Monday, September 25, 2006

'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Sept. 25

Special Comment:
A textbook definition of cowardice
via YouTube, h/t fferkleheimer

Guests: Richard Wolffe, Jonathan Alter

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

The administration on its heels after the National Intelligence Estimate confirms public opinion - we are less safe because of the war in Iraq, not more safe.

And rewriting history to cover up the Iraq disaster and cover the current president's backside about 9/11.


CHRIS WALLACE, HOST: Why didn't you do more to put bin Laden and al Qaeda out of business when you were president?


OLBERMANN: President Clinton smacks down Fox News. An inside story on the immediate aftermath from the guy who conducted the next interview.

And the administration on its heels again. The Republican National Committee responds with eight pages of mudslinging articles, nearly all written since 2004.


FORMER PRES. BILL CLINTON: So you did Fox's bidding on this show, you did your nice little conservative hit job on me.


OLBERMANN: And the latest terrorist threat begins to go away. Those deadly liquids on a plane, they're fine now, as long as you buy them at the airport.

The continuing scourge of race-car driver on race-car driver violence. Funny we never complained about the continuing scourge of race-car on race-car driver violence.

And the great truth hidden inside the blustery headline.


CLINTON: But at least I tried. That's the difference in me and some, including all of the right-wingers that are attacking me now. They ridiculed me for trying. They had eight months to try. They did not try. I tried.


OLBERMANN: President Clinton says what most of us have been afraid to say. President Bush did not try to stop Osama bin Laden before 9/11.

My special comment, and the end of George Bush's free pass, tonight.

All that and more, now on Countdown.

Good evening. This is Monday, September 25, 43 days until the 2006 midterm elections.

If the Bush administration's problem last week and the week before was the rebellion of Senate Republicans against the president's plan for the treatment and interrogation of terror suspects, this week the problem, and the rebels, appear to be the entire intelligence community of the United States.

Our fifth story on the Countdown, a sweeping assessment by all 16 American intelligence agencies concluding that the war in Iraq has spread terrorism, making the U.S. less safe, not more so.

You would not know that based on the president's public schedule today, Mr. Bush fundraising for Republican candidates, making speeches about the economy in Ohio, meantime, the only Republican who seems to disputing the accuracy of the reports or their interpretation about the classified National Intelligence Estimate, Mr. Bush's own press secretary, Tony Snow, telling reporters in an off-camera briefing today, quote, "One thing that the reports do not say is that the war in Iraq has made terrorism worse."

The obvious response to that statement would seem to be, Well, then, immediately declassify the intelligence estimate in full, something most Democrats in an election year would be loath to request, but there's no need for them to request it if the Republican chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee is already doing that for them, Senator Pat Roberts of Kansas, whose committee has had the report since April, saying this afternoon, "I think the administration should declassify this document so that the American people can see the material for themselves and come to their own conclusions," on the very same day the consensus view of all 16 American intelligence agencies was made public, not by the administration's choice, mind you, Fox News airing an interview with former president Bill Clinton, in which Chris Wallace attempted to shift blame for 9/11, for the war on terror, if not for Iraq itself, onto Mr. Clinton.


CLINTON: All I'm asking is, anybody wants to say I didn't do enough, you read Richard Clarke...

WALLACE: Do you think you did enough, sir?

CLINTON: No, because I didn't get him.


CLINTON: But at least I tried. That's the difference in me and some, including all of the right-wingers that are attacking me now. They ridiculed me for trying. They had eight months to try. They did not try. I tried. So I tried and failed. When I failed, I left a comprehensive antiterrorist strategy and the best guy in the country, Dick Clarke, who got demoted.


OLBERMANN: More on the remarkable meaningfulness of that statement coming up.

First, more on the National Intelligence Estimate per cell - per se. And for that, we'll turn to our own Richard Wolffe, also, of course, the senior White House correspondent for "Newsweek" magazine.

Richard, good evening.


Good evening, Keith.

OLBERMANN: The NIE conclusion, it's not new, exactly, but is the point today that current and former intelligence officials are saying, like the president says, Well, there is a link between Iraq and the war on terror, only he's saying the link is positive, Iraq is where we fight terrorists, they're saying it's negative, Iraq is where we create terrorists.

WOLFFE: Yes, there is one important distinction. You know, the important thing here to remember is that the intelligence community has dissented from the administration's view for a long period. In the runup to the war, our reporting on the case for the war was informed by members of the intelligence community. They were saying, Iraq and al Qaeda, the link isn't true, as the administration is portraying it. Iraq's nuclear program isn't correct, as the administration is portraying it.

