Friday, October 27, 2006

'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Oct. 27

Guests: Craig Crawford, Dana Milbank, Jonathan Turley

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

The next-to-last episode of Desperate House Republicans.


ANNOUNCER: Who calls the hotline and then bills taxpayers?


OLBERMANN: That one, against a Democrat whose staffer dialed a wrong number.


ANNOUNCER: Wrong kind that pays for sex but not for soldiers.


OLBERMANN: That one against a Democrat who voted in favor of health studies about sex.

And there is George "Macaca" Allen's reply to his challenger, quoting passages from a war novel he wrote as if it had been a sex book.

And advertisements perhaps more pornographic still.


SEN. RICK SANTORUM (R), PENNSYLVANIA: I'm even working with Hillary Clinton to limit inappropriate material in children's video games.


OLBERMANN: When a radically right-wing Republican is trying to get elected on Hillary Clinton's coattails, you know he must be tortured.

Speaking of which.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Would you agree a dunk in water is a no-brainer if can save life?


TONY SNOW, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: No-brainer number one is, we don't torture.


OLBERMANN: Did the vice president just confirm we have waterboarded detainees? You know what they say, no brain, no pain.

Nothing except pain west of Palm Springs, California, wildfires consuming at least 38 square miles there, thousands evacuated, firefighters dead.

And tonight, the history of...




SNOW: We stopped using it.


SEAN HANNITY, HOST, "HANNITY AND COLMES," FOX NEWS CHANNEL: He's not backing away from staying the course.

RUMSFELD: Of course not.



OLBERMANN: All that and more, now on Countdown.


CARVEY: A thousand points of light...


OLBERMANN: Good evening from New York. This is Friday, October 27, 11 days until the 2006 midterm elections.

Illicit sex, implied or stated, it has been a part of American political campaigns since Thomas Jefferson. President Woodrow Wilson, widower, started dating Edith Galt, widow. After they became engaged, his political opponents circulated what was, for the time, a very risque joke. Question, what did Mrs. Galt do when the president proposed? Answer, she fell out of bed.

In this case, in our fifth story on the Countdown, the dirty campaigns of the past have certainly lost their charm today, and doubtless any remaining restraint. And dirty politics tonight means the most sex-obsessed, triple-X definition of the word, the GOP fighting fire with fire in the wake of the Mark Foley page sex scandal, going negative by making allegations of sexual perversion, accuracy not required, even close not required, Democratic Ron Kind of Wisconsin accused in this ad of paying for sex instead of soldiers, because he, along with two other hundred - 200 other members of the House, opposed an unsuccessful effort to stop the National Institutes of Health from getting health information from studies about sex.

Also typical of the genre, the "Playboy" party ad bashing Tennessee Senate candidate Harold Ford, as is this ad, being run by the Republican Party in the state of New York against Democratic House candidate Michael Arcuri.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hi, sexy, you've reached a live, one-on-one (INAUDIBLE) line.

ANNOUNCER: The phone number to an adult fantasy hotline appeared on Michael Arcuri's New York City hotel room bill while he was there on official business. And the call was charged to Oneida County taxpayers.

Arcuri has denied it, but the facts are there. Who calls a fantasy hotline in then bills taxpayers? Michael Arcuri.


ANNOUNCER: The National Republican Congressional Committee paid for and is responsible for the content of this message.


OLBERMANN: The facts nowhere near as sexy as the allegations, barely even interesting, an aide to Michael Arcuri having accidentally dialed a porn line on January 30, 2004, its number almost identical to the that of the State Division of Criminal Justice, the call, having lasted less than one minute, cost New York taxpayers $1.25.

Equally absurd and just as desperate, a new attempt to attack the Virginia Democratic senator - Senate candidate Jim Webb based on sexually explicit passages found in some of his novels 30 years ago, the excerpts, the work of fiction, mind you, popping up on conservative Web sites, like the Sludge - Drudge Report, which says it got them from a news release provided by the campaign of Mr. Webb's opponent, Senator George Allen, Mr. Webb today reminding voters of the similarities to another politically prominent author, quote, "I mean, we can go and read Lynne Cheney's lesbian love scenes if you want to, you know, get graphic on stuff."

The wife of the vice president, you'll recall, author of the novel "Sisters," published in 1981, which includes lesbian love scenes.

We didn't even get to mention Scooter Libby's novels about prostitutes being trained in cages with bears.

And on that bizarre note, time now to call in our own Craig Crawford, also, of course, a columnist for "Congressional Quarterly."

Good evening, Craig.

CRAIG CRAWFORD, "CONGRESSIONAL QUARTERLY": And his wife was a thespian. You remember that one (INAUDIBLE)?

OLBERMANN: Yes. And never follow animal acts, as it were.

