Friday, November 3, 2006

'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Nov. 3

Guests: Joseph Cirincione, Richard Wolffe, Esther Kaplan

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

How to assemble an atomic bomb, courtesy the Republican Party. How GOP lawmakers, desperate to prove there were nukes in Iraq, rushed Iraqi documents onto a public Web site, giving the world's terrorists a how-to guide to build their own nuclear weapons.


ANDREW CARD, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: Actually, John Negroponte warned us that we don't know what's in these documents, so these are being put out at some risk.


OLBERMANN: Fortunately, they have shut down the Operation Iraqi Freedom Document Portal. They have shut it down, haven't they?

The nuclear nuts and bolts from Joseph Cirincione, the political This is nuts from Richard Wolffe.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Ask them this question, What's your plan?


OLBERMANN: That's been the Republican campaign plan. But the Democrats do have a lot of plans. If they regain Congress, increase the minimum wage, implement the 9/11 Commission recommendations, and stop the administration from reposting Bob Vila's "Guide to Building Your Own Atomic Bomb at Home."

Haggard, and then some. A top White House evangelical adviser, Pastor Ted Haggard, with a bizarre response to charges he bought sex and meth from a male prostitute.


PASTOR TED HAGGARD: I called him to buy meth, but I threw it away.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How did you know that he would sell it to you?

HAGGARD: He told me about it. I went there...


HAGGARD: I went there for a massage.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As far as just a massage, hey, if that's what he wants to call it...


OLBERMANN: And we call it our November surprise for the campaign race. October's Oddball Political Plays of the Month, as the various candidates claw all over each other in this pelican-eat-pigeon world of politics, where any sound bite may come back to bite you.


HAGGARD: It's a fabulous life.


OLBERMANN: All that and more, now on Countdown.


HAGGARD: Fabulous.


OLBERMANN: Good evening. This is Friday, November 3, four days until the 2006 midterm elections.

And there is breaking news at this hour. An editorial in "The Army Times," "Navy Times," "Marine Corps Times," and "Air Force Times" that will call for the resignation or dismissal of Defense Secretary Rumsfeld. That will come out on Monday. We will go on - in depth on that in a moment.

First, in our fifth story on the Countdown, a November surprise of a nuclear nature. "When our children and grandchildren look back at this period, one question will overwhelm all the rest, President Bush said this morning at a rally in Missouri, "did we do everything in our power to fight and win the war on terror?"

Well, sir, if you personally insisted that instruction manuals on how to build atomic bombs should be put on the Internet so your party could boast about finding nukes in Iraq, frankly, no, the grandkids will say you did not do everything in your power to fight and win the war on terror.

How the Republicans gave away the keys to the atomic store so they could backstop a talking point, thousands upon thousands of pages having been posted on the Internet in an effort dubbed the Operation Iraqi Freedom Document Portal, all the documents having first been captured in Baghdad after its fall, including pages dealing with nerve agents like Sarin gas, and what are thought to be about a dozen pages amounting to a road map for building an atomic bomb, charts, diagrams, mathematical equations, basically everything you'd need except the stuff, congressional Republicans on the House and Senate Intelligence Committees having argued for the need to publicize the documents in the hopes, they said, of leveraging the Internet to find evidence of WMD in Iraq, among those who thought this would be a bad idea, John Negroponte, the Bush administration director of national intelligence, the Republican chairmen of the Intelligence Committees, Congressman Peter Hoekstra of Michigan and Senator Pat Roberts of Kansas, having written a letter to Negroponte last November in which they insisted the documents be released, because the general public could do a better job of vetting the documents than could the intelligence community.

"We are proposing that you immediately develop a process to, consistent with the necessary security guidelines, release these documents to the general public. At minimum, this public assistance could point the intelligence community to the small subset of information that is likely to be of importance. This proposal takes risk, but we believe it is manageable risk."

The president himself then overruling the intelligence experts, like Mr. Negroponte, who disagreed with the House and Congress Republicans, by signing an order, and thus was this Web site born. This, from the commander in chief, making mention of national security and terrorism some 18 times at that campaign stop in Missouri this morning, the president whose administration did not pull down the Web site even when the International Atomic Energy Agency protested that the information within could help rogue states like Iran develop nuclear weapons.

It did so only after "The New York Times" reported on those objections last night, former White House chief of staff Andrew Card admitting to Mr. Negroponte's objections this morning on the "TODAY SHOW," while, of course, attacking "The New York Times."


CARD: Actually, John Negroponte warned us that, we don't know what's in these documents, so these are putting out at some risk. And that was a warning that he put out right when they first released the documents. We pulled them down, and I think the government has acted very quickly, and we've pulled them down. I'm a little concerned that "The New York Times" has advertised them to the world.


