Friday, March 3, 2006

'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for March 3

Guest: Susan Filan, John Zajc, Thomas DeFrank

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

The Chertoff kiss-off. Heck-of-a-Job Brownie calls for the Homeland Security secretary to resign. The right-wing magazine "Human Events" quoting a source who says Michael Chertoff has probably got only a few days left.

How many days is the president going to be in Pakistan? One? That many, huh? Security concerns for Mr. Bush's trip.

Buck O'Neil, continued. Nominated for the Congressional Gold Medal, his flight to San Diego nearly delayed by the volume of well-wishers. Is the Baseball Research Society, to which three-quarters of the Hall of Fame voters belong, going to do or say anything about this?

First Friday of the month, so we slip the surly bonds, whip you into an Oddball frenzy, and strip it down to its bare essentials, for Oddball's Plays of the Month.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My boots are, like, stuck. I've never been in a police car.


OLBERMANN: And Ted Baxter goes ballistic.


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

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (on phone): I think Keith Olbermann's show...

O'REILLY: There you go. Mike is a - he's a gone guy. So if you're listening, Mike, we have your phone number, and we're going to turn it over to Fox security. Fox security then will contact your local authorities, and you will be held accountable. Fair?


OLBERMANN: And unbalanced.

All that and more, now on Countdown.

Good evening.

From Heck-of-a-Job Brownie to Out-of-a-Job Chertoff.

Our fifth story on the Countdown, with only 90 days to go until the next hurricane season begins, a strange occupational backlash post-Katrina, no one wants to work at FEMA, everyone wants to be the next mayor of New Orleans, and, oh, yes, the top job at Homeland Security might soon be vacant.

Day three of the Katrina Bush tapes controversy. Still no response from the president to the videotaped teleconferences which are causing a storm of controversy this week here in the U.S., while he continues a trip to South Asia. His Homeland Security secretary, Mr. Chertoff, might be wishing he were out of the country. Maybe he soon will be, sources telling the conservative weekly publication "Human Events" that Mr. Chertoff might soon be out of the Bush cabinet, saying he has, quote, "probably only a few days left."

His former underling over at FEMA, Michael Brown, today echoing the call for Chertoff's resignation. Let us hope that replacing Chertoff would be a lot easier than finding a successor for Brown, no one, it seems, wanting the heck of a job, running disaster response in the country. That post and a couple of other - couple of hundred others at FEMA still unfilled.

It's the opposite problem at New Orleans City Hall. Tonight's 5:00 p.m. filing deadline history, more than 22 candidates have joined the race for mayor, including the current man on the job, Ray Nagin.

Not exactly vast numbers of Americans, meanwhile, with full confidence in the management skills of the man at the head of the Katrina conference table in the infamous videotapes, the president, himself, nearly six out of 10 of those surveyed by Gallup for "USA Today" feeling that Mr. Bush cannot manage the government effectively. His overall approval rating also down in that poll, back at 38 percent in this one tonight. It has fallen 5 points in the last month.

Permit me to call in Thomas DeFrank, Washington bureau chief of "The New York Daily News."

Thank you for your time tonight, sir.


Well, I'm glad to be here, Keith.

OLBERMANN: We'll get to that poll number in a moment and that drop and what happened in the interim. But the headline first. Is there an indication here, besides what Mr. Brown said and what "Human Events" said, that Michael Chertoff might be done as Homeland Security secretary?

DEFRANK: I don't have any inside information on this one, Keith, but I do think that Mr. Chertoff has been on borrowed time for quite a while. He was under attack long before Hurricane Katrina came along. And it's been almost a year later, several months later, and I would think he's on borrowed time, but I don't know.

OLBERMANN: Is the president, meanwhile, going to have to - is he, in effect, on borrowed time here? Does he have to address the Katrina tapes when he gets back home, absence the presence suddenly, the discovery of more of these tapes, the release of more of these tapes? Will most of the nation have moved on by Monday?

DEFRANK: Well, I don't know whether the nation will have moved on, but the president's going to have to address it. Either in Pakistan or back here, he'll be asked the question by some reporter in some venue. So he'll have to address it.

But whatever he answers, and however he comes down on this, the damage to Katrina has already been done. The real problem for the president with these tapes is not so much what they do or don't say, because everybody can have an opinion, and the White House image machine will try to fuzz up the reality here, as they've already tried to do.

But the fact of the matter is, Hurricane Katrina was probably the biggest political fiasco of 2005. And the problem is, these tapes remind people of everything they didn't like about the government's response to Katrina.