Let's start with the latest in the Allen and Webb campaign. The books were written literally decades ago. Webb had spent time fighting the wars in Vietnam. They're works of fiction. He describes them as fictual - fictional represents of things that he actually saw in the theater of combat.

And they were praised at the time by none other than John McCain, who said, "It captures well the lingering scars of the war and exposes the tension between the dynamism of a new generation and the invisible bondage of an older generation for whom wartime allegiances and animosities are rendered no less vivid by the passage of time."

So the blurb out of the way, how does Webb reply to all this?

CRAWFORD: Well, there is a poetic license, you would think, for a novelist, but not in politics. Makes you wonder why anybody runs for office, Keith, when things like this are brought out, I - and out of context. I mean, I did scan through a couple of his novels early on, when we learned he was running for the Senate, and I didn't have time to get through them all, and so I didn't find all these salacious parts.

But I thought they seemed like pretty interesting novels, and he does have a lot of context in there that these excerpts don't show.

OLBERMANN: Are the attack ads more vicious this campaign cycle, or does it just seem that way because we tend to block them out from one election to the next? Is there a level of desperation here that we have not seen before, or is that just, you know, the typical we're looking in the wrong end of the telescope thing?

CRAWFORD: Well, (INAUDIBLE) negative campaigning's been around since Thomas Jefferson's day, but the difference now and in the last couple of cycles, I think, there are a couple things that are different. One is, every cycle we have more and more money in the system, so there is much more money out there in these campaigns to fuel these ads. So we see them a lot more, because they're able to put them on more.

The other thing that's changed is that in the old days, toward the end of a campaign, they would get more positive, and leave the negative stuff earlier on, so they could end on an upbeat message with voters. And that seems to have gone away.

I think primarily what's happened, Keith, is, politicians are held in such low opinion among the voters, they only believe negative attacks on politicians any more. They don't even believe the positive stuff.

OLBERMANN: But what happened to the idea that there was always some fact in there, some substantive fact, that was not only a literal fact, but had something to do with the negative campaign ad? Is that gone? Or is, again, are we just seeing it from the perspective of having all these fall on top of ourselves in the last two weeks before the elections?

CRAWFORD: Yes, now we have poetic license in the making of ads, (INAUDIBLE). We can't allow Jim Webb a poetic license to write a novel, but we can certainly use it in these ads, apparently. And that is something that's changed. I mean, all negative campaigning isn't bad. A factual, comparative ad on issues that voters are concerned about and should be concerned about that might be negative, might be an attack, that's valid.

But when we see these personal attacks, and sort of the Hollywood style of the ads, that evoke all kinds of images and messages that aren't said directly, because they can't say them directly, because they're not supportable, this kind of thing is really out of control.

(INAUDIBLE) I got to laugh. I mean, politicians are always blaming the media for their low (INAUDIBLE) image, or poor image with the public, but the worst things of all that are said about politicians are what they say about each other in their own ads.

OLBERMANN: Are - but do we know, in these particular ones, are any of them having an impact, a direct effect on campaigns? I mean, (INAUDIBLE) that Ford thing, the Ford-Corker race, do we know how that's impacting what's going to happen there?

CRAWFORD: In a tight, tight race like these, even if you can move a small number of people, negative ads do work. I got to tell you, they wouldn't be there, Keith, if they didn't work. If voters didn't reward this kind of campaigning, these politicians, these campaigns would not do it. And that is the problem we have, is that people do respond to this stuff.

And it - we don't have a way of measuring that particular Ford ad at this point. But my suspicion is that they may have gotten to something they wanted to get to, which is to show that Harold Ford is not the family values man that he claims to be and is more of a playboy, and that's something some people might just want to believe and therefore believe it.

OLBERMANN: On the other hand, Lawrence O'Donnell pointed out last night that Ford is now using that image of that spot in his own commercial, meaning he managed to use it as a lever back against Corker. So these things may cut both ways.


CRAWFORD: They cut all ways always.

OLBERMANN: Well, they cut, we know that much. Craig Crawford of MSNBC and "Congressional Quarterly." As always, sir, great thanks. Have a good weekend.

CRAWFORD: Good to be here.

OLBERMANN: At the other extreme, Republican candidates trying to avoid enforced unemployment on November 7 by aligning themselves with Democrats, even lawmakers as archly conservative as Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania now finding their inner liberal.


SANTORUM: Too often, this is what it seems like in Washington. But to get things done, you've got to work together.

I teamed up with Joe Lieberman to make college more affordable to low-income families, and Barbara Boxer and I wrote a law protecting open space. I'm even working with Hillary Clinton to limit inappropriate material in children's video games.

Because it makes more sense to wrestle with America's problems than with each other.

I'm Rick Santorum, and I approved this message.