And now here again, they're obviously dissenting, and specifically the important thing here is that they're saying that the White House idea that we are safer but not yet safe isn't accurate, and the idea that America is safer because of what's gone on doesn't tally with this explosion in the whole growth of al Qaeda and radical Islamism.

OLBERMANN: How difficult would it be to politicize, in either direction, a document like the NIE? Should we expect to see released only the portions that would help the administration? Based on the statement from Senator Roberts this afternoon, it appears that that's a possibility, if not necessarily an imminent possibility.

WOLFFE: Well, what's hard with any intelligence document is, of course, now, a lot of these intelligence reports are going to touch on sensitive issues, whether it's about sources or methods, and it's very hard for us in the media to know why certain things are blocked, whether it's political or operational reasons. And there are obviously legitimate operational reasons for keeping something secret.

You know, we got used to the old Iraq NIE being declassified in its entirety, but that's because the old regime was no more, so there were no sensitive sources or methods. And, by the way, the intelligence was all wrong anyway.

So, you know, this is a difficult situation for us to assess. Everything is political right now. And obviously what's very problematic for the administration is timing. The timing of this release is very awkward for an administration that wants to fight the elections saying that, you know, the world is safer.

OLBERMANN: The White House response yesterday, "'The New York Times" characterization of the NIE is not representative of the complete document." "The Washington Post," "L.A. Times," also had versions of this in their Sunday papers. "New York Times" mentioned in particular.

Has the administration gone back into the quiver for the blame-the-media, particularly blame "The New York Times," arrow?

WOLFFE: Oh, they're blaming everyone. They're trying to sort of split hairs here and say it's a mischaracterization. You know, and obviously there's a suggestion there, there's a bit of bias going on. And that's a nice, easy sort of pushback.

But, you know, the - it's not really going to change the subject for long enough. People are already focused again on Iraq. And again, that's a problem for the White House. They would much prefer to talk about either Democrats and their position on national security, or terrorism.

OLBERMANN: And the pushback against Bill Clinton. We saw it now, hand-to-hand combat on Friday afternoon in a taping in New York. We saw it in this "Path to 9/11" movie, and obviously the White House would say, Well, we had nothing to do with either of those things. But they're rather strong coincidences to be happening on the short end in the runup to an election.

WOLFFE: Yes, you know, a lot of people are looking at Bill Clinton saying, for a start, Why did he get so angry, and why did he respond in that way? And a lot of people thinking, you know, He's offering a script to Democrats to push back, not just on his record, but on the whole national security push that the Republicans are trying to put here.

You know, one of the things that has characterized Democrats, as they've come under attack from Republicans, is, how do they talk about the war, how they talk about national security. So people watching the Clintons very closely, saying, Maybe there's a script here, maybe a message for all Democrats.

OLBERMANN: "Newsweek"'s senior White House correspondent, Richard Wolffe. As always, Richard, our great thanks.

WOLFFE: Any time.

OLBERMANN: And, of course, there is the reason why Chris Wallace chose to go after President Clinton in an interview. He had promised to devote at least half of which to Mr. Clinton's Global Initiative, the former president not shy in sharing his own view of the Fox anchor's motive.


CLINTON: So you did Fox's bidding on this show. You did your nice little conservative hit job on me. What I want to know is...

WALLACE: Well, wait a minute...


WALLACE: I asked a question. You don't think that's a legitimate question?

CLINTON: No, no. I'm - no, it was a perfectly legitimate question. But I want to know how many people in the Bush administration you asked this question of. I want to know how many people in the Bush administration you asked, Why didn't you do anything about the "Cole"? I want to know how many people you asked, Why did you fire Dick Clarke? I want to know how many people you asked (INAUDIBLE)...

WALLACE: We asked - (INAUDIBLE) - do you ever watch Fox News Sunday, sir?

CLINTON: I don't believe you asked him that.


OLBERMANN: For more on this angle of the story, let's call in our own Jonathan Alter, senior editor at "Newsweek."

John, good evening. Thanks for your time.


OLBERMANN: All right, give us the best available information we could piece together over the weekend. Was President Clinton correct in calling that a conservative hit job? Was there a pre-interview agreement breached? Did he avail himself just of a sudden opportunity that Chris Wallace handed him there?

ALTER: No, I think he lost his temper. I don't think there was any pre-ground rules breached or anything like that, and I don't actually fault Chris Wallace at all.

Look, you want - when you go into an interview like this, you want to ask a good, provocative question. That's what we're paid to do. I've had Clinton lose his temper in interviews with me. And they called them purple fits in the Clinton White House.

