Thursday, June 29, 2006

'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for June 29

Guests: John Dean, Dana Milbank, Michael Musto

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

Will the administration now call the Supreme Court the "New York Times" of the judiciary? Justices Kennedy, Brier, Ginsberg, Souter, and Stevens rule the military trials at Gitmo are unconstitutional, not authorized by any act of Congress, violating the Uniform Code of Military Justice, violating the Geneva Conventions.

The staggered president says he will find a way forward and try some of the detainees in the civilian courts.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I will protect the people, and at the same time, conform with the findings of the Supreme Court.


OLBERMANN: Thanks. Thanks for going along with the Constitution.

John Dean on the law, Dana Milbank on the political neutering of the president.

Fourteen feet above flood stage, the Delaware River in New Jersey, (INAUDIBLE) 200,000 at Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, dodge a bullet, the Susquehanna keeps within its banks.

Remember this? The Oklahoma full auto shoot and its special features.

Sniper match, assault rifle. Kill the car. Kill the washing machine. We've shown you what this was, now the reporter who covered it will tell us what it was like.

And two pictures. Who's the guy on the cover of "Harper's" - Oh, Britney Spears? Does this conflict in any way with her announcement that she wants privacy?

And what's - oh, that's comedian Rush Limbaugh and Chloe from "24."

Got Viagra?

All that and more, now on Countdown.




OLBERMANN: Good evening.

"Whether ours shall continue to be a government of laws and not men," said Archibald Cox, the night 33 years ago he was fired as special Watergate prosecutor on the direct instructions of Richard Nixon, "is now for Congress and ultimately the American people."

Our fifth story on the Countdown this evening, the late Mr. Cox could have also mentioned the Supreme Court, which has today reminded this president of the United States that this is still and, perhaps surprisingly, a government of laws and not men.

The court, with decisive votes supplied by three justices appointed by Presidents Bush senior, Ford, and Reagan, ruling that this president overstepped his authority in ordering military war trials for Guantanamo Bay detainees, the court concluding its current term this morning by issuing the president a major legal blow, and the first true blowback against his belief that after 9/11 he had essentially carte blanche, ruling that trying Guantanamo detainees before special military commissions violates U.S. and international law, and even U.S. military law, rejecting the administration argument that the resolution passed by Congress authorizing the use of force after 9/11 somehow also authorized the tribunals.

The court heard the case of one of the first to be arrested in Afghanistan after the attacks, Salim Ahmed Hamdan, former driver and bodyguard to Osama bin Laden, sent to Gitmo four years ago, later put on trial before one of those special military tribunals ordered by the president.

The five-member majority on decision, Justices Stevens, Kennedy, Souter, Ginsberg, Brier, the three dissenters, Justices Scalia, Thomas, and Alito. Chief Justice Roberts sat this one out, because he had ruled on this issue in the president's favor while serving on a lower court, writing the majority opinion, Justice John Paul Stevens saying, "We conclude that the military commission convened to try Hamdan lacks power to proceed because its structure and procedures violate both the Uniform Code of Military Justice and the Geneva Conventions," the president obviously caught off guard by the ruling, getting only what he called by a drive-by briefing before facing the media, he and his press secretary looking for the bright side, if not, perhaps, the loopholes.


BUSH: Well, I haven't had a chance to fully review what the court said, Jerry, (INAUDIBLE) - I wish I had, or I could have given you a better answer. I, as I say, we take this, the finding seriously. And, you know, I, as I understand it, now, don't, please don't hold me to this, that there is a way forward with military tribunals in working with the United States Congress, as I understand certain senators have already been out expressing their desire to address what the Supreme Court found, and we will work with the Congress. I want to find a way forward.

TONY SNOW, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: What the Supreme Court has not said, it has not said you can't hold them, it hasn't said you can't try them, it hasn't had (INAUDIBLE) - hasn't said you have to send them back. So what you do have are matters of procedure. And, no, I don't think it weakens the president's hand.


OLBERMANN: Let's now call in the White House counsel under Richard Nixon, John Dean, also author of "Worse Than Watergate: The Secret Presidency of George W. Bush," and a commentator at the Web site

John, welcome back.


OLBERMANN: In the simplest of terms, the case appears to have been a test of the president's rather broad theory of his own powers in wartime. With this decision, did the Supreme Court just say that he failed that test?

DEAN: Well, it certainly said that he'd failed the test as far as his theory about how to proceed with trying these people without due process. That obviously is going to have be to revised and off the board. I don't think that necessarily they removed the potential of military tribunals, which may indeed be a good idea if they're properly structure.

But they certainly are going to have to have some due process. I think the sleeper, Keith, is the application of the Geneva Convention that the court held in their opinion.