OLBERMANN: Senator Boxer, for one, not pleased by that, telling Countdown in a statement, quote, "Rick Santorum must be desperate to attack me in a fund-raising mailer and then use me in a TV ad without my permission. We need an independent voice like Bob Casey to replace this rubber stamp, Rick Santorum."

As for Senator Clinton, both members of the Clinton household, it seems, feeling the GOP love down the campaign's final stretch, the former president receiving equal billing in this radio ad from Republican Congressman Clay Shaw, who represents southern Florida.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And how about Social Security? Bill Clinton signed a law getting rid of the earnings penalty for senior citizens who work, and that law would never have passed without the leadership of our congressman, Clay Shaw. And the Everglades? Bill Clinton signed the Everglades Restoration Plan, and that law, written by Senator Graham and our congressman, Clay Shaw.

More than almost anyone in Congress, Clay Shaw solves problems across party lines.


OLBERMANN: The task of trying to make sense of that madness falling to our own Dana Milbank, also, of course, the national political reporter of "The Washington Post."

Dana, thanks for your time tonight.


Good evening.

OLBERMANN: We've documented over the past weeks that the Republican candidates in tight races were running away from President Bush, but did we have any idea that they would run so far from President Bush?

MILBANK: I think it's pretty clear that it takes a village to save a Senate seat. It is really about as outlandish as Ned Lamont cozying up to Secretary Rumsfeld at this point, particularly for Santorum, who literally wrote the book on Hillary-bashing. He wrote "It Takes a Family to Raise a Child," as opposed to "It Takes a Village."

And it is true that Clay Shaw did all that work with Bill Clinton, when he wasn't impeaching him.

OLBERMANN: If Lincoln Chafee attempted something like this, it would

it seemed to be fairly understandable, even if Mike DeWine took a stab, I guess we - somebody could grudgingly accept it. But when man-on-dog Santorum aligns himself with Hillary Clinton and Barbara Boxer, and does it from within a wrestling ring, no less, who's he trying to court? And would not common sense say he would lose as many conservatives with that ad as he would gain moderates?

MILBANK: Well, he, as you say, he brought us man-on-dog. This is sort of man bites dog. Certainly not what we were expecting to see in this campaign.

Now, if you look at the polls, the friendly polls show him down only 7, the Democratic polls show him down 17 points. The technical term in poll-speak for this is "dead." So he really has to roll out whatever he can do right now. So it is a matter of desperation. Why not try it?

OLBERMANN: Or maybe that's a demo tape for a job with the World Wrestling Foundation.

Does Senator Boxer's response sum up the high-wire act attempted by the Republicans? And this one is, how can you possibly attack and embrace the same politician in the same election?

MILBANK: Well, yes, again, and this is this area of desperation. Of course, it doesn't seem likely to anybody that it would work. I puzzled over this for some time today. I thought maybe he was doing it because it's Hillary Clinton's birthday, or maybe he just wasn't getting enough action on your show.

OLBERMANN: Now, (INAUDIBLE), but you mentioned Clay Shaw, and speaking lovingly and longingly of the good old days when he could actually get some work done during the Clinton administration, while he was not involved in the impeachment. But the president and the vice president, the current ones, both traveled to south Florida to do fundraisers for him, and he's taken money from former congressman Mark Foley.

Do - is the - are these kind of contradictions, to put it politely, are these things registering with voters when they appear in that district or others around the country? Is this sort of shapeshifting from one week to the next bothering anybody?

MILBANK: Well, the contradictions go on, of course, because Bill Clinton was down there in Florida campaigning for Clay Shaw's opponent, just as Hillary Clinton was raising money for Rick Santorum's opponent.

You know, these may make a slight bit of difference, particularly in Florida, because Clay Shaw, unlike Santorum, has not really been written off yet, and he does have some credentials as a moderate. So he's also been in Congress for 26 years. So there is a possibility, as you were mentioning with Craig, as with the Harold Ford ads, that if you just need to move a few voters here, and could you really make a difference in some of these races.

OLBERMANN: An extraordinary way to do it.

Dana Milbank of MSNBC and "The Washington Post," of course. Great thanks, Dana. Have a good weekend.

MILBANK: Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN: Politics Hollywood-style also staking out the center left. The Tom Arnold race from California. Wait, wait, wait, wait, that's Tom and Arnold, the Schwarzenegger reelection campaign. Mr. Brokaw back in action for us tonight.

What to do when those tough questions go unanswered? It's a no-brainer, the vice president speaking out in favor of the simulated drowning of terror suspects. So which part exactly is the no-brainer, the waterboarding, or Mr. Cheney's endorsement of it?

You are watching Countdown on MSNBC.


OLBERMANN: Maybe, in a time when Rick Santorum is spending money to advertise his work with Hillary Clinton, this makes some sense.

Our fourth story on the Countdown, Californians may have recalled a Democrat and replaced him with a Republican when they voted in Arnold Schwarzenegger three years ago last week. But when they return to the polls week after next to vote on him again, they can't be sure what they're getting.