I talked today with one of the smartest, savviest Republican pols I know, and I asked him about these tapes, and he said, Look, it just tears the scab off. And I think that summarizes it.

OLBERMANN: And you get to see pictures of what's underneath, it's no longer just the imagination.

You mentioned the image machine and fuzzing up the reality. The thing that the president's defenders seem to have latched onto is this idea that the president was warned the levees might be topped, but he wasn't warned that they might be breached. It sounds like a very big point. Is it a red herring politically? Is it too complicated? Does it really matter how the water might have gotten there, if the perception is, your government did nothing to respond to the flooding in any meaningful way?

DEFRANK: Precisely. That's semantics. You can argue the reality of that, but as I said earlier, and I agree with you, Keith, the bottom line is, people didn't think the government handled this very well.

And when we're talking about it months later, the government and the press and members of Congress, it just tells you that it's reminding people of a real down moment for the Bush administration.

OLBERMANN: There are all sorts of ups and downs in Washington and in politics, but did you ever think, did you - the people that you talked to ever think that we might be discussing Michael Brown at any point as anything other than as a punch line? Is - does he have the prospect to not merely, say, go back to get that FEMA job if he were - wanted, but perhaps get Mr. Chertoff's position if he wanted it?

DEFRANK: No, there's no way the president could ask Mike Brown to take that job again. And, of course, he doesn't want it. But it is kind of ironic. He goes from scapegoat to cult hero now. And who'd-a thunk it? as somebody once said.

But the fact of the matter is, this is still not good news for the president. Michael Brown is really mad, and it's payback time.

OLBERMANN: One more point here that still doesn't seem to make sense, at least from this desk. How and why so little attention has been focused on the fact that the White House both refused to give out some of those tapes - especially the ones that made the president look good - and the transcripts, cited executive privilege, did not give these things to the Senate, claimed that others did not exist, and all of a sudden, they appear this week. Is that sort of like the second-week story on this next week?

DEFRANK: Probably so. But the fact of the matter is, Keith, this is really a very secretive White House. I mean, you look at the whole history of the last five years, and their basic attitude is, in effect, If we don't feel like giving you this information, we're not going to give it to you. And maybe - and we will if the courts tell us.

I mean, there's no way that even a partial list of the Guantanamo detainees would be coming out today if a federal court hadn't ordered the Bush administration to do it. That's just the way they do it. They're secretive, they're reclusive, and that's an old story. Not a great story, but it's an old story.

OLBERMANN: Had lunch with John Dean the other day, and I was just thinking this, if you want to be in the White House, you want to be secretive, don't roll tape.

Thomas DeFrank of "The New York Daily News." As always, sir, great thanks. Have a good weekend.

DEFRANK: It's a pleasure, Keith.

OLBERMANN: Despite all the scandal in Washington these days, there are still silver linings for those caught in the crosshairs. Take the former congressman Randall "Duke" Cunningham, Mr. Cunningham sentenced today to eight years and four months in prison. It's the longest sentence ever for a congressman. He collected more than $2 million in bribes.

But when he gets out, he will still be eligible for his federal pension.

More tonight on the rap sheet that makes that seem so outrageous from our chief Washington correspondent, Norah O'Donnell.



After years of living the life of luxury funded by dirty money, disgraced congressman Duke Cunningham today got his due, 100 months of hard time in federal prison for what prosecutors call "unparalleled corruption and a stunning betrayal of public trust."

JASON FORGE, ASSISTANT U.S. ATTORNEY: It's the longest sentence ever for a member or former member of Congress.

O'DONNELL: The congressman admits accepting $2.5 million in bribes, including cash, $190,000 in antiques, a Rolls Royce, a multimillion-dollar mansion, and luxury vacations, all in return for using his power in Congress to steer Pentagon contracts to those who paid him.

FORMER REP. RANDALL "DUKE" CUNNINGHAM (R), CALIFORNIA: In my life I have had great joy and great sorrow. And now I know great shame.

O'DONNELL: Court documents show Cunningham's get-rich-quick scheme was so brazen, he even wrote a bribe menu. On official letterhead, the card shows an escalating scale for bribes. Donate $140,000 plus a luxury yacht and get a $16 million Defense Department contract. Add $50,000 more and get an additional million dollars from the government.

At one point Cunningham even lived on a yacht called the "Duke Stir," given to him by a defense company president.

CUNNINGHAM: The truth is, I broke the law.


TOM CRUISE: (INAUDIBLE), see if I can give you a run for your money here.


