolffe.

Good evening, Richard. Thanks for your time.


Keith, good to be with you.

OLBERMANN: Senator Rockefeller criticizing the president for declassifying certain information about the NSA spying program after the news of the program was leaked in December. But certainly that whole thing only hurt the administration politically. What is his point on that?

WOLFFE: Well, his point is politics and hypocrisy. I mean, it's - it may shock you to know that people engage in these things in Washington, but Rockefeller himself has come under a lot of fire because of his opposition to the NSA program, and revealing that he was concerned about it.

So, you know, both sides here are punching each other about this. And, of course, what he's laying out here is a pattern of behavior. The White House is getting all het up about the NSA program, but strategically, has used it for political purposes, leaking for political purposes when it suits them.

OLBERMANN: But certainly this is not the first administration ever to use a leak, especially a leak of potentially classified information, to further its own political agenda. Where's the outrage? Do we have to supply the outrage, or is it contained somewhere in the letter?

WOLFFE: I think you're going to have to be outraged yourself. You know, there's an old British prime minister called Jim Callahan who joked, I brief, you leak. And admittedly, British humor isn't great, but that's as good as it gets.

Government all over the world have used this. The system isn't very different whatever the party, whatever the government, whatever the period. What's different, of course, here is the war on terror, is this focus on national security, and the particularly secretive nature of this administration.

Members of Congress of both sides have repeatedly said that things have been classified, and they shouldn't have been. The administration's perspective has been that Congress is an obstruction, not a help, in pursuing the war on terror.

OLBERMANN: One specific thing in here, again, about whether or not there's any value to a leak, the president's revelation about this possible al Qaeda plot against the Library Tower, what was the Library Tower, Senator Rockefeller implying that the release of that information helped the terrorists in some way.

But on the day of the revelation, the counterterror experts that we had on this program, and many others, said that the plot was not much more than a hookah dream, that it was more valuable for the administration to have revealed it than it was for any terrorists to have considered it.

So how - again, how does - yes, you can see a violation of the process, but what's the plus on this for the administration for leaking it?

WOLFFE: Well, the administration wants to show that there are, in fact, plots, real plots that they've disrupted. But Senator Rockefeller is grasping at straws here. And, you know, you've got to think that if there are really al Qaeda terrorists masterminding these kinds of plots, then they know when the plots have been disrupted, because people are caught, they lose their operatives, and they figure they've been busted.

So nobody's being fooled here. It's not like the terrorists discovered something when the president went out there. I think the terrorists probably knew about their own plot, if it was real.

OLBERMANN: Yes, we hadn't heard from Mohamar (ph) for a while.

Bottom line here, even if Mr. Negroponte takes this message from Senator Rockefeller and takes it to the White House, is it going to make any difference there?

WOLFFE: It's not. Politics will carry on as usual. It's election year. Everyone wants to accuse each other of being weak on national security. And you just got to get used to this this year.

OLBERMANN: Richard Wolffe with "Newsweek," who managed to introduce Prime Minister James Callahan to the American audience tonight. Great thanks, sir.

WOLFFE: Any time.

OLBERMANN: Also tonight, the port operations debacle continues, expands. You heard there are six U.S. facilities involved. Is the correct number actually 21?

And "Congress shall make no law," the First Amendment reads, in part, "abridging the right of the people to petition." Perhaps that explains why Bill O'Reilly has started a petition to get me fired. That's right, free publicity for me. And I didn't even get him a new loofah.

You are watching Countdown on MSNBC.


OLBERMANN: One of the many surprises out of the furor over the U.S. ports deal has been that the president defended it unflinchingly, even though he didn't know about it until it hit the news.

In our fourth story on the Countdown tonight, that contradicted today. Another surprise, whether the deal involves only the six U.S. ports, or 21, United Press International reporting that the P&O, the company that Dubai Ports World is buying, is itself the parent of P&O Ports North America, which runs some port operations from supervising the storage to organizing the stevedores, the longshoremen, at 15 facilities besides the six we already knew about, 11 on the East Coast in total, from Portland, Maine, to Miami, 10 on the Gulf Coast, from Gulfport, Mississippi, to Corpus Christi, Texas.