OLBERMANN: I was surprised by that too, that an international law was addressed by the Supreme Court, the international conventions, in any event. What do you see as the deeper meaning in that?

DEAN: Well, you know, the question is, you always have a debate when you have a four-member panel like this. You don't have the full court. And you have four people in the court holding that something is applicable, but they did very clearly say that, in at least four of the justices, that the Geneva Conventions Common Article 3 is applicable to al Qaeda.

Now this is not the quaint, antiquated convention that Mr. Gonzales once classified it. It is very applicable law, certainly as far as trying people and dealing with them. Now, whether it has a broader application or not, whether it applies to the standards of interrogation, that's the next big issue, I think, but that's harder to get standing into the court to test.

OLBERMANN: The dissenters in this ruling seem angry. Justice Thomas took an unprecedented step. He read some of his dissenting opinion aloud. Justice Scalia said he wasn't even sure the court had the right to rule, to overrule the president on this. What was the meat of their argument?

DEAN: Well, it's interesting that there were three separate dissents, all of them joined each other's dissent. Scalia, as you said, he really tested - he didn't think the court had jurisdiction, because there had been a detainee treatment act that had tried to strip jurisdiction away from the Supreme Court. The majority dispensed with that, said, Listen, the statute doesn't work, certainly not in this case. We're not going to rule on the greater issue of whether constitutionally, the Congress can take away our appellate power in habeas corpus.

But anyway, that was - upset Scalia. Thomas, who defers greatly to the president and believes he should have unfettered powers with regard to military matters and foreign affairs, in essence said, Hey, the - we should just not be in this business of trying to tell the president how to try these cases. Alito wrote a very technical opinion. He said, for example, even if Article Three does apply to these commissions, he still thinks the president had set it up properly.

So that was a much more technical - he made a much more technical ruling on the matter.

OLBERMANN: If, as Justice Brier wrote, that the court's conclusion ultimately rests upon a single ground, Congress has not issued the executive a blank check, might the president return to Congress, ask for the bank check? He's hinted as much. But what would happen if it went back to court? Would a blank check signed by Congress here have been - have gotten through - gotten past this Supreme Court, do you think?

DEAN: I'm not sure it would. You certainly are going to have some minimum requirements, the court made very clear, as far as due process. I don't think also, backing up just a little further, that the president could get a blank check today from the Congress, even from his own party. We've had people like John McCain and Chuck Hagel and a number of the moderates who just don't want to give this president a blank check in this area.

So that, I think, is not potential. But I think they will help him fashion something where he can go forward and deal with this.

OLBERMANN: Legally, any idea where the detainees at Gitmo go now?

DEAN: I think they're going to - Well, (INAUDIBLE) - we only have 10 of them, as I understand, that have been charged with anything. A great number of them, some 350, they don't know what to do with. This decision doesn't really change the status of any of them. It puts Hamdan, for example, back at base one and starting all over. So it really doesn't change much as a practical matter, and I don't think it will influence the president's decision as to whether he keeps it open or closed, based on this decision.

OLBERMANN: More impact here, perhaps, than at Gitmo.

John Dean, the White House counsel to President Nixon, author of "Worse Than Watergate." As always, sir, our greatest thanks for your perspective and your time.

DEAN: Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN: From the extraordinary legal implications to something potentially even bigger, the political implications.

I'm joined now by the national political reporter of "The Washington Post," now an MSNBC political analyst, Dana Milbank.

Thanks for your time, Dana.


Good evening, Keith.

OLBERMANN: Given how strongly the president believes in this concept of his wartime powers, how aggressively he pursued their acquisition, would it be fair to say that he's probably stunned right now by how completely the Supreme Court neutered him on this one key point?

MILBANK: Well, this depends on how insular the president is. He should not be stunned. Many of his own lawyers had told people outside, they told me, that they thought the - they were going too far, and they were going to get slapped down here. So presumably, he was getting some of that advice inside.

Instead, he decided to go with people like David Addington, the chief of staff to the vice president, who believe in this all-powerful unitary executive.

The president was - this isn't the first time this has happened. They were knocked down two years ago in the Hamdi case. Now we have the Hamdi and the Hamdan, the Tweedledee and Tweedledum, if you will, both of them saying, You don't have a blank check here, sir, and you've got to do something other.

So if he didn't get the message the first time, then I suppose he would be stunned by this.

OLBERMANN: Prime Minister Howard of Australia has just made a statement that indicates, according to the Associated Press out of Sydney, that the U.S. must quickly find an alternative to military commissions for terror suspects, which takes us back to a point that I raised with John Dean, the possibility, if not the probability, of Mr. Bush going back to Congress on this issue to try again. John had some doubts. Is it a fight he could win? Is it a fight the Republicans might turn to their advantage, because that had that prospect of putting the Democrats on the defensive on counterterrorism all over again?