It's just part of his personality. He's got so many appealing

qualities. This is one of his less-appealing

And it's something that I think we've only seen once before in public, in 1992, when he was caught on videotape being - losing his temper over Jesse Jackson.

Other than that, only those of us who've interviewed him or people who work for him have seen this side of him. It - and I don't think the - I don't think he was right that somehow, you know, Fox was out to get him on this. As Wallace said, he was posing a question that a lot of Fox's admittedly very conservative viewers wanted to know. And I also think that Clinton, in responding, had the merits on his side. Most of the points that he made were factually accurate.

OLBERMANN: He did mention e-mailers, and they weren't necessarily viewers, they might have been his own employers.

But I can give some of the backstory here, because the interview that Mr. Clinton gave after he finished with Wallace was the one he did with me. And any suspicion that Mr. Clinton was premeditated in his reaction is - has no basis to it. He came back into our room last Friday from the Wallace interview. He wasn't enraged. Clearly he was upset.

I can say observationally, his reaction to Fox thus seemed entirely genuine, and nor did he then say to me, You should ask me about Fox, or, You should ask me about bin Laden. There was no kind of cueing on this, there was no script.

So that out of the way, did the whole thing give the Republicans cover on the National Intelligence Estimate, divert the discussion for a while? Or did it galvanize the Democrats? Or what did it do?

ALTER: I think it did both of those things. It was unfortunate, because it - the interview was taped before the news over the weekend about the National Intelligence Estimate, which is a devastating, devastating blow to the whole foundation of the Republican argument for maintaining control of Congress.

Their whole argument, Keith, is that the country is safer now, and that we have less of a threat from terrorism as a result of Republican leadership. The National Intelligence Estimate - which is not just any old report, it's 16 different intelligence agencies coming together, it's the most important government report on the subject - says, To the contrary, we are less safe, the war in Iraq has increased terrorism.

So it overshadowed that, the Clinton interview. But at the same time, I think it did signal to Democrats and galvanize Democrats that they should be going out on the campaign trail and say, Where's bin Laden? We haven't caught him. Why do we, as Bill Clinton said, have seven times as many troops in Iraq as we do in Afghanistan? How could they have disbanded the unit that was assigned to catch bin Laden? And how dare they try to change the subject to what happened, you know, in the Clinton administration before 9/11 when we didn't know that bin Laden, you know, was going to attack us?

OLBERMANN: So (INAUDIBLE) lastly on this, Jon, if the Democrats could tie these two things together, the NIE and sort of, if you will, the marching orders, or at least the inspiration they might have gotten out of Clinton, does that change the big picture relative to the midterms? Is it possible that the - that Democrats can go out and use this as a rallying point, while the Republicans might go - revert to (INAUDIBLE) - pre-9/11 thinking and use Bill Clinton as an anti-rallying point?

ALTER: Well, I'm not sure that the Republicans will be able to do more than mobilize a little bit of their base.

What does concern me, Keith, is what you indicated earlier when you were talking to Richard, which is these intelligence reports often have kind of ambiguous language in them that can be interpreted in different ways. And so if Pat Roberts in the Senate declassifies only part of the report, they could counterattack, the Republicans, and say, Hey, look, this NIE was not what the Democrats were saying. It exculpates the Bush administration.

And they could come back and try to neutralize the news over the last couple of days.

OLBERMANN: Jonathan Alter of "Newsweek" and of MSNBC. As always, sir, great thanks for your time. Good to see you again.

ALTER: Thanks a lot, Keith.

OLBERMANN: And ahead in this newshour, a special comment, the obvious headlines in the Clinton-Fox story missed the biggest news, how Mr. Clinton liberated us all to tell the truth about how, in 2001, the current administration was asleep at the switch.

And with the Iraq war officially from that NIE making us more vulnerable to terror, the new urgency that places on correcting the mistakes in Iraq. Capitol Hill testimony today Secretary Rumsfeld may find morally or intellectually confused.

And the fluid rules about carry-on liquids. Yesterday, they were terror threats. Today, just dandy.

You are watching Countdown on MSNBC.


OLBERMANN: From the start of things there, the administration has insisted only those who have been to Iraq could truly know what it was like there.

In our fourth story on the Countdown, some of them testified today, retired military (INAUDIBLE) who served there bluntly detailing the gross ongoing errors, laying most of them at the feet of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and the administration, the Senate Democratic Policy Committee hearing joined by one lone congressional Republican, showcasing the informed ire of those retired military officers.

One of them, Major General Paul Eaton, will join us presently.

