Friday, September 29, 2006

'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Sept. 29

Guests: Dana Milbank, Craig Crawford

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

The president goes to the National Book Festival gala at the Library of Congress. Guess which book he won't be picking up? Yes, that too. But I meant Bob Woodward's "Denial," which has exploded over Washington.


TONY SNOW, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: In a lot of ways, the book's sort of like cotton candy. It kind of melts on contact.


OLBERMANN: Get him a copy of "My Pet Goat."

More whistling past graveyards. Roger Ailes thanks Bill Clinton for $100,000 worth of free publicity, and rips his response as an attack on all journalists, even though it was Ailes who scripted the infamous George H.W. Bush attack on Dan Rather.


GEORGE H.W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Dan, let's be careful here, because .

DAN RATHER, CBS NEWS: I want you to be careful, Mr. Vice President.


BUSH: It's not fair to judge my whole career by a rehash on Iran.


OLBERMANN: Two careers we may not have to rehash any more. Mark Foley, the congressman from the contested Florida district in the 2000 election, resigns after dubious e-mails to a 16-year-old boy.

George Allen, the senator from Virginia, not gone, but maybe going.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He was kind of showing off, I guess, but he was telling a story about something or other, and in the story was a lot of N-words.


OLBERMANN: And drop in from anywhere and keep your eyes peeled. But first, would you please rise as we start the Oddball Plays of the Month with our National Anthem.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (singing):... by the dawn's early light...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (singing):... by the dawn's early light...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (singing):... by the dawn's early light...

REP. DENNIS HASTERT, SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE (singing):... by the star-spa - early light...


OLBERMANN: Now, now, just because that's the guy claiming Democrats are un-American, no reason for everybody to riot all at once.

All that and more, now on Countdown.




OLBERMANN: Good evening from New York. This is Friday, September 29, 39 days until the 2006 midterm elections.

The last week of September proving to be a week of pre-October surprises for the Bush administration.

Our fifth story on the Countdown, it started with the president's view of Iraq being contradicted by all 16 of his intelligence agencies. It ends with even more bombshell charges that the administration is essentially, if not literally, lying about everything from the amount of violence there to how desperately Vice President Cheney tried almost personally to locate weapons of mass destruction there, to how close Defense Secretary Rumsfeld came to getting fired.

The president with no public comment today about the controversy, he and Mrs. Bush tonight attending the National Book Festival gala at the Library of Congress, oh, irony of ironies. One book unlikely to be found on his nightstand anytime soon, Bob Woodward's "State of Denial: Bush at War, Part 3," the Watergate ace's first two books about the presidency offering flattering portrayals of Mr. Bush as commander in chief, this, the third, painting a far different picture, of a dysfunctional administration torn apart by the war in Iraq.

Among the charges, according to a copy purchased before publication by "The New York Times" and portions read by our own Andrew Mitchell that in September 2003 the White House ignored a warning from a top adviser that as many as 40,000 additional ground troops were desperately need to quell the insurgency; that in November of the same year, Mr. Bush refused to let members of his cabinet even use the word "insurgency" to describe the situation in Iraq; that at the end of 2005, then-White House chief of staff Andy Card, with the support of the first lady, pushed for Mr. Rumsfeld's resignation or dismissal, with former secretary of state James Baker to replace him, but was overruled by the president himself; that Mr. Bush's own parents, Bush 41 and Barbara, both had misgivings about the invasion of Iraq; and that the vice president was so certain there had to be WMD in Iraq that he called then-chiefs weapons inspector Dr. David Kay at 3:00 in the morning with a list of locations at which Mr. Cheney thought they would be found, and; as Mr. Woodward himself tells Mike Wallace on "60 Minutes" on CBS this Sunday, that the administration is not telling the truth regarding the level of violence in Iraq, especially against U.S. troops.


BOB WOODWARD, AUTHOR, "STATE OF DENIAL": The assessment by the intelligence experts is that next year - now, next year's 2007 - is going to get worse. And in public, you have the president and you have the Pentagon saying, Oh, no, things are going to get better.

Now, there's public, and then there's private. But what did they do with the private? They stamp it secret. No one's supposed to know. Why is that secret? The insurgents know what they're doing. They know the level of violence and how effective they are. Who doesn't know? The American public.


OLBERMANN: One of the most respected journalists in this country coming awfully close to calling the president a liar.

Not exactly how the administration hoped it would be debating the war in Iraq little more than five weeks before election day, the official response from members of the administration today that Mr. Woodward's charges literally dissolve upon closer inspection, if - that is, if - one has actually opened the book.


DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: I haven't seen the book. I haven't head his first two books yet either. So I don't - I wouldn't hold your breath on this one.

Well, first of all, I haven't read it. Second, I don't know what you're referring to. And third, you can find somebody in government to say almost anything.

SNOW: In a lot of ways, the book's sort of like cotton candy. It kind of melts on contact. We've read this book before. This tends to repeat what we've seen in a number of other books that have been out this year, where people are ventilating old disputes over troop levels.

Like, this is war, and you are going to have a lot of really smart people with completely different opinions. And quite often, in a book like this, you're going to see people who are on the losing side of arguments being especially outspoken about their opinions, and nobody listened to them. As a matter of fact, the average Washington memoir ought to be subtitled, "If only they'd listened to me."

And so you have a situation in which a lot of people are going back through that, which is fine, because these are smart people, and they also want to win.

Rather than a state of denial, it's state of the obvious, which is that there have been a number of disagreements over the years about troop levels, and very - people with very strong opinions have disagreed with this.


OLBERMANN: Disagreements, like, is it an elephant, or is it a mouse? No surprise that commenting on what is the equivalent of cod liver oil for members of the administration, it is quickly being seized upon as manna from heaven by members of the Democratic Party.


REP. CARL LEVIN (D), MICHIGAN: That state of denial continues to this day. And if the president refuses to see problems in Iraq, he's not going to consider ways to change the dynamic in Iraq.

SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: This administration shows a lot of strength on the war on terror, but not much in terms of smarts. The evidence keeps pouring out that the administration doesn't know what it's doing on issue after issue after issue.

SEN. JACK REED (D), RHODE ISLAND: Maybe none of this was avoidable. But it appears, from what's being reported by Woodward and others, that no real effort was made to try to avoid it. No planning, no effort, no focus, no attention.


OLBERMANN: Time now to call in our own Dana Milbank, also the national political reporter, of course, of "The Washington Post."

Dana, good evening.


Good evening, Keith.

OLBERMANN: President Bush has long said the only voices he listens to regarding Iraq are those of the commanders on the ground there. In the face of Mr. Woodward's book, and the charges therein, is that credible any more? Do we need to start wondering if the only voices he listens to are the ones inside his own head?

MILBANK: And a particular one, a high-ranking fellow across the river in the Pentagon. No, of course we - in the first place, look, we had General Batiste telling Congress earlier this week, all kinds of generals have been asking for higher troop levels all along.

So it comes as no surprise. But Woodward has now filled in the details here, and pretty excruciating detail here. We now have John Abizaid, the commander of Central Command, telling John Murtha, the man who's asked for a pullout from Iraq, that they are just a tiny bit apart in terms of their own views on this. We find out that a top official on Iraq in the National Security Council was asking for more troops.

So it sounds like we have the president and this triumvirate of Karl Rove, Dick Cheney, and Don Rumsfeld going their own way despite everything they're being told by everybody else.

OLBERMANN: Is that the primary problem resulting from this for the administration? And if not, which part of the laundry list in the Woodward book appears to be most damaging for the administration?

MILBANK: Well, a couple of things. One is that it certainly lays out

and if Bob Woodward isn't saying the president is lying, he's certainly making a compelling case that he was - that he was warned as early as June of 2003 that things were going wrong there.

So the lying aspect is potentially extremely damaging to the president.

Also the tragedy that people like Jay Garner were saying very early on, if we address this now, and we fix it, we've still have a shot at getting this right, and those suggestions were ignored.

OLBERMANN: Is there any indication - I mean, you wouldn't think so listening to Mr. Snow today, but is there any indication that having the rhetoric - maybe changing the rhetoric in the - basically in the outing of the president's dishonesty on this might be a good idea? Is there anybody arguing within the administration that we need to change the message, not continue to pretend it's the messenger's fault?

MILBANK: Well, Andy Card was, but now he's in retirement. So, no, of course not. I mean, we've seen it. Past is prologue. Whenever the administration is being challenged, it merely circles the wagons. So if anything, this kind of a book is going to be more job security for Don Rumsfeld, and more stay-the-course the rhetoric.

We find out that the president's speechwriters being giving 1969 memos written by Henry Kissinger about the dangers of pulling out of Vietnam. So clearly, we're not looking for new rhetoric here.

OLBERMANN: Does the Woodward book affect the election in any way, even if only by serving to be this week's galvanizing force regarding the Democrats and people who are opposed to this war?

MILBANK: Well, right, it doesn't tell people things they didn't necessarily know in the first place, but it's a validation, particularly because Woodward's first two books, particularly his first one on the Bush administration, were very flattering. The administration essentially endorsed it.

So now that they've gone and endorsed Woodward, he's come back and bit them with this book. It confirms what a lot of people suspected, that the Iraq war has become a debacle, and the administration's not been honest about it.

OLBERMANN: Dana Milbank of MSNBC and "The Washington Post." As always, Dana, great thanks for your time. Have a good weekend.

MILBANK: Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN: This programming note, on this newshour Monday, we will assess the administration's handling of the war in Iraq with the man who was just mentioned there by Dana Milbank, Major General John Batiste, retired, leader of the 1st Infantry Division on the ground in Iraq, who says he was among those who asked for more troops and was turned down. Major General John Batiste, Monday on Countdown, 8:00 p.m. and midnight Eastern, 5:00 and 9:00 p.m. Pacific.

Finally, our reporting on Iraq tonight would not be complete without late word out of Iraq tonight that suddenly and without warning today, the city of Baghdad was put under an unexplained curfew, the Iraqi government saying only that it shut the city down till Sunday morning for specific intelligence reasons and security concerns, our own Richard Engel reporting from Baghdad tonight that Iraq's deputy prime minister says he has uncovered evidence that the Iraqi military had been planning to perform a coup, which an Iraqi government spokesman says never got beyond the planning stages.

Also here tonight, funny doggoned (ph) thing about Roger Ailes slamming Bill Clinton for slamming his anchorman. You do remember who it was who arranged for Bush 41 to slam Dan Rather, right?

And a Florida congressman exits stage right in a sex scandal. Should he hold the door open for a Virginia senator after an MSNBC exclusive, a woman who says she had a confrontation with George Allen over his use of the N-word in public?

You are watching Countdown on MSNBC.


OLBERMANN: Roger Ailes, the rotund refugee from the Ministry of Truth, was whining about how, during the taping one week ago today, President Clinton had responded to interviewer Chris Wallace breaking his network's agreement to devote half their conversation to Clinton's charitable effort, the Global Initiative. "It was an attack on all journalists," said Ailes between pies.

Then, in our fourth story on the Countdown tonight, Ailes told "The Chicago Tribune" that he was delighted about how much publicity the Clinton interview had gathered for Fox News at the time of its current ratings crisis.

A light bulb went off slowly, but it's blazing right now. Remember this infamous CBS "Evening News" interview with then-vice president, then presidential candidate, George H.W. Bush, in 1988? You know who the media adviser was who set this up, who was literally holding the cue cards from which Mr. Bush read his prepackaged umbrage? Roger Ailes.



GEORGE H.W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:... whole career, it's not fair to judge my whole career by a rehash on Iran. How would you like it if I judged your career by those seven minutes when you walked off the set in New York? Would you like that?


BUSH: I have respect for you. But I don't have respect for what you're doing here tonight.


OLBERMANN: Dan Rather was forever after portrayed as attacking a sitting vice president, portrayed as a liberal. Now the effort is to paint Clinton as doing the same to Fox. And Ailes is back with another memorable quote. Don't get your hands too close to his mouth, by the way. "I would have paid him" - President Clinton - "100 grand to help us with marketing, just to get a half-hour of his time. As it turned out, I got a half-hour of his time and he did it for nothing. We're very grateful."

So donate the $100,000 to his charity, fat ass. Charity, C-H-A-R-I-T-Y.

To flesh out the Ailes story, let me call in Craig Crawford, MSNBC analyst and "Congressional Quarterly" columnist, whose terrific book, "Attack the Messenger," opens with that Ailes-Bush-Rather story.

Craig, good evening.

CRAIG CRAWFORD, "CONGRESSIONAL QUARTERLY": We got a lot of flesh to work with to flesh this one out, I think.

OLBERMANN: Yes, certainly we do.

So is Ailes whistling past graveyards here? I mean, it seems like the only publicity he actually got was within those areas where Fox is already believed. But the bad publicity certainly galvanized the Democratic Party. Is Roger Ailes slipping?

CRAWFORD: Well, they could never resist the Clintons, you know, with the conservative movement and those conservatives at Fox. I mean, if Fox were a church, you know, Clinton would surely be their devil. They've beaten him up every Sunday. And I do think, though, there was this other impact, which was that Clinton, by design or happenstance, energized a lot of the Democrats out there who have just been desperate for leadership within - from their own elected leaders, the official leaders of the party, to show that kind of passion.

OLBERMANN: Speaking of design or happenstance in a different context, obviously Bush 41's anger with Dan Rather had to be manufactured. I saw President Clinton immediately before the Wallace interview, and I interviewed him immediately after it, and he was still visibly upset that Fox had broken that deal with him, so that political end of it, Bush 41 needed cue cards to exploit the opportunity. Did Clinton just see it before him like a fumble in a football game, just ad lib, beating Chris Wallace senseless like that?

