Tuesday, October 3, 2006

'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Oct. 3

Guests: Chris Cillizza, Candice DeLong

AMY ROBACH, HOST: Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?

Pedafoleygate deepens with a new set of instant messages. As the representative sits on Capitol Hill waiting to cast a vote, he's talking sex with underage boys and making plans to meet at his place for drinks.

And takes another unexpected twist. Yesterday, it was the alcoholism.



DAVID ROTH, ATTORNEY FOR MARK FOLEY: Between the ages of 13 and 15, he was molested by a clergyman.


ROBACH: No excuses for the House leadership, just finger pointing. House speaker Dennis Hastert in the crosshairs, more calls for him to step aside as leader for turning a blind eye to protecting the pages.

But the president stands up for the beleaguered speaker.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I meet with him a lot. He is a father, teacher, coach who cares about the children of this country.


ROBACH: And the party of family values is in full damage control to try to control this scandal.



BRIT HUME, FOX NEWS: Barney Frank.

SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS: I don't want to bring Clinton into it...


ROBACH: And all of that, to the headlines from "State of Denial" and the damning conclusions from the National Intelligence Estimate, does it all spell disaster for the GOP come November 7?

The disaster in Lancaster County. More young victims in the Amish school shooting lose their battle to hang onto life, as investigators work to connect the dots on why the unthinkable even happened in the first place.

The mystery of the meerkat.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's sort of "Days of Our Lives" meets "Wild Kingdom."


ROBACH: A worldwide TV audience sitting on the edge of its seat for one of the biggest cliffhangers "Animal Planet" ever pulled off.

And one of the biggest celebrity auctions ever.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It took six truckloads out of Cher's house to bring everything here.


ROBACH: The ultimate home makeover means out with the old and in with the new, Cher-style.

All that and more, now on Countdown.

Good evening. I'm Amy ROBACH, in for Keith Olbermann.

What did they know, and when did they know it? the two questions at the heart of any political scandal, the case of Congress and Mark Foley prompting a third question tonight, What did they do about it?

Our fifth story on the Countdown, with only 35 days left until the 2006 midterm elections, the actions or inactions of House speaker Dennis Hastert and his fellow Republicans are now threatening to derail the campaign.

And there is a report tonight that Foley once interrupted a vote on the floor of the House to engage in Internet sex with a teenaged boy.

Now, according to a new batch of instant messages obtained by ABC News, on the same evening in March of '03, when the House was voting on an emergency appropriations bill for the war in Iraq, Congressman Foley, using the screen name MAS54, told another former congressional page, quote, "I miss you." Teen, "Ya me too." Foley, "We are still voting, you miss me too?"

The exchange continued. What is described cannot be described here, even on basic cable. Foley also invited the boy and a friend to come drink alcohol at his house in Washington. Quote, "Then we can have a few drinks, lol." Teen, "Yes, yes." Foley, "You're not old enough to drink. We may need to drink at my house so we don't get busted."

Well, the matter going before the House Ethics Committee on Thursday in a closed-door session.

We want to get more now on the scandal from NBC's Chip Reid on Capitol Hill.


CHIP REID, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Well, good evening, Amy.

Tonight, there's another strange twist in this strange story. Foley's attorney claims that Foley himself was abused as a teenager.


REID (voice-over): Foley's attorney says the new claim is not intended as an excuse for his client's behavior.

ROTH: He kept his shame to himself for almost 40 years. Between the ages of 13 and 15, he was molested by a clergyman.

REID (voice-over): For the first time, President Bush today weighed in on the Foley scandal, condemning the former congressman.

BUSH: I was disgusted by the revelations and disappointed.

REID: But defending speaker of the House Dennis Hastert, who says he first became aware of the Foley scandal Friday, even though two senior House Republicans say they told him about it months ago.

Today, some conservatives called for Hastert's head, "The Washington Times," in an editorial, writing, "Either he was grossly negligent, or he deliberately looked the other way in hopes that a brewing scandal would simply blow away."

Leading conservative Richard Viguerie said the entire Republican leadership should step down.

RICHARD VIGUERIE: Congressman Hastert, and any of the others that knew about this and did not take action to protect these young boys, should resign.

REID: Even some top House Republicans were pointing the finger at Hastert today, including majority leader John Boehner, who said it was Hastert who should have been dealing with the scandal, not him.


REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R), MAJORITY LEADER (on phone): It's in his corner. It's his responsibility. The clerk of the House, who runs the page program, the page board, all report to the speaker.


REID: On Rush Limbaugh's conservative talk show, Hastert insisted he won't step down.


REP. DENNIS HASTERT (R), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE (on phone): Yes, I'm not going to do that.


REID: And he suggested, without offering any evidence, that Democrats leaked the Foley story for political purposes.