It was not just about calling for Mr. Rumsfeld's resignation, it was about an administration not listening and not telling the truth.


MAJ. GEN. JOHN BATISTE (RET.), U.S. ARMY: I believe that Secretary Rumsfeld and others in the administration did not tell the American people the truth, for fear of losing support for the war in Iraq.

Secretary Rumsfeld and the administration are fighting a war in secret that threatens our democratic values. This needs to stop right now, today.

Iraq didn't have to be the way it was. We created this insurgency.

We let it grow. We let it develop. We let it blossom.

COL. THOMAS HAMMIES (RET.), U.S. MARINE CORPS: The disconnect between our rhetoric and our actions is both astonishing and immoral.

MAJ. GEN. PAUL EATON (RET.), U.S. ARMY: The president is not well served by this secretary of defense, a man history will not treat kindly.

So what to do? Replace the secretary of defense with a proven leader who has a vision get the country's defense establishment back on track. The Army is in terrible shape. The Marines are not much better.


OLBERMANN: And also today, coincidentally or not, the revelation that the Army's chief of staff, General Peter J. Schoomacher, protested the Pentagon's underfunding of the war in Iraq by withholding a required budget plan for 2008. General Shoemaker reportedly wants $138 billion in 2008, 40 percent more than current levels, and more than the limit set by Secretary Rumsfeld.

As promised, I'm joined now by retired Major General Paul Eaton.

Thank you for your time tonight, sir.

EATON: Keith, thank you very much for the invitation.

OLBERMANN: I know you were not at that hearing today to talk about the findings from the National Intelligence Estimate, but if its primary conclusion is that the war in Iraq has created a new generation of Islamic radicalism, and that the terror threat has increased, how would you connect that with the criticisms that you and the others raised today?

EATON: Keith, the majority of us go back to Phase 4 planning. It was amateurish. It was - it really set the stage for where we are today. The secretary of defense, on his agenda, to go in with a minimalist approach to conduct the war, viewed it only as the Phase 3, the full combat ops.

We had no problem and expected no problem in reducing the Saddam threat. The real issue in everybody's mind was Phase 4. We went in on the cheap, we went in with too many assumptions that failed, and we did not have enough soldiers on the ground to do what any government really owes the governed, and that is security.

OLBERMANN: Let me play back the last comment that you made today at this hearing, and then ask you to amplify on it.


EATON: If I could have one more comment, the - every three- and four-star general on active duty today have passed through Mr. Rumsfeld's screen and through Mr. Rumsfeld's interview in his office, the results of which are known only to the men who go through it.


OLBERMANN: General Eaton, it sounded like you wanted to go further there. What happens in those interviews in Secretary Rumsfeld's office? What happens to those interviews?

EATON: I have no idea, Keith. But what I will tell you is hat we have had a remarkable failure of candor on the part of some very senior generals. And we have seen some very senior generals come out in vehement defense of the secretary of defense, both active duty, and men who have retired.

There is a process - the Goldwater-Nichols Act has established that the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff has the ear of the president, that he is the senior military adviser to the president. And I do not believe that Generals Myers or Pace have credibly executed the role that Goldwater-Nichols outline - laid out for them.

OLBERMANN: Is that causing, with men in the field, on whom this administration said it would rely and will rely regarding troop strengths and other things, to contain themselves, to restrain themselves, to edit what they would say? Or what's happening? Where is the disconnect in the process in which we're supposed to be listening to the generals that the president quotes so often anonymously?

EATON: Keith, I think the solution to the questions behind the screen lies in a very transparent testimony before the (INAUDIBLE) and the - the House Armed Services Committee and the Senate Armed Services Committee, where we get men of all ranks, men who have just redeployed back from Iraq, who will get up and testify before the Haskin-Saas (ph) and deliver testimony and answer the very hard questions that the bipartisan approach, that both Republicans and Democrats would ask these men concerning how they've been supported and what they may need in future deployments to Iraq.

OLBERMANN: Let's stress one particular part of that that is particularly personal to you. You were in charge of training Iraqi military and police. We hear all kinds of statements from the administration about the progress on that, stand up and stand down and all the rest. What's your assessment of the state of things?

EATON: We have charged Lieutenant General Marty Dempsey with the rebuild program. He, and the man who replaced me, Dave Petraeus, are extraordinary men and gentlemen. And they are doing absolutely the Lord's work in creating the Iraqi security forces, and creating success for them.

I do not believe that this administration has supported them appropriately. The recent report from General Barry McCaffrey that outlines a failure to properly equip the Iraqi security forces, this is a late April-May report that is now public, and it outlines that we have still not solved the equipment problems that we've imposed upon the Iraqi security forces.