MILBANK: Yes, I don't have many doubts about that. I think Congress is eager, if not to give him a blank check, they'll, you know, they'll let him fill in the amount. But it's very clear that this Congress wants a little bit of face saving. What they were objecting to is not so much the program itself, but that they weren't being consulted on it. Same thing with the national security eavesdropping arrangement. It's not that they object just to the program, they just want to be kept in the loop on this.

Already lawmakers have come forward and said they - Arlen Specter today introduced legislation already. So it's going to - it's quite clear. And Dan Bartlett, the president's communications guy, is already saying they're willing to say that people who (INAUDIBLE) this want terrorists to be released out into the open. So they're willing to play some dirty pool here.

OLBERMANN: So we're going to have a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on this, Armed Services Committee hearings as well. But the idea that the Senate and House are involved now, is that potentially as much of a blow to the president and his perception of his role and what he's supposed to be doing in this country as the actual ruling relating to Gitmo? Is just the process that we've talked about as dangerous to him?

MILBANK: Well, it's not necessarily dangerous politically. But it's definitely going to be a change of his mindset. And this happened even predating September 11 with the energy task force and other efforts to just keep Congress out of the loop, not being briefed, not getting officials up there on this. I - presumably, that message is beginning to get through there.

And I think what they're finding is that Congress likes to make a lot of noise about this, but ultimately, if they just get the briefing they've asked for, they're pretty much going to do the president's bidding, and Specter at the Judiciary Committee has, he's written letters, he's held hearings, but ultimately, in every instance, he's come around to the administration's point of view.

OLBERMANN: And the last point, I'm a little confused. Obviously we thought that there would be a Republican slant permanently, or at least till the next vacancy in the Supreme Court, a rubber stamp, if you will, and that was not the case, as we had those three votes from three Republican presidential appointees. So I'm trying, I'm very confused in keeping all the events of the week together. How was the Supreme Court decision the fault of "The New York Times"?

MILBANK: Well, at least it wasn't "The Washington Post." Now, we have to remember, they have two new justices on the court, but they're not necessarily replacing justices who disagreed here. Now, certainly Alito is closer to the administration than O'Connor was. She opposed the administration in the original case.

The important justice is the next one. And, you know, the guy who wrote this, Justice Stevens, 86 years old. Still in good health, but he's the one that is - that could potentially change everything here. And that's what we're going to watch, whether he can hold out another couple of years.

OLBERMANN: Dana Milbank of "The Washington Post," and now MSNBC.

Great thanks for your time, Dana.

MILBANK: Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN: Also here, the severe flooding in the Northeast. The bull's eye, Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, catching a huge break. But communities along the Delaware River were not so lucky.

Dodging something much different in Oklahoma, all that automatic machine-gun fire. Don't worry, this is not an actual war in Oklahoma, it's just good, clean fun. Find out what it was like to attend the full auto shoot, where they blowed 'em up, they blowed 'em up real good.

You are watching Countdown on MSNBC.


OLBERMANN: Whether from the vagaries of Providence or luck, some communities in the Northeast, already flooded, have been spared the worst-case scenario, failing levees. Wednesday the worry was for Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, an evacuation ordered from the rising waters of the mighty Susquehanna. But the 41-foot flood wall there held.

Yet in our fourth story on the Countdown, it's now the Delaware River that is deemed the most dangerous. And though the waters may have crested there, the full damage has yet to be calculated.

Our correspondent in Yardley, Pennsylvania, is Lisa Daniels. Lisa?


Just a few minutes ago, it began to rain. And, in fact, as we were talking, I just felt a couple of drops. This is really the last thing this area needs, more water. But we're told that heavy thunderstorms are on the way. Of course, the biggest challenge now is getting rid of all this standing water, both here and in the Northeast.


DANIELS (voice-over): No matter where you look, over a 40,000-square-mile area, water, lots of it, flooded streets, swollen rivers, and moving debris. On the ground, muddy water everywhere. Today's concern, the Delaware River finally cresting late this afternoon, in many places several feet shy of flood stage.

GOV. ED RENDELL (D), PENNSYLVANIA: We were lucky to an extent, but the damage told to Pennsylvania is, at this moment, not calculable.

DANIELS: In Rickelsville (ph), Pennsylvania, walking became an art form, a combination of wading and swimming. Kimberly Weeder (ph) could do little but watch the water swirl right through her house.

KIMBERLY WEEDER, RICKELSVILLE RESIDENT: If it rains more, then I'll be doing a lot of crying.

DANIELS: Binghamton, New York, saw the worst flooding in that city's history, the estimated damage in the millions, according to the New York governor's office.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Basically, it looks like if you took a dollhouse and dropped it in a swimming pool, that's what it looks like.