Tom Brokaw now with either the most liberal Republican out there, or the most conservative Democrat.


TOM BROKAW, NBC NEWS (voice-over): Last year, Governor Schwarzenegger was in trouble, trying to ram through a series of conservative reforms, and he lost, big. This year he's campaigning on a bipartisan platform that includes major environmental reforms and a $40 billion public works project.

When we met in Fresno, I asked him what changed.

GOV. ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER (R), CALIFORNIA: What is different now is that I have learned to be more patient.

BROKAW (on camera): As a Republican governor of the nation's largest state, do you feel very close to the Republican administration of George W. Bush?

SCHWARZENEGGER: We tried to work together under the Bush administration on many, many different issues, and there's many issues that we are doing really well with, and there is many issues that we are fighting over.

BROKAW: A very big issue, the environment, and especially global warming. You're a long way from the Bush administration policies in those areas.

SCHWARZENEGGER: There is no one in the federal government that is, you know, criticizing us. We have to make sure that we are less reliant on fossil fuel, on foreign oil, and domestic oil, as far as that goes.

BROKAW (voice-over): Campaigning is very expensive, and Schwarzenegger has raised more than $100 million, much of it from the insurance industry, developers, and others with business with the state.

(on camera): You said you wouldn't take any money from special interests.

SCHWARZENEGGER: I said that there would be a difference story when I get in there, because I am financially independent, so I cannot be bought. So no such thing as money in and favors out.

BROKAW (voice-over): All of this is very frustrating to State Treasurer Phil Angelides, the governor's opponent.

STATE TREASURER PHIL ANGELIDES: Californians can't trust Arnold Schwarzenegger, because just like George Bush, his buddy, at each and every turn he fronts for the special interests, and he sticks it to you.

BROKAW: But with his Hollywood star power, big campaign war chest, and by running to the center, Schwarzenegger will be tough to beat.

(on camera): And how many times a day do your political advisers whisper in your ear, Arnold, we have to change the Constitution so you can run for president of the United States?

SCHWARZENEGGER: I hear this every so often. But, you know, my mission is to straighten out California, and I'm very happy with that job.


OLBERMANN: A large portion of Governor Schwarzenegger's state is still burning at this hour, having already killed a team of firefighters, a Southern California wildfire, growing bigger and moving faster tonight. The latest from Palm Springs.

And because dressing your children in costume and sending them out onto the streets to beg for sustenance is not bad enough, why not also put your pet through a few Halloween paces? A Countdown trick-or-treat investigation is next.


OLBERMANN: On this date in 1939, John Cleese was born. Not only would he become, as a member of Monty Python's Flying Circus, one of the men who redirected 20th century humor, not only did he parlay that success into an international film career, but he actually replied to a fan letter I wrote to him when I was 16. And he had the good sense to be born to a father who had changed the family name to Cleese from Cheese. Happy birthday, John Cleese.

Let's play Oddball.

We begin in the great state of Florida, to Key West for last night's annual Fantasy Pet Parade, where all your wildest pet fantasies come true. Part of Key West's 10-day Fantasy Fest, hundreds showed up this year for some pre-Halloween pet humiliation, mostly doggies this year, some dressed up like cows, others dressed up like cowboys riding a chuck wagon.

Sea creatures also a big hit this year, among them Miss Lobster on a leach, and this owner and his pooch doing a live version of Hemingway's "Old Man and the Sea." Dear Papa would be proud.

Over to Palm Harbor, Florida, it's the 16th hole of the PGA Chrysler Championship. And this is what appears to be a bear lining up an approach shot on this par four. Actually, it's pro golfer Doug Baron. Hi, Doug. Pasty, hairy Doug Baron, sporting what golf announcers call a two-titlist belly button. Mr. Baron did not want to get his white shirt all muddy when he hacked his ball out of the wet stuff, so he took of his shirt and swung away. Thankfully did not have the same hangup about getting his pants dirty. (INAUDIBLE), he finished the day three over par and with a nice, even tan.

Stop doing that.

Speaking of trying to get things done under water, did we waterboard Khalid Sheikh Mohammed? Did we merely dunk Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, like at the county fair? Does somebody in the administration want to waterboard Vice President Cheney now after his apparent on-air slip? The latest.

Plus a chilling visual demonstration of waterboarding.

And Snoop Dog is arrested for - what, at what, at this point, how does this qualify as news? It's like breaking into programming and saying, This just in, it's October.

Details ahead.

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

Number three, David Cliff, the widely praised director of the Drug and Alcohol Action Team, a National Health Service program in County Durham in England. He resigned after being suspended for coming back from a three-hour lunch drunk. Well, maybe you shouldn't have called your team Drug and Alcohol Action.