That series of equipment deliveries, what they really need, will greatly enhance their capability, and it will be - will create a far more protected Iraqi security forces than we have on the ground right now.

OLBERMANN: If and when they get all of that. Retired Army Major General Paul Eaton, thank you for your service, thank you for speaking out, and thank you for your time tonight, sir.

EATON: Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN: Also tonight here, a special comment. Former president Clinton getting sandbagged by Fox News, but in the process, getting out an extraordinary truth about the current administration and 9/11, a truth few have had the courage to utter.

And road rage, as the professionals do it. Everybody was kung fu fighting against windshields.

That and more, ahead on Countdown.


OLBERMANN: Philip Francis Rizzuto, Baseball Hall of Fame shortstop of the New York Yankees, was born 88 years ago today. He was also a Yankees announcer, one of those who inspired me to get into broadcasting. And now he watches this newscast. Honored, sir. Happy birthday. Many thanks.

Let's play Oddball.

Oh, holy cow, what the heck is this huckleberry showing me now? An unemployed man walking in a bus station in Sao Paulo, Brazil? But who needs a job when you've got this kind of talent? Oh, this is why we call the segment Oddball. Forty-eight-year-old Claudio Paulo Pinto says he was out of work for a year before the idea came to him, join the traveling circus, hello, and get himself into the "Guinness Book of Records" for longest ocular extension.

Mr. Pinto's eyeballs can pop more than 12 millimeters out of their sockets. The guy can knock over a milk bottle with those things. He's still waiting for word from the Guinness folks - OK, stop.

To Germany now for whatever the hell this is.


Chris Wallace? No, it's not the German stage version of dueling banjos from "Deliverance," either, it's the Stag Mating call Championships of Germany. Nine master - excuse me - nine master stag callers grabbed their horn thingies and took to the stage to compete for the prestigious title and a $120 first prize and stunned, partially solidified crowd of 500 people sat there thinking, hey, wait, this isn't the "Blue Man Group."

Believe me folks, this is actually much, much better that the "Blue Man Group."

New rules again at the airport about was safe and for the safe to carry on him my special comment on how President Clinton just make it OK to seriously ask whether President Bush did anything to stop bin Laden before 9/11.

Will Oprah Winfrey be the next president? First her lawyer's respond to a bid to draft her for '08, then she responds to her lawyers. Details ahead on Countdown.


OLBERMANN: Questions today about what's behind our No. 3 story. A government decision to relax the ban on liquid carry-ons. It was less than two months ago that we learned of a purported plot to blow up several passenger jets simultaneously using liquid explosives. The results of the ban, passengers burdened with long lines, airlines burdened with more and more costly checked luggage, airport shops and stores burdened with lower sales.

Democratic Representative Ed Markey who sits on the Homeland Security Committee saying, "Today's announcement seems to have more to do with commerce, rather than commonsense security concerns."

Markey adding there has been little technology to detect liquid explosives and that the Homeland Security spending bill now in Congress, short changes the subject. Nevertheless, as our Tom Costello reports, the Transportation Security Administration insists it has enough information now to know now that some liquids are safe liquids.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Any type of liquid whatsoever cannot go through the security checkpoint.

TOM COSTELLO, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For nearly seven weeks, they've thrown it all away - liquids, gels, aerosols, anything in a carry-on bag.

BRUCE BAILEY, WASHINGTON, D.C.: Whatever you have to do for safety, I believe that's first and foremost, so...

MARCIA GREENE, WASHINGTON, D.C.: I think it's all silly. I don't feel any more secure one way or the other.

COSTELLO: Now, after consulting with the FBI, government laboratories, and foreign governments, the TSA says it can modify if the ban without compromising safety.

KIP HAWLEY, TSA ADMINISTRATOR: We now know enough to say that a total ban is no longer need from a security point of view.

COSTELLO: So effective tomorrow, passengers will be allowed to carry on one quart-sized plastic baggie containing shampoo, mouthwash, hair gel, shaving cream, as long as it's three ounces or less. Another change:

Beverages brought in the secured boarding area can also be brought onboard. The total liquid ban has lead to a 20 percent increase in checked bags, straining luggage handlers and security screeners.

(on camera): But while airline security has improved dramatically since 9/11, the TSA still doesn't have the technology in place to screen every bag for liquid explosives - a gaping hole, say experts, in the nation's security blanket.

RICK HAAN, FMR. FBI EXPLOSIVES EXPERT: The technology is for the there to detect the liquid explosives. These are actually precursor chemicals that would be mixed into an explosive mixture onboard the aircraft.

