'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for February 20
Guest: Robert Menendez, Mike Allen, Tony Bruno, Michael Musto
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST: Which of these stories will you be you talking about tomorrow?
Too secretive, 58 percent think, after the shooting, that's what the vice president is. The administration tries to keep its secretest secret under wraps, its hopes of forestalling a full probe of the NSA wiretapping.
While a bizarre secret wriggles out of a symbolic shipping container. At the Port of New York or the Port of New Orleans, or any of the other four U.S. ports, security for which is now in the hands of the United Arab Emirates. This is a joke, right?
No jokes in sports. Is baseball unofficially banning Barry Bonds?
What happens to a journalist who says the paucity of blacks that makes the Winter Games look like a GOP convention, especially when a kind from the streets of Chicago has just broken the gold medal color barrier in Olympic speed skating?
And will we ever again see a sportscaster as talented and as often as the late Curt Gowdy?
Lincoln, Nebraska, hello. Three-hundred-and-sixty-five-million-dollar jackpot, one winning ticket, sold at a convenience store, in a college town.
And from no-talent singer-husband to no-talent rapper-husband, from no-talent singer-husband to no-talent ex-husband, seeking alimony, desperate house-husbands.
All that and more, now on Countdown.
It sounds like a bad comedy sketch, or an updated plotline from the movie "Network."
In an era in which we are concerned with weapons and sleeper cells and threats, smuggled or theoretically smuggled into this country from Arab nations, the company that manages six fantastically important U.S. ports has just been sold to another company from the United Arab Emirates.
Our fifth story on the Countdown, that queasiness in your stomach at the news is not yours alone. It is shared even by the first head of homeland security, though, ominously, evidently not by his successor.
The U.S. six ports, New York City, Newark, and Baltimore, Maryland, Philadelphia, Miami, New Orleans. The British company, Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation, P&O for short, has been running the ports since 1999. But it was bought last week by Dubai Ports World, a state-owned business out of the United Arab Emirates.
The president says that country is an ally in the war on terror. The 9/11 commission said that one of the hijackers drew money from a bank account in that country.
Sound screwball to you? Not to worry, says Homeland Secretary Chertoff, there are safeguards in place, though we can't tell you what they are. That's a secret.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "MEET THE PRESS")
MICHAEL CHERTOFF, SECRETARY OF HOMELAND SECURITY: We have very disciplined process. It's a classified process for reviewing any acquisition by a foreign company of assets that we consider relevant to national security. This is part of the balancing of security, which is our paramount concern, with a need to still maintain a real robust global trading environment.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: They phrased it differently under Ned Beatty's lines in "Network," but pretty much it was the same.
His predecessor, though, the former homeland security secretary, Tom Ridge, said today the administration should show lawmakers that the deal is not a security risk. "The bottom line," he said, "is, I think we need a little more transparency here. There are legitimate concerns about who would be in charge of hiring and firing and security measures."
Senator Charles Schumer of New York, one of many lawmakers expressing concern, quoting him, "Outsourcing the operations of our largest ports to a country with long involvement in terrorism is a homeland security accident waiting to happen."
This is not dividing by politics nor geography. Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, none of the ports are in his state. We should certainly investigate it. The chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, Congressman Peter King, Republican of New York, said he'd been briefed about the sale of P&O to the United Arab Emirates company, but that the underlying issues were not addressed.
Quote, "How are they going to guard against things like infiltration by al Qaeda or someone else? How are they going to guard against corruption?"
Joining me now, another opponent, who is working on legislation to prohibit foreign-owned or -controlled companies from running American ports, Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey.
Senator Menendez, thanks for your time tonight.
SEN. ROBERT MENENDEZ (D), NEW JERSEY: Pleasure to be with you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: The situation, thinking of it superficially, it seems to make no sense whatsoever. Why is the risk of some sort of infiltration at one of our ports, though, more of a danger because the company that runs it is from the United Arab Emirates rather than being from the United Kingdom?
MENENDEZ: Well, let me just first say that this is a foreign government that owns this company, not a private company. And I personally believe that none of the ports of the United States should be operated by a foreign government.
And in this particular case, the United Arab Emirates has a history that we should be concerned about. Two of the hijackers on September 11 came from there. They are one of only three countries in the entire world that officially recognized the Taliban, which, of course, gave sanctuary to Osama bin Laden to plot and plan the deaths of 3,000 of our citizens on September 11.