CRAWFORD: Well, yes, I've talked to so many associates of Clinton over the years, and a couple since this happened, and, you know, they always say, you know, when we see these moments, that it's the Clinton they know and knew in private, exploding with anger at sometimes the smallest things. Someone described him one time as one of those kind of people who just thinks he can just keep saying it over and over again and louder and louder, until you believe it.

And I think that, on the other hand, I would have to say, he had to be mindful that he was getting a passionate message out there to some of the Democrats who are desperate for that. And, of course, the Clintons want to be seen as the leaders of this party, for other reasons, not just this campaign, but the next one in 2008.

OLBERMANN: By the way, those same employees are the ones who like to point out that after those events, when they happen internally, the Clinton choice gift of apology is a small box that simply contains earphones - earplugs.

So, now, twice I've mentioned the first Mr. Bush and the cue cards. That's no hyperbole. You told that story so well in your book. Can you capsulize it here? It was an Ailes production, right?

CRAWFORD: Yes, I deconstructed that interview that you just played between Bush 41 and Dan Rather in the very first chapter of "Attack the Messenger," because I thought it was a real symbolic moment in a new phase in attacking the media by politicians, that entire Bush campaign, which, by the way, Roger Ailes was actually the campaign manager of that campaign.

And the cameraman in that interview that you showed earlier, the CBS cameraman, George Christian, a veteran cameraman, told me that Roger Ailes stood right next to him with a cue card, and that particular moment you showed, where Bush attacked Rather for walking out on the set and threatened to walk out on the set, that Roger Ailes had on a cue card written, "Now ask," and put the substance of that question on there.

In fact, he had to write it in really large letters, Keith, because the camera had been placed about 30 feet away from the vice president, and for the vice president to see the cue card, they had to write it in really large letters.

OLBERMANN: Wonderful. So if the Ministry of Truth, that would be Fox, and the White House have spent so much time attacking the messenger these days, why are their ratings down? Why are they firing hosts and Washington bureau chiefs over there? Why - do people seem to have figured out the game? Ailes looks a little like Rod Steiger playing Napoleon as it is. Has he hit a Waterloo?

CRAWFORD: Well, I don't know about their internals, but I do know that, you know, the Fox News Channel's much like political campaigns, where you see a strong base. They play to the base. But they reach a point where it's a little hard to broaden out from that. And we see that in politics in both Democrat and the Republican side, where they preach to the base, they use the partisan rhetoric, and have a loyal following.

But then, that very act of doing that makes it harder to branch out to the centrist, moderate, reasonable voters who don't want to hear that kind of partisanship.

OLBERMANN: I'm sure Mr. Ailes wishes that personally he could stop broadening out.

Craig Crawford. The book is "Attack the Messenger," and if you have not read especially that opening description of that original Bush-Rather interview, it is worth it just for that.

Craig, thanks for your time.

CRAWFORD: Thank you.

OLBERMANN: A new D.C. scandal mushrooming out of control in just days. Now Representative Mark Foley has resigned. A man who served as the chair of the House caucus looking into protecting children caught sending suggestive e-mails to at least one underage boy.

An outrage of a much different kind. Sure, the Animal Olympics celebrates the best of the best in the four-legged world. But are the humans just pushing these animals too hard? And is it time for revenge of the bears?

That's ahead on Countdown.


OLBERMANN: On this date in 1907, construction began on the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. It had been authorized by a vote of Congress a mere 13 years earlier. Construction had been declared completed in 1990. If you need to know anything else about our nation's capital, I can't think what it could be.

Let's play "Oddball."

We begin in China, host of the upcoming 2008 Summer Olympic Games in Beijing. And if those go anything like these, you're going to wear a flea and tick collar. It's the two-month-long Festival of Interspecies Athletic Competition and animal cruelty that is the 2006 Animal Olympics in Shanghai.

Yes, those are bears boxing. One can only hope they attacked and ate the referee between rounds and then went into the stands, because everybody knows it's the bicycle events that the bears dominate. Notice how the monkey bikes are all over the place, while Bear makes short work of the process. Stick to pole climbing, you damn dirty apes.

Back to Indian for an update on that video last night that we found on the Internets. Wait a minute, let me turn my earphone down. The creepy little dancing kid who's come to be known on the interweb as Little Superstar, we were not able to find his name, nor could we find the name of the movie or show he's appearing in, or if he does this door to door. Then again, we didn't really look for any of this information, either. What we did find was another clip of the little guy.

He smokes, he dances, he lays the smackdown. He really is a superstar.

And he'll be back, because the odd hasn't gotten even yet. An extra-special bonus edition of all the "Oddball Plays of the Month" still ahead.

And nothing funny at all from two members of the GOP, another person who clearly recalls Senator Allen using the N-word. Congressman Mark Foley apparently sent sexually explicit messages to teenage pages. He's out.

Those stories ahead.

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

Number three, the known defendant, actually the guy sitting outside the district judge's office at Greensberg, Pennsylvania, was Justin Kalich (ph), accused of stealing $600 worth of wire. So exactly why was he wearing a box on his head? Just to make sure witnesses really did recognize him at the hearing, says his lawyer. The novel disguise proved unnecessary, and Mr. Kalich agreed simply to pay for the $600 worth of wire.

Number two, student fans at North Carolina State football games. After problems with overcrowding, access to the student seating sections was limited. If you left your seat, you might not be able to get back to it. So some students did not leave for the whole game, and when they had to urinate, or worse, they just did it at the seat. The school is working on the problem. I thought it was North Carolina, not North Carolina State, where the teams were known as the Tarheels.

But number one, Pink Taco Restaurants. Having failed to buy naming rights to the new football stadium in Arizona, they claim to be interested in buying them for the new football stadium or the open football stadium in New Orleans, which would then, of course, be known as the Pink Taco Dome. If you're not already laughing, just go look this up online. I ain't gonna be the sucker who has to explain it to you.


OLBERMANN: Six weeks before Election Day, and one House representative is already gone. Our third story in the Countdown, Congressman Mark Foley, and Republican co-chair House caucus on Missing and Exploited Children, stepping down today after he was confronted today about sexually explicit instant messages he sent to minors obtained by ABC News, which also reported a class of pages in the House was warned in advance about Foley. According to ABC Foley used the AOL screen name - or screen name MAF54 in instant messages with congressional pages.

Quote, Foley, "What are you wearing?"

Teen, "T-shirt and shorts.

Foley, "Love to slip them off you," and Foley, "Do I make you a little horny," unquote?

Teen, "A little."

Foley, "Cool."

Foley, whose district, you may remember, included the key disputed precincts in the 2000 presidential election and who loudly demanded that his voters be freed from the recount, issued a statement of apology. Among his more recent accomplishments, legislation he said closed, "loopholes that sex offenders and pedophiles have used to prey on children."

Expanding reasons for sex offender registration to include "use of the internet to facilitate or commit a crime against a minor."

Meantime the father of Senator George Allen of Virginia was the famous and famously eccentric national football coach of the same name. And 15 years ago when we both worked in Los Angeles, Coach Allen and I were friendly and this saga unfolded.

Chatting with Allen at an interview, one of my producers told him, "You know, I'm a coach too, I'm the quarterback and coach of my flag football team. We've won the title three years in a row. Allen smiled.

The next day the phone rang in the producer's office. "George Allen here,

listen would you like to have lunch? I am coaching a celebrity flag

football team for some TV show and I can't quite work out my plays. I

could use your help"

For hours, George Allen picked my producer's brain on how to adopt the intricacies of pro football set plays to celebrity flag football. He filled out a handwritten playbook for flag football - for celebrity flag football. For celebrity flag football about which the celebrities could not have cared less. And we are supposed to believe that the son of a man that obsessed with the tiniest most arcane details did not know his own mother's ethnic and religious heritage until a few weeks ago.

It is not Senator's Allen's heritage that's the primary question right now, but what he has said about the heritage of others. Yesterday the senator introduced a bill that would let 72,000 black farmers seek payment under a 1999 civil rights settlement for past discrimination even though they missed the original deadline for filing. Allen's office said he responsored the bill as soon as he learned it would be considered in the house.

National Black Farmers Association president John Boyd has told Countdown this evening, he has sought Allen's help on this issue for five years. Five years during which he says some 10,000 black farmers who were waiting for that deadline extension, lost their farms, went bankrupt or died.

And all of this on the heels of still another alleged eyewitness account of Allen's past use of racial slurs. This one recounted exclusively to MSNBC's David Shuster.


DAVID SHUSTER, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Just six weeks before the congressional elections and Virginia's incumbent Senator George Allen is now facing more charges that he used racial slurs.

Pat Waring of Chesterton, Maryland first brought her story to MSNBC when she contacted us in a direct phone call. We then conducted a series of interviews. Waring says that at a sports match in the late 1970's Allen repeatedly used the "N" word to describe blacks.

PAT WARING, ALLEN ACCUSER: I just didn't think in the late '70s people would be so ugly and so overt about it, so public.

SHUSTER: Waring says that in 1978 she and her then husband, Robert Michael Schwartz, had moved to Charlesville, Virginia. Friends from the time confirm Schwartz was a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Virginia, an avid rugby player, and the volunteer coach of the school's rugby club team.

MSNBC has also confirmed, Pat Waring worked in a doctor's office and came to some of the rugby game. Waring says there was one game from either the Fall of 1978 or the Spring of 1979 that she will never forget.

WARING: I heard, to my left, the "N" word, and I heard it again and I looked around, and I heard it again. And there was this fellow sitting on the ground. He was putting on red rugby shoes. It's seared in my brain, believe me. And he was kind of showing off, I guess. But he was telling a story about something or other, and in the story was a lot of "N" words. So I got out of the bleacher and went over and said young man, I'm the coach's wife and if you don't mind, would you please not use that word? And he in essence told me to buzz off.

SHUSTER: But there is more to the story. A few weeks after the alleged incident at the rugby game, Waring said she and an elderly relative ran into Allen at a local fair.

WARING: I did not shake his hand. I just looked him in the eye and said you don't remember me do you? Then he remembered me. And then I could see the light go on in his eyes and at that point he turned and scurried off like a scared rabbit, I guess.

SHUSTER: The aunt, who allegedly witnessed the run-in at the fair, passed away. Another relative whom we spoke to said Waring told the story through the years. And several people say she talked about it this summer.

WARING: I'd thought about it since I heard that George Allen was being considered as a Republican person to run - a possible candidate for the presidency. And I thought, well gee, then in this case I will have to speak up, but then "macaca" presented itself.

SEN. GEORGE ALLEN (R) VIRGINIA: Let's give a welcome to macaca here.

Welcome to America and the real world of Virginia.

SHUSTER: Macaca is a racial slur among French speaking people from North African countries like Tunisia. Allen's mother grew up in Tunisia. But on MEET THE PRESS recently.

ALLEN: Oh, just made up. It's just made up. A made up word.

TIM RUSSERT, MEET THE PRESS: You'd never heard it before.

ALLEN: Never heard it before.

SHUSTER: This week as he has in the past, Allen repeatedly denied ever using the "N" word.

ALLEN: My response to this article is that it is completely false in its allegations. I do not remember ever using that word.

SHUSTER: Neal Brendel who played rugby with George Allen and remembers sitting at some games with Pat Waring, says he does not remember the alleged incident. Further more Brendel says, "I don't recall ever hearing Allen use the 'N' word on or off the field, nor do I recall him ever talking about anybody unfairly."

The democratic challenger to Allen in Virginia is Jim Webb.

(on camera): Have you ever had any contact with anybody in the Webb campaign or any of his supporters in Virginia?


SHUSTER: Have you ever had any contact with the Virginia Democratic Party?


SHUSTER: If George Allen was the democratic candidate in this race.

WARING: I'd nail him even harder. That's what I'd do.

SHUSTER (voice-over): Waring says she would challenge the person no matter what party they belonged to. She said the issue with Allen is not that he allegedly used the "N" word all those years ago, but that she believes he is lying today.

WARING: When George Allen stood right up and said he'd never used that word and that just blew me away. I thought "Boy, you could, if you had any integrity, you would have says, yes, I may have made some mistakes in my youth, in my younger years, but - and I am sorry." But to hear him lie about it when I know he's lying.

SHUSTER (on camera): Senator Allen's campaign manager says this is another false accusation. When asked how he knows that, he said simply, "It's not true."

The Allen campaign also said we should also report a claim made about Democrat Jim Webb. But the man we were directed to by the Allen campaign has not returned our phone calls. And until we have an opportunity to evaluate his credibility, interview him on camera and subject him to the same scrutiny we brought to the accuser in tonight's report, we will not broadcast his claims. However, our effort to cover both Senate candidates in this race will continue.

I am David Shuster for Countdown in Washington.


OLBERMANN: Thank you David. Remember the flag football playbook. Also, tonight, seven minutes in heaven or at least close to it. How Virgin Galactic is planning to take customers into zero gravity orbit. We'll get a tour.

And given her past marital history, maybe it's no surprise that Anna Nicole Smith's latest foray down aisle is anything but normal. In fact, it's not even legal, but we do have liftoff. That's ahead, this is Countdown.


OLBERMANN: A lesson in economy is the first passenger on Richard Branson's tourist spaceship scores his seat with frequent flyer miles. It could be worse, could be "Oddball's" plays of the month. Countdown continues.


OLBERMANN: Our number two story on the Countdown tonight, neat stuff in space, like this picture of the sun. See the little smudges on the left-hand side? Those are supposed to actually be the space station on the right and the space shuttle on the left silhouetted against as they orbited the earth. The photo taken by a Frenchman who rigged up a digital camera to a special telescope or is the best PhotoShopper in the world.