Perhaps we'll get the discrepancy between those two numbers straightened out by somebody next week, along with another discrepancy from this week. On Wednesday, the White House had said that the president learned about the port deal after the fact from news reports. Today, though, Scott McClellan told reporters that, no, chief of staff Andrew Card notified the president about the deal more than a week ago, on Thursday, February 16.

As for national sentiment, no surprises there. A national poll producing results that indicate the country is strongly against this port deal, only 17 percent saying Dubai Ports World should be allowed to purchase operating rights at those American ports, that's according to the survey by Rasmussen reports. Sixty-four percent against.

The emotionally charged subject also taking a toll on what had always been the president's strongest issue, national security, Americans now saying they trust Democrats more than the president on national security issues, 43 to 41 percent, obviously only a slight edge, possibly in error statistically. But it's the first time this poll has found a preference for Democrats on that subject since Mr. Bush took office.

For more on where the deal stands at this moment, we turn to our White House correspondent, David Gregory.

Good evening, David.


There is a sense of relief here at the White House tonight after this decision by Dubai Ports World to complete the transaction, but to delay, to postpone, its actual assumption of management responsibilities at the major U.S. seaports that it would take over, six of them on the eastern seaboard.

This is an attempt by the company to kind of introduce a cooling-off period, given the politics surrounding all of this here in Washington. I spoke today to the vice president of the company, who said, Look, we need to spend some time allaying fears, getting our country - rather, our company better known on Capitol Hill, our mission, our reputation. And that simply hasn't been done enough.

The administration's been admitting all week that they sort of dropped the ball on this in terms of keeping Congress in the loop. So a story that became kind of controversial, and that is, this United Arab Emirates-run company taking over managerial control of U.S. seaports, causing this furor, could have been dealt with in advance by maybe briefing Congress in advance.

Now, it's a situation where they've got to backtrack a little bit. Congress, however, Republicans and Democrats, don't seem to be entirely satisfied. There is legislation that is still moving forward, and will move forward next week when Congress reconvenes after the recess, emergency legislation that would effectively kick off a 45 (INAUDIBLE) - 45-day investigation of this transaction, and of the company itself, as well as giving Congress the authority ultimately to give a yea or a nay on whether this deal goes forward.

The president has been outspoken on this point, saying that he would veto any attempt to unravel the deal. But certainly they're pleased that there's a little bit more time here for them to try to head off a showdown with Congress that might require a veto and a potential override of that veto.

So where it stands going into the weekend is that there's a little bit of detente here, there's some room to breathe, some room for the White House officials and the company to do a better PR job on Capitol Hill, but little inclination right now of kind of a decreased sense of tension about all of this among both parties on Capitol Hill, Keith.

OLBERMANN: David Gregory at the White House for us tonight. Thanks.

Also tonight, no, these people are not celebrating that delay in the Dubai ports deal. It's Carnivale, German-style.

And when style and lawbreaking collide, The Smoking Gun called it Foxy Felons. This lady called her lawyer.

That and much more ahead, here on Countdown.


OLBERMANN: On this date in 1825, Thomas Bowdler died. He was the Englishman who thought Shakespeare was too smutty, so he published the Bard's plays having first edited out the naughty bits. His name soon became synonymous with ridiculous censorship, or nearly synonymous. His name itself somehow got ridiculously edited. Thomas Bowdler became the inspiration for the word "bolderize" (ph). Perfect.

On that note, let's play Oddball.

We begin in Cologne, Germany, for the festival of bizarre costumes and public drunkenness that is Carnivale. Today was Women's Carnivale Day, so drunken female jesters ran through the crowd clipping the neckties of drunken male revelers. The men are given kisses as compensation. We think this would be a great chance for nerds to maybe score some free kisses, but you guys just can't drop the "Star Wars" dress-up thing, can you? Not even for the chance of female companionship.