OLBERMANN: Yes, I guess they invented the Internet.

Time now to call nuclear weapons expert Joseph Cirincione, author of "Deadly Arsenals," currently the director for nonproliferation at the Center for American Progress.

Thank you for some of your time tonight, sir.

CIRINCIONE: My pleasure, Keith.

OLBERMANN: Two words we've been hearing a lot today about this, "accidental" and "inadvertent," as in, U.S. officials admit some sensitive material may have accidentally been released. Was there anything accidental about this? Isn't there a damn-the-risk element throughout this whole story?

CIRINCIONE: Well, this is a textbook case of what happens when you politicize intelligence, when you brush aside the advice of our own intelligence officials and mock the U.N. officials here, when you decide that your own instinct, your own zeal for proving that somehow, somewhere, Saddam must have had weapons overrides every other consideration.

This - accidental? Accidental homicide is still homicide. This - did we accidentally release this information? Maybe. But the fact is, we released it, we gave terrorists and other nations a road map on how to build a nuclear bomb.

OLBERMANN: Was there, or could there have been, any national security benefit to putting this stuff on the Web in the first place?

CIRINCIONE: Absolutely none whatsoever. Most of this material was a dozen years old, it's stuff that we - that Saddam had had developed before the 1991 war, and had released to U.N. inspectors then, and released again very recently in 2002. There was nothing new here, no urgent material, U.N. inspectors have gone over it for years. We've had a thousand of our own inspectors in Iraq for two years in the Iraq Survey Group, going all - over all this information.

This is a case of congressional zealots, of ideologues, thinking that they don't - can't trust our own intelligence officials, that somehow they knew better. And it shows you what happens. They've caused real harm to the national security of this country.

OLBERMANN: The White House communications director, Mr. Bartlett,

trying to - tried to claim on MSNBC today that the sensitive material was

not information that anyone with a desire to build a nuclear weapon did not

have access to already, that the same types of information were already

available elsewhere on the web. Are either of these things even remotely

true, or is this cut and dried, the president risked the national security

by insisting on this Web site?

CIRINCIONE: And it's absolute nonsense. Look, I've been in the nonproliferation business for almost 20 years, even before there was an Internet. It is a myth that you can go on the Internet and get a design for a nuclear weapon. Go try. Go Google it. You'll get discussions, some of the physics properties involved in the nuclear explosive process. But nothing like what "The New York Times" described, diagrams, charts, dimensions, diameter, fusing mechanisms, description of explosive tests that Iraq conducted.

Many of these diagrams and documents were in - were given over to the IAEA in the U.N. process before the war. They released them after editing that information out, after making sure that there was nothing available. It was the IAEA inspectors now who, once they saw this material posted in September, started complaining about it.

And what Mr. Card did not tell you was that they pulled the information down only yesterday, after "The New York Times" started their story, called them about it. Then, and only then, did they realize that the real damage that they were doing.

OLBERMANN: And in terms of who did damage here, the people who decided, the politicians who decided to put this Web site out, and "The New York Times" for revealing it, who's, who's - who are the bad guys, and who are the good guys in that equation?

CIRINCIONE: The journalists are the heroes. They got the stuff pulled down. This is what we want our journalists to be doing, to exposing these kind of abuses of power. It's Chairman Hoekstra and Chairman Roberts who insisted, against all the evidence, against everything we know, against what David Kay has told us, what the Iraq survey group has told us, there was no nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons in Iraq. They were desperate to try and prove that case, somehow justify this extremely costly and catastrophic war. It's their zealotry that's caused the harm, not investigative journalism.

OLBERMANN: It's absolute madness. Nuclear weapons expert Joseph Cirincione, great thanks for your time tonight, sir.

CIRINCIONE: My pleasure, Keith.

OLBERMANN: For more on the political impact of the November surprise that truly was one, we're calling in our own Richard Wolffe, the senior White House correspondent for "Newsweek," traveling on the campaign trail on this Friday night.

Richard, good evening.


(on phone): Good evening, Keith.

OLBERMANN: What does this do to the Republican message, the president's message of being the party for national security, in the final weekend of a campaign like this?

WOLFFE: Well, at the very least, it diverts attention away from their own news cycle. Obviously conservatives have been very happy about the whole John Kerry story. But more than that, it undercuts a couple of messages. First of all, it reminds people about WMD in Iraq.

And secondly, the president has been making the case that he stands with intelligence professionals on this whole question of interrogations of prisoners and on trials for the folks in Guantanamo. And clearly, they weren't standing with intelligence professionals in releasing this information. So there are a number of problems that the story poses.

