Monday, May 22, 2006

'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for May 22

Guests: Jonathan Turley, Jean Rohe, Mike Wise

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

Plamegate narrows. The prosecution says Scooter Libby did too know of the agent's classified status, knew it, and lied to the grand jury about how he knew it.

And the white hat in the investigation is reportedly revealed, the former administration official cooperating with the prosecutor, the former administration official who tried to talk reporters out of identifying Valerie Plame, former deputy secretary of state, Richard Armitage.

Leakers indicted. What about leak recipients? Could reporters go to jail for breaking the news of the NSA warrantless wire taps?


ALBERTO GONZALES, ATTORNEY GENERAL: There are some statutes on the book which, and if you read the language carefully, it would to indicate that that is a possibility.


OLBERMANN: Rohe v. McCain. Dustup at a New York commencement. The senator gives the graduation address amid boos and protests. Student Jean Rohe gives the prerebuttal. She'll join us.

Nightmare at the Preakness. Why veterinary surgeons tried to save the life of Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro, why the horse might survive.

And why he is clearly more popular than Barry Bonds. If a 714th home run falls in the stands and nobody's there to care about it, do the fans make a sound?

All that and more, now on Countdown.

Good evening.

Every trial lives or dies by its star witness. For every Sammy "The Bull" Gravano or Amber Fry, there is, of course, a Kato Kaelin, or that boy's mother in the Michael Jackson child molestation case. Can't win with them, can't win without them.

Our fifth story on the Countdown tonight, the CIA leak investigation gets its own star witness, its own Kato, as the prosecutor tips his hand about the key bow in his quiver against Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Patrick Fitzgerald revealing in court filings that, at trial, he plans to show Vice President Cheney's former top aide knew Valerie Plame's employment at the CIA was classified when he revealed it, and that therefore Mr. Libby had lied to the grand jury when he testified he had learned about her covert status from NBC's Tim Russert, the prosecutor also establishing that Mr. Libby had a motive to lie, disclosing a conversation that Cheney's aide had with a CIA official sometime after columnist Robert Novak outed Ms. Plame on July 14 of 2003, in which the unnamed official discussed the dangers posed by disclosing the CIA affiliation of one of its employees.

As to the possible identity of that star witness in the case, apparently the only man in the administration who hesitated wasting the life's work of Valerie Plame, a new report is fingering this guy, former deputy secretary of state Richard Armitage, "New York Daily News" reporting that Mr. Armitage has been questioned several times. He is not expected to be indicted in the case, an unidentified source telling the paper, quote, "Rich has been cooperating with Fitzgerald since day one. He was one of the first people to offer his testimony," two more sources familiar with the case adding that Armitage, Libby, and Karl Rove each had contacts with the press about Ms. Plame, with this difference.

Armitage was trying to dissuade reporters from writing about Plame, Mr. Fitzgerald said to be sneaking Armitage into the courthouse, getting him past reporters. And that is being interpreted as a sign of his value to the case.

More now on what this all means and could mean from political analyst Lawrence O'Donnell, a contributor to the blog and an executive producer of the just-concluded NBC drama "The West Wing."

Thank you again for your time, sir.


OLBERMANN: It's ironic in a leak investigation. Everything we've learned about this is, in fact, a leak, so there's a highly speculative element here. But whether it's Armitage or it's somebody else, how decisive might it be for Fitzgerald to have a witness who was on the inside?

O'DONNELL: Oh, it would be very helpful. But I think, Keith, that Karl Rove would say today, for example, that he has been cooperating fully with the prosecutor, and with the FBI, from the start. Scooter Libby would say, I've cooperate completely and fully, I've answered all of their questions.

And so the question of cooperating with a prosecutor is - that's in the eye of the beholder. And, you know, there's been a lot of speculation about this case. There's - there are - there's thinly sourced reports out there. "The Daily News" report is thinly sourced.

But it is "The New York Daily News," which is a serious and good newspaper, good reporters filing this report. It's very different stuff from the surge on the Internet that we had about a week ago, with highly speculative suggestions on the Internet that turned out not to be true at all.

OLBERMANN: The color to this story, sneaking him in through the side door, the other elements, the little touches that give it verisimilitude, if not certain fact, all contribute to the suggestion in here about Armitage. But it also says, obviously, that Armitage is not new to this process. So it would seem - is it a fair conclusion to make that his presence has not been enough to get Karl Rove to turn, to fully cooperate, let's use that phrase, with the prosecution?

O'DONNELL: Well, clearly, the prosecutor does not yet, in his view, have enough evidence to bring an indictment against Karl Rove. He may develop that evidence. Armitage may be someone who adds a piece here and there. He may not. It's hard to say.