O'DONNELL: It's quite a fall from grace for Cunningham, who bragged that his life as a Navy pilot in Vietnam inspired the movie "Top Gun."

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The idea of a Congressman taking money is outrageous.

O'DONNELL (on camera): So outrageous that lawmakers on Capitol Hill had promised tough reforms. But already, the Senate has overwhelmingly rejected an Office of Public Integrity. Still, some experts note that not even the toughest of new laws could have stopped Cunningham, who is now called the most corrupt congressman in history.

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


OLBERMANN: Norah, thanks.

President Bush tonight in the middle of a potential security nightmare. The extraordinary attempts to keep the president safe in Pakistan.

Who's going to protect Bill O'Reilly from Bill O'Reilly? Now he's threatening to report callers to his radio show to police. Several claim they've already gotten phone calls from a director of Fox News security. This is in no doubt the evidence of the on-air threat now scrubbed from his Web site. What did these terrible people say to him?

You're watching Countdown on MSNBC.


OLBERMANN: If you were the president of the United States and arriving in the capital of an ally, landing with the lights out may not provide the most helpful of metaphors.

But in our fourth story on the Countdown tonight, that was the reality on the ground in Islamabad, Pakistan, this evening, the president threading the needle amid protests in that country.

Before having left India, Mr. Bush said, quote, "I believe that a prosperous, democratic Pakistan will be a steadfast partner for America, a peaceful neighbor for India, and a force of freedom and moderation in the Arab world."

White House press secretary Scott McClellan later corrected Mr. Bush's error. The president meant to say Pakistan would be a force in the Muslim world. Pakistan is not an Arab country.

Mr. Bush in Islamabad, our correspondent is David Gregory.


DAVID GREGORY, MSNBC WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Under extraordinary security, including a lights-out landing by Air Force One, the president arrived in Islamabad tonight. Mr. Bush and the first lady took extra precautions, traveling to the U.S. ambassador's residence in a city locked down for his stay.

Protests across the country again today reflected the anti-U.S. rage here, one day after an American diplomat, David Foy, was killed by a suicide attacker outside the American consulate in Karachi.

Pakistani authorities may have foiled another attack, this time in Islamabad, with the arrest of a Belgian man in Lahore who only recently converted to Islam.

STEPHEN HADLEY, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: Pakistan is both an ally in the war on terror and in some sense a battleground of the war on terror.

GREGORY (on camera): For Pakistan, it is a complicated role. And in his first visit here, Mr. Bush will praise President Musharraf for risking his own life to fight the terrorists, even as he pushes him to do more.

(voice-over): Al Qaeda remains a potent presence in Pakistan along the border with Afghanistan, where Osama bin Laden is still believed to be hiding. And the president said in India tonight, he looks to Pakistan to reform.

BUSH: I believe that a prosperous, democratic Pakistan will be a steadfast partner for America, a peaceful neighbor for India, and a force for freedom and moderation in the Arab world.

GREGORY: Before leaving India, Mr. Bush visited an agricultural college and sat down with young entrepreneurs in the high-tech hub of Hyderabad (ph). He urged Americans not to fear the outsourcing of jobs to India, a $22 billion annual industry there.

BUSH: The United States will not give in to the protectionists and lose these opportunities. For the sake of workers in both our countries, America will trade with confidence.

GREGORY: Tonight in Pakistan, the focus has shifted to terrorism, in a country on the front lines of the fight.

David Gregory, NBC News, Islamabad.


OLBERMANN: Also tonight, something that ought to come with a warning label. Apparently if you say the word "Olbermann" to this man, he releases the hounds.

And evidence that it's more than just some of us in the media complaining about Buck O'Neil being denied a place in the Hall of Fame. Baseball's commissioner speaks out.

Ahead on Countdown.


OLBERMANN: This is one heck of a date historically. Vincent van Gogh was born on March 3, Marty Shaw recorded (INAUDIBLE) on March 3, and best of all, where were you and what were you doing on this day in 468 A.D.? That's when the Catholic Church announced it had selected a new pope, Pope Simplicius, succeeding the late Pope Hilarious. Now, that was a day.

Let's play Oddball.

First to Tokyo, where major league baseball icon Tommy Lasorda honors Oddball tonight by throwing out the ceremonial first (INAUDIBLE) pitch. Tommy Lasorda, everybody, former major league pitcher. Give it up for Tommy. Thank you, (INAUDIBLE).

OK, we begin not far from Tom's ancestral home, Norristown, Pennsylvania. We're in Philly, where this guy apparently gets so much action just sitting in traffic, he's starting a Web site to help others find love on the Schuylkill (ph) Expressway. Ben Phelps says he got the idea for when he was stuck in gridlock one day and couldn't muster the courage to talk to a pretty woman in a car next to him.