HASTERT: And they drop it the last day of the session be, you know, before we adjourn on an election year.


REID: Democrats denied the charge, and the woman likely to be speaker next year if Democrats win control of the House fired back at Republican leaders.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), MINORITY LEADER: They held this closely, they shared it among themselves, they did not act to protect the children. They're all responsible.


REID: And, of course, Congress is now out of session. They're out on the campaign trail. And that is where you can expect this issue to be fought in the coming five weeks before election day, Amy.

ROBACH: All right, Chip Reid, thank you.

For more on today's fallout, we are joined now by Chris Cillizza, political reporter for the WashingtonPost.com.

Good evening, Chris.


ROBACH: And not to diminish what Speaker Hastert is accused of ignoring here, or turning a blind eye to, but are most Republican lawmakers involved now throwing Speaker Hastert under the proverbial bus?


ROBACH: To save their own careers?

CILLIZZA: Right. Look, the reality of this situation is that when you have something that as potentially as explosive as this, when you have the potential or at least the perception of a coverup involving children, and if not the direct abuse, certainly the verbal and the taking advantage of young people, politicians are at their core about self-preservations.

And so they recognize this, from John Boehner, to Tom Reynolds, the congressman from New York who's the head of the campaign committee, to even Dennis Hastert. They all recognize that this has the potential, this could be a career-ender. It certainly was for Congressman Foley. And it could be a career-ender by being attached to it.

So what you're going to see is what we've seen, a rare thing in Republican politics of late, a circular firing squad. You're really seeing everyone pushing the blame off on someone else, saying, Well, I sort of knew about it, but I passed this up the chain of command.

And the reality is, is that the top of the chain of command in the House is Dennis Hastert, and that's why I think you're seeing, at least in some parts of the country and in some parts of the conservative movement, calls for him to resign.

ROBACH: Right. And he's refusing to resign. He got an endorsement, so to speak, from the president today. But what has he got? Is Hastert going to survive this?

CILLIZZA: You know, I hesitate to predict these things, because if you look back at (INAUDIBLE) this isn't a direct comparison, but look back at what happened with Trent Lott, the senator from Mississippi, the former majority leader, made some comments at a 100th birthday party for Strom Thurmond that weren't really picked up at first, and then gained more and more traction, comments about sort of the way things used to be, comments seemingly celebrating the old South, picked up more and more by the media, picked up more and more by the blogosphere out there.

And it eventually led to Trent Lott resigning. Now, if you had asked me on the day that Trent Lott gave that speech, Would Trent Lott have resigned? I would have said no. I remember watching the speech and thinking, Oh, that was a strange line. But I wasn't - I would - was by no means certain that it would end up the way it ended up.

So these things, especially the 24-hour news cycle, don't forget that, we've got blogs, we've got radio, we've got TV, we've got cable, we've got all these different things. And so it's hard to tell where the story goes.

If everything that's out today is all that's out there, I do think Dennis Hastert hangs on. I think that he's got a lot of loyalty built up with House Republicans.

But again, I return to my earlier point. Politicians are, first and foremost, about keeping themselves in office and keeping themselves elected. So if at some point, this criticism reaches critical mass, and they believe that the way that they can preserve their majorities is to move Speaker Hastert out, it'll become a conversation.

I just don't think we're there yet. But again, I would hesitate to make any predictions about where we might be going in the next few days or weeks.

ROBACH: Clearly, Congressman Foley not looking or not thinking about preserving his career when he put into writing what he put into writing. I mean, I think the big question a lot of people are asking, the remarkable part about a lot of this, is that did Congressman Foley think he wouldn't get caught putting this in instant messages?

CILLIZZA: Right, and...

ROBACH: Typing these, you know, these messages.

CILLIZZA: Right. You know what's interesting is that I don't know Congressman Foley on a friendly basis, but I know him as a politician. I've covered politics for a while in this town. And I was always struck by how politically savvy he was. He was someone who talked about running for the Senate, obviously had an interest in it, actually got into the race in 2003 before getting out in favor of Mel Martinez, who's currently in the Senate.

He talked about it again when Congressman Katherine Harris's senatorial bid, which is this cycle, came up. She was flagging and having trouble. He sort of put himself out there.

So I think what it shows is that we human beings are a fascinating group of people. Sometimes we do things that are not in our best interests.

Look, Mark Foley, the politician, clearly understood that putting these things down, in an e-mail or in an instant message, or whatever form that he put them in, was going to be potentially perilous in his political career. But Mark Foley the human being obviously couldn't help himself. I mean, that's sort of, you know, there are obviously two sides of Mark Foley, one that we were all aware of, and one that we weren't.