It also could be, when we get to the Libby trial, that it could turn out that Karl Rove was actually helpful, in some sense, in obtaining the Libby indictment. He may very well have provided some information that was helpful on that end.

So I think when the dust clears, Keith, when all this is over, we may have an entirely different scorecard about who helped get what indictment, and who helped move the prosecution in what direction.

OLBERMANN: Based on what we think we know now, what we can reasonably conjecture that we know now, does Fitzgerald have a strong case against Scooter Libby? Is it stronger or does it seem stronger than it did two months ago, one month ago?

O'DONNELL: Libby's defense is not as good as O.J.'s, Keith. This is a very, very strong perjury case. I'm just going to read one line of Libby's testimony to the grand jury. Libby says, "Mr. Russert said to me, Did you know that Ambassador Wilson's wife, or his wife, works at the CIA? And I said, No, I didn't know that."

Now, there are, according to Fitzgerald, two lies in that testimony under oath to the grand jury. One is, Tim Russert didn't say that to him, and that will be Tim Russert's testimony. We already know that as a fact. The other is, Libby saying, I didn't know that Valerie Plame, that Wilson's wife was at the CIA. That's going to be an extremely difficult sentence for Libby to work his way out of under oath in a courtroom.

OLBERMANN: Maybe Mr. Libby thought that was a knock-knock joke.

Let me turn over to the David Safavian trial. The jury selection is to begin on Monday of next week, the prosecution in that case planning to introduce hundreds of e-mails between Safavian and Jack Abramoff, the lobbyist (INAUDIBLE) the disgraced lobbyist. Is this likely to expose more people who might be in trouble in the Abramoff investigation, and even people we don't - we're not aware of now?

O'DONNELL: I'm just come off a conversation with a lawyer who's close to this case, Keith, and he does not think that this case will actually turn over many more stones. One reason why they're relying so much on e-mail is that the government does not have witnesses that it can bring in. The government, very important point here, is not willing to bring in Jack Abramoff as a witness and put him on the stand, because - apparently because the government is afraid of how well Abramoff would hold up in cross-examination in this case.

Safavian looks, at this point, like an isolated case that might not have any relationship to any of the other cases. It is simply a question, in his case, also, of perjury, and did he not tell the complete truth to investigators who were investigating a golf trip that he took with Abramoff?

Now, he has what I would call a much stronger defense than Libby does, for example, on perjury. It would not surprise me if this first trial in Bush administration corruption trials actually turns out favorable for the defendant. This defendant is not in the horrible hold that Libby is in at this point.

OLBERMANN: One last question, while we have you here, about Iraq and the administration. The president embraced this new leadership there as a turning point in the war, key step toward stabilizing security of the country. How secure and stable is a new government if the new government fails to reach agreement on a defense minister and a head of police?

O'DONNELL: You know, we can talk about the personnel in that government as long as we want. The public is going to judge the success of that government by the violence level on the street, by the ability to keep a sense of law and order in Iraq.

It's completely out of control. It doesn't seem to make any difference what happens in the staffing of the government.

Let's remember that the last IRA eruption in Northern Ireland occurred during a very stable British government. That very stable British government could not control Northern Ireland, couldn't control its own streets.

So I don't think people have the great expectation of any form of the Iraqi government (INAUDIBLE) keeping law and order in Baghdad.

OLBERMANN: Political analyst Lawrence O'Donnell, astute viewers also recognizing him, of course, from his frequent appearances now as Lawyer Lee Hatcher on HBO'S "Big Love."

As always, sir, great thanks.

O'DONNELL: Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN: On the other side of the aisle, it sounds like a scene from "The Sopranos," and not the one this week with Tony and that dancer. Got any cash? Wait a minute, I'll check the fridge. An allegation that a Democratic congressman from Louisiana was caught on tape taking a bribe of $100,000 in cash, and then a few days later, 90 percent of what the gangsters used to call lettuce or cabbage was chilling nicely in his freezer.

Our justice correspondent is Pete Williams.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Congressman, would you talk to us, please?

PETE WILLIAMS, NBC JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Back in Washington today from Louisiana, William Jefferson said he has done nothing wrong and called it well over the line for the FBI to search the offices of a U.S. congressman.

REP. WILLIAM JEFFERSON (D), LOUISIANA: I think it represents the - an outrageous intrusion on the separation of powers between the executive branch and the congressional branch, and no one has seen this in all the time of the life of the Congress.

PETE WILLIAMS: Investigators say the FBI videotaped Jefferson outside this suburban Washington hotel last summer accepting a $100,000 bribe from an informant. Cold, hard cash, investigators say, $90,000 of it later found in a freezer in Jefferson's house, wrapped in foil, in Tupperware containers.