Then again, drunken women running around with shears snipping things off, huh? Back to the family jewels.

To Oklahoma for an update on the story we first brought you this week in our segment Sound Bites of the Day. A lumber company expecting a delivery of a bunch of work gloves opens the FedEx box to find this instead, the skull of a hippo-po-potamus. No one at Chickashaw Lumber knew how they got a hippopotamus skull in the mail, nor who in the world would be shipping a hippo skull in the first place.

With FedEx shipping packages all over the planet, it seemed impossible that the mystery would ever be solved - until today, when the real owner stepped forward. With the help of Google Earth, we can demonstrate just how far off the package was. It was delivered to tiny Chickashaw, Oklahoma, but it was originally intended to be shipped more than 42 miles away, to Oklahoma City. Same hemisphere.

The owner of a shop called - and I swear I'm not making this up -

Skulls Unlimited was the true intended recipient. He'll get his skull. As for all those gloves? Ah, keep em, you freak show.

Finally, to the Oddball capital of the country, central Florida, where one man was sick and tired of his home being burglarized. So he did something about it. He installed a video camera to catch the perpetrators in the act. What do you know, one night later, he was robbed again, apparently by lookalikes from the teen heartthrob band Hanson. Mmm-bah. Case closed.

Speaking of Oddball, people think I'm making this up. I'm not. The Big Giant Head takes on Countdown. Started a petition to get this show canceled.

And too hot for The Smoking Gun? Why one Foxy Felon says, Take my mug shot off your Web site now, or I'll sue.

Those stories ahead.

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

Number three, Thomas Lawinky. He is an actor in a production of Ionesco's "The Killing Game" in Frankfurt in Germany. In the play, the cast interacts with the audience, one of those things. Mr. Lawinky allegedly did his interacting by throwing a rubber chicken at a theater critic named Gerhard Stabelmeier (ph). Now, you've heard of critics giving actors the bird, but never the other way around.

Number two, the Illinois governor, Rod Blagojevich. He sat down to do what he thought was a TV interview about contraception, then the interviewer told him he could not pronounce the name Blagojevich, so he would instead call him Governor Smith. It was only then that the governor realized he was being interviewed for Comedy Central's "The Daily Show." Blagojevich says he saw the show's title on his daily schedule, but he'd never heard of the show before. Welcome to America.

Number one, Brittany Spears and Whitney Houston. That's Brittany, B-R-I-T-T-A-N-Y. She and Ms. Houston are two top high school basketball stars. They have both been recruited to attend and play for the University of Colorado. Just so long as they don't bring along Kevin Federlane (ph) and Bobby Bralla (ph).


OLBERMANN: How does this happen? Every time? I'm Dr. Pavlov. I ring a bell. Ted Baxter salivates.

Our third story on THE Countdown, Bill O'Reilly has launched an on air

campaign and an online petition to get this newscast canceled and replaced

by Phil Donahue.

(singing) Happy days are here again. The skies above are clear again.


BILL O'REILLY, HOST, FOX NEWS CHANNEL'S "THE O'REILLY FACTOR": Time now for "The Most Ridiculous Item of the Day." Bring back Phil Donahue. It was three years ago this month that MSNBC fired Mr. Donahue for low ratings. We felt bad for Phil. He didn't get much of a chance.

Phil actually said his firing was a mistake, and he was right. His successor, after three long years on the air, actually has fewer viewers now than Donahue did when he left. That is a disaster.

So in the interest of fairness we have a petition on BillOReilly.com to bring Phil back. If enough of you sign the petition, we'll send it over to NBC and hopefully, Phil Donahue will get the chance he deserves. Let's all go to bat for our pal, Phil.