ROBACH: All right, and Chris, one last question for you in terms of the big question, Was there a coverup to the coverup, "The Washington Post" reporting that Kirk Fordham, Representative Reynolds' chief of staff, may have tried to cut a deal with ABC's Brian Ross, once he knew that Ross had those instant messages. Much of the leadership defense here was that these e-mails were just overly friendly, they weren't sexually explicit in nature.

But the deal was attempted apparently after the more explicit IMs were revealed. Is there a coverup to the coverup?

CILLIZZA: You know, I think that's a debate we're going to see out. Remember, Amy, and Chip pointed this out in his report, anything that happens 35 days or closer to an election is going to be freighted with political significance. So you're seeing Democrats quietly stoke this, make sure that reporters are aware of the latest developments, make sure reporters are aware of what Republicans have said what about the speaker, what Republicans have said what about any potential coverup.

And you see Republicans, on the other hand, trying to paint this as, Well, maybe Democrats actually knew about this and were holding it off until they could sort of keeping it in their hip pocket until they could spring it for maximum political gain.

So this is all going to be, I think, sorted out in the wash before we get to the election. But we're going to see that debate, that political debate, who's to blame and why, play out in the next week or two, because that's the essential debate here, is that Republicans know that if they simply take the blame for this, and it looks, whether it's true or not, if the perception is that they covered this up, they're in a lot of trouble.

ROBACH: That's right, before it all washes out, we'll be in spin cycle.

Chris Cellizza, political reporter for the WashingtonPost.com. Thanks you for joining us.

CILLIZZA: Thanks, Amy. Thanks for having me.

ROBACH: And a sign of just how damaging the Foley scandal has become is just how aggressively the Republican Party is fighting back. Politicians and pundits, working off a GOP list of talking points, came out in force to point the finger of blame at everyone but themselves.


RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST:... that there are things that will offend liberals, or are there? Because I continue to ask, are they really offended by this? How many of them wish they were in on the action?

NEWT GINGRICH (R), FORMER HOUSE SPEAKER: Had they overly aggressively reacted to the initial round, they would also have been accused of gay-bashing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They fearful of acting, because they would be seen as homophobic or gay-bashing.

MATT DRUDGE: You're not going to tell me these are innocent babies.

The kids are egging the congressman on.

TONY SNOW, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: There have been other scandals, as you know, that have been more than simply naughty e-mails.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Republicans have been caught red-handed. They step down and resign, while Democrats, almost, in some ways, use it as a badge of courage and move forward.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Fact of the matter is, Democrats have scandals of their own.

HUME: Inappropriate behavior towards subordinates didn't cause Gerry Studds his (INAUDIBLE) his Democratic seat in Massachusetts.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How about Gerry Studds?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:... Gerry Studds...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:... Gerry Studds...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Gerry Studds admitted having sex relations with a male page.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Gerry Studds was caught with an underage male page.

LIMBAUGH: That's what I am saying. Gerry Studds' person was 17 years old.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You talking about Gerry Studds...


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:... of Massachusetts? OK.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Barney Frank had a prostitute in his house.

JOE SCARBOROUGH, MSNBC: We can talk about Barney Frank...

HUME:... Barney Frank...


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:... Barney Frank...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:... Barney Franks...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:... Barney Franks, who ran a prostitution ring out of his home.

LIMBAUGH: Barney Frank, Stephen Gobey (ph), was running a little male prostitution ring out of Barney's basement Barney didn't know about.

BILL O'REILLY, FOX NEWS: I haven't seen anything else, I mean, the Clinton stuff, I guess, the real far right is throwing around.

HANNITY: I don't want to bring Clinton into it. You're going to say, Well, Monica was 19. But hang on a second. Monica was a teenager, and she was an intern.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The president of the United States...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What about President Clinton?

HUME:... Bill Clinton...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:... who took advantage of an intern in the Oval Office.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:... people like Bill Clinton...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:... President Clinton...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:... Bill Clinton...


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:... who took advantage of an intern in the White House.

HANNITY: Bill Clinton...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I would just hope that people don't try to turn this into something political.


ROBACH: Yes. Keep on hoping, Steve.

The Capitol Hill scandal caps a week of bad news for the Bush administration, from the NIE to Woodward's book, "State of Denial." Reaction to all of it is evident in a brand-new poll from NBC News. We're going to take a look at the rapidly changing political landscape.

And later, the tragedy in Pennsylvania's Amish country. One day after the deadly schoolhouse shooting, investigators reveal bizarre information about the motive.

You're watching Countdown on MSNBC.


ROBACH: President Bush and the Republican-controlled Congress may have walked headlong into the perfect storm, a week's worth of damaging news just five weeks before the midterm elections.

And in our fourth story on the Countdown, the latest poll shows the toll it is taking, even before the latest scandal has had time to register. That would be the Mark Foley sex scandal, and mounting questions about whether Republican leadership swept the problem under the rug.

