Tuesday, October 31, 2006

'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Oct. 31

Guests: P.J. Crowley , Dana Milbank, Joe Trippi

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

Only in the American political maelstrom of 2006, the last Democratic nominee for president calls the sitting president stupid. And that president's people claim the insult is directed not at the president, but at the troops.


SEN. JOHN KERRY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: Education. If you make the most of it, and you study hard, and you do your homework, and you make an effort to be smart, you can do well. If you don't, you get stuck in Iraq.


OLBERMANN: The White House response, it's either too stupid to realize John Kerry referred to President Bush and not the troops, or it's too sharp not to try to turn it into more false-flag waving.


TONY SNOW, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Senator Kerry not only owes an apology to those who are serving, but also to the families of those who've given their lives in this. This is an absolute insult.


OLBERMANN: And Kerry's rebuttal, "I'm not going to be lectured by a stuffed suit White House mouthpiece." Bring It On - The Sequel.

Even the first lady gets into the gutter, accusing Michael J. Fox of being part of the manipulation of people's feelings.


MICHAEL J. FOX: I guess I'm not supposed to speak with you until my symptoms go away. Or maybe I'm just supposed to go away. But I'm not going to go away.


OLBERMANN: Tonight, Fox's newfound role as political fulcrum.

And the great campaign debate about drapes.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Some of them in Washington are already measuring the drapes for their new offices.


OLBERMANN: A Countdown investigation.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (on phone): Washington, D.C., drapery store.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, hi, I'm wondering if any Democrats have been in your store looking for drapes to decorate their new offices?



OLBERMANN: And thereby hangs another tale, about the Bill Clinton-Chris Wallace interview, the punchline you have not heard, and which you will not believe.

All that and more, now on Countdown.


FORMER PRESIDENT Bill Clinton: It was a perfectly legitimate question...


OLBERMANN: Good evening. This is Tuesday, October 31, seven days until the 2006 midterm elections.

Senator John Kerry has, in essence, called out President Bush for not being smart, not studying, and being intellectually lazy, and the president and his minions have replied by demanding Kerry apologize to the troops in Iraq. Kerry called them stupid, and they were too stupid to know he called them stupid.

Our fifth story on the Countdown, to top his own original remarkable comments, and the administration's equally remarkable missing of the point, intentional or otherwise, there is also Kerry's response, blistering with phrases like "crazy," "stuffed suit," "lied," "lie," "lying," "Republican hacks," "right-wing nutjobs," and "doughy."

We begin where the story did at yesterday's rally for the Democratic candidate for governor California, Senator Kerry charming the college-age crowd with tales of surfing before segueing into a series of one-liners about his former opponent in the 2004 race for the White House, Mr. Bush.


KERRY: Yesterday, I was in the state of Texas. As you all know, President Bush used to live there. Now he lives in a state of denial, a state of deception.

I'm glad to be here with you, I really am. Thank you for the privilege of coming here.

We're here to talk about education. But I want to say something (INAUDIBLE) - Well, you know, education, if you make the most of it, and you study hard and you do your homework and you make an effort to be smart, you can do well. If you don't, you get stuck in Iraq.


OLBERMANN: In case it was not crystal clear that Mr. Kerry was referring to the Bush administration having gotten us into war with Iraq, the senator not only saying so himself this afternoon, but also having others close to him call reporters, like our own Kelly O'Donnell, just to make sure, the White House preferring, though, to stick with its own incorrect interpretation of the remarks, President Bush late this afternoon forgetting that neither he nor Senator Kerry is on the ballot next week during a rally in Georgia, and press secretary Tony Snow taking Senator Kerry to task at a White House briefing this morning.


SNOW: Senator Kerry not only owes an apology to those who are serving, but also to the families of those who've given their lives in this. This is an absolute insult.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The senator's suggestion that the men and women of our military are somehow uneducated is insulting, and it is shameful.

The members of the United States military are plenty smart, and they are plenty brave, and the senator from Massachusetts owes them an apology.

Whatever party you're in in America, our troops deserve the full support of our government.


OLBERMANN: The only evident difference between the final week of this campaign and that of the 2004 race for president, Senator Kerry's unwillingness to take the abuse. His retort almost melted the videotape.


KERRY: If anybody thinks that a veteran would somehow criticize more than 140,000 troops serving in Iraq, and not the president and his people who put them there, they're crazy.

It's just wrong. This is a classic GOP textbook Republican campaign tactic. I'm sick and tired of a bunch of despicable Republicans who will not debate real policy, who won't take responsibility for their own mistakes, standing up and trying to make other people the butt of those mistakes.

I'm not going to be lectured by a White House or by the likes of Rush Limbaugh, who's taking a day off from mimicking and attacking Michael J. Fox, who's now going to now try to attack me and lie about me and distort me. No way. It disgusts me that a bunch of these Republican hacks, who've never worn the uniform of our country, are willing to lie about those who did. It's over.


OLBERMANN: Let's call in our own Dana Milbank, also, of course, national political reporter for "The Washington Post."

Dana, good evening.


Good evening.

OLBERMANN: It's been two years since you and I have discussed an election in terms of Bush v. Kerry. But one week before these midterms, here we go again.

When you consider that the question about this briefing this morning was asked by Bret Baier (ph) of Fox News to Tony Snow, Fox News alumni, and that the president rewrote a section of his stump speech at the 11th hour in Georgia to include those comments about Senator Kerry, is there any question that the White House is not just enjoying a windfall here, but actually manufacturing a windfall?

MILBANK: Well, of course it's manufactured. It's sort of this made-for-Fox News Halloween thriller. It only runs in even years, but Karl Rove casts some spell. John Kerry turns into the Grim Reaper, and the Democrats all look as if they've seen a ghost.

Now, the fact that it's manufactured, the fact that John Kerry isn't on the ballot, the fact that it's sort of an odd interpretation of what he said doesn't really matter, because here everybody is talking about it today. So it has succeeded in reducing the Democrats' momentum, perhaps just for a day, get people talking about something else.

So it is - it may be a little bit silly, it's unlikely to shift an election anyway, but it is a distraction.

OLBERMANN: But there seems, though, to have been a pattern in this administration. Criticism of the administration is turned by the administration into criticism of the troops. But at the White House, at least regarding this, they don't really believe that Kerry attacked the troops, do they? I mean, they're not that - to use his words - crazy, and to use mine, they're not that stupid. They're pretending. Please tell me they're pretending.

MILBANK: Well, of course. But, I mean, the - you won't be shocked to learn that there's a lot of pretending that goes on in politics. And the truth is, Democrats aren't really angry with the White House for characterizing it this way, so much as they are angry with John Kerry for allowing this to happen, by botching that line.

Now, we can sort of have a sense of what he was trying to say. But if you look at what he actually said, this allows - my inbox was just filled today with one angry denunciation after another. They've even got the head of the American Legion involved here.

So John Kerry has had some trouble before when he sort of goes for the one-liner. Just a few weeks ago, he made his little ha-ha about assassinating the president at the White House.

OLBERMANN: Is, though, this that rarest of modern political controversies, the kind that might wind up firing up both sides equally? Because certainly Senator Kerry's response today, you would think, would get Democrats, the rank and file, lighting their torches and grabbing their pitchforks and heading for Frankenstein's castle, wouldn't it?

MILBANK: Well, that's a scary thought. The - this is really exactly what the Democrats wanted from John Kerry, but this is what they wanted in October of 2004, when it would really fire up, and instead of allowing himself to be Swiftboated, as he was.

Now, so John Kerry's gotten the message, similar to the way he has on Iraq, at least gotten a coherent point of view on it. The problem is, for the Democrats, it's happened too late. This is drawing attention to John Kerry. The 2006 election isn't going terribly well for Republicans. The 2004 election went quite a bit better for them. So this presumably benefits them quite a bit more.

OLBERMANN: But with all the firewood that it does provide Republicans, might there not be the proverbial rattlesnake hiding in that pile? Because no matter what Kerry said, no matter what the Republicans say Kerry said, what good does it do the Republicans to spend any of the last seven days of the campaign talking about Iraq?

MILBANK: Right. This is not like it's bringing us back to the September 11 period, when we're talking all about homeland security, about terrorism, where Bush is at his strongest - not terribly strong at this moment, but at his strongest. So the Democrats, if they are still talking about Iraq, that's why I say it's unlikely to have a fundamental effect on the election here. But distractions in very close races, the loss of a day or so of the Democrats' momentum, could have an affect here and there.

OLBERMANN: Dana Milbank of MSNBC and "The Washington Post." As always, Dana, great thanks.

MILBANK: Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN: In addition to the not-so-Swiftboating of John Kerry, 2006 edition, the White House taking another page out of the '04 playbook today by also reverting to scare tactics in this, the final week of the campaign, a new applause line popping up again in the president's stump speech, again this week and again today, making its third appearance at this afternoon's rally in Georgia, Mr. Bush alleging that voting for the Democrats is essentially the same thing as voting for the terrorists.


BUSH: However they put it, the Democrat approach comes down to this, the terrorists win, and America loses. And that's what's at stake in this election.


OLBERMANN: That dramatic shift in tone by the president not translating to better job performance numbers for him, at least not yet. In our own exclusive NBC News poll out tonight, Mr. bush's approval number is still stuck below 40 percent, up only 1 point in the last two weeks, the fight for control of Congress exactly where it was two weeks ago, the greatest margin in the history of our poll favoring the Democrats.