For nearly 17 hours, from Saturday night until Sunday afternoon, FBI agents searched files and made copies of computer hard drives in Jefferson's office.

Two people have already pleaded guilty in a scheme to bribe the congressman, a member of congressional African caucuses, payments they say he demanded to help them get contracts for providing Internet service in Nigeria and Ghana.

Investigators say Jefferson told the informant in a note how he wanted to be paid and said, "All these notes we're writing to each other, as if the FBI is watching." Today, some in Congress, including Bill Frist, the Senate Republican leader, said they're concerned about the FBI raiding a Capitol office.

(on camera): But federal officials say they acted only after asking for documents from Jefferson's office eight months ago, and getting nowhere.

Pete Williams, NBC News, at the FBI in Washington.


OLBERMANN: Investigations of a different variety. Will the attorney general start going after reporters who write about top-secret programs?

And Senator John McCain and his staff none too happy with his graduation appearance at New York's New School. We'll talk to the graduate who gave the senator a verbal smackdown.

You are watching Countdown on MSNBC.


OLBERMANN: (INAUDIBLE) administration that maintains a public face of being unsusceptible to irony or charges of hypocrisy, it's pretty ironic. There is an attorney general of the United States, and he is now talking about prosecuting journalists for publishing classified information, while at the same time, the same attorney general of the United States is saying that at any given time, 50,000 predators are online, prowling for children, and it's reported that he got that statistic not from the FBI nor any experts, but from Chris Hansen on "DATELINE NBC."

Our fourth story on the Countdown, thanks for the info, media, now here's your subpoena.

The attorney general relying on reporters in a moment.

First, the possible prosecution of reporters, Mr. Gonzales taking the administration's latest swipe against freedom of the press, suggesting, in the wake of the disclosures of the warrantless NSA wiretapping and other invasions of privacy, that, yes, it could prosecute the reporters who report (INAUDIBLE) reported the vital information to the American public.


GONZALES: It depends on the circumstances. There are some statutes on the book which, if you read the language carefully, would seem to indicate that that is a possibility. That's a policy judgment by the Congress in passing that kind of legislation. We have an obligation to enforce those laws. We have an obligation to ensure that our national security is protected. We have an obligation to enforce the law and to prosecute those who engage in criminal activity.


OLBERMANN: Alberto Gonzales on "This Week" on ABC.

Joining me now, professor of constitutional law at George Washington University Jonathan Turley.

Thank you again for your time, sir.


OLBERMANN: Put this in context. There's never been a criminal prosecution of a journalist for publishing classified information. So are those kind of comments by Mr. Gonzales a way of ramping up pressure on journalists generally, or do you see more of a tangible threat?

TURLEY: I think they're serious. I mean, I think people have said, Well, maybe they're just trying to create a chilling effect for journalists. I think people have got to really step back. This administration is not one to makes threats lightly.

You know, all president have had a love-hate relationship with the media. This one, I think, has a hate-hate relationship. I mean, he just does not see the distinction between people who are acquiring classified information for things like espionage and for people who are doing their job.

We have two lobbyists who are being prosecuted here in Washington. They're accused of receiving classified information orally, and they're being prosecuted on the Espionage Act.

I think what the attorney general was referring to is the same act could used against reporters.

But what's amazing, Keith, is that you have an attorney general who's been accused of participating in a criminal enterprise. Many experts, including myself, have said that the NSA surveillance program, the one that he's making veiled reference to, was a criminal act committed with his assistance. Now, he's saying that he may use his office to go after reporters who reveal such things about people like him.

OLBERMANN: If he were - if that were, in fact, the scenario that were to play out, and this was to be used against reporters, we've seen, obviously, attempts to enjoin publication, the Pentagon Papers comes to mind with the Nixon administration with 'The New York Times." But an actual prosecution of a reporter, do you think it would hold up constitutionally, or would this be something that would be thrown out fairly early in the process?

TURLEY: Well, I don't believe that ultimately it would be upheld, for example, with the Espionage Act. But this is new territory, and this administration seems to be going quite boldly in the direction with in the so-called AIPAC case. And so they may actually try to test this theory. Certainly they have no love for the Fourth Estate.

But I do believe that it raises very significant constitutional questions. You know, part of the problem, Keith, is that we haven't tried to define this area very carefully, because we've all sort of agreed, in past administrations, that reporters are doing their job, and sources will sometimes release important public policy issues, and everyone has stayed calm.

This administration has really gone on a scorched-earth campaign against any sources, anyone who speaks to the media, on any subject, including alleged criminal conduct by the administration.

