Thursday, November 30, 2006

'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Nov. 30

Special Comment:
Free speech, failed speakers, and the delusion of grandeur
via YouTube, h/t fferkleheimer

Guests: Chris Cillizza, Joe Trippi

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

I sent for you yesterday, and here you come today, today, today, today. The president meets, finally, with Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki.




OLBERMANN: Funny, that's not what national security adviser Hadley's scouting report said about Maliki. "The reality on the street suggests he is either ignorant of what is going on, misrepresenting his intentions, or that his capabilities are not yet sufficient to turn his good intentions into action."

Or was that meant to describe Mr. Bush? Some phrases about Maliki that sound uncomfortably appropriate about the president.

Speaking of which...


DANNY DEVITO: I didn't go after, you know, numb-(expletive deleted).


OLBERMANN: Desperate House losers. The right wing goes ape (expletive deleted) and (expletive deleted) itself, because Danny DeVito calls the president numb-(expletive deleted) on television. That's all you guys got left?

Not that there isn't the germ of fascism in that. Newt Gingrich's speech to the Free Speech Dinner about restricting free speech, and his dreams of "seeking to create a movement to win the future by offering a series of solutions compelling that if the American people say I have to be president, it will happen."

Special comment tonight on Gingrich's bid to exploit terror in order to restrict freedom and somehow sweep himself up into the White House.

The radiation poisoning of the ex-Russian spy in Britain. Whoever killed Alexander Litvenenko left a trail a mile wide, a trail of radiation that may show up on tens of thousands of British air travelers. And now, allegations a former Russian prime minister may have been poisoned as well.

And we know who nearly killed Ken Peters, the trainer of Kasatka the whale. It was Kasatka the whale.


KEN PETERS: I didn't know that he was under water until they started getting frantic and slapping the water. And then they started (INAUDIBLE) running all over the place.


OLBERMANN: All that and more, now on Countdown.

Good evening from Los Angeles.

The snub was obvious, even if the White House was not willing to call it a snub, about as obvious as the civil war in Iraq, even if the White House is not willing to call that a civil war.

Our fifth story on the Countdown tonight, having been stood up by the Iraqi prime minister the night before, President Bush and Nouri al-Maliki finally meet for breakfast, the morning after no less awkward than the night before because of yesterday's leak of a highly critical memo about Mr. Maliki from national security adviser Stephen Hadley, despite the cool body language, the president and the prime minister presenting a united front this morning in Amman, Jordan, Mr. Bush offering the Iraqi premier his public support, despite the doubts of his own administration that Maliki is capable of ending the civil war in his country.

It amounted to the presidential e equivalent of, It's not you, it's me.


BUSH: One of his frustrations with me is that he believes we've been slow about giving him the tools necessary to protect the Iraqi people.

And today, we had a meeting that will accelerate the capacity for the prime minister to do the hard work necessary to help stop this violence.

No question, it's, it, the, it's a violent society right now. He knows that better than anybody. He's the right guy for Iraq. And we're going to help him. And it's in our interest to help him.

I know there's a lot of speculation that these reports in Washington mean there's going to be some kind of graceful exit out of Iraq. We're going to stay in Iraq to get the job done, so long as the government wants us there.


OLBERMANN: What might have been a more effective approach for Mr. Bush may be convincing the Iraqis that national security adviser Hadley was actually describing not Maliki, but himself, Mr. Bush, in that now-infamous memo, entire passages of that document eerily reminiscent of criticism of the president himself in (INAUDIBLE) opening paragraphs.

"The information he receives is undoubtedly skewed by his small circle of advisers coloring his actions and interpretation of reality. His intentions seem good when he talks with Americans, but the reality on the streets suggests he is either ignorant of what is going on, misrepresenting his intentions, or that his capabilities are not yet sufficient to turn his good intentions into action."

And later in the document, "We must also be mindful his personal history. He and those around him are naturally inclined to distrust new actors, and it may take strong assurances from the United States ultimately to convince him to expand his circle of advisers or take action against the interests of his own coalition, and for the benefit of the U.S. as a whole."

Even Mr. Hadley's suggestions about what to do about Iraq seem relevant to the Bush White House as well, including his advice that he should "shake up his cabinet by appointing nonsectarian, capable technocrats in key service and security ministries."

Let me call in Chris Cillizza, political reporter for the

Thank you for your time tonight, Chris.


Thanks for having me.

OLBERMANN: Was this fiasco of the delay in their meeting the absolute pinnacle of the symbolism here, that the Bush administration does not really have a plan for Iraq?

CILLIZZA: I think, look, I think this - no matter what the president is saying publicly, I do believe privately he is really waiting expectantly for December 6. That's the day that the Iraq Study Group report becomes public, all 100 pages of. We've gotten some looks at early reports on it, but we haven't seen the whole thing.

Look, I'm not surprised, at this point, that President Bush is sort of saying - pooh-poohing the idea of leaving Iraq. Remember, this is not something that is new to this president, in terms of his philosophical approach to controversial things.

Donald Rumsfeld was going to stay as the defense secretary, until he wasn't any more. Social Security reform was going to happen until it wasn't anymore.

This is a president who, despite what a lot of people think of him, is relatively politically savvy. He got himself elected and then reelected. I think he knows when to give up on a lost cause.

I don't think he would say Iraq is a lost cause at this point, but I do knows that he's certainly looking forward to December 6 as a benchmark, as a way to say, OK, I take the advice of all of these senior fellows in both parties, and let's try and implement this in a way that is consistent with my vision and the vision that other people have in this country.

And I think we are going to see real change happen after December 6.

OLBERMANN: And we'll have more on these anticipated recommendations. A little more has come out of Baker-Hamilton. Andrea Mitchell's going to report on that in just a moment.

But regardless of that savvy, did it not sound, at least this morning in Amman, that Mr. Bush is already waving off any suggestions that might come out of that about a gradual pullout of American troops from Iraq?

CILLIZZA: Yes, it did. And, you know, I hate to say this, Keith, but to go back, I mean, go back to right before the 2006 election. It was a couple of weeks ago, a month ago. It seems like a year ago to me. But go back to then. He was asked specifically whether Donald Rumsfeld would stay or whether he would go. He said he would stay.

You know, a few days after the election, Donald Rumsfeld was gone. You know, this is - I think this is a president who, at some point, in his own mind, decides when to fish or cut bait.

Now, is that time to cut bait, in many people's minds, long past? Absolutely. I do think we are reaching that point where the political pragmatist in him will take over.

OLBERMANN: And it would be unexpected pragmatism, if that became a part of the legacy. But we'll see if it plays out as you suggest.

Why is it, though, that the administration can so clearly assess the

shortcomings of the Iraqi prime minister, and those analogies that we seem

we use that seem to fit both men? It still doesn't seem to see its own.

So much of Mr. Hadley's document appeared to be perfectly applicable to President Bush himself.

CILLIZZA: Look, I think because it's always easier to see the flaws in others than to see them in yourselves. You know, I think the president recognized, in letting Secretary Rumsfeld go and bringing in, I assume to be confirmed, Secretary Gates, that he needed folks who were not sort of his close advisers. He needed to bring in people who might not be his friends, might not be people he was close to his whole life, but people who are respected in the world and sort of respected to give him advice that he hadn't been hearing.

I think it's hard when you're in the bubble of a campaign. And remember, the president, even though he wasn't on the ballot, was in the bubble of a campaign. He had said this was a referendum, you know, on the war and how things were going, and how the American people believed the direction of the country was headed.

I think he truly believed, and I remember you and I talked about this right before the election, he truly believed that Republicans would be vindicated at the ballot box, that they would not suffer the losses that everyone was predicting. Well, they did wind up suffering those losses. They were not vindicated. And I think it really was a setback to this president in terms of how he thinks about things. It gave him pause.

OLBERMANN: Lastly, Chris, can we infer something else from the Hadley memo that sort of got - may have gotten lost in all the rest of it, that part of this issue of not really being willing to call the civil war the civil war, is the idea that perhaps the president or the administration perceives that the prime minister, Mr. Maliki, may in fact be leading one of the factions in a civil war?

CILLIZZA: Well, you know, in politics, I think, it is always important, the words matter. You know, as much as stay the course versus cut and run, people say those were both too simplistic. Those terms matter. And using and not using those terms matter.

I think clearly, calling it a civil war is not in the Bush administration's interests, as they have spent the better part of the last 18 months pointing out that it is not. So it would be an obvious reversal. That's not something this president is known for.

OLBERMANN: Chris Cillizza of the As always, great thanks for your time and your insights.

CILLIZZA: Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN: The Iraq Study Group has not yet issued its report to President Bush, but like all good secrets in Washington, this one is proving difficult to keep.

Chief foreign affairs correspondent Andrea Mitchell with an early inside look tonight at what the panel will recommend.

Andrea, good evening.



The president is back in Washington, and next week he will formally receive the findings, the proposals of the Iraq Study Group. That bipartisan group has finished its work. The draft report is now heading to the printer.

And we have an early glimpse as to what they will recommend.


MITCHELL (voice-over): How to find a way out of the unrelenting bloodletting in Iraq?

Former secretary of state James Baker's bipartisan study group was created to give the president and Congress an exit strategy. Officials involved say their final report next week will propose changing the military mission from combat to training and equipping Iraqi forces, new security measures to control the Shiite militias, political steps to reconcile Iraq's religious factions, more aggressive regional diplomacy, including Iran and Syria, all pointing towards significant combat troop withdrawals next year, but no deadline.

The big question, is the president willing to change course, after saying he wouldn't?

MICHAEL BESCHLOSS, MSNBC PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: In most cases, you would think that a president in this situation would accept recommendations from all sides to wind down this war in some way. But George W. Bush on other occasions has proven that he's oftentimes the exception to the rule.

MITCHELL (on camera): Some Democrats on the study group had pressed for more immediate troop withdrawals, but Republicans did not want to tie the president's hands. They didn't want specific deadlines. So those involved say the bipartisan report could still give the president a parachute out of Iraq, if he's willing to use it, Keith.


OLBERMANN: Andrea Mitchell, our chief foreign affairs correspondent.

Great thanks.

Meanwhile, the war back here. The right-wing attack machine has apparently run out of high-value targets. Bill Orally goes after Danny DeVito for his drunken performance on "The View." Bill, at least DeVito had an excuse.

There is absolutely no excuse to Newt Gingrich's bid to curb free speech, especially on the Internet, especially with a new leak tonight of an uncorroborated al Qaeda threat against - bingo - the Web sites of the stock market and the banking industry.

A special comment ahead.

You are watching Countdown on MSNBC.


OLBERMANN: With voters this month having killed the false construction that antiwar equals anti-American, right-wing commentators appear to be truly flailing for things to lash out against. And the pickings are slim, as you will see in our fourth story in the Countdown tonight, the right wing picking new battles by grasping at straws.

Last night, our little friend at Fox declared alleged liberal anger his lead story, not Iraq, not terrorism, liberal anger. Quoting, "You would think, with the elections going to the Democrat way, that the left in America would be happy. But that's not true in some cases. If you listen to the liberal broadcast media, the hate and venom they continue to spit out is unprecedented."

Now, what was the claim - the evidence for that claim? Which prominent Democrat came so unhinged as to merit Oh, Really's lead story? It was Democratic National Committee nonspokesman Daniel DeVito.

As you watch this clip, play along at home and see whether you can spot any hate or venom, or if you're really good, whether you, unlike some people, can find a sign that he was just happy about how the election turned out.


DEVITO: I was there during Clinton's last stint. Which was - which was really nice. The place was - had that kind of Clinton feeling.



DEVITO: I didn't go after, you know, numb-(expletive deleted).


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's a president...



BARBARA WALTERS, HOST: You're waking up, aren't you?

DEVITO: Trying to, like, you know, figure out what to do with our country, and our women and men in the military.


DEVITO: Could we (INAUDIBLE). Donald, Donald. OK. Hold on. What about a hat trick last week? Rumsfeld, the House, and the Senate?


DEVITO: Ta-dah.



OLBERMANN: And some oxygen for Elizabeth Hasselback, please.

Joining us now, Democratic strategist Joe Trippi, who will help assess some of the straw-grasping efforts from the other side.

Joe, thanks, as always, for some of your time tonight.

JOE TRIPPI, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Oh, thanks, Keith. It's good to be with you.

OLBERMANN: Let's start with this prominent liberal, Danny DeVito, who I believe delivered the keynote address at the '96 Democratic convention, or maybe I'm just misremembering that. So many comedians, so many actors have made fun of this president and every other president in a much less jovial manner. What made this one tempting to try to inflate into something it doesn't seem to have actually been?

TRIPPI: I think it's gotten that pathetic within the conservative ranks. I mean, it's just unbelievable to me. I mean, he's a comedian, and I think he seemed pretty happy to me.

But I don't understand what they're doing here. It doesn't make any sense at all. And it just really - I mean, the only word I've got for it is pathetic. It doesn't make any sense.

Instead of - I mean, they - it seems that they think that they can attack and just go - the kind of stuff that they should have learned didn't work anymore. It didn't work for them in the last weeks of this last election, and Democrats came for - the American people came forward, actually, kicked them out, brought Democrats in.

And they've just going back and doing the same thing. And this is (INAUDIBLE) becoming so pathetic, they have no credibility. I don't get it.

OLBERMANN: Let's move on to some of the attacks recently on actual politicians, the speaker presumptive, Speaker-elect Pelosi has been hit by the right wing for the hypocrisy of running a nonunion vineyard. Then the local ABC affiliate in her area found out she pays better than union wages, and the state law in California makes it illegal for her to even suggest to her workers that they form a union, which they're free to do if they want.

In this post-Iraq fact-optional world, have the facts become openly optional for launching an attack, a personal attack on a politician?

TRIPPI: Well, evidently, again, I mean, I think the Republicans are grasping at straws and just trying to make something out of nothing. I'm sure that Nancy Pelosi is going to lose tons of union support, as the Democratic Party will, because of this vicious attack of the right wing.