OLBERMANN: The end of that letter from Representative Hoekstra and Senator Roberts to Director Negroponte, and as Mr. Cirincione pointed out, they're both the chairmen of the respective committees in the House and the Senate, the part in which they write, "This proposal takes risk," which would indicate that they knew, and that the Republican Party knew, full well of all that could go wrong, perhaps the president understood that too, yet that they were all determined to see this Web site go forward anyway. Are the Democrats going to do anything with that? Is this, what's on the screen right now, a last-second campaign ad waiting to be edited?

WOLFFE: Could be. But, you know, people are sort of maxed out on ads. It's hard to buy the time, and even if you find the time, it's hard to cut through the clutter of all the other ads that are on the air.

But in terms of the last-minute news media cycles, getting officials to have to respond to it, it clearly isn't helpful to the Republican cause. And that's what the real thinking here in these last few days and hours is, really.

OLBERMANN: There is another notable story on national security that just kind of slipped through the crack today, Richard, the Republicans stuck a line in a 1,000-page-long funding bill that will eliminate the position of special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction by this time next year. That's carte blanche for anybody doing that reconstruction, correct? And how in the world did it get passed without the Democrats noting it and screaming about it?

WOLFFE: That's a very good question. I don't know why the Democrats didn't pick it up. But one thing we have seen in polls is a surprisingly high level of support for investigations, congressional investigations into contracts in Iraq. We're seeing, in our "Newsweek" poll, 70 percent, which obviously means more than Democrats and independents supporting that. So, you know, again, a controversial thing on a subject that really has pretty popular support for inquiry and investigation.

OLBERMANN: Richard, stand by a second. We'll get back to you on the phone from the San Francisco area.

But as we mentioned at the top, on Monday, the eve of the election, things are likely to get even worse for this administration. The editorial voice of the four independent newspapers serving members of the armed forces will, in their issue dated Monday, call on the president to fire or accept the resignation of Defense Secretary Rumsfeld.

"The Army Times," "The Navy Times," "Air Force Times," and "Marine Corps Times" say Mr. Rumsfeld has lost credibility with the uniformed leadership, with the troops, with Congress, and with the public at large. Tradition and a deep sense of honor among officers preventing any officers from speaking out publicly, the newspapers' editorial board now believing it is time to do so on their behalf in the wake of the president's announcement that regardless of what happens on Tuesday, Mr. Rumsfeld will be staying for the length of his term.

Back to Richard Wolffe.

Richard, one who assume this would not impact the president's decision making, but would its disclosure the weekend before the election impact the election in any way, shape, or form?

WOLFFE: You know, the subject of Rumsfeld is a difficult one, and especially because he's (INAUDIBLE) now. And you have so many candidates out there who are saying it's time for Rumsfeld to go. So is there an impact? Every time the (audio interrupt) with Iraq and Rumsfeld, there is an impact, absolutely.

OLBERMANN: Richard Wolffe, "Newsweek"'s senior White House correspondent, on the campaign trail in California. Great thanks for joining us.

WOLFFE: Thank you.

OLBERMANN: We'll check further on the Rumsfeld story with our David Shuster in a moment.

And this goes from bad to worse. One of the top evangelical advisers to the White House admits he bought meth from a male prostitute, and says he never used the drug, and only got a massage from the prostitute. Then he threw away the meth.

You had a whole day, and that's the best you could come up with?

And whose bright idea were these? Another day, another electronic voting machine scandal, key computer cards missing from the machines in Tennessee.

You are watching Countdown on MSNBC.


OLBERMANN: After our survey last night of various states in varying states of readiness for Tuesday's elections, it took less than 24 hours for more problems to come to light.

Our number four story on the Countdown tonight, welcome to the list, Tennessee, where the GOP says several electronic voting cards have disappeared, opening the door to voter fraud there.

And there's last-minute confusion in several states where new laws have gone into effect ostensibly to combat fraud, but allegedly to also impose such tight restrictions as to suppress voting by the poor and minorities.

MSNBC's David Shuster joins us. We'll get through this call from the military newspapers for Secretary Rumsfeld's ouster in a moment.

First, the details on the looming computer nightmare.

David, good evening.

DAVID SHUSTER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Keith, good evening to you.

The poor, (INAUDIBLE), the poor, minorities, the elderly, these are groups that tend to be Democrats. They are also groups that are more likely than not in many cases not to have a driver's license, maybe because they don't drive, they don't their car. But this year, a dozen different states are requiring voters on Tuesday to have some of form of voter identification. And in Indiana, for example, they're actually requiring a photo identification itself.

So if you don't have a card in Indiana, you don't work for the state, and you don't have some sort of form of identification, you're in for trouble on Tuesday.

And in Indiana in particular, there are three House races that are awfully close that have precincts, with minorities, the elderly, or people who may not drive, and those precincts, of course, could be crucial in determining the outcome.