OLBERMANN: Are we moving towards what they have in England, and would we, in fact, at this point, for at least for the sake of definition, be better off if we had an official secrets act?

TURLEY: Oh, God help us. We wouldn't be better off with an official secrets act. England's not better off. But this would effectively create that, if AIPAC goes - if the AIPAC case is where this administration is going. I've been called to testify in about a week at the House Intelligence Committee before members who are thinking of new penalties against reporters.

And you have to keep it in perspective. We now have a government that has virtually no oversight functioning against the White House. The Congress has gone into a virtual comatose state. The Fourth Estate, the journalists, are carrying now the entirety of that check and balance. These efforts would eliminate that, and it would create, in my view, a very dangerous instability at a very dangerous time.

And people have got to look at this quite seriously.

OLBERMANN: The only perhaps silver lining in this, when the media has been provoked in this way in the past, somebody has said, All right, you're going to raise the stakes, we'll raise the stakes too. We'll see if that happens.

Jonathan Turley, professor of constitutional law at George Washington University. As always, sir, great thanks for your perspective.

TURLEY: Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN: Now, as promised, the nice media, as viewed by the attorney general, the Justice Department last week introduced something called Project Safe Childhood, and the info on which Mr. Gonzales seems to have based his most frightening statements about it reportedly came from "DATELINE NBC."

"It has been estimated," said the attorney general, "that at any given time, 50,000 predators are on the Internet prowling for children." The Web site checked with the FBI, the Crimes Against Children Research Center, and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. None of them knows of any reliable research that suggests that what has been estimated is even close to reality.

The source, the press secretary to the attorney general told Legal Times, quote, "That number is actually pulled from "DATELINE" and other media outlets."

Chris Hansen used it, citing law enforcement officials as his source in his predator sting reports on that program over the last year.

And it's no "DATELINE" predator report, but it's still equally as watchable, a piece of history from "The Simpsons" and of nuclear power history bites the dust.

(INAUDIBLE), and speaking of history and biting, Barry Bonds hits number 714, and the baseball world yawns.

All that and more, ahead on Countdown.


OLBERMANN: On May 22, 1859, Arthur Conan Doyle was born, and after creating Sherlock Holmes, killed him off so he could write about his real interest, photographic proof of the existence of pixies and fairies.

On that note, let's play Oddball.

We begin in Rainier, Oregon. And here's something you never want to see at a nuclear power plant. And another student fails chemistry. Don't worry, if they hadn't meant to do that, this story probably would have come up a little earlier in the show, don't you think?

That was the 499-foot-tall cooling tower at the now-defunct Trojan nuclear power plant, site of the 1979 film "The China Syndrome, inspiration for the one where Homer works on "The Simpsons." It has sat there abandoned since the plant closed in 1993 until they finally figured out what to do with it, blew the hell out of it with lots of cameras around. Excellent.

To London, home of that wacky protest group and Oddball staple, Fathers for Justice. It had reportedly disbanded, but Is anyone turning in to the BBC to get the latest lottery numbers Saturday night now knows, it appears to be back.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We should probably keep going if we can here (INAUDIBLE) studio...


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:... as a gentleman who is going to disappear rather quickly.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, as you have gathered, all sorts of things happening here.


OLBERMANN: And as many people in camera range as possible.

No such chaos here, it's just a convention of dentists in Prague. What, a new method of dental anesthesia? A Czech dentist doing an impression of Chicago White Sox catcher A.J. Brezinski (ph)? Actually, it turns out that was the former deputy prime minister slapping the current health minister. Somehow this was part of his opening remarks to the convention. Politicians, who let them in?

Not the veneers. Don't touch my veneers!

Politics and graduations, not exactly the best combination back here in the States. Senator John McCain gets his message picked apart before he even steps to the mike. The picker-aparter joins us.

And the intense interest in the hl of Barbaro, the longest odds that might still pay off.

Details ahead.

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

Number three, (INAUDIBLE) not-so-dumb criminal, the unnamed guy who ripped off a bank in Jersey City, New Jersey, fled with $5,642. A guard from the bank chased him, so the guy began throwing 20s over his shoulder, which the guard stopped to pick up.

Number two, Chris Goldsmith, a junior at Basha (ph) High School in Chandler, Arizona, leading a protest and boycott of his school cafeteria there. Officials there plagued by students stomping on ketchup packets have begun to ration ketchup in the cafeteria, three packets per burger. You want more? Ketchup begins to cost, 25 cents a package.