OLBERMANN: So here's the petition to NBC chairman, Bob Wright: "Dear Chairman Wright, we the undersigned are becoming increasingly concerned about the well being of MSNBC and in particular, note the continuing ratings failure of the program currently airing weeknights on that network at 8 p.m. EST."

The median age of viewers of this program is 58.7. The median age of viewers of Mr. O'Reilly's program, 68.6. If you want to be concerned about well being, Bill, be concerned about the odds of your viewers living into next week.

"It is now apparent to everyone that a grave injustice" - don't say "grave." Fifty percent of your viewers are over the age of 68 and a half.

"It is now apparent to everyone that a grave injustice has been done to the previous host for that time slot, Phil Donahue, whose ratings at the time of his show's cancellation three years ago were demonstrably stronger than those of the current host."

Let me see. January 2003 and February of 2003 in what FOX calls the money demo, Phil averaged 152,000 viewers a night. In January and February this year, we're averaging 157,000 thousand viewers a night. Oh, Bill, you made a factual error. Now you have to ignore another one of those.

"Therefore, in an effort to rescue MSNBC from the ratings basement and to restore the honor and dignity of Mr. Donahue, who was ignobly removed as host three years ago, we ask that you immediately bring back Phil Donahue's show at 8 p.m. EST before any more damage is done."

When he says damage, of course, he means his ratings dropped 20 percent last year and another six percent this year, and Countdown's have gone up another 21 percent this year.

Still, I don't know why he's really mad at me. Bill? What did I ever do to you?

The producers tell me I've occasionally reported on some of the stuff you've done on this show here and that we should probably review some of those things, but I can't remember any of it, except - oh.


OLBERMANN: And Bill O'Reilly is at it again.

None other than the big giant head himself.

In "Oddball," the definition thereof, Bill O'Reilly.

Now I can remove this stupid mask. Tito, hand me a loofah.

O'REILLY: I am a stupid guy. And every guy listening knows how that is.

OLBERMANN: The giant head again, explaining to his radio audience that we won the Second World War because of spanking.

Bill O'Reilly about women just talking dirty with some guy and it would be no - oh, yes. Loofah.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Save the tapes! Save the tapes!

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Save the tapes! Save the tapes!

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Save the tapes! Save the tapes!

OLBERMANN: You're dam right, I'm curious. Would I have gotten this giant prop check made if I was not serious?

Apparently, you have him to thank for the recent minor drop in gas prices. He has told an interviewer, "I have five guys inside the five major oil companies. They got scared because of my reporting and reporting of some others. They said, 'Uh-oh'." Thanks, Bill.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We need a distraction, something divisive and wily, a fabrication straight from the mouth of O'Reilly.

OLBERMANN: You hear his whole attack on Christmas nonsense that he made up? The fantasy that you can't say "merry Christmas," but you can only say "happy holidays," the thing designed to stir up religious hatred and paranoia in this country?

Guess what they're selling over at the FOX News online store: the FOX News holiday ornament and "The O'Reilly Factor" holiday ornament.

O'REILLY: The world could blow the hell up. They'd be dead and saying, "How many people are dead from Katrina? How can we make fun of it?" That's what you do.

JON STEWART, HOST, COMEDY CENTRAL'S "THE DAILY SHOW": I will say this; we do add insult to injury.

O'REILLY: You do.


O'REILLY: He's an honest man.


O'REILLY: He's an honest man.

STEWART: You add injury.

O'REILLY: I add injury?

You want to be your own country, go right ahead. And if al Qaeda comes in here and blows you up, we're not going to do anything about it. We're going to say, "Look, every place in America is off limits to you except San Francisco. You want to blow up the Coit Tower? Go ahead."

OLBERMANN: Quoting, "You can have a militia that's a rainbow coalition armed with spatulas and the basic training will be in hate. OK, we'll have it right on the Castro Street. March up and down. Since they are so good at parades," unquote.

So Bill, you've now insulted all the gay people, too. Terrific.

As a public service I'm going to read portions of his remarks and then translate them into what he's actually saying.

