Friday, March 31, 2006

'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for March 31

Guest: John Dean, Stanley Brand, Daniel Edwards

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

The censuring of the president, 2006. Mr. Bush listens to phone conversations without warrants. The Senate Judiciary Committee listens to arguments for why that merits a censure, arguments from an expert.


JOHN DEAN, FORMER NIXON WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL: And I must say, I think I have probably more experience firsthand than anybody might want in what can go wrong and how a president can get on the other side of the law.


OLBERMANN: After his testimony on the Feingold measure, John Dean joins us.

The 2003 State of the Union message, more than just 16 words proving, in retrospect, troublesome.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Our intelligence sources tell us that he has attempted to purchase high-strength aluminum tubes suitable for nuclear weapons production.


OLBERMANN: No, Saddam Hussein hadn't, and, yes, Mr. Bush knew he hadn't, reportedly three months before he made that claim.

Claims against the new baseball steroids investigation. It's racist, its chief has two gigantic conflicts of interest, and it's not even going to clean up anything. The lawyer who counseled baseball at last year congressional hearing joins us.

And happy birthday to us. Three years of Countdown. So we're going to give you, and ourselves, a little present.


BILL O'REILLY, HOST: I'm a stupid guy...


OLBERMANN: And not necessarily the worst, not necessarily the best, just the odd. Keep your eye on the ball, and cover your butt. For with unerring satirical aim, laserlike focus and execution, and the skills of a tightrope acrobat, we'll bring you Oddball's Plays of the Month for March.

All that and more, now on Countdown.


O'REILLY: Shut up. You had your 35 minutes. Shut up.


OLBERMANN: Good evening from Tampa, Florida.

Practically, it may have absolutely no effect whatsoever, but symbolically, the discussion in Room 216 of the Hart Senate Office Building this morning cut to the very heart of the current divide, and commemorated year 217 of the eternal struggle between the executive and the legislative.

Our fifth story on the Countdown, to paraphrase a familiar question, what did the president know he shouldn't have done, and when does Congress have to remind him he'd better know it?

The Senate Judiciary Committee holding its first hearing on Senator Russ Feingold's motion to censure President Bush for his secret NSA spying program. There was no vote. Indeed, it is unlikely there ever will be a vote. But the topic sparked strong words from both committee members and the panel of expert witnesses.


SEN. PATRICK LEAHY (D), VERMONT: We know the president broke the law.

Now we need to know why.

SEN. RUSS FEINGOLD (D), WISCONSIN: We can fight terrorism without breaking the law. The rule of law is central to who we are as a people. And the president must return to the law.

SEN. ORRIN HATCH (R), UTAH: This constitutionally suspect expert to punish the president by censure rests on premises which are, at best, highly debatable, and, at worst, misleading, or even false.

SEN. JEFF SESSIONS (R), ALABAMA: The president is leading in a time of war, so are the congressional leaders. And this motion for censure is clearly inappropriate.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Let's find out a solution to this real problem that will make us stronger as a nation. And I don't believe censure takes us in that direction. I believe collaboration will.

SEN. JOHN CORNYN (R), TEXAS: I feel that this motion for censure is completely without merit.

SEN. ARLEN SPECTER (R), PENNSYLVANIA: This hearing, I think, is important for the reasons that it is a further exploration of the president's inherent powers that we have to come to grips with.

As for the president's conduct, you have this long resolution, but not a word about bad faith. And if you don't assert bad faith, there's just no basis, it seems to me, for a censure resolution.

DEAN: Had a censure resolution been issued about some of Nixon's conduct long before it erupted to the degree and the problem that came, it would have been a godsend.


OLBERMANN: John Dean will join us in a moment.

First, a new problem tonight for President Bush, reports that he was aware that still more of his evidence supporting war in Iraq was shaky at best, and perhaps potentially untrue. But he used it to persuade the public anyway. In his 2003 State of the Union, Mr. Bush cited Iraq's then-recent procurement of aluminum tubing as evidence that Saddam Hussein was trying to rekindle his nuclear program.

But as Murray Waas now reports in "The National Journal," the intelligence community had specifically and personally warned the president in October 2002 that there was dissent among several agencies about whether those tubes were for uranium enrichment or for conventional weapons.

And once the administration realized the mistake, the chief political presidential adviser, Karl Rove, warned that revealing it would seriously hurt Mr. Bush's reelection prospects in 2004, so the full story of what the president knew and when he knew it never came out publicly until this month, which may prove not a smoking gun in Plamegate, but rather the reason was loaded in the first place.

As promised, Nixon White House counsel John Dean, who testified today at the censure hearing, joins us now.

John, good evening to you.


OLBERMANN: Let's start with your testimony on the Hill. When you were with us on Wednesday, you said you wanted to explain to the Senate that the censure hearing was about this bigger issue of Congress asserting itself, standing up to the presidency. Do you feel like you managed to get that point across?

DEAN: Well, I certainly said it in my testimony, and based on the news reports that were sent to me today, certainly the media got the point. Now, whether the Congress or not got the point - Because I really don't think this is a partisan issue, I think it's more of an institutional issue. And that was what I tried to drive home today.

OLBERMANN: Even if, which is looking very, very unlikely, the censure motion or something similar to it were to pass, would it have any real practical value? Could it really curtail presidential power if you have a president who's making little notes in the margins of every bill indicating which parts of a law he will agree with and which parts he won't, as he signs the document?

DEAN: Well, I think he would be very risky - at great risk, and very foolish, if indeed a censure resolution did pass, to proceed along that course of action, because that would be a very clear warning from the Congress. And the next step, obviously, would be impeachment.

Contrary to what Senator Hatch said at the opening statements, I don't think the censure nor is indeed impeachment a punishment. While it might seem that way, those aren't the designs of the founders. And I think that they're really a balancing of the two divisions of (INAUDIBLE) co-equal divisions in the government to make policy.

OLBERMANN: This, as we noted two nights ago, would be, and now has been, your first appearance before the Senate since you testified at the Watergate committee more than 30 years ago. Given that you were there for that watershed moment in our history, can you put into context with the unique historical perspective that that all has given you, what happened on the Hill today, what is happening with the presidency today?

DEAN: Well, I guess what was historic about this hearing, not necessarily my participation, is, I think it's probably the seventh time there has been any serious consideration whatsoever of a president being censured. If you go back and look at John Adams, you've got Andrew Jackson, you have John Tyler, you have James Buchanan, you have Harry Truman, no less at the urging of Richard Nixon when he fired MacArthur, and you have Bill Clinton.

So this isn't an issue that comes up very often in the Senate. And I think it's important, indeed, that it try to get out of the partisan vein and get it into the institutional vein, and then the Congress could say, Hey, Mr. President, you've got to comply with the law.

OLBERMANN: Let's move on to this latest report on another hole in the 2003 State of the Union script. The president is warned that the aluminum tube story is, at best, doubtful, uses it anyway. Karl Rove, his adviser, realizes the danger in that, if it becomes public knowledge, launches a kind of preventive cover-up. The details of that are new, but the template does not seem to be new. What, in your assessment, is the actual importance of this story, then?

DEAN: Well, what is new, I actually wrote a column on this back in July of 2003, where I merely went to public documents that were not fully classified documents that Murray Waas has now surfaced, and showed indeed, there was great doubt at that time that the president could make the statement that he made at the time he made it in his January 28, 2003, State of the Union message, about aluminum tubes being used to make nuclear weapons.

What Waas has done is moved the story forward and say, Hey, he had hard evidence. That isn't a surprise, as you say, and it's part of the template. And it's just further evidence, unfortunately, the president has been untruthful in how he took the nation to war.

OLBERMANN: But there is one secondary level of insight here into another story, is there is not, John? The report that Mr. Rove thought that the tube story, if revealed, would be easy to understand by the public and could easily keep the president from being reelected, do we finally, in this, have a clear motive for the attempt to discredit the former ambassador, Joe Wilson? Was the reason for Plamegate included in that story today?

DEAN: Well, that certainly fits into that pattern. But Keith,

indeed, if Rove did withhold evidence, or was urging that (INAUDIBLE) that

evidence be withheld for political purposes, I think that's inexcusable. I

· Richard Nixon, I think, himself would fire somebody for that. I know a lot of other presidents that would.

So this is pretty startling, if it's true.

OLBERMANN: And when does startling translate into public reaction, or into congressional reaction? I guess we've come full circle in the questioning here. This goes back to your appearance today. When does somebody sit up and take notice and say, It's not about Republicans and Democrats, it's about what the Constitution says the president's supposed to do, not do, and what the Constitution says the Senate and the House are supposed to do and not do?

DEAN: Well, members of the staff can be censured too. And maybe that's where they ought to start in thinking about this problem. If they don't want to go to the presidential level, at least look at the evidence they have. If a staffer is withholding something of this import for political purposes, it's unconscionable.

OLBERMANN: Unconscionable, but not unheard-of.


OLBERMANN: John Dean, Nixon White House counsel, author of "Worse Than Watergate." As always, sir, great thanks for your time.

DEAN: Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN: After three months of captivity in Iraq, she is safe and heading home. Yet tonight, some conspiracy theorists are criticizing Jill Carroll, suggesting, in a political context, that she's suffering from Stockholm syndrome or is a Jane Fonda-like figure, or even that she was not kidnapped at all.

But as our correspondent Mike Taibbi reports, new revelations today cast her surprisingly cheerful assessment of her captors in a entirely different light.


MIKE TAIBBI, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Jill Carroll gave few details about her ordeal when she was freed yesterday.

JILL CARROLL, "CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR": You know, I can't really talk about very much.

TAIBBI: But before her release, her captors posed questions to her on one final tape. In that interview, posted on the Internet, Carroll said the kidnappers who in January had shown her surrounded by gunmen, or screaming in terror, were "merciful and kind," "good people fighting an honorable fight," that the American occupiers were "treating people in a very, very bad way."

And of President Bush...

CARROLL: He knows this war is wrong. He knows it was illegal from the very beginning. He knows it was built on a mountain of lies.

TAIBBI: Those statements have raised questions. What does she really think? And skeptical bloggers are now questioning everything about the kidnapping that left her translator shot dead, even, without any facts to support the notion, whether it was a kidnapping.

(on camera): But "The Washington Post" reporter who spoke with Carroll just after she was released said Carroll told her she said what she said, did what she did, even dressed the way she dressed, for one reason, to live.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And this is the Holy Koran.

TAIBBI: And to those suggesting she had any other motive...

ELLEN KNICKMEYER, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Anyone who makes that accusation should think about what they would do for three months with machine guns held to their heads.

TAIBBI: Her editor at "The Christian Science Monitor" said Carroll knew the right answers were her only chance at freedom.

RICHARD BERGENHEIM, EDITOR, "THE CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR": You can imagine her great desire to get it right, (INAUDIBLE) really learning a part.

TAIBBI: Manhattan psychiatrist Dr. Allen Madelich (ph) has treated a number of cases of Stockholm syndrome.

DR. ALLEN MADELICH, PSYCHIATRIST: The victims emotionally bond with their captors to increase their survivability.

TAIBBI: But he says it may be months before it's known whether Carroll's comments on that tape come from Stockholm syndrome, from pure calculation, or genuine beliefs, or some combination of the three.

MADELICH: It's way too soon to decide, you know, which one of these are going on with her. She may not know herself.

CARROLL: I'm just happy to be free...

TAIBBI: What she does know, what her family and supporters know, is that her three-month nightmare is over.

Mike Taibbi, NBC News, New York.


OLBERMANN: Another investigation, another set of criticisms. If baseball's rank and file had reacted as angrily to steroid use as they seem to be to the steroid probe, maybe there never would have been a steroid scandal. Charges of conflict of interest, of witch hunting, of racism.

And it is our newscast's third birthday today. Our present to you, that's right, a big yummy falafel.

You are watching Countdown on MSNBC.


OLBERMANN: A couple of baseball players actually like it. One even thinks he'll cooperate with it.

But otherwise, the first day of baseball's new steroids investigation under chairman George Mitchell was a cacophony of criticism.

Our fourth story on the Countdown, it goes too far, it doesn't go far enough. It goes too far back in time, it doesn't go back far enough. It's being run by somebody too close to the business, it's being run by an outsider. And perhaps most ominously, it's racist.

That the essence of the reactions from Minnesota Twins center field Tori Hunter and former Oakland A's pitching ace Dave Stewart (ph). Hunter said, quoting, "If you're going to dig, dig real deep. Dig into guys like Nolan Ryan. What was he taking?" the Twins player adding, "There's no way they would launch an investigation if Barry Bonds was not about to break Babe Ruth's record." Bonds is just six homers behind Ruth's total of 714 career home runs, but the record of 755 he's seeking to break belongs, of course, to another African-American star, Henry Aaron.

More practically, there are questions about the investigation's scope, its powers, and its chairman, George Mitchell.

To help us analyze some of those criticisms, let me call in Stanley Brand, the noted defense attorney who represented baseball at last year's landmark congressional steroid hearings.

Thank you for your time yet again, sir.

STANLEY BRAND: Happy birthday, Keith.

OLBERMANN: Thank you kindly.

With a little chance to reflect on this thing and what we know of what George Mitchell can and cannot do, do the critics have a point? Is this some kind of toothless wild goose chase?