Presidential swagger aside, Americans are still overwhelmingly dissatisfied with the war in Iraq, 54 percent now believing that removing Saddam Hussein from power was not worth it, 61 percent now less confident that the conflict in Iraq will come to a successful conclusion.

But, of course, it is race by race that the balance of power will be decided next week, a new poll by Opinion Research for CNN showing that four key Senate races remain statistical dead heats.

Among likely voters in Missouri, the Republican Jim Talent and his Democratic challenger, Claire McCaskill, are tied, in New Jersey, Democrat Bob Menendez holding a 7-point edge, still within the margin of error, in Tennessee, in that extraordinary race, the Democrat Harold Ford trailing Republican opponent Bob Corker by 8. Other polls, however, give Mr. Ford the slight edge.

In Virginia, Senator Macaca himself, George Allen, is down by 4. The Republican incumbent, who appears to be in the most trouble here, Mike DeWine of Ohio, trailing by 11 points now among likely voters.

For more on what all that really means, let me call in Joe Trippi, MSNBC political analyst and, of course, political consultant known perhaps best for the successes he shared as campaign manager for Howard Dean in 2004.

Joe, thanks for your time tonight.

JOE TRIPPI, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Great to be with you, Chris -

Keith, I'm sorry.

OLBERMANN: That's all right. Bush versus Kerry II, Electric Bougaloo, in a moment.

But first, has the political climate changed sufficiently? Barack Obama said it about a week ago, the 9/11 fever may have broken, American voters might not be swayed by a strategy that alleges that a vote for a Democrat is the same thing as a vote for al Qaeda, given the - all that's happened in Iraq for the past two years, how many thousands more have been killed, a variation on vote for Democrats, and you die, might be seen as the hollow scare tactic that it is?

TRIPPI: Yes, I think it's appropriate for Halloween, but that's all it's going to get them this time. I mean, you look at your own numbers, your NBC poll that just came out, you look at the people who want Democrats running Congress now, and there's, you know, just running away from the president in terms of how he's running Iraq. Rumsfeld's not a name that's getting anybody the (INAUDIBLE) - people want him to resign now.

I mean, there's nothing really going well for them. And the American people have seen these scare tactics over and over again, they're just not going to work this time. You don't see it - I mean, when you look at Virginia, I mean, we shouldn't be in the race there. But we're in it. And Montana, I mean, these are places where Democrats are really doing well, and it's because, I think, the policies have failed, the public's refusing to accept the scare tactics. It's not working. And I think you're seeing a big move here for Democrats.

OLBERMANN: National sentiment aside, though, it's an election, obviously, as you mentioned, ticked off a few of them that will be decided race by race, between the inclination of voters to stick with their incumbent no matter what the rest of those lawmakers in Washington are doing with the gerrymandering, with all the rest, do you think it's still likely that the Democrats would succeed in taking back one or both houses of Congress?

TRIPPI: I think they're - the odds are right now that we're going to do very well in the House. I think we're going to take that. I think, you know, the Senate, it's just sitting there by a thin strand right now in terms of Republicans being able to hold onto it.

And I think, you know, none of what's happened in the last day or two is helping the Republicans. I mean, you don't see George Bush going to Tennessee to campaign for Corker. They're sending Laura in there. And then - Laura Bush there. And then you've got Bill Clinton is actually going to Tennessee.

So you see, you know, the - you see that the president's going to places like Georgia, to turn out basically the Republican base, and they're not, they can't get him into these swing states, because he's going to hurt their candidates. So I think this is going to be a big night for the Democrats if this keeps up.

OLBERMANN: This flap over John Kerry, calling - he didn't use the word "stupid," he used all the other ones, but essentially calling President Bush stupid, and the president coming off as too stupid to realize that Kerry called him stupid, is there an element of desperation in the White House efforts to make this election again Bush versus Kerry, that it's wholly absent of any new ideas or new approach, so that they're going to revert to the only strategy they can be sure works?

TRIPPI: Well, a couple of - for the last couple days, they've been saying, all politics is local, these are all going to be decided by local personalities. Now, they're trying to turn it into a national referendum on something John Kerry said. It may be a national referendum, but I think it will be one on what George Bush's administration has failed to do, and its incompetence and its failed leadership.

And so, yes, I mean, I just think this is a really desperate move by them to try to nationalize an election. And they're helping to nationalize it around Iraq and the Bush failed policy. So I actually think, in the end, this is going to turn around and bite them where they don't want it to bite them, which is about time, (INAUDIBLE).

OLBERMANN: Now, whatever he said, they're still talking about Iraq.

MSNBC political analyst, former campaign manager for Howard Dean, Joe Trippi. Great thanks for your time tonight, Joe.

TRIPPI: Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN: And this programming advisory. Tomorrow night here, a special comment. There is a code by which we as Americans have always lived. Between trying to link Democrats with terrorists and distorting Senator Kerry's remarks, the president has now violated that code, a code that is fundamental to who we are. My special comment tomorrow night on Countdown, 8:00 and midnight Eastern, 5:00 and 9:00 p.m. Pacific.

But first, tonight, Michael J. Fox on his mission to promote stem cell research, and the latest criticism of it and him from the first lady.

Two and a half years after trying to squash the true story of Pat Tillman's death, the Pentagon admits it misinformed six other soldiers' families about the deaths of their loved ones.

You are watching Countdown on MSNBC.


OLBERMANN: Even for Rush Limbaugh, it was embarrassing, not merely mocking a victim of a terrifying degenerative disease, not merely accusing that victim of exaggerating it, not merely reminding any listener of his own history by referring to going off medication, but being videotaped while he said so.

In our fourth story on the Countdown, the saga of Michael J. Fox's political advocacy of stem cell research, bipartisan advocacy, that has included doing commercials for the likes of Republican Senator Arlen Specter, and now someone may have gone deeper into the muck even than Limbaugh himself, someone of previously nearly impeccable reputation asked about Mr. Fox and his political advertisements.


LAURA BUSH: It's always easy to manipulate people's feelings when they're - especially when you're talking about diseases that are so difficult.


OLBERMANN: One wonders where she might have gotten the idea that, quote, "It's always easy to manipulate people's feelings."

With Mr. Fox, our chief White House correspondent, David Gregory.



FOX: David, good to see you.

GREGORY (voice-over): Monday morning, Columbus, Ohio. Week two in the political crossfire for Michael J. Fox.

(on camera): Do you feel like you've been roughed up?

FOX: You know, the only thing that (INAUDIBLE) is if, you know, you bring the message, and you hope to discuss it on its merits. But this being American politics, it's not going to happen.


FOX: What do you in Missouri matters to millions of Americans, Americans like me.



RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: He is moving all around and shaking, and it's purely an act.


GREGORY (voice-over): In his most pointed rebuttal yet, Fox answered those critics, including Rush Limbaugh, who later apologized for suggesting that Fox was faking his tremors.

FOX: I guess I'm not supposed to speak with you until my symptoms go away. Or maybe I'm just supposed to go away. But I'm not going to go away.

GREGORY: Later, Fox argued it would be wrong to hide his symptoms.

(on camera): The symptoms are part of the message, right?

FOX: The reaction, it's almost appropriate in a way, because that's the point. Of course, here we are, we're doing this, and we're dealing with these illnesses and these symptoms and these conditions, and we, you know, we have two choices. We either are ourselves, or we just go away and we send polite notes.

GREGORY (voice-over): Fox explained that the symptoms critics claimed he manipulated by going off his medication were actually the result of his medication. The drugs make him shift in his chair, but they prevent the tremors.

FOX: I want comfort. I just want to be comfortable. I don't want be to bouncing around, I don't want to be, you know, spilling my drink, I don't want to be, you know, driving myself to the point of insanity trying to (INAUDIBLE) or shave or, you know, any of that stuff.

GREGORY (on camera): But it looks like it's exhausting.

FOX: Well, it is exhausting.

GREGORY (voice-over): At times, so is the politics of stem cell research. Opponents of using embryos left over in fertility clinics for stem cell research, including the president...

BUSH: It crosses a moral boundary...

GREGORY: Argue it's wrong to take a life in order to save lives.

FOX: But still, hundreds of thousands of these potential lives are being destroyed routinely, and they have been for years.

GREGORY (on camera): This is a wedge issue now, and you are a lightning rod.

FOX: By most polls, 70 percent of Americans are in favor of this issue. So, in a way, it's put up or shut up time. I mean, if you really believe this, you know, we're waiting for you.

GREGORY: We see your optimism, we see your courage, your commitment, your activism. What don't we see?

BUSH: I get scared. And I guess that's about it. I - there's not much people don't know.

GREGORY: For people who look at you and they say to themselves, He looks like he's gotten worse, have you?

BUSH: Sure, it's a progressive disease. I'm not going to get any better.

For me, unique to my situation, it's a gift, it's a gift that keeps on taking, but it's a gift.

GREGORY: And you wouldn't go back?

BUSH: I - no, I wouldn't go back. The path it's put me on has been so amazing. And again, I have so many blessings. I have a great family that I'm sure are with me, and I have a great relationship with my kids. And my wife is fantastic.

And I don't have to worry about my employer, and I don't have to worry about my insurance. And I don't have to worry about being in a situation where my disease makes me unsafe, because I have people around me that will ensure my safety.

And those are all big things. And a lot of people don't have those things. And I appreciate that, and understand that, and I'd like to help them.


OLBERMANN: Michael J. Fox with our White House correspondent, David Gregory.

And one qualification and clarification there. After his quasi-apology, Rush Limbaugh came back and repeated the claim that Fox was exaggerating his symptoms for political purposes.