Number two, Dallas Cowboys assistant coach Todd Haley. He is suing a local McDonald's for $1.7 million after his wife and the family's live-in babysitter went to the restaurant, ordered a salad, and purportedly found a rat in it. This has nothing to do with the fact that Haley is the Cowboys' passing game coordinator, unless his primary responsibility is trying to coach Terrell Owens.

Number one, Layton and Kaydon Richardson, 3-month-old fraternal twins from Middlesborough in England. And if you're looking at the picture already, you're getting the idea. Layton and Kaydon have dissimilar coloring. Mom's black, Dad's white. Doctors say the odds on the twins coming out kinda different are a million to one, and Layton and Kaydon just beat those odds.

And, by the way, if anybody involved in the last-minute advertising for Bob Corker in his Senate race with Harold Ford in Tennessee is watching, you know, you might be able to work with this story.


OLBERMANN: That the Bush administration's position on torture has, like so many of its policies, become increasingly tortured, should come as no surprise. But in our No. 3 three story on the Countdown, various mouthpieces of this administration are now falling all over themselves to say that Vice President Cheney has not endorsed nor admitted that U.S. interrogators have ever used the practice known as waterboarding, but what the vice president clearly did say when asked about dunking terrorism suspects in water was it a was a "no-brainer."

In a radio interview on station WDAY in Fargo, North Dakota, the host, Scott Hennen let the vice president know that on the subject of dunking a terrorists in water, his listeners are "all for it." Mr. Cheney agreed that the debate seemed silly and said that "with respect to our ability to interrogate high-value detainees like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, that's been a very important tool."


SCOTT HENNEN, WDAY RADIO: Would you agree a dunk in water is a no-brainer if it can save lives?

DICK CHENEY, U.S. VICE PRESIDENT: Well, it's a no-brainer for me, but I - for a while there I was criticized as being the vice president for torture. We don't torture.


OLBERMANN: Mr. Cheney added that "You can have fairly a robust interrogation program without torture." Enter administration damage control, Mr. Cheney's spokeswomen saying that the vice president "never goes into what may or may not be techniques of methods of questioning."

White House spokesman Tony Snow, choosing to repeat an unfortunate phrase:


"No-brainer No. 1 is we don't torture. No-brainer No. 2, we don't break the law, our own or international. No-brainer No. 3, the vice president doesn't give away questioning techniques. And No. 4, the administration does believe in legal questioning techniques of known killers who - whose questioning can, in fact, be used to save American lives.


OLBERMANN: And when President Bush was asked about Mr. Cheney's comments, he said, "This country doesn't torture." Mr. Bush, O'Brien from Orwell's "1984." O'Brien from Orwell's "1984," Mr. Bush.

The administration's distress with the vice president's comments, understandable, though he never used the word waterboard he implied that it had been used and was an acceptable practice, what he might call, "robust interrogation."

But the U.S. Army has banned waterboarding along with other techniques as cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment, already outlawed by the Geneva Conventions.

And when a trio of senators including John McCain arrived at their compromise with the president on the Military Commission's Act last month, the Senators claimed that waterboarding had been effectively prohibited. The reality, lawmakers had left plenty of room for the president to decide which techniques were legal.

So waterboarding, which makes the subject feel as if he is about to drown, could be fair game. We will show one version of it here, the subject is a former Navy Seal, Cash (ph) Larson. He says he hired Army instructors to perform this demonstration.




OLBERMANN: Let's call in George Washington University law professor and noted Constitutional law expert, Jonathan Turley.

Thanks for your time tonight, sir.


OLBERMANN: The administration's dancing around this. Vice president, they said, did not condone torture. But can we just begin with a reality check, here, presuming that neither he nor the interviewer were referencing dunk the principle at the county fair when they talked about dunking detainees. What is a fair interpretation of what Mr. Cheney said in that radio interview?

TURLEY: Well, I'm not too sure what they possibly could mean. I mean, he could be referring to the Medieval practice of throwing accused witches in the water to see if they float, maybe here they would be terrorists, but presuming that's not the case, you know, this phrase of "dunking people in water" has been the common response for about a year among conservatives to describe waterboarding, and the fact that - I think, is perfectly clear to Cheney what he was referring to, but the thing that I think is most telling is they can't express what it could be otherwise.

Now obviously, dunking someone in water is not going to get them to speak unless you've got some hydrophobia. You have you to put them in water to make them think that they're drowning, and the only way to do that is to put them close to drowning. That's the only way this technique can work, otherwise you're just getting the guy wet.

And so you know, what is bazaar about all of this is that they would try and maintain the sort of not-so noble lie. The whole world knows that we've waterboarded. There have been statements made by government officials to the media that they waterboarded including the Sheikh Mohammed guy, but they desperately want to maintain some plausible deniability because it is clearly torture.