So I just think the whole thing is ridiculous, pathetic. It just shows that they haven't learned anything from this past election. And you look at the president doing the stay-the-course thing, and the party, and Rove and these guys, just putting out these kind of attacks still.

The American people, I think, are looking for - and I was hoping for, I think a lot of Democrats were hoping for some bipartisanship here. Let's try to solve the country's problems and get the message that the people want change, and instead they're getting more the same, negative attacks, grasping at straws, pathetic.

The Republicans and the conservative movement need to do a lot better than this, or they're dead.

OLBERMANN: There's pathetic, and then there's ugly. We have this right-wing implication that you must have the right name or the right God to be American. This fellow Ed Rogers, among others, has taken to calling Senator Obama Barack Hussein Obama. That is his middle name. And, of course, it is common practice to use the senator's middle names, especially middle names they were given in 1961 that are Obviously politically relevant in 2006.

(INAUDIBLE), to what - in what way is a response to this? Is it to point out the racial element to this, or the religious element to this? Or is it just to say, this beneath contempt and not worthy of any response?

TRIPPI: Well, I mean, I think Republicans have to be very careful about this kind of attack. I mean, when you look at what happened with George Allen when he used the word "macaca," talking about one of Jim Webb's - now Senator Jim Webb's, or Senate-elect Jim Webb's, volunteers or workers, these kind of attacks didn't go over very well. George Allen's not a senator anymore.

And I think, you know, the American people are - you know, (INAUDIBLE), I mean, you know, Barack Obama is someone who's doing very well right now, and I understand why they want to attack him, and why they want to take him down now before he gets moving. But I think it's a big mistake to make these kinds of attacks against him.

And they'll - they will pay the price in 2008 if - I mean, look, if George Bush continues to stay the course, these are the kind of attacks that they make, there's going to be hell to pay in 2008. And it won't the Democrats, it'll the American people doing it.

OLBERMANN: Democratic strategist Joe Trippi. As always, Joe, great thanks for your time.

TRIPPI: Thanks, Keith. Thanks for having me.

OLBERMANN: Also tonight, the poison spy probe getting bigger by the day. Yesterday, concerns over how thousands of travelers might have received minimal exposure to the mystery radiation that apparently killed that ex-Russian spy. And now, today, that concerns a former acting prime minister of Russia may have been poisoned too in a similar fashion.

And killer whales attacking. That might explain that name, killer whales. Details of a Sea World performance gone terribly wrong, and the latest on the trainer's condition.

Ahead here on Countdown.


OLBERMANN: It was on this date in 1954, the first known instance of a earthling getting hit by a meteorite. Ann Elizabeth Hodges (ph), a 31-year-old housewife in Silakauga (ph), Alabama, was napping on her living room couch when an eight-and-a-half-pound rock from another galaxy crashed into the roof of her house, destroyed her console radio, and then bounced off her arm and hip.

Her husband, her landlord, and the government all claimed ownership. After a year in court, the Hodges won the rights to it. But by then, nobody wanted to buy it from them. Soon, Mrs. Hodges began to be stressed out by being known as the first human to get hit by a meteorite, so she donated the meteorite to the University of Alabama, where you can still see it today.

On that note, let's play Oddball.

And we begin on the surface of the sun, the place where all meteorites come from. OK, maybe not. My last astronomy class was in May of 1974. I really don't remember. Still, we're bringing you new brand-new, dramatic video of that great ball of fire in space that is responsible for all life on earth. And it's also the reason we have bills on baseball caps.

This was taken with a high-powered camera on board the Japanese satellite Kinode (ph), and it shows what scientists say is the first clear picture of a volcanic eruption on the sun's surface. Cool.

No, no, Timmy, not cool at all. It's actually quite warm there.

To Iderabad (ph), India, where you no longer have to get on board the economy flight to Bombay to get a decent meal anymore. Finally, somebody has brought the joys of airline dining back down to the ground for the rest of us. It's Night Flight, the new airplane-themed restaurant. Just like in a real airliner, the food is great, your dinner roll serves as a flotation device, and the captain comes out to take the orders while the busboy flies the plane. (INAUDIBLE) that guy really is a pilot.

Finally to Florida for an update from the southern front in the war on Christmas, where a new gingerbread superbunker is under construction at the DelRay Beach Marriott. Built with over 6,000 pounds of gingerbread and cookies, then fortified with icing for strength, Generalissimo O'Reilly expects it to stand up to the most powerful weapons of the charging secular progressive hordes.

And afterwards, Bill, you can eat it.

Also tonight, a real-life mystery to rival anything dreamed up by Ian Fleming or John Le Carre. A former Russian spy, killed by a rare radioactive poison. Now another opponent of the Russian government suddenly takes ill.

And poisonous words from a wannabe future president of this country, Newt Gingrich suggesting we sacrifice our rights as Americans to stop terrorists from using freedom of speech on the Internet. My special comment ahead.

Now, though, here are Countdown's top three newsmakers of this day.

Number three, Stevie Long saw his mother and his sister being held at gunpoint by a robber inside their apartment in Durham, North Carolina. So Stevie got into his Mighty Morphin Power Ranger costume, leaped into the living room, swiped his plastic sword, and shouted, "Get away from my family! The burglar fled. Stevie is 4 years old.

Number two, Captain Liu Zhylian of China Southern Airlines. He says his company has calculated that every time a passenger flushes the toilet in midflight, it wastes a little more than two pints of fuel. So he's suggesting you hold it in for the sake of the environment.

And number one, the Bakersfield Condors of the East Coast Hockey League. We'll skip, for the moment, why a team in Bakersfield, California, plays in the East Coast hockey league. This is rather about the promotional giveaway for tomorrow night's home game against Fresno. The first 2,000 fans aged 18 and over showing up will receive a free roll of toilet paper. And, yes, the team has a player named Kevin Assalin (ph). Is there a hygiene problem in Bakersfield that nobody's talking about?


OLBERMANN: A former Russian spy dies. Traces of the radioactive poison that may have killed him are found on at least two trans-national planes, involving potentially tens of thousands of passengers. And another Russian, a political figure, becomes sick, possibly poisoned as well.

In our third story on the Countdown, it may be something less than an international plot. And airline passengers may have avoided dangerous exposure, but for London police there is still an unsolved and ever widening mystery. It was a week ago today that Alexander Litvenenko died in London after being poisoned with a substance called Polonium 210, a rare radioactive element, usually made in nuclear facilities.

Mr. Litvinenko, a former Russian spy, who was an outspoken critic of Russian president Vladimir Putin, had accused Mr. Putin of ordering his murder, but the Kremlin denied any involvement and has vowed to cooperate with British authorities as they follow a trail of radiation, some of it discovered on two British Airways planes, 767s, which have traveled between Moscow and London. Airline officials say those planes contained only low traces of the radiation, but they are trying to track down the thousands of passengers who used the aircraft over a five-week period.

And now there is the former Russian official, currently a leader in the liberal opposition party to Mr. Putin's government. His name is Yegor Gaidar and he fell ill one day after Mr. Litvinenko died. All of which raises the question did the killer of Alexander Litvinenko leave a trail of evidence. Our correspondent is Donna Friesen.


DAWNA FRIESEN, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Tonight in a Moscow hospital, another Russian is being treated for suspected poisoning. He is former Prime Minister Yegor Gaidar, who collapsed one week ago while giving a speech at a conference in Ireland.

CONOR O'CLEARY, IRISH TIMES: I went out about 20 minutes later and saw him lying in the corridor, unconscious. There was no blood - there was blood coming from his nose.

FRIESEN: Gaidar flew back to Moscow. Doctors can't diagnose his illness, but suspect poisoning. So does his daughter, who also suspects a connection with the death of fellow Russian Alexander Litvinenko.

MARIA GAIDAR, DAUGHTER OF EGOR GAIDAR: It happened just a day - just a day after Litvinenko was dead. So probably it is connected. But I don't see any logic.

FRIESEN: The web of intrigue is spreading. Police in Ireland are interviewing everyone who came in contact with Gaidar and in Britain, experts are still following the radiation trail.

So far 24 locations have been tested, 12 show traces of Polonium 210, the poison that killed Litvinenko. As have two British Airways jets, one of which remains grounded. A third BA plane in Moscow is being brought to London for testing. A fourth Russian plane has been cleared. But even Litvinenko's friends caution it's too soon to link his death with Gaidar's illness.

ALEXANDER GOLDFARB, LITVINENKO'S FRIEND: He was absolutely no threat to anybody in Russia. He was not on the enemy list of FSB vendettas, unlike Alexander. So I would be cautious.

FRIESEN (on camera): Intelligence sources warn against assuming the Russian Secret Service was behind the London poisoning, saying they would have done a much cleaner job. And they say the case is so complex it could take a long time to crack.

Dawna Friesen, NBC News, London.


OLBERMANN: A reminder tonight that there is a reason the Orca's nickname is Killer Whale, as a trainer is dragged under water by one of the massive animals, right in front of a startled crowd.

Speaking of dangerous creatures, Newt Gingrich and his call to somehow curb the first amendment in order to fight terrorists. Special comment on that ahead, but now here are Countdown's top three sound bytes of the day.


JOHN STEWART, THE DAILY SHOW: According to the Fox mood alert, Bush was thrilled and honored to be in Latvia. It was much better than his mood on his recent trip to Vietnam. There he is. Let's check his mood on the Fox. Oh, I see.

LAURA BUSH, U.S. FIRST LADY: Hey, here we are in front of the famous Christmas tree. This is the big Christmas tree in the White House, the one that's here in the Blue Room. If you look closely, you'll see that Barney and Ms. Beasley are driving Santa's slay at the very top.

HOWARD DEAN, DNC CHAIRMAN: To my friends, my neighbors and to the delegates of the Liberal Party of Canada -

DEAN (through translator): I feel privileged and I'm very fond to be here among you this evening. And, in fact, I am (INAUDIBLE) that I could scream, but don't worry. I won't do so, but I could.

DEAN: Let me say I learned my lesson the hard way.


OLBERMANN: It is a television cliche, but animals do attack. A Killer Whale going after his trainer, an alligator biting a Florida man and Newt Gingrich trying to take a bite out of every American's freedom of speech. That's ahead. This is Countdown.


OLBERMANN: The threat is right there in the name, Killer Whale. Before the trainer, there may be no way to predict when a normally docile animal becomes aggressive or even hostile and only limited means of defense if and when it does.

In our number two story on the Countdown tonight, one of those animals did attack, a 30-year-old Orca, performer most of her life, during a regular show at Sea World in San Diego. And her trainer Ken Peters, pulled under water, the spectator not immediately realizing this was not part of the act. Our correspondent is Peter Alexander.


PETER ALEXANDER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It was the last performance of the day at Shamu Stadium. Home video shows the frightening moments as Kasatka, a 5,000 pound Killer Whale attacked one of the trainers, grabbing him by the foot and holding him under water twice.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I didn't even know that he was under water until they started getting frantic and slapping the water and they started pulling - running all over the place.

ALEXANDER: The trainer was first under water for 30 seconds. Then, as the audience looked on in disbelief, he was dragged down again for a full minute.

SHERRI JUSTICE, WITNESS: The trainer finally was petting him or trying to calm him down and he was making - the whale himself was making the weirdest noise I've ever heard, the squealing noise and it was constant, like something was wrong.

ALEXANDER: Protected by an emergency net, the 39-year-old trainer finally escaped, alert and conscious.

CODY JUSTICE, WITNESS: After he got away, when - and his teammates, like, took him off the stage and the whale came after him again.

ALEXANDER: Paramedics took the trainer to a San Diego hospital where he is in good condition, suffering only a broken foot. It is the second incident involving a Killer Whale at Sea World San Diego this month.

It seems out of character based on my experience this summer.

(on camera): Thank is the most unreal feeling.

(voice-over): NBC News was given exclusive access to train with Porky, one of seven Killer Whales at Sea World. It was one of the most peaceful feelings I have ever had.

(on camera): What is so impressive is the size of this animal right next to you and you hear her breathing and almost concentrating on everything you're doing, like she senses you.

(voice-over): The trainers admit there is a risk when you work with any wild animal, but it is reduced, they say, by positive reinforcement, communication and training, which, they say, helped the trainer attacked Wednesday avoid serious injuries.

Sea World officials are already reviewing the video of the attack, but say later today the shows will go on as scheduled.

Peter Alexander, NBC News, Los Angeles.


OLBERMANN: Of course, that trainer knew what he was doing. The same cannot be said of a man in Lakeland, Florida who by his own account was high on crack cocaine when he managed to get himself caught in the jaws of a 12-foot alligator. This may be the animal in question. About 4:00 in the morning Wednesday, four sheriff's deputies responded to reports of a man screaming for help. After wading through mud around Lake Parker, they discovered 45-year-old Adrian Afgar (ph) pinned down by an alligator. Deputies tried to pull him free, describing it as a tug of war. It was too dark to shoot the gator without possibly shooting the victim as well. Eventually they freed Mr Afgar. He was naked. He had essentially lost one arm. His other arm was broken. He had suffered leg injuries as well. Mr. Afgar told authorities he had been smoking crack.

And when you're talking about alligator wrestlers on crack it is almost impossible to segue into anything else but celebrity tabloid news, which brings us to our nightly roundup there in, Keeping Tabs. The lead singer of the Wiggles, Australia's pre-schooler version of Abba, is calling it quits. So who is the Yoko Ono in this sad story? It turns out lead singer Greg Page, AKA the Yellow Wiggle, is not leaving for love. Page reports that he has a chronic, but not life threatening condition, which impairs his ability to perform. Will this break up the band? Not to worry, band mate Murry Cook says, quote, children tend to center on one thing, so, if he is wearing the yellow shirt and has got black hair, he is pretty much Greg. Look for Greg Pages response in an upcoming experimental solo concept album.