COSTELLO: Several companies are working to develop the technology, but in the meantime the TSA's convinced the amounts of liquids and gels it's allowing onboard now are too small to pose a risk.

Tom Costello, MSNBC NEWS, Washington.


OLBERMANN: Also here tonight, going around in circles for hours on end, enough to drive anyone crazy, but is auto racing just the pro-road rage circuit? And Oprah Winfrey, herself, finally weighs in on the efforts of a Midwestern man to draft her to run for president. Oh here we go.

All ahead on Countdown.


OLBERMANN: Bill Clinton's interview with the vampires of FOX News allotted heat, one extraordinary ray of light. How he may have just withdrawn the free pass the media has given President Bush. That and some race drivers doing Kung Fu - next. This is Countdown.


OLBERMANN: If you're surprised by the idea that auto races now seem to end in fights more often than do hockey games, you haven't been watching a lot auto races lately - or you have only you thought they were boxing telecasts.

Our No. 2 story on the Countdown, the Glass City 200 Race in Toledo, Ohio, and a new wrinkle, Kung Fu auto racing. Michael Simko angered the driver Don St. Denis had spun him out in an earlier lap costing him a possible checkered flag, gets out his car, runs up to the 20 and delivers a wee! - soaring dropkick thought the Plexiglas window. Them cats was fast as lightning. Simko then began to pummel the drive while still in his car. St. Denis made it out, ran over to Simko and the two traded haymakers. Nothing as dramatic as that dropkick, though, which has now become the Zinedine Zidane headbutt of auto racing. Neither man was so hurt they couldn't come on MSNBC today.


DON ST. DENIS, RACE CAR DRIVER: I seen him getting out of the car and my spotter told me, you know, stay relaxed. He stated walking towards me and all of a sudden he did a dropkick to the front windshield and that ended up breaking the front windshield. And of course adrenaline goes crazy and, you know, we go kind of cuckoo and I wasn't really paying attention to what he was saying to me. I know he was missed off at me and I don't blame him.

MICHAEL SIMKO, RACE CAR DRIVER: Somebody sent me the link. I was watching it with my father and I just - I was saying I don't believe - I don't know what I'm thinking at this point right here. I don't know what I'm doing. I definitely - I didn't take Karate lessons or anything like that, it was just - it was the heat of the moment and, again, I'm apologetic for that to Don. I mean, short track racing has plenty of wrecks and plenty of fights and some how this one has just gotten national.


OLBERMANN: Must have seen it on "Magnum P.I." The next fight provides our segue into our round-up of tabloid and entertainment news, "Keeping Tabs".

Oprah Winfrey versus her own lawyers? Patrick Crowe of Kansas City has been hailing an Oprah in '08 candidacy with a website, even a song, but a month ago Winfrey's attorney sent Crowe one of those nasty little letters specifically demanding he remove the talk show host's picture from the website. Miss Winfrey now says, "I feel flattered by it. My lawyers overreacted, I think, by sending him a cease and desist order because it really is a flattering thing." Winfrey's XM Satellite Radio channel debuted, by the way, spreading her empire, if not her presidential ambitions.

Whereas Mel Gibson would much rather shrink from the public eye by traveling incognito complete with mask and wig. Actor and director, ventured to Oklahoma recently to attend early screenings of his latest film, "Apocalypto," but reporters were kept behind partitions at the entrance to the screenings, apparently so they could not take pictures of Gibson, thus we do not have image of the mask and wig Gibson wore when he arrived in Cameron, Oklahoma last Thursday, but given his penitent for both action adventure and history, we rendered a guess.

Speaking of incognito, the fireworks and the cross accusations consumed the headlines, but the real story inside the president's interview with FOX. He dared to speak the truth. My special comment about what that president did for us in finally saying what the current president did not do for us about Osama bin Laden. That's ahead, but first time for Countdown's latest list of nominees for "Worst Person in the World."

Hey, hit's broken into the "New York Times" best seller list at No. 18. Enough copies get sold it goes up three more spots and then we're talking best seller list discounts. Hmm? Hmm?

The nominees tonight, Bronze winners, Dennis Mitsubishi of Columbus, Ohio. It reportedly prepared an ad for use on local radio in which it declared a "Jihad on high prices" with "Fatwa Fridays" complete with free rubber swords for the kiddies. Local radio stations showing remarkable sensitivity considering it cost them money, have refused to air the spots.