We tried people for this as war criminals, and with a couple weeks before the election, they know that there's a lot of good Americans out there that maybe very conservative and very patriotic, but they also know that torturing someone is evil, it's not just a war crime, it's the definition of evil and if our government did it, it means they were fighting a war that we say is moral and is moral, but we're using immoral means.

OLBERMANN: Plus, you don't even have to get to the morality of it, it produces bad results in terms of information.

TURLEY: That's right.

OLBERMANN: But, you know, the Military Commissions Act, as we have discussed here, not only killed habeas corpus, but essentially gave the president the authority to decide what constitutes torture. It's bad enough we've devoted time on that subject, some of it with you on this news hour, repeatedly. But did the vice president manage to illustrate something even bigger than this, this attitude behind that legislation as in, "We're going to do whatever we want and we're going to call it whatever we need to call it?"

TURLEY: That's right, and you know, the terms keep on getting more innocent as if, you know, waterboarding is something you can take the children to. And it's this whole mastery of rhetoric that this administration is best at. You know, people talk about Clinton saying what the meaning of "is" is, but there are - there's a continual effort in this administration to change verbiage to avoid directly dealing with the fact that we've embraced torture as a practice in one of the most despicable changes in this country's history and values.

And that there are people out there, American citizens, who have been torturing people, upon the orders of the president, and they've been doing it in our name, they've been doing it as official policy, and I think the administration is desperate now to avoid that label, but it's the practice, not the rhetoric, which is going to define what we've done.

OLBERMANN: So, is that it? This very careful effort by the administration to say that it does not give away interrogation techniques, Tony Snow said it, Mr. Cheney's spokeswoman said, they claim they don't want to tip off the enemy. Has that boat not sailed? Is that not just a cover-up at this point, due to the fact that they're already using this technique?

TURLEY: Well it's laughable. I meant, they're saying that, you know, we have no problem with dunking people in water. What are they talking about? They're not talking about a rinse and a pedicure, they're talking about an interrogation technique using water. The only interrogation technique to use water, in that sense, is to convince someone they're drowning by almost drowning them. That's what waterbording is, it's torture. It's a war crime.

OLBERMANN: Right. Hypothermia is unpleasant and it's probably a war crime as well, but it's not the same thing. There aren't very many other explanations, as you point out so aptly.

Jonathan Turley, professor of constitutional law at George Washington, as always sir, great thanks for your time.

TURLEY: Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN: Have a good weekend.

TURLEY: You too.

OLBERMANN: It will not be a good weekend near Palm Springs. The worst American wildfire in years continuing to ravage the mountains almost unchecked, as hundreds, literally, have to flee.

And we will return to politics, the venerable political bromide "stay the course" didn't. Everybody from Ross Perot to Joe Lieberman says goodbye to an old and trusted cliche when Countdown continues.


OLBERMANN: No let-up tonight in the fight against that fast moving

wildfire in California. And no let-up in White House attempts to revise

history. No stay of execution for staying the course. That's next, this

is Countdown


OLBERMANN: Is it simply the worst single wildfire in this country for the last five years. At this hour it is still ravaging a seemingly impossibly large area to the West of Palm Springs, California. In our No. 2 story in the Countdown tonight, Peter Alexander has the latest on the fight against the evidently deliberately setting of the Esperanza Fire.


PETER ALEXANDER, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Roaring flames and black smoke again painted these dry desert mountains near Palm Springs. For firefighters and investigators, it's a bitter two-front battle. (INAUDIBLE) both, the fast moving Esperanza Fire, now in it's second day, and an arsonist wanted for what is the nation's deadliest wildfire in more than five years.

Fire Captain Mark Loutzenhiser, along with other firefighters Jess McLean, Jason McKay, 27, and Daniel Hoover-Najera, all died early Thursday. They were trapped with their engine between the flames and the home they were defending. Doctors said despite small improvements, the prognosis is poor for a fifth firefighter, Pablo Cerda.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Have you ever seen someone with burns like this that survived?

DAVID WONG, ARROWHEAD REGIONAL MED CTR: We have, but his degree of burns is one of the most severe.

ALEXANDER: Strong winds drove the fire up and over the San Jacinto Mountains, whipping through the hills and scorching more than 24,000 acres in its path. The concern now, shifting Santa Ana winds on the western end of the fire, threatening the 20,000 residents in a town of Beaumont.

JOHN MILLER, U.S. FOREST SERVICE: When they're fighting the Santa Ana winds, it's worst case scenario for them on the ground.

ALEXANDER: These are just some of the more than 700 residents evacuated, sharing shelters. While they're anxious to get home, their main worry is the safety of the more than 1,700 firefighters in these mountains.

ALICE PETERSON, EVACUATED RESIDENT: If it's my house over them, you know, they can get the heck out, you know? It's brand new, we'll replace it. It's not, you know, it's not going to be the end of our tomorrow.