Speaking of those showing grace while under attack from the GOP, there's simply unbelievable postscript to the Chris Wallace ambush interview of former president Clinton.

And what the heck is this? The White House is now Le Chateau Blanc?

Where, where - you moved it - you didn't tell anybody?

Countdown continues.


OLBERMANN: On this date in 1954, separatists in Algeria rose against the French, who had occupied that country since 1830, eventually winning their independence eight years later. Why do you care?

Let's play Oddball.

Because we begin with a Halloween nightmare come true for the likes of Bill Orley. It's finally happened. They've moved the White House to France. No! Damn you secular progressive activist judges and your - No, wait a minute. It's just a replica. Thank goodness for that, Bill O. would have had to boycott the president.

Built in the Perigord (ph) region of France just a few years after our own White House was built, it is believed by some that Thomas Jefferson himself brought over a set of plans from Washington. I'd make a joke about the idiot who lives in the French house, but our administration would then twist it and accuse me of attacking some troops (INAUDIBLE).

Now, a dream come true for the likes of Keith Richards. Someone has invented a contraption to help aging rock stars climb up coconut trees without falling down. Developed at the University of India, the machine puts that country once again at the forefront of worldwide technological advances and it provides a much needed shot in the arm for the flagging coconut industry. Now, if they can figure out an easier way to open the damn things.

Also tonight, the Pentagon looking to polish up its image, launching a brand new super-secret P.R. machine, even while boss man Donald Rumsfeld's approval ratings slide into almost nothingness.

And the prime minister of Iraq kicks U.S. guards out of Sadr City. And the commander in chief getting desperate when it comes to relevant on attacks on the opposition, resorting to campaign arguments about interior decorating?

Those stories ahead, but now here are Countdown "Top 3 Newsmakers" of this day.

No. 3, passengers aboard the Virgin Train's express from Houston Station in London to Manchester, it stopped during a downpour in city of Rugby because the windshield wiper broke. Passengers were then startled to hear a voice over the public address system ask if anybody onboard knew how to fix it? Is there a window washer in the house? Is there a window washer in the house?

No. 2, an unnamed burglar in Hildesheim in Germany who left police a vital clue, an unmistakable tip, in fact. While searching the burgled office for fingerprints, they found instead the tip of the burglar's finger, which he had cut off while breaking through the office window.

No. 1, Eric De Jersey of Guernsey in England, twice previously convicted of exposing himself in public, he has apparently used his time served to dream up better excuses. Arrested again, he told the court he was not flashing he was simply holding a jumbo hotdog. You wish!


OLBERMANN: In all the debate about a remark about Iraq, less attention has been paid to several remarkable developments about Iraq, less attention has been paid to several remarkable developments in Iraq.

In our third story in the Countdown, President Bush putting U.S. troops under the command of Iraqi politicians, despite the fact that the president had blasted Senator Kerry in 2004 for his suggestion that he might consult with other counties before deploying U.S. troops abroad.

Today U.S. troops in Iraq left their checkpoints in Baghdad's Sadr City at the command of Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki. Asked about that, after the fact, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld did not know whether it had even happened.


DONALD RUMSFELD, DEFENSE SECRETARY: You know, I tend to validate things first and get on the phone and find out precisely what took place and what the reasons were and - rather than expressing the kinds of adjectives and adverbs and.


OLBERMANN: Take your time.

Also today, the "Associated Press" reported that while soldiers in the field still clamor for resources, the Pentagon is pouring new resources in to a new public relations - a secret public relations effort. The strategy, "develop messages for the 24-hour news cycle," try to get friendly faces on TV news and the internets.

When asked how many staffers, how many taxpayer dollars, the Pentagon's reply, none of your business. This push, too late to affect the latest NBC -"Wall Street Journal" poll showing record highs and lows in America's feeling about Mr. Rumsfeld. Only 26 percent have any positive feelings, half the nation, a record high, 49 percent has very or somewhat negative feelings.

And although we are told that the Pentagon is capable of determing the guilt or innocence of every detainee, a new report from the Army says it ca not even be sure about the circumstances of everyone of its own casualties. The Army says families of seven soldiers were given false information about those soldier's deaths.

Corporal Pat Tillman, the most well-known of these. His family still fighting for the full truth. But also, less well-known fatalities like Lieutenant Andre Tyson, and Specialist Patrick McCaffrey of the National Guard.

Our next guest spent more than a decade as a Pentagon spokesman, retired colonel P.J. Crowley is now a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress.

P.J. welcome back. Thanks for your time.


OLBERMANN: What is the appropriate function for Pentagon public affairs and what is not appropriate?

CROWLEY: Well, I mean, certainly the Pentagon is the largest bureaucracy in the world. Like any institution, whether it's the military or Microsoft, it should be communicating with the American people and through the media, it's the best way to do that.

The Pentagon spends more money than anybody else. We have, you know, 2.5 million of our best and brightest in uniform and the American people should have a day-to-day account on what the military is doing on its behalf. Usually when the Pentagon says it has a message problem, it's really unhappy with the story that's being reported the media. In the case of Iraq, for example, you've had Secretary Rumsfeld, on a regular basis, has said, the media has the story wrong. Of course the media has the story right which is why you see the polling data that you reported on earlier.

OLBERMANN: Does it seem odd to you, though, that the Pentagon would be setting out in a new way to try to correct the record on the same day that the Army says its own communication flaws lead to seven families getting false information about their loved one's deaths? Because if the miscommunications were innocent miscommunications, shouldn't we expect them to cast the Army in a better light or a worse light about equally, but they consistently favor the Army? I mean, how credible is that explanation?

CROWLEY: Well, certainly at one level, you know, the Pentagon is not nimble and it's facing this new accelerating, wide 24-7 media environment and it's trying to adapt. You know, that said, you know, the military is a traditional institution and while it does a lot of things well, every once in a while, particularly with respect to, you know, situations, friendly fire, where people have made mistakes, the system seizes up. And that's what happened, you know, in the case of these families, particularly the Tillman family, the system failed the Tillman family, flat-out.

OLBERMANN: Did the system seize up today, relative to Sadr City? I mean that tape of Mr. Rumsfeld, a moment ago, saying he'd have to pick up the phone for find out if the prime minister of Iraq ordered U.S. troops out of those checkpoints in Sadr City. How is it that the most unilateral administration that any of us have probably lived through has got American soldiers taking orders from Iraqis who are probably taking orders from this Moqtada al Sadr?

CROWLEY: Well, I guess with Mr. Rumsfeld we have another known-unknown, I guess. I mean, this is less a military problem than it is a political problem. Obviously, within the military you have civilian control and we're living and working and fighting in Iraq and the Iraqis should have a say about the military does.

But this is primarily a political problem in that if you look at solutions in Iraq, and they're fleeting and there are no good answers in Iraq, of course, one of them has to be disarming the militias. The state does not have a monopoly on the use of force and this is a critical problem and a source of instability.

Unfortunately for the United States, when you look at Mr. Maliki, part of his base, you know, is al Sadr and the Mahdi army and what politician get reelected by trying to disarm his base?

OLBERMANN: Mr. Rumsfeld also said something today that we haven't' discussed, that he expect the U.S. will have to train more than the 425,000 Iraqi security forces that were originally targeted for December. At the same time, the "L.A. Times" reported that a growing number of officers think timelines for withdrawals would be a good idea. Mr. Bush would never tell us before the election on this, but what is your best bet for the 8th of November, more troops in or more troops out?

CROWLEY: Well, I certainly don't think that there are going be more U.S. troops. One, we don't have them and two, if you add troops to the situation in Iraq, you continue to feed the perception of occupation that drives at least some of the violence, you know, we see.

The Pentagon has played a little bit of a numbers game on Iraqi security forces. It's not so much the numbers as their capability. And what we're seeing whatever the number, it's going to take longer where an Iraqi security force, policeman or military can replace a U.S. soldier. That's real problem. I think the military has it right, that in some fashion, you've to put more pressure on the Iraqi government to break through, you know, the current logjam and try to get some things done.

OLBERMANN: An extraordinary situation continues to get more so. P.J. Crowley, senior fellow and director of National Defense and Homeland Security at the Center for American Progress. Good to talk to you, sir. Thanks for your time.

CROWLEY: Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN: It was an unfair ambush question about 9/11 that prompted an indignant response from President Clinton a little moreover a month ago, but it's what we're just learning happened after that Chris Wallace interview that turns out to be the real surprise.

And after 35 years of hosting the "Price is Right," the question to Bob Barker tonight, is the time also right?

That's next. This is Countdown.


OLBERMANN: It's not just what Chris Wallace did to him, but truly what President Clinton did after that infamous interview that speaks volumes. A Countdown exclusive and also a specials investigation. Mr. Clinton's successor showing signs of strain. The Democrats are measuring for new drapes in Washington, the why are all the interior decorators denying that? That's ahead, this is Countdown.


OLBERMANN: The late Mickey Mantle delighted in telling of the vision of his own death, after his life spent largely having to sign his name on anything that held still and some things that did not. Our No. 2 story in the Countdown, former President Clinton can probably now empathize with the late baseball star. We are informed by impeccable sources that the infamous Chris Wallace sandbag interview of Mr. Clinton for FOX New, last month, has an untold punch line, which you will find hard to believe.

But back to Mickey Mantle for just a moment. He liked to tell interviewers like me that he dreamt he had died and to his shock, he had gone to heaven. "St. Peter is waiting for me at Pearly Gates," Mickey would say, "And he tells me God wants to meet me. So he takes me to him, and he says 'gee, God I'm surprised I'm here the way I lived my life,' and God says "well, I know all about that and I'm sorry, but you can't stay. But I have a favor to ask you before you go to the other place.' And I say" Mantle continued, "what's that, God." And God says, "Can you sign these six dozen baseballs before you go?"