"'Talking Points' is troubled by the behavior of NBC, which cheap shots FOX News on a regular basis and has been doing so for some time."

When we quote your own words back to you about how the Catholic Church was out to get Christmas or how we should let al Qaeda attack San Francisco, they must seem like cheap shots.

"We hope Robert Wright will right the situation, and believe he has the power to do it. But perhaps we're wrong about Wright."

Bill made a funny.

Bill O'Reilly, today's worst person in the world.

Today's worst person in the world!

Today's worst person in the world.

Today's worst person in the - you know the rest.

O'REILLY: This brutal ordeal is now officially over, and I will never speak of it again.

OLBERMANN: Don't you tell me it's over. I'll tell you if it's over.


OLBERMANN: OK. Well, maybe I have occasional mentioned him. Now I feel bad.

So maybe I understand Mr. O'Reilly's petition to get me fired and replaced by Phil Donahue. And then there's that sense of inter-network camaraderie and respect that he once mentioned on the air. So what the heck.

Mr. O'Reilly has been good enough to start a good grassroots movement, and as Leslie Nielsen once noted, "There's nothing like a good movement." Which you already know if you've seen Bill's show.

So let me start the ball rolling here. I'll sign that petition. Let's see. Put in the e-mail address. Good. The "K" is broken on this typewriter. All right. We'll just put that in. OK. That's close enough. Not like they're going to write me back or anything. OK.

Does this mean that the MSN part of our company doesn't exist any more? Keith Olbermann.

You know, as a bonus, if you fill out this form you get three days warning any time homeland security puts out a terror alert. Did you know that? Plus 20 percent off at Dave's Discount House of falafels.

Just put in the state. And we've signed. Signed here. Here - does it still work? Well, it's just - it's like, it will take, like, 10 minutes. But as far as I'm concerned, we're all done. Terrific.

Now, we're all having a good laugh and we're all having good fun, but seriously, I know that NBC stands firmly behind this program, from the chairman, Mr. Wright, all the way through my loyal and gifted staff to my colleagues on other MSNBC shows, on air and off. And that none of them would ever support this nefarious petition to take Countdown off and put Donahue on - why are they all lined up? Why are they all lined up in front of that computer? That's the petition. Tucker, no.

That's Dennis Horgan (ph). He used to work here. That's Izzy Povich.

She's the executive producer. At least she was as of at least 8.

Dan Abrams. Come on. Tina Cohen (ph), she's from England. It doesn't matter. Cordic (ph)? He's the producer of the show. Get back in the control room!

Oh, that's pretty funny. She's the executive producer of Rita's show.

I know where she works.

That's very funny. Former FOX employee. Former MSNBC employee.

Taking a long time there with that computer, pal.

OK. Then there's the story of the brain-damaged unknown white male - we just did that. Oh. This is another one. It's a new documentary about a man who struggles to rebuild his life after being hit with amnesia. The question is tonight whether any or all of it is true.

And the art of the mug shot. Now one of the perps, a woman called a foxy felon on the web site The Smoking Gun is threatening a law suit, claiming web browsers are using her photo for sexual gratification.

Bill O'Reilly has never signed on to that web site. That's ahead on



OLBERMANN: A subway ride ends in a total mind blackout, sparking a two-year journey to rebuild a man's life, an extraordinary story captured by a documentary film - providing it's true.

And foxy felons. Crime time in prime time starts early tonight.

Countdown continues.


OLBERMANN: It is a film that has courted controversy ever since its premiere at the Sundance Festival in Colorado in the era of James Frey non-fiction fiction. Is the documentary about a British born New York City stock broker who abruptly develops a severe case of amnesia real?

Our No. 2 story on THE Countdown tonight, it's called "Unknown White Male," and the movies' producers would really love it if you'd pony up $10 and judge for yourself. But in the interim, Countdown's senior amnesia correspondent, Monica Novotny, has done some of the digging for you for free, if she can remember it.