This is the country that the 9/11 commission said was a fountain of resources for al Qaeda.
And lastly, and probably the most concerning, when we think about the issue of the port, this is the country in which A.Q. Kahn, the Pakistani scientist, actually smuggled elements of nuclear components to Libya, to North Korea, and to Iran.
If they can't do a good job in their own country of making sure that there was security so it wouldn't become a transit point, why should we let them operate the ports of the United States?
OLBERMANN: So if the goal, though, Senator, is to eliminate all foreign ownership of firms that are providing the security at American ports, how do you do that? Do you nationalize them now? Do you buy them out? What's the actual process?
MENENDEZ: Well, I think that you can - first of all, as it relates to this specific deal, the president can use his powers to overcome what SFIUS, the entity, the federal entity that approved this deal, in terms of foreign investments, I think the president should stop the agreement dead in its tracks. And we only have until March 2 to do that. We have 10 days. And I hope the nation speaks out and says to the president, Stop the deal.
If he doesn't do that, then what our legislation would basically do is, you don't have to nationalize it for us, you just can allow private ownership, but not of a foreign government control.
And that is the fundamental issue here. We have a foreign government. They may have the face of a corporation, but it's the foreign government that owns and will operate the ports.
OLBERMANN: The comments from Secretary Chertoff, is he being unrealistic here? Is he being disingenuous? What's happening with his role as the head of Homeland Security and this issue?
MENENDEZ: Well, Keith, one of the things that worries me about the secretary's comments is, his suggestion that this has to be allowed to move forward, because we want to maintain an international trading order. This is not about international trade. We can trade with the government of Dubai and the United Arab Emirates if we want to.
This is about control and operation of our ports. You know, and the Port of New York and New Jersey, which I've represented in the House before going to the Senate for the last 13 years, we're talking about 145 million tons of cargo. Over half of it comes from foreign countries. And we only inspect 95 percent of it.
Imagine the operations by a foreign entity that could very easily allow a - in that cargo, instead of some electronics equipment, a biological, chemical, or radioactive weapon. That is a risk we cannot afford.
OLBERMANN: Does it feed into a bigger issue that we have talked a tough game about improved security, but for four years-plus, we have been worrying about whether 12-year-old kids from Baltimore might be wearing shoe bombs on airplane flights, and not really worrying at all about this supply of uninspected containers going in and out of the harbors and the ports?
MENENDEZ: Well, you know, the administration talks tough, but sometimes acts weak. This is a perfect example of it. We've already been raising the issues of port security for quite some time. When you have this type of tonnage coming from across the world, and you don't have the process to ensure, and using the technology for greater rates of inspection, it was already a problem before. You now hand over those ports to a foreign government to operate, one that has such a dubious record.
OLBERMANN: Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey, great thanks for your time tonight, sir.
MENENDEZ: Thank you.
OLBERMANN: And more, more hat, less cattle. The president to visit a renewable energy lab in Colorado tomorrow, a high point of the administration's energy week. Except that the company had just laid off 32 of its specialists in renewable energy. The president was in Milwaukee today, hailing solar, wind, and nuclear energy to overcome what he had termed our addition to foreign oil. On the latter point, the president may face no disagreement. It was three weeks ago that ExxonMobil posted record profits for any U.S. company.
As to the trip to Golden tomorrow, the Energy Department hurriedly freeing up funds to save those 32 renewable energy jobs and save the president the political potential embarrassment there.
And as for last week's political embarrassment, a new poll clearly countering the press secretary, Mr. McClellan's repeated assertions that Americans simply did not care about the controversy over the vice president accidentally having shot a cohort, 65 percent, according to "TIME" magazine, thinking the vice president should have taken immediate responsibility for the shooting, and not waited to do so, though a majority of 56 percent do not think he was trying to hide something by waiting to disclose.
Despite that, 58 percent said Mr. Cheney is too secretive, "TIME" magazine also (INAUDIBLE) reiterating much of last week's reporting that President Bush had to push the vice president into talking publicly about the shooting.
And then there is the administration's pet project when it comes to secrets, its warrant-free domestic surveillance program. The White House has headed off a deeper congressional investigation, according to "The Washington Post," by providing leaders with more insight into the program, some lawmakers saying it is still not enough, pushing back for a deeper probe.
Let's call in "TIME" magazine's White House correspondent, co-author of its latest report, Mike Allen.