Other recent bombshells, meanwhile, clearly not helping the party in power. The findings of 16 spy agencies contained in the NIE concluding that the war in Iraq has created more terrorists.

And Bob Woodward's book, "State of Denial," confirms what many believe to be gross mistakes by the administration in prosecuting that war, President Bush's approval rating dropping to 39 percent, and voters saying they favor a Democratic Congress over keeping it in the control of Republicans by a 9-point margin.

On questions about Iraq, everything seems to be breaking in the Democrats' favor, 57 percent saying they would be more likely to vote for a Democrat who favored a phased withdrawal from Iraq, 43 percent saying they would be less likely to vote for a Republican who favors staying in Iraq.

That may be in part because of a large (INAUDIBLE), 46 percent believe the war in Iraq is actually hurting the war on terror.

Let's call in "Newsweek" magazine's chief political correspondent and MSNBC political analyst, Howard Fineman.

Howard, good evening.


Good evening, Amy.

ROBACH: So it looks like a number of October surprises may have come a month early for Republicans. Obviously, they've been hit pretty hard. But does that leave some extra time for the GOP to soften the blow, so to speak, before election day?

FINEMAN: Well, perhaps, if they saw any good news on the horizon. But it's difficult to see that. The economy's doing OK by some measures, stock market hitting and all-time high five years after 9/11. But other than that, it's pretty bleak.

Nobody expects there to be any really good news out of Iraq anytime soon. We're in there for the long haul, and it's grim. Questions about the handling of the war and the run-up to the war continue from Bob Woodward and others.

And the Foley scandal, I think, is just going to continue percolating along for a whole host of reasons, Amy. One of them is that there are a lot of pages out there who have yet to tell their story or yet to come forth with whatever evidence they have. The FBI is busy trying to contact all of them. Some Democrats think the FBI wants to contact all the pages in order to keep them quiet, have them not turn over more Internet messages to ABC News or anybody else.

So it's got a long way to go here, and I don't think the news is necessarily going to be good for the Republicans.

ROBACH: Five weeks from now, does the Foley scandal take center stage when people go to cast their ballots? And how much does the role Republican leadership played in any of this play center stage?

FINEMAN: Well, I don't think Mark Foley, in and of himself, is going to be center stage. But no scandal, Amy, becomes a scandal with a capital S unless there's a narrative, unless there's a story, unless there's a personality, unless there's a mystery.

And the questions about who knew what when will continue. By my count, there are 15 or 16 possible people, members of Congress and staff members, who knew or had reason to know about concerns that were involved with Mark Foley.

So they're all going to be asked to tell their story. Some of them are going to come forward out of self-protection. All the pages there are to be interviewed, as I said. The Democrats are laying back for right now, letting the Republicans go after each other, letting conservatives attack the Republican leadership, as many conservative leaders have done.

The Democrats will stir the pot when they feel it needs to be stirred, and they'll be doing it a lot over the next few weeks.

ROBACH: Yes, and the poll numbers we just mentioned on Iraq all seem to break one way. And there's also this poll, 57 percent majority believe that safety from terrorism does not depend on success in Iraq. Obviously, one would think those numbers would help the Democrats. But does it let them off the hook, in a sense? Because many people have called for Democrats to formulate a plan on Iraq and what the strategy is. If we don't hear that plan from Democrats, does it work in their favor?

FINEMAN: Well, I think the Democrats need to say something more. I think to merely say, from now to election day, Had enough? which is basically their campaign plan, might not be enough in the middle of a war on terrorism.

I think if the Democrats don't take either the House or the Senate now, in these circumstances, with the president's approval rating where it is, with the right direction, wrong track numbers where they are, and they're dismal for the president, I mean, the Democrats may as well just go the way of the old Whig Party.

I mean, if they can't win something now, and in order to win, and certainly in order to help govern, they have to say more about what they would do with Iraq. It's not clear enough yet. A lot of them had criticisms, and yet they voted more money for the war. Where do they stand on that kind of thing? They're not speaking with one voice. They're not even speaking with many voices. They're mostly keeping their mouth shut right now.

ROBACH: Howard, obviously the big concern among the GOP right now is that this latest scandal, the Mark Foley scandal, might cause those conservative Christians, that moral voter voting bloc, to not head out to the polls. And then you've got the NIE reports and the Woodward book that might actually convince moderates and independents to vote in this election. Any sense of who may decide who takes control of Congress?

FINEMAN: Well, I think the moderates and independents are arguably less important than those evangelical Bible-believing Christians. The Republican Party has been built, especially in recent years, on very heavy turnout by those folks. They also man the machinery of the Republican Party. They do the phone calls, they lick the envelopes, they are the foot soldiers.

If they don't show up, both as volunteers and as voters, the Republicans are going to lose this time around. And the Foley story is aimed right at those people and depressing that turnout.