Runners up, Senator Rick "Man on Dog" Santorum of Pennsylvania participated in a local cable TV debate this afternoon with Green Party Senate hopeful, Carl Romanelli. A little detail left out of the equation, this morning a judge ruled Romanelli was 9,000 signatures short of the number needed to put him on the ballot. By the time the debate stated, he was no longer a candidate. The rationale for going on with the debate, according to a representative of the local cable outfit, Mr. Romanelli he was "Already in the studio."

But tonight's winner, Bill-O. Asked by "Newsweek," if you had to spend an afternoon with Keith Olbermann, Al Franken, or Frank Rich, whom would you pick? He has answered: "I wouldn't choose any of them, there's nothing that could make me engage any of those people." Like on the field at Yankee Stadium a week ago last Saturday with you kept running away from me? Here, kitty, kitty, kitty.

Bill O'Reilly, today's "Worst Person in the World."


OLBERMANN: Finally tonight, a special comment about President Clinton's interview. The headlines about it are, of course, entirely wrong. It is not essential that a past present bullied and sandbagged by a monkey posing as a newscaster finally lashed back. It is not important that the current president's portable public chorus has described his predecessor's tone as crazed. Our tone should be crazed. The nation's freedoms are under assault by an administration's policies can do us as much damage as al Qaeda. The nation's marketplace of ideas is being poisoned by a propaganda company so blatant that Tokyo Rose would have quit.

Nonetheless, the headline is this: Bill Clinton did what almost none of us have done in five years - he has spoken the truth about 9/11 and the current presidential administration. "At least I tried," he said, of his own efforts, "to capture or kill Osama bin Laden. That's the difference in me and some, including all of the right-wingers who are attacking me now. They had eight months to try, they did not try, I tried."

Thus in his supposed emeritus years, has Mr. Clinton taken forceful and triumphant action for honesty and for us. Action as vital and courageous as any of his presidency. Action as startling and as liberating as any, by anyone, in these last five long years.

The Bush administration did not try to get Osama bin Laden before 9/11. The Bush administration ignored all the evidence gathered by its predecessors. The Bush administration did not understand the daily briefing entitled "Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S." The Bush administration did not try.

Moreover, for the five years, one month, and two weeks, the current administration and in particular the president has been given the greatest pass for incompetence and malfeasance in American history.

President Roosevelt was rightly blamed for ignoring the warning signs, some of them 17 years old before Pearl Harbor. President Hoover was correctly blamed for, if not the Great Depression itself, then the disastrous economic steps he took in the immediate aftermath of the stock market crash. Even President Lincoln assumed some measure of responsibility for the Civil War, though talk of Southern secession had begun as early as 1832.

But for this president. To hear him bleat and whine and bully at nearly every opportunity, one would think someone else had been president on September 11, 2001 or the nearly eight months that preceded it.

That hardly reflects the honestly nor manliness we expect of the executive. But if his own fitness to serve is of no true concern to him, perhaps we should simply sigh and keep our fingers crossed until a grown-up takes the job three Januarys from now.

Except for this: After five years of skirting even the most inarguable facts that he was president on 9/11, he must bear some responsibility for his and our un-readiness, Mr. Bush has now moved on, unmistakably and without conscience or shame, towards rewriting history, and attempting to make the responsibility entirely Mr. Clinton's.

Of course, he is not honest enough to do that directly. As with all the other nefariousness and slime of this, our worst presidency since James Buchanan, he is having it done for him by proxy.

Thus, the sandbag effort by Fox News Friday afternoon.

Consider the timing: The very weekend the National Intelligence Estimate would be released and show the Iraq war to be the fraudulent failure it is-not a check on terror, but fertilizer for it.

The kind of proof of incompetence, for which the administration and its hyenas at Fox need to find a diversion, in a scapegoat.

It was the kind of cheap trick which would get a journalist fired - but a propagandist, promoted - promise to talk of charity and generosity; but instead launch into the lies and distortions with which the authoritarians among us attack the virtuous and reward the useless.

And don't even be professional enough to assume the responsibility for the slanders yourself; blame your audience for e-mailing you the question.

Mr. Clinton responded as you have seen.

He told the great truth untold about this administration's negligence, perhaps criminal negligence, about bin Laden. Mr. Clinton was brave.

Then again, Chris Wallace might be braver still. Had I, in one moment, surrendered all my credibility as a journalist, and been irredeemably humiliated, as was he, I would have gone home and started a new career selling seeds by mail.

The smearing by proxy, of course, did not begin Friday afternoon. Disney was first to sell-out its corporate reputation, with "The Path to 9/11." Of that company's crimes against truth one needs to say little. Simply put: Someone there enabled an authoritarian zealot to belch out Mr.

Bush's new and improved history.