In case you thought 2006 might end without somebody throwing another curve ball at Anna Nicole Smith, batter up. A court has reportedly ordered Ms. Smith out of the Bahamas house where she had been staying, after a former boyfriend claimed he was only loaning her the one million dollar home. Smith has said it was a gift, but it is not clear whether she remembered to get a receipt. Smith is also not being clear about another residence, her uterus. She told Entertainment Tonight, I think I might be pregnant again. She later insisted she was joking. Stay away from those alligators.

Also tonight, using the imagery of an American city under assault. He has launched an assault on the first amendment, part of his dream of being compelled, in some way, to take the presidency. My special comment on Newt Gingrich next.

But first time for Countdown's latest list of nominees for Worst Person in the World. There's a theme tonight, reactions to the NBC editorial decision to start calling the Iraq civil war, the Iraq civil war.

The bronze to Rush Limbaugh's fill in host Roger Hedgecock (ph). No, that is not really his name, is it? OK, Roger Hedgecock, the murder rate in Baghdad, the people being killed in Baghdad, is lower than the murder rate of Washington, D.C., he says. Is Washington, D.C. in a civil war? Well, the statistics from the Brookings Institution are in. The rate of death by violence in Baghdad is actually about seven times greater than that of Washington. Nice try.

The runner up, Billow. Is NBC wrong about Iraq? The answer is yes. Then he comes back later in the show and says, the problem in Iraq is not in America. The problem is the Iraqis themselves. They are not fighting for their freedom. The problem isn't the U.S. problem and the problem is the Iraqis not fighting hard enough, that would make the Iraq war an internal, or what we grown ups call a civil war?

But tonight's winner, the bozo himself, Brent Bozell, creator of the self-described Media Research Council. Even though in August and September alone, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, General Pace and General Abizaid and General Casey all admitted that at minimum, Iraq could be headed to civil war, Bozell said of the decision to call it a civil war, quote, probably 100 generals in the field in Iraq would disagree.

OK, name them. We're waiting. I'll make it easier, just name 25.

Brent Bozelle, today's Worst Person in the World.


OLBERMANN: And finally tonight, as promised, a special comment about free speech, failed speakers and the delusions of grandeur. This is a serious, long-term war, the man at the podium cried, and it will inevitably lead to us to want to know what is said in every suspect place in the country. Some in the audience must have thought they were hearing an arsonist give the keynote address at a convention of firefighters. This was the annual Lobe (ph) First Amendment Dinner in Manchester, New Hampshire, a public cherishing of freedom of speech in the state with the two fisted motto, live free or die.

And the arsonist at the microphone, the former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, was insisting that we must attach an on/off button to free speech. He offered the time-tested excuse, trotted out by our demagogues since even before the republic was founded, widespread death of Americans, in America, possibly at the hands of Americans, but updated now to include terrorists using the Internet for recruitment and as a result, quote, losing a city. The colonial English defended their oppression with words like those and so did the slave states and so did the policeman who shot strikers and so did Lindbergh's America first crowd, and so did those who interned Japanese Americans and so did those behind the Red Scare and so did Nixon's plumbers.

The genuine proportion of the threat is always irrelevant. The fear of the threat is exploited to create becomes the only reality. We will adopt rules of engagement that use every technology we can find, Mr. Gingrich continued, about terrorists, formerly communists, formerly hippies, formerly fifth columnists, formerly anarchists, formerly Red Coats, to break up their capacity to use the Internet, to break up their capacity to use free speech.

Mr. Gingrich, the British broke up our capacity to use free speech in the 1970's. The pro-slavery leaders broke up our capacity to use free speech in the 1850's. The FBI and the CIA broke up our capacity to use free speech in the 1960's. It is within those groups where you would have found your kindred spirits, Mr. Gingrich, those who had no faith in freedom, no faith in this country and ultimately no faith even in the strength of their own ideas to stand up on their own legs without having the playing field tilted entirely to their benefit. How convenient it is that we are told just today that the government has warned the Stock Markets and U.S. banks that it has learned of an al Qaeda threat to penetrate and destroy their web sites. That learning followed immediately by a statement from Homeland Security that there is no corroboration of the threat.

It will lead us to learn, Gingrich continued in New Hampshire, how to close down every website that is dangerous, and it will lead us to a very severe approach to people who advocate the killing of Americans and advocate the use of nuclear and biological weapons. That we have always had a very severe approach to these people is insufficient for Mr. Gingrich's end. He wants to somehow ban the idea, even though every one who has ever protested a movie or a piece of music or a book has learned the same lesson, try to suppress it and you only validate it. Make it illegal and you make it the subject of curiosity. Say it can not be said and it will instead be screamed.

And on top of the thundering danger and his eagerness to sell out freedom of speech, there is a sadder sound still, the tinny crash of a garbage can lid on a sidewalk. Whatever dreams of Internet censorship float like a miasma in Mr. Gingrich's personal swamp, whatever hopes he has ever an iron firewall, the simple fact is technically they won't work. As of tomorrow they will have been defeated by a free computer download. Mere hours after Gingrich's speech in New Hampshire, the University of Toronto announced it had come up with a program called Siphon to liberate those in countries in which the Internet is regulated, places like China and Iran, where political ideas are so barren and political leaders so desperate that they put up computer firewalls to keep thought and freedom out. The Siphon device is a relay of sorts that can surreptitiously link a computer user in an imprisoned country with another computer user in a free country. The Chinese think their wall still works, yet the ideas, good ideas, bad ideas, indifferent ideas, pass through that wall any way, the same way the Soviet block was defeated by the images of western material bounty.

If your hopes of thought control can be defeated, Mr. Gingrich, merely by one computer whiz staying up an extra half an hour and devising a new firewall hop, what is all this apocalyptic hyperbole for? I further think, you said in Manchester, we should propose a Geneva Convention for fighting terrorism, which makes very clear that those who would fight outside the rules of law, those who would use weapons of mass destruction, and those who would target civilians are, in fact, subject to a totally different set of rules, that allow us to protect civilization by defeating barbarism.

Well, Mr. Gingrich, what is more massively destructive than trying to get us to give you our freedom and what is someone seeking to hamstring the first amendment doing if not fighting outside the rules of law? And what is the suppression of knowledge and freedom if not barbarism? The explanation, of course, is in one last quote from Mr. Gingrich from New Hampshire and another quote from him from last week, I want to suggest to you, he said about these Internet restrictions, that we right now should be impaneling people to look seriously at a level of supervision that we would never dream of it weren't for the scale of the threat.

And who should those impaneled people be? Funny I should ask, isn't it Mr. Gingrich? I am not running for president, you told the reporter from Fortune Magazine, I am seeking to create a movement to win the future by offering a series of solutions so compelling that if the American people say I have to be president, it will happen.

Newt Gingrich sees in terrorism not something to be exterminated, but something to be exploited. It is his golden opportunity, isn't it, rallying a nation, you might say, to hysteria, to sweep us up into the White House with powers that will make martial law seem like anarchy. That, of course, is from the original version of the movie the Manchurian Candidate, the chilling words of Angela Lansbury's character as she first promises to sell her country out to the Chinese and Russians, then reveals she will double cross them and keep all the power to herself, waving the flag every time she subjugates another freedom.

Within the frame of our experience as a free and freely argumentative people, it is almost impossible to concede that there are those among us who might approach the kind of animal wildness of fiction, like the Manchurian Candidate, those who would willingly transform our beloved country into something false and terrible. Who among us can look into our own histories, or those of our ancestors, who struggled to get here, or who struggled to get freedom after they were forced here, and not tear up when we read Frederick Douglas' words from a century and a half ago, freedom must take the day.

Who among us can look to our collective history and not see it's turning points, like the Civil War, like Watergate, like the Revolution itself, in which the right idea defeated the wrong idea on the battlefield that is the marketplace of ideas. But apparently there are some of us who can not see that the only future for America is one that cherishes the freedoms we won in the past, an America in which we vanquish bad ideas with better ideas, in which we fight for liberty by having more liberty and not less.

"I am seeking to create a movement to win the future by offering a series of solutions so compelling that if the American people say I have to be president, it will happen?" What a dark place your world must be, Mr. Gingrich, where the way to save America is to destroy America. I will awaken every day of my life thankful I am not with you in that dark place and I will awaken every day of my life thankful that you are entitled to tell me about it and that you are entitled to show me what an evil idea lurks there and what a cynical mind, and that you are entitled to do all that thanks to the very freedoms you seek to suffocate.

Good night and good luck.


Wednesday, November 29, 2006

'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Nov. 29

Guests: Michael Musto, Craig Crawford

KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST: Good evening from Los Angeles.

Tomorrow night, here a special comment, Newt Gingrich's plan to save the country by destroying freedom of speech. His speech at a First Amendment dinner in New Hampshire, akin to an arsonist giving the keynote address at a convention of firefighters.

Tonight, the president's summit with Iraqi Prime Minister al-Maliki, for reasons too arcane to waste your time with.

Alison Stewart pinch-hits for me this evening. Please give her your full and undivided attention.

ALISON STEWART, HOST: Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?

Summit? What summit? The president of the U.S. stood up by the prime minister of Iraq. No go today on that meeting between Bush and Maliki. Maybe Mr. Maliki reads "The New York Times" and saw the story about the leaked Bush administration memo that basically says he couldn't lead his way out of a paper bag. Maybe.

The commander in chief getting used to the cold shoulder, Senator-elect Jim Webb, formerly known as the man who ran against the macaca senator, now making a name for himself for getting in the face of a sitting president at a recent White House reception. Is it an early indication the Democrats won't wimp out when they take over Capitol Hill in January?

Horror-movie spoof, or real-life threat? Four students are expelled for killer teddies. The kids are fighting in court for the right to go back to school.

The Pam Anderson-Kid Rock bust-up. Is "Borat" really to blame?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is, like, the first time that I think a movie is responsible for breaking up a celebrity couple.


STEWART: And the best viral video clips of all time. There are millions available to you online. But tonight on Countdown, we got your top 10 viral videos, you downloading fools.

All that and more, now on Countdown.

Good evening. I'm Alison Stewart, in for Keith Olbermann.

From a diplomatic standpoint, it's never a good idea for a member of your administration to pass notes trash-talking the foreign statesman with whom you're scheduled to meet on the very day you're scheduled to meet him.

And from a public relations standpoint, it's kind of bad news when a newly elected lawmaker decides not to play nice in your very own presidential sandbox in a Cindy Sheehan kind of way.

Our fifth story on the Countdown, somebody get the president a sweater. Two chilly receptions for Mr. Bush.

In Jordan today, Iraqi Prime Minister al-Maliki suddenly postponed his high-stakes summit with the American president. More on exactly why in just a little bit.

The other frosty moment happened at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, a recent reception for freshman members of Congress. Now, you didn't hear it from me, but incoming senator Democrat Jim Webb of Virginia, who has a son serving in Iraq, apparently tried to avoid the president by skipping out on the receiving line and not having his picture taken with Mr. Bush. But the president tracked him down, and when he did, their conversation went something like this.

"How's your boy?" the president asked. Mr. Webb's reply, "I'd like to get them out of Iraq, Mr. President." "That's not what I asked you," Bush said. "How's your boy?" "That's between me and my boy, Mr. President."

Well, boy, oh, boy, Senator-elect Webb, who wore a pair of his son's combat boots on the campaign trail, was said to be so angered by this exchange that he apparently told a pal he was tempted to slug the president.

To help us make sense of what this all means, let's call in our own Craig Crawford, also of course, a columnist for the "Congressional Quarterly."

Hi, Craig.

CRAIG CRAWFORD, "CONGRESSIONAL QUARTERLY": Oh, well, this had fisticuffs, it sounds like, and...

STEWART: Something happened. What (INAUDIBLE) - does this qualify as a breach of conduct, or a new kind of plain talk, or a (INAUDIBLE) macho moment?

CRAWFORD: Well, Jim Webb's - he's going to be a different kind of senator. I thought that when I first met him early on in this campaign for the Senate from Virginia. And, you know, he is not a phony guy who's going to play the politician phony game, and, you know, be - He's the sort of guy that - he'll stab you in the front, not, not - he won't stab you in the back. He'll - you'll see him coming. I think he showed that with the president.

STEWART: Now, in D.C., does Mr. Webb and those like him who have with family members serving in Iraq, do they have a certain moral authority when it comes to discussing the war?

CRAWFORD: Definitely so, and particularly since they are so few of them. The - one of the great stories of this Iraq war is, I don't think we've ever had a war in history with so few members of Congress or members of the White House with any relatives actually serving in the war that all these folks started and are managing.

So it will give him some extra moral authority, I do think. Not - and he also is very careful not to wear it on his sleeve. He did wear his son's boots, but he wouldn't do any TV ads featuring his son. And I think that's part of what happened. I mean, anybody who knows Webb knows that talking about his son is not something for small talk at a party.

STEWART: It's quite personal to him.


STEWART: For obvious reasons.

Let's talk about his future. Senator-elect Webb, he got a seat on the Foreign Relations Committee. Does that raise the stakes of the six weeks of hearings that Senator Biden plans to hold on Iraq?

CRAWFORD: Absolutely, because if Biden goes forward with the hearings he's planning, and they get the kind of coverage I expect they'll get, and the tough questions, you'll see Webb right in the middle of it. I mean, he Washington - he has the military background, he served in the Reagan administration. He's got his son over there, he's got a lot at stake and campaigned vigorously against the war throughout the Senate race.

So he's very much empowered to get tough in those hearings. And again, he is not your typical politician, so he's not going to sit there and speak in Masonic tongues and this - you know, the senatorial hieroglyphics that so many of them do. He'll come right out and - I think a lot of people will relate to his plain-spokenness.

STEWART: It's interesting, while it's refreshing at this point, could it ever prove be to problematic for this freshman congressman?