If you somehow have not figured out the punch line yet, just bear with me a moment. You will recall that President's Clinton's interview with FOX News was taped on September 22. In the weeks beforehand, in hopes of landing the interview, FOX's Chris Wallace had e-mailed the Clint office transcript of several on-air comments he had made in defense of Clinton, relative to the ABC movie of the week, "The Path to 9/11." Wallace also agreed to one ground rule, that the Clinton folks asked for, that the interview be roughly half about the former president's charitable efforts, the Clinton Global Initiatives. Instead it turned almost immediately into an attempt to smack down Mr. Clinton about 9/11. An attempt in which the would-be smack downer, Mr. Wallace, became the smack downee?

CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS: Do you think you did enough, sir?

BILL CLINTON, FMR. U.S. PRESIDENT: 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 ridicule me for trying. They had eight months to try, they did not try. I tried. So I tried and failed.

So you did FOX's bidding on this show, you did your nice little conservative hit job on me. What I want to know.

WALLACE: Now, wait a minute, Sir, I'm asking a question.

CLINTON: No, no.

WALLACE: You don't think there's a legitimate question?

CLINTON: It was a perfectly legitimate question, but I want to know how many people in the Bush administration you have asked this question of?


OLBERMANN: Minutes after that, after that verbal brawl that in retrospect seems to mark a turning point in the energizing of the Democrats in the 2006 campaign. After Mr. Clinton's righteous anger and Mr. Wallace's sputtering defense, as microphones were being detached and glares were being exchanged, Mr. Wallace turned to President Clinton and said, and we're a paraphrasing, "I know you probably won't want to do this, but I ask all of my guests, would you autograph my show's guest book?"

Yep, after that thing, Chris Wallace asked Bill Clinton for an autograph. And the punch line to top the punch line: President Clinton signed it graciously.

FOX News incidentally had no comment on this story. We wish them well.

On to our round-up of celebrity and tabloid news, and after half a century in televisions, more three decades of that with the "Price of Right," Bob Barker has announced his retirement. He will retire in June of next year. After 35 years of hosting the "Price is Right," 50 years on TV, "I will be 83 years old on December 12," he said, "and I've decided to retire while I am still young."

Baker, who began his TV career, obviously, in 1956 hosting "Truth or Consequences" said he had been considering retirement for at least a decade, but was having too much fun and of course he was having too much trouble guessing the exact number.

And Madonna, again with the religious iconography, but this time it's not crosses and her hanging on them, but rather her dressing up the boy she's adopting from Malawi with Kabbalah bling.

Little David Banda has been wearing a red string bracelet associated with the religion, confirmed, this is, by Madonna's representative, Liz Rosenberg, and msnbc.com's Janet Walls, citing Kabbalah literature, says that the bracelet deflects "the unfriendly stare and unkind glances we sometimes get from people around us." Not that Madonna and her posse have ever been the subject of that sort of thing.

Also tonight, the drapery defense. How the president is literally trying to tell the Democrats it's curtains. The special investigation. That's ahead, but first time for Countdown's latest list of nominees for "Worst Person in the World.".

The Bronze to Paul Burgess who writes this to the left in an op-ed in the Virginia newspaper, the "Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star." "I hate your lying guts." He uses variations of the word "hate" 10 times in the piece, but the most remarkable is the opening paragraph. "When I was speechwriting at the White House, one rule was enforced without exception; the president would not be given drafts that lowered him or the office, by responding to the articulations of hatred that drove so many of his critics." Wait, you mean this president? In this White House? In this dimension?

Our runner-up, Wade Horn, assistant secretary for Children and Families at the federal department of Health and Human Services. He's the one explaining to newspapers why the department is extending its arguments on behalf of sexual abstinence to, not just teens anymore, but people between the ages of 20 an 29, even though the National Center of Health statistics reports that more than 90 percent of people in their 20's have already had sex. Kind of an uphill battle you picked there, Wade.

But our winner, this guy, Alfredo Martinez, arrested last night in Reno, Nevada after his car was spotted weaving across the lanes of a local highway. Mr. Martinez was not driving. He had turned the wheel over to a designated driver, his son. Mr. Martinez's son is seven years old.

Alfredo Martinez of Reno, Nevada, today's "Worst Person in the World."


OLBERMANN: President Bush may in fact lie awake at night worrying about interior decorating. You may remember his last attempt at window dressing, that banner reading "Mission Accomplished" hanging from the rafters of the USS Lincoln on May 1, 2003.

Our No. 1 story on Countdown, and now the drapes. In between attempts to link them to terrorists, Mr. Bush has, of late, spent much of his time attempting to link Democrats premature jocularity. Specifically, of redesigning, in their minds, the offices of the House majority leader and the various committee chairman.

But just as when the president insisted "177 of option party said, 'you know, we don't think we ought to be listening to the conversations of terrorists.'" And then the White House couldn't even name one, let alone 177.

This whole idea of Democratic drape measuring does not really hang together.


(voice-over): In this extraordinary election year, there has been no shortage of wild and unsubstantiated claims. You see it in the campaign ads.

ANNOUNCER: Ron Kind spent your money to study the masturbation habits of old men.

OLBERMANN: You see it in the debates.

Look in the camera and tell the people how much time you spend doing your job.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Look in the camera and tell the people how much time you spend doing the job.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Your time is up.

OLBERMANN: And yes, even from the president himself. And this time, it's about the drapes.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: As a matter of fact, some of them in Washington are already measuring the drapes for their new office.

(INAUDIBLE) they're up there in Washington already kinda picking out their offices and measuring the drapes.

They're measuring their drapes.

People start measuring the drapes.

Some of them were measuring the drapes.

They're measuring the drapes.

My new office looks beautiful. I think I'm going to have size drape there, this color.

OLBERMANN: But are Democrats actually preparing to move in? Are they actually picking out colors and measuring drapes before the American people make their will known? We decided to find out. So using the Google the new telephorn, we tracked down a few Washington, D.C. draperies. The very stores that would have to supply the very window treatments for an incoming representative or senator. Each declined to be on camera for this reporter. So here is a re-enactment of those telahorn calls.

STORE: Washington D.C. Drapery Store.

Countdown: Yeah, hi. I'm wondering if any Democrats have been in your store looking for drapes to decorate their new offices?

STORE: Uh, no.

Countdown: Well, how about, like, Jack Murtha?


Countdown: Uh, John Conyers?


Countdown: How about Nancy Pelosi?

STORE: Mmmm, no.

Countdown: OK, bye.

OLBERMANN: Based on this research, one might call the president's claims a finally woven silk and taffeta fib. Others might say a simple rhetorical device. Luckily, responsible journalists have avoided turning these claims into talking points.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Democrats are practically in the Capitol building right now measuring for drapes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They picked auto the drapes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Picking out their furniture, picking out the drapes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And the media seems giddy right now, everyone's picking out the drapes and carpet colors.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You made the statement that your opponents, Democrats, picking out the drapes a little bit too early.

BUSH: That's right.

OLBERMANN: Well on the talking points, maybe not so much.

Surely however, the president's claims do not come without a healthy heaping of irony. After all, he is well versed in prematurely adorning government property. And to his credit he does know a thing or two about the decorating responsibilities inherent when changing power.

BUSH: I wasn't even sworn yet and the fella called me on the phone and he said "what color rug do you want in the Oval Office?" Turns out that president's - he got to know presidents design their rugs.

OLBERMANN: And when the rug decision, his first decision in office, became too much for him, the president punted.

BUSH: I said, Laura, how about helping to design the rug.

OLBERMANN: Thus this investigation yields the ultimate enigma, will the Capitol Hill curtains, chosen by Republicans; remain on the windows, metaphorically thriving in concert with the Oval Office rug of the president? Or will the Democrats seize aesthetic and legislative control, providing a decorative adversary to Mr. Bush's floor coverage? In short, come this November 7, will the carpet match the drapes?

The decision, America, is yours.


OLBERMANN: What about shades or blinds? Isn't anybody going to think of the blinds?

That's Countdown for this, the 1,277th day since the declaration of "Mission Accomplished" in Iraq.

A reminder, tomorrow night, hear a special comment, how the president's distortions of the remarks of Senator Kerry and the continuing attempt to link Democrats with terrorists have violated the code central to our country's history and our purpose - tomorrow night here on Countdown.

I'm Keith Olbermann. Goodnight and good luck.


Monday, October 30, 2006

'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Oct. 30

Guests: Richard Wolffe, Wayne Slater, Tom O'Neil, Paul Rieckhoff

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

The election is tight enough that the president is once again doing freebies, not fundraisers, but no-charge stump speeches.

But do many Republicans want that?



TIM RUSSERT, HOST: Well, are you running as a proud Bush Republican?



STEELE: I'm a proud Republican.


OLBERMANN: So was Alan Raymond so proud he agreed to break the law and jam the phone lines at the Democratic headquarters in New Hampshire on election day 2002?


ALAN RAYMOND: We were trying to create chaos and prevent the Democratic Party from operating officially.


OLBERMANN: Mr. Raymond went to jail for that. Now he tells his story exclusively to Lisa Myers and insists the idea came from the Republican National Committee.

What will the RNC ideas about Karl Rove be like if the party loses either house? And his legacy?