ROBACH: All right, Howard Fineman of "Newsweek" and MSNBC. Thank you.

FINEMAN: Thank you.

ROBACH: From the GOP on shaky ground to models on shaky ground. An epidemic of catwalk craziness (INAUDIBLE) your way on Oddball.

And Cher for sale, well, not really Cher herself, but a lot of her stuff. A celebrity garage sale of epic proportions.

That and more, ahead on Countdown.


ROBACH: I'm Amy ROBACH. And while Keith is off taping the David Letterman show, the responsibility falls on me to make the awkward transition from serious news to stupid news and goofy video, and then back again to serious news. But I believe I'm up for the challenge.

So let's play Oddball.

We begin once again in the world of high fashion, where supermodel injuries due to unwieldy platform shoes are reaching epidemic proportions. We brought you this incident last week from London. And tonight, it has happened again in Paris. This time, the combination of four-inch heels and a watering can proved too much for one model. And down she goes. (INAUDIBLE) the poor thing. And it's just a shame the camera guy didn't get the entire fall and framed it, because you really don't get a second chance at shots like that. Oh, boy.

Yet a model seems to have escaped serious injury, and we don't mean to make fun here, but I don't think we'd be doing our job if we didn't play this one last time with goofy cartoon sound effects.

All right, now, here's a robot riding a bike. Isn't that something.

It's the star attraction at the big (INAUDIBLE) Japantech (INAUDIBLE) Expo. It's a 12-pound robot, which they say can reach speeds up to 30 inches a second. But watching this video, it's possible that that is a typo.

All right, and finally, there are just 82 shopping days left till Christmas, so it must be time for the annual release of the big Niemann-Marcus holiday catalog. Santa himself was on hand for the event, showing off how he's benefited from those tax cuts from the wealthy. Nice Beamer (ph) there.

The book is full of items no one could ever afford, and most people would never want, with the exception of this, a $40,000 skyscraper made of pencils. It took 10,000 number twos to construct a seven-foot building. Only it works out to about 4 bucks a pencil - a bargain by any measure.

All right, returning to the serious news of the day, the latest on the investigation into the shooting at that one-room Amish schoolhouse. Inside the mind of the shooter as police release details of what may have made him snap.

And later "Animal Planet" making waves with its shore "Meerkat Manor." A little bit reality, a little drama. Fans hooked on a Shakespearean cliffhanger. Details ahead, but first time now for Countdown's "Top 3 Newsmakers" of the day.

No. 3 Barry E. Hadden of Wassaw, Wisconsin. He's been arrested for jogging at night - - naked. Apparently something he likes to every couple of years. He was arrested twice before in '96 and 2002. Police say this time a bicycle officer came across Hadden running down the street in the nude at almost 3:00 in the morning and ordered him to stop, to which Hadden replied, "No thanks" and kept running.

No. 2, Larry Clinton Harper of Jay, Oklahoma. He has been arrested on multiple drug charges after police executed search warrant in his home and business. Cops say he almost got away with it until they searched him and 27 grams of crystal meth fell out of his hollow prosthetic leg.

And No. 1, 18-year-old Bradley Robinson Cedar Rapids, Iowa. He too has been arrested for passion of marijuana and theft. Police say he was caught with two pounds of pot and told officers "That's not mine. I stole it."


ROBACH: His wife called him loving, supportive, and thoughtful, and she had no idea of Charles Karl Roberts' intentions. Even though, in our third story on the Countdown, it now appears he carefully planned his massacre at an Amish schoolhouse yesterday and that he had more than just murder on the mind when he barricaded himself inside with 10 young girls.

Our correspondent Rehema Ellis joins us from the scene in Lancaster County with the latest - Rehema.

REHEMA ELLIS, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Good evening, Amy. There is more sadness in this small community tonight because some of the young victims taken to the hospital yesterday did not make it through the night. Now there are five young girls dead. Two of them are sisters, seven and eight years old. Five more young girls remain hospitalized. And tonight there is more information about the gunman that may help explain what led him to this deadly rampage.


(voice-over): Police now say this Amish schoolhouse was the final step in a well thought out plan by Charles Roberts IV to commit murder.

COL. JEFFREY MILLER, COMMISSIONER PA STATE POLICE: He had a mental script he had already gone through in his mind and the plans on what he was going to do, until the time that the police arrived.

ELLIS: We now know more about his plan from these suicide notes. And what the father of three told his wife in that brief phone call before the shooting.

MILLER: He states I molested some minor family members, family members that were three or four years ago, 20 years ago. It's unclear from his wife, but Roberts states he's getting revenge for something that occurred in his life.

ELLIS: Police found the checklist. Among items, nails, bullets, guns and binocular. A list that matched the evidence found in the school. Robert had purchased some of the items at this hardware store less than hour before he arrived at the school and launched his deadly assault on the 10 young girls he held hostage.