DANIELS: The popular tourist destination of New Hope, Pennsylvania, looked more like a ghost town, the only big attraction, the flood itself, not the holiday weekend this antique shop owner was hoping for.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Most of the businesses lost quite a bit of business.

DANIELS: Trenton, New Jersey, witnessed the worst flooding since the great floods of 1955 made headlines. Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, had braced for the worst but was spared a disaster. Today, the mandatory evacuation order was lifted, 200,000 evacuees allowed to return to their homes.


DANIELS: And Keith, even after all the water is cleared, officials still have a big job ahead of them. They've got to clear the mud, the debris, the oil, the gas, anything that's in this water. This is a neighborhood. There are homes here, there are businesses, over to my right there's a gas station. So this project is not going to just take days, it could take weeks, it could take months, Keith.

OLBERMANN: And that's after the waters stop rising. What is being done in the interim, Lisa?

DANIELS: Well, actually, officials tell us that FEMA is sending about 90 trucks this way. Originally, they were supposed to go to Massachusetts, but we're told that Pennsylvania authorities got on the phone and said, Hey, we need help here. Now, we're also told that they're going to have cots, meals, blankets, everything that will help residents in this area.

And neighbors tell me that the thing that is getting them through this is help from other neighbors. They say spirits have been up, people have been very cooperative. So that's one good thing to hear, Keith.

OLBERMANN: FEMA getting another chance. Lisa Daniels in Yardley, Pennsylvania, just across the river from Trenton, New Jersey. Many thanks. Stay Dry.

And lessons keep coming out of Louisiana long after the floodwaters from Katrina had subsided. The maximum sentence, 15 years, imposed on three convicted looters in Kenner, Louisiana. The judge said he wanted to send a message. Cornell Little, Rhonda McGowan (ph), and Paul Pearson (ph) found guilty by a jury in May. They had attempted to leave a grocery store with bottles of liquor, wine, and beer six days after Hurricane Katrina made landfall last September.

A tougher new law for looting during a state emergency, or state of emergency, went into effect two weeks before the storm, and the trio the first to be convicted under it.

Also here, now, this car did not get shrunk at the dry cleaners.

Sixty miles to the gallon, and you can keep it under your desk?

Maybe Juan Valdez will get one now that he's retired, turning in the donkey and the coffee beans for a whole new way of life for one of the most famous commercial actors of all time.

That and more, ahead on Countdown.


OLBERMANN: A bewildering variety of birthdays on June 29. The great actor Slim Pickens from "Dr. Strangelove," the great British actor Ian Bannon, the violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter, and, of course, my own hero, the inimitable Richard Lewis, comedian, raconteur, and bon vivant, and I'm not telling you how old he is now. He's got enough troubles.

In honor of the birthday of the man his friends know as The Prince, let's play Oddball.

We begin in Bogota, Colombia, for rare footage of the most sacred of events, the passing of the Juan Valdez. Yes, after 37 years as Colombian coffee ambassador to the world, it is time for the actor, Carlos Sanchez, to turn in his mule and poncho. (INAUDIBLE) look at his mule.

And a new Juan Valdez will become the guy carrying the bean sack, taking it up and carrying it around the globe with his trusty mule, Conchita. Fresh blood time. It was an emotional ceremony, but a necessary one in the endless cycle of a coffee mascot life, the famous hack handed over to the next generation. And for a moment, the future and the past joined together in an uncomfortable and slightly too long embrace.

For the old Juan Valdez hands over the keys to his ass, and then wanders off into the bean fields to get a gig as a big talking drumstick at a local chicken restaurant, or possibly to get in line to become the next Dr. Who. Safe home, old Juan Valdez, safe home.

To Germany, where once again the sport of soccer is made more interesting when it's being played by inanimate objects, or, in this case, animated inanimate objects, Legos. Ohh. This movie will be playing in more than 60 German theaters to celebrate the World Cup. It is the second such film made by three young Danish men. Their first Legos-playing-soccer film hailed by the German magazine "Der Spiegel" as one of the greatest films about soccer ever made. Yes, one of the greatest.

Pastimes of a much different variety, explosions, rat-a-tat-tattin', it's the full auto show, took America by storm when we showed it to you earlier. Now we'll answer all the burning questions you have about it.

And there's just one big question for this. Why? Why? Michael Musto will once again try to get inside the mind of Britney Spears, if any.

These stories ahead.

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

Number three, six British Airways flight attendants facing disciplinary action for having missed a New York-to-London flight, which was then cancelled because of their absence. Their explanation, they were too tired to work after being kept awake at their New York hotel by prostitutes and pimps.