And additionally, Keith, we're already getting some anecdotal evidence of major problems with absentee ballots, as far as absentee ballots being challenged. We're also getting reports in a dozen different states now of campaign workers being urged to aggressively challenge voters at the polls if there's any sort of suggestion of fraud.

In Maryland, for example, there was a bitter debate today between the senatorial candidates about a Republican voter guide that urged campaign workers to try and challenge voters, try to challenge people at the polls, the judges, if there's any sort of indication. It doesn't spell out what an indication of fraud would be, it just says that people ought to be aggressive.

In the midst of all of this, and the charges of voter suppression efforts that are flying back and forth, you now already have problems with some of the electronic voting machines. Officials in Tennessee confirmed that a dozen cards that authorized the voting machines to go on have gone missing, and even though officials say that these cards have been deactivated, they could easily be reactivated with a trip to the computer store. The problem is, this could cause massive fraud, both with the voting machines and the people who show up to the polls, Keith.

OLBERMANN: David, let's talk for a moment about this breaking story and what it might have an impact - or what kind of impact it might have on those people going to those dubious electronic voting machines, and the other kinds as well. Is there a particular place where an editorial in "The Army Times," "The Air Force Times," "The Marine Corps Times," "The Navy Times," an editorial coming out on Monday night suggesting Rumsfeld has to be fired or has to be - has to resign? Is there a particular race where that would have an impact?

SHUSTER: Well, let's look at Virginia, for example, where the issue of Iraq is already front and center. One of the things that George Allen, the senator, has been trying to is to say, Look, we need to stay the course, the military supports staying in Iraq. What this does is, on Monday, the newspaper that services all of these military families - and remember, on all these military bases, they're not looking at "The Washington Post" or "The New York Times," the favorite reading is from "the Army Times" and "The Navy Times - when an editorial comes out and says, The military families don't want Rumsfeld in, they want Rumsfeld out, that has a huge impact.

And again, on conservative voters who are looking for some sort of guide, some indication about this election, from the military community, for the leading newspaper, the leading voice of the military community, to say Rumsfeld must go, that is yet another stab in the heart at the whole Iraq war.

And again, that's where it could influence some conservative voters, who may join others and say, You know, the Iraq war has been a mess.

OLBERMANN: We'll see how George Allen responds to that, then. MSNBC's David Shuster, great thanks for joining us. We'll see you Tuesday night.

So given the voting machine problems, maybe this fellow stands a good chance of making it into Congress, even though his entire campaign is centered on pizza.

And from private meetings with the president to private meetings with a male prostitute, Reverend Ted Haggard denying they had sex, claiming it was just a massage. What, masseurs don't usually massage those parts or sell you meth? That's extra?

That's ahead. This is Countdown.


OLBERMANN: On this date in 1948, Marie McDonald McLaughlin Laurie (ph) was born in Scotland. By the time she was 15, she was an internationally known singer, best remembered for the theme song to the Sidney Poitier movie, "To Sir with Love." But she's never been known by that rather imposingly long name. She's always been Lulu, even after she was awarded the Order of the British Empire three years ago, Lulu O.B.E. Or, as she was called by the legendary acerbic New York disk jockey, Dan Ingram (ph), who could not abide her, Ulul. Happy birthday, Ulul.

Let's play Oddball.

And we'd like to end the Oddball week with one more political ad we found on the Internets. And this announcement, even though Josh Jennings is not actually running for Congress, Oddball tonight officially endorses Josh Jennings for Congress.


JOSH JENNINGS: Tired of politicians using their power and influence to fatten their wallets? Then maybe it's time for a new kind of congressman.

A lot of people have been asking me, Hey, Josh, how come you're running for Congress? Dude, do you have any idea how much a congressman makes in a year? Neither did I. So I Googled it. A hundred and sixty-five G's a year.

So if I win, I'm totally throwing a pizza party at my place. Well, my parents' place. But it's OK. They'll be out of town. They go to visit my sister at college all the time.

Let's do this. Let's rock the house, of representatives.

ANNOUNCER: Josh Jennings, a man who gives back to the people.

JENNINGS: I'm Josh Jennings, and I approved this message. Because I want to have a party up in the hizzy with the pizzy.


OLBERMANN: Vote Jennings, he's also for the horsie.

We hope a week-long drama in the Netherlands is over. Today, 100 horses stranded on a small piece of land after heavy flooding struck the area, the herd had huddled together for three days before water finally receded enough for the riders to lead the panicked horses back to dry land. It was too bad, because a few more hours, and the Ark would have been ready.

All right, guys, single file, one at a time. Line up, get your towel.