BRAND: I don't think so. I mean, here you have a man who has been called on by presidents of the United States to settle international crises, things of a greater magnitude even than baseball, Northern Ireland, the Middle East, a man who's been a federal judge, a U.S. senator, and a man who's been above reproach his entire career.

So I think this is what you suggested at the opening. Baseball in this situation is like the weather. It's too hot. It's too cold. It's too wet. It's too dry. It's never just right.

OLBERMANN: One criticism that sprung up today is based on the reactions of some people who like the investigation. Congressman Henry Waxman, other politicians, saying it's about time, it's a good step. And that, of course, could lead you to wonder, was the investigation launched, especially considering there is a former senator at its helm, to keep Congress from starting it's own investigation?

BRAND: I don't think so. I think that what pushed the commissioner over the edge were the revelations in this book, revelations of heretofore, you know, greater specificity than we've ever seen. And I think it's been cumulative. People asking the commissioner and pressing the commissioner to do this, and he finally reached the point where I think it was inevitable.

OLBERMANN: When the first reports came out that the commissioner was going to form an investigation committee that would consist entirely of four executive vice presidents of baseball, his predecessor as commissioner, Faye Vincent, said, No, you need outside people. Did they get somebody far enough outside in George Mitchell? He is, after all, on the board of directors of the Boston Red Sox.

BRAND: He is, but, I mean, his reputation is as an absolute straight-shooter. He's going to assemble a team of professionals, including people who have been involved in numerous internal investigations. He has said, and I take him at his word, knowing him as I do from my days on Capitol Hill when I worked for Tip O'Neill, that he will go wherever it leads, that the scope is up to him, and that he will have absolutely unfettered access to any area of the game controlled by the commissioner, subject to the commissioner's jurisdiction.

I have every confidence he'll do that.

OLBERMANN: The last thing here, this issue that has been raised of the prospect that there is racism involved in this. The indisputable fact is that when Mark McGwire was chasing the single-season record for home runs in 1998, and another subject, a precursor to steroids, androstendion (ph), was found in his locker in the middle of that, No one did anything. There was no investigation. McGwire retired without incident. And now Bonds is essentially the focus of a huge, very publicized investigation.

People see that in racial terms. Are they wrong to do so?

BRAND: I think so, because in 1998, remember, there was no collective bargaining agreement that covered these banned substances. In fact, I think the substance that Mark McGwire took at that time was not even on the controlled substance list promulgated by the government. That happened later.

The - what will comfort people, or what should comfort people, is that the scope of this investigation is not Barry Bonds. The scope is Balco Labs and the leads that come from Balco Labs, wherever they go, whether that's African-American players or white players or Hispanic players or anyone else. And that's where I think people, when they see the results, whatever they are, will be assured that it's not dedicated solely to Barry Bonds.

OLBERMANN: Let's hope so, and let's hope that's the perception.

Defense attorney Stan Brand, formerly the counsel for major league baseball at the steroid hearings last year. Great thanks for your time again, sir.

BRAND: Good to see you.

OLBERMANN: Have a good weekend.

From pointed criticism to pointed hobbies? Mr. Knife-Thrower Man going for the gold in the record books. His lovely assistant has, perhaps, other goals in mind. Get me out of here.

And the goal of one sculptor, to capture the essence of American motherhood. Yes, that's who you think it is.

Countdown continues to illuminate our times, next.


OLBERMANN: March 31, 2006. Dave Caplan (ph) turned 61 years old today. Ooh, ooh, Mr. Cutter! Did I ever tell you about my Uncle Throwdini (ph)?

Let's play Oddball.

We begin in Moscow for an exciting attempt to break the world record for knife-throwing. David Adamovich (ph) of Austin, Texas, known as the Great Throwdini. When he broke the record, he was hoping somebody would give him a better nickname. Seventy-six knives in one minute, though, proved to be too much for the Great Throwdini, and he gave up after three attempts.

He says he regularly throws 80 knives a minute at home. Yes, but not when it counts, huh, pal? His assistant, the lovely Katarina (ph), says she's been on the job two years and has never been hit by a knife. A meat cleaver? No comment.

To Shagen (ph), in the Netherlands, where one man says he's nearly ready for the great flood. Johann Pevers (ph) is almost finished with his replica of the biblical ship Noah's Ark. He is ready to pack in the animals two by two, ox and camel and kangaroo. Actually, he's got a couple of sheep and a rabbit and stuff. That's about it for now.

Right now, it will be a place to educate children about the Bible. But if the flood comes, this is the guy who's ready for it. Pevers says his boat is just one-fifth the size of Noah's, but then again, Noah did not have to deal with union labor, did he? And don't you forget my unicorn.

Speaking of animals, the entire month's worth of headlines and high-wire acts from Oddball, including the saga of the incredible falling cat and the incredible decision we made to make her watch herself on tape.

Speaking of losing your grip, on the third anniversary of the first Countdown, our present to you, the latest on Bill O'Reilly's dream of getting us canceled.

Those stories ahead, but first, here are Countdown's top three newsmakers of this day.

Number three, Konoshin Kawabata of Osaka, Japan, arrested for burglary after he really, truly picked the wrong building to break into. Police say he was rummaging around in the dark in a training center on the grounds of the Shun-Ji (ph) Temple, when he woke up the 17 sumo wrestlers who were sleeping in bunks in there. Somehow, they managed to hold him until police arrived.

Number two, astronomers at Britain's (INAUDIBLE) Observatory. They say they've discovered a giant, 300 billion-mile-wide alcohol cloud at the far reaches of our galaxy. Hey, could we still fire up that Russian space station, the "Mir"? They'll drive.

Number one, Joseph Ingrisani of Margate, Florida, other side of the state. He was playing the slot machine at the Hard Rock Casino in the neighborhood. Apparently he did not notice all the bells and the whistles, the flashing lights, and the sirens after he pulled the lever for the last time. He walked out of the casino not realizing he had just hit the jackpot for nearly $230,000.

Officials tracked down the 79-year-old Mr. Ingrisani through the club card he was using to play. They sent a limo to his house to pick him up to give him his winnings, part of which, I assume, he will be spending on a new hearing aid.


OLBERMANN: Third birthday of the show, third story in the show. That was a no-brainer. So was deciding how to celebrate it: by updating you on the guy who's least happy about the anniversary. Talk about no-brainers.

Despite Bill O'Reilly's best efforts to the contrary, in the words of Gloria Gaynor, more or less, we have survived. And look, statistics. Countdown up 46 percent in what the big giant head likes to call the key demographic. O'Reilly down 24 percent.

All this despite his online petition a month ago, raising concern, quote, "about the well-being of MSNBC," asking for my firing and the return of Phil Donahue. So we all signed the petition. Apparently, we were just about the only ones who signed it.

At the heart of this, of course, is the idea that he does not have tender feelings about me or about this newscast. I never said anything factually incorrect about the man. Never taken his many stupid comments out of context or anything. Never mixed up his various personal attacks with his various personal scandals. So I can't imagine what it could possibly be.


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.

BILL O'REILLY, HOST, FOX NEWS' "THE O'REILLY FACTOR": I am a stupid guy. And every guy listening knows how that is.

OLBERMANN: The big 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 damn 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: Wait. 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 other 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: Well, so I keep calling him on stuff. Then again, speaking of calling, you may remember when a caller to the O'Reilly radio show mentioned my name on his air, and he threatened to send the FOX security and/or the police and/or the Mutant Ninja Turtles over to the guy's house.


O'REILLY: Orlando, Florida, Mike, go.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, Bill, I appreciate you taking my call.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I like to listen to you during the day. I think Keith Olbermann's show...

O'REILLY: There you go. Mike is - he's a gone guy. You know, we have this - we have your phone numbers, by the way. So if you're listening, Mike, we have your phone number, and we're going to turn it over to FOX security, and you'll be getting a little visit.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Maybe Mike is from the mother ship.

O'REILLY: No, maybe Mike is going to get in big trouble. Because we're not going to play around. When you call us, ladies or gentlemen, just so you know, we do have your phone number. And if you say anything untoward, obscene or anything like that, FOX security then will contact your local authorities, and you will be held accountable. Fair?


O'REILLY: So just, all you guys who do this kind of a thing, you know, I know some shock jocks, whatever - you will be held accountable. Believe it. We'll be right back.


OLBERMANN: That call was first available on the O'Reilly show web site, archived. Then it was erased. Then we located the caller himself and asked him what else he had said.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What I said was, "Hey, Bill, thanks for taking my call. I like to listen to you in the afternoons, because Keith Olbermann has the best show at 8. Why ARE you always smearing him?"

OLBERMANN: That was it? There was no swearing? There was no...



OLBERMANN: Three years, we can't get any lights.

And that's where it stands to the minute. It's been quiet over there at the Ministry of Truth. Too quiet. Or as we know, all of human existence divides evenly into two categories, those times when Bill O'Reilly has just said something stupid or destructive and those times when Bill O'Reilly is about to say something stupid or destructive.

Seriously, our thanks to you for making this birthday possible.

Speaking of birthdays, is that Britney Spears in mid delivery? The artist joins us. And the Naomi Campbell perp walk. The latest: how her arrest for phone flinging might have something to do with Oprah Winfrey. That and more ahead on Countdown.


OLBERMANN: Britney Spears in stone, a tribute to motherhood. A sculpture showing her mid-birth, on all fours, on a bearskin rug. The artist joins us. And later, the "Oddball" plays of the month. That's next. This is Countdown.


OLBERMANN: We have followed the trials and tribulations of Britney Spears on this news hour, usually against my will. Her sudden marriage to Jason Alexander in Los Vegas, its annulment, her marriage to Kevin Federline - tick, tick, tick, tick, tick. To say nothing of their apparently insistence on breeding. And as for Ms. Spears' bold grab at the title of mother of the year, it was the time she was caught driving her SUV with baby Sean on her lap.

So on our No. 2 story on THE Countdown tonight, we all want to know how Britney Spears becomes the inspiration for a tribute to motherhood. In fact, a life size sculpture of "La Spears" on a bear skin rug on the verge of giving birth, will be displayed at the Capla Kesting Fine Art Gallery in Brooklyn, New York, for two weeks next month. The work is titled "Monument to Pro-Life: The Birth of Sean Preston".

Joining me now, the sculptor, Daniel Edwards.

Thank you for your time tonight, sir.

DANIEL EDWARDS, SCULPTOR: Thank you for having me.

OLBERMANN: Why Britney Spears, why now and why this?

EDWARDS: Last summer there was a lot of interest in Britney Spears' pregnancy, and I caught the tail end of it right around the time she was about to give birth.

And it dawned on me that, in my lifetime, was the most hyped pregnancy I can ever recall. And it caused me to kind of sit and wonder what that was all about. And so I kind of became a little bit inspired by it. I saw her on the cover of "Elle" magazine and saw that she was quite a beautiful pregnant woman. So I'm a father of three myself, so I pursued it.

OLBERMANN: How long did it take you to create?

EDWARDS: I started at the end of September. And finished it quite recently. So what is it, six months, six and a half months?

OLBERMANN: How is this that - how did you connect it, though, specifically with this idea of the pro-life statement?

EDWARDS: Well, as I was thinking about it and wondering why everybody might be so interested in it, I thought there was a move or maybe an undercurrent towards pro-life. So you know, if you can illustrate a pregnant woman, it says more before pro-life. I mean, in this country the issue is kind of separated into two points of view: pro-choice and pro-life, and a pregnant woman doesn't represent pro-choice.

OLBERMANN: The reaction that you've gotten to this, I understand, has been - there has been, basically, the two extremes, positive or negative. What's the most interesting to you of the reactions?

EDWARDS: They're all interesting to me. The bear skin rug is the one that baffles me the most. There's four or five issues that people kind of bring up.

But the bear skin rug, when I was a little kid, I remember the popularity of seeing old baby photos of babies on a bear skin rug. Nobody else seems to recall that.

OLBERMANN: No. I'm with you on that. I remember it very well. If it was not something that was common in recent history, it certainly was still etched in as a reference to earlier times.

One other thing about one of your other works I wanted to ask about, you did a piece last year called the Ted Williams Memorial Display with Death Mask for the Ben Affleck 2004 World Series Collection. What was that about?

EDWARDS: That's correct. Well, when I heard about Ted Williams' decapitation for cryogenics, I was quite shocked. I mean, it really, really hit me and it never left me. And I was always a Ted Williams fan. And you know, I was in a position where I could kind of make - express that and make a statement about it. And so I did. And I don't know - I don't know that I think it was the wrong thing but...

OLBERMANN: It was an influential one, certainly.

Daniel Edwards, artist and sculptor and depicter of the pregnant Britney Spears. Great thanks for your time.

EDWARDS: Thank you.

OLBERMANN: Next, perhaps, a statue of Naomi Campbell, her arm fully extended just before she wings a telephone at one of her employees. That would be an easy segue, then, into our nightly roundup of celebrity and entertainment news, "Keeping Tabs."

Yesterday we told you about the model's arrest for assault after she allegedly threw a phone at her housekeeper's head. Now we learn her anger may have been fueled by a missing pair of jeans and Oprah.

According to prosecutors, Ms. Campbell could not find the pair of jeans she wanted to wear on Oprah Winfrey's show. She became angry. She accused her housekeeper of stealing clothes. Housekeeper Ana Scolavino needed four staples for a head laceration.