CRAWFORD: Mavericks don't do well in Washington. They get a lot of attention, and I expect he will. What'll be interesting to see is if, down the line, he does play a little more ball. He's indicated he's going to - not going to toe the line for his party, he's certainly not going to for the president.

We see mavericks come and go. Sometimes they change their own stripes. John McCain used to be a maverick. I don't think he is as much anymore. I think he decided to start playing more political ball with, you know, the likes of President Bush, for example.

STEWART: President McCain, maybe that's why. President McCain.

Hey, before I let you go, the Democratic leader of the Senate, Harry Reid, says his party has big plans for, among other things, reintroducing the stem cell bill. So I wonder if this Iraq issue, while it's clearly the most important issue, might be the start of something bigger.

CRAWFORD: Yes, there's a lot of eagerness in Washington, Alison, to get Iraq behind them, but to get some new sort of new policy on track. Everybody waiting for that Baker study group. Mainly, so that Republicans don't have to defend the president anymore in Iraq. They don't want to talk about it. Democrats have other items on the agenda, like you mentioned, stem cell.

So, yes, I think we're going to see a lot of activity. However, the president's still there and has the veto pen. So my guess is, we're going to see a lot of hue and cry and lots of vetoes and yelling back and forth, maybe some fisticuffs, before it's over.

But I don't think a lot's going to get done till we get a new president.

STEWART: Craig Crawford of MSNBC and the "Congressional Quarterly."

Thanks a lot, Craig.

CRAWFORD: Good to be here.

STEWART: Until today, there were probably many Americans who only knew Mr. Webb as the guy who beat the fellow who liked to drop the M-bomb, as in Senator George "Macaca" Allen. Tonight, they would not be alone in wanting to learn more about the senator-elect from Virginia.

For that, we turn to correspondent David Shuster in Washington.

Good evening, David.

DAVID SHUSTER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Alison, good to be with you.

STEWART: What has been the chatter in D.C. today about this back-and-forth between President Bush and Jim Webb?

SHUSTER: Well, this was the confrontation that I think a lot of people who know Jim Webb, who also know President Bush, had been waiting for. Jim Webb, during his Senate campaign, was outspoken on Iraq. That was his number-one issue. People knew how sensitive his son's service is to him.

And Webb has not minced words, either with the Republican opponent, George Allen, or with President Bush. So it's not necessarily out of character that he would simply not want to have a conversation with President Bush. I think it's also not out of character that he would stand his ground and be very icy with the president, with the president bringing this issue of his son up.

STEWART: Does he have a reputation as someone who goes off script, even off the script of etiquette?

SHUSTER: Yes and no. He may - he doesn't really go off script, but I think his script is one that most Americans, most people in Washington, don't tend to follow. You recall that Jim Webb wrote some fairly racy novels. He has said some things in articles that he published about women serving in combat that got him in a bit of trouble during this campaign.

But he is very outspoken, and the idea that Jim Webb would have some sort of niceties, or be polite, if his buttons are pushed, like clearly they were when the president talked about his son in Iraq, that is an issue that is near and dear to Jim Webb. He's a former Marine, he is a tough guy, and he's certainly not one whose personality would have him backing down from anybody.

STEWART: As you mentioned, a former Marine, was first in his class, the Marine Corps officers at Quantico. What else does he bring to the discussion, when we're talking about the war in Iraq?

SHUSTER: Well, the big, the big issue, of course, is Vietnam. Not only was he a Marine, but he was injured twice, two Purple Hearts. He got the Navy Cross, Silver Star. He was a platoon commander in Vietnam, has seen combat up close and personal. He also served as the lead counsel for the Veteran Affairs Committee in Congress.

And then he was Navy secretary for Ronald Reagan, the first military veteran to serve as Navy secretary in the history of the Navy.

And so to him, it's not just a matter of, yes, he has seen combat, but he has also been in a policy position. And for him, that's why this issue of Iraq is so important to him.

STEWART: Well, that's an interesting point. He was in a policy position under a Republican president, as you just mentioned, in the Reagan administration. So could this be problematic for him at all, since he clearly isn't your average Democrat?

SHUSTER: Well it could as far as Jim Webb is concerned on some key Democratic domestic issues. For example, Jim Webb, he is opposed to any sort of gun control. He has also spoken out about raising taxes. So the Democrats might not be able to count on him on those issues.

But the reason why he has so much appeal to Democrats is because of his experience as a veteran, his perspective on foreign affairs, and the fact that he is somebody who has a vested interest in what is going on in Iraq, because it is part of his family. And he is tough, and he's not somebody who backs down on that issue.

STEWART: And before I let you go, we've seen that video over and over again, and we've talked about his son's combat boots, which really came to be a symbol. Do we know if the senator-elect plans to keep on wearing them?

SHUSTER: No. Apparently, the day after the election, when - a couple days after the election, when he was finally - when George Allen conceded and he had a sort of victory speech a couple days later, at that point, you saw him, as he was in this video, raising the combat boots. At that point, he was no longer wearing them. It was symbolic, a lot of his supporters say, that he was now moving on from a campaign to coming to Washington.

But I would bet that you may - it's going to be sort of the elephant in the room for anybody who has a discussion with Jim Webb about Iraq. I bet that at some of those hearings that he will be in, his questions will be a lot more pointed, because everybody's going to know that he has a family member who is there.

This isn't just a matter of policy, this isn't just some sort of esoteric argument of what to do. For him, this could be about life and death involving his own family. And I think everybody who knows Jim Webb, who knows what's going on in the Senate, is going to be watching that.

STEWART: MSNBC's David Shuster. Thanks, David.

SHUSTER: Thanks, Alison.

STEWART: Iraq's leader does not extend an olive branch following a leaked White House memo that criticized Mr. al-Maliki's lack of control in Iraq. So he decides to exert some control over today's meeting, by canceling.

And restoring order in Baghdad. We'll plan to send in 20,000 more U.S. troops into the capital city, create order, or just put targets on the backs of more young men and women?

You're watching Countdown on MSNBC.


STEWART: When President Bush spoke yesterday of his upcoming meeting with the Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, he said, quote, "We'll continue to be flexible." Hope Mr. Bush was in full fleximode today, when Mr. Maliki decided to show him the hand.

In our fourth story on the Countdown, their meeting was rescheduled. But brunch with former secretary of state Colin Powell likely not happening anytime soon either, as Mr. Powell has chimed in saying Iraq is embroiled in a civil war. Speaking at a business forum in Dubai, Powell said of Iraq, quote, "I would call it a civil war. I have been using it," civil war, "because I like to face the reality."

All this ahead of the Bush-Maliki meeting, which may now happen tomorrow.

Our chief White House correspondent, David Gregory, is traveling with the president in Amman, Jordan.



It was on board Air Force One en route to Amman that the president was told that Prime Minister Maliki would not be meeting with the president and King Abdullah of Jordan, nor would he be having dinner with them.

But tonight, the White House strenuously denies that it was an angry reaction from Maliki, based on that critical White House memo.

(voice-over): In Amman tonight, dinner with the king, but the Iraqi leader is missing, a no-show for what was billed as an important discussion about the region.

The official reason, Maliki and King Abdullah met earlier in the day.

But there appeared to be more to the story.

The Iraqi leader is under intense criticism at home for his summit with the president, and his decision to skip dinner looked a lot like an angry reaction to the emergence today of a White House memo critical of his leadership.

America's ambassador to Iraq, Zalmay Khalizad (ph), tonight.


GREGORY (on camera): Do you really expect people to believe that this was not a snub of the president?

ZALMAY KHALIZAD, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO IRAQ: Oh, absolutely, it was not a snub of the president.


GREGORY (voice-over): The White House memo, written by Stephen Hadley, the president's national security adviser, was hardly a vote of confidence for the embattled Iraqi prime minister. In a classified assessment of Maliki, Hadley wrote on November 8, "The reality on the streets of Baghdad suggests Maliki is either ignorant of what is going on, misrepresenting his intentions, or that his capabilities are not yet sufficient to turn his good intentions into action."

White House officials insist they do trust Maliki, even admitting they have gathered intelligence on his actions, spied on him, leading the White House to conclude he is working to resist pressure from Shi'ite groups.

Still, aides say the president expects more, and quickly. And the memo emerged as the White House is stepping up pressure on Maliki to develop a strategy to reduce the violence.


KHALIZAD: I understand that the American people are losing patience.

GREGORY (on camera): And so is this White House, no?

KHALIZAD: Things have not gone as well as we would have liked to see them go in the time frame that we are talking about.


GREGORY (voice-over): The memo also raises the possibility of sending additional U.S. troops to Baghdad, and the prospect of Secretary of State Rice convening a summit between Iraq, Iran, and Syria.

(on camera): And back in Washington today, the Baker-Hamilton report announced that it will release its report on Iraq on December 6. It is described as a tough evaluation of the situation on the ground, but apparently does not contain any magic bullet solutions, Alison.


STEWART: David Gregory, thanks to you.

The problem for Mr. Maliki have mounted in advance of his meeting with President Bush. Today, the controversial Shi'ite leader Moqtada al-Sadr made good on his promise to pull his supporters from the so-called unity government.

Al-Sadr's 30 members of parliament and five government ministers walked out. The reason, Prime Minister Maliki went ahead and decided to meet with President Bush, despite al-Sadr's threat, a man "Newsweek" calls the most dangerous man in Iraq. If that may provide yet another reason why Mr. Maliki postponed the meeting, and may also reinforce perception of Maliki's weakness, ignorance, and/or duplicity, as suggested by that leaked memo.

Meanwhile, as our chief Pentagon correspondent, Jim Miklaszewski, reports, more American troops may be on the way.



JIM MIKLASZEWSKI, MSNBC PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Alison, political or not, some U.S. officials are clearly concerned about today's walkout by Sadr's followers. One senior official told us that it could signal the beginning of the breakup of the Iraqi government, and, quote, "By our own definition, that's civil war."

This, as military commanders are considering sending even more U.S. troops into Iraq.

(voice-over): With sectarian violence out of control, the U.S. military is making plans to beef up American forces in Iraq.

NBC News has learned the U.S. military is looking at a temporary increase of up to 20,000 troops. That could be done by extending the tours of three brigades of soldiers who have already spent a year in Iraq, and by accelerating deployment for two others brigades, sending them into Iraq earlier than scheduled.

The Army will also activate four battalions of reserve combat engineers, some 2,800 troops. Their mission, help build security barriers in Baghdad around heavily congested areas, like open-air markets, prime targets for suicide car bombers.

The U.S. military is also pushing Iraqi officials to send more Iraqi security forces into Baghdad.

But sectarian differences within the Iraqi military itself could lead to more violence, if Shi'ia soldiers moved into a Sunni neighborhood, or visa-versa.

GEN. PETER PACE, CHAIRMAN, JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF: There are some units around Iraq that, if moved into Baghdad, would not be helpful.

MIKLASZEWSKI: In Washington, the nominee for secretary of defense, Robert Gates, offered up new criticism of the Iraq War. In a 65-page questionnaire for the Senate Armed Services Committee, Gates said, "In hindsight, I might have done some things differently."

As for launching the war in the first place, Gates warned, "Preemptive force should be based on very strong evidence. And it's a decision that must not be taken lightly."

(on camera): Despite that criticism, or maybe because of it, Gates is expected to win quick Senate confirmation, and be sworn in as secretary of defense within the next two weeks, Alison.


STEWART: Jim Miklaszewski at the Pentagon. Thanks to you.

A killer teddy bear, a homemade movie, and some high school students. The movie got them expelled from school, and now the ACLU has stepped in to try to get some of them back in class.

And what do you get someone that already has everything? How about a jet car? Someone has stolen Oddball's coolest wheels ever.

That and more, ahead on Countdown.


STEWART: Mr. Keith Olbermann usually begins this segment each night with an anniversary. So I've decided to give it a shot. It was exactly 24 hours ago that we last heard the words, "Let's play Oddball."

Sorry, I (INAUDIBLE) been here 12 hours.

We begin in Paris, with this exciting final moment to the French National Championship of Speed Ironing. Four men and two women were in the running for the coveted Golden Iron award. But in the end, it was a former member of the French army. He used his training to iron a pair of chinos and shirt in just three minutes.

See, the French army can do something.

To Hillsborough County, Florida, where stop the presses, a car was stolen. But not just any car. Somebody stole the Green Mamba. It's a 300-mile-per-hour jet car valued at more than $300,000, and it was taken from the parking lot outside its owner's apartment. Last night, deputies found the car in a Tampa chop shop, but it was too late. The Green Mamba was basically in little tiny mamba bits. Jet engine gone.

Police are asking for your help. If you see anything suspicious or anyone around town showing off their brand-new jet engine who doesn't apparently appear properly trained and licensed, call the Tampa PD immediately.

And finally, to the Internet, where everything old is new again. And proof of that, we offer this five-year-old video, which has made a comeback as one of the most popular videos on the Web right now. It's when beer meets children's television. Don't ask, just watch.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yo, pick up the phone.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yo, where's Dookie?











STEWART: Never gets old.

OK, we're just starting with the viral videos. The crazy antics on the Web entertain millions of procrastinators every day. What's the best of the best? We've got your top 10 viral videos of all time coming up next.

And is this the top divorce excuse of all time? "Borat" made us do it. Yes. Inside the Pamela Anderson-Kid Rock breakup.

That's ahead.

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

Number three, Morgan Conatser of Taqueen (ph), Arkansas. He's been arrested for shoplifting an electric guitar from a music store. The store owner says he noticed Conatser was walking funny and had a strange bulge in his pants. It was a guitar in his pocket, and he was not happy to see the cops.

Number two, another shoplifter. You may remember her from the car chase in last night's Oddball. Turns out she led police on that dangerous high-speed chase because she didn't want to get arrested for walking out of a store with a bunch of clothes she didn't pay for. Police say when she was arrested, she was wearing a pair of stolen shoes that still had the price tags on them.