The so-called secret letter from Iraq. The emails of the late Captain

Sayshik (ph), the servicemen talking to Congress, the military now responds

by censoring some of it. Maybe no more blogs from Iraq.

Heather Mills McCartney intimating she has some of Sir Paul's alleged abuse of her on tape. And things weren't so hot for Linda either, she says. And what else? She always really liked the Stones better?

And speaking of stones, comedian Rush Limbaugh. His defense for doubting and making fun of Michael J. Fox, we speeded up his tape of him.


RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: He is moving all around and shaking.


OLBERMANN: Funny how the audio is still at the right speed.

All that and more, now on Countdown.


LIMBAUGH: This is really shameless.


OLBERMANN: Good evening. This is Monday, October 30, eight days until the 2006 midterm elections.

And the state of play for the Republicans is such that the president is no longer charging admission for each of his campaign appearances. That's right, he's now lying for free.

At this point in the 2002 midterms, Mr. Bush had done at least eight rallies for other candidates, not fundraiser, but free public events. This past Saturday, he did his first for the 2006 midterms, and it's not just about the money. There just have not been a lot of Republican candidates who've wanted to be seen with him, with or without a cover charge.

His Southern accent a little bit thicker, his rhetoric, a lot more divisive, the president hitting the campaign in his home state of Texas in what was majority leader Tom DeLay's district, the Republicans now faced with getting a write-in candidate to hold onto that seat, and earlier, that in Statesboro, Georgia, billed as a victory rally, and yet Mr. Bush somehow making the claim not only that the Democrats are the ones jumping the gun, but that the minority party is somehow responsible for the mess that is the war in Iraq.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If you listen carefully for a Democrat plan for success, they don't have one. Iraq is the central front in the war on terror, yet they don't have a plan for victory.

This election is far from over, although there are some people in Washington who already think they know the outcome of the election. Some of them are already picking out their new offices at the Capitol. You might remember, you might remember that around this time in 2004, some of them were picking out their new offices in the West Wing.

The movers never got the call.


OLBERMANN: Eventually, the movers always win.

Democrat-bashing or no, there is still the very real problem of how few Republicans actually want the president's help. Take the Maryland Senate candidate, Michael Steele, now trailing his Democratic opponent by as many as 11 percentage points in the polls, having gone so far as to print up misleading bumper stickers that read, "Steele Democrat." Mr. Steele wants to avoid not just being on the same stage as the president, but also, as evidenced on "MEET THE PRESS WITH TIM RUSSERT" yesterday, being in the same sentence.


STEELE: I'm not running away from my party. And you know what? It has not been the easiest thing in the world to run this cycle...

RUSSERT: Are you running as a proud Bush Republican?

STEELE: I'm a proud Republican.


STEELE: I'm a proud Republican. I mean, because I - my orientation is the Republican Party, it's not just one individual in the party. And so, you know, President Bush is the president of our party - of the United States. He's the leader of our party. Ronald Reagan, I'm a Lincoln, I, if anything, I consider myself a Lincoln Republican.


OLBERMANN: Unfortunately for Mr. Steele, by means way behind his control, Mr. Lincoln left the presidency in 1865.

Time now to call in our own Richard Wolffe, also, of course, senior White House correspondent for "Newsweek" magazine.

Richard, good evening.


Good evening, Keith.

OLBERMANN: Depending on the spin, the president, in making this campaign appearances, is either bucking the conventional wisdom that he has become a pariah to Republican candidates, or he's bearing it out by stumping in the districts that were once considered safe for Republicans but aren't anymore. Is one of those more accurate than the other?

WOLFFE: Well, look at where he's campaigning. He's in Tom DeLay's old district, Sugar Land, Texas. Nobody predicted starting out this year and certainly starting out this campaign that he would have to be out there defending that.

Of course, he's in areas which are still conservative, where the base still likes him. And the base is big enough to actually carry the party to victory. The problem for other candidates in other districts and other states is that the base isn't big enough to get them over the top.

And it's interesting listening to Steele there, because when I was in Tennessee, I asked Bob Corker a similar question about his relationship to Bush, whether he liked Bush. His answer was, well, he liked President Bush, but remember, his was a six-year term, and President Bush was only going to be there for another two years. So it really wasn't about Bush.

You know, this is the sound of candidates across the country who thought President Bush would be a big strength and have found him to be a stone around their neck.

OLBERMANN: And speaking of sounds, there's the tap-dancing we heard Mr. Steele there on the question of whether he is a Bush Republican. Does that encapsulate the GOP problem in this election, not to mention why it is the president did not do any public free event political rallies before this past weekend? Is that a sort of explanation of both of those points?

WOLFFE: Well, the rally question's interesting. It is very late in the game for him to be doing this kind of event. Yes, they think they can still get the turnout numbers up there. Remember, the base still really loves him. The base just isn't big enough.

But they've been also raising money late in the game. Why are they raising money late in he game? Because in spite of the talking points that they knew that this was going to be a tough election, that they'd prepared for it, they've basically been burning up much more money than they thought they would have to.

So he's been fundraising later, he's rallying later. And, of course, the numbers of people he's getting involved are not that great either. Independents, according to most polls, including the most recent "Newsweek" poll, think very much like Democrats now. And he needs independents to push him over the top.

OLBERMANN: The Iraq parts of the president's stump speech, it seems it's attempting to put the Democrats on the defensive for not having a solution in Iraq. But would that not get at least the occasional voter, maybe those independents you just mentioned, to ask, Hey, hasn't that Republican plan that's been in use for three years over there gone pretty poorly, all things considered?

WOLFFE: Right. This is not a question of the 2004 campaign anymore. Who's the commander in chief, what's the plan in Iraq? This is a classic opportunity for a protest vote. You're not looking at a change the head of military operation. So people can vent their disagreement with this, the current plan, without having to choose someone who will enact another one. That's the problem.

The other problem is, of course, President Bush is still the best campaigner in the party. And other candidates out there are struggling to find as crisp a way to frame their opponents as President Bush is. They don't want to follow him, because it sounds like they're aligning themselves with an unpopular president. But they don't have their own life that they feel comfortable about.

OLBERMANN: The New Jersey Supreme Court decision last week about gay marriage that you - gay marriage popped up in the president's speech today and got the loudest, the most sustained applause. Is it too late to trot that one back out? Or might that energize the base?

WOLFFE: You know, I've spoken a lot to President Bush's advisors and his pollsters about this question. They are absolutely convinced that it had no effect whatsoever on turnout, gay marriage, on, with marriage on the ballots in 2004 had no effect on turnout in 2004. They saw the same turnout in states where it was and wasn't on the ballot.

So I don't know who he's trying to get together in terms of raising it now. It sounds good on talk radio, but if the impact was minimal in 2004, it's not going to have an impact now.

OLBERMANN: Richard Wolffe of MSNBC and "Newsweek." As always, sir, our great thanks.

WOLFFE: Thank you.

OLBERMANN: Beyond being a national referendum on the Bush presidency, next week's election also likely to define the legacy of the man who won Mr. Bush the White House in the first place, Karl Rove most likely getting to keep his genius status permanently should the Republicans retain Congress, or even at this point, just come close in the House.

Should they lose both, well, let's just say that part about being known as Bush's Brain probably will not be considered a compliment anywhere anymore, assuming that it was widely.

Joining me now, the senior political writer of "The Dallas Morning News," Wayne Slater, also co-author of the new book, "The Architect: Karl Rove and the Master Plan for Absolute Power."

Thank you for your time tonight, sir.

WAYNE SLATER, CO-AUTHOR, "THE ARCHITECT": Good to be with you, Keith.

OLBERMANN: Let's take a look at the premise, Washington is a very much What have you done for me lately kind of town, but also knowing there is some difference of opinion on this particular point, but if the Republicans lose the House, say, and retain the Senate, would it call Mr. Rove's legacy into question?

SLATER: Well, you know, isn't this the party of personal responsibility? So you've got to think that if for 2002 Karl Rove was the guru in chief for defying history when Republicans gained seats in an off-year election, 2004 he's the architect. In 2006, if things go south, it has to diminish his star in some way.

And yet I think there are - there is an argument to be made that anybody, even a god, a political god like Karl Rove, is going to lose in a year like this.

OLBERMANN: To quote the great David Frye, those who, those who are to blame lose their jobs, those who are not, are those who are responsible do not. But beyond the question of what happens if the Republicans lose, Rove's supreme confidence that his party is not going to look, is that an act, or does he really believe that they're going to win? Do you have a sense, from what you've heard from him in the last few weeks?

SLATER: Yes, you know, I've talked to Karl and I've talked to some other people. And the odd thing about Karl is that there's no question part of this is an act. What you do is, you try to - you know, the last thing you want to do is suggest, suggest the idea that you're going to lose, that it's going to be a tidal wave against you. And that's nothing that will just make the base sort of turn out.

But on the other hand, there is something about Karl, I remember him in the year 2000 when he thought the president was going to win the New Hampshire primary, he lost. He thought the president was going to win in California, he didn't. And so there's something almost delusional about Karl. Sometimes he looks at the numbers and sees what he wants to do and what he wants to see, even if, in looking at those numbers, he's seeing deeper than most of us.

OLBERMANN: The NPR interview speaks to that, almost, last week, where he talked about your math versus the math, implying he had the math. Is that, is that strength, confidence? Is it something sort of scary that he knows more than somebody else might know about how this is going to turn out before it's actually taken place? Or is this whistling past graveyards?

SLATER: Well, you know, I've known Karl for 15 years, and I never underestimate him in any case. I have to say that I was at a book deal the other day, and a prominent Democrat walked up to me and said, Why is Karl so confident?