Monica, good evening.


The story behind this small documentary is so good it has some film critics, like Roger Ebert, for example, wondering whether or not the whole thing is a hoax: one man who forgets everyone and everything in his life, even his own name.


DOUG BRUCE, FEATURED IN "UNKNOWN WHITE MALE": She said, "Doug?" And I said, "I don't know." She said, "Yes, you're Doug."

NOVOTNY (voice-over): Rebuilding a life he cannot recall. A 35-year-old man wakes up on a New York City subway with no knowledge of who he is, how he got there or even where there is. His story now a documentary, "Unknown White Male."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Doug opened his eyes on a subway train miles from his home.

BRUCE: The first thing I see is this scenery which I don't remember.

NOVOTNY: Ultimately diagnosed with an extreme form of amnesia, Bruce allows a friend from his previous life, filmmaker Rupert Murray, to follow him for the next several months as he creates a new life and a new persona.

ROBERT MURRAY, FILMMAKER: You're able to see the world through his eyes, walk in his shoes and experience some of the insights and the revelations that he has.

NOVOTNY: Amnesia has often served as a plot device in feature films.

In "The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind"...

TOM WILKINSON, ACTOR: By the time you wake up in the morning, all the memories we targeted will wither and disappear.

NOVOTNY: And the Hitchcock classic "Spellbound."

INGRID BERMAN, ACTRESS: You can't put him away. You can't. It destroys minds.

NOVOTNY: Fine for fiction, but already several reporters are raising the question, is this documentary really a mockumentary?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It just seemed a little too good to be true.

NOVOTNY: "GQ" magazine's Mickey Ravkin (ph) sat down with Bruce for his first interview.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There are a lot of things that weren't mentioned in the movie that, once you find out about those things, you think, "Oh, maybe this isn't so true."

Doug had a very good friend who did get amnesia and did use that as a way to make some changes in his life. Then also, I found out that and Doug had registered an e-mail address, UnknownWhiteMale@yahoo.com [link]. It seems a little cheeky.

NOVOTNY: Critics have also noted Murray's inclusion of Daniel Schecter (ph), a Harvard psychologist considered the leading expert on amnesia.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Extreme forms of memory loss, to which we would give the term retrograde amnesia, those are the rarest of all kinds of amnesia.

NOVOTNY: At issue, though Schecter (ph) never diagnosed Bruce personally, does his presence suggest he did?

MURRAY: His role in the film was to explain how Doug's symptoms related to memory and amnesia in general. And that's his role. I've never said anything different.

NOVOTNY: What is clear, Bruce's struggle with lost memories is both moving...

BRUCE: I wish I could remember my mother. I mean, I have pictures of her on the walls in the apartment.

NOVOTNY:... and amusing.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: "I discovered the best band." And I'd be like, "Oh, what are they called?" He was like, "The Rolling Stones."

NOVOTNY: Because there is no conclusive way to test Bruce medically and because all associated with the film stand by it as truth, viewers must ultimately decide for themselves.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're absolutely not saying that Doug isn't telling the truth. We're saying we don't know.

NOVOTNY: And Murray reminds us of one universal truth.

MURRAY: Sometimes fact is stranger than fiction.


NOVOTNY: Now, in the film a neurosurgeon treating Doug Bruce does say the amnesia may have been caused by a cyst found in his brain. To this day, Mr. Bruce has not regained his memory, but doctors say there is a 95 percent chance that he will and it could happen at any time.

OLBERMANN: Is he James Frey, by any chance?

NOVOTNY: No, he's not.

OLBERMANN: Why didn't we hear about this story when it happened 2 ½ years ago? We weren't - there was television news in this country, wasn't there?

NOVOTNY: There was. I asked the filmmaker that, and he actually credits the Coney Island police. This is where he landed on the subway. He came out of Coney Island, walked around, didn't know who was, didn't know where he was, turned himself into the police. And because no one ever reported him missing, you know, the reporters didn't get their hands on it.