And number one, another student at the University of Yang Tzu (ph) in China, identified only as Duan. Duan is graduating, so he's prepared his resume. It's 100 pages and 100,000 words long. He says he's confident the 100-page resume will attract the interest of human resource (INAUDIBLE) resource managers everywhere. It sure will. Dolores, this one's 100 pages long. Get out the shredder.


OLBERMANN: When Senator John McCain reminded students it is necessary that even in times of crisis, especially in times of crisis, we fight among ourselves for the things we believe in and Condoleezza Rice told graduates that there is nothing wrong with holding an opinion and holding it passionately. Both found themselves on the receiving ends their suggestions.

Our third story in the Countdown, students visibly and vocally voicing opposition to their chosen commencement speakers. Secretary of State Rice greeted by about 50 protesting student who is turned their backs as she gave her commencement address at Boston College, Monday morning. One professor even resigned in protest before Rice's visit, while others waived signs and handed out flyers objecting to her presence. But the protests in Boston pale in comparison to Senator McCain's reception in New York who gave the commencement address for the new school at Madison Square Garden. Not only was he heckled throughout, he was criticized before he even spoke by 21-year-old graduate, Jean Sara Rohe who actually changed her speech when she realized she would be proceeding the senator.


JEAN SARA ROHE, GRADUATE: The senator did not reflect the ideals upon which this university was founded. Not only this.


Please. Not only this, but his invitation was a top down decision that did not take any account the desires and interest of the student body.


OLBERMANN: After the ceremony, McCain told the assembled media that he'd never received a reception like that before and that quote, "I feel sorry for people living in a dull world where they can't listen to the views of others." One of the aides who says he helped craft the commencement address went a step further, posting a response to the Jean Sara Rohe's speech on the Huffington Post blog that read in part, "It took no courage to do what you did, Ms. Rohe. It was an act of vanity and nothing more. And please don't worry about the Senator's discomfort with you. He has managed to endure much worse. He has over and over again risked personal ambitions for what he believes, rightly or wrongly, are in the best interest of the country. What, pray tell, have you risked? The only person you succeeded in making look like an idiot is yourself.

Jean Rohe joins us now.

Thanks for your time.

ROHE: Hi. Thank you.

OLBERMANN: Let start at the end there, that quote I just read from one of Senator McCain's aides. Am I misinterpreting that or did the aide basically say there, children should be seen in and not heard and you don't get freedom of speech and freedom to make a speech until you are a prisoner or war veteran or senator or - what are your thoughts on that response?

ROHE: Well, I mean first of all, I think his response is extremely rude and very misinformed as well. He clearly didn't read what I had posted on the Huffington Post or my speech because my words were very clear. I was not at all rude towards the senator. And so I think that, you know, yes, in a sense he was saying that because I am young I don't have the right to make the kinds of bold statements I made, but I disagree.

OLBERMANN: Did we let politicians and their flacks, like this Mr. Salter, get the impression that they and they alone are allowed to be involved in public discourse? I mean, he referred to self-indulgence. Somebody in politics referred to somebody else's self-indulgence. In some senses, was this response not worse than McCain's speech?

ROHE: Oh, I think certainly and I don't really want to make too much of it. But definitely I think it's worth noting that I did what I did because I felt that my conscious required it of me and I certainly didn't do it for any sort of personal gain or vein reasons. I don't think that I, personally, have much to gain from this. It's turned my life upside down over the past three days and I really wouldn't wish this kind of attention upon anybody at this point.

OLBERMANN: Having had experience with commencement addresses that is got more press attention than you think they would, I empathize. What was your issue, though, with this politician and this speech, because it seems like half of all commencement address were by politicians. What was wrong with this politician and this speech?

ROHE: Well, it wasn't so much that he was giving the same speech at three different universities, which is what Mr. Salter suggested in his writing that was my issue with it. It was much more that the address itself did not speak to the fact that we were graduating. That this was our graduation that this was our big day. It was much more of a stump speech for Senator McCain, and I felt that that was completely out of place. And, of course, I had the privilege of knowing what the senator was going to say before he said it. So, I was prepared for that.

OLBERMANN: Kind of a mistake in planning on their part. You - when did you find out what it was he was going to say? How - what was your writing deadline? I understand you changed your speech at the last minute, correct?

ROHE: I did. It was 2:00 in the morning the night before or early in the morning before I gave my speech that I finally did sit down to begin writing my new draft after having done a great deal of research about what the senator was going to say, what press attention had been given to this situation in the days leading up it.

OLBERMANN: Last question and this may seem trivial, but we saw that picture of and you the Senator McCain. Was that before the two speeches or after the two speeches.

ROHE: It was before. I introduced myself to the senator as one of the two student speakers that were asked to speak and a friend of mine shot that picture for us.