And if Richard Branson is successful, we should all be able to see things like that up close in space. A couple of mile closer, he's not planning on running shuttles to the sun. His company's prototype tourist spaceship was successfully it tested in 2004. Now we know what it looks like inside. Keir Simmons of our affiliated British network, ITV reports on Virgin Galactic's cabin and I helped.


KEIR SIMMONS, ITV CORRESPONDENT: The inside of the craft will have eight seats, two for pilots and six for passengers. Each passenger will have their on windows. But for seven minutes, you'll be able to unbuckle and simply float.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Three, two, one, release.

(voice-over): A prototype has already been tested and one ticket, for two years time, has even been bought by an electrician using frequent flier miles.

ALAN WATTS, SPACE PASSENGER: You got the G-forces accelerating here, that'll be interesting. You got the weightlessness, again, that'll be - how many people who like this, and, you know, that'll be very interesting.

SIMMONS: But Virgin is facing major competition from companies such as Rocketplane Kistler, Space Adventures, and Planet Space. And wanting to go suborbital, blasting 62 miles above earth will set you back 100 million pounds.

OLBERMANN (voice-over): That's $200,000.

SIMMONS: Space Adventures already offer a fully orbital flight costing 10 million pounds.

OLBERMANN: That's $20 million.

SIMMONS: And sent a female passenger into space in recent weeks. They're even planning to fly slingshot around the moon and charge 50 million pounds.

OLBERMANN: That's $100 million.

SIMMONS: It's a new space race, yet a now green Richard Branson claims it will be environmentally friendly.

RICHARD BRANSON, VIRGIN GALACTIC: We're burning a fuel that is putting almost putting out no CO2 emissions at all.

SIMMONS: Keir Simmons, ITV News, New York.


OLBERMANN: Not entirely clear when Anna Nicole smith will return from the Bahamas though lately it seems her whole life is unfolding there. Our nightly roundup of celebrity and tabloid news. Now Ms. Smith has exchanged wedding vows. The lucky guy, her long-time lawyer and spokesman and apparently boyfriend, Howard K. Stern. There was no marriage license.

The couple, "exchanged vows before God." According to Ms. Smith's other lawyer, Michael Scott, God was apparently was onboard catamaran near Nassau in the Bahamas and the ceremony was not legally binding. This just days after Mr. Stern professed he was the father of Ms. Smith's newborn daughter, Dannilynn Hope, 22-days-old. Nineteen days ago that Daniel Smith died in the mother's hospital room.

Well, the clearer picture of high definition TV makes most things look better, doesn't improve everything, case in point, apparently not Rosie O'Donnell. Philip Swan, who compiles a worst looking celebrity on high definition TV list every year, on the industry Web site, says Miss O'Donnell takes the top spot this year. Why?

According to Swan, "No one enjoys the view of Rosie in high def, most people use a washcloth to clean their face, but Rosie looks like she uses a Brillo pad. Her face is extremely coarse and rough looking in high deaf." This written by a man named Swan.

Maybe spa treatment would help. Works for him. The now hairless dude, plus idiots throwing flaming rags at each other, just some of the featured "Oddballs" of September. That's ahead, but first time for Countdown's latest list of nominees for "Worst Person in the World."

And remember to buy the book. Ahh! Must of picked up the wrong book.

But, come to think of it, check out where they put the discount sticker. Very nice. And what's with this picture? Bill-O, you're dressed up like a teenaged Olympic gymnast.

Anyway, the nominees, the Bronze to Senator Trent Lott. We got a visitation from beyond form Senator Strom Thurmond, apparently, on religious violence on Iraq. "Why do they hate each other? Why do Sunnis kill Shiites," he said, "How do they tell the difference? They all look the same to me."

Dr. James C. Burda is on the list of Athens, Ohio. He's a chiropractor, at least he was. He surrendered his license to authorities after a malpractice claim. He was charging patients $60 an hour to heal their pain telepathically. He claimed he could go back in time to point of the injury and realign the jarred bones. Hey Doc, while you're back there, could you visit me in 1991 and tell me not to regrow that stupid moustache?

But our winner - we need to clarify a previous worst. We reported that Illinois congressional candidate Peter Roskam had said his opponent Tammy Duckworth wanted to "cut and run from Iraq" even though she lost both her legs there while serving as a helicopter pilot. Jason Row from the Roskam campaign charged us with intellectual dishonesty because Roskam merely said that the Illinois sixth is "not a cut and run district."

Hey pal, this is about campaigning against a woman who has no legs because they were cut off while she served in Iraq and still being insensitive enough to use the phrase "cut and run." You leave the intellectual to us, we'll leave the dishonest to you.

Peter Roskam and staffer, Jason Row, today's "Worst Persons in the World."


OLBERMANN: Extra "Oddball," extra anniversaries. Eighteen years ago today, cartoonist Charles Adams died. He did not succumb to boiling oil dropped on him by the neighbors. He was not found in a bathing suit on a beach with a newspaper protecting his face reading "Arch Duke Ferdinand Shot at Sarajevo," he just gave into a bad heart.

But our number one story in the Countdown, we like to think that the creator of Gomez, Morticia, and Lurch lives on in our regular feature, the "Oddball: Plays of the Month."

We begin 11 kilometers off the Norwegian coast.

We begin in Jongjin (ph).

We begin at the bottom of the ocean and it's another "Saturday Night Live" sketch come to live. It's a walking shark. Land shark. Plumber ma'am.

And we begin in Chicago, where the whether is already so cold this is what your SUV will like if you leave it out overnight.

To Peoria, Illinois were the power company is about to hike its rates for the first time in 10 years. Lieutenant Governor Pat Quinn says he's got the perfect way to protest the move - teabag them fat-cats.

We begin with scary video we found on the internet. Skydiver helmet cam, and remember even at 5,000 feet, to look both ways before crossing. He appears to have survived. The same cannot be said so confident by about his underwear.

To Germany now for the hell this is.



And we begin on the gridiron in South Bend, Indiana, the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame set to take on the Wolverines of Michigan tomorrow, a game you're not likely to get a ticket to. So when Jason Gordon, of Michigan, a huge Irish fan, said he wanted a go, his buddies said they'd give him two seats if he'd submit to a full body waxing. Oh doctor, Kelly Clarkson. That woman is turning a furry wolverine into a hairless leprechaun.

That fellow is losing hair faster than that a defense gives up field position.

OK, stop looking at me. Stop looking at me!

This is crazy. This is crazy. This is crazy!

Baby pandas. Look at them.

Mmmm, spilled chicken guts. Aaaaah!

Mmmm, sausage gulag. Aaaaaah!

Mmmm, margarine Monroe. Aaaaaaah!

Whether man who was not identified was delivering his forecast when he realized that he had been accosted by an actual cockroach.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And eventually, as you can.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I am so sorry, Bill.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, my god! Oh, my god there it is!

OLBERMANN: To India and more weird video we found on the Internets. No real context to this other than it appears to have come from a Bollywood movie or something and I can't decide if it's cute or really creepy.

No one can doubt the kid's got moves, but it's the very end of the clip which makes you wonder just what the heck is going on over there.

Isn't that cute?

To Washington, where Congress marked the September 11 anniversary yesterday by joining together once again on the steps of the capitol to sing the national anthem. A solemn and respectful event that would not have made "Oddball," had Speaker of House Hastert just backed away from the microphone a tad or remembering the words.

HASTERT (singing): Oh say can you see, by the star's early light. Or the ramparts we wailed.

OLBERMANN: Ladies and gentlemen, how about a big hand for the congressman from Illinois, Enrico Palatso.

CROWD: Enrico Palatso! Enrico Palatso! Enrico Palatso!

OLBERMANN: And we begin in Sukani (ph), India, where it is that time of year, back to witchcraft school. Students from all over the village come to this Eastern edition of Hogwarts to thwart the influence of dominant of witchdoctors. On the syllabus, students must practice exorcisms, whip their backs with metal stuff, and light little girls' heads on fire. I don't know. I think that's just how people who disapprove of electricity have ideas. No light bulb so they get a flame. Uh oh.

A little "Spitzal" (ph), and little "Zorolinia (ph), and a little "Rocky Horror" all dressed up in little pope and bishop outfits. Aw, don't they look miserable?

This is a tradition dating back 10 years in which men in masks mark the anniversary of a volcanic eruption by hurling flaming gasoline soaked rag balls at each other. Luckily, tomorrow is the anniversary of a great flood, so the big hose fight ought to take care of any lingering blazes.

To the Internets, and while everyone else is chasing around that crazy new Elmo, it's this new Barbie doll set that caught our attention.

ANNOUNCER: Tanner wants a treat.

Uh oh.

You potty trained Tanner, Barbie.

OLBERMANN: What girl wouldn't be thrilled with a toy dog that can mess her carpet?


OLBERMANN: Oh, That's Countdown for this, the 1,245th since the declaration of "Mission Accomplished" in Iraq.

Also this reminder to join us again at Midnight Eastern tonight, 11:00 p.m. Central, 9:00 Pacific for the late edition of Countdown. Up next, HEADLINERS & LEGENDS: BETTY BRODERICK.

In New York, I'm Keith Olbermann. Goodnight and good luck.


Thursday, September 28, 2006

'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Sept. 28

Guests: Chris Hedges, Richard Wolffe

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

If his gloves were already off, what's come off now, his wheels?


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The party of FDR and the party of Harry Truman has become the party of cut and run.


OLBERMANN: Which would lead to the corollary that the party of Lincoln and emancipation has now become the party of Bush and torture. That's the same president who called for bipartisan unity 17 days ago, when was convenient for him.

And the speaker of the House goes further. "The same terrorists who plan to harm innocent Americans and their freedoms," says Mr. Hastert, "would be coddled if we followed the Democratic plan."

Did somebody turn the oxygen off inside the Republican Party?

And if worse still it can get, worse still it gets, Bob Woodward reporting the government is lying about the true scope of anti-American violence in Iraq, that the correct number of attacks against coalition troops is more than 100 a day, and that the president has for advice to Henry Kissinger, who thinks he can win in Iraq the same way he won in Vietnam.

So pray with me, Henry.

"Jesus Camp," inside the movie, inside the movement.

Inside the mind of the Platte Canyon High School shooter. He had sexually assaulted at least some of his hostages.

And the imaginary Kazakhstan tht exists only in the mind of the comic from the "Ali G. (ph)" show meets the real-life White House, and the real-life Kazakhstan.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Then we will be left with no alternative but to commence bombardment of their cities with our catapults.


OLBERMANN: Hey, Borot, you got time to meet with Kissinger?

All that and more, now on Countdown.




OLBERMANN: Good evening. This is Thursday, September 28, 40 days until the 2006 midterm elections.

Our fifth story on the Countdown, two developments tonight that go to the core of who we are as nation. The president can now detain noncitizens forever, and torture them, providing he accuses them terrorists, and he doesn't even have to prove the last part. And the president can now evidently lie about how frequently Americans are attacked in Iraq, and bring in Henry Kissinger to replay the second half of the Vietnam War.

Iraq and Dr. K. in a moment.

First, the Senate the House today, sending the president his detainee bill, and sending Republican leaders their dose of red meat. When Democrats in the House voted to support our history and values, instead of the president's expediencies, Republican speaker Dennis Hastert said they, quote, "voted today in favor of more rights for terrorists. So the same terrorists who plan to harm innocent Americans and their freedom worldwide would be coddled."

And at a rally in Alabama today for the incumbent governor there, the president showed that those who thought his appeal for bipartisanship on the night of 9/11 was completely phony were correct.


BUSH: Five years after 9/11, the worst attack on American homeland in our history, the Democrats offer nothing but criticism and obstruction and endless second-guessing. The party of FDR and the party of Harry Truman has become the party of cut and run.


OLBERMANN: Back in the Senate, Vermont's Patrick Leahy, a former prosecutor, argued the Democrats wanted to prevent habeas corpus, the right to challenge your detention in court, to prevent innocent people from being treated like terrorists, a seemingly superfluous right unless the government accidentally or not-so-accidentally decides you are not the upstanding American you thought you were but a terrorist.


SEN. PATRICK LEAHY (D), VERMONT: The bill before us would not merely suspend the Great Writ, the Great Writ, the writ of habeas corpus, it just eliminates it permanently. We don't have to worry about nuances, how long it'll be suspended or anything else. It's gone. Gone. There are over 200 years of jurisprudence in this country, following an hour or so of debate here, we just get rid of it. My God.


OLBERMANN: And then there is the second fundamental issue, lying to the people of the United States about how many of us are in danger, and how often, in a distant war, CBS News quoting a new book by Bob Woodward which will claim not just that Mr. Bush has kept secret the true level of violence against U.S. troops in Iraq, but also that he is being advised on this war by Henry Kissinger, President Nixon's secretary of state, who, to quote Woodward, "is fighting the Vietnam War again."

Let me call in Richard Wolffe, "Newsweek"'s senior White House correspondent and an analyst for us here at MSNBC.

Richard, good evening.


OLBERMANN: Iraq first, let's start with this Kissinger revelation. Short of getting Halliburton to move Iraq to Asia, could Mr. Bush have done anything to draw this parallel to Vietnam any more distinctly?

WOLFFE: Well, you know, it's strange. I actually saw Kissinger in the West Wing in early 2003, and I didn't think a whole lot of it, because at the time, the administration was still talking about diplomacy. And the comparisons with Vietnam, and there were people making those comparisons at the time, that did seem overwrought.

Now, you have an administration that fairly openly likes to say that they've learnt the lessons of Vietnam, especially when it comes to questions of political will and maintaining public opinion, the theory being, and this is most forcefully argued by Vice President Cheney, that Vietnam was lost because of a lack of willpower, lack of backbone, if you will, back home among political leaders, opinion formers, the punditocracy.