The judge released Ms. Campbell on her own recognizance at yesterday's arraignment. They also issued an order of protection against her, barring contact with in Ms. Scolavino. The judge also said Ms. Scolavino would have to give up her key to Campbell's Park Avenue apartment.

Campbell's next court appearance is June 27. Or the national shot-put championships, whichever comes first.

Meantime, a storybook marriage is at an end, apparently. He fell in love we are her despite her past life as an exotic dancer. She warned him if he ever cheated on her she'd sleep with all of his co-workers.

Anna Benson has filed for divorce from her baseball pitcher husband Chris. She says the marriage is irretrievably broken. "The New York Daily News" says the Baltimore Orioles pitcher cheated on her with one of her friends.

Now serving uniform No. 38. Uniform No. 38, please.

Actually, a spokesman for Mrs. Benson says that stuff about sleeping with the teammates was just a joke. There's also no truth to rumors that Mrs. Benson's chest will be investigated for using steroids.

No supermodels but definitely super controversy ahead. The "Oddball Month in Rewind." This is not the prime minister of Italy. But why not?

First, time for Countdown's three nominees for today's worst person in the world.

The bronze tonight to Fanny Amun, acting secretary-general of Nigeria's soccer league. Its referees apparently take a lot of bribes to fix league games. Amun's solution: take the bribes, then screw over the bribers. Quote, "Referees should only pretend to fall for the bait but make sure the result doesn't favor offering the bribe."

And your advice to your refs when the fixers feel double crossed?

Perhaps the one word, "Run"?

Tonight's runner-up, David M. Boudreaux, youth minister of Liberty, Missouri. He's been arrested on assault charges after a dodge ball game with the kids from his church. One of the 16-year-olds managed to hit Boudreaux square in the face with the ball. He did not react well. He knocked the kid to the ground and kicked him in the groin.

Hold on. What kind of church lets nearly fully grown kids play dodge ball?

But our winner, radio's Neal Boortz. We told you that Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney was arrested after allegedly striking a police office at a Capitol Hill security checkpoint. Boortz declared that Representative McKinney, who is an African-American, has new hairstyle that makes her look, quote, "like a ghetto slut"; quote, "like an explosion at a Brillo Pad factory"; quote, "like Tina Turner peeing on an electric fence"; and quote, "like a Shitzu."

He claims he's permitted to say these things because he's endured years of bald remarks. OK, endure this one: you're a bald racist. Radio's Neal Boortz - that's "boor" plus a "t" and a "z" - today's worst person in the world!


OLBERMANN: Finally tonight, we get a lot of viewer mail and e-mail on this. It's also basically the same thing. Paragraphs of "Keith, we love your great show" at the top, and of course, Bill O'Reilly's signature at the bottom.

But many of them in the middle ask, "How do you create your 'Oddball Plays of the Month'?" Well, of course, that's like asking how did Mozart write the national anthem? Or how did Columbus discover the moon? In reality, the answer is, I just turn it over to the vast production team.

That's the No. 1 story on the Countdown, our highlights of the four past weeks, the "Oddball Plays of the Month." Two notes: the cat lived and that's not who you nor the vast production team think it is. Let's play "Oddball."


OLBERMANN (voice-over): We begin in Detroit.

We begin in Rio de Janeiro.

We begin outside of Wichita, Kansas.

We begin in Kadena (ph), Lithuania.

We begin in New York's Central Park with the Countdown coyote chase of the week. He was spotted two days ago on the Upper East Side. Apparently, the Road Runner's got a little place on 83rd and Flax (ph).


OLBERMANN: To Nagoya, now, for another episode of "Those Amazing Japanese Robots". This is Sri Man (ph), designed to work in hospitals and nursing homes, picking up the patients and moving them around. It's the latest technological marvel from the worldwide leader in automatons and yet another slap in the face to the American robot industry, which has thus far brought us Roomba.

To Tokyo, where Major League Baseball icon Tommy Lasorda honors "Oddball" tonight by throwing out the ceremonial first pitch. Tommy Lasorda, everybody.


And Newcastle's Oliver Bernard (ph) is going down.

Here, thousands have gathered to watch gigantic hunks of the thing break off and fall in the river. Dude, global warming rocks, dude!

Now a story from the files of weird stuff we found on the Internets (sic). You may have heard about Piper the cat, stuck 80 feet up in a South Carolina tree for almost eight days. Well, today he came down.

He's all right, folks. He's a cat.

And as long as we're finding weird video clips on the Internets (sic), we have an instant classic. What we're told is the controversial Italian prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, greeting an alert, uniformed female traffic officer before getting into his limo. At least our leaders keep that behind closed Oval Office doors.

Yes, the folks who brought you "young girls in a lizard tank with pork chops strapped to their heads," tonight bringing us a new instant classic: young girl in a polar bear tank with a baby seal on her head. Sort of.

We're back at the panda kindergarten again in Chengdu City. Aw! Aw!

Aw! OK. That's enough of that crap.

Look, poisonous snakes.

Acrobatic cats, everybody.

Domo Arigato, Mr. Robot Cart.

More than 16 people showed up to watch the acrobat brothers of the Maharashtra jump through rings of fire, break rocks and spin around really fast with bicycles tied to their heads. I have very strong hair. Live with it.

Finally, a shocking update of the video of the man we believe to be Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. All right. We don't have an update. We just wanted to play the tape again.

It's another Countdown car chase of the week, but we're mixing it up a bit. "COPS Chasing COPS, Without Tires."

Miamisburg, Ohio, hello.

The Upshur County courthouse in West Virginia. Twenty-eight-year-old Sara Zabolotny had just paid a speeding ticket. On her way out of the courthouse, she stole the rug from the courthouse lobby. Mercy. Didn't even wait for the other guy to get out of the room. Police say she had the thing in her home. They add, it really tied the room together.

This is 46-year-old Marty Simpson there, trying to hold up the Quickie Mart. A little tough to make out his face in the video on account of the milk crate he has got on his head. Mr. Simpson was arrested shortly after leaving the store, despite the ingenious disguise. Somehow, people still recognized him. Of course. "Marty, is that you? Get that milk crate off your head."

(on camera) Earlier this week on two separate occasions, we brought you a video we found on the Internets (sic). A man we thought at the time was Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi acting - well, acting inappropriately.

We were not able to confirm with 100 percent certainty that it actually was Silvio Berlusconi, but it sure looked like him, and he played the tape anyway, twice.

Tonight I'm sorry to say we've decided to play it again.

(voice-over) The balding man with the dark hair making a beeline for the traffic officer is the man we think is Berlusconi. And we have to admit, if he's not the leader of Italy, he certainly is the prime minister of getting it on.

(on camera) It's not Berlusconi.


OLBERMANN: That's Countdown for this, the 1,056th day since the declaration of mission accomplished in Iraq.

A reminder to join us again at midnight Eastern, 11 p.m. Central, 9 Pacific for the late edition of Countdown, when my hair will look like that. Until then, a special presentation of "LOCK UP: INSIDE UTAH STATE PENITENTIARY".

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


Thursday, March 30, 2006

'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for March 30

Guests: Jason Giambi, Phil Rogers, Joe Torre, Alex Pareene

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

Rage about 'roids. Baseball will finally investigate steroid use by its slugging superstars in the wake of two books accusing Barry Bonds.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think there's no question in my mind that the specisivity (ph) of these charges said to me that's it's time to have an investigation.


OLBERMANN: The who, we know, former Senate majority leader George Mitchell will lead the probe. But what exactly is he looking for? And is baseball looking out for its integrity, or just looking out for its corporate sponsors, bailing out of the Barry Bonds celebration tour?

And is there already spin? Two exclusive interviews tonight with the only man who reportedly confessed to the grand jury that he used the drugs, Jason Giambi of the New York Yankees.


JASON GIAMBI, NEW YORK YANKEES: If, you know, people really want to get into, I guess, the investigation, they got to start at how was the grand jury leaked.


OLBERMANN: Also Yankees manager Joe Torre.


JOE TORRE, MANAGER, NEW YORK YANKEES: Oh, I think if you're going to find the root of this thing, you're going to have to, you know, question everybody.


OLBERMANN: Relief, now. Questions, later.



I don't know why.


OLBERMANN: Almost three months later, reporter Jill Carroll is a hostage no more.


RANDALL MCCLOY, SAGO MINE SURVIVOR: Some things happened that I'd rather I didn't see. But I did.


OLBERMANN: Gaunt, weakened, but alive and getting stronger, the lone survivor of the Sago West Virginia mine disaster, Randall McCloy, speaks.

And say it ain't so, Silvio. It's not the Italian prime minister in this Internet video? Just as we warned you last Tuesday...


OLBERMANN: Leave us all hope that was just a guy who really looks exactly like the prime minister of Italy...


OLBERMANN:... last Wednesday...


OLBERMANN: Again, we cannot independently verify that that was actually Silvio Berlusconi.


OLBERMANN:... last Friday...


OLBERMANN: We're not able to confirm with 100 percent certainty...


OLBERMANN:... and, well, yesterday.




OLBERMANN: Tonight, the truth behind the tape. Our excuse to play it continuously for about five minutes.

All that and more, now on Countdown.

Good evening from Tampa, Florida.

In September 1993, the search committee looking for the next commissioner of baseball reportedly produced a short list, including two names, Senator George Mitchell of Maine, and a former defense secretary from the Ford administration, fellow named Don Rumsfeld. Had Mr. Rumsfeld gotten the job, the U.S. military might not be in the predicament it's created for itself in Iraq. Had Senator Mitchell gotten the job, baseball's steroids mess might never have progressed to where it is now.

In our fifth story on the Countdown, at least in baseball's case, there appears to be a second chance. While the former Senate majority leader is not the new commissioner, he was, as reported last night, today appointed to head up baseball's own investigation of steroid use reported among its players, limited, said Commissioner Bud Selig, in announcing it this afternoon, confined to events only since September 2002, when baseball specifically banned performance-enhancing drugs, sort of.

As for the timing of the investigation launched in the wake of Selig reading last weekend the book about Bonds and drugs, "Game of Shadows," but not, Selig claims, launched now because Bonds is approaching Babe Ruth's career home run total and Hank Aaron's career homerun record.


BUD SELIG, BASEBALL COMMISSIONER: I have to tell you, that played no role in this at all. That played absolutely no role in this at all.

Yes, I think this was much more specific. I have to say that. I think there's no question in my mind the specisivity (ph) of these charges said to me that it's time to have an investigation.

The idea that we turned a blind eye is just not supported by facts.

Those who cover the sport regularly understand that.

This information will be public. And it will - you will get it, you will get the information. This is an investigation in every sense of the word.

FORMER SEN. GEORGE MITCHELL, LEADING STEROIDS PROBE: I've been assured by the commissioner that I will have complete independence and discretion as to the manner in which this investigation will be conducted, and that I will have unhindered authority to follow the evidence wherever it might lead.


OLBERMANN: It might lead nowhere. Barry Bonds reports "The New York Daily News" will not cooperate with the Mitchell investigation. No answer on that question yet from the other players prominently mentioned in that book and in the grand jury testimony, specifically Garry Sheffield (ph) and Jason Giambi of the New York Yankees, though Giambi joins me for an exclusive interview in a moment.

There was less reaction today, as much as there was confusion. Who will be investigated? Who will testify? What happens to anyone nabbed in the investigation? That latter question coming up in my conversation today with New York Yankees manager Joe Torre on the team's last day of spring training here in Tampa.


TORRE: When did baseball implement a steroids policy? When did that happen?

OLBERMANN: For - with punishment? Two thousand and four.

TORRE: Two thousand and four. So anything that happened before that, if they find out that there were players that were taking steroids before that, they didn't break any rules.

You know, so how do you approach that? That's a curiosity for me.


OLBERMANN: One answer to that, then baseball commissioner Faye Vincent issued a strongly worded warning to players in 1991 that the use of illegal or illegally obtained drugs, recreational or otherwise, would not be tolerated.

The full interview with Joe Torre in a moment.

It will be his job, of course, to manage those two most prominent steroid suspects outside of Barry Bonds, of course, including the only one who reportedly admitted to the grand jury, in exchange for immunity, that he had used steroids, the only player to even approach an on-the-record confession, Jason Giambi of the New York Yankees.

We begin my exclusive interview with him with the simple question of reaction to the announcement of baseball's probe.


GIAMBI: To be honest with you, this is the first I've heard of it. You know, I've just been packing my house, getting ready to get out of Tampa. So, you know, I'm not really worried about it. I'd get all the things I need to do in the past, and I've gone forward. And, you know, the best I can do is just get ready for the season and not worry about it.

OLBERMANN: When something like this is announced, you think about it, whether it's in politics or baseball or wherever else, and you think, What are they looking to find out? What are the answers they're trying to see? How far-ranging is it going it be? If you were deciding what would go into an investigation that would be fair and actually produce results that would be positive for the game and the players, what would you do?

GIAMBI: I mean, I guess that's probably the best question. Like I said, this is all news to me. So I don't know where they're going to start, or what they're even going to look at, to be honest with you.

The best thing is, you know, I handled the situation the way I needed to, and, you know, got myself ready for last year's season, and I've kind of done the same this year. You know, I've moved on and moved past and moved forward.

So, you know, until somebody gives me a call, I really don't know what's going on, or even what they're going to get a look at.