ALEXANDER: But today, authorities are still searching for the arsonist. Sheriff's deputies have already received more than 100 tips, and the reward now totals $400,000.

BILL POSTMUS, SAN, BERNARDINO SUPERVISOR: We want that ask those individuals out there who might know something about who committed this heinous crime to contact the local law enforcement agency.

ALEXANDER: Peter Alexander, NBC NEW, Beaumont, California.


OLBERMANN: On to our nightly roundup celebrity and tabloid news, the gun and marijuana allegedly providing basis for the arrest of Snoop Dogg. The rapper who's real name is Calvin Broadus was stopped at the passenger loading zone at Bob Hope Airport in Burbank, California yesterday for a vehicle code violation. Police then searched his vehicle, claimed they found a gun and marijuana. They arrested Mr. Broadus for illegal position of both.

He later posted $35,000 bail and will return to court for his arraignment on the 12 of December. This is not Mr. Broadus' only recent scrimp with the law. The Orange County District Attorney's office is still considering charges after authorities discovered a collapsible police baton in his luggage as he boarded a flight to New York from John Wayne Airport last month. You might try and different airport, or avoid them altogether.

Nicole Richie, meanwhile, is getting expert help for her problem of not eating enough food. The desiccated diva denying having an eating disorder, still her publicist says Miss Richie has checked into a treatment facility to address why she's not gaining weight. The unnamed facility for helping people gain weight is in an undisclosed location. Richie had been expected to start shooting the new season of the "Simple Life," next month. Production has been delayed, however, due to the problem she does not have for which she's getting treatment and for which she'd get little, but sympathy if they just didn't play this game with everybody.

And movies and television have lost one of their most talented and enduring actors. Author Hill has died after a long struggle with Alzheimer's Disease. You might not recognize his name, you certainly instantly recognized his face. In a 40 year career that ended in 1990, Hill was a regular on at least a dozen TV series, the star of "Owen Marshall, Counsel at Law." Forever the steady earnest professional, he played everybody from FDR to Lincoln, for the scientist fighting the exterritorial Andromeda's strain to a Martian mental patient stranded on earth in an episode of "Alfred Hitchcock Presents." No matter what the role, he made it plausible, maybe the best thing you can say about an actor. And may have made his most lasting impression as the off-screen narrator of the 1983 cult classic "Something Wicked this Way Comes." Author Hill died at Pacific Palisades, California on Sunday, he was 84 years old.

On a less serious note, politics lost something enduring this week, as well. "Stay the course" has been eliminated. Before we celebrate the latest triumph of new speak, we'll bid a sound bite laden farewell, starring everybody from John McCain to both president's Bush to Dana Carvey.

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

The Bronze to Ohio Republican spokesman John McClelland who has now responded the news that is grope, that is group, rather, doctored a photo of Al Franken and attributed a fabricated quote to Franken all as part of an attack press release against Democratic senatorial candidate, Sherrod Brown. Of PhotoShopping Franken into a bunny suit and wearing diapers, McClelland says, "He gets on the radio program and tries to get fired up. What goes around comes around."

So it'd be OK since President Bush does a weekly radio address to PhotoShop him in the diapers, make up a quote about Nazis and say he said it? How about a religious leader on the radio? You may have a new career ahead of you, Mr. McClelland, a lot of PhotoShopping to do.

The runner-up, Colorado Congresswoman Marilyn Musgrave, one of your employees in the House of Representatives, who took the explore to exploit the late Terri Schiavo. Her husband, Michael, traveled to Colorado to attend Musgrave's debate with her challenger. He reports Musgrave staffer's summoned police to remove him, Schiavo, from the public debate hall. And when the officers said, in effect, "are you kidding?" Musgrave's campaign tried to get Schiavo's seat moved to another part of the auditorium, because where he was seated she would have to look at him during the debate. Thus, as Shakespeare noted, conscience does make cowards of us all.

And our winner, ex-comedian Dennis Miller. On FOX News, talking about, in his latest TV gig he won't be able to keep very long, the likely speaker of the House in the event of Democratic victory in the mid-terms, that "Intellectually. Nancy Pelosi is not up to the task." This from a man that is not intellectually up to the task of keeping a syndicated talk show alive for six months, when he was still funny.

Dennis Miller, today's "Worst Person in the World."


OLBERMANN: We began this week with reports that a mainstay of American politics was in failing health. And all too soon it was clear, the worst was true and the nation had lost an old and honored friend. We marked that passing at the time, but in our No. 1 story in the Countdown, tonight, we pause to take the long view, the historic view of the important, illustrious, and yes, sometimes controversial life and career of "stay the course." For symptoms, that the end was near for "Course," known to his closest friends as "ST," came on Sunday from no less than the president, himself.