So, you know, that framework is there inside the minds of the administration. And, of course, as the war has dragged on, the comparisons become clearer and clearer.

The big lesson, of course, about Vietnam that they chose to set aside was the Powell doctrine. Powell set up the doctrine of overwhelming force to say there would not be another Vietnam, and Don Rumsfeld decided to overturn that.

OLBERMANN: And, of course, they're also doing a smashing job on the public opinion front.

Woodward also reports in this book that Mr. Bush says about Iraq, quote, "I will not withdraw even if Laura and Barney are the only ones supporting me." Putting aside the possibility that that may become true on its own accord in the next couple of weeks or months, should the Democrats be running this campaign by portraying what the president sees as strength as instead some kind of dangerous unwillingness to confront the reality of the situation on the ground there?

WOLFFE: Yes, I think the president may be overstating, and I think he'd stay with it if was just Barney as well.

Look, the key question here, I mean, you heard, you played some of the clips earlier, the key question is for the - for voters in November, who do you trust to end the war in Iraq? Clearly, the Republican attack is designed to put a huge question mark in voters' minds whether Democrats could bring the war to an end successfully. That's why they talk about defeat so much.

Democrats have to fight on the same territory. They cannot avoid it. And, you know, you've heard some of those things from Barack Obama. The question is, you know, having got the country into this situation, can Republicans end the war successfully? That's how Democrats really need to confront this one.

OLBERMANN: The detainee bill, why did the Democrats trade the right to filibuster in exchange for the right to propose four amendments that really needed every possible alignment of the stars to pass?

WOLFFE: Everyone wanted this off the table. There was nothing sort of clear and clean about this. It wasn't even so much about a partisan thing. Once you had the Republicans taking the lead in it, those - that being McCain, Warner, and Lindsey Graham, really, there wasn't a whole lot of space for Democrats to do. There are enough attack ads out there already on various votes. They didn't want to give them more ammunition.

And to be honest, once you're into the legal weeds of this one, it's better to clear it off the table.

OLBERMANN: And then the president's statement about the Democratic Party today, was he not pursuing moderates and independents and bipartisanship in a high-minded fashion in his apolitical speech, as they termed it, on the night of the 9/11 anniversary? Or was that some other guy wearing the same suit?

WOLFFE: No, they were pretty sincere about being nonpolitical, and - or at least trying to have the air of that on 9/11, and being more of the sort of president of all the people. But, you know, the point here is about turnout. They want to get people to turn out and vote, and that's what they're seeing now, the red meat.

OLBERMANN: Richard Wolffe of "Newsweek." As always, great thanks for your time, Richard.

WOLFFE: Any time.

OLBERMANN: The prize at stake six weeks from now is the Congress, control of the House and the Senate. And yet the defining conflict in these midterm elections seems increasingly to be that between the current president and the previous president.

Mr. Clinton's request that America scrutinize Mr. Bush's record may have a rippling effect, that, at least the theory of "Congressional Quarterly"'s Craig Crawford, a friend of this program who writes today that Clinton, and specifically his firm rebuke to Fox News last Sunday, may be the Democrats' October surprise, a show of strength, calculated or not, that might serve to stoke the partisan fire in the belly that drives turnout on election day.

And if they want new ammunition for that fire, ABC News reporting tonight their sneak peek at a new congressional report showing Jack Abramoff, the disgraced, convicted former lobbyist, who disputed White House claims that they barely knew him, actually had 450 contacts with the White House, nine of them with Bush adviser Karl Rove, and tried to secure jobs there at the White House for 20 people.

We're joined now by Lawrence O'Donnell, political analyst, currently contributor to

And good evening to you, sir.


OLBERMANN: We'll start at the end of that. Even the ABC report suggested what was new here about Abramoff was not necessarily illegal, but that it could still be damaging to the Republicans and the White House. How could that be the case?

O'DONNELL: Well, Abramoff is now the way you spell the word "scandal" in Washington, D.C. The public doesn't know a great deal about Abramoff, but they know he's bad, they know he's a criminal, they certainly aware that he's, in effect, pleading guilty and is going to end up in jail.

And now, this is a picture that says, not only did he have access, which the public is, I think, vaguely aware of, that he had presidential access, White House access, he had the run of the place, Keith. He has a frequency of appearance now that looks like he had a White House pass. It's an amazing presence that he has everywhere in the Republican world during the time that this scandal was developing.

And, you know, there are the guys like Conrad Burns, senator of Montana, running for reelection, and his big problem is, he took money from Jack Abramoff. That's his single biggest problem out there.

For Karl Rove, the president's senior adviser, to be meeting with Abramoff nine times specifically himself - and by the way, possibly much more than that. That's probably just the nine times that Abramoff was signed in to meet Rove. Once in the building, he could easily have encountered him many, many, many more times than that.

And so this brings this horrible scandal into the White House and plants it there in a way that we haven't seen before.

OLBERMANN: Who's that in the hallway, Barney the dog, or Jack the lobbyist?

This Craig Crawford hypothesis here about the Democratic October surprise, has Mr. Clinton changed, sent a signal for change, the Democratic campaigns?

O'DONNELL: Well, you know, you know, he's done something that not a lot of other people can do, if anyone. He defended himself about what did Bill Clinton do as we== his administration was ending, and as 9/1 was coming, unbeknownst to anyone. What did he do? And Bill Clinton talked about what he did. And he said he failed. He said that he tried and failed.

Now, that, I think, is actually the most powerful statement that Bill Clinton made. Here's a president saying that he tried and he failed. 9/11 was partially his failure.

We have President Bush, who not only failed in the same way, meaning he allowed 9/11 to happen, but we don't know what, if anything, President Bush tried. And what we do know and what the public knows is that President Bush will never come out and say that he tried and failed on anything, whether it's tax reform or Social Security reform or the way things are in Iraq now, which a majority of the public thinks is a Bush failure.

And so that - Clinton embracing the notion that he didn't do things perfectly here raises his credibility on this. He's much more popular than the current president is now. And so the public is looking at the Bill Clinton statements, and they think, Well, that makes a lot of sense to us.

OLBERMANN: A question about tactics. Even now, President Clinton is still answering the refuted claim about Sudan turning over bin Laden. Last night, we played a clip from a press briefing in February 2001. Let me show a bit of that, and then ask you a question about it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, February 27, 2001)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Taliban in Afghanistan, they have offered that they are ready to hand over Osama bin Laden to Saudi Arabia if the United States drops its sanctions, and the - they have a kind of deal that they want to make with the United States. Do you have any comments (INAUDIBLE)?

ARI FLEISCHER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS Secretary: Let me take that and get back to you on that.


OLBERMANN: There's a structural parallel, if not an exact parallel, to the Clinton Sudan claim in that. But unlike the Republicans, that tape's not part of the Democratic vernacular in the runup to the elections. Why isn't it?

O'DONNELL: Well, it's that same difficult situation of the, you know, the Clinton administration didn't do anything more effective, obviously, than the Bush administration, given that we ended up in having 9/11 occur. But that moment, I think, is really important because it's showing that - when a press secretary says that to you, what he's saying is, I don't know anything about this. I haven't heard anyone say a word about it. This just isn't a subject that any of us are talking about.

That's as clear a reflection of that as you could ask for in February of 2001. And there's no way to go back and backfill in there. And if they could, they would. I mean, Condoleezza Rice, when she was talking to "The New York Post" last week, would have said, This is specifically what we did. And, oh, by the way, this is specifically what we did in relation to the possibility of having bin Laden turned over to us. It wasn't true. Here's why it wasn't true.

We don't hear any of that this administration, because they don't apparently feel that there's anything positive for them to tell in those eight months of that administration leading up to 9/11.

OLBERMANN: Well, why haven't the Democrats jumped on any of those facts?

O'DONNELL: Well, it's - it - the country has had the feeling that Rudy Giuliani has voiced, which is, Look, both of these presidents missed it. There's no reason to blame either one of these presidents. That's the way most of the country still feels about this.

And so the Democrats have felt, We can't really go in there and start pounding on Bush for this thing, because the public isn't with us there on this.

However, in a post-Katrina world, those kinds of statements by Ari Fleischer would ring much louder, because what happened in the post-Katrina world is, Bush now has an overwhelming image of incompetence in certain areas of governing. And now, majority of the public think he's been incompetent in prosecuting his mission in Iraq.

And so now, the notion that Bush wasn't really on the ball in the runup to 9/11, I think, becomes much more vivid, a vivid possibility to the public. But it still remains difficult for Democrats to specifically go in and point to that, other than Bill Clinton, who's done it.

OLBERMANN: Lawrence O'Donnell, political analyst, contributor to The Huffington Post. Great thanks, as always, sir.

O'DONNELL: Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN: Dramatic home video tonight from Iraq of the dangers contract workers are facing there every day. A convey ambushed. Now the driver who barely escaped with his life says Halliburton is still putting them at risk on a daily basis.

And inside "Jesus Camp," a documentary raising eyebrows about how they're raising the next generation of evangelical Christians, being trained from youth for religious battle.

You are watching Countdown on MSNBC.


OLBERMANN: The revelation from Bob Woodward's new book is disturbing, to say the least. American troops come under fire in Iraq, on average, four times an hour, once every 15 minutes, he said.

And in our fourth story on the Countdown, it seems that the Iraqi people actually like that grim statistic, according to a new poll of Iraqis conducted by, nearly two-thirds of them, 61 percent, approving of attacks on U.S. troops, 39 percent disapproving. Twenty-one percent see the U.S. as a stabilizing force in Iraq, 78 percent thinking U.S. troops cause more conflict than they prevent.

And the majority of Iraqis want U.S. troops to withdraw sooner rather than later, 37 percent want them out in six months, 34 percent more want them out within a year.

U.S. soldiers are not the only Americans in the insurgents' crosshairs. Civilians working for Halliburton driving supply trucks across that country are also coming under attack. One such encounter captured on a trucker's home video camera.

Our senior investigative correspondent, Lisa Myers, tonight, with this startling report.


LISA MYERS, NBC SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): September 20, 2005, what begins as a routine convoy led by a U.S. military escort takes a wrong turn into an area controlled by insurgents.

Preston Wheeler, a truck driver employed by Halliburton in Iraq, brought along his video camera that day.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There we go again.


MYERS: First, the convoy gets hit by rocks. Minutes later, gunfire erupts, and bombs explode.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: IED on the left side.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Jesus Christ, help us all, Lord.


MYERS: One of the truckers is hit.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm hit, I'm hit.


MYERS: A soldier tells the truckers not to stop.



WHEELER: I am truck 5, cannot move. Please help me.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where you at? Where you at?

WHEELER: I'm taking fire, 10-4, come back.


WHEELER: I'm fixing to get killed.


MYERS: Wheeler sees a fellow driver killed.


WHEELER: They just killed him. Oh,, Jesus.


MYERS: In all, three drivers died, and Wheeler was shot twice. Wheeler now charges that the convoy was not properly equipped or trained by Halliburton.

(on camera): Halliburton says this convoy was under the control of the U.S. military. The company also says employees receive extensive training, and their safety and security is a priority.

(voice-over): Lisa Myers, NBC News, Washington.


OLBERMANN: The U.S. military says its troops did not abandon the truckers, but instead set up a defensive perimeter to hold the insurgents at bay until help arrived about half an hour after the initial attack. That's when they managed to pull the two wounded truckers, including Mr. Wheeler, and moved out, or moved them out of the danger zone, the military telling NBC News in a statement that resembles the textbook definition of the word "tautology," quote, "If they had been abandoned, they would not have survived."

An unusual visitor at the White House today. Borat shows up at the gate without an appointment, invites the president to an international summit at Hooters.

And we reported previously that the dramatic rise in the panda population was being exceeded only by the dramatic rise in the videotape of the dramatic rise in the panda population, nine new ones tonight here on Countdown.


OLBERMANN: What a choice of birthdays for this September 28. William Windom is 83. He's appeared in at least 200 television series, maybe most famously as Commander Decker in "Star Trek," but he's been at his best channeling the legendary humorist James Thurber.

And Peter Finch would have been 90 today. Not only was he, of course, Howard Beale in "Network," but he also played the title role in a film called "Windom's Way."

Let's play Oddball.

Ah, but the stars of them all come to us from Cheng Du (ph), China, with a surefire 100 percent bet-the-house TV ratings winner that is baby pandas. Look at them. Hear all that noise? It's the ratings machine. It's-a gonna esplode.

Nine fuzzy little guys introduced to the media at the Wolung (ph) Panda Center, doing everything it can to overpopulate the globe with endangered pandas through the art of newspeak. Two years ago, a Chinese study concluded there were less than 1,000 of the animals still left in the wild. Today's story says it's down to, quote, "only 1,596." Well, double-plus good.

To India, and more weird video we found on the Internets. No real context to this, other than it appears to have come from a Bollywood movie or something, and I can't decide if it's really cute or really creepy.

Yes, I'm going to have to vote with creepy. In fact, I'm not sure how I would get to sleep again. No one can doubt the kid's got moves, but it's the very end of the clip which makes you wonder just what the heck is going on over there.







OLBERMANN: Isn't that cute?

This is cute too, in a totally disgusting kind of way. Nobody (INAUDIBLE) - injured in the accident in Seebree (ph), Kentucky, even if the scene looks like something out of "Nightmare on Elm Street." Seems a truck full of chicken guts was hauling down Highway 41 when the load shifted and spilled all over the road. Mmm, spilled chicken guts. Ahhhh.

Even those fancy all-season radials can't stop a car from slipping and sliding on chicken parts, so that multivehicle accident ensued. No word on how many of the guts were stolen by passersby before police could secured the area.