OLBERMANN: I'm gathering he would - you probably wouldn't have expected him to pose afterwards.

ROHE: No. No, he disappeared pretty soon after that for whatever reason and - yeah, I think - I think it was definitely a before picture.

OLBERMANN: The lesson perhaps in there is always make your commencement address some interest, at least, to the graduates. Jean Rohe, congratulations on your graduation.

ROHE: Thank you so much.

OLBERMANN: Congratulations on your efforts and thanks for joining us.

ROHE: Thank you.

OLBERMANN: Also to day, the tragedy at the track continues. The career of Barbaro is over, but the unlikely chance that his life is not pending on all this. And Barry Bonds now has a piece of history, but so many people in baseball just wish he was history. Details ahead, but first here are Countdown's "Top 3 Sound Bites" of this day.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Braxton planning his own escape from Alcatraz.

The 1.4 mile swim to shore through choppy, rough, and rugged waters.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Even though people might think at seven, he's crazy, he's way too young to swim from Alcatraz. I'd say they're right.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Braxton, what was the hardest part of this swim?

BRAXTON BILBREY, SWIMMER: Probably the cold and just swimming it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: These women are part of a club not everyone can belong to.






UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You don't have to worry about remembering anybody's first name.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Spunky, you've got it.

ELTON JOHN, ENTERTAINER: You shut up (BLEEP). I sincerely (INAUDIBLE) being a huge star (INAUDIBLE) many, many, years to come. (INAUDIBLE) America - I'm talking you (BLEEP).


(BLEEP). You should all be shocked. Thank you. Can you take this and get it out of my hands because I am done.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Congratulations guys.



OLBERMANN: The race to save a racehorse. Can fixing Barbaro's broken leg save the animal's life?

No saving Barry Bonds' reputation. His ho-hum homerun mark. That's next, this is Countdown.


OLBERMANN: There's usually no debate, no agonizing delay, no time for prayers. A racehorse that shatters one of its legs is almost invariably, almost immediately euthanized. To a horse, a broken leg is not just a broken leg, it's a traumatic disruption of his entire circulatory system. But in our No. 2 story in the Countdown, something unexpected happened after the Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro broke down at Saturday's Preakness. Somehow the horse knew to keep weight off the broken hind leg. Instead of and ending any slight chance of survival, this horse was limping. And as Dawn Fratangelo reports, that meant if not life, than at least hope.


DAWN FRATANGELO, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): An audience of millions watched as Barbaro's career is off and running, then suddenly over.

ANNOUNCEMENT: An astonishing development here. Barbaro's being pulled up.

FRATANGELO: His right rear ankle nearly shattered. This was Barbaro after five hours of surgery in a harness to prevent him from thrashing about and further injuring his leg. The surgery went well, but his chances are still 50-50.

DR. DEAN RICHARDSON, VETERINARY SURGEON: It's the problems after surgery that usually lead to fatalities. The horse breaking down on his opposite foot, the foot that's bearing too much weight, that's a problem, and infection.

FRATANGELO: A metal plate with 23 screws holds Barbaro's ankle in place. At the Pennsylvania Animal Hospital where he's recuperating, well-wishers are leaving cards and carrots.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why'd we bring him something, babe? Make him feel better?

FRATANGELO: The story is the buzz of the industry. The racing magazine "Blood Horse" has had more traffic on its website than at anytime in its 10 year history.

(on camera): But Barbaro's story transcends the racing world. The odds on favorite is now the nation's underdog, the best kind to root for.

Rider, Julia Kelphi (ph) believes it's a lesson on just how fragile life is.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think it's not only real concern about the horse, but some sort of association within ourselves about how it is to be brought down like that.

JANE SCHWARTZ, AUTHOR: People identify with the kind of freedom and fierceness and grace that the horses embody.

FRATANGELO: If Barbaro recovers he will likely bring in millions as a stud. He's already said to be flirting with marries at the hospital. Until then, he's getting the best medical care and tokens from a grateful nation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm going to go give these to Barbaro.

Dawn Fratangelo, NBC News, New York.



STEWIE GRIFFIN, "FAMILY GUY" BABY: Oooh, "Keeping Tabs, wonderful." Look, dog! Dog! Look! More stories about Don Johnson and the new Kristy minstrels (ph).

BRIAN GRIFFIN, "FAMILY GUY" DOG: You never hear them talk about "Family Guy."

S. GRIFFIN: You're right. And why the duce (ph) doesn't he just do more stories about bastard Bill O'Reilly?

PETER GRIFFIN, "FAMILY GUY" DAD: What's family guy?