BUSH: And listen, we've never been stay the course.


OLBERMANN: It sounded definitive at the time, but there has still some confusion.


SEAN HANNITY, "HANNITY SHOW": A lot of debate has now emerged over the phrase "stay the course," and what that actually means. "Well, the president is backing away from staying the course." He's not backing away from staying the course.

DONALD RUMSFELD, DEFENSE SECRETARY: Awww, nonsense. Of course not. You know, I suppose the concern was that it gave opponents a chance to say, "Well, he's not willing to make adjustments," and of course, just the opposite is true.


OLBERMANN: What made the confusion even worse was that while some politicians were writing epitaphs for "stay the course," others were rewriting the history of the vital military and political roles "say the course" had played in supporting and advising President Bush.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And it's never been a stay the course strategy.

TONY SNOW, PRESS SECRETARY: We went back and looked today, and we could only find eight times where we'd ever used the term - the phrase "stay the course."


OLBERMANN: But somehow it seemed the White House had relied on bad intelligence about the White House. Yes, there were eight times when Mr. Bush relied on "stay the course."


BUSH: This country will stay the course.

Our message is that - is that we will stay the course.

And that's why we're going stay the course in Iraq.

If we don't lose our nerve, if we stay the course.

We'd have the nerve to stay the course.

And, uh, we will stay the course.

We must stay the course.

Uh, and I told him and assured him that the United States would stay the course.


OLBERMANN: But as we noted earlier this week, inspectors went back and discovered that in fact "stay the course" had played a much bigger part in the Bush administration then officials first acknowledged.


BUSH: We'll stay the course in Iraq.

And it's very important for us to stay the course.

And we're going to stay the course.

America will stay the course.

We will stay the course.

We will stay the course.

We will stay the course.

Um, we're just going to stay the course.

Um, we will, um, we will stay the course.

We will stay the course.

We're there to stay the course.

And we'll stay the course.

Stay the course.

Stay the course.

We will stay the course.

And yet we must stay the course.

And we will stay the course in Iraq.

And that's what we're doing. And we'll stay the course.

As a matter of fact we will win in Iraq, so long as we stay the course.


OLBERMANN: Sadly as a mourning nation struggled to find closure, a number of politicians, perhaps overcome by emotion, appeared to let their grief cloud their memories.


SEN. JOE LIEBERMAN (D), CONNECTICUT: I am not for stay the course.

We have to stay the course.

JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I hate to use the phrase stay the course.

Stay the course.

Stay the course.

Stay the course.

BOB CORKER (R), TENNESSEE: I have never ever said "stay the course."

I think we should stay the course.


OLBERMANN: As a nation, we seem to have forgotten just how vital, how essential "stay the course" had once been, and how un-American were its critics, at the time.


REP. JEAN SCHMIDT (R), OHIO: He asked me to send congress a message

"stay the course." He also asked me to send Congressman Murtha a message that cowards cut and run.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Absolutely essential that we stay the course.

BUSH: The citizens of Iraq need to know we will stay the course.

BILL FRIST (R), TENNESSEE: We're staying the course in Iraq and the war on terror, they're for cuttin' and runnin'.

BUSH: We must stay the course, because the end result is in our nation's interest.


OLBERMANN: In fact, "stay the course" has served this country and its politicians well for generations. The Great Communicator, Ronald Reagan, succinctly explained roll that "stay the course" played in his first term.


RONALD REAGAN, FMR. U.S. PRESIDENT: Are we going stay the course?

We're going stay the course.

By staying the course.


OLBERMANN: By the '90's even Independent politicians were drawn to its strength.


ROSS PEROT (I), TEXAS: I have stayed the course. My family and I decided we would stay the course and we live with that problem for three years.


OLBERMANN: Ironically "stay the course" succumbed this week to the rigors of a mid-term election after having proudly served in not one, but two military conflicts. That's right, the Iraq war is not the first time "stay the course: had been in harm's way. Even more ironically, today's young people may have forgotten exactly who it was that first drafted this noble phrase in the defense of freedom.


GEORGE H.W. BUSH, FMR. U.S. PRESIDENT: There can be no pause now that Saddam has forced the world into war. We will stay the course and we will succeed.

Stay the course.

Stay the course.


On such a patriot, a veteran of three administrations and two wars, ultimately falls and it can be hard to find the words to say goodbye and so sometime we turn to the artists among us to give voice to the sorrow our hear knows.


DANA CARVEY, COMEDIAN: Let me just sum up on track, stay the course, a thousand points of light. Stay the course.


OLBERMANN: Phrase may be gone, but its spirit lives on with us in our hearts - in our hearts.

That's Countdown for this the 1,273rd day since the decoration of "Mission Accomplished" in Iraq. From New York, I'm Keith Olbermann, goodnight and good luck.