Call the church, call the police, call the church police. Warriors for God being brought up here, inside the new documentary "Jesus Camp."

And the school takeover in Bailey, Colorado. Authorities admit they're not prepared for a drifter who chooses a school at random in order to sexually assault the students.

Details ahead.

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

Number three, Nicky Heys of Bristol, England, got married yesterday, right on schedule, even though her first child arrived not right on schedule, three months early, 11 hours before the wedding. Well, he didn't want to miss the hokey-pokey (ph).

Number two, suspects who broke into Starship Enterprise's Adult Video in Stone Mountain, Georgia, and stole $233 out of the till, but not before tying up two employees with the leg irons and fur handcuffs that were sold in the store.

And number one, Detective Don Woods of the sheriff's office in Orange County, Florida, arguing successfully that the Economy Inn in Orlando should be shut down, because it was a haven for hookers and dopers. Detective Woods said, "People went there for one purpose, to sell drugs and to prostitute." Not defending it, Detective, but that's two purposes, isn't it?

KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST: We recoil in horror when we see the images of the Middle East to kids whom talking is a relative new phenomenon being flooded in religious beliefs being told they may have to die as warriors for god, speaking in literal gibberish. Our third story in the Countdown, It's terrorist indoctrination when we see it there, here we call it "Jesus Camp." Countdown's Monica Novotny explains.

Good evening, Monica.

MONICA NOVOTNY, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Keith, good evening. The filmmakers behind this documentary boiled down 300 hours of footage into a controversial 85 minutes, taking viewers inside a bible camp where the next generation of god's army is in trading. And "Jesus Camp" has 100 million Evangelicals Christians split over the intersection of their religion, their politics, and their children.


BECKY FISHER, PASTOR: This means war! Are you a part of it or not?

NOVOTNY (voice-over): It's summer camp like you've never seen it. This Evangelical conference for young children captured in the new documentary "Jesus Camp" focusing on an American culture war and the training of a new generation of Christian soldiers.

FISHER: I want to see young people who are as committed to the cause of Jesus Christ as the young people are to the cause of Islam because, excuse me, but we have the truth.

NOVOTNY: Pastor Becky Fisher leads the children at Devil's Lake, North Dakota, training at war...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's kind of being trained to be warriors, only in a much funner way.

NOVOTNY: Preaching in tongues and in tears. Praying for the president and for an end to abortion.


NOVOTNY: But Fisher says the goal of this spiritual battle is not to attack the separation of church and state.

FISHER: There are no Christians, and I know thousands of them, that are interested in establishing a theocracy in America.

NOVOTNY: And those presidential prayers?

FISHER: Had this taken place do you know the Clinton administration we would have been as obligated by scripture to pray for him as we were to pray for President Bush.

NOVOTNY: Instead, Fisher says her work with these children is part of a growing Evangelical youth movement designed simply to keep young Born Again Christians active in the church as they grow older. But are they, as some critics charge, brainwashing impressionable, vulnerable young children with religious and political agendas?

FISHER: Every parent brain washes their kids with their own beliefs, so let's be fair.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A person's a person, no matter how small.

FISHER: We never viewed what we were doing as political. And I am certainly not living out my political fantasies through the children that I minister to.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But I think people would say this is a voting block.

FISHER: So they're going to be a voting block. Why is that scary?

RACHEL GRADY, CO-DIRECTOR, "JESUS CAMP": Heidi and I definably saw it as political activism, but they are sincere in believing what they're doing is being good Christians. I do believe that the leadership see what they're doing is political.

NOVOTNY: A belief reinforced by Pastor Ted Haggard, president of the National Association of Evangelicals expressing pride in the expansion of the youth movement, offering perhaps the most candid and confident moment in "Jesus Camp."

PASTOR TED HAGGARD, PRES. NTL ASSOCIATION OF EVANGELICALS: It's gotten enough growth to essentially could sway every election. If the Evangelicals vote, they determine the election. It's a fabulous life.


NOVOTNY: Pastor Haggard, who you just saw there, leads the largest Evangelical group in America, with some 30 million members. He agreed to be filmed for the project, but says now that he's not happy with the final and is encouraging his followers not to see it.

As for Pastor Fisher and her political concerns, I asked her how she would feel if these children grew up and chose to vote or work with political parties other than Republicans. And she said she'd have absolutely no problem with that, that she wants to help them to be good Christians regardless of their personal political views. If you're curious, "Jesus Camp" opens in major cities tomorrow and then throughout the country, next Friday.

OLBERMANN: Every parent brainwashes their children meaning her parents brainwashed her.

Countdown's Monica Novotny, great thanks.

NOVOTNY: Thank you.

OLBERMANN: That faith in the Evangelical movement has, in its political powers, not misplaced. Just this last weekend, in Washington the influence of the religious right on the ruling party was palpable at a Values Voters Summit organized by the right-wing organization Family Research Council. You could find the Reverend Jerry Falwell along with 2008 presidential hopeful, George Allen of "macaca" infamy and even the spokesman for President Bush, Tony Snow.

The company they kept included Ann Coulter, Bishop Wellington Boone or Wellington Boone Ministries - He got up on stage just about an hour-and-a-half after Mr. Snow, spewed vulgar -anti-gay epithets and then suggested that the anti-Christ is homosexual.

To discuss this growing influence of church on state, I'm joined by Chris Hedges, author of "American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America" which will be coming out in January.

Thank you for your time, sir.


OLBERMANN: What is the fact that the spokesman for the leader of the country got on the same statement as somebody who spouted hate speech about gays tell us about the power this movement has over this administration?

HEDGES: Well, I think it's self-evident I mean, this - these people have been the foot soldiers for this administration since its in inception. The president has been very careful to not only pump hundreds of millions of dollars into their programs, but as well constantly reassured them by speaking in code often lost on those people who don't pro-life tracks or listen to particular hymns or read passages of scripture, but they burrowed their way deep inside the political system in the legislative and executive branch and they're working pretty hard on getting in control of the judiciary.

OLBERMANN: To this point, topically, that phrase that the president used about the bumps in the road and the deaths in Iraq being a coma there, was that the code you were referring to?

HEDGES: I'm referring more to actual passages that - he has an Evangelical speech writer and they lift certain phrases that have become a staple of the cliche's that are used by the Christian right. I mean, all sub-cultures speak in a code to each other and if you listen closely to a lot of the stuff that's put out by the Bush White House it is a constant - a steady stream of reinsurance to the radical members of the religious right that he is doing their bidding.

OLBERMANN: In 2004, white Evangelical Christians compromised 23 percent of the electorate, roughly, and 78 percent of them voted for Mr. Bush, that was about 1/3 of the votes he got. Does that number bolster the argument made by the pastor at the end of Monica's report - is the Evangelical movement the deciding factor now as to who is in power and who is not?

HEDGES: I think we're reaching that point. You know, having spent the last year-and-a-half traveling around the country and interviewing and attending Christian right events, I think the engine of this movement, which is despair, economic and personal, the disenfranchisement of tens of millions of Americans, the - that movement from a non-reality into an non-reality based belief system, nothing is blunting that. And I think, in fact, there is plenty of evidence as things get worse, as the situation deteriorates, as we create this American oligarchy and of course now with the assault on the middle class, we're throwing more and more people into the arms of this essentially mass movement. It has, as a political goal, the creation of a Christian theocracy or Christian totalitarian state.

OLBERMANN: Chris Hedges author of an essential upcoming book "America Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America," before that a foreign correspondent with the "New York Time." We appreciate you coming in tonight, sir.

HEDGES: Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN: Politics of a much stranger variety tonight, if that's possible. The campaign of "Borat," a phony journalist pretending to be from Kazakhstan, except no one back in the former Soviet Republic is finding any of it funny. "Borat" takes his act to D.C. We made sure our cameras were there.

And also the pain in the Colorado town of Bailey. Today we learned the nightmares unfolding in the school under siege and ask again - How could this have happened in the post-Columbine era? That's next on Countdown.


OLBERMANN: "Borat" the fake reporter, actually comedian Sacha Baron Cohen, trying to get into the White House. Why did they resist? I thought the White House liked fake reporter? That and more ahead on Countdown.


OLBERMANN: Police say he lived in his car about an hour away in the Denver area. They had arrested him there for obstructing officers just two months ago. In short, there was no reason the perpetrator in Platte Canyon High School hostage nightmare in Colorado yesterday should have chosen that school nor done what he did inside. But in our No. 2 story in the Countdown, of more immediate impact, authorities want to know, in this security conscious era, not so much why he did it as how he was able to do it. Our justice correspondent is Pete Williams.


PETE WILLIAMS, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Colorado investigators still aren't certain how Dwayne Morrison, carrying two guns, managed to get into Platte Canyon High School near Denver, yesterday, and take students hostage in a second floor classroom. A three-hour stand-off ended when a SWAT team stormed in after Sheriff Fred Wegener learned that Morrison was sexually assaulting the female hostages.

FRED WEGENER, SHERIFF: This is why I made the decision I did, We had to go try to save them.

WILLIAMS: Before killing himself, officials say, Morrison shot 16-year-old Emily Keys who died a short time later.

BOBBIE STERLING, VICTIM'S FRIEND: She was her parents' daughter. But everybody that knew here loved her and so it's a loss for the entire community.

WILLIAMS (on camera): Attacks like this one by outsiders with no connection to students or teachers are among the least common school threats, accounting for about two percent of fatal school shootings.

(voice-over): Since columbine shocked the nation seven years ago schools nationwide have become far more serious about security, key factors experts say watching for victims of bullying who could turn violent and encouraging students to report threats.

RONALD STEPHENS, SCHOOL SAFETY EXPERT: Schools have been better at detecting crime before it occurs, there's more tip lines out there, there's a closer working partnership with law enforcement. Mental health professionals are now working much closer with educators, so it's been a team effort.

WILLIAMS: During the past 14 years, the number of fatal shootings at the nation's schools has dropped sharply. But some security consultants say there's a danger schools are becoming complacent.

KENNETH TRUMP, SCHOOL SAFETY CONSULTANT: In the weeks after Columbine, school safety improved greatly, but that progress has actually stalled and slipping backwards a great deal now.

WILLIAMS: But tonight, authorities in Colorado say lessons learned from Columbine led to better response by teachers and police this time, one they believe saved lives.

Pete Williams, NBC NEWS, Washington.


OLBERMANN: No segue possible into our roundup of celebrity and tabloid news. Naomi Campbell on the verge of getting arrested again, this time not for throwing a phone, but for phoning it in. She was a no-show in a Manhattan court. Judge James Gibbon issued a bench warrant for her arrest, but the judge decided not to put that warrant into effect after Campbell's defense attorney explained he and the prosecutor had reached an agreement that she would be absent. The warrant will be stayed until Campbell's next court date, November 15. The defense lawyer says he's considering a plea deal, would not offer details.

Roger Ailes, circular gentleman, has spoken again, having already fired or demoted several popular hosts from the ministry of truth's FOX News Channel and dealing with a nasty fight between another host and his wife, now former Washington bureau chief. Ailes has announced his next 10-year plan. Quoted by several TV blogs as telling his staff, "It's been a great 10 years, we defied the odds. We should be congratulated but every decision I make from here on end is about the next 10 years," adding that the minister of truth needed "To focus more on taking audience away from the broadcast networks not the other cable news networks."

Not so fast Sidney Greenstreet. Check out last night's ratings. At Midnight Eastern, 9:00 p.m. Pacific, "Countdown" in first place in the only ratings the industry cares about, viewers 25 to 54, beat FOX News and Brit Hume by 16,000, beat Larry King by 52,000 - Houston, goodbye! Beat Glenn Beck by 181,000?

Mr. Ailes might want to focus back on keeping the other cable news networks from taking the audience from his own network and leaving some food for Canada.

If headlines are ratings, "Borat," the fake journalist is a smashing success. Today he took his comedy routine right to the gates of the White House and created a virtual international incident with Uzbekistan. That's ahead, but first, time for Countdown's latest list of nominees for "Worst Person in the World.".

See the cover is perfect, if I hold it right. If you like me, well here's a book I wrote. If you don't like me, well here you go the picture says a thousand words: "Worst Person in the World" and there he is smirking right at you in an il-fitting suit.

The Bronze to Mayor Troy Anderson of Waldron, Arkansas, we told you about him before. He offered to not to turn off the faucet for two local women who were behind on their water bills if they would have sex with him. Mayor Anderson has resigned. Now we need to find a way to turn off his faucet.

Runners up, the ethics free folks at the "New York Post." They've now fired another reporter for accepting bribes, this is Sarah Polonsky, offed today after "Radar" magazine reported she tried to get a free meal at a restaurant by saying, when the waitress brought the check, "I work at 'Page Six,' don't knew who I am?" Next should be Phillip Messing, he's the idiot who claimed imprint credit for impeding the FBI's investigation into that little incident we told you about last night.

But our winner, Mark Williams, described as a radio host who said on this network, "People have made up their minds. They know that if we vote Democrat that just hastens the day we disappear in a nuclear holocaust."

Aren't the nuclear weapons we know of in this country under the control of the Republicans, incidentally? And I know it's tied up in some sort of work therapy day-pass program for his halfway house, but why do we book these people. I mean, they're just scaring the toddles and the farm animals.

Mark Williams, who has a radio - I'm sorry, who has a radio program, Today's "Worst Person in the World."