OLBERMANN: You apologized very publicly and movingly, I might add, last year, obviously staying away from certain words that would have changed the nature of the conversation a little bit. Since you're the only guy who's done anything like that, said anything like that, do you worry that you might be - you might have put yourself unknowingly in a kind of dangerous position, because you said you were sorry for something, while everybody else said, No comment?

GIAMBI: You know, I haven't really thought of it that way. I just needed to do what was best for Jason. And that's the way I looked at it in my context, and not really worried about anybody else. Like I said, I mean, all those guys are great guys. And I had to do what I had to do to go forward, to get myself ready for a baseball season.

And that's what I kind of looked into, and said, you know, this is what I need to do that's going to be best for me. And I look at it now, I have no regrets. I've done it the right way that I needed to go, and, like I said, just trying to concentrating on baseball now.

OLBERMANN: How do you do that? You've been through this now before, where another subject besides baseball has been something people have been asking you questions about on a daily basis. As you look ahead to this season, obviously they're going to have an investigation. What little we know of it says players who might be investigated will continue to play, which presumably means that all this will go on while you're trying to play baseball, and people will be asking you questions, and things may leak out.

What do you do personally to make - you know, to build that wall between all that and everything between the lines?

GIAMBI: Well, I guess the biggest thing is, I really don't have, you know, much more about myself that could really get much more out there, to be honest with you. I mean, if, you know, people really want to get into, I guess, the investigation, they got to start at, how was the grand jury leaked, you know, from there?

So, I mean, that would probably be a start for, you know, them to go in the broader spectrum of things. But like I said, there's really not much anywhere anybody can go with me, because, like I said, I just - I did what I had to do. I concentrated on baseball, and I played out the season, and, you know, just have gone forward.

OLBERMANN: Thanks, Jason.

GIAMBI: Thank you. I appreciate it. Always a pleasure.


OLBERMANN: Jason Giambi's manager, Joe Torre, joins me in a moment.

Phil Rogers, national baseball writer of "The Chicago Tribune," was the first to report that Commissioner Selig of baseball wanted to act on the Bonds steroids quagmire sooner rather than later.

He joins me now.

Phil, good evening.

PHIL ROGERS, "CHICAGO TRIBUNE": How are you doing, Keith?

OLBERMANN: A little suntanned, and talked to a lot of players worried about steroids today.

Let me start with something that one of them, Jason Giambi, said, and Joe Torre also echoed this. In essence, I hope they'll also be investigating how those grand jury transcripts got into reporters' hands. That was the gist also of the lawsuit that Barry Bonds filed about that book last week. Is this the first spin, is this the first talking point? Are the principals in this going to be defending themselves by blaming the media?

ROGERS: Well, they won't get very much traction out of that. I mean, it might be where they start. But that's another investigation, that's another issue. I don't blame those players for being upset about that testimony being out there. Not my understanding of what happens with sworn grand jury testimony, but also not the issue we're looking at here.

OLBERMANN: To the senator's investigation, to the (INAUDIBLE) Mr. Mitchell's investigation. A lot of talk at that news conference about the why, a lot about the why now, but very little flesh on the bones about what they'll actually be investigating. Any idea yet on the parameters, the targets, the witnesses, the penalties?

ROGERS: Well, I think the targets are very simple. I mean, I think this is a Barry Bonds investigation. You know, his name was never mentioned today during the 23-minute news conference, but, I mean, this is a Barry Bonds issue. This is the most high-profile player in the game in terms of what he's accomplishing, flaunting the rules of how you're supposed to prepare yourself. And I think the commissioner was backed against the wall and said, Enough's enough.

You know, it is interesting, Mitchell talked about when you start an investigation, you seldom know where it's going to lead. Certainly it could be a lot broader. But I think the principals, as Selig said, he talked about the Balco investigation and about Greg Anderson. Well, that's Barry Bonds, that's Garry Sheffield, that's Jason Giambi. It could go beyond that, but I think, you know, that's the epicenter.

OLBERMANN: On the radio today, my partner, Mr. Patrick, suggested that Commissioner Selig had come around to the idea of a steroids investigation now because he sees it as part, possibly, of his legacy. I'll be the guy who cleans up steroids. I said I thought it was less that than it was these reports that the advertisers who were going to sponsor the celebrations when Bonds hit number 715, and if he get homer number 756, seemed to be bailing out. They don't want anything to do with Bonds. Were either of us right?

ROGERS: Well, baseball loves its sponsors. In Chicago, we just got the bleachers at Wrigley named the Bud Light Bleachers today, so no question, baseball loves its sponsors. But Barry Bonds was a hard sell in 2001, and he was going to be a hard sell this time around, period. As Rick Reilly (ph) of "Sports Illustrated" said, you know, this guy's not beloved, he's not even beliked. So, you know, I don't think it's really about the money. I think they're trying to do the right thing here.

OLBERMANN: There is, within, certainly, the baseball realm, and it's not clear how much there is outside of baseball, a lot of conversation tonight about the potential conflicts of interest here, because Senator Mitchell is on the board of the Boston Red Sox, so he's not outside of baseball, he's, in fact, associated with one team. He's chairman of Disney. Disney owns ESPN. ESPN is now going to run a Bonds reality show, or, you know, a Bonds alternate reality show.

Are these conflicts of interest legitimate things to worry about? Do they set the investigation off on a bad foot?

ROGERS: Well, they're conflicts of interest, and they're certainly something that people looking to criticize can grab hold of. But, you know, look at George Mitchell's track record. I think you can put a lot of stock in that.

And I can also tell you, baseball's not looking to protect Barry Bonds. If anybody thinks this is an internal investigation looking to protect somebody, I don't think so. And a lot of people aim it at Selig. You know, I don't think you're going to find an investigation that's going to come at the commissioner this time around.

OLBERMANN: All right. Tease it out for me. When this is finished, what will the Mitchell commission, the Mitchell report on steroids look like? When will we receive it? And who's going to get it in the neck as a result of it?

ROGERS: Well, Keith, how fast is Barry Bonds going to hit those 47 home runs to catch Henry Aaron? I don't think the investigation is going to be released after that happens. But I don't think - I think we're looking at a thorough investigation that I think will probably lead to a report next off-season, I would say maybe December, January, would be my guess at that.

And I think in the end, there's going to be some discipline, and I think Barry Bonds, unless there's some startling things we don't know that contradicts this mountain of evidence against him, I think is going to be disciplined. And I think Jason Giambi and Garry Sheffield may have to feel the brunt of that as well. I'm not sure if it's going to go beyond those three guys, but I think they're all in bad situations now.

OLBERMANN: An investigation, a season, and potentially a home run record chase, all at the same time.

Phil Rogers, national baseball columnist for "The Chicago Tribune," great thanks, sir.

ROGERS: Thank you.

OLBERMANN: We've heard the Jason Giambi response to the Mitchell Commission announcement. Also tonight, a somewhat bigger context, my exclusive interview with Yankees manager Joe Torre.

And unabashedly good news out of Iraq today. After three months as a hostage there, the journalist Jill Carroll is free tonight, and she tells the harrowing story of her time in captivity.

You are watching Countdown on MSNBC.


OLBERMANN: Before it was two hours old, baseball's new Mitchell committee investigating steroid use in the game had already produced, if not intelligence or results, then at least two remarkable ironies. Today, the founder of the California lab that supposedly supplied the drug to superstars like Barry Bonds, Jason Giambi, and Garry Sheffield, was himself released after his short term in prison. And Victor Conti says this is all character assassination directed at Bonds and at himself.

And in our fourth story on the Countdown, Joe Torre, the manager of the team for which Giambi and Sheffield play, bought his first automobile in 1960 from a used car dealer in Milwaukee named Allen Bud Selig, the very same Bud Selig who today, as commissioner of baseball, started the investigation that will doubtless touch two of Joe Torre's stars.

My exclusive interview with the manager of the New York Yankees.


OLBERMANN: We don't have the details yet of what a baseball steroids investigation is going to look like, but there's going to be one, and there's going to be a chairman, who is presumably the former Senate majority leader, George Mitchell, and there are going to be lawyers and investigators. Do you have a reaction to it? Do you have an initial impression about it?

TORRE: Well, the only impression I can give you, Keith, is the fact that I know Bud Selig is certainly aware of the reputation of the game.

And, you know, our game depends on the trust from the people. And, you know, I'm - you know, at first blush, it just looks like he's trying to turn up all - turn over all the stones just to make sure that what major league baseball is doing in regards to steroids is being taken care of.

So I, you know, I, you know, certainly have to respect the commissioner's wishes there.

OLBERMANN: Do you worry, on a direct level here, that it's - you know, you've got obviously Bonds's name is foremost of them here. But the other names that would be in this group would be two guys on your own team who were in that book, and obviously judging by the media reaction that's been present already today, people are going to be asking Garry Sheffield and Jason Giambi all these questions all over again. Does that concern you for your ball club and for the season?

TORRE: Immediate reaction in New York? You sure of that?

You know, I can't say you're used to it. You're never used to this type of questioning. But these two guys have been through the mill and back, as far as having to deal with whatever they had to deal with, and they're pretty good at, you know, addressing it, answering what questions they feel appropriate, and then moving on about their business.

They understand that, you know, the other 23 guys in this ball club rely on them a great deal. So, sure, it's not going to be easy. But again, when you play in New York, there's always something that's going to have to be taken care of. And, you know, I'm confident that these two guys will handle it.

OLBERMANN: Of all the players who have been mentioned in connection with this, whether it was the grand jury story and Balco, or the first book, or the second book, or Canseco's book last year, all the people who've been involved, the only person who came across as a standup guy and said something to the media about what was reported about him, and he was obviously very careful in the phrasing of what he said, was Jason Giambi, when he apologized last year. And obviously that bought him a lot of goodwill and a lot of, this is a man who means well, at whatever happened in the past, whatever happened in the future.

In a way, though, because he's the only guy who's even that much on the record, could that be used against him? Could he have been put himself in an unfortunate position by coming the closest to telling the truth?

TORRE: Well, I hope the heck it's not the case, because if that's the case, you're going to discourage guys from being open about it, from answering questions. I think, you know, Garry Sheffield's been open. Again, he doesn't necessarily come across a lot of times the way, you know, maybe he wants to be, you know, the way he'd like to be, like to come across. You know, he's pretty open, as far as I'm concerned. You know, when you ask him a question, he gives you an answer.

You know, I have a concern also, Keith. You know, who - is there anybody that takes the blame for this supposed grand jury testimony that becomes public? I mean, there's no talk about, you know - whether all these allegations are true or false, I'm not here to judge that.

But I'm just curious that when someone sits down, evidently, in a grand jury investigation, and they're told that this is confidential, and all of a sudden they read about it or read about it in a book or in a newspaper, is there anybody taking responsibility for that?

OLBERMANN: See, now, here's where our two worlds collide. Eight years ago, when President Clinton was deposed on tape for a grand jury, they managed to release that, and not only that, but they broadcast it on national television, and not only that, it was broadcast without anybody editing. So the whole grand jury process was diluted a little bit then. And, you know, you could never foresee this as part of the consequences of it, but I guess that - I guess they're connected that (INAUDIBLE).

TORRE: Yes, everything is done now on precedent. You know, and whenever something is done one time, they figure it's OK to do it. And it's deception, as far as I'm concerned. If the people who are testifying are told that this is confidential, because obviously that's not the case.

OLBERMANN: Last question. Canseco said this. It has been alluded to by a lot of people who have observed the situation relative to Barry Bonds. If there's an investigation and it's just about the players, and it's not about what did managers know, what did general managers know, what did owners know, are they - were they - were there errors of omission, were there errors of commission? It will not be fair if it's just about the players. Do you think that's correct?

TORRE: Probably not. I think if you're going to find the root of this thing, you're going to have to, you know, question everybody. But again, you know, what do you do? I mean, when did baseball - here, I'm not supposed to be asking you questions...

OLBERMANN: No, go ahead.

TORRE: But it's OK, we're friends, right? When did baseball implement a steroids policy? When did that happen?

OLBERMANN: For - with punishment? Two thousand and four.

TORRE: Two thousand and four. So anything that happened before that, if they find out that there were players that were taking steroids before that, they didn't break any rules. You know, so how do you approach that? That's a curiosity for me.

OLBERMANN: I think it'll be a curiosity for all of us for the rest of this year, probably, the way investigations go.

TORRE: Again, I'm not defending.


TORRE: I mean, I certainly, first off, steroids to me, the first and foremost thing that comes to my mind, it's dangerous, and we're teaching the kids the wrong lesson, because eventually, just from the little I know about steroids, it's going to have a, you know, maybe a fatal effect on people.


TORRE: And if not that, something long term that they have to deal with the rest of their lives. So, you know, whatever the short-term pluses are, there's certainly too much on the negative side to really think about using it.

OLBERMANN: Thank you, Joe.

TORRE: Thank you, Keith.


OLBERMANN: If you think steroids are fun, wait till we get to motions to censure the president, a reminder that after he testifies to the Senate about that tomorrow, Richard Nixon's White House counsel, John Dean, will join us for the regular Friday editions of Countdown, 8:00 p.m. and midnight Eastern, 5:00 and 9:00 p.m. Pacific.

Tonight, three months after he alone was left to tell the tale, Randall McCloy bears witness to the mining disaster in Sago, West Virginia.