Number two, Steve Monaghetti, one of the top marathon runners in Australia, who has now proved the point of critics of the commuter rail service (INAUDIBLE) in Sydney. To go from Summerhill Station to Lewisham Station to Crystal Street Station to Standmore Station, it took the 8:14 train just about eight minutes. Monaghetti ran the same route alongside the tracks, crossing intersections and stopping at Don't Walk signs in seven minutes and seven seconds. He literally outran the train.

And number one, another example of World Cup soccer fever, from which we in this country are mercifully immune. An unnamed fan in Beijing, his home caught fire at 3:00 in the morning, just as the telecast of the France-Spain match began. His wife clutched her baby in her arms and ran to safety. The man clutched his television in his arms, and also ran to safety, and promptly plugged the TV in a nearby outdoor electrical outlet.


OLBERMANN: Not only did we think it was the most awesome field report we've seen in a long time, apparently you the viewer thought so too when we shared it Tuesday night this week. So, in our third story in the Countdown, let's do it all again. This time with more of an explanation. It's a bonus airing of the first edition of "Keith Olberman's America" beginning with the 46th state, the land of black gold and ratings gold, apparently. A little town in the north east corner of Oklahoma called Wyandotte, a place that takes the term "gun country" to a whole new level. Galen Culver of affiliate KFOR reported this for us, he'll join us in a moment to explain. First, let us revel once again as he takes to Oklahoma's fifth annual Full Auto Shoot.


GALEN CULVER, KFOR-TV, REPORTER: Most people think they're illegal, that you can go to jail for owning or even firing an automatic weapon. But folks here know better, every year they flock to northeast Oklahoma for a chance to shoot fully automatic weapons.


CULVER: Mike Friend began this event five years for his customer who is wanted a bigger experience than just his indoor range. At this remote spot, just a riffle shot from the Missouri state line, they can really let 'er rip.

FRIEND: They come out here to see the things, the real thing work.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Once you do it, you're hooked.

CULVER: Paul Ware brings his son, Austin, every year.

PAUL WARE, SHOOTER: He's 12 years old, probably got as much trigger time on (INAUDIBLE) on a full auto than a lot of our military guys there.

CULVER: There are grandpas who bring their grandsons.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How did you like that? It was fun, wasn't it, bud?


CULVER: Husbands and wife's and people from other countries.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, this is first time I ever knew about it.

CULVER: They come to satisfy curiosity and watch stuff blow up.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you enjoy the noise and the smoke and the smell, you can get it all right here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You don't understand it until you come out here and try it. The ladies will come out here and they're just not that enthused with it until they pick one up and shoot it, then they're back every year.

CULVER: Ben LePrairie (ph) sent a year with the Marines in Iraq, he couldn't get enough.

BEN LEPRAIRIE, U.S. MARINE: Oh yeah, I'm having a blast.

CULVER: Glen Moore paid handsomely for his World War II era Browning (ph) .50 caliber, but he's happy, too.

GLEN MOORE, SHOOTER: Rush. Big rush. I love it. (INAUDIBLE) excellent investment.

CULVER: They're gun owners and gun renters, shooting at targets like washing machines and exploding cars.


In a remote spot in far Northeast Oklahoma, a hail of lead rains down on a vacant hillside. Over a long weekend, these folks call that a hail of a good time.

Near Wyandotte, Galen Culver, News Channel 4. Is this a great state or what?


OLBERMANN: Sure is. Galen Culver joins us now from the great state of Oklahoma to share more about his experiences at the Oklahoma Full Auto Show. Thanks for your time, sir.

CULVER: You're welcome.

OLBERMANN: I've got to ask you first. Gauge the reaction when you showed this on your newscast. I mean, I got the feeling here that however much some of us talk about gun control, at heart, almost all of like to watch it taken to this kind of extreme. Is that the reaction there?

CULVER: Oh yeah. The first I'd heard of it was from a phone call somebody said you might want to check this out. I watched last year's highlights on the web, it was kind of a five-minute real and the consensus in our newsrom you have to go, no matter what you do, you got to be there. So I called up my friend and couple of the people from the Firing Line which is a business that rents automatic weapons and they said, sure, come on out. So I did, and I wasn't sorry.

OLBERMANN: Is there an age limit do you have to be a certain height to operate the machinegun or what?

CULVER: The one boy I saw there that I interviewed was seven. I did see anybody younger than him, but I did see a few kids out there. Somehow I don't think so. The 2005 highlights had a little girl in there that couldn't have been more than six. You know, I think as long as one of the range officials is willing to let you in and the person that owns that automatic weapon is are going to let squeeze the trigger, you can do it no matter how young you are or old.

OLBERMANN: Are there are background checks? What's the process for admission? You just walk up and you start shooting stuff?