OLBERMANN: Kazakhstan is on the verge of declaring war on Uzbekistan. The catapults are at the ready and bombardment could begin soon. In our No. 1 story in the Countdown, an international incident? Well, the threat comes from "Borat," who may be Kazakhstan's most famous representative, even though he doesn't really exist and the guy who plays him isn't really from there. Never mind that "Borat" is the creation of Sacha Baron Cohen, the star of the "Ali G" show. Kazakhstan's foreign ministry is so worried about the upcoming movie about "Borat" its spokesman has reserved the right legal action.

The Kazak embassy in Washington has denounced the movie, and there have been serious reports that President Nursultan Nazarbayev will complain about "Borat" when he meets with President Bush at the White House tomorrow. The embassy denies that. What a conversation that would be.

But yesterday the country, Kazakhstan, took out a four-page advertisement in the "New York Times." The ad does not mention "Borat," but it did try to counter some of the outrageous statements that "Borat" has making about his supposed homeland. And today at a news conference, outside his embassy, "Borat" responded and then took his one-man diplomacy to the White House.


BORAT SAGDIYEV, SATIRICAL KAZAKHSTANI JOURNALIST: My name is Borat Sagdiyev. I would like to make a comment on the recent advertisements on television and in media about my nation of Kazakhstan saying that women are treated equally and that all religions are tolerated, these are disgusting fabrications. These claims are part of a propaganda campaign against our country by evil nitwits, Uzbekistan, who as we all know are a very nosey people with a bone in the middle of their brain.

There is a man named Roman Vassilenko who is claiming to be press secretary of Kazakhstan. Please do not listen to him. He is Uzbek imposter and is currently being hunted by our agents.

I must further say on behalf of my government that Uzbekistan do not desist from funding these attacks, then we will not rule out the possibility of military intervention.

If there is one more item of Uzbek propaganda claiming that we do not drink fermented horse urine, give death penalty for baking bagels or export over 300 tons of pubis every year, the we'll be left with no alternative but to commence bombardment of their cities with our catapults.

Furthermore, all claims that our glorious leader is displeased with my film, "Borat: Cultural

Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan" is lying. In fact, main purpose of Premier Nazarbayev's visit to Washington is to promote this movie film.

This why together with Minister of Information he will be hosting a screening tomorrow evening to which he have invitate Premier George Walter Bush and other American dignitaries includes: Donald Rumsfeld, Bill Gates, O.J. Simpsons and Mel Gibsons.

This screening will be followed by a cocktail party and a discussion of close ties between our countries at Hooters on 825 Seventh Street. Thank you, I must now return to my embassy where I have talks with my government. (INAUDIBLE)

I like to meet - to give Premier Bush, mighty warlord, Premier Bush invitation on behalf of the Republic of Kazakhstan, the mighty glorious leader who took Nazarbayev to a screening of his film tomorrow night. Can I give to him?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you have an appointment today?

SAGDIYEV: Not so much.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Without an appointment you're not going to be able to come in.

SAGDIYEV: Yes, can you give him this?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No sir, we don't accept anything to give to him.

SAGDIYEV: But why? I'll leave it here, OK? I now go to get coffees for my premier and also I will get this M&M's for minister of defense.


OLBERMANN: And they try it again. Took Jeff Gannon like three times to get in there. And tomorrow night if you have ideas to resolve the Kazakhstan dispute with Uzbekistan, please head to the Hooters in Washington.

That's Countdown for this, the 1,244th day since the declaration of "Mission Accomplished" in Iraq. I'm Keith Olbermann, goodnight and indeed good luck.

All right, it looks like we're OK here. Our MSNBC coverage continues now with SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.

JOE SCARBOROUGH, SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY: I'm OK, but you know what? The second I saw that you were doing "Borat" I had to take my earpiece out, because I would have lost it again.

OLBERMANN: Well, good evening, Joe.

SCARBOROUGH: "My mother never loved me, she'd been raped by somebody else," I think that's his line.


Wednesday, September 27, 2006

'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Sept. 27
Watch Keith's response to the New York Post 'Powder Puff Spooks Keith'

Guests: Paul F. Tompkins, Paul Kurtz

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

The old switcheroo. The National Intelligence Estimate the president so reluctantly released, the one that says the war in Iraq increased the terror threat, the one for which he is getting pounded, may not be the latest National Intelligence Estimate. Representative Harman says there's a newer one, and the White House is deliberately keeping it under wraps.


REP. JANE HARMAN (D): I have been told that it's essentially complete, and it is stamped "Draft," so it didn't have to be sent up here.


OLBERMANN: Secretary Rice insisted the Bush administration did just as much as the Clinton administration to stop al Qaeda before 9/11. Our special investigation tonight, the record shows she is wrong.

We'll be joined, in his first interview on the subject, by Richard Clarke's top deputy, Paul Kurtz.

And a touch of terror here. How "The New York Post" may have just screwed up a federal investigation into terroristic threats.

In sports...


TERRELL OWENS, DALLAS COWBOYS: There was no suicide attempt.


OLBERMANN: But a Dallas police report says otherwise about Cowboys star Terrell Owens, and he hadn't even been interviewed by Nancy Grace.




OLBERMANN: And if you thought flick from a Christmas story (ph) turning to porn was bad, or Judy Winslow from "Family Matters" turning to porn was bad, oh, here go, an X-rated video starring screech (ph). Please, please, I need to be saved by the bell.

All that and more, now on Countdown.




OLBERMANN: Good evening. This is Wednesday, September 27, 41 days until the 2006 midterm elections.

And it will be a race to the finish line for top topic for the Republicans, Iraq or terror, which they want, rather easy to pick after the president declassified some of the National Intelligence Estimate. He said he did it to stop, quote, "all the politics about somebody saying something about Iraq, somebody trying to confuse the American people about the nature of this enemy."

In our fifth story on the Countdown, if the idea was to tamp down confusion, the plan has backfired utterly. Both parties are now using the NIE "Trends in Global Terrorism" to bolster their positions on the war in Iraq, and the crux of both arguments the same, this section, quote, "The Iraq conflict has become the cause celebre for jihadists, breeding a deep resentment of U.S. involvement in the Muslim world and cultivating supporters for the global jihadist movement. Should jihadists leaving Iraq perceive themselves to be, and be perceived, to have failed, we judge fewer fighters will be inspired to carry on the fight."

No one seems to be disputing the validity of the view, but while Republicans say it proves that Iraq is the central front on the war against terrorists, Democrats point out it also proves the administration has helped terrorists by giving them a breeding ground in the first place.


SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: The National Intelligence Estimate is a devastating document. It shows that terrorism has metastasized. It shows that Iraq, if anything, has made the war on terror worse.

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R), MAJORITY LEADER: We know that Iraq has become the central front in our war against the terrorists. We have no choice but to win this battle, and this - and the National Intelligence Estimate that was released makes it clear that winning the effort against the terrorists in Iraq will defuse their ability to recruit more people into their ranks.


OLBERMANN: As if the NIE's assessment on Iraq was not bad enough, it is already out of date. It was given to the administration in April. There is a more recent assessment of the situation, an NIE that focuses solely on Iraq, but even Congress is not allowed to see that new estimate, because it is allegedly only a draft, and won't be ready for release till 2007, a timed date that Democrats find somewhat suspicious, given that it's an election year now.


HARMAN: I have been told that it's essentially complete, and it is stamped "Draft," so it doesn't have to be sent up here. I don't know that for a fact, but now we know it exists, because the director of national intelligence says it exists. He says it will take time to get it right. I'm urging him to move faster...


OLBERMANN: Representative Harman has written a letter to the director of national intelligence, John Negroponte, stressing that he should release the estimate before the elections. But the White House says the new report is nowhere near ready.


TONY SNOW, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: About a month ago, Director Negroponte informed the committee, said he was, in fact, going to do an exhaustive review on Iraq. That's a month ago. These reviews take about a year to do.

So the idea that it is in, quote, "draft form," they're just beginning to do the work on it. And the intelligence committee members, if they don't know it, should. But there is not a waiting Iraq document that reflects a National Intelligence Estimate that's sitting around gathering dust waiting till after the election.


OLBERMANN: As the Bush administration continues to try to deflect questions about whether its war in Iraq is encouraging terrorism, it has managed to score a victory in Congress about how it wants to deal with the people it has detained as terrorists, though victory at what cost remains to be seen for all of us, the House voting mainly on party lines, passing the detainee bill today, despite warnings from Democrats that it fails to meet judicial standards, and will likely get struck down in the Supreme Court for being unconstitutional.

The bill says it is up to the president to interpret the meaning and application of the Geneva Convention, an action interpreted by many international legal scholars as being by itself a violation of the Geneva Conventions.

The Senate is expected to pass the bill later this week.

In a sense, we are all still detainees in the wake of 9/11, but there is some unrest among the inmates, being asked what steps he took to stop al Qaeda, President Clinton freeing many to ask what steps, if any, his successor took in the most critical time before the plot.

Yesterday, President Bush declined to address Mr. Clinton's remarks, saying, "We've already had the look back this and look back that." But if we are to look forward with any clarity, it is important to know the facts about where we have been and how we got where we are.

Thus tonight, a special investigation. Mr. Clinton is not in office, Mr. Bush is. His policies determine how the U.S. fights al Qaeda, so it is important that we understand how he has done so in the past. Comparing the two presidents is valid, necessary, to illuminate the capacities of the office. Mr. Clinton said it plainly, he failed to get bin Laden. Mr. Bush has acknowledged no such failure.

But while it has become conventional wisdom, although debunked by the 9/11 report, that Mr. Clinton dropped an offer from Sudan to hand over bin Laden, it is rare to hear anyone discuss whether similar but real feelers were ever extended to Mr. Bush. And it is, we suspect, even more rare to see this tape of the Bush White House addressing reports of such feelers in February 2001, after the government knew al Qaeda had attacked the U.S.S. "Cole."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, February 27, 2001)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Taliban in Afghanistan, they have offered that they are ready to hand over Osama bin Laden to Saudi Arabia if the United States drops its sanctions, and the - they have a kind of deal that they want to make with the United States. Do you have any comments (INAUDIBLE)?

ARI FLEISCHER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS Secretary: Let me take that and get back to you on that.


OLBERMANN: There is no record of any subsequent discussion on that matter.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, of course, responded to President Clinton by defending the Bush record. "We were not left a comprehensive strategy to fight al Qaeda," she said.

Our goal in this report is to rise to Mr. Clinton's challenge and assess the record of Mr. Bush's efforts against al Qaeda in his first eight months in office.

We begin with Rice's claim that Clinton left no strategy to fight al Qaeda.


(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, January 20, 2001)


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Congratulations.


OLBERMANN (voice-over): On January 25, 2001, five days after Mr. Bush took office, counterterrorism czar Richard Clarke sent Rice a memo, attaching to it a document entitled "Strategy for Eliminating the Threat of al Qaeda." It was, Clarke, wrote, "developed by the last administration to give to you, incorporating diplomatic, economic, military, public diplomacy, and intelligence tools."

Clarke's memo requested a follow-up cabinet-level meeting to address time-sensitive questions about al Qaeda. But President Bush had downgraded counterterrorism from a cabinet-level job, so Clarke now dealt instead with deputy secretaries.

RICHARD CLARKE, FORMER COUNTERTERRORISM CZAR: It slowed it down enormously, by months. First of all, the deputies' committee didn't meet urgently in January or February.

OLBERMANN: Why the delay? Rice later tried to explain.

RICE: America's al Qaeda policy wasn't working because our Afghanistan policy wasn't working, and our Afghanistan policy wasn't working because our Pakistan policy wasn't working. We recognized that America's counterterrorism policy had to be connected to our regional strategies, and to our overall foreign policy.

OLBERMANN: That, although Clarke's January 25 memo specifically warned, "Al Qaeda is not some narrow little terrorist issue that needs to be included in broader regional policy. By proceeding with separate policy reviews on Central Asia, etc., we would deal inadequately with the need for a comprehensive multiregional policy on al Qaeda."

Clarke's deputies' meeting came in April, when, he says, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz insisted the real terrorism threat was not al Qaeda, but Iraq.

By July 16, the deputies had a proposal for dealing with al Qaeda, a proposal, Clarke says, was essentially the same plan he gave Rice five months earlier, and it still had to go to the principals, the cabinet secretaries.

CLARKE: But the principals' calendar was full, and then they went on vacation, many of them, in August, so we couldn't meet in August. And therefore the principals met in September.

OLBERMANN: Although the principals had already met on other issues, their first meeting on al Qaeda was not until after Labor Day, on September 4, 2001.

But what were Mr. Bush and his top advisers doing during this time? Mr. Bush was personally briefed about al Qaeda even before the election, in November 2000. During the transition, President Clinton and his national security adviser, Sandy Berger, say they told Bush and his team of the urgency of getting al Qaeda.

Three days before President Bush took office, Berger spoke at a passing-the-baton event, which Rice attended.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, January 17, 2001)

SANDY BERGER, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: With (ph) survivors of the U.S.S. "Cole" reinforced the reality that America is in a deadly struggle with a new breed of anti-Western jihadists. Nothing less than a war, I think, is fair to describe this.

OLBERMANN: Eight days later, Clarke sent Rice the strategy Clinton had developed for retaliating in the event that al Qaeda was found to have been behind the previous October's attack on the U.S.S. "Cole." The next day, the FBI conclusively pinned the "Cole" attack on al Qaeda.

Mr. Bush ordered no military strike, no escalation of existing Clinton measures. Instead, he repeated Clinton's previous diplomatic efforts, writing a letter to Pakistani leader Pervez Musharraf in February and another on August 4.

Until September 11, even when Mr. Bush was asked about the "Cole," an attack carried out on water by men in a boat, he offered a consistent prescription for keeping America safe, one he reiterated upon taking office.


BUSH: To protect our own people, our allies and friends, we must develop and we must deploy effective missile defenses.