And from that triumph to fury, a wall of fury, anger management and dishwashing, Filipino style.

That's next. This is Countdown.


OLBERMANN: Sixty-one years ago today in England, a boy was born in Surrey who could have adopted the last name of his step-grandfather, who raised him, rather than that of his mother. He didn't, otherwise he would have been called Eric Patrick Clapp, rather than Eric Clapton. Good choice.

On that note, let's play Oddball.

We begin on the island of Cyprus, where if you're ever visiting, be sure to try the lemons. They are as big as Eric Clapton's freaking head. Orchard owners there say they are not sure why their lemons are so huge this year, some of them weighing up to eight pounds, but they say it's nothing to do with that leaky nuclear plant next door Smithers. The lemons reportedly taste great. They are perfect for lemon candy, family sized lemonade, for standing on while trying to break the world knee bend record. Actually that's just a really big ball. It just happens to be yellow. And that's world record holder Ashrida Firman (ph) on top of it, bending at the knee 1035 times in one hour in Athens. Firman sweated profusely and cried out in pain as he smashed the previous record of 400 and entered the Guinness book of world records for the 34th time. He'll go for number 35 later tonight when he attempts to eat that really big ball.

And then to the Philippines where one restaurant in Corona (ph) has figured out a way to save money on dishwashers while offering their customers a special brand of anger management therapy. The wall of fury, a chance for diners to vent their frustrations by smashing their dishes and other items against said wall of fury for a nominal charge. There are targets painted on the wall of fury for those looking to make things more interesting. Many married couples enjoy smashing plates instead of say, each other. Restaurant owners say the wall of fury has become extremely popular and serves as a great distraction from their horrible, horrible menu.

The special oddball investigation coming up but a disturbing answer to the infamous tape of the violated meter maid. Is it really Silvio Berlusconi? The guy, not the meter maid. The answer lies in yet another videotape.

And the Randall McCloy interview, the sole survivor of the West Virginia mine tragedy finally home from the hospital and speaking exclusively with NBC. The story's ahead, but first here are Countdown'S top three newsmakers of this day.

The Philadelphia Phillies baseball (INAUDIBLE) sent out more than 4,000 DVDs encouraging previous season ticket holders to renew for another campaign, sort of mix up at the production company. At least two of those ticket holders got not a Phillies highlight tape but rather a cock fighting video. Wait a minute. That announcer is not Harry Callis (ph).

Number two, Jim Rinck in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He wants to unseat Republican Congressman Vern Ehlers. Mr. Rinck describes Mr. Ehlers thusly. Our congressman is the smartest person in the district and it might be the only place in the country that can say that, but he falls somewhat short on the charisma meter and it might take a somewhat less intelligent although much noisier person to get some things done for this district. If I'm reading this right, his only possible campaign slogan appears to be, vote Rinck, louder, dumber, better.

Number one, Hooters Airline after a moderately successful three-year run, the airline announced it will be canceling regularly scheduled service April 17. It will still run charter flights for sports teams and tour groups. The business had simply begun to sag and the change was apparently the only alternative to going bust. I'm sorry I would like to apologize to everyone in the world for that. I'm sorry. I'm sorry.


OLBERMANN: It is probably a mathematically provable fact that most of the particularly accurate criticism of American reporters in Iraq has come from the commentators and the politicians who have spent the least amount of time in Iraq. Our third story in the Countdown. Reporters who have been there seldom, no matter what their political perspective, criticize the others who have been there. They all know. And tonight perhaps none of them knows better than Jill Carroll, the "Christian Science Monitor" freelancer who is finally free after three months as a hostage. Our correspondent in Baghdad is James Hattori.


JAMES HATTORI, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): After appearing in videos as a hostage held at gunpoint, today Jill Carroll went on Baghdad TV a free woman.

JILL CARROLL, FREED HOSTAGE: I was kidnapped January 7. I don't know why, really I don't know why. I was not harmed. They never said they would hit me or threatened me in any way.

HATTORI: This morning Carroll was inexplicably released on an east Baghdad street.

CARROLL: I don't know what happened. They just came to me and said, OK, we're letting you go now.

HATTORI: She ended up on the doorstep of a Sunni political party office. She presented a piece of paper with Arabic writing saying she's Jill Carroll asking for help, this party official says. Carroll, a freelance reporter for the "Christian Science Monitor," was kidnapped in a bloody attack that left her Iraqi translator dead.

CARROLL: I really don't know where I was. The room had a window but the glass was, you can't see and its curtains. I once did watch television but I didn't know what was going on in the outside world.

HATTORI: She told the Iraqis who found her this morning that she was not pressured psychologically and that her kidnappers seemed to be trustworthy people.

JIM CARROLL, FATHER: It's been a long haul and we're done with it now.

HATTORI: Back in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, Jill's father Jim Carroll gave thanks and expressed concern for the 83 foreign hostages still held in Iraq.

JIM CARROLL: Don't forget the other American hostages and other hostages of all nationalities still being held in Iraq.

HATTORI: In Boston, the Christian Science Monitor's" editor insisted no ransom was paid.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There was absolutely no negotiations that took place for her release.

HATTORI: The U.S. ambassador to Iraq chose his words carefully.

ZALMAV KHALILZAD, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO IRAW: No U.S. person had made any arrangements with the kidnappers. By U.S. person I mean the United States mission.

HATTORI: Details still to emerge, a story Jill Carroll didn't expect to be part of.

CARROLL: I'm happy to be free. I want to be with my family.

HATTORI: James Hattori, NBC News, Baghdad.


OLBERMANN: Another story of survival tonight, a different kind of captivity, a different kind of horror but the same sense of relief certainly. Nearly three months ago, 13 miners trapped in West Virginia lying there helplessly, waiting for rescuers to come to their aid after an initial and heart achingly inaccurate reports of their safe recovery, it proved only one had survived. Today that one, Randal McCloy Jr. was released from the hospital and returned home to his family. A full recovery for him is still uncertain but doctors are calling his recovery thus far miraculous. He has undoubtedly beaten the odds. Now though he has to beat the sadness of having lost a dozen friends and colleagues. Matt Lauer's exclusive interview with Randy McCloy.


MATT LAUER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Do you remember Randy when the first time was that you were told that you were the one who made it out alive and the others weren't?

RANDAL McCLOY JR, SOLE SURVIVOR OF SAGO MINE DISASTER: I believe that right there probably upset me the most because I just felt lonely like I'm the only one.

LAUER: People in situations like that often ask themselves why.

McCLOY: Yeah. I did too.

LAUER: How do you answer that question? Is it there but for the grace of God?

McCLOY: Yeah. I'd say if you had to wrap it up in a nutshell, I'd say that would be it.

LAUER: How clear is your memory on what happened in that mine?

McCLOY: Pretty clear. I really don't want to get into the details of it. But some things happened that I rather I didn't see. But I did. I don't want anyone to say well, I didn't hear about this and I have to hear it on the news. I really don't want that to happen.

LAUER: Do you remember being rescued?

McCLOY: No. I had so much carbon monoxide in my lungs. I couldn't even breathe, much less speak properly.

LAUER: Had you played out in your mind what you would do in the event of something horrible happening in that mine?

McCLOY: Yeah, but you can really not tell yourself enough to be prepared because you are blind sided because you can't see. You are running like a goose in a damn mine and you don't even know where you're going.

LAUER: And you have to hope that someone out there is looking for you.

McCLOY: Yeah.

LAUER: On TV, you said if he's alive, I will tell you right now, he's going to come out of that mine.

ANNA McCLOY, SURVIVORS WIFE: (INAUDIBLE) I know Randy and I know his determination and his willpower. I know his love for me and the kids. And I knew that if anybody was, it's going to be him.

LAUER: So what are you seeing him do right now is just a part - you've always known it's been inside of him.

ANNA McCLOY: Yeah, always.

LAUER: He was opening his eyes and (INAUDIBLE) left arm a lot and the left leg. but the right side wasn't moving at all.

LAUER: So he couldn't say your name, couldn't say Randal his son's name or Isabel?

ANNA McCLOY: No. In fact we didn't even know if he knew who we were.

You just never know with brain injury.

LAUER: What was the first time when you realized, OK, he knows that it's me?

ANNA McCLOY: I was talking to him and I told him I said, Randy, I know that you can't talk right now, but if you know who I am just give me one kiss and he kissed me.

LAUER: Did he lean up and do that?

ANNA McCLOY: He leaned up and he leaned his head up toward me.

LAUER: How hard did you cry? I'm almost crying here.

ANNA McCLOY: I lost it. I never expected that.

LAUER: So you're a little frustrated with the speed of things and yet everybody here seems to think the progress you're making is going incredibly fast. But it's just not fast enough for you?

McCLOY: That's probably right.


OLBERMANN: The McCloys with Matt Lauer. In honor of Randal's homecoming, West Virginia's Governor announced the rural thoroughfare on which the couple lives will be renamed. They're going to call it Miracle Road.

Meanwhile tonight, a scandal continues to mushroom on the campus of Duke University. The lacrosse team there, its season suspended. Police investigating allegations of a gang rape at a team party.

Naomi Campbell in handcuffs tonight. From the catwalk to the perp walk. Details ahead on Countdown.


OLBERMANN: To those who organized the rally it must have come as bitter irony, the long planned event part of sexual assault prevention week. But last night's gathering at Duke University grew to three times its anticipated size and turned into a march across campus. The reason? Recent allegations of a brutal beating and rape by three players on the school's lacrosse team. That national championship caliber team has been suspended en masse pending a resolution. Our number two story in the Countdown tonight, a nightmare at Duke and there are racial overtones, as well. Our correspondent is Martin Savidge.


MARTIN SAVIDGE, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A growing outcry, a sport season in jeopardy.

RICHARD BRODHEAD, DUKE UNIVERSITY PRESIDENT: I have decided that future games should be suspended.

SAVIDGE: And on the campus of one of the nation's top universities, Duke, accusations of racial hatred and a terrible crime. It all centers around what happened in this home just over two weeks ago. A party involving members of the men's lacrosse team, some who played in this game last season. There was underage drinking and two young African American women hired as dancers.

MIKE NIFONG, DISTRICT ATTY: They began to dance. They were made to feel uncomfortable by racial comments that were being made and by the threatened use of a broomstick.

SAVIDGE: According to a police affidavit, one of the women says three of the men pushed her into the bathroom and forcefully held her legs and arms and sexually assaulted her for 30 minutes. The victim says she was hit, kicked and strangled as she attempted to defend herself. The allegedly victim is reportedly a young mother working her way through college. Because she's African American and those she has accused are white, the incident has sparked concerns about racial attitudes on a campus where so many students come from white, and well to do families.

JAYMYN SINGLETON, DUKE SOPHOMORE: A lot of the black females are afraid to walk around campus. We do feel unsafe on our campus.

SAVIDGE: Forty six members of the men's lacrosse team have submitted DNA samples.

JOHN BURNESS, DUKE PUBLIC AFFAIRS: The students have consistently said there was no sexual activity consensual or otherwise.

SAVIDGE: No charges have been filed but the district attorney expects that will change when the DNA test results come back early next week. Martin Savidge, NBC News, Durham, North Carolina.


OLBERMANN: No easy segue then to our nightly round-up of celebrity and entertainment news, "Keeping Tabs, although there is a possible crime involved in the lead story. Naomi Campbell, throwing a phone, charged with assault and thus doing a crappy Russell Crowe impersonation. The same city as Mr. Crowe's phone flinging episode as well, Ms. Campbell arrested at her Park Avenue home in New York today, charged with second degree assault. They say she threw a phone at her housekeeper's head after an argument at about 8:00 this morning. The 41-year old housekeeper receiving four stitches at a local hospital. Campbell's spokesman says the accusation is really a case of retaliation by the housekeeper. He says Campbell fired that housekeeper this morning. He does not explain though how the housekeeper got that head laceration nor that fact that in 2000, Campbell pleaded guilty in a Canadian court to hitting her then person personal assistant. The flying object at that point? Also a phone. Telephone, telephone for Naomi Campbell.

And Tom Cruise's latest "Mission Impossible" installment will be hitting theaters soon, but not without a lawsuit biting at its heels. A special effects technician says that an explosion on the set of "Mission Impossible 3" caused him third degree burns over 60 percent of his body. Steve Scott Weekly (ph) alleges negligence. Mr. Weekly says that a Chevrolet Suburban rigged with pyrotechnical material accidentally exploded on the set last June, engulfing him in a fireball. The defendants in the suit include Viacom, Paramount pictures and Tom Cruise's company, Cruise Wagner Productions.

And the what the heck is this of the month. An instructional video for Tom Cruise? No. Images of Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi getting friendly? The final answer is finally ahead.

First, time for contenders for today's three nominees for worst person in the world. The bronze tonight to Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. As he left church last Sunday, he reportedly made an obscene hand gesture to a reporter. But the justice denied there was any gesture, that would be in English, the justice denied there would be any gesture, until that is, this photo of the incident shot by freelance photographer showed up today in the "Boston Herald." That's either a gesture or he's checking his shave. Now Justice Scalia quote, has no comment.

Tonight's runner up? Bill O'Reilly. He's declared the American press the quote, the most damaging institution in the country today because it's so blatantly partisan and dishonest intellectually. If that's true Bill O, the American media is now partisan and intellectually dishonest, your work here is done. We've accomplished what you've set out to do.