And at number one, Julianne Mitrovoska of Melbourne, Australia. She had more than 500 guests at her extravagant Greek Orthodox wedding. She surprised her new husband and family by paying for the whole thing herself, with $123,000 she embezzled from her employer. Something borrowed, something blue. I didn't pay for my wedding. I know how she feels.


STEWART: Welcome back. I'm Alison Stewart, keeping the seat warm for Keith Olbermann. Of all the videos, of all the ads, of all the Internets, what really grabs your attention, the dumb stuff.

Our third story on the Countdown, one company using its own estimations has compiled the cream of the online crop.


STEWART (voice-over): It has made office life across the world finally bearable. It supplied the Countdown crew with a lifetime supply of Oddball. Where else but amid the thousands of videos on the Internet would we find our nightly dose of crazy animals, more crazy animals, idiots, more idiots, cool tricks, creepy films, and weird science?

Now we find out just which of these videos you love the most. Thanks to a marketing company, predictably called the Viral Factory, which compiled a list of the top 10 most watched viral videos ever.

At number 10, proof that editing, music and voice track can making any, the "Shining Redux."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Meet Jack Torrence.

JACK NICHOLSON, ACTOR: I'm outlining a new writing project.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's a writer looking for inspiration.

That is scarier than the original. Number nine, the so-called Afro ninja. Don't try this at home. Walk it off, dude.

STEWART: Now that's far more scary than the original.

At number nine, the so-called Afro-Ninja. Don't try this at home.

Walk it off. Walk it off dude.

At number eight, an oldy but goody, the Cola 2001, where freakishly bendy kids square off against other freakishly bending kids.

And speaking of bending, at number seven, with three hundred million views, the so-called Trojan Games.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There is the spread.

STEWART: Obviously advertising the condom of the same name.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can he hold it? Can he hold it?

STEWART: At number six, another ad, this time for John West Salmon, pitting man against Kung Fu fighting bear.

At number five an old Countdown favorite, hail the exploding whale.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Chunks of whale blubber fell everywhere. Everyone on the scene was covered with small particles of dead whale.

STEWART: Just bring an umbrella next time.

Number four, singer Kylie Manogue (ph) advertising Agent Provacateur, viewed 360 million times. Personal favorite of mine actually.

And we can't afford to show you number three, but you've probably downloaded it at some point anyway. It is the Paris Hilton sex tape, alias "One Night in Paris."

Coming in second, no pun intended, it is native New Jersian Gary Brolzma (ph) and his Numa Numa kid video.

OK, so now you're going to have that stuck in your head all day. Finally, number one, with a whopping 900 million views, the Star Wars kid, who last we heard, tried to sue the buddies who put the video on line, but had settled out of court, cha ching.

We, and the millions of web heads who created their own Star Wars videos using your footage, salute you Star Wars kid, king of the Internet.


STEWART: I salute you.

Moving from one of a kind to a multitude. If you have noticed a striking similarity between the people used to advertise different products on the web, this time it is not you, really. The other time it was you, but this time no. If you think the faces tend to blur together and look the same it is because, as our correspondent Lisa Daniels reports, much of the time they are the same, literally.


LISA DANIELS, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Two identical pictures, two very different ads on the web. One is for Met Life Employee Benefit, the other Viagra.

DONNY DELITSCH, CNBC: There is so much more content that more and more stock photos will end up in more than one place.

DANIELS: All because of the growth of digital libraries, offering generic images that marketers can buy very cheap and use in ads. The risk, stock photos come with nonexclusive rights, meaning two companies, like J.P. Morgan Chase and WellPoint, can buy the same image without even realizing it.

(on camera): It all comes down to money. Stock images are much easier to produce, but you risk that another company will use the same image. Companies prefer to have a custom produced image, but that requires a photo shoot, a photographer and a lot more money.

(voice-over): Money that is worth spending on ads in newspapers or magazines, but apparently not on web ads for things like Dell computers or pamphlets by Washington Mutual. Photo agencies offer millions of different images, but here is the problem.

JONATHAN KLEIN, CEO GETTY IMAGES: There are very few concepts and messages that advertisers are wishing to communicate. Now, what tends to happen is companies want similar things at similar times.

DANIELS: Especially banks, insurance companies and pharmaceuticals. And they are not the only ones. This photo appeared on Republican Brett Chundler's (ph) 2005 New Jersey gubernatorial campaign website. The original one featured Democrat Howard Dean. But double ads aren't just a problem for advertisers and politicians. They are also confusing for consumers who are trying to differentiate between brands.

As the Internet grows in popularity, companies may start rethinking their strategy as more consumers realize they are seeing double.

Lisa Daniels, NBC News, New York.


STEWART: A home made horror flick earned four students a lot more time at home, expelled for "The Teddy Bear Master." The ACLU is now fighting on behalf of the students.

And the clip of the day on daytime TV, Danny Devito shows up for the View, how shall we say, after viewing the bottom of a class. Cheers Louis. Details ahead, but first here are Countdown's top three sound bytes of the day.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I feel like there is much - - there is much penis going on here which is nice. It looks like the flavor of the lamb is not - tends to hold up with these favor strong flavors of lamb, but I like it a lot.

DAVID LETTERMAN, THE TONIGHT SHOW: NBC has announced that they will now refer to the Iraqi war as a civil war. They are calling the conflict in Iraq a civil war. That's NBC News, and President Bush responded. He said no, no, no, no, no, no, no, it is not a civil war until it becomes a series of Time Life books.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She wanted to do something extraordinary at 80.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Flexible is not a problem.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Most of us wouldn't do it at 18.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It has been terror and torture.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: As she spins and flips 10 feet in the air without a net.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sometimes it hurts after.



STEWART: A home made horror movie scaring up a bunch of trouble for its student makers. Danny Devito's TWI, talking on TV while intoxicated. And is it even possible that Borat could be cited in the divorce papers of Pam Anderson and Kid Rock. It's all next. This is Countdown.


STEWART: Moving on to our number two story on the Countdown. Most kids would be psyched to stay home from school, watch YouTube, get out the Play Station. But in Indiana, two expelled high school students are trying to sue their way back into school with the help of the ACLU.

The two teenagers are among four students kicked out of a Hoosier high school for making a movie titled "The Teddy Bear Master." Here is the plot, demonic Teddy bears attack a fictional teacher. One problem, the fake teacher shares the same name with a real life teacher, prompting school officials to believe the whole thing to be a threat to the educator. The movie makers were expelled for the rest of the school year. Our affiliate WTHR's Alex Sands has a story about the not so warm and fuzzy tale of psycho Teddy, (INAUDIBLE).


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I am the Teddy bear master.

ALEX SANDS, WTHR: It is a home made movie -

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You heard him, get out of here.

SANDS: - made by students -

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get up Puffy Puffington.

SANDS: - that is now at the center of a legal battle. The movie is billed by its teenage creators as a South Park inspired spoof of the 1980's horror film, "The Puppet Master." But school administrators say they consider the movie a threat, because a possessed character orders evil Teddy bears to kill a fictional teacher with a real life name.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There is a character with the last name of Clevinger, which has the same last name as a teacher.

SANDS: In an often seen in the movies moment, the real life Clevinger learned of the movie from the school's principal, who learned of the movie from a parent. When the county prosecutor decided no laws were broken, the teacher requested a protective order from police. School records show the students were then expelled for the rest of the school year.

ISAAC IMEL, EXPELLED STUDENT: It is like a nightmare because I never expected anything like this. They say, you know, students are a priority at our school, but, I mean, I just kind of feel like I've been taken advantage of.

SANDS: With the help of the ACLU, one of students with a minor role in the movie is suing the school corporation to have his expulsion reversed.

JACKIE SUESS, AMERICAN CIVIL LIBERTIES UNION: There is no threat in there. Nobody is threatening anybody's life. There is clearly no serious threat to harm anybody. There's no slander. These are the things, though, that the school has claimed and they are just not in there. It was, you know, their expressive activity that took place completely off of school grounds.


STEWART: From forbidden movies to drunken television, and our segment of entertainment stories, Keeping Tabs. We begin with the highlight of daytime TV today, the View, with special guest Danny Devito. Please enjoy this clip where Devito explains that he was out all night partying with George Clooney. Then, as he tells a story about visiting the White House, it becomes clear that Danny might still be halfway in the bag.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Danny has been out partying all night with - tell them. I'm so jealous.



DEVITO: No I knew it was the last seven lemon drinks that was going to get me.

ROSIE O'DONNELL, THE VIEW: Yes, exactly. Have you been to sleep yet?



DEVITO I was there during the Clinton's last stint, which was really nice. The place had that kind of Clinton feeling. I didn't go after, you know, numb nuts -


WALTERS: You're waking up, aren't you?

DEVITO: Trying to, like, you know, figure out what to do with our country and our women and men in the military. OK.


STEWART: Somebody get that guy a cup of coffee and get this man a lawyer, for schizzle. Calvin Brotus, better known as Snoop Dogg, has been arrested, again, third time in three months. Last night Snoop had just finished an appearance on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno when his car was pulled over when he was leaving the NBC studios, according to a police spokesperson. Snoop and two members of his entourage were arrested after police searched the car and later his home, possessing a weapon and illegal drugs, transporting Marijuana and having a false compartment in his vehicle was the case that they gave him.

Just when you thought you were through with your Tomkat related cringing, a report now the couple has been approached to record a love duet. This has just got to stop. It's got to stop. Apparently someone heard the couple singing You've Lost that Loving Feeling at their Italian wedding this month and thought, Tomkat the album, what a great idea. Various sources tell various tabloids that various obstacles stand in the way of this ever happening. But Tom Cruise is reportedly gung ho over the idea and that is reason enough not to do it.

From newly weds in love, to newly weds saying their goodbyes. Is Borat really to blame for the demise of Pam Anderson and Kid Rock's marriage? And new naughty details on what was the last straw in the Brittany/K-Fed split. Michael Musto provides analysis next, on Countdown.



STEWART: Actress Pamela Anderson and hip hop star Kid Rock were married only four months when they filed for divorce a few days ago. And in our number one story on the Countdown, the reasons for the split are surfacing fast, such as reports that the Baywatch star spent too much time partying naked, while Kid was home with the kids. Anderson told Blender Magazine that when she went out in Hollywood, quote, I usually end of nude in David LaChapelle's studio taking crazy pictures. That could do it. But another reason for the break up, and maybe an all time first, came in the form of a movie, as in Borat, Cultural Learnings of America For Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakstan. Our correspondent is Peter Alexander.


PETER ALEXANDER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For those of you keeping track, Pamela Anderson and Kid Rock's marriage lasted exactly 121 days. The straw that reportedly broke the couple's back, Borat.

SASH BARON COHEN, BORAT: My name is Borat.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK, that's good. I'm not used to that, but that's fine.

ALEXANDER: Anderson and Rock filed for divorce Monday, citing irreconcilable differences. Their rocky marriage reportedly wound down last month after the couple attended a private screening of the movie.

KEN BAKER, US WEEKLY: This is the first time that I think a movie is responsible for breaking up a celebrity couple.

COHEN: Look, there is a woman in a car. Can we follow her? And maybe make a sexy time with her.

ALEXANDER: So how could it happen?

BAKER: The whole premise of Borat is that Borat wants to make sexy time with Pamela Anderson. Kid did not know the premise of the movie. He was really upset that she had become this sort of sex object of Borat. He flipped out on her in front of a group people, told her she was a horrible person and called her names that I can't repeat.

ALEXANDER: Anderson spoke out about the divorce on her website, "I would like to resolve this amicably," she writes. "Truth is (Kid Rock) is great in many ways, we just don't belong together." Most people apparently agree, except for the folks at GQ Magazine. Next month's issue names Anderson and Rock newlyweds of the year.

COHEN: What, how about that. Isn't that amazing.

ALEXANDER: Peter Alexander, NBC News, Hollywood.


STEWART: As for the other high profile celebrity split between Britney Spears and Kevin Federline, Fed-Ex now to those in the know, there are nasty rumors that a tipping point came when Federline had an alleged affair with a former porn star. Two questions, one, is there anything such as a former porn star and two, who is really surprised? Anyway, the tabloid Star Magazine has the scandalous, if not necessarily reliable, scoop. In 2005 Federline met Kendra Jade, who's website describes her as a, quote, adult superstar, while his wife was visiting family in Louisiana. And that the two remained friendly.

Apparently what happened in Vegas did not stay there. A source said, quote, Kevin and Kendra had sex at their friends apartment multiple times starting in early October. That would have been one month before Spears filed for divorce. The source said that K-Fed and Ms. Jade were not romantically involved, quote, they were just friends who have sex. Well all righty then. I'm not a lawyer, but friends with benefits, not really a legal term. But, I guess anything is possible.

It's time to call in Village Voice columnist Michael Musto, also author of the upcoming book, "La Dolce Musto, Writings by the World's Most Outrageous Columnist." Good evening Michael.


STEWART: Pamela Anderson and Kid Rock first. We have got the Borat issue, we'll get to that, and then we have the naked issue. Let's talk naked first, because that's kind of fun. There's more of Ms. Anderson talking about her nights out in Hollywood, saying that the nudes, crazy pictures were, quote, usually a night out for me, 4:00 or 5:00 in the mornings, lying across a car in David's studio. Now, Kid Rock's particular problem with his wife's nude pictures on some other dude's car. I mean wasn't she in Playboy?

MUSTO: Yes, she is an equal opportunity disrober. I mean this woman has made the world her gynecologist and she's fabulous, OK. Besides, he should relax, Kid Rock, because I know David LaChapelle, the photographer in question. He's gayer than Liberacci. OK, he's out, and this guy would not make her into a sex symbol. He only sees her as an art object, not a sex object.

STEWART: Or a hood ornament apparently.

MUSTO: Yes, exactly.