Oddball's not over yet. Still plenty of time to enjoy choice moments like this one. Yum. A pelican eating a pigeon for your entertainment.

Stand by for the special preelection edition of Plays of the Month.

And what do you get from a male prostitute? If White House confidante the Reverend Ted Haggard is to be believed, you just get a massage, and then a bag of methamphetamine that you throw away.

Those stories ahead.

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

Number three, Bob Perry, the financier of the Swift Boat Veterans for whatever it is they're hallucinating about this week. Next time you hear a demagogue attack George Soros as the man trying to buy the elections, throw this number at them. Federal Election Commission records are out. Soros has been replaced as the biggest campaign spender in this country by Mr. Perry, at $9.2 million.

Number two, Mike Macek, bird curator at the St. Louis Zoo, is asking the media and the public to please stop calling the zoo. It's just an urban myth. A kid did not go into the zoo's penguin habitat and steal a penguin, stuff it in his backpack, leave the zoo, take it home to play with it.

Mr. Macek points out that though they do look as once described like those flightless comical webfooted little bastards, they do not tolerate being handled, and they would have bitten anybody trying to penguin-nap them.

So are you saying a child was mauled by a penguin at your zoo?

Number one, Jeffrey S. Pagar of Fort Lauderdale, another one of our dumb criminals making a common but classic mistake. Held up the Sun Trust Bank on Northwest Ninth Avenue this morning, made off with more than $1,000, and tried to escape in a cab he had taken to the bank and had asked to wait for him.

Mr. Pagar was quickly caught, because, as we remind everybody who tries this particular getaway without thinking it through, cabs have ID numbers and phone numbers and company names on the side, and the drivers all have those radios, and cabs in which they can drive your behind to jail.


OLBERMANN: Ted Haggard, a top Evangelical advisor to the White House, former leader of a group representing 30 million American Evangelicals, today cleared up the allegations against him. Our third story in the Countdown it turns out the Reverend Haggard merely bought methamphetamine and called a gay prostitute just for a massage.

So, now that's cleared up, we can all move - what? More? You want more? Well, you're not the only glutton for punished, then. Just last night he denied all the charges leveled by 49-year-old Mike Jones.


TED HAGGARD, FMR PRES NATL ASSOC OF EVANGELICALS: No, I do not know Mike Jones. I don't know that I know any gay men in Denver.


OLBERMANN: But today, Haggard submitted to the media again, wife at his side, and changed that part of the story.


HAGGARD: Well, we can't get into much. We're a little late for an appointment.


HAGGARD: But, as we talked the other night, we're so grateful that he failed the polygraph test this morning, and - my accuser did. And we have gathered together this outside board of overseers and they're going through the process of investigation and finding out what needs to be done to me. You know, I've put myself on an extended - what do we call it?


HAGGARD: Suspension of my senior pastor's a role. I resigned from the NAE because both of those roles are based on trust and right now my trust is questionable.

QUESTION: Right. And the man who's making accusations, Mike Jones, did fail part of the polygraph test. It showed deception about having any kind of a relationship. He did not fail or did not directly address the aspect of any use of illegal drugs.

HAGGARD: Yeah, and all of that.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That is another question that's out there.

HAGGARD: All that's got to be processed through and I'm sure they're going to do that.

QUESTION: And I know that Nicole ask you to deny it, but I have to ask you again. Have you used meth?

HAGGARD: No, I have not.

QUESTION: OK. And the voice expert that is in Denver hired by KUSA (ph) has matched now 18 of the words left on the voicemail message, I.D.ed your voice.

HAGGARD: Yeah, I did call him. I did call him.

QUESTION: And what did you call him about?

HAGGARD: I called him to buy some meth, but I threw it away.

QUESTION: And who were you buying the meth for?

HAGGARD: No one. I was buying it for me, but I never used it.

QUESTION: Have you ever used it before?

HAGGARD: No, I have not. And I did not ever use it with him.

QUESTION: And did you ever have sex with him?

HAGGARD: No, I did not.

QUESTION: And at what point did you decide to throw away the meth?

HAGGARD: Right after. I never kept it very long because it was wrong. I was tempted, I bought it, but I never used it.

QUESTION: And how did you know he'd sell it to you?

HAGGARD: He told me about it. I was there - I went there for a massage. So - OK, we're late for our appointment. And so, but thank you for your work.

QUESTION: How did you find him to get a massage from him?

HAGGARD: A referral.


HAGGARD: The hotel I was staying at.


OLBERMANN: Denver police and prosecutors, tonight, said they are discussing what certainly sounded there like a confession of criminal activity. As Haggard mentioned, Jones failed a polygraph this morning, although the administrator said the results may not be reliable. And there is this, a voicemail left for Jones by "Art." Arthur is Haggard's middle name. And whose voice is, says at least one analyst, identical to Haggard's.