OLBERMANN: Our new announcers. No Don Johnson items here, but we have box office number trumping critical pannings in our roundup of celebrity and entertainment news, "Keeping Tabs." Seventy-seven million dollars, the weekend gross for "The da Vinci Code" in the U.S easily the biggest opening of the year thus far, but worldwide the movie had the second biggest opening weekend in history, taking in $224 million. And of course, that's much more important than whether or not it was any fricking good. All despite the lousy reviews. "With a start like this," said Sony Pictures chairman, Tony Blake, "you can just sit back and enjoy the ride." Remarkably, for all the acclaimed work, for Tom Hanks, the producer Brian Grazer and director Ron Howard, it was the biggest opening weekend of each of their careers 800 billion flies can't be wrong.

Meantime it was a weekend in jail for a photographer trying to get a picture of mother-to-be, Angelina Jolie and her boyfriend, Brad Pitt, awaiting their bundle of joy in Namibia. The photographer, John Liebenberg, has been released, trespassing charges against him dismissed. He had been arrested Friday at Walvis Bayin, Namibia, after driving into police barracks. He was trying to get close to the private hospital. Mr. Liebenberg is well-known to Branjolina's bodyguards. He said that the prosecutors were using him to send a message to the paparazzi. But the magistrate on the case said that detaining the photographer all weekend in a communal cell was unnecessary.

Barry Bonds doesn't have to go to Namibia to escape media attention. The milestone homerun that is not a hit at all, that's next, but first, time for Countdown's latest list of nominees for the "Worst Person in the World."

The bronze is a follow-up to one from last week. We nominated consumer's energy for shutting off a woman's electricity. She was charged The bronze is follow-up to one from last week. We nominated Consumers Energy of Flint, Michigan for shutting off a woman's electricity for seven hours. She had been charged $1,662.08, she paid $1,66.07 and they turned off her lights. A Consumers Energy spokesman has now told a local newspaper that this was totally inaccurate because, quote, "Ironically the media coverage of this event has overlooked the fact that this customer only had to pay a penny to take care of this bill," unquote. Yeah, after you made her search for it in the dark for seven hours.

The runner up, Matt Drudge, first time nominee, long-time shmuck. It posted this at its Web site: "Al Gore and entourage took five cars to travel the 500-yards from hotel to screening a global warming pick in Khan." Actually they walked. Yeah, like this is the first time Drudge just made stuff up.

But speaking of which, the winner - he's on quite a run. It's for you, Stewie. You may remember when he claimed his boycott of France had cost the French economy billions of dollars and quoted source the "Paris Business Review," even though there isn't a "Paris Business Review?" Well, now it's Mexico. Threatening it with O'Reilly double secret probation. If Mexico files one lawsuit over the National Guard troops assigned to the border, Bill O says, quote, "I will call for a total boycott of Mexican goods and no travel to your country. And if you think it doesn't matter, Mr. Secretary, why don't you give the French ambassador a call, he'll fill you in," unquote. 'Allo, Mr. Ambassador, O'Reilly, mais oui it's is called a delusion of grandeur. Monsieur O'Reilly is, how you say, the "Worst Person in the World."


OLBERMANN: Seventy-one years ago this Thursday, Babe Ruth hit his 714th homerun. Less than 10,000 fans were in attendance in Pittsburgh, there was no official celebration, nobody's sure where the homerun ball wound up. That's largely because, A. at the time nobody knew this was to be the last of Ruth's homeruns and B. because Ruth had broken the previous homerun record 13 years earlier, and thus each of the last 575 homers he hit had set a new record.

In our No. 1 story in the Countdown, so that's was why there was a lackluster response to Ruth's 714th. What was Barry Bonds's excuse?


ANNOUNCER: Barry Bonds, deep drive, right field, 714.


OLBERMANN: After 714 came, against pitch, Brad Halsey of the Oakland A's, Bonds was greeted by his son Nicholi at home plate then mobbed by his teammates outside the dugout, 35,077 fans were at the game, Bonds is now neck and artificially oversized neck with Ruth. Nineteen-year-old A's fan Tyler Snyder caught the ball. He'd probably find a buyer for it, provided he does not expect the kind of seven figure money paid for Mark McGuire's record-breaking 1998 homerun ball. Tell you what, Kid, $40 cash?

Of the many tinny moments in the Bonds chase of this plateau, the tinniest came when completely changed his tune about the man whose total he had just tied.


BARRY BONDS, GIANTS' PLAYER: This is a great accomplishment because of Babe Ruth and, you know, what he brought to the game of baseball. And I can't say enough on what - you know, he changed the game of baseball and, you know, we've all had the opportunity to add our two cents to the game too, as well. You know, it's just great. It's just great to be in the same class.