STEWART: Now to Borat, in this movie, a character, not a real person, wants to make sexy time with Pam Anderson and literally bag her and make her his wife. He throws a bag over her head. Now, can you figure out what part of that, sort of, sweet but sick story is troubling for Kid?

MUSTO: I guess Kid Rock didn't get the memo that this was a comedy. I mean, even kids get it, but not Kid Rock. He thinks this is something to take seriously, like Beef Jerky or armpit hair. It's really absurd. And he's sitting thinking, oh, he's trying to bag her for sexy time. That's what I do. This is appalling.

STEWART: One last question on those two, who exactly did Kid Rock think he was marrying anyway? I mean, he is cranked that she's a party girl?

MUSTO: Gain, he didn't get the memo. I think he thought it was Pam Dawber. They were going to go out for milkshakes. Or Pam Tillis, go out for flap jacks. This is Pamela Lee. She's trash. She is such trash that Boy George picks her off the curb every Wednesday for community service. And I love her, once again.

STEWART: Rock and Mindy. It could have worked out. Let's talk about K-Fed and a porn star. Any reason not to believe this dalliance occurred?

MUSTO: Well K-Fed was doing with it a porn star for a while, Britney Spears. I'll be here until Thursday, check out the ribs. No, no, no, no, I don't believe this, because it would have meant that he actually did something. K-Fed would have had to have left the house, met someone other than Britney and consummated something. I don't buy it. I think actually that Britney dumped him because he couldn't even do it with a porn star on the side.

STEWART: Star Magazine also asked former Porn Star Kendra Jade, we're still a little fuzzy on the former part, for a comment and she said, quote, I'm in a committed relationship. You talk to publicists all day who spin words - I don't know if you talk to porn stars who spin words - but what does that exactly mean?

MUSTO: It's double talk. It's like I didn't inhale, I never had sex with those women, with that woman - wait, both of those were from the same guy, weren't they. Look, she's basically saying, I don't cheat, but she's not saying on whom. I mean, maybe she means on K-Fed. I'm more confused than Britney when it took her an hour and a half to watch 60 Minutes.

STEWART: OK., I got that one. Yes, got it. As long as we're talking about - let's get off the people who aren't getting along. Let's talk about the people are just getting along famously. We have not talked to you since this whole Britney Spears/Paris Hilton friendship has blossomed. Is this just a match made in heaven?

MUSTO: It's wonderful. I mean it proves the same as the great leveler. I mean, here you have this kind of wild, rich heiress and this self made trash star and they play on the same level field because they both have, kind of, overactive, shall we say, mid sections and under active upper regions. It's like if Grace Kelly was hanging out with Margery Main (ph).

STEWART: Sort of. I had a Freudian slip on the air yesterday. I said they were going to be best friends forever, but I said breast friends forever, but I think I might have been right.

MUSTO: That's not a slip at all. We're now officially going to call them breast friends.

STEWART: The two were slated to co-host the Billboard Music Awards, but apparently Britney pulled out. Does that mean that some P.R. handler got a hold of her.

MUSTO: Oh, I hope this is true, because we have to break up this brain trust of Paris and Britney, and we have to break up all these brain cells and have - maybe put one here and one there. Actually that's it, one here and one there. Also, I hear, Judy Dentch (ph) and Kate Blanchett have a movie coming out and they were very threatened by those two. They were going to sweep all the awards and steal all their prestige. And so this is good news for dame Judy and Kate. I made that up.

STEWART: Michael Musto of the Village Voice. It was good though.

Thanks a lot.

MUSTO: Thank you.

STEWART: That does it for this Wednesday edition of Countdown. I'm Alison Stewart, in for Keith Olbermann. He will be back tomorrow night. Thank you so much for watching. And now kindly direct your attention to Mr. Joe Scarborough from the view, with the view from "SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY."


Tuesday, November 28, 2006

'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Nov. 28

Guests: Jonathan Turley, Jonathan Alter, E.J. Dionne, Mo Rocca

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

Reexamine free speech. Newt Gingrich calls for a, quote, "different set of rules to prevent terrorism." He says this at the Loeb Award Dinner in New Hampshire, the Loeb First Amendment Award Dinner in New Hampshire. Gingrich's call to restrict free speech, especially on the Internet, what it means constitutionally from Jonathan Turley, what it means for a possible Gingrich presidential campaign and possible Republican campaign platform of gut-the-Constitution from Jonathan Alter.

the Republican campaign in Iraq. It's not civil war, says the president, it's al Qaeda.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There's a lot of sectarian violence taking place, fomented, in my opinion, because of these attacks by al Qaeda.


OLBERMANN: It's not civil war, says General Caldwell, it's al Qaeda. Funny, last week, General Caldwell said it really wasn't al Qaeda. As they say, any flip-flop in a storm.

The first outlines of the Democratic plan from Senator Biden. One plus one plus one plus six. One Iraq for the Sunnis, one Iraq for the Shias, one Iraq for the Kurds, and six weeks of Senate hearings to find out how in the hell we got into this mess.

How to get out of another mess. Not just another male pill, but a male pill that restores fertility within a day and can claim no sperm were killed during the making of this pill.

This is not a segue, but were the Bush twins asked to leave Argentina? And what about these twins in best friendship? The battle to be America's bad girls analyzed, as only he can do it, by TV personality and presidential historian Mo Rocca.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's going to be hot.


OLBERMANN: You betcha.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Shake it like a Polaroid picture.


All that and more, now on Countdown.

Good evening from Los Angeles.

It's in the quintessential movie about this city, "Chinatown." Morty the Mortician turns to Jack Nicholson's character and says, "Middle of the drought, and the water commissioner drowns. Only in L.A." Tonight, a real-life equivalent. Middle of a dinner honoring the sanctity of the First Amendment, and the former speaker of the House talks about restricting freedom of speech. Only in the Republican Party.

Our fifth story on the Countdown, it might have been his first attempt to fire up his base for a possible presidential run, or it might have been something more ominous. But Newt Gingrich has actually proposed a different set of rules and invoked the bogeyman of terror.

Gingrich was the featured speaker at the annual Nackey S. Loeb First Amendment Award Dinner in Manchester, New Hampshire, last night, where he not only argued that campaign finance reform and the separation of church and state should be rethought, because they allegedly hurt the First Amendment, but he also suggested that new rules might be necessary to stop terrorists using freedom of speech to get out their message.

Here is his rationalization.


NEWT GINGRICH (R), FORMER HOUSE SPEAKER: My (INAUDIBLE) view is that either before we lose a city, or if we are truly stupid after we lose a city, we will adopt rules of engagement that we use every technology we can find to break up their capacity to use the Internet, to break up their capacity to use free speech, and to go after people who want to kill us, to stop them from recruiting people before they get to reach out and convince young people to destroy their lives while destroying us.


OLBERMANN: If you're going to destroy freedom of speech, bub, you've already lost all the cities.

To paraphrase Pastor Martin Noemuller's poem about Germany in the '30s and '40s, first they came for the Fourth Amendment, then they came for habeas corpus, then came for free speech, and there was no one allowed to speak up.

The politics in a moment.

First, to discuss the constitutionality of this, I'm joined by George Washington University law professor and constitutional law expert Jonathan Turley.

Jonathan, as always, thanks for your time tonight.


UNIVERSITY: Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN: So the conventional wisdom on this is, he's to breathe life into the same scare tactics that worked so well for the president and the vice president until four weeks ago. But could this be more nefarious than just politics? Could any president really gut free speech in the name of counterterrorism?

TURLEY: They could. I mean, it's bizarre it would occur in a First Amendment speech. (INAUDIBLE) God knows what he'd say at a Mother's Day speech.

But, you know, this really could happen. I mean, the fact is that the First Amendment is an abstraction, and when you put up against it the idea of incinerating millions of people, there will be millions of citizens that respond, like some Pavlovian response, and deliver up rights. We've already seen that.

People don't seem to appreciate that you really can't save a Constitution by destroying it.

OLBERMANN: We asked Mr. Gingrich's office for the full speech. To their credit, they provided most of it to us, late relative to our deadline. But let me read you a little bit more of this that we've just gotten, Jonathan.

"I want to suggest to you that we right now should be impaneling people to look seriously at a level of supervision that we would never dream of, if it were not for the scale of this threat." That's one quote. "This is a serious, long-term war," Gingrich added, "and it will inevitably lead us to want to know what is said in every suspect place in the country. It will lead us to learn how to close down every Web site that is dangerous."

Jonathan, are there not legal methods already in place to deal with such sites that do not require what Mr. Gingrich has here called "supervision that we would never dream of"?

TURLEY: Well, there are plenty of powers and authorities that could be used to monitor truly dangerous people. But what you see here, I think, is the insatiable appetite that has developed among certain leaders for controlling American society.

We saw that with John Ashcroft not long after 9/11, when he said the critics were aiding and abetting the terrorists. There is this insatiable appetite that develops when you feed absolute power to people like Gingrich.

And people should not assume that these are just going to be fringe candidates, and this could never happen. Fear does amazing things to people, and it could a sort of self-mutilation in a democracy, where we give up the very things, the very rights that define us, and theoretically, the very things that we are defending.

OLBERMANN: So, and also, when you talk about closing down Internet sites, who is the one who's going to decide which those are? I mean, it could be the Daily Kos, it could be Citizens for Legitimate Government, it could be the sports Web site Dead Spin, for all we know, if they don't - if he doesn't like any one of them in particular.

TURLEY: Well, what these guys don't understand is that the best defense against bad ideas, like extremism and terrorism, is free speech. That's what we've proven. That's why they don't like us, is that we're remarkably successful as a democracy, because we've shown that really bad ideas don't survive in the marketplace, unless you try to suppress them, unless you try to keep people from speaking. Then it becomes a form of martyrdom. Then you give credence to what they're saying.

OLBERMANN: Last question, the specific idea about the Internet. There was a story just today out of Toronto that researchers at a Canadian university developed some software that will let users in places like China that have Internet restrictions, the phrase they used were, "hop over government's Internet firewalls." Might it be that the technology will be our best defense against the Newt Gingriches of this country?

TURLEY: It may be. We may have to rely on our own creativity to overcome the inclinations of people like Newt Gingrich.

OLBERMANN: George Washington University law professor and constitutional law expert, and, I think it's fair to say, friend of the Constitution, Jonathan Turley. Great thanks, Jon.

TURLEY: Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN: Now, the politics of this remarkable speech. Jonathan Alter's thoughts coming up.

First, some data which raises the question, Was this a political step forward for Mr. Gingrich, or political suicide? Or was he dead already, in terms of politics?

A new poll analyzing the so-called likeability of 20 public figures had already put Gingrich near the bottom, number 17, in fact, the Quinnipiac poll asking respondents to rate how favorably they felt, on a scale of 1 to 100, about various present and former lawmakers, many of whom may be running for president in 2008.

Rounding out the bottom of that list, at number 18, the retiring senator from Tennessee, outgoing majority leader Bill Frist, at 19, the incoming Senate majority leader, Harry Reid. And last in the ranking, Senator John Kerry.

At the top of the scale, the former New York City mayor, Rudy Giuliani, Senator Barack Obama, and Senator John McCain, Mr. Giuliani and Mr. McCain already having formed their presidential campaign exploratory committees, Mr. Obama still riding the buzz. Other notables, a surprise showing, perhaps, for Secretary of State Rice, who came in fourth. Former president Bill Clinton landed four spots ahead of his wife, the senator. And incoming House speaker Nancy Pelosi bested President Bush, but not by that much.

Now, as promised, "Newsweek" senior editor, MSNBC political analyst Jonathan Alter.

Jon, good evening.


OLBERMANN: We'll look a little bit more at these "they like me, they like me" numbers in a minute.

But first, read this Gingrich speech for me. Is this fire up the base, or is it set fire to the Constitution?

ALTER: I think it was actually neither. You know, Gingrich is a man of ideas. Some of the ideas are dopey and dangerous. Maybe many of the ideas are dopey and dangerous. A few of them are good. He likes to talk ideas. And I don't think that he was playing the angles here of a presidential run.

He's already said that he's not even going to decide whether to run for president until September of '07. So he's - you know, he's just kind of free-associating, but as an indication, as Jonathan Turley said, of what happens in a climate fear.

In the Civil War, Lincoln shut down newspapers. World War I, Woodrow Wilson shut down newspapers, even put one of his opponents in jail, just for speaking his mind. So these things do happen in wartime.

What's scary is this idea of war without end, because earlier wars in American history, when they put the Constitution on the shelf, it was for a short duration. What some of these politicians like Gingrich seem to be talking about are permanent changes in our system, which are very frightening to contemplate, and also won't do much, if anything, to catch terrorists.

The danger, Keith, is that if there is another terrorist attack in the United States, candidates like Newt Gingrich and Rudy Giuliani will get a big boost.

OLBERMANN: And Tommy Franks, when he was retiring as the general, as

at CentCom, said that his greatest fear would - was that there might be something else that would lead us to, in his terms, shred the Constitution.

Now, but to the politics of this, and actually trying to sell this to people, before the midterms, John Dean, who wrote that shattering book, "Conservatives Without Conscience," said to me, you know, Hey, if the Republicans lose the House or the Senate, Karl Rove and some of the other authoritarians in the GOP are going to say, This is just a passing phase. And sure enough, after the election, the next day, Rove said, This is just temporary.

Is this, to any degree, this speech, any kind of indicator that there's a sizable part of the Republican Party that thinks, Hey, we just didn't scare people enough this time around that this country wants optional habeas corpus and a permeable First Amendment?

ALTER: Well, you know, if they do, then they're cruising for another bruising at the polls, because you have a lot of Republicans, particularly libertarians, particularly in New Hampshire, of all places, who actually do believe in the Constitution, and don't respond well to people from Washington telling them, you know, what they can and can't say.

So I think this will be a divisive idea in Republican politics if he pursues it too much.