But tonight's winner, a double bill, claiming that the archbishop of Los Angeles, Cardinal Roger Mahoney favors immigration because quote, he knows he'll get those people in church when he doesn't have anybody in church anymore, unquote. Oh oh, Bill, that's a Catholic biggie right there you're talking about. You may be going to hell. Of course, one could argue you are already in your own private one. Bill O'Reilly, today's worst person in the world!


OLBERMANN: In our defense, we never claimed it was indeed him. Our consistent pursuit of journalistic integrity compelled us to use caveats like not able to confirm and cannot independently verify. I was just covering the butts of my outstanding support team. But we showed you the tape, anyway. How could we not?

Our number one story in the Countdown tonight, all good things must come to an end. The news official now. The video we found on the Internet of Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is a fake. This video of a man looking alarmingly like Berlusconi simulated something with a traffic enforcement officer of some kind. In fairness, the crack staff (INAUDIBLE) another Berlusconi video that cropped up days later, was obviously phony. Hey, we're batting 500 here. The leader of Italy supposedly going for the gold, figuratively speaking of course. It wasn't so much the nose picking part that got us thinking. We didn't believe this is the idea that an amateur photographer could go unnoticed lurking outside a caf' as he stalked the leader of Italy. It turns out both clips are from an independent German film called "Bye Bye Berlusconi," the movie shot in Italy two years ago, premiered in Berlin just two months ago, a month ago. It's a comedy apparently, a German comedy and the man who blew the lid off our can of fun, editor Alex Pareene, Mr. Pareene, good evening.


OLBERMANN: You originally posted that video that my staff never gets tired of seeing without any commentary, much as we did last week. When did it all go wrong and were you as disappointed as we were and how did you find out it wasn't what it seemed to be?

PAREENE: We were so disappointed. It was really like the biggest blow of the entire day. Basically within 15 minutes of putting it up, I got about 50 emails from various Europeans, Italians and Germans, explaining that it actually wasn't really Berlusconi and I was too distraught really to even think about it.

OLBERMANN: What do we know about the film itself? Are we not up on the latest German movie techniques and themes?

PAREENE: Apparently, the German indy film market is much more varied than we could have possibly imagined. It's a satire. It's like supposed to be a - it's supposed to look like a documentary and they obviously got a very good look alike and it's supposed to influence the Italian elections which are coming up pretty soon.

OLBERMANN: Now, as you suggested, the filmmaker intended this was to be a satire. It was released before the Italian elections, but as you said in your post, the actual Mr. Berlusconi, who did not simulate anything with any meter maid is man who is known for comparing himself to Jesus and to Napoleon and he is a media mogul. Do you think that such biting social commentary was necessary or useful here?

PAREENE: Well, that's kind of the issue I have with it, is that if you're going to go to the trouble of finding a look alike to do a fake documentary about a man who, really a real documentary about him should have pretty much the exact same effect on the Italians elections that this video would.

OLBERMANN: Except for the part about the meter maid?


OLBERMANN: There you go.

PAREENE: That part actually improved his rating.

OLBERMANN: It's Italy, who knows. Alex Pareene of the blog, wonkette, great, thanks for joining us tonight.

PAREENE: All right, thanks.

OLBERMANN: It was not Berlusconi. That's Countdown for this the 1064 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.


Wednesday, March 29, 2006

'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for March 29

Guest: Harold Ford; John Dean; Sally Quinn; Howard Bryant; Rachel Salveira

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

Democrats try to seize the counterterror high ground, redeploy the troops, eliminate Osama bin Laden, rewrite the security map.


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), MINORITY LEADER: The Democrats are the party of real security. And we put it in writing.


OLBERMANN: Just make sure your treasure map to Osama's cave has north pointing up.

The White House shuffle. Card out, Bolten in. Why does the president keep turning to people inside the bubble? John Dean on what the White House might be trying to keep secret, even from Republican insiders.

And should the administration be worried about John Dean? Why he's been invited to testify before the Senate this week. The last time that happened was - what's today? Tuesday, Monday - 1973, Watergate.

And what can the president learn from the first lady? The major turnover in the East Wing, Mrs. Bush looking for America's next top pastry chef.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hello there, children.




From Chef to Sheffield, is baseball about to announce an investigation into all the players accused of steroid use? And why is Barry Bonds declaring his life is in shambles, even joking about jumping off the Empire State Building?

And - ooh, look, a kitty. A kitty under house arrest. Lewis here accused of scratching and biting as many as six people, including - ding-dong - the Avon Lady.

All that and more, now on Countdown.

From Tampa, Florida, good evening.

In its bid to maintain control of Congress in the upcoming 2006 midterm elections, the Republican Party has always had one seemingly sure thing in its favor, the Democrats' inability to offer viable alternatives, or to tackle the national security debate head-on.

But, in our fifth story on the Countdown tonight, we may soon learn what could happen should the GOP find itself with a real fight on its hands, the Democratic Party today offering up a national security platform. While not everything in the unveiling of that plan went smoothly, for now, at least, the Dems can say they finally have one.

(INAUDIBLE) error number one, scheduling the news conference for the exact same time as yet another Iraq speech given by President Bush. Guess which event cable news networks, such as this one, were carrying live?

Still, the Democrats winning back a few points with a snazzy "Real Security" backdrop that drives the point home. It's easy to read. Somebody knows their PowerPoint. As for the remarks themselves, the speakers starting strong, but failing to stick the landing.


SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MINORITY LEADER: The president can give all the speeches that he wants. But nothing will change the fact that his Iraq policy is wrong.

GEN. WESLEY CLARK (RET.), COMMANDER, KOSOVO CONFLICT: It's not a record of competence by the administration. It's a record of incompetence. And we're here as Democrats to say it, incompetent leadership. Enough is enough. We need a new team.

MADELEINE ALBRIGHT, CLINTON SECRETARY OF STATE: Every administration goes through difficult times. General Clark and I, I think with great pride, point out what happened in terms of our activities in the Balkans. Not everything went exactly the way we planned. But when things did not go right, we actually sat down and told each other that. We did not engage in mutual denial.

PELOSI: The Democrats are the party of real security. And we've put it in writing.


OLBERMANN: Hold signs like that one right side up, and it could be a whole new ballgame.

Here to help us read the signs for himself and for his party, Tennessee Congressman Harold Ford, Jr., now making a bid of his own for the U.S. Senate.

Congressman Ford, good evening. Thanks for your time.

REP. HAROLD FORD, JR. (D), TENNESSEE: Good evening, and thanks for having me.

OLBERMANN: Now that you have a message on this subject, the question becomes, getting the message out. What plans are there to communicate it, to get it heard above the president's daily schedule? That was a conflict today, to say nothing of the echo chamber that the Republican Party often tries to produce on this.

FORD: I think it will be incumbent upon us candidates for Senate, for Congress, all across the country, to lay out a positive and constructive set of criticisms of what this administration has tried to do, or criticisms of what they are - what they have done, and how they have not measured up to what they wanted to measure up to.

And then lay out what the American people can depend on Democrats to do. I think the first thing is just to be honest. The president, last week, indicated that Iraq was not engaged - or that a civil war was not under way, only to be disputed by the sitting prime minister and the former prime minister in Iraq. He laid out that it would be the next president who would bring troops home.

I think it's important for the American people to know that this administration, and even this Congress, are working in concert to try to find a solution to the challenge of creating a unity government in Iraq, and even to the challenge of training a military there in Iraq so that our troops can begin to come home.

I think it's important for a Democrat to note, and I was glad to see us not settle on a timetable to bring troops home. You can't do that, and I think General Clark urged us the right way on that. The second thing I think we did that was important was to lay out that bin Laden is still alive, and bin Laden is still on the run.

You made the point in your opening, I think, somewhat serious and somewhat joking, to have a map that knows which way south and north is. I think it's important for this administration, although a new president will take office in 2009, it's important that the administration be willing to work with Democrats and Republicans in the Congress, and perhaps most important to follow the admonition of Miss Albright, who indicated that we have to be honest, and they have to be honest with themselves.

The shakeup there in the White House with Mr. Bolten is perhaps encouraging in one way. I liked Andy Card and thought he was an honest broker. But I can only hope that Mr. Bolten, who has great respect here on the Hill, will look the president in the eye and tell him when he's wrong and applaud him when he's right.

OLBERMANN: Congressman -

FORD: That's what the American people expect and deserve, frankly.

OLBERMANN: Forgive me for interrupting you on that, but let me get back to bin Laden for a moment. Is there an implication in there that the Bush administration's failure to find him is solely a result of their dropping the ball in terms of prioritizing finding him?

FORD: No. There'll be plenty - there's plenty of blame to go around, and the president deserves a lot of that blame. I think the only point that we make is that he is still on the run, and there was a moment in this war in terrorism early on when the entire world was united with the United States, when the U.N. and the U.S. worked together, when our European allies and, for that matter, Asian and African allies, were all with us.

But we're past that point. And I can only hope that this administration does not take its eye not only off of bin Laden but the prospect of terrorist havens growing in Afghanistan and even growing in parts of Africa. I think that's the challenge that Democrats are concerned about.

And I've been to Iraq now four times. I've been to Afghanistan three. And I'm a believer that Afghanistan is not the done deal that many Americans, and even some in Congress, might believe. We face a challenge of a rising insurgency even on the ground there.

My only hope is that the president will understand that Democrats can be trusted to work with him, can be trusted as viable partners. And I think today's press conference is the beginning of an effort to show the American people that we too can be trusted to protect this nation, defend families, and make right choices for our future security.

OLBERMANN: The vice president did another one of the interviews today in which he alluded to a link between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda, speaking of trips to Iraq. How exactly do you combat that, when the facts don't seem to have much to do with one of the main arguments about this?

FORD: This speaks to just the honesty issue, and I think that the American people have caught up with this administration and are frankly prepared to call the president on this.

The president can't, on one day, say that bin Laden had - or I should say Saddam Hussein had very little if anything to do, as he did on a national broadcast the other night, with 9/11, then have his vice president make a ridiculous claim and assertion, unsupported by any facts, that Saddam Hussein had something to do with it.

I think the American people have accepted that there's disagreement between the vice president and the president on that issue.

What Democrats have to do is, we have to ensure the American people that we can be trusted to do the right thing for the country when it comes to not only bin Laden and Saddam Hussein, but the war on terrorism as a whole. The president and the vice president have made their mark, and frankly, I think the voters will make that determination in the fall.

What we have to do as Democrats is show that we can be trusted to lead and defend the country, and today was the start of that.

OLBERMANN: Congressman Harold Ford, Jr., Democrat of Tennessee, candidate for the Senate in the fall, on the occasion of the Democrats launching a counterterror platform here today. We thank you for your time tonight.

FORD: Thanks for having me.

OLBERMANN: As you may already know, Democrat Russell Feingold of Wisconsin initiating his own plan for taking on the White House in a different way, the senator calling for the censure of the president earlier this month.

So far, few of his colleagues appearing willing to support the motion, but his witness list appears to be stellar, Nixon White House counsel John Dean, a friend of this newscast, agreeing to testify in what will be his first appearance before the Senate since the Watergate hearings.

John Dean joining us on Countdown in just a moment.

Those hearings joining a long list of problems facing the White House in the second year of its second term, replacing a member of the president's inner circle, for instance, with another as chief of staff the only apparent change made by the president to turn things around, many arguing it will not be enough.

At this point, let's face it, which job would you take? That one, or being public relations man for Barry Bonds?

As promised, Nixon White House counsel John Dean joins us now.

John, good evening.

JOHN DEAN, FORMER NIXON WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL: Hi. Good evening, good evening.

OLBERMANN: Let me begin by asking about your testimony at this censure hearing coming up on Friday. It's one thing to analyze and criticize, but as you, of all people, should know, it's an entirely different thing to testify. Why are you going?

DEAN: Well, I'm going because I was asked. That's the obvious reason. But what I think I've been asked to do is, some - I'm somebody who really has more knowledge, Keith, than I wish I had at times about what can go wrong in a presidency. And the senator's censure resolution raises issues that I think need to be addressed.

I think that it is not the first move, but I think, indeed, if some of the other legislation on the national security wiretaps do not pass, then something like that is necessary, or the Senate and the Congress at some point are going to waive any right to complain about it. And I - that's sort of the gist of what I hope to explain to the Senate when I visit with them on Friday.

OLBERMANN: Obviously, you can bear personal witness to the top 10 signs that a presidency has crossed the line, and last time, you did mention a couple of things that wound up cutting through the partisanship of the equation. But is that possible now? Can anybody add anything that illuminates rather than just heats?

DEAN: Well, I think they can, in this regard. We're looking at something, really, that is a matter of process. There was a lot of debate, for example, during the Clinton impeachment about whether the wisdom or not appropriate nature of a censure.

And I think they missed the point, and I think somebody needs to bring some of this testimony forward to look at this in a broader context of what it's doing if the Congress doesn't stand up and say something about what the president is doing, in essence, we have, down in 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, lawyers who are taking the most aggressive readings on any part of the law they can to enhance executive power.

And I think it's past time for Congress, really, to stand up and do something about it.

OLBERMANN: At 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, we certainly have a White House that, no matter what else it is or it is not, is beleaguered. The chief of staff resigns. His former deputy succeeds him. What's your read on that? Why stay inside the inner circle for his replacement when there seemed to be such call inside his party for some kind of new, or at least unfamiliar, broom?