How could I meet this girl without spending another night washing pepper spray out of my eyes? he asked himself, and the answer came out, Give out stickers to those who might be in the market, so that potential stalkers - I mean, suitors - can contact them via the Internet later.

I expect to see more on this story in about six months, presumably on


To Marin County, Florida. I think this guy's available, girls, if you don't mind waiting for him to do the three- to five-year stretch for having planted a hidden camera in the company restroom. Rex Largent, boy with the perfect (INAUDIBLE) name, Rex Largent found himself in the back of a police car when a female employee noticed the camera strategically positioned and transmitting a signal to Largent's desk. His explanation, he bought the camera as a toy, and only turned it on when the bathroom was empty.

Rex, Worst Alibi Ever.

AH, but tonight's best Oddball ever, at least for the past month, from the missteps of strongman wannabes caught on tape, to the tiniest of police dogs.

Speaking of police and dogs, Bill O'Reilly hangs up on a caller to his radio show because of something the caller said, threatens to send Fox security or the cops to see him. What did the guy say? He mentioned he-who-must-not-be-named - me.

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

Number three, Melissa Huff. You know her, she's the 16-year-old girl who had first one prosthetic leg stolen, and then when good Samaritans got her a new sports leg, it too was stolen. They have been returned, left in her mother's car. So now she has three different prosthetic right legs.

Number two, the unnamed dumb criminal in Fort Reading, New Jersey, broke into the home of an older couple. Grandma promptly hit him over the head with a garbage can lid. Grandpa, who used to be a volunteer instructor at a youth boxing program, socked him. The burglar barely escaped, because Grandma - Grandpa, rather, pulled off some of his lip.

Speaking of body parts, number one, David Thumler, a 16-year-old from Gold Hill, Oregon, sentenced to pay a $67 fine, serve three days community service, write an explanatory letter of apology for offensive physical touching. But Thumler refused to write the letter, so they're sending him to Juvie for four days. What kind of offensive physical touching? He pinched the nipple of another boy in high school, $67 and a week's punishment, the wages of sin, in this case for a twisty.


OLBERMANN: Bill O'Reilly is now threatening callers to his radio show, at least one of whom mentioned my name.

Our third story on the Countdown, oh, here we go. First it was the warnings to NBC chairman Robert Wright, then the phone calls to NBC president Jeff Zucker, then the petition to get me fired and Phil Donahue brought back, then the erroneous ratings information he gave out.

Even in that context, though, this is pretty special. Ted Baxter telling uncooperative listeners that he'll turn their phone numbers over to Fox security, and that Fox security will in turn contact the local authorities.

Bill thinks he has his own police.

A caller got through to O'Reilly's radio show yesterday. He insists he used no foul language, that all he did was mention my name, compliment my show, and asked, Why are you always smearing him, Bill? And the host, using the dump button all talk radio shows have on the seven-second delay, cut him off.

We're not certain what actually got on the air, but this was what was posted on O'Reilly's Web site as the air check for that part of the show.


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

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (on phone): Hey, Bill, I appreciate your 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 his - 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's going to get in big trouble, because we're not going to play around. When you call us, ladies and gentlemen, just so 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: FOX security. Hannity and Colmes come to your house with billy clubs.

Now, there is a serious part to this. What do you mean we have your phone numbers? What do you mean you'll be getting a little visit? It's a radio show. Even if a caller swears, it's a radio show. Radio show over here, trip to GITMO over there.

Several of the callers now claim they have been contacted by someone identifying himself as the director of FOX News security. We'll get to the legalities in a moment with a former prosecutor.

First there's this giddying aspect of seeing the host's trolley coming completely off the tracks merely when my name gets mentioned. This is how bad it is. Go to the O'Reilly web site now and the call from Mike in Orlando has been expurgated, erased from the web site.


O'REILLY: We'll be right back.

ANNOUNCER: You're in the "no spin zone" with Bill O'Reilly.


OLBERMANN: Which raises one more thing. You may recall Shepard Smith on his afternoon newscast on FOX News on Monday.


SHEPARD SMITH, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: And take a live look at the back of the newsroom. The floor mat says "the spin stops here." Look at that. O'Reilly is schooling somebody on his staff. Turn it over to mocking (ph) his longtime assistant.

And now he's asking the cameraman you're not putting me on television, are you? There he is, Hank.