OLBERMANN: Of course of Ruth, Bonds had said three years ago, "I wiped him out. In the baseball world everything is Babe Ruth, right? I got his slugging percentage and I'll take his homeruns and that's it. Don't talk about him no more."

The shoe seems to be on the other foot now. It's seems as if it's Bonds about whom fans don't want to talk. I joined now by "Washington Post" sports columnist, Mike Wise.

Mike, thanks for joining us again.


OLBERMANN: It seems doubtful is going to get to Hank Aaron's records of 755. So what does happen to him after he hits 715, does he just sort of slowly vanish like the Cheshire cat, but he's going to leave a scowl behind instead of a grin?

WISE: Yeah, I don't know if it's that final, but I do think that with the steroid allegations, with everything that's come out in the Balco scandal and the book "Game of Shadows," that clearly Barry Bonds' career has been tainted and his legacy's going to be tainted. I mean, this thing was not celebrated at all like, say for instance, Hank Aaron's 715 against Al Downing. I mean, even the 19-year-old kid who caught the ball said he hated Bonds. So, this was probably as big, grand effects go, one of the least celebrated of all time.

OLBERMANN: And I mean, we expected that it would fall a little flat, certainly, but the degree it faintly registered, I mean, it was not even the headline from baseball over the weekend. It was - it amounted to the shot heard around the corner, right?

WISE: Right, I mean, there were bigger stickball homeruns in Hayward hit on - the other day. I mean, I don't think that people were surprised that Barry hit it. I think they were waiting for him for 30 some at bats and he didn't get it done, and when it happened, everybody around major league baseball was quoted as saying whether they think Barry Bonds is still on steroids, and not how great feat was it to pass Babe Ruth.

OLBERMANN: Having seen the reaction to the 714th, now, do we have a

better handle on whether or not they would need in - need to go in and

erase or altar his statistics in the record books. I mean - or do we get

or because of this and how flat this fell, do we get - do you get the sense that there'd be no reason to actually throw an asterisk on him or otherwise try and discredit the record, that it's sort of - it's already discredited?

WISE: Yeah, I would say you hit it on the head, Keith. The public's shame that Barry Bonds had felt, and all - a lot of baseball players that are implicated in the steroid allegations have felt, are going to be far greater and worse of a hurt, so to speak, than any asterisk in a major league baseball encyclopedia. I don't think that - the real aspersions cast on the game, to me, are the guys, Keith, that maybe will have a monster year now and everybody's going to think, well no, he's on something. And I think that's where they've hurt the game more than anything. There's Santa Claus is dead in baseball, so to speak. There's no rookie year phenom.

OLBERMANN: With 714 down and 715 imminent, do we also end the revisionists history about Babe Ruth, now? I mean, I keep reading this stuff as this number approached about how Ruth's statistics shouldn't really count either because baseball was segregated, then. If we rewrite sports history, don't we also have to say, well, you know, if integration in all sports had begun if in 1847, instead of 1947, we probably would have had expansion in baseball sooner than we did, and football and basketball would have broken the baseball talent monopoly sooner, and those things might have wiped out any net gains in talent that an earlier integration would have caused. Can we just put the Babe Ruth revisionist's history aside now?

WISE: I'm with you there, too. Babe Ruth never faced a pitcher like Satchel Page (ph) in his era because of segregation and I think when we look at the clips of him, I mean, the guy had the blinding speed of Bob Horner. I mean, he wasn't exactly the greatest ball player that ever lived. I read a lot about the gatekeepers of the game, and I am talking about old-time baseball writers, giving so much credence to Babe. Babe is better than Barry, Babe was better than Hammerin' Hank, and I think to myself - I think that's more about how he lived and what a giant personality he was, not the ballplayer he was, because I don't think we'll ever know the ballplayer that Babe Ruth could have been.

OLBERMANN: I will read one last quote, here. This little island of

naivete. Jason Schmidt of the Pyre (ph) of the Giants, its teammates,

"Ruth set the standard, now we're sitting among a guy who's done the same

thing." It's just remarkable at the end of the day that we might have this

little island of naivete to say nothing of that bad grammar in there. Mike

Wise of the "Washington Post." We're out of time. Great thanks for yours

thanks for being with us.

WISE: Thank you. Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN: That's Countdown for this, the 1117th day since the declaration of "Mission Accomplished" in Iraq. I'm Keith Olbermann. As they say on the ball fields, keep your knees loose. Also, good night and good luck.

Our MSNBC coverage continues now with a special edition of "Scarborough Country: Storm Warning: Hurricane Season 2006."