OLBERMANN: Democrats, who controlled the Senate, warned that his focus was misplaced.


SEN. CARL LEVIN (D): I'm also concerned that we may not be putting enough emphasis on countering the most likely threats to our national security and to the security of our forces deployed around the world, those asymmetric threats, like terrorist attacks on the U.S.S. "Cole," on our barracks and our embassies around the world, on the World Trade Center.


OLBERMANN: He was not alone. The executive director of the Hart-Rudmann Commission's request to brief Bush and Cheney on the terror threats they had studied was denied.

On February 26, 2001, Paul Bremer said of the administration, quote, "What they will do is stagger along until there's a major incident, and then suddenly say, Oh, my God, shouldn't we be organized to deal with this?"

According to the 9/11 Commission report, even bin Laden expected Bush to respond militarily to the "Cole" bombing. Quote, "In February 2001, according to a source, bin Laden wanted the United States to attack, and if it did not, he would launch something bigger."

The most famous warning came in the August 6 presidential daily briefing, reporting "patterns of suspicious activity in this country consistent with preparations for hijackings or other types of attacks, including recent surveillance of federal buildings in New York."

According to the 9/11 report, "Bush did not recall discussing the August 6 report with the attorney general, or whether Rice had done so. We have found no indication of any further discussion before September 11 among the president and his top advisers of the possibility of a threat of an al Qaeda attack in the United States. Tenet does not recall any discussions with the president of the domestic threat during this period. Domestic agencies did not know what to do, and no one gave them direction. The borders were not hardened, transportation systems were not fortified, electronic surveillance was not targeted against the domestic threat, state and local law enforcement were not marshaled to augment the FBI's efforts. The public was not warned."

Explanations after the fact suggested a lack of familiarity with the recent history of terrorism.


RICE: I don't think anybody could have predicted that these people would take an airplane and slam it into the World Trade Center.

(Subtitle: 1994, France disrupts plot to fly a jet into Eiffel Tower.)


way then we could have anticipated what was about to happen, of course, in

on 9/11.

(Subtitle: 1995, Philippines uncovers plot to fly planes into Pentagon and World Trade Center.)

(Subtitle: September 1999, U.S. study: Al Qaeda might crash planes into Pentagon.)

(Subtitle: Spring 2001, New York City trial testimony: Bin Laden sending agents to acquire planes.)

BUSH: These terrorists had burrowed in our country for over two years. They were well organized. They were well planned. They struck in a way that was unimaginable.

(Subtitle: July 2001, FBI told of Zacarias Moussaoui's interest in flying jumbo jets.)

(Subtitle: September 2001, FBI memo: Moussaoui could fly something into the World Trade Center.)


OLBERMANN: On September 10, 2001, Senator Dianne Feinstein of California requested a meeting with Vice President Cheney to press the case for aggressive counterterrorism measures. She is told Mr. Cheney will need some time to prepare first, six months.

That same day, the NSA intercepted a communique from Afghanistan to Saudi Arabia, stating, "Tomorrow is zero hour." That communique was only translated into English on September 12.


OLBERMANN: It appears now that the operative word in the phrase "We could not have anticipated" was the word "we."

Countdown's look at what the Bush White House did to take the threat of terrorism seriously on its watch, and what it did not do, from Rice's claim this week they were handed no al Qaeda strategy from the Clinton administration, to President Bush's reaction to the confirmation that al Qaeda indeed was behind the attack on the U.S.S. "Cole."

Ahead, analysis of those eight months from one who served as Richard Clarke's right-hand man as the transition played out. Paul Kurtz has never spoken about that time publicly until now.

And a terror threat hitting close to home for us, and how "The New York Post" showed its true colors when it comes to issues of security and human decency.

You are watching Countdown on MSNBC.


OLBERMANN: The administration does not like it when former officials go public about their service, especially when raising questions about national security.

Tonight, in our fourth story on the Countdown, the man who served as the National Security Council's director for counterterrorism during the first eight months of the Bush administration, answering directly to Richard Clarke, is speaking publicly for the first time on this newscast about those eight months. His name is Paul Kurtz.

Mr. Kurtz, we thank you for some of your time tonight.


OLBERMANN: Let's start with this fundamental issue. Can the Bush administration point to a single act or operation when claiming that it tried to get bin Laden or al Qaeda and stop them before 9/11?

KURTZ: Certainly, I think it would be a mistake to leave an impression among the people of America that the Bush administration was sitting on its hands. Defensive efforts were, if you will, underway, but I think it is fair to say that, at the higher level, at the strategic level, there wasn't the level of engagement that you would expect at the most senior levels of the administration on taking down al Qaeda.

Richard Clarke teed up a strategy for the administration to take a look at, and, if you will, we stepped in line behind everybody else that had something that needed to be reviewed by the most senior levels of the administration.

OLBERMANN: Do you have a way to assess whether our collective readiness and aggressiveness, proactiveness, in this front deteriorated, increased, stayed the same, say, between January 1, 2001, when Clinton was still president, and February 1, 2001 after which - after - with - by which time Mr. Bush had assumed the job?

KURTZ: I think the way I would characterize it at last as residual momentum coming from the Clinton administration. In other words, all the programs that President Clinton and his team had put into place, and, of course, I was there at that time as well, remained in place.

What happened, though, is, we had clear indications during the handoff and clear discussions during the handoff to the Bush administration that al Qaeda was a very serious problem, that it could, in fact, come up and bite the administration.

Richard Clarke and his team, we elevated that up, up the line, and they took a look at it. But as I said, it became more of a bureaucratic issue within the administration, something that needed to be looked at along with several other issues.

OLBERMANN: Earlier, we heard the tape of Ari Fleischer being asked in a news conference on February 2001 about the reports that the Taliban had sent out feelers about turning bin Laden over. The White House has not replied to our request to find out what happened with those feelers, even to this day. Can you shed any light on that for us?

KURTZ: Well, I think in this case, we have to remember that in this business, there's a lot of information that comes in. It comes in through the press, it comes in through intelligence, it comes in through diplomatic channels. So there's a lot of noise in the system.

And in this case, you had a journalist who asked a question who had heard that there was some willingness on the part of the Taliban to offer up Osama bin Laden or al Qaeda, and, you know, we would hear those kind of reports all the time. And, in fact, we've - you know, would always try to run those to ground.

And I think you - we all must realize how many reports have we heard that al Qaeda or, excuse me, Osama bin Laden is dead? None of those have come true. I think it's fair to say that the intelligence community and the foreign diplomatic community, as well as our own diplomatic forces or folks, look into these issues as best they can, and see what they can find out.

OLBERMANN: You spoke just now about how the bureaucracy came into play here. May of 2001, Mr. Bush asked Vice President Cheney to prepare a report on preparedness for attacks by unconventional weapons by the first of October. In late June, the vice president assigned the admiral Charles Abbott to spearhead that effort. First of September, the vice president hired Colonel John Fenzel (ph) as staff direct. There was still no staff by that point. And Admiral Abbott did not receive his White House security pass until September 10, 2001.

Is that an indicator of the bureaucracy and the priority that terrorism had at that time, or is there an unfair inference in there?

KURTZ: I think that's an unfair inference. You have a lot of people who are, remember, we're in the first eight months of the administration, you know, everybody's trying to start up. They're bringing in new staff, they're trying to get their security clearances in place.

I will say, to this day, we have a problem with getting people cleared in a timely manner. And I don't think you can necessarily accuse the White House or the Bush administration as that being, if you will, their problem or their bureaucracy. There's just a lot of work that needs to be done in order to clear people.

So I - given the - what you've just described about Admiral Abbott, I don't think you can say that's necessarily a huge problem.

I think the big point here that we need to think about is that when Richard Clarke briefed the incoming administration, he made it clear that this was a very serious problem that needed attention at the highest levels.

And what happened, unfortunately, was that we were asked to stand in line behind everybody else. And as the record shows, in the 9/11 report, it wasn't until September that the comprehensive strategy, if you will, if you want to call it that at this point in time, reached a decision point among the principals in the government.

OLBERMANN: And when you hear, as you must have heard in that report that we presented before the commercial break, the president speaking in 2001 about this vital ultimate necessity of missile defense, does your blood run cold? What is your reaction?

KURTZ: Well, I think it's fair to say, we were focusing on the wrong problems. It's clear. I mean, that much is obvious. And we don't hear as much about missile defense as we used to. Now, I'm not saying that missile defense is - should no longer be on the radar screen. But it's clear that terrorism is - got to be counterterrorism, it's got to be front and center when we think about the nation's security over the next 10 to 15 years.

And we have a long way to go before we're actually going to get this threat under control.

OLBERMANN: Paul Kurtz, the NSC director for counterterrorism from 1999 to 2002. Thank you for your service, sir, and thank you for your time tonight.

KURTZ: Thank you for asking me to be here.

OLBERMANN: Also tonight, the Dallas Cowboys star called T.O., police say he tried to take the ultimate timeout. He says he never attempted suicide.

And at the same time we get a possible cause of death of the son of Anna Nicole Smith, we get the possible identity of the man who claims to be the father of the new daughter of Anna Nicole Smith.

All that and much more, ahead on Countdown.


OLBERMANN: Uebermodel Cheryl Teagues and rocker Meat Loaf both turned 59 today. Talk about the importance of getting off to a good start.

Let's play Oddball.

And we begin in Cleveland where, is there anything more annoying then you're sitting in traffic and some turkey wants to wash your windows? Must have been a slow news day in the City by the Lake, because the cameras were in full force to cover this wild turkey on the loose. Of course, a wild turkey is always on the loose. Don't go attacking the media on this show, pal. If it were not for the TV cameras the headline of this story would have been "wild turkey dead in road." Instead it was simply shooed back into the woods, another turkey saved by the liberal media.

To the Internets where you know there is 88 shopping days until Christmas and while everyone is chasing around that crazy new Elmo, it's the new Barbie doll set that caught our attention.


ANNOUNCER: You potty trained Tanner, Barbie.

Barbie doll and her dog Tanner set with everything for potty training.


OLBERMANN: You got to be blankin' me. That's realistic. What little girl wouldn't be thrilled with a toy dog who could mess her carpet? Just about 15 bucks for the Barbie with Tanner dog set, 25 if you upgrade to Barbie dog has ringworm edition.

Finally to the Netherlands for another exciting episode for "What the hell is this guy talking about?"


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you leave it laying on one side forever, it's got one side is going to be flat and one side is going to be, well, sort of kind of roundish, so you need to turn to get a nicer shape .


OLBERMANN: If you guessed he was talking about his sister, you're wrong. He's a cheesemaker and that's the world's biggest cheese. Blessed or are the cheesemakers. It's 1,300 pounds, make with 1,500 gallons of milk. They say it tastes so bad it will never be sold. What is so special about the cheesemakers?

Well, obviously it's not meant to be taken literally. It refers to any manufacturers of dairy products.

Also tonight, here, why the "New York Post" did more damage than it knew stumbling and reporting a terrorist threat that we were asked to keep quiet. And the headline says it all. "Screech, Sex Tape." Screech? Nancy Grace? Details ahead, but first time now for Countdown's "Top 3 Newsmakers" of this day.

No. 3, Shawn Cliff of (INAUDIBLE) in England, after drunk driving conditions, he had to - or convictions rather, he had to wear an electronic tag on his ankle, but one night he wanted to go boozing so he simply cut the thing off and turned it into a collar for his dog, "Freddie."

No. 2, Richard Snowden of Hornell, New York. He's selling his 75-year-old old mansion in buffalo, but it's package deal - your cost, $7 and a half million. But you not only get the mansion, you also get the strip joints he owns in Buffalo, Rochester, and Tampa.

And No. 1, Daniel Steinbach of Rogersville, Tennessee. He was looking for a ride Saturday night, flagged down a passing police cruiser, asked by the officer where he needed to go, Steinbach said "A house on the hill." Asked which house on the hill, Steinbach repeated "A house on the hill." The officer then asked him if he was taking my medication and Steinbach said, "Just some pot." House on the hill? You want to buy Mr. Snowden's mansion and the strip clubs?


OLBERMANN: As the current administration is so fond of pointing out we now live in a post-9/11 world. We've already shown that in this news hour. What that means in political terms, no in our third story in the Countdown, what it means in practical terms.

In a nutshell it signifies that, to quote the Homeland Security Department, "If you see something, say something." Even at Scooter Libby's scheduled hearing in the CIA leak investigation this morning. Thanks to a strange suitcase found on a construction site at the U.S. District Court House, within minutes the court was evacuated, police cordoned off the area, sniffer dogs started to inspect the perimeter, the fire department arrived and traffic was shut down. Eventually an officer dressed in full bomb protection gear carried out the offending suitcase. Turns out it was not a bomb, it was a bag of soiled clothes, but the key part of the equation, of course, is that you don't know that beforehand.

Speaking of emergency units and government responses and guys in big safety suits, the Rupert Murdoch-owned newspaper, the "New York Post," may have just impeded an FBI investigation into terroristic threats. I know this because I was a recipient.

The bureau asked us not to report any of the details, so that the person or persons responsible would not know any of the threats had been received by any of the targets and we, of course, complied. I still cannot confirm many of the specifics, again in order to make the jobs of the FBI and the New York Police Department a little easier, but I find it necessary to respond to the genuinely shocking tone with which Murdoch's paper reported the event and the string of factual errors they made either through negligence or premeditated disregard for the truth.

"Powder Puff Spooks Keith" reads the headline. The article then gives the exact details of the event which we were asked not to divulge. "The caustic commentator panicked and frantically called 911."