MILLER: All of them received gun shot wounds.

ELLIS: The notes also revealed Roberts never got over the death of his first child, a premature baby girl buried in this cemetery nine years ago.

Police say, Roberts, the son of a retired police sergeant with no criminal record, hid his darkest secrets from his family.

MILLER: He certainly was very troubled psychologically deep down and was dealing with things that nobody else knew he was dealing with.

ELLIS: Today residents of this peaceful community are finding out more about who the gunman really was and relying deeply on their faith.

JACK MYER, LANCASTER COUNTY RESIDENT: Even though there has been this terrible thing happen, we don't need to think about judgment. We need to think about forgiveness and going on.


ELLIS: Experts on the Amish say people in this community see this tragedy as an isolated act by a disturbed individual and not an attack on the Amish way of life - Amy.

ROBACH: Rehema Ellis in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, thanks.

And for a closer look at the motivation of Charles Roberts, I'm joined by former FBI. Profiler, Candice Delong, a former psychiatric nurse and author of "Special Agent: My Life on the Front Lines as a Woman in the FBI."

Thanks for joining us.


ROBACH: So, Roberts planned this so methodically. I mean, we just heard Rehema Ellis talk about a checklist. How is it that no one had any idea he was planning there or was so disturbed?

DELONG: Well, he kept it to himself, obviously. It's really, actually, not that difficult. A lot of people that end of committing horrible crimes - these crimes are usually done in private, of course this one wasn't, but he knew he wouldn't be around to have to deal with it. But they keep their thoughts to themselves. Even Andrea Yates, who was blatantly psychotic and compelled to kill those children because of her mental illness, was able to keep her plan to herself.

ROBACH: Candice, this shooting in Lancaster County came only five days after Duane Morrison barricaded himself in that Colorado classroom and there are some scary or some eerie similarity, the fact that they only wanted the young girls in the classroom to stay behind, excusing the boys and the teacher. Now, the police commissioner there in Pennsylvania played down suggestions this could be a copycat killing. But are we to believe this really is just coincidence?

DELONG: It would seem like an incredible coincidence if Charles didn't know any - excuse me, anything about what happened last week in Colorado. They are strikingly similar. However, it's entirely possible Charles did not see any coverage on cable TV. I would imagine where he lives he does not even get cable. So unless he listened to the radio, watched television, saw it there, he would have no way of really have knowing about it, but it is awfully similar, to rule it out.

ROBACH: The media generally doesn't support on suicides because there is scientific evidence that prove that people do tend to copycat.


ROBACH: Or want to do something they see on television. So those suicide rates go up. So we shy away from it. But it begs the question when we see three shootings in a week in schools, do you think that could be the case here as well?

DELONG: Well, no one has ever really documented or researched that, really substantiated the copycat theory. Yet, we do see it. In high profile claims - crimes, things that get a lot of media attention, radio, TV, newspaper print coverage, we frequently see repetitive types of crimes shortly thereafter. I worked on the Tylenol murders in Chicago in 1982, seven people dropped dead from tainted Tylenol, and in the next 30 days there were 100 verified copycat poisonings in the Chicago area.

ROBACH: It is as if people who already are looking to do something bad get an idea, here's how to do it, I mean, is that possible?

DELONG: Well, I want to make it clear, hearing about a crime, certainly if someone didn't have any fantasies about it or didn't have it in them to begin with, simply hearing about a crime isn't going to spawn them to commit a horrible one themselves. But if it's something they've been fantasizing for many years, sometimes they hear about and they think, gee, that person did it, perhaps I can too. Usually, thought, often times if a person's alive afterwards, they can tell us. Oftentimes they aren't, they kill themselves in the process.

ROBACH: All right, former FBI profiler, and former psychiatric nurse, Candice Delong, great thanks for your insights.

DELONG: You're welcome m

ROBACH: Well, legal issues of the celebrity variety. After all of the rumors and headlines, Anna Nicole Smith officially finds herself in a legal tug of war over the paternity of her new baby.

And, out with the old, in with the new. Cher needs a little remodeling money and now you can own a piece of Cher history. A look at one of the biggest celebrity auctions ever. Details ahead, but first time now Countdown's "Top 3 Sound Bites" of this day.


JON STEWART, "DAILY SHOW": Late last week, Congress approved a new detainee bill that gives the president sweeping authority. He'll have the authority to interpret the Geneva Conventions, he will suspend habeas corpus for non-citizens. We spent Friday talking about this issue knowing it would be our headline today, because really, what else could happen that would be big enough to change our coverage of non-citizens losing the right habeas corpus? Really it's - oh, right.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Republican Senate candidate Katherine Harris went further.