Thanks for your time tonight.
MIKE ALLEN, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, "TIME" MAGAZINE: Happy holiday, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Your magazine's piece on the shooting incident painted a picture of a vice president who was reluctant, even in the face of pretty broad criticism and pretty heavy nudging on the part of his boss, the president, to speak about this publicly. But how reluctant? I mean, I guess we all gathered he was reluctant.
ALLEN: Right. Well, Keith, a friend of the vice president told me that to this day, the vice president, who spent the holiday today in Wyoming, he'll be flying back to Washington tomorrow. To this day, the vice president and the vice president think that what he did was appropriate, but he recognizes that no one else in the world does.
So for the vice president, that's progress.
And as you mentioned, you remember, Monday, Tuesday, there was no other story. One thing we know about this president, he doesn't like problems that get visited on him. And this whole thing was constraining him. He couldn't come out and talk to reporters, because he knew he was going to get questions about this.
So Wednesday morning, he and the vice president had a quiet talk. And we're told that it was a soft sell. As you know, Keith, one reason this relationship works is there's sort of mutual deference to each other. And he said, you know, I understand this has been crushing for you. He talked about how much he loves Dick, Mr. Whittington. But he said it would be good if this story gets told.
The vice president took the hint, he went into his office with his adviser, Mary Matalin, and they talked about a range of options for getting the story out. One of them was go right into the piranha pit of the White House press room. I know you're very surprised the vice president didn't pick that. They did decide to go with the tough, fair questioning of Brit Hume of Fox News.
And the vice president himself called Brit on his cell phone, he was in a morning meeting, and said, I'm going to sit down with you.
OLBERMANN: Tougher questions, not necessarily any followups, but we can leave that for another journalistic discussion.
Your piece here has also cited a Republican official as saying this showed a weakened president, and a vice president in a bubble within a bubble. Is that one Republican, or is that one Republican representing some sort of group of some size?
ALLEN: Keith, what we heard from Republicans is that they were disappointed and frustrated by the way the vice president responded to this. But today, they feel like the story has turned the corner, they say that the American people have sort of worn out on this story. And they say that the vehemence of the press corps sort of helped them, it sort of helped rebond the president and the vice president. Anytime you have a press corps as an enemy, you're going to be doing well.
And they think that reporters maybe overdid it a bit on TV.
But Keith, what this did was, it sort of ripped the hood off and let you see a little bit about this administration that maybe we suspected but hadn't documented. And you saw the distance of Bushworld and Cheneyworld.
The most amazing fact in the Brit Hume interview, to me, was that the vice president had not discussed the incident at all with Karl Rove, had not discussed it with the chief of staff until Sunday, the day after, and hadn't talked to the president about it until two days later.
Now, Keith, I don't think you or I could get away with shooting somebody and not talking to our boss about it for a couple days. So that showed the very unusual environment that you have over there.
OLBERMANN: It's as if they are time-sharing an office.
Now, but (INAUDIBLE) that, that presidential versus press fulcrum there, is that the explanation for this one statistic from the poll results, that despite the hand-wringing, the VP's approval going down to 29 percent, 65 percent saying he should have spoken up immediately, not waited 96 hours? Is that the inference to draw from the part of the poll that says 52 percent said in general they approved of the vice president's handling of the incident?
ALLEN: Yes, I mean, Keith, what this poll showed me is, it didn't really change people's opinion. It didn't go down to 29 percent, that's what it had been. That's similar to what it was in the last poll.
The president's about 10 points higher. And the first lady, by contrast, is 84 percent. So that'll tell you that.
But, you know, I think, as you point out at the top, two-thirds of people thought the vice president should (INAUDIBLE) owned it up right, opened up to it right away. And it's what we'd want our kids to do. Own his stuff, as my minister puts it.
I think people were very sensible about this. But it didn't change how they felt about this administration. I'm interested in the 48 percent that don't think that the vice president's unusually secretive. And only 5 points more than in November think this administration is more secretive than others. So you never know.
OLBERMANN: Last point here, we've mentioned this here in this, in this news broadcast already, but not detailed it, the push and pull on a congressional investigation of NSA spying. It was reported Karl Rove was pressuring the Republicans, anybody steps on a line, they're not going to get any backing in '06 or possibly in '08. But are there now Republicans and others who are pushing back, saying, We need to have a fuller investigation, or you need to be more open with us (INAUDIBLE) it's your choice?