ALLEGED HAGGARD MESSAGE, AUGUST 4, 2006: Hi Mike, this is Art. Hey, uh, I am here in Denver and, uh, sorry that I missed you. But as I said, if you want to go ahead and get the stuff, then, uh, that would be great.

And then I'll get it some time next week or the week after or whenever. I

will call you, though, early next week to, uh, see what's most convenient

for you. OK? Thanks a lot. Bye"


OLBERMANN: Then there is the issue of how Haggard met Mr. Jones. He said a hotel referred him. Here is what Jones says.


MIKE JONES, MALE ESCORT: I used to advertise as an escort, I no longer do that, but I use to. And I only advertised in gay publications or on gay Websites. No concierge in Denver would have referred me.


OLBERMANN: The story is not merely a case of possible hypocrisy, because Haggard is one of the nation's most vocal opponents of gay marriage, it's a political story because Haggard is one of President Bush's stop Evangelical advisors, participating in a weekly call with Karl Rove's office. But we're guessing here that we will be changing that call in access number.

Let me bring in Esther Kaplan, not only the author of "With God on Their Side" but also a writer for "The Nation" and other magazines.

Miss Kaplan, thanks for some of your time tonight.


OLBERMANN: I'd like to start with your reaction to what Haggard told NBC's Tom Brokaw about his relationship with the White House last year. We'll play that and then get your reaction to it.


HAGGARD: I'll be talking to the White House in another three-and-a-half hours.

TOM BROKAW, DATELINE: About what today?

HAGGARD: I don't know the subject today. We have a regularly scheduled conference call.

BROKAW: They reached out to you?



OLBERMANN: What happens on these calls and how important was Haggard to this White House?

KAPLAN: Well, Haggard was certainly a prominent figure among a coterie of conservative Evangelical leaders who have had tremendous access to this White House. But he's not unique.

When Karl Rove came in six years ago, what he did was institute a weekly conference call for Catholic conservatives and other weekly conference call for Evangelical conservatives. In the Congress there's also these outfits called the Values Action Team, one in the House, one in the Senate where again leaders and operatives from all the top Christian right organizations meet and plan legislative strategy, media strategy.

So the coordination here is top down. If there's something coming down from the White House, they make sure the messaging is going out through the churches through the Christian media empire and it's a very tight knit inside-outside strategy that Ted Haggard was part of.

OLBERMANN: Between this story and it couldn't be messier, it looks like, and the book from David Kuo which, in essence, said the White House using the Evangelicals for their votes and laughs at them behind their backs - could this impact the political fervor of those Evangelicals and even the turnout next Tuesday?

KAPLAN: Well, it's hard to say. I mean, I have to say I personally disagree with the Kuo book. He claims that Evangelicals came to the White House, had a nice, you know, chitchat with the president in the Oval Office every once in a while and came away with, you know, some White House stationary, basically.

But the Christian right has been - has commandeered policy on everything from AIDS to reproductive rights to scientific research to sex ed, they've had a tremendous influence on foreign policy, on Israel, and the "War on Terror." This is not a group that's just being humored. This is a group that's listened to, a group that's really guiding policy. They know that. They're aware that they've never had it this good with any other administration before.

So, hearing that a few politicos in Karl Rove's office may have called them nuts behind their backs, I don't see that as being any big surprise to these folks who are pretty savvy, the James Dobsons and the Ted Haggards and the Tony Perkins and so on.

In terms of the impact, of, you know, the Foley scandal combined with this, I mean, I guess what wear's beginning to see is evidence that the Christian right is wrong on homosexuality. I guess you can't just decide not to be gay. I would trust that Ted Haggard would want very much not to be gay, if he could not be, or to not be tangled up with this escort, but clearly there's something more innate going on that the Christian right has been denying for a long time.

Whether that's going to affect things next Tuesday, I don't know. But in the long run, I think that the - we're beginning to see trends that the conservative Evangelical voting populace is not as riled up about opposing gay marriages as they were.

OLBERMANN: And we'll see how that plays out, particularly, in Colorado next Tuesday.

Esther Kaplan, the author of "With God on Their Side." Great thanks for your time today.


OLBERMANN: Well, the focus should be on individual candidates next week. The president tries to make this election about parties. Charging that the Democrats do not have a plan. It turns out they actually have several. Talk about an October surprise. You will not believe who is now apparently on the al Qaeda hit list. No, it's not Bill O'Reilly. That's ahead, this is Countdown.


OLBERMANN: The president, who will now face a call from military-related newspapers for the resignation of the secretary of defense, has made this a call and chant at his campaign rallies - ask the Democrats if they have a plan in Iraq. The Democrat's in Iraq and elsewhere, next.