CULVER: The admission for the general public was $10. To own an automatic weapon like that, like the ones you saw, requires, from what I'm told, an extensive ATF application process and a thick check book, so it is not easy to own one, but it is possible if you have enough cash to go and fire one without my kind of background check.

OLBERMANN: Did you find out about the extent, the geographic extent of these things? Is it limited to Oklahoma? Is it just the part of the country? Is it the whole nation that has these full auto shows that we didn't know about until now?

CULVER: This one is a pretty big draw. The shoots I heard about, there's one in Waco apparently, it's not quite as big. And this one keeps getting bigger. They had their one day attendance on Saturday which surpassed their attendance for all of last year's events. So, I think over two days they definitely set record for their attendance. But, you know, it's kind of hard a place to do this. It has to be extremely remote and, you know, so I don't think there's very many. But the people who own automatic weapons like to get out and fire them and it's better than an indoor range and you know, you can blow stuff up at a remote event like this.

OLBERMANN: Yeah, what's the point of owning one if you can't blow stuff up with it? Are there neighbors to complain about this? Is there somebody living on the other side of that hill going, here we go?

CULVER: Well, Wyandotte is a remote area in and of itself. It's right next to the Missouri border. And it's kind of - it's well outside of Wyandotte. I think Miller Flats is the closest community that I saw and it's down a dirt road, you know, over the hill and dale and then another several miles and dirt roads to finally get to where you - where they were shooting. The fire line itself is about 400 feet long, but to get to it was quite a ways off the highway.

OLBERMANN: The exploding car was the thing, obviously, that got the most attention. Do you have any idea how they rigged that up?

CULVER: I heard gasoline bombs and a good deal of gun powder. They're actually some businesses, I saw two there that are in the business of making exploding targets. I didn't know that, but that's another story from down the road. But yeah, they're there. And if you want they'll rig something to blow up if you shoot it just right and they had several of those out there including just targets, just to blow up for the heck of it.

OLBERMANN: And that dishwasher, Galen, was that there, that dishwashing machine, was that there all the time? Did that just happened to be in there or did somebody bring it with them or how did that wind up out there?

CULVER: I think that was placed.


CULVER: Along with all the other things there. You know, I got there in the afternoon and after they pretty well shot things up. They would shut the line down officially for the fire department to go out and put out grass fires and then at certain points they would shut down the line for a little bit longer period to place more explosives and - they called that car thing "kill the car" where they suspend it on a rope and then a sharp shooter hits the rope and the car starts moving and then the whole line opens up.

OLBERMANN: So, all what we saw there was stuff that most of it had happened before you got there, that is the most amazing part of the whole thing. Galen Culver of KFOR in Oklahoma City. We're out of time, but the man behind the first ever installment of "Keith Olbermann America's," many thanks for sharing the hot lead of ratings success with us, sir.

From big guns to tiny cars. Let's see them shoot this, you can't even find it. Small in size, big in fuel efficiency. It's the smart car. It's a success overseas, will anyone dare get in one here. Maybe it's useful as a paperweight? And the story behind this photo. Yes, that's comedian Rush Limbaugh planting one on, oh, she's on "24" and he's on Viagra. Details ahead, but first here are Countdown's "Top 3 Sound Bites" of this day.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think the Japanese are going to like the taste of U.S. beef. As a matter of fact, I had a good slice of beef last night and you told me you did as well. You look like you're feeling pretty good.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's a difficult day for all of us at "The View."

O'BRIEN: Yes, yes. Hey Star, what's going on it looks like you put on weight.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, you know what they say the camera adds 50 pounds.

O'BRIEN: Now wait a minute, isn't it the camera as 10 pounds.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Not if you eat it

O'BRIEN: Now wait a minute.

MIKE LEONARD, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Confronting fear is scary.

(on camera): You don't like to touch fish?

I don't like to touch fish, no.


LEONARD (voice-over): Conquering ones' fears however, sometimes requires a dance with danger, but a lap dance? Now that is going too far.


OLBERMANN: Would high gas prices motivate you to buy a Smart Car. Would Viagra motivate you to kiss Rush Limbaugh? And what, if anything, is motivating Britney Spears? A plea for privacy followed up by a nude photo shoot. Logical disconnect? That's next, this is Countdown.


OLBERMANN: Oh, here we go. Gas prices nationwide reported to have risen Thursday for the fifth consecutive day, the busiest driving days of the year coming up this Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, just a coincidence, no doubt.

But in our No. 2 story in the Countdown, if you're willing to give up perks and trade your SUV in for a vehicle that looks like a little large Matchbox car we can get you 40 to 60 miles an gallon, please. Out of Chicago, Janet Shamlian reports on the Smart Car also known as the small car.