DEAN: Well, I think, first of all, on Andy Card's departure, I'm surprised it took this long. I think probably he was there at a financial sacrifice and wanted to get out and earn some money while he still could. And his resignation's been out there for a while. And the decision as to who to replace him is really define some continuity that the president's comfortable with and understands the processes within the White House.

And that's what he's done. It is a complex operation. If anybody drops a ball at that level, it is a serious problem. We have seen it happen a couple times with this administration. Katrina is, of course, the classic and most unpleasant example. And you need somebody who's in there who can, indeed, hopefully, not let that happen again.

OLBERMANN: John, this president's loyalty to the people who've been loyal to him is fabled. It's often admirable. But when it gets to this extent, there seems to be a vibe, something resembling, We don't want any outsiders. Could there be another reason for this? Is there something that's still so messy below the surface that they can't let their own people in on a secret?

DEAN: Well, this has been very apparent since the very outset, that Mr. Bush has surrounded himself with people he's very comfortable with, that he has great trust in their discretion. The Bush family is known to have very strong feelings about people who speak out of school. He's developed a relationship with a vice president who's really, in a sense, been his mentor, his teacher, and has really changed a lot of his thinking about the presidency. That's a solid bond that's not going to be broken.

So indeed, we're seeing the same thing at the top, if you will, the inner circle that protects him from the outside world. It's the bubble he's decided he wants to live in, and apparently he finds himself comfortable.

I think it's a dangerous situation. I think you need somebody in there who will tell the president some of the news he doesn't want to hear.

OLBERMANN: Something that I'm sure he wouldn't want to hear is in the news today. As we close this, I'd like to get your reaction and your insight on this. Jack Abramoff, the convicted lobbyist, sentenced to nearly six years in prison today in a process that concluded here in Florida. Does the administration have more to worry about as the rest of the legal proceedings against him play out?

DEAN: Well, I think they do. I think he has obviously sent signals he's unhappy. That was - that sentence, Keith, I believe, can be adjusted at some point. I think the judge wanted to get it out. It makes him a very strong witness, now, if he does testify, with that kind of sentence hanging over him.

But still, there is - there are different procedural stages at which a sentence can be reduced still. So he may not have to live with that the whole distance, if he is highly cooperative. That's what I think the White House and others in the administration should be worried about.

OLBERMANN: So that's the figure to watch. That's the number to put on this, how long he actually winds up being sentenced to.

John Dean, White House counsel to President Nixon, author of "Worse Than Watergate," and soon to make a no-doubt-nostalgic return to a Senate committee near you.

Good luck with that. Thanks for your time. And, as they say, this is where I came in. Good night, John.

OLBERMANN: Good night.

OLBERMANN: Also tonight, the shuffle in the president's West Wing doesn't even compare to the complete turnover in the first lady's half of the house. Would the commander in chief be well advised to take a page from Mrs. Bush's playbook?

And speaking of playbooks, it's official. The commissioner of baseball has now read the book about Barry Bonds and steroids. So is he indeed going to announce an official investigation as early as tomorrow, or merely make it a new selection to his book club?

You are watching Countdown on MSNBC.


OLBERMANN: In any other political context, they'd be sticking Laura Bush with the derisive title "the Leona Helmsley of Washington." But in our fourth story on the Countdown, when it comes to the White House, the first lady's seeming prolific staff turnover is in fact completely average.

As MSNBC's chief Washington correspondent, Norah O'Donnell, explains, it is actually her husband's lack of staff upheaval that's out of the ordinary.



It's springtime in Washington, and, some argue, the perfect time for a little spring cleaning at the White House.

Already, Andy Card is out, but the real shakeup is not in the West Wing, but the East Wing, where Laura Bush rules. This week, Mrs. Bush's second pastry chef is calling it quits.

LAURA BUSH: Thank you again, Thaddeus.

O'DONNELL: The first lady canned the head chef last year to install a woman. She's on her second chief of staff, third spokesperson, in fact, her entire top staff recently replaced. The changes, Mrs. Bush told NBC last year, are normal.


O'DONNELL: There have been some stories that there is an East Wing intrigue, a shakeup going on, that Mrs. Bush is cleaning house and getting a whole new staff. Are you doing that, or -

LAURA BUSH: There's not a lot of promotion possibilities in the East Wing, sadly. I guess you get promoted to the West Wing.


O'DONNELL: The first lady's popularity ratings are sky high, the president's, rock bottom, which has some wondering whether it's time for Laura Bush to tell her husband to shake up his staff.

SALLY QUINN, "THE WASHINGTON POST": The wife is the only one who can say, Look, you know, you've got to clean house. You've got to get some new people in here.

O'DONNELL: Sally Quinn wrote an open letter in "The Washington Post" urging the first lady to speak up.

QUINN: I think that she will be able to have some influence on him to make some changes too, more than just Andy Card.


LAURA BUSH: That's one of the things we do talk about the most -


LAURA BUSH: - are personalities. And I know everyone as well as he does who works here. I mean, I've worked with them also. And so, you know, certainly, I would give him that kind of advice.


O'DONNELL: In fact, Laura Bush is slowly moving to a more activist role, traveling as a goodwill ambassador, entertaining much more, and flexing her muscles.


LAURA BUSH: I try to walk a brisk walk -


O'DONNELL: When Hillary Clinton called the Republican-dominated House a plantation, Mrs. Bush slammed the comments as ridiculous. So it's clear there's a new, emboldened Laura Bush who, as adviser in chief, may now be privately counseling the president to undertake his own staff overhaul.

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


OLBERMANN: Norah, thanks.

Also tonight, if that's the tricycle, how big is the damn kid?

And this looks like an ordinary cat, an ordinary cat named Lewis. Lewis the Cat. But Lewis does not like Avon Ladies, so Lewis is under house arrest, and I'm doing another one of those stories my producers are forcing me to cover.

Ahead tonight on Countdown.


OLBERMANN: It was on this date in 1912 that the British explorer Robert Falcon Scott froze to death on his way back from the South Pole. Look, he had enough trouble on that trip without me getting on his case now. But frankly, that happened because he tried to get there and back with ponies and rudimentary trucks, both of which froze, instead of dogs. He tried everything but bicycles. I'm just saying.

Let's play Oddball.

We begin in Storkau (ph), Germany, with the world's largest bike. Now, if Commander Scott had had this puppy - it's a trike, really, 25 feet tall, made from more than 300 feet of aluminum, 80 bicycle rims, and 100 soccer balls to make up the tires. Best use of soccer balls ever. Certainly better than playing soccer with them.

(INAUDIBLE) says he built the bike to welcome fans to the World Cup of soccer, hoped to be able to ride around inside the stadiums before the games, but officials won't let him, so far, anyway, so instead he's just riding around town trying to figure out a way to get off the stupid thing.

Tacoma, Washington, hello. Diving pigs, hooray, diving pigs. It's the star attraction at this year's Tacoma Dome Boat Show, and I know what you're thinking. What, more popular than the booth with the pamphlets on marine liability insurance? Yes, far more popular.

Randall's High-diving Racers are a traveling pig show taking the plunge over and over again, not at all against their will. I'd like to see the pigs all get together and force Randall to do this himself.

And finally, yes, Silvio Berlusconi again. I know we promised not to play this video more than 20 or 30 times, but today it started to pop up on some of those big-name Web sites, and we thought - Hello! - we thought we'd remind you, before you start seeing it everywhere, that you saw it here first last Tuesday. And then you saw it here second last Wednesday, and third on Thursday.

Speaking of repetitive but still fascinating, the Barry Bonds steroid scandal with a new twist. There is news breaking at this hour that baseball will investigate Barry Bonds and others who may have used steroids even before there were rules against steroids.

And profanity in America, using that is a little bit more widespread. We're used to seeing it on TV and in the movies, but now, more than ever, four-letter words are a mainstay in everyday communication. Well, how the blank did that happen?

Those stories ahead.

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

Number three, James Wilson of Redford, Michigan. He's gone on strike from his marriage. Mr. Wilson has moved up onto the roof of his house, says he won't come down till his wife complies with his demands. He says she lets the kids sleep in their bedroom with them, which is causing, quote, "intimacy issues." Yes, you on the roof is going to solve that. Mr. Wilson!

Number two, three unnamed drunk drivers in the Hague in Holland. Police stopped one, tested him, fined him. They did not test his passengers. He got a fine for DUI, one of the passengers took the wheel, that passenger was then arrested a few miles down the road, DUI. The remaining passenger took over. He too was stopped and fined for DUI. Three drunk-driving arrests in one car.

And number one, Eugene Dobbins and Jeffrey Ware of Lawrence, Indiana, police calling these guys the dumbest criminals they've have ever seen. Hey, I'll be the judge of that. Arrested with bags of marijuana and crack cocaine in the McDonald's drive-through lane at 1:30 in the morning, the wait was too long, so they started yelling obscenities at the other customers. Then they fired a gun into the air, but they still stayed in the line.

It took 10 minutes to get to the window, by which time the cops were there, waiting to arrest them. You want fries with those felony charges?


OLBERMANN: Baseball spring training camps down here and in Arizona are remarkably devoid of talks about Barry Bonds and steroid use. Not because people are trying to avert a scandal nor defend him or other players past or present but just because it all seems so obvious to so many. The only remaining question what to do about it.

Our number three story on the Countdown tonight, we may have an answer. Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig is poised to investigate. Barry Bonds sounds like he wouldn't mind getting out. That's the other part of the story. The commissioner may announce a steroid investigation as early as tomorrow and it might be led formally by former U.S. Senate majority leader George Mitchell. "The New York Times" hinted at a probe, this morning. Tonight, my colleagues at ESPN are reporting that the investigation with Mitchell at its helm plus a team of investigators is set.

The Associated Press saying an unnamed baseball executive saying final plans for the investigation are still pending and Mitchell in fact has not signed up but all the reporting agrees this would not be an investigation of only Barry Bonds but would be more widespread. And while the president of major league baseball Bob DuPuy would not confirm if Mr. Mitchell was being considered for it, he all but confirmed the investigation itself, quoting, "It is still under consideration but the direction will be resolved within the next 48 hours." And he said that yesterday.

As for Bonds, he said yesterday, quoting again, "My life is in shambles.

It is crazy. It couldn't get any crazier. I'm just trying to stay sane."

Then he joked, "Go to the Empire State Building and jump off, commit suicide and people can say, Barry Bonds is finally dead."

Another joke? Or perhaps not. Bonds saying he was ready for the season to start because then quote, "it's closer to being over."

Joining me now staff writer for "The Washington Post," author of "Juicing the Game," a book about steroids and baseball, Howard Bryant. Thanks again for your time, Howard.


OLBERMANN: Well, not bad. First though let's start off with this apparent imminent announcement of an investigation. Stan Brand (ph) was on the show last week. He had represented baseball during the steroid hearings a year ago before Congress and he thought that the Bonds lawsuit that didn't work out too well over this book "Game of Shadows" would both enable Bud Selig to do something and increase the pressure on him to do something. Is that what you are gathering that that's what the impetus here is?

BRYANT: Well, I've always thought he needed to investigate anyway. I didn't think that this was something he was going to be able to simply hide from just by having a new steroid policy. If you're going to do this, the first thing you have to do is make sure that it's independent. You don't want to have an investigation where people think they know the answers before the questions, and the other thing is you need to decide what the scope of this investigation is going to be. Is it going to be something like the Kerner (ph) commission or the 9/11 commission where you investigate a time period and you come to conclusions in terms of closure? Or is this going to be something like the Pete Rose investigation where there is going to be a punishment at the end of the investigation?

OLBERMANN: The only detail in this that we know of so far, ESPN reporting that Bonds and any other current player - I'm reading it directly from their report - "who may be part of this investigation would be allowed to play while the investigation is ongoing." Does that sort of - whereas that sounds eminently fair, does it also create a kind of Pandora's Box for baseball where they have both the scandal going and the investigation going and both are serving to perpetuate the negative stories while Barry Bonds and anybody else who might be under investigation are still playing?

BRYANT: Well, absolutely, but I think that the most unfair part of this

whole thing is to determine, A, if you're going to investigate players. It

cannot stop with players. You have to investigate the mechanism. You have

to investigate how guys like Tony LaRussa came out last year and said how -

· that he knew that Jose Canseco was using steroids and yet he never told his superiors. He never told Sandy Elderson (ph) who, in turn, didn't know and didn't tell the commissioner. So I think if you leave it to the players and investigate the players only, it's going to be a disaster because that's not the only place where the blame should lie.

The secondary thing about it is it cannot only stay with active players. You have to go back into this decade. You have to look at it from the standpoint of McGwire, Sosa, everybody, and you have to investigate the culture of how these young players believed that they need to use this stuff. Otherwise, it looks like you're picking on Bonds. It looks like you're only going to only investigate Bonds. And if that's your intention, then this is going to be a colossal failure. The key is whether or not the commissioner will investigate himself. Because he's part of it too.

OLBERMANN: Perhaps Mr. Mitchell can do that. But one issue here, Howard. Mark McGwire is out of baseball. Sammy Sosa is out of baseball. Rafael Palmeiro is out of baseball. Bret Boone is out of baseball. Jeff Bagwell is out of baseball. Almost all the guys who looked like mutant ninja turtles are out of baseball except Bonds and a couple other guys, Jason Giambi one of them, who admitted at least in the grand jury testimony that he had used steroids and said he stopped doing so. If you go back and you look retroactively at other players, how do you punish them if they are already out of the game?