OLBERMANN: Sure. Sure. Nice clip from "Spellbound," though. I thought that really sold the piece. Countdown's Monica Novotny. Great thanks.

NOVOTNY: I have great ideas.

OLBERMANN: Would that the reality of the injuries to "ABC World News Tonight" co-anchor Bob Woodruff and cameraman Doug Vogt were debatable. They start our nightly roundup of celebrity and entertainment news, "Keeping Tabs."

And about them there is good news and really good news. Mr. Vogt has been - turned well enough to check out of Bethesda Medical Center. That was yesterday, according to the statement issued by ABC News president Dave Westin. He and his wife have returned to their home in France. He's expected to continue his recuperation there.

As for the more seriously injured, Mr. Woodruff, his recovery is progressing, albeit more slowly. He remains under slight sedation but has been out of bed to sit in a chair for stretches of time. His doctor stating he may be well enough to move to a facility closer to his New York home in a few weeks.

An Indian scholar, the president of Indonesia, former secretary of state Colin Powell and the lead singer of U2. What do these people have in common? Are they a new international KISS cover band? Or Nobel Peace Prize nominees? Both choices seemingly make about as much sense. But it turns out Bono may be going to Oslo.

A hundred and 91 names in total being presented to the Nobel committee for consideration for the prestigious honor. The committee itself remains silent on exactly who makes the list each year, but those with nomination rights sometimes do not.

Bono has been nominated for this work - or his work, rather, to fight global poverty. He was not only the only rock star nominated, fellow Irish rocker Bob Geldof getting a nod. Sir Bob Geldof.

Non-voting Secretary Geir Lundestad telling the Associated Press, quote, "There are largely good nominations," before adding the requisite disclaimer, nomination does not imply endorsement.

Your mileage may vary.

From celebrities at their best to celebrities at their worst. Sometimes when the law comes a-knocking, you're not ready for your close-up. Sometimes, though, you are. Our friends at Smoking Gun called her a foxy felon. She's now threatening a lawsuit.

That's ahead, but first, Countdown's list of top three nominees for worst person in the world. You guessing?

The bronze to a judge in the nation of Colombia. He found a bicycle courier guilty of groping a woman's backside. Fair enough. We're not defending groping backsides of any gender or religious conviction. But the guy gave the guy four years in jail for it.

Tonight's silver, Kevin Murphy, deputy commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Commerce. He has levied a fine of $140,000 against a gas station chain, Midwest Oil, because of the price it charged customers for a gallon of gas on 293 different days last year. The fine is for selling the gas too cheaply.

But tonight's winner, the staff of "Your World with Neil Cavuto" on FOX News. It yesterday analyzed the destruction of the Golden Mosque and the resultant murders of dozens of Iraqi civilians and described all of it with this on-screen graphic: "All out civil war in Iraq. Could it be a good thing?"

The staff of "Your World with Neil Cavuto," today's worst - what are they going to do? Start another petition? Today's worst person in the world.


OLBERMANN: Entomologists think the term originated in the drinking mugs at 18th Century English pubs, shaped in hideous caricatures of the human face. Thus, the mug became a synonym for the face. And when police started taking photos of a mug they became mug shots.

For it to have an alcoholic origin is entirely fitting, since as our No. 1 story on the Countdown again underscores, so many mug shots are taken after the mug shotee has taken a few drinks.

But can you sue over your mug shot? We, of course, have our personal favorites here. Traditionally, they tend not to portray their subjects in the most flattering of lights. That 3 a.m. road trip to the hoosegow usually does a number even on the most glamorous among us.

Occasionally, however, someone overcomes even the darkest of hours. Winning smile, crisp shirt and tie. Mug shot or publicity photo? Can't decide, because it's just that good.

And it sure helps if the perp is pretty. SmokingGun.com featuring a bevy of felonious beauties in a gallery they call "Foxy Felons."