There was no panic and if that needs to be independently verified, I'm happy to authorize release that 911 call recording. In fact, from my own sense of the thing, I was confident there was no danger. My first inclination was to wait until the start of the next work day to notify the authorities, but the remote possibility that any delay might have endangered others led me reverse my decision.

"An NYPD HazMat unit rushed to..." then the paper helpfully reveals the location of the event, "...but preliminary tests indicated the substance was harmless soap powder. However, that wasn't enough to satisfy Olbermann, who insisted on a checkup."

The results of part of the preliminary tests referred to did not come back for nearly six hours. The other results did not come back for about 14. I made no insistence on any checkup. The officer in charge of the 18 or so police officers who responded asked that I follow their protocol: A decontamination shower at the scene, the bagging and sealing of the clothes that I was wearing at the time of the incident, and my transportation to the emergency room.

I mean, not to overdo this, but they had to melt my keys and destroy my wallet.

"He asked to be taken to..." and forgive me again for not mentioning the specific hospital, "...where doctors looked him over and sent him home."

In fact, I was there 10 hours before they permitted me to leave even after several forceful requests by me and my employers to the New York Department of Health that I should be released.

Incidentally, I apologized if those were too forceful. Apologize for the requests, not the commentaries that obviously inspired the event that I'm talking about and the "Post's" mocking of police and FBI efforts and its endorsement of the terroristic threats from the radical right. We will not be intimidated here.

"Whether they gave him a lollypop on the way out isn't known.

Olbermann had no comment."

What they gave me out was not a lollipop but a prescription for Cipro, the antibiotic used in the event of exposure to Anthax. And one of the reasons I offered no comment is obvious, the authorities asked me not to. Also a "New York Post" reporter attempted to again access to me by falsely identifying herself as a friend of mine.

And most relevantly, the "Post" never called NBC NEWS or MSNBC seeking any comment. They would have been told that the FBI had requested we try to keep this quiet. But of course, even if the story had been accurate in the paper, printing it all would have been no less outrageous nor incendiary.

It's almost melodramatic to ask why the "New York Post" would choose the side of domestic terrorism rather than choose the side of the FBI, but it's remarkable that this was printed by any newspaper, even in the current political climate, even in the wake of editorial stance here, even with Rupert Murdoch's radical agenda, which has stirred up some rage in his readers and viewers.

A month ago, when a reporter Steve Santani of Murdoch's FOX NEWS was kidnapped in Gaza, along with his cameraman, that network reached out to the others, this one included. They relayed that the authorities there had urged everyone to keep reporting of the kidnapping low-key and to a minimum because it believed the kidnappers did not know they had gotten a hold of someone recognizable. We and most other major news organizations immediately and thoroughly cooperated with Murdoch's request.

Now in a return case, Murdoch's newspaper did not even make the single phone call that could have told it the potential damage it would be doing. So next time a FOX or a "New York Post" employee is in distress or the government is investigating something endanger them and Murdoch's people ask us to hold a story, of course we will.

On this end, anyway, we are still human beings and Americans and we would never have any problem choosing whether to support the terrorists or the FBI.

Also tonight, Terrell Owens' trip to the hospital, he says he had an allergic reaction to mixing pills. The police say he says he tried to commit suicide.

In the midst of Anna Nicole Smith's grief over the death of her son, a third man has now come forward to claim he's the father of her new daughter. There's late word today on the cause of death of her son. Details ahead on Countdown.


OLBERMANN: Unexpected, unusual, celebrity headlines. Terrell Owens trying to kill himself. New details about the cause of the death of Anna Nicole Smith's son. And prepare for the Screech sex tape - the kid from "Saved by the Bell." All of that ahead on Countdown.


OLBERMANN: There is the cliched good news and bad news about one of the best and easily the most controversial football players of the day. Our No. 2 story in the Countdown, the bad news, a Dallas Police report that Terrell Owens tried to take own life last night. The good news, T.O.'s playing status for Sunday's game has been upgraded to probable from suicidal.

Our correspondent is Jay Gray.


JAY GRAY, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): One way or another, Terrell Owens has always managed to find the spotlight, and not always on the field. But the controversial wide receiver said the attention today is all a big misunderstanding.

TERRELL OWENS, DALLAS COWBOYS: There was no suicide attempt.

GRAY: Released from the Bailer Medical Center, late Wednesday morning, Owens went to the Cowboys practice facility to talk with teammates and try to clear the air.

OWENS: You know, I don't think I would be here if I - had I taken 35 pills.

GRAY: It's a much different story than the one initially told by Dallas Police and paramedics who were called to Owens' downtown loft apartment just after 8:00 Tuesday night. And incident report indicates Owens tried to commit suicide by taking a "unknown large quantity of prescription pain medication." But by Wednesday morning, Dallas Police citing medical and privacy laws would only say:

LT. RICK WATSON, DALLAS POLICE DEPT.: This is not a criminal offense. This is a medical type of situation and the incident that occurred.

GRAY: There still do seem to be a lot of unanswered questions about exactly what happened with T.O.

BILL PARCELLS, DALLAS COWBOYS COUCH: You know, I got to get a little clearer picture of what it is.

GRAY: Even his team has said it's not sure about the star receiver's status at this point.

PARCELLS: It's apparently an unfortunate set of circumstances and I'd rather be clear on what they are before I comment the future.

GRAY: One of the biggest questions left to be answered is when or even if the all-pro wide receiver should ever play again.

Jay Gray, NBC NEWS, Irving (ph).


OLBERMANN: Incidentally, that cowboys couch, Bill Parcells midday news conference, at it he was asked 34 questions in total, 33 of them were about Owens. It is to the asker of the 34th we will hear him last to whom we offer a salute for keeping things in perspective.


QUESTION: Knowing T.O. like you do, would it surprise you if he actually tried to commit suicide?

QUESTION: Have you had a chance to talk to him at?

QUESTION: What's your understanding of his condition?

QUESTION: When he was sick, after he had the surgery, did they change his medicine?

QUESTION: What's Terry Glenn's status with his.

PARCELLS: What's what?

QUESTION: What is Terry Glenn's status with his injury?

PARCELLS: Oh, he's doing fine.


OLBERMANN: What about Terry Glenn? On to our round-up of celebrity and entertainment news, and perhaps the first firm understanding of what caused the death of Anna Nicole Smith's son. Twenty-year-old Daniel Smith died from a lethal combination of drugs according to Dr. Cyril Wecht, the pathologist hired by Ms. Smith to perform a second autopsy. Dr. Wecht has told "People" magazine that the toxicology report identified methadone, Zoloft and Lexapro. He says that caused cardiac dysrhythmia. No word on why Mr. Smith would have been on methadone. Zoloft and Lexapro are prescription drugs commonly used for depression.

Daniel Smith died in his mother's hospital room in the Bahamas on September 10. He was visiting her three days after the birth of her daughter. The man claiming to be the child's father has identified himself, Howard K. Stern, Miss Smith's long-time attorney and frequent spokesman. Mr. Stern told Larry King, "I am very excited. I wish it was under different circumstances." He says they have named their daughter Danny Lynne Hope (ph).

And if there were any notion that the video footage of Steve Irwin's death would be made public, that apparently has been put to rest. The wife of the man known as the "Crocodile Hunter" has reportedly said that those final moments will never be shown on television. Terry Irwin saying even she has not seen the video and questions the purpose of broadcasting it. Her husband was killed when a stingray barb pierced his chest. He was filming a TV show on the Great Barrier Reef at the time of the accident.

We've survived the sex tapes of Paris Hilton, Pamela Anderson, and the headlines, at lease, surrounding one involving Colin Farrell, but Screech? Screech from "Saved by the Bell" Screech? Oh, it'll be less Elizabeth Berkeley next? Wait, it was?

That's ahead but first time for Countdown latest list of nominees for "Worst Person in the World."

You have to buy this. I've got Cipro bills to pay.

Our nominees, the Bronze to Peter Roskam, Republican congressional candidate of the Illinois sixth, says his Democratic opponent wants to cut and run from Iraq. She's Tammy Duckworth, former National Guard pilot in Iraq and she can't run, since she lost both of her legs there. Nice touch, Pete.

The Silver tonight to Michael Savage. Says an average prostitute, let's say in a city, probably, they're more reliable and more honest than most U.S. senators wearing a dress.

Prostitutes, cross dressers, well, Mike, we'll defer to you, you're the expert here.

But our winner, Roger Ailes the Ming the Merciless, of FOX News and congrats, incidentally Roger, on having achieved the perfectly circular shape. He says today that President Clinton's reaction to Chris Wallace the other day was "An assault on all journalists." No, Roger, what he said was an admonishment, somebody sending terroristic threats to me and others is an assault to all journalists.

Roger Ailes, today's "Worst Person in the World."


OLBERMANN: No. 1 story in the Countdown, it's XXX D list. A "celebrity" apparently still hard up for cash now starring in his very own sex tape. Dustin Diamond, better known as Screech from the old Saturday morning sitcom "Saved by the Bell." You may also recall him as a guy hocking t-shirts a couple of months ago trying to save us house from forcloser.

Now it's foreplay instead. A 40-minute video featuring Screech with two girls, according the to the "New York Daily News" which describes it as a kinky three-way. All right. Including a literally unmentionable act, something about a Mr. Sanchez. Numero cinco. And even the man hired to pimp this video is shocked. David Hans Schmidt told the "New York Daily News" that he has acquired the rights to the tape. He also has brokered other celebrity porn, but he says "Just when you think you've seen everything in this business, mankind has raised the bar another notch - or lowered it." They do that too?

Mr. Schmidt is reportedly trying to sell the tape to Larry Flint. One copy at a time, please. Meanwhile, Screech's manager takes it all in stride, claiming his client has found success as a stand-up comic.

In this tape? Stand.

He says, "I haven't seen the tape. I've head rumors. Dustin has been trying to escape the Screech typecast. So this may help me get more bookings."

Joining me now is a comedian Paul F. Tompkins, contributor to VH-1's "Best Week Ever."

Paul, good evening to you.

PAUL F. TOMPKINS, COMEDIAN: Good evening to you, Keith. Thanks for having me.

OLBERMANN: So, even Screech's manager thinks this might be a good career move?

TOMPKINS: Well, the answer is in your question. He's Screech's manager. There's not a ton of options. And Branson is still a decade away for Screech, I think. By the way, I'd like to take the "New York Daily News" to task for referring to this tape as containing a "kinky" three-way. I think a three-way is already kinky; you don't have to modify it that way.

What has happened to America journalism?

OLBERMANN: We are having a lot of problems with it here at New York today, just on that note and others, Paul.

But let's go in to this a bit deeper. Four years ago, Mr. Screech, Mr. Diamond, was on the FOX network Celebrity Boxing two, and defeated a guy who played Horshack on "Welcome Back Kotter," Ron Palillo, so I - is this a step up from that or a step down? I can't tell.

TOMPKINS: It is a step up. And this is good news for Dustin, who was under the impression he was going to have to work you way up through the rest of the "Sweat Hogs." So that's kind a relief. But if recent rumors about the actor who played Barbarino are to be believed, perhaps there could be a cameo in the sex tape sequel.

OLBERMANN: Whoa hey, he now Mr. Kotter. Let me try to exercise a little decency here. I'm not asking you to go in to the details and I'm not presuming you've seen the video itself, but is there some sort of descending scale at work here? I mean, A-list celebrities can videotape themselves and a particular position - the public wants to see that, if you're a D-lister you have to get extraordinarily raunchy to pique any interest?

TOMPKINS: That is the rule. I mean, "Saved by the Bell" wasn't even in prime-time, it was Saturday afternoon, you know, so, it takes a little extra. You got to go the extra distance. And let me tell you, if you're a Screech, holding a three-way together is not easy. You know, like, this girl's starting to sober, but that girl's passed out. You know? Oh, no, she's starting to remember where she is and how she got here. You know, that sort of thing. Mario L¢pez does not have these kind of problems.

OLBERMANN: Right and.

TOMPKINS: Incidentally, the two girls in the tape, they also had to have their keys melted.

OLBERMANN: I would imagine. Unfortunately, this is not unique among ex-child stars. The guy who played "Flick" in the classic movie "A Christmas Story" went into porn. "Flick" into porn. Who couldn't have seen that one coming? One of the girls from "Family Matters," another one from "In the House" and now Screech, is this an epidemic and if so, is there an antibiotic for it?

TOMPKINS: It's no epidemic, Keith. What these kids have in common is they are born performers. They love to be in front of the camera. You know, they'd go into legitimate if they could, but you're not allowed to have sex there and they don't want to move Amsterdam.

OLBERMANN: So, this one quote her about how - from the manager again, that he's found success as a stand-up comic. When you heard that did you think immediately, as I did, that they were referring to the tape? A stand-up comic in the tape? Is that - we're seeing a performance that's kind of funny as well as being stand-up?

TOMPKINS: Well, it's entirely possible. Not having seen the tape, of course.

OLBERMANN: Yes, of course.

TOMPKINS: But early reviews say that Dustin Diamond captures some of the dry wit of an early Ron Jeremy.

OLBERMANN: I never - I go to say, I never knew Ron Jeremy was early. Anyway, that's another story for another time. Let people figure out what I meant. Comedian Paul F. Tompkins. Great thanks for your time, sir.

TOMPKINS: Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN: That is Countdown for this, the 1,243rd day since the declaration of "mission accomplished" in Iraq. I'm Keith Olbermann. Goodnight and indeed good luck.

Our MSNBC coverage continues now with SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY. And I understand, Joe, you have a little more on the Screech sex tape? Think you can get through it?



That was unbelievable.

I'll have to have my keys melted.

OLBERMANN: DO I need to stick around or what?

SCARBOROUGH: Yeah you may have to help me out. That dry wit of...