BRYANT: Well, for some of the players you do the one thing that you can do. You can do what they're doing to Pete Rose. You send an edict down that these guys are not going to be on the ballot for the Hall of Fame and that's the bottom line. That's going to be the ultimate punishment. Or that they can't even be involved in baseball. So if they weren't players who were going to be questioned or possible candidates for the hall then they can't be coaches. They're not going to be able to be managers. There has to be some form of punishment because it's totally unfair if Mark McGwire gets to skate but Barry Bonds gets banned from the game. You can't have it both ways, which is what baseball has wanted to do.

OLBERMANN: Only since about 1869.

BRYANT: Exactly.

OLBERMANN: One thing about Bonds in particular. These strange quotes to the Associated Press. Is this just anybody in a pressurized situation and the pressure is forcing things to leak out the sides of his head?

Or does he actually think that something like that might create sympathy for him? Because he did do, did he not, some things like this, say things like this, before last season started as well and he had his son standing next to him and cameras rolling and things like that?

BRYANT: It's always been a bizarre show for him but when you think about his life being in shambles, many, many people's lives should be in such shambles. Number one, he's made over $140 million in his career, all of that money was guaranteed, all of that money is his.

Number two, he's a healthy person who has his family, who is still being allowed to play the game that he loves, he's not being banned from baseball, as of yet, anyway, and furthermore, he's got everything that he had before and anything that you would say has affected his life in a negative way at the end of the day began and ended with him. Most people never wanted this to happen for Barry Bonds. People are still saying that they don't believe what's happened to him. So anything that he can say has affected him, he's got to look in the mirror.

OLBERMANN: Is there any remaining chance in this that Bonds could resolve all this, take all these hints and get out rather than let these things play out the way it looks like it's playing out?

BRYANT: Well, to me Barry Bonds is the most mentally tough player I have

ever seen, Michael Jordan included. Because he has still produced during

all of this. He's too close to the records now. He's too close to

everything that he's built. Why would he walk away from this monument? I

· I just don't see it.

OLBERMANN: "The Washington Post" staff sportswriter and author of "Juicing the Game" Howard Bryant. Great thanks with the breaking news on the Bonds investigation.

BRYANT: Thank you.

OLBERMANN: Also tonight, everywhere you go these days even in baseball, communication is laced with a flurry of four-letter colorful words. But just how many of them?

And you'll never guess which Hollywood starlet wants to be the next Angelina Jolie wannabe, adopting kids. Another story my producers are forcing me to cover. That ahead on Countdown.


OLBERMANN: Before some news stories, correspondents tell you you had better sit down for this or you will be surprised to learn. Not in our number two story on the Countdown tonight. A new poll finds 64 percent of us use cuss words on a regular basis, even more say they are exposed to them on a regular basis. The others apparently live amid Benedictine monks who have sworn themselves to silence. Our correspondent standing by with a bleep machine is Kevin Corke.


KEVIN CORKE, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Chances are you didn't hear it here first.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Expletive deleted)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right (Expletive deleted)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Expletive deleted)

CORKE: We can complain, bicker, or some other b-word, all we want about foul language on TV and at the movies.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't care for the way your company left me in the middle of (Expletive deleted) nowhere with (Expletive deleted) to a car that isn't (Expletive deleted) there.

CORKE: But to tell the truth more of us are swearing every day.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it's part of my everyday language.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I only need a special occasion to curse. It's just whatever comes.

RICHARD PRYOR, FORMER COMEDIAN: Sometimes people want me to talk nasty to them.

CORKE: A new study of swearing shows 74 percent of those surveyed hear profanity in public occasionally, 46 percent admit they use swearwords at least a few times a week, a shocking 64 percent say they use the biggest curse word of all. It begins with "F."

CHRIS ROCK, COMEDIAN: What the (Expletive deleted) is you doing at the club at 2:00 in the (Expletive deleted) morning?

CORKE: And it's not just part of an act.

AMY DICKINSON, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: I think we're doing the easiest, the cheesiest, the laziest thing which is to just drop whatever curse bombs we feel like.

CARTMAN, CARTOON CHARACTER: Here is what I think of your (Expletive deleted)

CORKE: And the younger you are the more likely you are to hear a curse bomb. Eighty six percent of 18-29 year olds say they hear people swear in public but nearly, 44 percent, say it doesn't bother them.

TOM MILLER, IPSOS PUBLIC AFFAIRS: A lot of people are using that language and the ones who are using it are least bothered by the fact of it being used by others around them.

CORKE: Still, for some it's hard to quit.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You go through the sugar kind of thing like in the fudge thing. Then it just goes out the window.

CORKE: A window that seems to be open to more trash talking every day.

(Expletive deleted) (Expletive deleted)

CORKE: Kevin Corke, NBC News, Washington.


OLBERMANN: Speaking of what the F? Jessica Simpson may soon be someone's mother, that's the transition to our nightly round-up of celebrity and entertainment news, "Keeping Tabs." Representatives for the 25-year-old entertainer saying Miss Simpson has been looking into the adoption process and going over plans to potentially start an orphanage in Mexico.

Miss Simpson reportedly inspired by the prolific international adoption habits of Angelina Jolie telling "Extra" quote, "I want to adopt and I plan to adopt before I have my own kids."

An adoption tip, Miss Simpson, to be clear on the terminology. Once you adopt you damn well better think of them exclusively as your own kids.

And a change ahead for singer Tom Jones. Instead of a young woman throwing her panties at his head there was this older woman hitting him on the shoulders with a sword. The Welsh singer and perennial ladies' man, legally Tom Jones Woodward taking on the additional title of "sir" today. Queen Elizabeth II bestowing the honor of knighthood to the an responsible for such hits as "What's New Pussycat" man. At Buckingham Palace - that wasn't a song, it was at Buckingham Palace. The song is "What's New Pussycat."

"I love seeing the queen, he said, and I have always been a royalist" said Sir Tom before continuing in that marvelous voice of his, "She's lovely and she still is lovely." Well, Mr. Jones, after all, she's a lady, whoa, whoa, whoa.

Lastly in "Tabs" evidence of the truth that the best part of baseball spring training may be the practical jokes the players try on one another which the rest of us usually don't see. But young Toronto Blue Jays second baseman Aaron Hill and shortstop Russ Adams tried to play hardball with the big boys today and lost. They commented on the friendship between their teammates, ace pitchers Roy Halladay and A.J. Burnett by wearing t-shirts referencing them and reading "Brokeback Mound."

Halladay and Burnett got their revenge at 9:30 this morning. An airplane they hired flew over us at the Blue Jays spring training stadium in Dunedin, Florida, trailing the message, "Russ, will you marry me? Aaron." Not long after Russ and Aaron they were presented with tuxedo jackets with uniform numbers stitched on their backs and a marriage ceremony inside the Blue Jays clubhouse.

Then during the game as 3,400 confused spectators looked on, the denouement, the plane came back this time trailing a banner reading "Congratulations Aaron and Russ."

Well, on a baseball team the second baseman and the shortstop are referred to as double play partners.

Then there is the combination of the dangerous house pet and the half dozen passers-by who claim they have been attacked by it. It's a cat. The cat named Lewis. Lewis the cat. Another story my producers are forcing me to cover but first, time for Countdown's list of today's three nominees for "Worst Person in the World."

The bronze tonight to Howard Kaloogian, a Republican candidate to replace Duke Cunningham in Congress since Cunningham is in jail now. He is running on apparently a blame-the-media platform because he posted that photo on his campaign Website with the caption that read, "we took this photo of downtown Baghdad when we were in Iraq. Iraq, including Baghdad, is much more calm and stable than what many people believe it to be but each day the news media finds any violence occurring in the country and screams and shouts about it in part because many journalists are opposed to the U.S. effort to fight terrorism."

Only problem, that picture there isn't Baghdad, it's Istanbul, Turkey. No wonder it was so calm there, sir.

Runner-up Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney, the Democrat of Georgia, U.S. Capitol Police considering whether to press charges against her after an incident today at the Longworth House office building. An officer said he did not recognize the congresswoman when she entered the building and went around metal detectors which members are allowed to do. When he caught up to her and grabbed her arm he says she swung and punched him in the chest.

But the winner, comedian Rush Limbaugh. Fired by ESPN for claiming the media was trying to make Donovan McNabb look better than he was because it wanted a black quarterback to succeed, he has now ventured back into the deep end of that pool about 14-year-old golf prodigy Michelle Wie (ph) playing in tournaments against men. Limbaugh telling the Web site, quote, "It's a marketing tool they're using to build her up to a level much greater than her actual accomplishments." He added that golfer Vijay Singh had criticized women playing against men and quote, "look what it got him, attacked by a bunch of liberals and feninazis."

Didn't Limbaugh say something about no longer making those Nazis references or did I dream it? Comedian Rush Limbaugh. Today's "Worst Person in the World."


OLBERMANN: A quick update on the Barry Bonds and steroid story from baseball, the Associated Press reporting that tomorrow baseball will announce plans to investigate the use of steroids by Bonds and other players. No further details yet available. It will be an interesting day around ballparks tomorrow.

Finally, a cat. The executive producer said the excitement almost frying the phoneline from headquarters this afternoon. A cat who attacks the Avon lady. Another killer cat story. I pointed out that just last Friday we did a live interview with a cat who had fallen 80 feet and lived to meow about it. I pointed out we even played a tape of the fall for the cat. Her owner grabbed the cat's head and made her look at the monitor live on national television. And that was great the executive producer said. Her mind and soul so beyond redemption that I gave up and acquiesced. Our number one story on the Countdown tonight, another story my producers are forcing me to cover. Whiskers gone wild.

The latest entry into the flipped out feline files. Lewis under house arrest according to authorities in Fairfield, Connecticut. The five year old black and white kitty had stalked and attacked at least six people, including the Avon lady. Dingdong, I have some lovely - meow! Meow!

She is suing and while we obviously have no video of the alleged attacks, we can do a terrific job at approximation, sort of like "Cat Puppet Theater."

A neighbor attacked twice by Lewis not seen here claims the cat springs from behind himself around the victim's leg before commencing the scratching and biting and the cat scratch fever, no doubt.

More than one of those finding themselves at the business end of Lewis' claws required medical attention. His owner, Ruth Caesero (ph) was also arrested for failing to comply with the original restraining order requiring that he be kept indoors. The Fairfield Police Department animal control officer who issued that order is Rachel Solveira. Officer Solveira, thanks for your time tonight, good evening.


OLBERMANN: You met this cat and seemed to have escaped unharmed is he vicious?

SOLVEIRA: I have met Lewis and he isn't vicious when he is kept indoors. We have had him at the shelter a few times now for quarantine. And we can handle him, we can move him from his cage, we can pet him. The problem comes when he is allowed to roam freely in his neighborhood. I believe he thinks that's his whole territory and no one else is allowed there. And he really will attack anybody who is walking by or getting out of a car or making a delivery at one of the homes.

OLBERMANN: How did this come to your attention? Did neighbors call in and tell you there was a cat attacking everyone in the neighborhood?

SOLVEIRA: Initially we had a call - There was a concern there was a stray cat in the neighborhood who had an aggressive nature and they actually told me they felt he was stalking the neighborhood. We didn't do anything at first because there really are no laws that allow us to handle stray cats. However, we were aware of him so about a year later we got a report that he actually attacked someone.

And the problem with Lewis is he attacks unprovoked and he comes out of nowhere and he will just jump on somebody's leg and attach himself on and he can create a bunch of havoc doing so.

OLBERMANN: But a restraining order relative to a cat is apparently is a first. What made you feel that was a necessary step to take?

SOLVEIRA: It is unusual and we have never done before, however the owner even though we have spoken with her about it would not keep Lewis in the house. And basically the only time he attacks is when he is kept outdoors. My only recourse really is to order a restraint order or a disposal order. So I felt that a restraint order was the best to solve the problem to keep the cat indoors.

OLBERMANN: And the owner said he would attack only if provoked? Obviously that wasn't your sense?

SOLVEIRA: I have taken several statements from different women in the neighborhood who have been attacked and all of them say it was completely unprovoked and they were walking up the driveway going into a home and getting out of a car and he came out of nowhere. And they didn't even see him coming and they feel it was completely unprovoked.

OLBERMANN: And just to sort of round this out, the cat has six toes on each paw?

SOLVEIRA: He does.

OLBERMANN: Just making it a little worse?

SOLVEIRA: He has extra toes and each toe has a claw. So every time he attacks it does more damage than your average cat.

OLBERMANN: Is that why he is so angry? Is that the problem here? He's got too many toes?

SOLVEIRA: I don't think so, but it does create a bit more of a problem.

OLBERMANN: Officer Rachel Solveira of the Animal Control Department of Fairfield, Connecticut. Good luck with it. Now we understand what the phrase crazy cat means. Thanks for your time, good night.

SOLVEIRA: Thank you very much, good night.

OLBERMANN: Ooh! A kitty. That's Countdown for this, the 1063rd day since the declaration of mission accomplished in Iraq. Keep your knees loose, especially around that cat.

I'm Keith Olbermann, good night and good luck.

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