And a little break from the politics, get ready for animals on the attack. Snuggling up with snakes, pigs in a race.oh, hold on, that is politics. Countdown continues.


OLBERMANN: It's been a recurring Republican theme this election: the Democrats are armchair quarterbacks, completely unprepared to actually into the games, merely capable of criticizing the interceptions, fumbles, safeties, lost snaps, off-side calls, intentional groundings, too many men on the field penalties, sacks, forward laterals, delays of game, illegal procedures, unnecessary roughness calls, and trying to replace the referees with their own teammates.

Anyway, tonight in our No. 2 story in the Countdown, the image of Democrat without a plan in Iraq or anywhere else collapses under a dose of reality as our White House correspondent David Gregory reports, not only do the Democrats have several plans for government, they've been touting them all along.


DAVID GREGORY, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Campaigning in Missouri today, the president mocked the idea of Democratic rule in Washington.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Ask 'em this question: What's your plan? The truth is, the Democrats can't answer that question.

GREGORY: The issue of what Democrats would do is a major theme in the final days. On the stump - and on the air.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We need to affect a responsible redeployment of our troops out of Iraq.

ANGIE PAGGIONE, POLITICAL HOPEFUL: I will stand up to the special interests.

PATRICIA MADRID (D), NEW MEXICO: I'll work to get rid of subsidies to oil companies.

GREGORY: Nancy Pelosi stands to be the new House speaker if Democrats win.

NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), HOUSE DEMOCRATIC LEADER: After we drain the swap by enacting reform that is about integrity, civility, and fiscal discipline.

GREGORY: On the Democratic to-do list: Raise the minimum wage, implement the 9/11 Commission recommendations, revise the prescription drug program to lower drug costs, and invest in alternative energy sources.

On Iraq, while Democrats advocate troop withdrawal, the timing of such a pullout is still a matter of debate. Analysts say Democrats are now thinking long-term.

RON BROWNSTEIN, "L.A. TIMES": And that really does give them the opportunity to reshape the political landscape a little bit and just try to set the framework for the 2008 election.

GREGORY: For the president, Democratic rule could make for a long two years.

(on camera): On a campaign trail, like here in Montana, the president talks a lot about the Democratic agenda, it comes in the form of a warning.

BUSH: When it comes to taxes, the Democrats are going to tax whoever they can find.

GREGORY (voice-over): But the White House has bigger concerns about Democrats in charge. Subpoena power.

PELOSI: We certainly will be having hearings and look into how we got where we were, whether it's the war, the cost of energy, and maybe some other areas as well.

GREGORY: Democrats with a plan, assuming voters see it their way.

David Gregory, NBC NEWS, Billings, Montana.


OLBERMANN: Turning our round-up of celebrity and entertainment news, "Keeping Tabs." And apparently Brangelina is in danger and not from paparazzi or over-enthused fans, but from al Qaeda. The "Sun" newspaper in Britain, not necessarily the most reliable of sources, reporting that intelligence specialists are now guarding Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie plus their three children after al Qaeda sent them death threats.

Ms. Jolie is currently filming "A Mighty Heart," a story of journalist Daniel Pearl who was executed by al Qaeda four years ago. The movie studio already moved the production out of Pakistan to India, purportedly to protect the couple from militants. But several security firms are still under contract to protect the family while filming continues on the Pearl story in New Delhi.

So tonight, kissing the snake. What another - what do you mean another story about Reverend Haggard? That is a terrible thing of you to think. Shame on me - you.

"Oddball Plays of the Month" ahead. But first, time for Countdown's latest list of nominees for "Worst Person in the World."

The Bronze to rapper Kanye West. His high-budget video for "Touch the Sky," a loss to "We are your Friends" by the group Justice Vs. Simian at the MTV Europe Music Awards in Copenhagen - after the acceptance speech, West burst onto the stage and launched a profanity-ridden tirade against the judge's vote against "Touch the Sky."

"My video cost a million dollars," he shouted, "Pamela Anderson was in

it. I was jumping across canyons and stuff." West later reappeared on

stage alongside a cardboard cut out of Mike Myers and added "And President

Bush doesn't care about 'Touch the Sky.'"

The Silver tonight to the Republican National Committee. Ever heard of Marina Pacific Distributors? They're the owners of Active Duty Productions. They make porn. Actually, they make porn featuring active U.S. soldiers with titles of the movies like "Fire in the Hole." Guess what? Federal election records show the company's been making campaign contributions to the Republican National Committee.