There is another explanation here, besides his supreme confidence. (INAUDIBLE) he's in their heads and he knows it. Karl has the ability to get into the minds of Democrats and scare them to death.

OLBERMANN: Like a pitcher who may or may not be throwing a spitball. If the Republicans lose or the parties split Congress, which would be the bet most people would put the money on right now, the latter of those, what happens to all the systems, the procedures, the rituals, the funneling of power, the funneling of other things that Mr. Rove has established since January of 2001? Do they get dismantled? Do they get interrupted? What happens (INAUDIBLE) in the position of a Democratic Senate, a - or a Democratic House, or either one of them, or both, and this mighty administration that has been chugging along by itself the last five years?

SLATER: All these Democrats who think that everything's going to be great in November, they're going to take the House, maybe the Senate, and the end of Karl Rove's effort to establish an enduring Republican majority is at hand, might want to think about this, because the apparatus that he's put together, (INAUDIBLE) Ken Mehlman, Matthew Dowd, and other Republican geniuses in this part, this apparatus, with the Christians, with the business interests, with the voter vault, with everything that's part of this constituency and this method of winning elections again and again, even if they lose in November, because this has been a catastrophic year for Republicans, even if they lose, that mechanism's still in place.

And if I were a Democrat, I wouldn't be thinking that we've won completely until 2008. This machine will be back. Here in Texas, 15 years ago, somebody told me, Never bet against Karl, and I'm not betting against him today.

OLBERMANN: Wayne Slater, the author of "The Architect." Great thanks, as always, for joining us, Wayne.

Speaking of election tactics, a rare admission of GOP dirty tricks from a Republican operative who went to jail after trying to stop Democrats from voting. His story.

And behind the posturing and the politics, some troops sharing their feelings on the war from the front lines in Iraq, while other soldiers get their blogs shut down.

You are watching Countdown on MSNBC.


OLBERMANN: Just in, politics are foul. Actually, Winston CHURCHILL said that about 1930. The only question, the tense agreement. Should it be "are foul" or "is foul"?

Our fourth story on the Countdown, we generally only learn how foul long after the fact. Have laws been broken during the campaign of 2006? Good luck. Two thousand and four, keep guessing. Two thousand and two, yes. And a senior Republican operative is admitting it, and insisting it was the idea of those well above him.

And he's talking about it, all of it, exclusively with our senior investigative correspondent, Lisa Myers.



LISA MYERS, NBC SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: Keith, as you well know, both Republicans and Democrats have engaged in dirty tricks over the years. Alan Raymond is among the few who got caught and paid a heavy price.

(voice-over): For years, Alan Raymond was a prominent Republican operative with a reputation for bare-knuckle tactics.

ALAN RAYMOND: Political campaigns are very aggressive. The aggressor wins. When you are aggressive, you are pushing the envelope.

MYERS (on camera): In an exclusive interview, Raymond admits that four years ago, he went beyond pushing the envelope and actually crossed the line. He spent three months in prison. Now, in a civil suit, Democrats are trying to tie his misdeeds to the White House.

(voice-over): It all happened during a hard-fought battle for the U.S. Senate in New Hampshire between then-Democratic Governor Jean Shaheen and Republican John Sununu. Raymond was running a telemarketing firm. He says an old friend from the Republican National Committee, James Tobin (ph), came to him with an idea, use nonstop hangup calls to tie up Democratic phone lines on election day.

RAYMOND: He gave he a call and outlined the program and asked me if it was something that was, that could be done.

MYERS (on camera): So you were trying to create chaos and keep Democrats from getting out their vote.

RAYMOND: That's right. We were trying to create chaos and prevent the Democratic Party from operating efficiently.

MYERS (voice-over): On election day, the plan worked, until nervous state Republicans pulled the plug.

BILL CLAYTON: That day, because our phone lines ended up being jammed, the people that counted on us to get rides to the polls, weren't able to get the rides they needed.

MYERS: And the Republican candidate won, though there's no evidence that phone jamming made the difference.

(on camera): Do you believe that only Republicans engage in dirty tricks?

RAYMOND: No, I believe that both parties engage in dirty tricks. I think it happens all the time, in one way or another. You know, dirty tricks in politics are like UFO sightings. Now, you see them every once in a while, you know they exist, but you can't necessarily point to what it really is.

So, yes, they occur. But let's be clear on something. The New Hampshire phone jamming was not a dirty trick, it was criminal.

MYERS (voice-over): Raymond cooperated with authorities, and pleaded guilty to conspiring to make harassing phone calls.

RAYMOND: The difference between myself and my co-conspirators in this case is that I didn't hesitate to take responsibility and tell the truth.

MYERS: RNC operative James Tobin denied any involvement. In this FBI report obtained by NBC News, he told agents that he informed a state party leader at the time that he would not support or endorse the idea.

The Republican National Committee spent an estimated $3 million to defend Tobin, who, nevertheless, was convicted of telephone harassment.

Others charged in the scheme, including Raymond, did not get the RNC's financial support.

(on camera): A lot of folks think that because the Republican National Committee paid $3 million to defend this guy, that they have something to hide.

RAYMOND: Well, that's a very fair assumption to make, and they need to answer for that.

MYERS (voice-over): The RNC declined to comment.

Raymond said he initially assumed the RNC had approved the phone-jamming operation.

(on camera): On election day, you thought this had been endorsed by the Republican National Committee.

RAYMOND: Well, I certainly knew that it had been endorsed by an agent of the Republican National Committee.

MYERS (voice-over): But now, he says he's seen no evidence that others at the RNC or the White House signed off.

In New Hampshire, a lawyer for the state Republican Party denies others were involved.

OVIDE LA MONTAGNE, NEW HAMPSHIRE STATE COMMITTEE: For the best of my knowledge, there was no discussion at the White House, no one at the Republican National Committee, or New Hampshire Republican state committee about this phone jamming.

MYERS: Both the RNC and the White House also deny authorizing the operation.

Still, New Hampshire Democrats have filed a civil suit. And the judge is allowing them to question Republicans all the way up to the White House about what they knew and when. This month, former RNC chairman Ed Gillespie was deposed in the case.

Alan Raymond says his once-bright political career is over. He is now shunned by his party and, as a felon, unable to vote.

RAYMOND: In the end, it accomplished four years of scandal, lots of legal bills, people going to jail. Was it worth it? Absolutely not.

MYERS: A cautionary tale, he says, for Republicans and Democrats.

(on camera): And this may not be the end of this story. Sources tell NBC News that Justice Department lawyers and FBI agents have attended hearings and depositions in the Democrats' civil suit, which would seem to indicate an interest in this case.

For Countdown, I'm Lisa Myers, NBC News, Washington.


OLBERMANN: Thanks, Lisa.

Also here tonight, reality in Iraq from the soldiers' perspective. Their blogs, their e-mails, so more insightful than the observations of outsiders, so much so that the military may be clamping down on them.

And what better way to celebrate the upcoming Halloween holiday than getting drunk, smashing pumpkins, and using the resultant goo for a slip-and-slide? Or is that a political debate of some sort?

Countdown continues.


OLBERMANN: Ultimately, she may not have had the worldwide influence of the patenting of the first ballpoint pen on this date in 1888, nor maybe not even of Orson Welles' infamous "War of the Worlds" radio broadcast exactly 50 years later, but most importantly around here, this is the birthday of our own chief foreign affairs correspondent, Andrea Mitchell, even if she is from WXPN Radio at Penn, and I'm from WVBR at Cornell. Happy birthday, Andrea.

And in no segue whatsoever, let's play Oddball.

We begin in Ohio for the traditional and slightly illegal Chagrin Falls pumpkin roll, an annual event in which dozens of local teens smash pumpkins all over the road in order to get it slimy enough to go sledding. Wheee. Three kids were arrested for drinking. One went to the hospital with a broken nose. Not everyone, though, thinks this is just good clean fun. Some have expressed concerns over just how these pumpkins are collected. Excuse me, but are you implying that some of the teenagers may have stolen the pumpkins?

Outrageous. Anyway, you might also want to be concerned with the multiple fatalities that could occur when the morning rush hour hits the street in (INAUDIBLE) morning.

In the Florida keys, they're celebrating Halloween under the sea. Several scuba divers taking the chance to carve Jack-o-lanterns on the ocean floor eight miles off Key Largo. None of them could get the candles to work, of course, but a good time was had by all, including the local fish life, which so rarely gets the chance to eat pumpkin in the wild.

And to Monroeville, Pennsylvania, which has been overrun by zombies today, and boy, are they scary.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Whoever has the professor's megaphone, please bring it back.


OLBERMANN: Aaggghhh, the professor's megaphone, they ate the professor's megaphone!

It's the Monroeville Mall actual sight of the classic horror film "Dawn of the Dead." And once again, the place is lousy with zombies. You know, if I didn't know better, I'd just swear these were all Fox News viewers.

This time, the undead, though, are not here to seek out a small band of survivors and eat their brains, they're here to break the Guinness world record for most walking dead in one place. Well, that is Fox News. And for the best Orange Julius this side of Wilkinsburg (ph). They think they got the record, and each zombie brought a nonperishable food item for charity, so it was a good day of the dead in Monroesville, except for the professor and his poor, poor megaphone.

Speaking of brain-dead creatures who have seized megaphones, Bill O., reamed for his coverage of the war in Iraq, not by Democrats, not by liberals, but by soldiers on the ground, and suddenly, the soldiers' blogs have gone blank.