No, O'Reilly's angry. Where's Olbermann? Let's just throw something at Olbermann, Bill. See you in a minute. We love you, Bill. Thank God for you.

O'REILLY: She likes it, too.


OLBERMANN: I wonder if Bill got Shepard Smith's phone number and turned it over to FOX security?

As we mentioned, this little trip into the parallel universe of Bill O'Reilly does underscore a fascinating point: he seems to think, or wants his listeners to think, that if they don't cooperate they can get into some kind of legal trouble with FOX security.

Joining me now a former Connecticut state prosecutor, Susan Filan.

Thanks for your time tonight.


OLBERMANN: Having done calling - I've done call-in radio off and on since 1975. I thought I knew this thing pretty well. The caller can only get into trouble if he threatens a violent or illegal act, right?

FILAN: The only person that's going to get in trouble here is Bill O'Reilly. He's lost the plot entirely. To think that you can commandeer local law enforcement to be your personal henchman because you don't like something a caller said on the air is absolutely outrageous and absurd. It's an abuse of the media, it's an abuse of law enforcement, and he's now the one engaging in threatening behavior. You can't do that. He's crossed the line.

What did the caller say that's obscene, "Keith Olbermann"? I don't think so.

OLBERMANN: The people behind this and, as much as I'd like to claim I'm behind this, I'm not. I'm not as smart as Howard Stern is. But the people behind this say that one of their callers, Spinners, they call themselves, actually got calls today from somebody identifying himself as a former New York City policeman who is now director of FOX News security, who advised that organizer that if you call anyone to often in this circumstance, you can be charged with harassment.

Is that a scare tactic or is there anything to that particular claim, the idea of harassment?

FILAN: I think that's a scare tactic. Because what is too often? If one called and said every single day, "I love you, I love you" and he likes your message, is that too often? Is it only too often when he doesn't like what you're saying?

The harassment here is coming from Bill - Bill O'Reilly to that caller. The caller calling up and saying your name on the air, how is that harassment? It's a public radio show. He's inviting people to call in. That person has a First Amendment right to say your name on the air, and Bill O'Reilly doesn't have the First Amendment right to threaten a visit from law enforcement, as if this person has committed some kind of criminal behavior. Bill O'Reilly has crossed the line and lost the plot.

OLBERMANN: Well, he - he has a long history of trouble when it comes to phones, but that's another story entirely.

Is there a scenario with a call-in show, if you - if you're obscene, if you're actually personally threatening the host and you've called in a number of times? Is there anything - is there some line you can cross when you're - when you're being asked to call in to a radio show to be a participant?

FILAN: Of course. One's First Amendment right ends where somebody else's nose begins. You can say what you want to say, but you can't use threatening behavior. You can't say, "I'm going to kill you." If something like that is said on the air, that's clearly a threat. That's more than harassment. There can be an on-air stalker.

But can you really tell me that calling into the Bill O'Reilly show and using the name Keith Olbermann is harassment, is stalking, is crossing the line, incites violence, is obscene or foul or illegal? I can't understand it.

And for a host to threaten the power of the media, FOX News security force, to call local law enforcement, to knock on your door and say, "Hey, buddy, you're in trouble, because you said Keith Olbermann's name on my show" is patently absurd. And the only one that's going to get in trouble on this one is Bill O'Reilly.

OLBERMANN: Now, to be fair, when I was at FOX Sports, I had a stalker, constant phone calls. There were trips, attempts to get into the studio. To their credit and with my everlasting thanks, they had a team in place to deal with this and they dealt with it very effectively. They dealt with it legally. They dealt with it even physically to intervene.

They get a lot of training because Rupert Murdock owns them, and he gets, like, a death threat a day. So that's one thing where aggressive attitudes towards potential stalkers or people who are genuine threats is applicable.

But now let's flip this thing on its head here. You mentioned Bill O'Reilly threatening a caller on the air or this director of FOX News security phoning a caller at home or at work and saying, you know, "You'll be getting a little visit."

Is there seriously a potential legal risk here? I mean, could Bill O'Reilly, could FOX News be charged with harassment of some sort?

FILAN: Well, I think that this has to be investigated. I think if Bill O'Reilly, in fact, made that threat on the air and, in fact, followed it up with someone from FOX security and, in fact, local law enforcement was called, I think that has to be investigated. Because that is an abuse of Bill O'Reilly's power.

And it's an attempt, literally, to commandeer local law enforcement to be his personal henchmen, so that he can be the censor, the arbiter of what's allowed to be said on his show. How can it be illegal, how can it be a crime to say "Keith Olbermann" on the Bill O'Reilly show?