KATROBACHINE HARRIS (R), FL SENATE CANDIDATE: For me it would be quite disingenuous to try to make it a partisan issue. If anything, the Republicans didn't know about these issues and we are going to be very anxious to find out who in the media or the other side of the aisle knew about it and kept those from the public interest because our children were at stake.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Your own mother says she's contemplating voting for you. She is not sure yet.

KENNY THE CLOWN, RUNNING FOR MAYOR IN CA: I think it speaks highly of my mom, actually. Let's have the best candidate to win. No matter, you know, no matter what the um - excuse me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Go ahead and get that.

CLOWN: Sorry about that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As a clown, how many people do you think you could fit inside a city bus?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is there any concern that your base, presumably six to 9-year-old cannot vote?




ROBACH: Biggest celebrity auction ever. Cher's garage sale, little something for everyone. And the great meerkat mystery. A cliffhanger on "Animal Planet" - you heard right, "Animal Planet," triggering concern around the world. That's next and this is "Countdown."


ROBACH: Let's face it, when you think glitzy antiques, you think Cher. And now in our No. 2 story on the Countdown, you too have a shot at owning a piece of Cher. Not a literal piece, she's still using those, but pretty much everything in Cher's closet is coming out and on the auction block. Correspondent Jane Wells has been digging through the glamourabilia.


JANE WELLS, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Turn back time on Cher, and you find a lot.

DARREN JULIEN, JULIEN'S AUCTIONS: We have her 1998 Academy Awards dress that we've estimated for 5,000 to 7,000. Outfit that she wore on the aircraft carrier when she sang "If I Could Turn Back Time" which is a very famous video that she did.

WELLS: All up for grabs. This week over 800 items belonging to the singer/actress/icon went up for auction. Something for gypsies, tramps and thieves with a little or a lot of money.

JULIEN: Her 2005 Bentley Continental is estimated at $160,000. We've got an outfit that she wore on the cover of "People" magazine in the late '70s. We have a lot of items like the Bob Mackey dresses, her jewelry, purses, shoes, hats, actually a lot of large items, beds, armors, chandeliers; it took six truck loads out of Cher's house to bring everything here.



CROBACH, ACTRESS: It depends on which bathhouse you pray at.

JULIEN: Last fall, Cher come to us and said, you know, I think I want to do an auction. She had all these costumes and she thought, you know, these are just in my closet and stored at Bob Mackey's, they could be doing a lot more - benefiting people a lot more if I sold them and donated proceeds to a charity and so on.

WELLS: Some proceeds of stuff they doesn't need any more will go to Cher's charities like Operation Helmet. We're told the singer herself is out of the country, but the auction houses say, this is one of the most intense auctions they've ever held, transforming several rooms at the Beverly Hilton into a sort of Cher shrine with bits of humor. Like the needlepoint people asking "Name two things that will survive a nuclear war? Cockroaches and Cher."

JULIEN: Well, we've the estimated the sale to bring about 1.2 to 1.4 million, and again, that's based upon the value of the objects without Cher's name. So, the Cher factor, you know, who knows what it could be. It could be you know, two times, three times, four times the estimated value. But that's what we'll find out in the next couple of days.

WELLS: As the public shares in Cher s' good fortune.

In Los Angels, I'm Jane Wells for Countdown.


ROBACH: Because Keith would want it this way, Anna Nicole Smith kicks off our nightly roundup of celebrity and entertainment news, "Keeping Tabs." Alleged former boyfriend, Larry Birkhead has now filed a lawsuit demanding that Smith and her baby girl, Dannie Lynn Hope, return to California for paternity testing. Birkhead claims he is the father and that Smith has refused to communicate since the girl's birth.

Smith's attorney, Howard K. Stern, also claims he is the baby's father. The former model remains in seclusion in the Bahamas where she was served with Birkhead's lawsuit, Monday. If additional self-professed fathers come forward, Smith may find herself facing the first-ever class action paternity suit.

We're not sue why it's considered news that Tom Cruise is reportedly interested in a woman's body, but the gossip website, TMZ.com reports that Cruise is "very concerned" about Katie Holmes' body, according to sources close to the couple. Why the concern you ask? Well according to TMZ, Cruise wants to make sure her body is at its best so she can squeeze it into a dress she's already picked out for their supposed upcoming wedding. TMZ says Cruise is now directly involved in Holmes' workout regimen, joining her for workouts and making sure she's not interrupted by booking babysitters for the kid. Sweet husband, there.

And a quick programming note. You can get your dose of Keith tonight on the "Late Show with David Letterman." That is at 11:30 Eastern and Pacific. Keith guarantees he will be on, unless he's preempted for monkeys or something.

Well, it's not monkey's but meerkats causing quite the stir on cable TV. It's a who-done-it that rivaled the likes of who shot J.R.. Fans around the world wondering what in the world has happened to Shakespeare the meerkat. That is next on Countdown.