And a new low in what's shaping up to be one of the ugliest divorces in celebrity history, the soon-to-be ex-Mrs. McCartney bringing the deceased Mrs. McCartney into the mix.

Those stories ahead.

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

No. 3, Doug Ferraro of Bucks Count, Pennsylvania got his baseball card back last week autographed from a big leaguer he's sent it to in the mail for an autograph. Player was Don Carman of the Philadelphia Phillies. Ferrarro sent Carman the card in 1990 when Ferrarro was 7 years old. The now 23-year-old Ferrarro says Carman included a note "Sorry about the delay, I lost a box of mail. Just found it." Way to go, Don.

No. 2, Mick Jagger opening for the Rolling Stones' amazing 18 song, hour and 40 minute performance for the Clinton Foundation in New York last week, had the line of the week, "President Clinton is here tonight. Happy birthday, President Clinton. And she's brought her husband." Thank you, Mick.

No. 1, the unidentified 20-year-old who tried to hold up a shop in Wisconsin. He thought he'd show everybody he meant business by firing his shotgun inside the place. Unfortunately the place was a fireworks factory and the shotgun blast promptly detonated every Roman candle in the place, burning the factory to the ground. Nobody was hurt, but the place is a total loss and the place is in the town of Loch de Flambeau which translates from the French as "Torch Lake."


OLBERMANN: American voters consistently ranking the war in Iraq as their top issue towards the election. But we rarely hear from the Americans fighting that war. In our third story in the Countdown tonight, voices from the front hit the front pages and the military hits back with a hint of censorship.

This month with the U.S. death toll now at 101, our deadliest month there in almost two years, both "Time" and "Newsweek" are spotlighting the private messages, proud, anguished, frustrated, of two Marines. "Time" published one letter anonymously that reportedly is making the rounds among top Pentagon brass.

Among its observations, "I rarely see Ramadi in the news. We have as many attacks out here in the west as Baghdad. Yet, Baghdad has seven million people, we have just 1.2 million. Per capita, al-Anbar province is the most violent place in Iraq by several orders of magnitude."

And, "Biggest outrage - practically anything said by talking heads on TV about the war in Iraq.there thoughts are consistently both grossly simplistic and politically slanted." Guess what, his biggest offender in that category was Bill O'Reilly.

Meantime, today's issue of "Newsweek," quoting from private e-mails of another Marine, Captain Robert Secher, one of the 101 Americans who died in Iraq this month. Among his observations about Anbar province, "Whatever 'good' is happening in Iraq, isn't happening here.Even the Iraq soldiers tell us that when America leaves, they'll quit. They trust us because they know Americans can take care of them, but they don't trust their government, or the minister of defense, and they especially don't trust their officers.funny," he wrote, "I feel the same way sometimes."

Let me bring in one of the few Americans in regular contact with dozens of U.S. soldiers serving in Iraq, Paul Rieckhoff, who wrote about his own service in Iraq in "Chasing Ghosts" and is also founder and executive director or Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.

Paul, thanks again for your time tonight.


OLBERMANN: The Army now has a formal unit in place monitoring what the soldiers are saying in private blogs. What are they doing and what do we risk losing if military bloggers stop blogging or feel restrained in anyway?

RIECKHOFF: Well, what they're intending to do is to try to maintain operational security. They want to make sure that soldiers serving in Iraq or Afghanistan aren't releasing confidential troop movements or vulnerabilities of weapon systems or other things that could compromise the safety of individual soldiers. You don't want Sergeant Smith accidentally telling his wife when his patrol is going to be leaving and where they're going to be going.

What they're also going to is clamp down on, arguably, the best information coming out of Iraq. The mainstream media, the politicians, they haven't been getting the American people the real deal what's happening on the ground. These blogs, in my opinion, are the most raw, the most accurate, and the most candid way you can understand what's really happening on the ground in Iraq.

OLBERMANN: Turning to the emails focused - or that the magazines focused on. And neither of these Marines offered an overall solution to Iraq. Is there a sense that even the men and the women who are serving there have trouble not merely coming up with a solution, but believing that there is a solution?

RIECKHOFF: Well, I know that they're frustrated and they're not seeing progress, just like the rest of the American population. But they also know that there's no silver bullet solution. If we stay, it's going to be bad. If we leave, it's going to be bad. The only people who seem to have a silver bullet solution or an answer to everything are politicians. And we know that that's just not the case.

We're in a very tough situation. We're frustrated, the insurgency continues to evolve and develop. And politicians are more interested in attacking each other, than attacking our nation's enemies. So, I think a lot of people within the military are frustrated and they want to see their own views represented. They want to see other soldiers speaking up and speaking out and educating the American people about what's really happening on the ground.

OLBERMANN: Discussing Marines who have been charged with murder, the late Captain Sechr wrote: "Bush should be ashamed of the predicament that this nation has been put in.war puts perfectly ordinary young men in situations that can't be judged by laws. This is what war does to Norman young men."

Is there, Paul, a catch-22 in trying to honor and support our troops without somehow acknowledging the worst things we've asked them to do in the name of our country?

RIECKHOFF: I hope that we can do both. You know, I was trained as an infantry soldier. My job to do is to kill people and break their stuff. The American people have to understand that that's what soldiers do and that's what we're trained to do, and that's what we're supposed to do. So you have to, at the same time, understand the magnitude of that.

When you're asking a 19-year-old who's never left his state to operate in a combat environment where he doesn't speak the language, that has tremendous gravity and the magnitude of it is something that I don't think most civilians can really understand. So, I think we owe them the obligation of trying to put ourselves in their shoes, trying to understand the complexity and the dynamic nature of that environment before we pass judgment in either direction.

OLBERMANN: Your group has ranked members of Congress based on whether their votes actually support the troops. Do the rankings match the public perception? Are the troops in the field aware of these rankings?

RIECKHOFF: They are aware of them and the bottom line is no, there are a lot of people in Congress who are saying they support the troops and their votes aren't matching up. Eighty-six members of Congress got a "D" or "F" grade after our opportunity to try to rank them all.

And this is an issues like V.A. funding. Funding for health care for National Guardsmen and Reservists, a military death gratuity. People in the Senate actually voted against increasing the military death gratuity. This is something most Americans don't know about. It's in the details and we wanted to provide a way for most Americans to find out who really supports the troops and who's just spouting empty rhetoric.

OLBERMANN: I mentioned earlier the anonymous letter writer's claim that TV talking heads are grossly simplistic, politically slanted in discussing this war. What exactly is getting lost in the simplifications and in the political slanting?

RIECKHOFF: Just the breadth of it and the complexity. I mean, imaging trying to describe the death of your team leader in a two minute segment for CNN or for FOX or MSNBC. It's just really tough to condense it all into a quick sound bite or into a segment for television. I think what we really need to do is dig deeper and understand that it is a complex environment. And even the embedded reporters aren't giving you the full scope of what's happening on the ground.

That's why we've been so vocal about trying to involve veterans in the discussion. We've heard enough from the policy wonks, we've heard enough from Rumsfeld and enough from the president, it's time to listen to the people who've been on the ground, because they are the subject matter experts, they're not necessarily affiliated with either political party and they want to continue to serve this country by trying to help them understand the most important issue facing it.

OLBERMANN: Well, Paul, we may not know, but we always have a little better sense of what we don't know and need to when we sit and chat. Paul Rieckhoff, author of "Chasing Goats - Ghosts," executive director of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.

Paul, thanks again.

RIECKHOFF: Thank you, Keith, appreciate it.

OLBERMANN: Also tonight, he spent more than 50 years in the National Basketball Association, helped to break the race barrier, create the Celtics mystique. Tonight, remembering the late Arnold "Red" Auerbach.

And some people we'd like to forget. Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes not only getting wedding clothes from Armani, but apparently they're getting his house too.

Those stories ahead, but first here are Countdown's "Top 3 Sound Bites" of this day.


BILL O'REILLY, "O'REILLY FACTOR": Do you want the United States to win in Iraq?

DAVID LETTERMAN, "LATE SHOW": First of all, I don't.

O'REILLY: It's an easy question, if you don't want the United States to win in Iraq...

LETTERMAN: It's not easy for me because I'm thoughtful.


O'REILLY: It isn't so black and white, Dave. It isn't we're a bad country, Bush is an evil liar...

LETTERMAN: I didn't say we're a bad country.

O'REILLY: It's not true.

LETTERMAN: I didn't say he as an evil liar. You're putting words in my mouth. Just the way you put artificial facts in your head.


O'REILLY: All right.


BRIAN KINCHEN, ANNOUNCER: Well, it looks like a pass that needs to be caught. Yeah, you can't use your shoulder to catch a football. Your hands are what makes it possible. Your shoulder pads are hard and stiff. Your hands are tender and they can move and caress the ball.


That's kind of gay, but hey...

Four at down and nine.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I had some of the best seeds in the world last year.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because that's a pretty good size pumpkin, don't you think?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's become our new best friend.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Pat Pripe (ph) has been displaying the biggest pumpkin in Minnesota and Teski's (ph) Farm and Country Store for the past 10 days.


(SONG): Hey, won't somebody tell me what the heck you call this thing? Oh, the pumpkin man with the big round head, smile so bright and eyes so red.



OLBERMANN: Basketball legend mourned in his beloved Boston and throughout the sports world. A look back at the life and legacy of "Red" Auerbach, next.

And from heroes to zeros, the Mills-McCartney divorce sliding towards the Mills-McCartney debacle. That's ahead, this is Countdown.