OLBERMANN: Well, you'd have to know him. Former Connecticut prosecutor Susan Filan, great thanks.

FILAN: It's a pleasure.

OLBERMANN: One last thing. We all know Mr. O'Reilly cannot stop himself from responding. Fail in this business for 25 uninterrupted years, then have a success, and you do wind up a mixture of paranoia and a Napoleonic complex.

So I'm going to save him the trouble. I'm going to respond for him.

Bill O'Reilly answering this story.

"The abuse of the airwaves is a critical problem with which the First Amendment - MSNBC's ratings are a disaster. Nobody pays attention to them. I do. I watch, addicted, unable to change the channel. But they're a disaster. So don't pay attention to MSNBC. Nobody watch MSNBC. Nobody is watching MSNBC. If you watch, we have your phone number, by the way. I'll turn it over to FOX security. I told you I'd shoot, but you didn't believe me. Why didn't you believe me?"

OK. And just so we get this ratings things cleared up, if you want to know what this is really all about, on the air Billy called this the key demo, and FOX owners call it the money demo. Here are the official ratings, adults 25 to 54 for Wednesday night of this week at 8 p.m. Eastern.

O'Reilly, 309,000; this program, 231,000; "Nancy Grace Knows What You Did Last Summer," 131,000; "Paula Zahn Now," 81,000.

Our audience was 75 percent of Ted Baxter's. It ain't perfect. Then again, he's been on for nearly 10 years, and we're still a month away from our third anniversary.

So now I'm expecting that soon I'll be getting a visit from the Bill O'Reilly police, armed with loofahs.

From the ridiculous to the sublime, the first actual evidence of a public groundswell for electing Buck O'Neil into baseball's Hall of Fame. It was in an airplane. In the interim, a push to get him honored by Congress.

And Paula Abdul causing all sorts of problems at an airport. And no, she didn't do it singing and dancing. That and more ahead on Countdown.


OLBERMANN: Witnesses say there were delays boarding the flight. There was a celebrity instantly recognizable to nearly all the other passengers. They all wanted photos with him, an autograph, a chance to shake his hand. Even after arrival there was a brief delay deplaning. The flight attendants all wanted photos with him, too.

Our No. 2 story on THE Countdown, the celebrity was Buck O'Neil, on a flight from Kansas City to San Diego, one that suggests this is not some little complaint within baseball circles about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin.

There is a public groundswell to some degree over a special committee's decision not to elect the 94-year-old former Negro Leagues star in his last vote of eligibility to baseball's Hall of Fame.

There might also be a congressional gold medal in it for him. He's been nominated for the honor by his friend, Congressman Emanuel Cleaver of Missouri. Previous recipients of the medal have included George Washington, Pope John Paul II and Jackie Robinson.

The "St. Louis Post-Dispatch" today asked if we needed any more evidence that the Baseball Hall of Fame and special committee have "lost esteem and outlived their usefulness."

A "USA Today" columnist called the vote a sham.

A guest writer in "The Denver Post" said he met them both and Buck O'Neil is a far more impressive figure than the late Senator Robert Kennedy.

Even baseball commissioner Bud Selig broke his silence and told "USA Today", quote, "I was astounded Buck O'Neil did not get into the Hall of Fame. He certainly deserves to be."

I'm joined now by John Zajc, the executive director of the Society for American Baseball Research, SABR.

Good evening, John. Thanks for doing this.


I'm glad you've had me on.

OLBERMANN: We'll be clear from the start. John, SABR didn't conduct this vote. It's not responsible for the vote. I've been a member for 22 years. I know the society tries with every effort available not to be political, focuses on research and the historical record.

Having said that, it was largely SABR members who voted in this. We are the baseball historians in this country. We're involved in this, whether we like it or not. Is SABR going to do anything, recommend anything, about Buck O'Neil?

ZAJC: Well, as you point out, Keith, SABR is a research organization rather than an advocacy group. And we've chosen to remain neutral on issues like this in the past. We've never taken a stand on things like interleague play or the DH or steroids in baseball.

We feel that this neutrality is important to help researchers to - to have an environment where they can do their research and lead - and have it lead where it may.

That said, SABR has done a lot already in this sphere. We have - our Negro Leagues committee is one of our oldest committees, and I believe it's been part of the groundwork for this special election. I think without it, it would have been much more difficult for the political will, the marketplace, just the level of knowledge to be able to be there to have the special election.