But you're right that they will go back to this well of fear again and again and again, because right now, they're kind of out of other ideas. And it's a card, to mix a metaphor, that they're just going to continue to try to play. You will see them playing it.

And I think Rudy Giuliani's popularity, which stems from 9/11, is very much connected to this strain in Republican thinking. The idea, Keith, of his the most likable - for anybody who lived under his rule in New York, as I did, it's kind of like saying, you know, Bob Novak is the most likable journalist in America. It's almost laughable. He has a lot of attributes, but likeability is not one of them.

OLBERMANN: By the way, playing that card, they will let you see that card, or you will see that card only if they let you see that card.

ALTER: That's right, right.

OLBERMANN: You've already addressed Giuliani in these numbers, and give these numbers just a little fleeting passing glance. What about the numbers relative to (INAUDIBLE), say, Barack Obama, and John Kerry coming in at 20th out of 20?

ALTER: Well, Barack Obama, you know, for a guy who, 40 percent, had no opinion because they didn't know anything about him, for him to have these kinds of ratings gives you a sense of what a rock star he is right now, not just in the Democratic Party, but in the country as a whole. His book is a runaway number one bestseller. And people just like him.

I mean, I got a call yesterday from a Pat Buchanan, self-described Pat Buchanan Republican, who said he was for Barack Obama. Now, a lot of that's going to change after people learn more about his positions on things. But he's big.

As far as John Kerry, it's just sad. And I think he's pretty much finished as a presidential candidate at this point.

OLBERMANN: Jonathan Alter of "Newsweek" and MSNBC. As always, sir, great thanks for your time tonight.

ALTER: Thanks a lot, Keith.

OLBERMANN: And another extraordinary statement today, That's not civil war in Iraq, says the president, it's all al Qaeda, a week after a top general in Iraq said, We've got the upper hand on Al Qaeda in Iraq.

And the Democrats' plan to end the war. Senator Biden reveals his solution, boldly laying down the gauntlet to the Iraq Study Group, the Baker commission.

You are watching Countdown on MSNBC.


OLBERMANN: The classic definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results. The quote has been attributed to everybody from Benjamin Franklin, to Albert Einstein, to Sigmund Freud. That should not detract from its relevance, particularly as it applies to President Bush and foreign policy.

In our fourth story on the Countdown, Mr. Bush today once again playing the al Qaeda card, dismissing the mere suggestion that Iraq has deteriorated into a civil war by blaming terrorists for the sectarian violence there, his remarks coming at a morning stopover in Estonia on his way to Latvia for the NATO summit, Mr. Bush altogether avoiding the phrase "civil war" in a response to a question about what the difference is between civil war and what we are seeing now in Iraq. It's said the presidential vocabulary word of the day was "foment."


BUSH: You know, the, the plans of Mr. Zarqawi was to foment sectarian violence. That's what he said he wanted to do. The Samarra bombing that took place last winter was intended to create sectarian violence, and it has. The recent bombings were to perpetrate the sectarian violence. In other words, we've been in this phase for a while.

There's all kinds of speculation about what may be or not happening. What is, what you're seeing on TV has started last February. It was an attempt by people to foment sectarian violence, and no, no, no question, it's dangerous there and violent.

There's a lot of sectarian violence taking place, fomented, in my opinion, because of these attacks by al Qaeda.


OLBERMANN: Later, at a speech in Latvia, Mr. Bush vowing he would not pull U.S. troops from Iraq until a stable democracy takes hold there, the fear card, you will recall, proving to have been a joker, when the president tried to use it this fall to prevent a Democratic takeover of Congress, the incoming speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, responding today seemingly more in sorrow than in anger.


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), HOUSE SPEAKER-ELECT: My thoughts on the president's representations are well known. The 9/11 Commission dismissed that notion a long time ago, and I feel sad that the president is resorting to it again.


OLBERMANN: The resurgence of al Qaeda, at least in Bush administration doublespeak, by no means limited to the commander in chief. Just last week, military leaders on the ground in Iraq were claiming that the fight against the terrorists there has never gone better than it is right now.

Today, some of those same men appeared to be reading from a White House list of talking points.

Our Pentagon correspondent, Jim Miklaszewski, has a reality check for us tonight.



JIM MIKLASZEWSKI, MSNBC PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Keith, there's no question, al Qaeda still remains a threat in Iraq. But U.S. military officials admit, it's not the primary threat by a long shot.

(voice-over): U.S. military and intelligence officials claim it was al Qaeda behind the Thanksgiving Day bombings that killed more than 200 Iraqi Shiites in the Baghdad suburb of Sadr City.

MAJ. GEN. WILLIAM CALDWELL, U.S. MILITARY SPOKESMAN: Al Qaeda in Iraq is looking to dominate Baghdad.

MIKLASZEWSKI: But a week ago, the same major general, Bill Caldwell, said the U.S. military had killed or captured so many al Qaeda leaders and fighters, it was all but incapable of pulling off such a highly coordinated attack.

CALDWELL: Systemically dismantling that organization and taking it down. If there ever was a time when it's more disorganized, it's right now.

MIKLASZEWSKI: And two weeks ago, the top U.S. military commander for the Middle East told Congress sectarian violence, not al Qaeda, is the primary long-term threat in Iraq.

GEN. JOHN ABIZAID, COMMANDER, U.S. CENTRAL COMMAND: And al Qaeda, in particular, in Iraq, is not popular. I don't believe that it can become mainstream there.

MIKLASZEWSKI: In fact, according to military intelligence, al Qaeda makes up only 2 to 3 percent of enemy forces in Iraq, or about 1,300 foreign fighters.


Attacks by terrorist groups like Al Qaeda in Iraq account for only a fraction of the insurgent violence.

MIKLASZEWSKI: But the spectacular nature of those al Qaeda attacks sparks waves of revenge killings between Shiites and Sunnis that further destabilize the Iraqi government.

Whatever the al Qaeda threat, some experts blame it directly on the U.S. war in Iraq.

ROGER CRESSEY, NBC NEWS TERRORISM ANALYST: There was no significant al Qaeda presence in Iraq before the war, but partly due to the administration's performance since Saddam has fallen, al Qaeda now has a role in Iraq and will continue to be there for years to come.

MIKLASZEWSKI (on camera): Al Qaeda was not the reason the U.S. invaded Iraq in the first place. But the Bush administration is clearly out to convince the American people that al Qaeda is now the reason American troops should stay, Keith.


OLBERMANN: Jim Miklaszewski at the Pentagon for us tonight. Great thanks.

If the phrase, It's all al Qaeda's fault, can jump back from the scrap heap of history, why not also the daily dance on the nation's highways between the good guys and the bad girls?

And the latest twist in the O.J. Simpson-Fox saga. Even though Rupert Murdoch killed the project, how did NewsCorp still wind up making a million dollars off of the project?

Details ahead here on Countdown.


OLBERMANN: Seventeen years ago today, Ricki Henderson (ph) of the Oakland Athletics proved it was not going to be a fluke. He became the second baseball player in history, and the second one in a week, to ever get a salary as high as $3 million a year.

Next season, Alex Rodriguez of the New York Yankees will receive an annual salary of $27 million. For last season, the average player received an annual salary of about $2.5 million.

On that cheery note, let's play Oddball.

And you wonder why people wig out (INAUDIBLE) car chases.

We begin in Mesquite, Texas, with the triumphant return of the Countdown Car Chase of the Week. Mesquite Tex-Mex, ahhh. Despite doomsday predictions to the contrary, it's been one of the mildest car chase seasons on record. Checking the Oddball scoreboard for the year, we can see it's low-scoring affair, cops 23, guys who think they can escape the cops, nuttin'.

That's no guy at the wheel of this stolen pickup truck barreling down I-30. There's a woman at the wheel, and they are impervious to spike strips. Well, never mind that last part. Done in by the flat tire, this foxy (INAUDIBLE) makes one last break for it. Out the passenger side, over the wall, and - Uh-oh. Should have waited for the next exit.

If there had been a rowboat there, this might have been the perfect plan. Well, maybe she can swim to the Big House.

Baldwin, Pennsylvania, for another exciting episode of Aren't You Glad You Don't Live Next Door to This Guy? This is not your run-of-the-mill overly decorative, annoying Christmas house story. Robert Cox has actually hooked his 72,000 lights to one of those computers they use at rock concerts, and he's cranking it up for the neighborhood. Yes, in the war on Christmas, this guy is running psyops.

Dude, you are the most rocking culture warrior since Strifer (ph), man. Christmas rules. Whoo-hoo.

Speaking of psyops, the Democrats laying the groundwork for their own vision of Iraq. Senator Biden details a three-state solution and wonders out loud if the Iraq Study Group report will ever even be relevant.

What's the relevance of this coincidence? The president's twin daughters run into rumor, if not trouble, in Argentina. And Britney Spears and Paris Hilton are suddenly the twins of friendship. Mo Rocca analyzes that.

But first, time for Countdown's latest list of newsmakers.

Number three, an update to yesterday's number one. Bob Kearns, the president of the Loma Linda Homeowners Association in Pagosa Springs, Colorado. He'd said the Christmas wreath hung by a resident was an antiwar protest sign, possibly a satanic symbol. He fired the review board when it disagreed with him. He threatened to fine the resident $25 a day unless the satanic symbol was removed.

The Homeowner's Association has now apologized to the resident and acknowledge it was just a peace symbol and, in fact, went kind of well with that Christmas thing about, you know, peace on earth and stuff.

Number two, Charles Sibindana of Vereadinging (ph) in South Africa.

He's been fined $140 by a local judge after he called in sick from work. He handed in what he said was a note from his doctor. Actually, he'd stolen it from his girlfriend's doctor, her gynecologist. He later said he did not know that gynecologists only treated women. Live and learn.

Number one, Jim and Melissa Rittenberg of St. Louis. They bought a $1,600 camcorder at BestBuy in Ellisville, Missouri, last week. Got it home, checked the contents against that annoying inventory checklist. There was a telephone cord, an electric outlet cover, and a jar of Classico Pasta Sauce. BestBuy says it's attempting to resolve the camcorder problem. I'm thinking maybe it's a sign. You guys are supposed to find another camera and use it to make spaghetti Westerns.


OLBERMANN: Any American voter who believes the Democratic party now has a responsibility to hold the Bush administration accountable for its war in Iraq as the price of admission for taking over Congress, no doubt pleased today by Senator Joe Biden's announcement he will be holding a series of hearings on Iraq when he retakes the chairmanship of the Foreign Relations Committee in January.

Any American voter who believes the Democratic party should be holding the Bush administration's feet to the fire for not actually having any real plan for Iraq, possibly disappointed today that Senator Biden has floated a plan of his own.

Our third story of the Countdown, nobody said regaining control of Congress would be easy. Senator Biden, the first Democratic lawmaker to walk the tight rope required in taking on the White House about Iraq. The once and future Foreign Relations chairman telling "Newsweek Magazine" that he is finalizing details for about six weeks of hearings to dissect Bush administration policy in Iraq.

The Delaware Democrat also setting down benchmarks for what he believes the administration should be doing in Iraq, what would seem to amount to a United States of Iraq, maintaining a unified federal government there, while still decentralizing the country to give the three main factions, Sunni, Shia and Kurd, a little breathing room in regions of their own.

Let me call on E.J. Dionne, columnist for the "Washington Post" and senior fellow at the Brookings Institution for perspective on this. E.J., thanks as always for your time tonight.

E.J. DIONNE, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Always good to be here, but I can't top that spaghetti western line in the last segment.

OLBERMANN: Thank you kindly. Maybe this is turning into a spaghetti western in Iraq too.

DIONNE: Right or "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly," is what I'm thinking of.

OLBERMANN: A tripartite state. Regardless of the merits of this plan though, which we'll get to in a bit, which is the overriding political factor here, Biden's proposal answering the right, which keeps saying, OK, where is the Democratic plan. Yet his proposal also might be shifting the burden of cleaning this mess from the Republicans in the White House to the Democrats in Congress?

DIONNE: I don't think the Democrats have any choice. First of all, the Democrats' problem isn't that they have a shortage of plans, it's that they have lots and lots of plans. Senator Biden has his plan. Senator Levin and Senator Reed have a plan. I mean there are a lot of proposals out there. But, as you said at the beginning of the segment, a lot of the people who voted for the Democrats in this election voted for them because they wanted this party to nudge us out of Iraq, to get us, in as their party slogan said, a new direction. So I don't think there is any avoiding offering alternatives. And I think the hearings are a good idea. It's about time Congress has serious hearings, because hearings are a good place to open a national debate on how you try to fix something that has badly wrong.

OLBERMANN: Yes, but six weeks? The Watergate hearings, as I'm sure you remember and I remember well, engrossed the nation, but that went for about seven weeks. It was only 37 business days in all. In this day in age, are people going to sit still for six weeks of hearings on anything?

DIONNE: IT depends on how well they are orchestrated. It depends on who they bring in. It depends on whether they seem to be getting somewhere. But I think serious hearings to open up a national debate on how we move to a different phase are useful and whether it's four weeks or six weeks, you know, Congress time is sort of like dog years, it's never quite the same as six full weeks.

OLBERMANN: By having this discussion, though, does it not speak to the needle that the Democrats need to thread, have to thread, in taking on the administration over its plan for Iraq, that in many ways the Democratic party cannot win for, in this case, not for losing but for winning?

DIONNE: Well, the Democrats have a really difficult rope to walk, a tight rope as you said at the beginning. On the one hand, I think the voters gave them a mandate to push this thing into a different place and to try to get us out of there at the lowest cost possible to us and to the Iraqis. On the other hand, the Democrats don't want to be in a position where if they push us out real fast, the Republicans say, aha, stab in the back. They want everybody to understand that this choice was a choice by President Bush to have this war. He managed the war in the way he did, and then we and the Iraqis got into this situation. So, they need to nudge us out, but they don't want to be blamed for a bad outcome, which this may well come to.