OLBERMANN: Professional basketball had been integrated for only six years when he traded two of his top white stars for a man named Bill Russell, 10 years later, having won eight championships in a row with Russell as his star, he retried as coach and made Russell as successor at a time when there had not been any African-American coaching any major sports franchise in this country in 40 years.

He invented the concept of the sixth man, he drafted Larry Bird even though he had to wait a year for him to turn pro. He once traded away the No. 1 pick in the draft and got Robert Parish and Kevin McHale in the deal. And not only did he coach 13 future Hall of Famers, but five of them also became coaches.

Our No. 2 story in the Countdown, one of the legends not just of basketball but of American sport is dead tonight, Arnold "Red" Auerbach of the Boston Celtics.

He as not very good guard in the early haphazard years of pro hoops in this country, but after the Second World War, at age 29, he became coach of the Washington Capitals, of the Basketball Association of America, precursor to the National Basketball Association. The team won 49 of 60 games and Auerbach never looked behind him.

Switching to the struggling Boston franchise in 51 as coach and GM, he rebuilt the Celtics with the fulcrum being the 1956 trade of the popular center "Easy" Ed MacAuley and top draft choice Cliff Hagan for the difficult genius-in-the-making, Bill Russell. Boston won an incredible nine out of 10 NBA championships between 1957 and 1966, 11 out of 13 between '57 and '69.

"We never had the league's top score," Auerbach noted with pride, "in fact, we won seven league championships without placing even one among the league's top 10 scorers."

"Red" Auerbach, who kept his victory cigar lit no matter the rules said, died Saturday of a heart attack at the age of 89. His team, he Celtics, will wear a black clover leaf on their uniforms for the length of the upcoming season in his memory.

In a happy development, a wholesome story of true love topping our nightly roundup of celebrity and tabloid news which we call "Keeping Tabs."

Plans moving ahead for the marriage of Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes. Sources telling MSNBC.com that not only will the blessed event take place in Italy, but it just might be held at the Italian villa of Giorgio Armani.

Earlier reports that George Clooney's villa would host the event have been shot down. Unlike Clooney, however, Armani is already involved in this wedding. He is designing both the bride and groom's wedding clothes. No, they're not interchangeable.

The Armani story, we're warned, might be a rumor, though, to draw media attention away from Cruise. Something he has almost accomplished himself with his recent movies.

Don't expect Reese Witherspoon and Ryan Phillippe to star in the home or movie version - the home version of the Cruise/Holmes story. After seven years of marriage, the two are formally separating, according to, well of course, who else would announce this? A publicist. The couple has two children and one Oscar.

While custody issues remain to be worked out, Legal experts belief that according to California law Witherspoon will entitled to retain custody of an actual movie career, while Phillippe is expected to take up residence in a depressing complex for divorced dads.

We have a "Keeping Tabs" update tonight from our Nicole Richie bureau.

Of course she has her own bureau. Duh.

TMZ.com reporting that Nicole Richie passed out late Saturday night, that would be early Sunday morning to you and me, at the Hyde Nightclub, which is apparently Hollywood's only nightclub. A spokesperson for Richie confirms she was at Hyde, but denies that she collapsed. On the other hand, we're also told that Richie had checked herself into a treatment facility in order to determine why she hasn't been gaining weight. This latest development now suggests an obvious answer to all of these Nicole Richie-related mysteries - evil twins. Mark my words, evil twins.

There's ugly and then there's ugly, like citing your husband's late wife in your divorce case, that's ahead, but first time for Countdown latest of nominees for "Worst Person in the World."

The Bronze to someone named Steven (INAUDIBLE) of "National Review." Complain that I too often refer to President Bush as "Mr. Bush," that it's my, quoting him, "Way of saying that Bush holds office illegitimately." In fact, Mr. (INAUDIBLE), it's my way as not referring to him as, quote, "Bush." I call him, quote, "Mr. Bush." And it turns, and we thank the Media Matters website for this, so does Mr. (INAUDIBLE) boss. Writing in "National Review" since 2001, William F. Buckley, himself, has referred to the president as "Mr. Bush" more than 150 times.

Our runner up, Congresswoman Jean Schmidt of Ohio. She says she's not advocating it, but she believes, "It's something we need to look at." What is it? Storing nuclear waste shipments from around the world inside her own congressional district. She says this a week-and-a-half before the people in the district will decided whether or not to send her back to Congress. She thinks it could create hundreds, maybe thousands of jobs. To say nothing of a nice healthy green glow in the community 24 hours a day.

But our winner, comedian Rush Limbaugh, who is now claiming that TV networks speeded up the video from the day he first called Michael J. Fox a faker. He also denies that he was mocking or making fun of Fox's symptoms of Parkinson's disease. Well, just look at this again. And by the way, nut job, it is regular speed.


RUSH LIMBAUGH, COMEDIAN: He is exaggerating the effects of the disease. He is moving all around and shaking and it's purely an act.


OLBERMANN: We didn't alter it, maybe we should have. Limbaugh actually says, quote, "It is absurd and ridiculous for them to make this charge that I would make fun of somebody in this circumstance."

I'm going to make a controversial suggestion here on behalf of mankind, I think. Rush, your lies used to be slightly entertaining, but no more. Please go back on the drugs.

Comedian Rush Limbaugh, today's "Worst Person in the World."


OLBERMANN: The "Long and Winding Road" since Paul McCartney and Heather Mills-McCartney announced their separation last May, has taken Sir Paul from "Strawberry Fields Forever" to a "Hard Day's Night." The motto for high-profile separations is almost never "We can Work it Out," and in the increasingly nasty battle accusations have been hurled at scenes eight days a - oh, screw this.

Our No. 1 story in the Countdown, Mills and McCartney with a brief cease-fire for their daughter's birthday, but when the last candle went out, the bombardment resumed. little Beatrice McCartney celebrated the big three on Saturday in East Sussex, England and her parents, face-to-face for the first time in two months, the 90 minutes gathering described as "amiable" by Britain's "Hello" magazine, though it's uncertain whether Mills and McCartney shared much more than a "hello," if even that.

Sir Paul left with daughter Beatrice. Ms. Mills departed 10 minutes later with leftover cake.

Joining me now, the senior editor of "In Touch Weekly," Tom O'Neil, who's also columnist for the "L.A. Time's" award's website, The Envelope.

Thanks for your time tonight, Tom.

TOM O'NEIL, "IN TOUCH WEEKLY": Good to be here, Keith.

OLBERMANN: There have also been reports that Ms. Mills and her entourage have been videotaping everything for a year with the implication that some of Sir Paul's allegedly abusive behavior is on tape. Is that supposed to be evidence in court or it is going to be a reality show?

O'NEIL: Oh, I certainly hope it's for evidence in court, but evidence of what, that she's a loving, trusting wife, so much so that she, you know, dogged her husband with a video camera? This is - this is, you know, an outrage. Imagine - I think she caught every scene except the one of her down in the family vault counting up Paul's money.

OLBERMANN: By the way, on the off chance that it's a reality show we wanted to drop in a little guidance that Bobby Brown, Whitney Houston travesty. Let me play this for a second.

O'NEIL: Sure.




OLBERMANN: All right, moving on, other details, this tidbit from the London "Sunday Mirror" is that the couple actually split on Mother's Day because Ms. Mills was outraged that Mr. McCartney sent staff to buy the gifts for the her. That was the deal breaker?

O'NEIL: It actually was. She was so angry that she then went on a shopping spree that so ticked off Paul he finally just said, "Look, I've had enough of this." Look, what did she expect from a guy who sang a song called "All You Need is Love?" You know, he could have taken out that other song, "Live or Let Die" and that broken wine glass and let her have it, I think.

OLBERMANN: Remember the parody version of the Beatles, the "Rutles" their version was "All you Need is Cash." He might have listened to that record before he got hitched.

This same story describes Sir Paul as describing Ms. Mills as a "spoiled brat." But, do we get a sense here that, you know, when all the evidence is on the table neither of these folks are going to look good?

O'NEIL: Well, I think that Paul, except for the "spoiled brat" comment, which he did not make publicly, has come across pretty well. Remember the comments he has said publicly, which have been terrific, he's talked about her generosity, how much she's helped about other people. Meanwhile, all she talks about is what a monster he is.

OLBERMANN: And there has been a new level reportedly reached here, either a new high or a new low, evidence that she claims that she has that Linda McCartney,of course the first wife, the beloved first wife of Paul McCartney, was not always happy, may have been in her own way victimized, in some way. But is there no - is there no code to this? I mean, do you go after your estranged husband's deceased wife? Even in these sort of circumstances?

O'NEIL: This really is the lowest that this fight has gotten yet. What you're referring to, of course, are 20 hours of audiotapes that she made with a book collaborator, from Linda here, in which she did profess a few times in the conversation that she felt trapped by her marriage to a celebrity. But nowhere in these conversations, apparently, does she say she didn't love Paul or that she, you know, that this marriage was anything but a terrific thing. And there is also, by the way, no evidence in this discussion at all of physical violence or abuse. So this is going to backfire on Heather.

OLBERMANN: Sounds like most of it's going to backfire on Heather, correct?

O'NEIL: Yeah, I think almost all of it will, is the way it's looking.

OLBERMANN: Now, unfortunately, to provide entertainment for everybody else. Tom O'Neil, senior editor of "In Touch Weekly." As always Tom, great thanks for your time tonight.

O'NEIL: Thanks a lot, Keith.

OLBERMANN: And that is Countdown for this the 1,276th day since the declaration of "Mission Accomplished" in Iraq.

I'm Keith Olbermann. Goodnight and good luck.