And we'll continue to do research. Our scouts committee is compiling a list of all the players every scout has signed. And as you know, Buck O'Neill was a scout, and he has a pretty impressive array of people he signed. Lou Brock is one of his signees, along with Joe Carter, Lee Smith, and one of my boyhood favorites, Oscar Gamble.

OLBERMANN: SABR's neutrality, is it possible that it could be useful in this in trying to resolve this? Because I think - I don't think this is going away. I think we're being a little head in the sand here, if there are people on planes saying, "Buck you got robbed and the voters were amateur baseball historians."

Aren't we, as individuals, and SABR as an organization, going to look bad? Is there some way to present SABR as some sort of honest broker to make a recommendation, even if it's only to keep this committee in business for another year, have another vote, something along those lines?

ZAJC: I think SABR can play - I think the neutrality is important for SABR to play an important role in this. Because we don't have any kind of ax to grind, we don't have an agenda. We're just laying out the facts there. We're making more information available to fans in general, to anyone's who's serving on any particular voting committee.

I think that SABR can be helpful in this regard. It's our mission to disseminate baseball research and to facilitate the research that's done.

And I think this is the only way that all players who have been overlooked

by the hall might one day get enshrined.

OLBERMANN: Everybody who voted on this, John, said that they did the process completely above board, and yet the voters will not defend their judgment. Maybe they know more than everybody else seems to, or whatever information they have or whatever research they had gleaned. They will not defend their judgment, that Buck O'Neill is not a Hall of Famer and basically should die not being a Hall of Famer.

Is - is there some way that their positions should be made clear? Is there some way to encourage them to at least defend what they've done?

ZAJC: I'm not sure, Keith. I think the committee reached this decision as a group. They all agreed to - to not reveal how each of them voted. I think that must have meant something to them in the process. And so - plus, I'm not exactly sure what that would accomplish.

OLBERMANN: Maybe they're right. Maybe there's something that they have that would shut the rest of us up, at the very least.

At any event, we're out of time and, unfortunately, regarding their voting and everything we only have their word on it at this point.

The executive director of the Society for American Baseball Research, John Zajc. Great thanks for your time tonight, sir.

ZAJC: Thank you, Keith.

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

And you think Buck O'Neil had an interesting flight. What about Paula Abdul? She was trying to catch a Southwest Airlines flight from Las Vegas back to L.A. in time for the live broadcast of "American Idol." According to the celebrity web site, mobbed by fans, of course.

So an airport sky cab ushered her and a companion to the plane, but they bypassed security. Both a Southwest Airlines representative and the Federal Transportation Safety Administration confirmed the breach, but not to worry: all the plane's passengers got to have a so-called reverse screening in Burbank after the plane landed. New Paula Abdul fans.

Now, we don't know that anybody's explored the possibility that it wasn't really her, but instead this guy. Yes, if impersonating Paula Abdul is that easy, then no one is safe anywhere.

You think getting stuck with Paula Abdul on your flight is bad, getting Britney Spears at your restaurant is worse. Much worse.

E! Online, quoting the "National Enquirer," reporting that Spears was seen at an upscale Beverly Hills restaurant. Nature called for her son, Sean Preston Federline, so Spears upped and changed him right there on the table at the restaurant.

No idea if this truly happened, but if you think it couldn't happen, I swear to you I've been at an upscale restaurant in New York and seen a mother doing exactly this.

According to this report the restaurant manager simply threw up his hands, remarking to one customer, "It's Britney Spears, what can we do?" Tear gas? Just a thought.

Who let them reproduce? That's what these guys are beating themselves up over. Even the animal kingdom is distraught. The "Oddball" month in review is ahead.

But first, time for Countdown's list of today's worst three persons - long week - three worst persons in the world.

Theme: your tax dollars in action tonight. The town (ph) mayor Ben Cooper of Wise, Virginia, is also police supervisor, town manager and one of the 14 people charged with scheming to take over the town council through election fraud. But Mayor Cooper is the most trouble. The counts against him totaled 240.

Now for silver tonight, Mayor Bert Reeves of Cottageville, South Carolina, which was once a notorious speed trap. The mayor worked diligently to change the town's reputation. Wednesday he was pulled over for speeding. But it was 103 in a 55-mile-an-hour zone.

But the winner is town aldermen of Aurora, Illinois. Still got your Christmas lights up, your Halloween decorations? You can now be fined 50 bucks. A new law in effect, decorations can go up 60 days before the holiday, must come down 60 days after. And what if I want to listen to Charles Dickens and keep Christmas every day of the year? Huh? Huh? Didn't think of that, did you, you bastards?