JANET SHAMLIAN, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (on camera): It's the Mini Me of the auto industry. Already zipping all over Europe, the Smart Car is crossing the pond.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Daimler Chrysler will bring Smart to the U.S. in the first quarter of 2008.

SHAMLIAN: This pint-sized ride offers two seats and not much else, unless you count between 40 and 60 miles to the gallon.

CSABA CSERE, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF "CAR AND DRIVER" MAGAZINE: This car is very novel. There's nothing else like it, it's neat, and there's going to be a group of people who love that.

SHAMLIAN: But can an overgrown golf cart safely do battle with the road's big boys? It comes with airbags and it's makers say it's done well in crash tests.

ROGER PENSKE, CHAIRMAN, UNITED AUTO GROUP: When you think about a vehicle that can 600 miles on a tank full of fuel you've got a real viable project here.

SHAMLIAN: It might be smart, but don't call it snappy. The meek 50 horse power three cylinder engine, the Smart Car barley hits 85 and at eight feet long, it looks like something out of a toy store next to those super size kings of the road.

(on camera): But parking will be such a breezed. The Smart Car is so little it fits perpendicular into parking spaces try that with any car.

(voice-over): Priced under $15,000 will it sell in

CSERE: If gas stays at $3 a gallon or goes higher that's going to be great for the Smart Car. If gas drops back to about $2 a gallon, it's going to have a tough go.

SHAMLIAN: A sassy little import, hoping for headway in the world's biggest car market. Betting Americans will want to drive smart.

Janet Shamlian, NBC News, Chicago.


OLBERMANN: Of course, no matter how smart the car is you cannot drive it back here in from the Dominican Republic. That's our segue into our world of celebrity and entertainment news, "Keeping Tabs." And three days after he was detrained at Palm Beach airport with 29 Viagra pills that were prescribed in somebody else's name there has still been no word as to whether or not Florida prosecutors think comedian Rush Limbaugh violated his plea arrangements on those doctor shopping charges. But there is something. Perhaps this will refresh your memory. That's Mr. Limbaugh at a panel discussion on the TV series "24" at the Heritage Foundation in Washington last week. Ad he appears to be doing more than just discussing things with the actress Mary Lynn Rajskub who plays computer technician Chloe O'Brien on the show. The Washington political insider publication "Roll Call" has printed rumors to the effect that Limbaugh and Rajskub, once in the fabled spoof the "Larry Sander's Show" are dating. We'll leave you to decide whether this would be a step up from her exboyfriend comic David Cross.

In the meantime there is this cosmic fact, all of human history divides evenly into two categories. Those time when Pamela Anderson is nude and those times when Pamela is preparing to get nude. We're on the cusp again, Ms. Anderson bearing her flesh again, this time in protest of Hollywood celebrities who wear fur and especially, she says, those like Beyonce Knowles and Jennifer Lopez, who are putting fur product into their clothing lines. Why she chose to make this protest in the window of Stella McCartney's clothing boutique in London, England I do not know. I do know that this happens frequently enough that schedules for when Ms. Anderson will be naked in public are often included in local and national weather forecasts.

There's nude protests and then there's nude just for the sake of being nude. Just wondering if this really is the best way for La Spears to get the privacy she says she longs for. Michael Musto analyzes that. First time for Countdown's latest list of nominees for "Worst Person in the World."

The bronze to a couple blazing a path of larceny across central Florida. The weapon of choice for this modern day Bonnie and Clyde? A $20 bill attached to a ribbon several feet long. They keep putting the $20 bill in change making machines at car washes. They get $20 in change, and then they retrieve the bill from the machines by pulling gently on the ribbon. Police believe they have walked away so far with more than $20,000.

Our runner-up, Fateh Mohammad, an inmate at a prison in Multan in Pakistan. He was experiencing a little difficulty in the gastrointestinal tract, please. Doctors examined him and discovered that there was a light bulb in his anus. Well, there's your problem right there. Mr. Mohammed insists he has no idea how it got there. He believes he must have been drugged into a comatose state, in prison, and the bulb hidden on him without him knowing anything about it. Me, I'm thinking he was trying to do the Uncle Fester bit with the "Adam's Family" but had really bad instructions.

But our winner, San Francisco radio host, Melanie Morgan. Not only has she suggested seriously that "New York Times" executive editor, Bill Keller, be jailed for treason, but now she tells the "San Francisco Chronicle," "If he were to be tried and convicted I would have no problem with him being sent to the gas chamber." Hey, somebody want to check Ms. Morgan for light bulbs?

Melanie Morgan, today's "Worst Person in the World."