The basic plot-line was this: Because he was distracted by the Monica Lewinsky scandal, Bill Clinton failed to prevent 9/11.

The most curious and in some ways the most infuriating aspect of this slapdash theory, is that the right wingers who have advocated it - who try to sneak it into our collective consciousness through entertainment, or who sandbag Mr. Clinton with it at news interviews - have simply skipped past its most glaring flaw.

Had it been true that Clinton had been distracted from the hunt for bin Laden in 1998 because of the Lewinsky nonsense, why did these same people not applaud him for having bombed bin Laden's camps in Afghanistan and Sudan on Aug. 20, of that year? For mentioning bin Laden by name as he did so?

That day, Republican Senator Grams of Minnesota invoked the movie "Wag the Dog."

Republican Senator Coats of Indiana questioned Mr. Clinton's judgment.

Republican Senator Ashcroft of Missouri - the future attorney general

echoed Coats.

Even Republican Senator Arlen Specter questioned the timing.

And of course, were it true Clinton had been distracted by the Lewinsky witch-hunt, who on earth conducted the Lewinsky witch-hunt?

Who turned the political discourse of this nation on its head for two years?

Who corrupted the political media?

Who made it impossible for us to even bring back on the air the counter-terrorism analysts like Dr. Richard Haass, and James Dunegan, who had warned, at this very hour, on this very network, in early 1998, of cells from the Middle East who sought to attack us here?

Who preempted them in order to strangle us with the trivia that was, "All Monica All The Time?"

Who distracted whom?

This is, of course, where, as is inevitable, Mr. Bush and his henchmen prove not quite as smart as they think they are.

The full responsibility for 9/11 is obviously shared by three administrations, possibly four.

But, Mr. Bush, if you are now trying to convince us by proxy that it's all about the distractions of 1998 and 1999, then you will have to face a startling fact that your minions may have hidden from you.

The distractions of 1998 and 1999, Mr. Bush, were carefully manufactured, and lovingly executed, not by Bill Clinton, but by the same people who got you elected president.

Thus, instead of some commendable acknowledgment that you were even in office on 9/11 and the lost months before it, we have your sleazy and sloppy rewriting of history, designed by somebody who evidently read the Orwell playbook too quickly.

Thus, instead of some explanation for the inertia of your first eight months in office, we are told that you have kept us "safe" ever since - a statement that might range anywhere from zero, to 100 percent, true.

We have nothing but your word, and your word has long since ceased to mean anything.

And, of course, the one time you have ever given us specifics about what you have kept us safe from, Mr. Bush, you got the name of the supposedly targeted tower in Los Angeles wrong.

Thus was it left for the previous president to say what so many of us have felt; what so many of us have given you a pass for in the months and even the years after the attack: You did not try.

You ignored the evidence gathered by your predecessor. You ignored the evidence gathered by your own people. Then, you blamed your predecessor.

That would be a textbook definition, sir, of cowardice.

To enforce the lies of the present, it is necessary to erase the truths of the past. That was one of the great mechanical realities Eric Blair, writing as George Orwell, gave us in the book "1984."

The great philosophical reality he gave us, Mr. Bush, may sound as familiar to you, as it has lately begun to sound familiar to me.

"The Party seeks power entirely for its own sake. We are not interested in the good of others; we are interested solely in power. Power is not a means; it is an end. One does not establish a dictatorship to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship. The object of persecution, is persecution. The object of torture, is torture. The object of power is power."

Earlier last Friday afternoon, before the FOX ambush, speaking in the far different context of the closing session of his remarkable Global Initiative, Mr. Clinton quoted Abraham Lincoln's State of the Union address from 1862.

"We must disenthrall ourselves."

Mr. Clinton did not quote the rest of Mr. Lincoln's sentence. He might well have.

"We must disenthrall ourselves and then we shall save our country."

And so has Mr. Clinton helped us to disenthrall ourselves, and perhaps enabled us, even at this late and bleak date, to save our country.

The free pass has been withdrawn, Mr. Bush.

You did not act to prevent 9/11.

We do not know what you have done to prevent another 9/11.

You have failed us-then leveraged that failure, to justify a purposeless war in Iraq which will have, all too soon, claimed more American lives than did 9/11.

You have failed us anew in Afghanistan.

And you have now tried to hide your failures, by blaming your predecessor.

And now you exploit your failure, to rationalize brazen torture which doesn't work anyway; which only condemns our soldiers to water-boarding; which only humiliates our country further in the world; and which no true American would ever condone, let alone advocate.

And there it is, sir. Are yours the actions of a true American?

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