The aldermen of Aurora, Illinois, party on, Wayne. You're today's worst persons in the world.


OLBERMANN: This is the anniversary of the day in 1934 that Mount Rushmore was dedicated. And time does not permit us to list the number of dummies, famous and otherwise, who have actually stood there and asked if the images of the four presidents were the result of earthquakes or merely erosion.

Suffice it to say the question alone provokes the right mood for today's No. 1 story in THE Countdown, our highlights of the four weeks just past, the "Oddball Plays of the Month."

We begin at the Dunkin' Donuts in Akron, Ohio.

We begin in Cologne, Germany.

We begin in the red light district of Amsterdam.

We begin in Luknow (ph), India.

Big fat whale? Are you a big fat whale? Yes, you are.

This is another "Oddball" in-depth report on feline obesity. You may remember this fat load from the other night: 33 pounds, 31-inch waistline. There's really only one way to describe him, slim. Especially when you meet Sam here from Atlanta, Georgia, who is perfectly circular. At 45 pounds, Sam is so fat he has seven other cats orbiting him.

These rural roads were not built for your "Dukes of Hazzard," the General Lee antics. So after an amazing jump, right about there, airborne, the driver loses control and smashes into a nearby tree.

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

Conku (ph), California, another episode of "Elk COPS, Elk COPS." What you going to do?

Pasco County, Florida, hello. Late Friday morning, police raided six area gentlemen's clubs. They arrested more than two dozen ladies and that guy, who I'm hoping is not a stripper. And our friends at have mug shots of the pinched pole dancers you can flip through, including this seductive temptress, who thankfully ignored her right to remain silent.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My boots are like stuck. (expletive deleted) back here. I've never been in a police car.

OLBERMANN: Brutus here is part of the grizzled veteran of the unit, the German Shepherd with 49 dog years on the force (ph). A couple of more and he retires with full pension. But Brutus didn't count on his new partner, Midge, the Chihuahua with a nose for narcotics and a suicidal death wish. Well, a nose for narcotics, anyway.

But don't be fooled, Mr. Drug Dealer, this Chihuahua would rip your stupid face off if she got the chance.

Finally, we bring you another installment in our award-winning series, weird stuff we found on the Internet. And in tonight's episode, we learn why it is so important to be aware of our surroundings when videotaping ourselves weight lifting.

It's funny because I don't know him.

Here's the new Ken. After two years away from Barbie, the little plastic man is back sporting a sculpted chin and rock hard lower abs. Hey, whoa there. Careful there, buddy. See, now you've gone and made Barbie uncomfortable.

To Pataya (ph) in Thailand, where enter the painting studio of German abstract expressionist artist Marco Figgen. And this is Marco himself, using his Figgen beard to paint a Figgen picture.

Alia, the whale who can blow smoke rings. Well, bubble rings, but still. Alia's trainer says it's something some whales do in the wild, but they usually have to go to the surface to get the air. Here in the tank, all he has to do is jam his scuba hose into her own blow hole and look at her go.

Little doggies on a monorail. Yay, doggies on a monorail.

Now here's a really big snowman.

A dog in a peacock outfit.

This is the biggest pie ever made.

There's a monkey on the loose. There's a loose monkey. Not to worry, folks. I know you're fooled by it, but that escaped gorilla is really just a guy in a costume.

Anyway, the rapid response team quickly moves in to cordon off the area. Then in Dick Cheney style, they shoot it from the car. That's how we roll.

Hernik (ph), Bulgaria, for the 16th annual international festival of masquerade games. Thousands gathering in the town square to see participants dance and prance through the city streets in wild costumes, fur, feathers, colorful cloth and even hemp.

"Dude, after the parade, let's go smoke your wolf head."

The idea is to use the costumes to drive away the evil spirits and scare little children into a lifetime of horrible nightmares.

TV crews, out for some reason, pointed their cameras at the old smokestack of the old Kohler brewery. Hand constructed by laborers in the 1800s, it stood as monument to the great brick layers of Erie for more than a century and - never mind.

Ms. Apper (ph) showing off her baby goat, born on February 7 with a perfectly shaped heart on its back. She named him love.

(singing) The love goat, exciting and new.

(speaking) Training began as a way for the older women to keep fit. But nearly half the class has since achieved black belt status. Strike first, strike hard, no mercy.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Wait, my boots are like stuck.



OLBERMANN: That's Countdown for this, the 1,037th 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, unless Bill O'Reilly gets me before then.

Until then, a special presentation of "LOCK UP: INSIDE ANAMOSA."

Inside Omarosa?

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