OLBERMANN: And back to our good, bad and ugly, the substance of Senator Biden's idea, it is not a partition per se, but would there not be some kind of mass disruption, reminiscent of what happened when India and Pakistan gained their freedom and they said, OK, everybody who wants to be a Pakistani, you go stand on the left. Everybody who wants to be in India, you go stand on the left. It was mass chaos. Would we not to some degree have that in Iraq if we divided it up in three ways?

DIONNE: We would, although, in effect, you are starting to have that already with the sectarian violence. A lot of people are moving out of mixed neighborhoods if they are in a minority. I think Senator Biden's plan is smart and thoughtful and it probably wouldn't work right now. Smart and thoughtful because the Sunnis and the Shia are not getting along. The pressures pushing them apart are stronger than the pressures bringing them together. The Sunnis can know that the Shia are the dominate group in the country.

The Kurds in the north would just love to have their own independent country. But the Sunnis can't dominate the Shia. The Shia can assert themselves at the cost of a big insurgency. So I think Biden is right to start thinking about how could you separate these folks. He is talking about sharing the oil revenues because the Sunnis have the misfortune of living in the part of Iraq that doesn't have any oil. That's all well and good. The problem is the Sunnis and the Shia don't seem to want partition right now and we're not going to get there unless they come to believe that that's the best way out.

OLBERMANN: E.J. Dionne of the Brookings Institution and the "Washington Post." As always, my friend, great thanks for your time.

DIONNE: Good to be with you.

OLBERMANN: Big news from the world in science, and no, this is not actual footage of sperm. This is the clip from the Woody Allen film. Women have had their birth control pill for decades, but will there soon be a pill for men that will only stop male fertility for short periods of time?

They stopped O.J. Simpson for a short period of time, so how did Rupert Murdoch still wind up making a nice profit of the If I Did It Fiasco? All that and more ahead on Countdown.


OLBERMANN: For generations scientists have worked to take some of the contraception burden on the recipients and put it back on the depositors.

Our number two story in the Countdown, the male birth control pill version 8,476 or so. This would suppress a man's ability to impregnate his partner, but unlike previous versions, it would not make him infertile for weeks or months, but for just days, maybe just hours. It might be five years before this thing hits your pharmacists shelves, but our correspondent Dawna Friesen has the details right now.


DAWNA FRIESEN, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): There has been a lot of song and dance over the years about the contraceptive pill. Since the female birth control pill was introduced in the 1960's, 100 million women now take it. But what about men popping the pill?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think men will be suspicious that ultimately it's going to damage their manhood.

FRIESEN: But these scientists in London say they have found a solution, a hormone-free pill that stops the release of sperm without interfering with pleasure.

DR. CHRISTOPHER SMITH, STUDYING MALE BIRTH CONTROL PILL: It's not stopping sperm production. It's not a hormone or method. It's just simply stopping the muscle which takes the sperm along.

FRIESEN: Men could take a single dose a few hours before having sex, still have the same performance and sensation, but the sperm would stay put, making it more user friendly than other methods already on the market.

DR. NNAEMEKA AMOBI, KING'S COLLEGE: Men have to inject themselves or they have to have implants or patches. So - and that's what men don't like.

FRIESEN: With this pill there is no need to worry. Within half a day, the sperm are on the move again.

(on camera): It's not on the market yet, and it wouldn't stop the need for condoms to protect against sexually transmitted diseases. But if this male pill passes clinical trials, many women will say, it's about time.

REBECCA FINDLAW, FAMILY PLANNING ASSN.: Some women we know are absolutely tired of having to take responsibility for contraception all the time and would be delighted to give that over to their partner.

FRIESEN: Though that would mean trusting them to take it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They'd forget . They'd forget it. Men forget to put the rubbish out. They forget to do the dishes. They forget to pick the kids up at school. They forget to take the male contraception pill.

FRIESEN: Though perhaps the prospect of pleasure without pregnancy would help focus the male mind.

Dawna Friesen, NBC NEWS, London.


OLBERMANN: Well, you could ask us to try. Would that O.J. Simpson's dad had some of those tablets back before the former's conception in 1946, that's segue into our nightly roundup of celebrity and entertainment news. "Newsweek Magazine" reporting that before the Fox network agreed to air an interview publicizing the Simpson confession type book If I Did It, ABC and Barbara Walters were on board to do their own Simpson interview.

The book's publishers, owned by News Corp, had pitched the interview to ABC News. It declined and then an ABC Entertainment arm, which asked Walters to interview Simpson. "Newsweek" cites ABC insiders, who say a deal was struck, but after 10 days, Walters decided the interview was not right for her. That meant ABC had to pay News Corp the unfortunately named kill fee of as much as a million dollars for making a good faith agreement on a project only to ultimately reject the project. So Rupert Murdoch profited anyway.

Will Michael Richards also wind up paying anyway? According to the TV entertainment report the "Insider" the owners of the Laugh Factory want the ill-fated comic to donate $1 million to charity for every time he uttered the N-word on stage 11 days ago here in L.A. That's six million, the owners of the club say, the former Seinfeld star would need to pony up. Now word if Richards would acquiesce. In the meantime, everybody can enjoy this clip from last night's Monday Night Raw, when WWE tag team wrestlers Crime Time proved you can actually make the Richards controversy look good by satirizing it.

That from the WWE, which has made millions out of racial and ethnic stereotypes and bigotry over the years.

Also tonight, were the Bush twins getting a fair shake from the Argentine press? Stories of stolen purses, naked hotel runs, now allegedly a request from our own embassy that they should go home. Mo Rocca reads between all the headlines for us. That's ahead, but first time for Countdown's latest list of nominees for Worst Person in the World.

The bronze goes to Fox News watch, the only program on Fox News Channel that tries to live up to the network's otherwise ironic slogan, fair and balanced. Analyst Cal Thomas named me his journalistic turkey of the year for my observation that his hair may have been colored. No complaint about that, but they misspelled my name on the graphic. And you know, you always look like less of a journalistic turkey calling somebody else a journalist turkey if you don't spell the alleged turkey's name wrong.

Our runner up, the Christian Coalition of America. It had elected a new president, the Reverend Joel C. Hunter of Florida, but he has now resigned after the board told him his agenda was not its agenda and it would not speak to their base, included in his agenda, increasing the Christian Coalitions's efforts to reduce poverty. Yes, Christian Coalition needs to stay away from that or people might begin to think its leaders have actually read the bible.

But the winner Bill-O. And this is a classic. He has brought up that war on Christmas crap again and trashed the retailers Crate and Barrel because a spokeswoman was quoted in a Newspaper as saying we would definitely not say, Merry Christmas. Reaching perhaps his paranoid peak, O'Reilly has said that the imams who were yanked off the U.S. Air flight last week, quote, wouldn't get handcuffed in Crate and Barrel if they started chanting and stuff.

Only one problem, the spokeswoman was asked if employees there were required to say Merry Christmas to customers. She said no, they weren't required. They could if they wanted to. Crate and Barrel didn't think it was any of their business to tell their employees what they could or couldn't say. And oh, by the way, Crate and Barrel has its own special Christmas section listed on its website, under the decidedly secular progressive name Christmas Ideas. Bill-O, you do realize your elevator doesn't go to the top floor anymore, right. Bill O'Reilly and his annual war on sanity, today's Worst Person in the World.


OLBERMANN: It's rare when the world of politics and the world of entertainment fit together as neatly as they do in our number one story in the Countdown tonight. A tale of two pairs of girls, all of them in their mid 20's, all of them famous, all of them providing rich fodder for the tabloids with their latest exploits. In a moment the phenomenon of Paris Hilton and her new sidekick, Britney Spears.

But first Jenna and Barbara Bush. They have regained their party girl crowns thanks to reports from their 25th birthday celebrations in Argentina this weekend. After reports of lack security, a media frenzy and at least one lurid tale in the Argentine papers about the girls running naked down a hallway of their hotel, denied fervently by that hotel, by the way, ABC News reported the situation was so bad that the U.S. embassy asked the girls to leave, which the embassy fervently denies, by the way.

But even though the twins were meant to stay in Buenos Aires until Thursday, according to ABC News at least one, Barbara, is already back in the U.S. and that report, very flimsily backed up by the website Galkers Tip Line For Celebrity Spotting, GalkerStalker, which reports that Ms. Bush was seen with an unnamed man eating Oysters in the west village of New York City last night. No word on whether Jenna Bush is likewise cutting her holiday short or having oysters.

Perhaps she is heading to southern California where the ultimate party girls are now hanging out. Somehow, since she announced her impending divorce from Kevin Federline, Britney Spears has become B.F.F. with Paris Hilton, and yes, with the less hip, that is short hand for Best Friends Forever, they tell me. Hilton and Spears have been inseparable for weeks now, spotted at trendy nightclubs in Vegas and L.A., drinking, smoking, staying out all nigh, and apparently even making peace with Hilton's nemesis, the actress Lindsay Lohan.

Paris Hilton's P.R. guy says that the whole - what would the couple name here be? Parispears, Britris, anyway, he says, the friendship is real, telling the website that the two are like sisters and that Spears is extremely grateful for Hilton's friendship, that she considers the heiress to be a role model, which might explain Ms. Spears' new wardrobe, extreme cleavage, short skirts, underwear optional.

On that note, who better to analyze this strange confluence of girls behaving badly than television personality and author of "All the President's Pets," Mo Rocca. Good evening Mo, thanks for your time.

MO ROCCA, TELEVISION PERSONALITY: Good evening Keith, thank you.

OLBERMANN: We'll get to the new BFFs in a moment, but let's start with the first twins and this rampage through Argentina. You have met the Bush daughters and you know your White Houses. Are these the kind of women who would do things like run around in a hotel naked?

ROCCA: No, certainly not. Look, we have to remember the expression running around in a hotel naked in Argentina is an example of magical realism, a technique that's common in Argentinean literature and journalism. The translation here is they were running around topless. It is simply that. The same press account said that Jenna, the blonde one, was so beautiful that she exploded into flames of fire. Now, granted they were drinking a lot, so they were highly flammable perhaps, but this is hyperbole.

OLBERMANN: The embassy, the U.S. embassy has denied that anybody asked the twins to leave Argentina, but given that Barbara Bush has already been spotted back in the U.S., does that mean someone pulled the rug out from under the party? I mean, if not the Secret Service, then maybe their dad. Or is he blaming their behavior on al Qaeda in Iraq, or what?

ROCCA: Well, no, it's true that Barbara, the brunette, has already been extradited. So once Jenna comes home the pullout from Argentina will be complete. The president is blaming, actually, Argentina's Democracy, because the former Peron regime, of course, was much more red-state friendly. They would have embraced the Bush twins and not let them go home, actually. You know, I would say that - let me also clarify that this sighting you're talking about on Galker, it did say, and I have it right here, that Barbara Bush was sucking down oysters and making out with some guy. This is actually in reference to former first lady Barbara Bush. Right, and we should remember that oysters, of course, are an aphrodisiac, especially after a couple of vodka stingers.

OLBERMANN: I don't have anything to say after that. No, in touch with Argentina, do we get the Falklands. Is there any kind of trade here?

ROCCA: Perhaps that would be great, I love that. That's great.

Argentina has great food. We should all make a trip down there.

OLBERMANN: One more on this thing here. Is the solution for the White House in dealing with the P.R. fallout from the first daughters' antics, keep them in Crawford until January of 2009?

ROCCA: Well, I have one recommendation, a one word recommendation, Broadway. As you said, I have met the Bush twins. They are both actually very, very nice. The blonde one, Jenna, is bubbly. She has an easy laugh. The brunette, Barbara, is a little bit more serious, a little bit brooding, I would say. And so it occurred to me that they would be great in a Broadway production of Wicked, the two of them together.

Jenna as the blond, sort of the good witch Glinda (ph), and Barbara as the brooding Elphaba (ph), who becomes the Wicked Witch of the West, but of course is not all bad. Because they have very, very complicated lives. And it's a very popular musical, so it would run forever, and it would keep them out of trouble, except on Monday's when the theater's dark and then they could go ballistic, go nuts.

OLBERMANN: There is a tradeoff for the matinees on the weekends. Turning to these other girls gone wild. Did Britney Spears trade up or trade down by swapping Kevin Federline for her new pal Paris Hilton?

ROCCA: Well I think neither. I think she traded dangerously. I mean, I think that this is a troubling alliance, if you will. It is a non-aggression pack between these two major powers. And I think a lot of people are comparing it really to the fast friendship between Iraq's al-Maliki and Iran's Ahmadinejad. Now what you have is Britney's Iraq seeking guidance and protection from Paris's Iran. And it seems to make sense. They are both, well, Shiite, as in blonde in this case.

But this has the potential to really upset the whole balance of young Hollywood here. You have got the Nicole Richie insurgency, which is really going to be aggravated. You've got K-Fed and the Kurds. Who knows what they are going to do in Turkey. Lindsay Lohan in Syria and then Mary Kate and Ashley, who, of course, sort of are surrogates for the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. It's a pretty dangerous situation right here.

So I would be very careful moving ahead. Paris has clearly much grander motives here. I think she wanted to dominate the TMZ, if you will. I mean, I think she wants to co-op and eventually destroy Britney.

OLBERMANN: I'd like to point out for the record that you have gotten away with the phrase, Britney's Iraq. And on that note, television personality Mo Rocca, and somehow the title of your book, "All the President's Pets."

ROCCA: And by the way, not wearing underwear and flashing your crotch is strictly against Islamic law.

OLBERMANN: Thank you. The "All the President's Pets" title seems to have taken on new meaning as we were told on our visit tonight. Thank you sir, always a pleasure.

That's Countdown for this the 1,305th day since the declaration of mission accomplished in Iraq. Reporting from Los Angeles, I'm Keith Olbermann, good night and good luck.