You'd think they'd be flattered. Not so much. Twenty-five-year old Floridian Casey - Floridian in English - Casey Hicks is threatening a lawsuit. In a strongly worded letter sent to Smoking Gun's parent company, Court TV, Ms. Hicks' attorney demanded that the photo be removed, saying his client's privacy is being violated, that she's become afraid for her safety and that, according to, quote, "numerous blogs, Ms. Hicks' picture has invited members of the public to use her picture for their own private sexual gratification."

Gee, I hadn't thought of that, but thanks for the suggestion.

Anyway, how do we know all this? The Smoking Gun has posted it on the site, right after Ms. Hicks' prominently displayed mug shot. William Bastone, editor of TheSmokingGun.com, joins us now.

Thank you for your time, sir.


OLBERMANN: I'm guessing you didn't take her picture down?

BASTONE: No. It's still there where it was when we posted it several years ago. We're a little puzzled what caused her to decide to try to send us a legal letter and threaten us - threaten to sue us over it after it's been up on the site for a few years now.

OLBERMANN: Who - who is she anyway?

BASTONE: She was a - she's a New York - was a New York state resident who got arrested and charged with - she attempted to sell 49 Ecstasy pills to an undercover officer in Rockland County. She copped a plea to reduce the felony charge and moved to Florida, where she ended up being supervised by the state - the division of the state department of corrections. And that's where her photo was taken.

OLBERMANN: Do you have any sympathy for the argument that the mug shot gives her name, her height, the weight, the town where she lives, that maybe she has a reason to feel afraid of somebody who can just pick it off the Web somewhere?

BASTONE: Well, the fact that there's going to be what you call pedigree information attached to someone who gets arrested is a fact of journalism. We don't post her address. She lives in a large state, in a very large city in a large state.

It doesn't have the most distinctive surname, so you know, it's not like there are people who are creating blogs dedicated to her or tracking her around. I don't think that's true. There's no evidence. We've looked online.

That people, you know, are supposedly using her photo for self gratification...


BASTONE:... strikes us as kind of strange since, you know, there are other kind of, you know, images on the Internet that might - someone might think about using before a mug shot of a women wearing a blue smock.

OLBERMANN: There are? I didn't know that.

BASTONE: I've heard about it.

OLBERMANN: I don't know anything about it. Have to ask the guy on the other show.

Are there - are there - same topic, though. Are there mug shot fetishists or something that we don't know about?

BASTONE: This is the first time we've ever heard that our site was being used for those purposes, though.

OLBERMANN: Makes you rethink the whole process, doesn't it, when you know about that?

BASTONE: It does. People have been known to get worked up over, like, the Scooter Libby indictment. So I guess anything is possible.

OLBERMANN: All right. Sixteen foxy felons were posted on your site, 15 of them from Florida. Are there better looking crooks in that state or what? You have an explanation for that ratio?

BASTONE: Well, I think initially when we did the collection, it was -

· it was fairly easy to gather up those kind of photos from the state of Florida. I think if we were to do a third installment, there would be - there would be a better representation across the country.

And keep in mind that Ms. Hicks actually is a product of the Empire State who just relocated south.

OLBERMANN: And we're proud of her for being a New Yorker. Maybe you could have just one from each state and then have some sort of Miss USA Mug Shot contest.

BASTONE: That is a good idea, Keith.

OLBERMANN: All right. Once again, I gave it away for nothing. Boy, that's the story of my life.

William Bastone, the editor of the Smoking Gun. Good luck with this, and as always, thanks for joining us.

BASTONE: Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN: That's Countdown for this, the 1,030th day since the declaration of mission accomplished in Iraq.

A reminder, please join us again at midnight Eastern, 11 p.m. Central, 9 Pacific for the late edition of Countdown. Until then, a special presentation of "Lockup: Inside Folsom."

I'm Keith Olbermann. Keep your knees loose. Good night and good luck.

And one for you (ph).