ROBACH: It's a phrase that's a staple here on Countdown. At it's purists, it's just simply someone with a little problem paying attention. At its more sinister it's a tactic used to distract from the important matters of the day. At its position at No. 1 tonight, it's taken quite literally.

Oh, look, a kitty! No really look, it is a kitty. Remember "Piper," who went up a tree in Summerville, South Carolina back in March for eight days before deciding to return to the earth the hard way?

Amazingly the cat was completely unhurt, physically. We're not sure about her emotional state, especially after she was forced to watch her death defying leap again and again on national TV.


KEITH OLBERMANN, Countdown HOST: We don't want to add to your cat's

trauma, Rodney, but we would like to try this thing where she watches the

amazing survival instincts for herself. We're going to play this video

again, let's just see if she has any reaction to it. To see one more time

OK - like most of the viewer.


OLBERMANN: "Piper's" not wearing any earphones.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Look, "Piper." She's like, OK.

OLBERMANN: Yeah, no. She remembers that, I have no doubt about it.

Well, you know, you experiment with things on television. You don't necessarily know how it's going to turn out. All right, we don't need to make her go through that anymore.


ROBACH: All right, moving from amazing stories of cat survival to amazing stories of cat handler survival. Remember the poor officer in charge of trying to persuade the public to adoption the shelter's "Pet of the Month," "Pinky?"




ROBACH: All right, well, it's still unclear whether "Pinky" ever got

adopted after that little performance. Also unclear whatever happened to -

oh gosh - this little guy. That is wildly disturbing. Maybe we should call it "guys." This two-faced cat disappeared shortly after being born in Ohio, presumably running away to join the circus.

And rounding out our selection of Countdown cats tonight, not a feline, but a rodent cousin, specifically a meerkat, a whole family of them whose antics on national television provide viewers with more drama than most soap operas. Our correspondent Michael Okwu reports.


MICHAEL OKWU, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): If "Shakespeare" himself pitched this reality show, he might phrase it simply: These are my people and this is my crib. Hang with me. You see, "Shakespeare" is a meerkat, those cuddly, seemingly over-caffeinated cousins of the mongoose. And this is "Meerkat Manor," the hottest property on "Animal Planet."

MAUREEN SMITH, "ANIMAL PLANET": It's an amazing mix of all sorts of genres really, its sort of "Days of our Lives" meets "Wild Kingdom."

OKWU: Cameras follow the "Whiskers," a family.

SMITH: A family is a mob.

OKWU: OK, a mob of 40 feisty meerkats through this soap opera of their lives in Africa's Kalahari Desert. From the birth of new family member to a forbidden romance between members of rival mobs.

SMITH: Our sort of "Romeo and Juliet" of "Meerkat Manor."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Young "Daisy" tries to rejoin the group unnoticed, but it's not going to work. We reeks of "Carlos'" aftershave. The group is confused and angry.

OKWU: But causing the real stir, this saga of "Shakespeare." Before the end of season one, the family's protector was bitten by a snake and painfully survived only to be attacked later by a rival mob as he defended a pair of meerkat pups.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As evening draws in, there's still no sign of "Shakespeare."

OKWU: Episodes later, Shakespeare remains missing. The unresolved cliffhanger has rocked fans and triggered on-line conspiracy theories. Is "Shakespeare" convalescing somewhere in the unforgiving Kalahari? Did he die? "Animal Planet" isn't giving anything up?

SMITH: Nobody really knows what happened to "Shakespeare."

OKWU: Cindy, Sierra, and Dan Zacks are watching and waiting.

SIERRA ZACKS, MEERKAT FAN: Oh, my gosh. Because I personally got attached to him because of what he went through.

OKWU: To learn more about these critters, we visited Pam Bennett Wahlberg's Meerkat Rescue in California's Morongo Valley.

PAM BENNETT WAHLBERG, MEERKAT RESCUE: They are relented to sibits (ph) and genits (ph), linsangs (ph), bassas (ph), and bingerons (ph).

OKWU (on camera): Oh of course, yes.

WAHLBERG: They eat a diet that is a lot of bugs. We call it a smorgasbug.

OKWU: Part of the appeal here, of course, is meerkats are so darn cute. Fully mature at 12 inches and two pound, they suffer from the ultimate Napoleon complex, which makes for some delicious drama.

(voice-over): They are mobs after all, relentlessly marking their turf for the affections of females, protecting their territory from rivals, occasionally producing a tragedy worthy of Shakespeare.

Michael Okwu, NBC NEWS, Los Angeles.


ROBACH: And all right, for the record, we know a meerkat isn't a cat.

That does it for the Tuesday edition of Countdown. I'm Amy Robach in for Keith Olbermann. Our MSNBC coverage continues now with SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.

Hi there, Joe.