But our winner tonight, Mark Hyman, the former vice president and right-wing commentator for the Sinclair Broadcast Group TV stations. The man enabled the Swift Boat Veterans two years ago, and who called the French "Cheese-eating surrender monkeys" and was proud of it. He says he's giving up the commentaries at the end of month because "I'm exhausted."

Of course you are, it's hard work carrying that much guilt around.

Mark Hyman, today's "Worst Person in the World!"


OLBERMANN: Finally our way of saying thanks for your patronage. Countdown was the forth highest rated prime time program in cable news among viewers between the ages of 25 and 54 on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday and if you're not of the opinion that there's actually any news in FOX News, we were the first highest those nights. Thus our No. 1 story on the Countdown, the traditional "Oddball Plays of the Month" special pre-election edition.


(voice-over): We begin under the sea.

We begin in Cuba.

And we begin in Michigan.

We begin in Dallas.

We begin in Kandahashi (ph), India.

And we begin with a prawn on a treadmill. Prawn on a treadmill, everybody.

We begin in Adeline, Texas for another exciting episode of "Kids stuck in a restaurant claw machine."

We begin in Santa Monica, California where finally someone has stepped forward to cell toupees for babies.

Now your bald-headed little brat can feel comfortable about him or herself by strapping on Ralph Mouth, or the Lonnie Anderson, or the late Sam Kinson look. There's even a Lil' Kim model for those troubled toddlers.

To India, and roller-skating stunts performed by a 5-year-old.

Look out for - there's a car there. Look out, there's a car there.

Oh, I get it.

President Bush in a pumpkin patch, apparently the president has finally come around on Colin Powell's you-break-it-you-bought-it policy.

BUSH: Now, what do you recommend?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Any one you like.

BUSH: Oh. I'm buying the broken one.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No you're not. You're not buying it.

BUSH: I am buying the broken one.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I am - you are not buying it?

BUSH: Too may be people listenin'.

OLBERMANN: then again, without a stem, that pumpkin is the perfect projectile in the president's new lower budget missile defense shield.

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

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

Aaah! The professor's megaphone! They hate the professor's megaphone!

It's Papero, the world's first baby-sitting robot. Equipped with a high-tech computer and two cameras, the thing can interact with the kiddies, and even take phone calls from the parents who want to check in on the little one. Of course, the first time they tried it outside the lab, mom and dad came home to find Papero on the couch making out with the garbage disposal while the kids were upstairs trying out the cigarettes.

And look at 'em go. Each piggy had its own very cheerleader, as hundreds of fans and gambling degenerates packed the grandstands. And It's The Other White Meat leading through the hairpin turn followed closely by Snausages, and Future Pork Chop, third. Snausages, Future Pork Chop's third and bringing up the rear.

Oh, that's sad. The No. 4 pig barely able to support his own weight, but he's going to make it to the finish line - mmmm, No. 4 pig.

More disturbing video from St. James Park in London where apparently we have the only pelican the world that prefers pigeon to fish.



OLBERMANN: Well, you don't see that everyday.

Elephants love to play mashy the pumpkin. At least these do at the Berlin Zoo. It's a one a year treat for the pachyderms. To get this kind of action, they usually have to wonder into the tortoise exhibit.

Snake charmer (INAUDIBLE) kissed 19 different venomous king cobra snakes to break the record as a crowd of dozens watched on silently hoping to see some fang-on-face action.

A medical team standing by just in case, but he was not bitten, however six of the snakes developed cold stores.

Checking the "Oddball" scoreboard for the year, we can see it's cops, um - you know what, we lost track a long time ago. But no one ever gets away even if they did learn to drive from watching "Dukes of Hazard," because even the General Lee never had to deal with spike strips, which is what did this good ol' boy in, his three-wheeled car incapacitated. Bank booty recovered and this Boss Hog wannabe is off to spend a few years play Daisy in the Big House.

Ever go to the zoo and wonder what do they do with all of the animal poop?

Well, at the Miami Zoo, they've apparently put it all in a room with fancy sign and called it an exhibit.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you know what the goal of this whole exhibit is? It's to have fun. It's for kids to come in here and be able to talk about things with their parents.

OLBERMANN: I guess that's what you get from a man that works at the old Poop Chute.



OLBERMANN: Let me briefly recap the hour's breaking news: Four privately owned newspaper serving the military and service families, the "Army Times," "Navy Times," "Air Force Time," and "Marine Corps Times" will call in an editorial in their issues next Monday, that regardless of who wins Tuesday's mid-term elections, Secretary of State Rumsfeld must resign or be fired, that Mr. Rumsfeld has "Lost credibility with the uniformed leadership, with the troops, with Congress, and with the public at large."

That is Countdown for this, the 1,280th since the declaration of "Mission Accomplished" in Iraq. From New York, I am Keith Olbermann, goodnight and good luck.