OLBERMANN: You should know by now that Britney Spears wants her privacy. She told us herself during that interview with Matt Lauer in between the gum-chewing. "Yeah," she said, she would like to have the paparazzi leave her alone. The thought of them made her cry. So, in our No. 1 story in the Countdown, she intent in taking back control of her and her image, she wants her privacy and she wants it, apparently, right after this. The cover of the August issue of "Harper's Bazaar" magazine, a six months pregnant and naked Britney Spears. Right, not naked exactly, she is wearing a necklace. That's how to protect your privacy. More photos inside the issue, also necked, one holding baby Shawn, none holding hubby Kevin Federline, and once again, you forgot the old saw, don't ever take a picture naked, somebody might publish it.

Let's call in "Village Voice" columnist, Michael Musto for details.

Michael, hello.


OLBERMANN: If a picture's worth a thousand words, what on earth is Ms. Spears telling us here?

MUSTO: Well, there's a theory these pictures were taken before she was pregnant. It was just a bad nacho day. But, no, no, no, she's defiantly with child. I think what's she's saying is, I hates publicity except for the hate part. She's also saying that birthing is natural and beautiful and should be shown. I totally agree with that, but still I'm glad that every issue is coming with a vomit bag. And I cannot wait until she breaks one or we're going to need Jacques Cousteau to choose that one.

OLBERMANN: The life aquatic.

MUSTO: Yeah.

OLBERMANN: What do you think the inspiration here was, that famous Demi Moore "Vanity Fair" cover from 15 years ago or the - that unauthorized statue of Britney Spears, herself, nude on a bearskin rug giving birth?

MUSTO: That statue was like a white trash prequel into the (INAUDIBLE), bit I don't think that even kitsch art would inspire Britney, and that includes Demi Moore, by the way. I think she was inspired by Angelina who most recently pimped her baby. Britney did one better, she skipped the middle man and she pimped out her belly. You know? And now we know why Britney went back to being brunette, because she wanted the hair to match on the photos.

OLBERMANN: Oh. All right, quickly moving on to the cover here, and I'm a little surprised by one thing here. It says, "Fall shopping preview. Get perfect skin. Great fashion for every age. Nothing to wear - 487 best new ideas inside." Which one of those is the title reference to Ms. Spears?

MUSTO: I'm going to go with the obvious and say the 487 ideas, which id you notice is not positioned by her head on the cover, it's but between her legs. OK? No, I knew that was a very fertile region, but I had no idea there were that many exciting ideas up there. I mean two or 300 maybe, but 487? I just thought of 488. Keep that thing away from me.

OLBERMANN: I think it's time to take a fieldtrip. We're also hearing that as soon as Ms. Spears gets dressed, she going to move back home to Baton Rouge. "In Touch Weekly" says she's seeking a simple life, planning to move into her mother's house. She's going to renovate it, she'll even buy an extra home nearby so Mr. Federline will have somewhere to go when he gets tired of her mom, or vice versa. You want to reality check that story for us?

MUSTO: You know, I love the idea that K-Fed might get sick of mom and not vice-versa. But anyway, Baton Rouge might be Namibia, but it is very private. It's a great idea. Posing naked while pregnant is not a good idea for privacy, but that's why I love Britney, she's my favorite conundrum. She's a contradiction, like L.A. style or Army Intelligence or a Madonna movie.

OLBERMANN: And while we're on the subject of conundrums, let's turn over from the naked pop star, to the naked hostility between the erased co-host of "The View," Star Jones, and Barbara Walters. Ms. Jones complaining that Barbara Walters offered Rosie O'Donnell a job on the program during the very week O'Donnell was attacking Jones publicly. Ms. Jones now says, "For Barbara to say she felt betrayed is the height of hypocrisy." Is the feud peaked or is - or are we going further than this?

MUSTO: Oh, it's so not over. Star is so angry her stomach staple popped. Baba is so angry that her hair moved, if not her face. But it all makes sense to me, I mean, Baba hates Star, Wosie twashes Star, Baba hires Wosie. What doesn't make sense to you, Star?

OLBERMANN: Is there a message that you better not try to sell naming rights to your wedding or that Rosie O'Donnell still runs this town or what's the message in this?

MUSTO: The message is partly that Wosie wules, but also there are other messages like, don't be against gay marriage and then marry a gay. That's hypocritical. Don't have your wedding be so sponsored that your vows are 'til the end or our Swatch watches do us part. And don't (INAUDIBLE) Debbie Matenopoulos, because have you seen her lately?

OLBERMANN: The one and only Michael Musto, always more entertaining than the celebrities he covers. Great thanks for your time, Michael.

MUSTO: Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN: That's Countdown, for this the 1,155th day since the declaration of "Mission Accomplished" in Iraq. I'm Keith Olbermann. Goodnight and good luck.

Our MSNBC coverage continues now with "Scarborough Country."