ALLEN: Yes, Keith. An official involved in the investigations told me today there will be another check on this program. What the White House wants is to be able to keep doing what they're doing, but have somehow, have Congress's authority. So either they'll get it exempted from the law that governed these, or they'll get explicit approval of Congress for it. But I'm told Congress will not be a rubber stamp on this.
So this is a change by the White House. They see where the wind is blowing. They're trying to get on the train, to mix up a couple metaphors for you.
OLBERMANN: "TIME" magazine's White House correspondent, Mike Allen.
Great thanks for joining us tonight.
ALLEN: Have a great week, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Also tonight, not exactly Osama bin Laden's greatest hits, perhaps bin Laden unplugged. An old tape rereleased today with - all right, stretch the analogy - new bonus tracks.
And first the African-American sportscaster said the lack of black athletes in the Winter Olympics made it look like a GOP convention. Then the gold medal color barrier was broken at the Winter Olympics, all just as an announcing veteran of eight Olympics has passed away.
You are watching Countdown on MSNBC.
OLBERMANN: To drag Monty Python's Flying Circus into the fight against international terrorism might seem inappropriate, at best. But more than three decades ago, it was the British comedians who depicted a gangster holding out against the police and announcing, You'll never take me alive, to which the cops say matter-of-factly, Oh, OK. And they proceed accordingly to flatten the house with a 16-ton weight.
Our fourth story on the Countdown, perhaps that would speak to your visceral reaction if Osama bin Laden said, You'll never take me alive. Then you'd think, Yes, but would a dead bin Laden really be preferable to one under arrest? Then you'd rethink it and start looking at the thus-far muddled trial of Saddam Hussein and wonder, What exactly would we do with a captured bin Laden? And where would we do it?
That chain of successive thought is more than just idle, or Eric Idol, speculation. The second half of a month-old bin Laden audiotape has been posted on the Internet. He has said, You'll never take me alive. And as Andrea Mitchell reports, there are plenty in the government who are happy to say, Oh, OK.
ANDREA MITCHELL, MSNBC CHIEF FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In Afghanistan today, anti-Western students demonstrated their support for Osama bin Laden, as an Islamic Web site posted the new threats from bin Laden and Zawahiri, excerpts not broadcast when the tapes first aired on Al Jazeera last month.
Most likely recorded in January, Zawahiri invites President Bush to convert to Islam.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AYMAN AL-ZAWAHIRI (through translator): Bush, despite all your crimes, foolishness, and black history, I offer you Islam.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MITCHELL: An invitation experts say could actually be a warning.
BEN VENZKE, TERRORISM ANALYST: We believe it is part of a greater warning cycle that we would see in the run-up to an attack.
MITCHELL: On his newly released video, Zawahiri also takes aim at Pakistan's President Musharraf.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ZAWAHIRI: I say to him, your American masters are fleeing from Iraq and Afghanistan. So await a day of accounting for the Muslim blood you have spilt.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MITCHELL: And for the first time, bin Laden's deputy brags about escaping U.S. and Pakistani forces four times, a cruise missile attack on an Afghan training camp in August 1998, at Tora Bora in December 2001 after 9/11, a firefight with the Pakistani army in March 2004, and January 18, when he admits his family was the target.
On his audiotape, bin Laden says he will never be taken alive.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OSAMA BIN LADEN (through translator): I have sworn to only live free.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MITCHELL: The English translator is an American wanted by the FBI, Adam Gadahn, seen here as a teenager in Southern California.
(on camera): U.S. officials say the Zawahiri and Bin Laden messages are aimed at rallying their followers and discouraging Americans about Iraq. But they don't know whether it's just propaganda, or a signal to supporters of another attack.
Andrea Mitchell, NBC News, Washington.
OLBERMANN: Also tonight, it's one way to stir up extra business for the oldest profession in the world. Welcome to open house at the house of ill repute.
And the marriage may be over, but that is not stopping Nicholas Shea (ph) from demanding to be kept in the manner to which he's become accustomed. One of two loser-dude stories I'm being forced to cover by my producers here on Countdown.
OLBERMANN: It was 35 years ago today that the wrong switch was thrown at the U.S. National Emergency Center, and all American television and radio stations were ordered off the air to clear the way for urgent national defense announcements. For 30 minutes, everybody waited, then it was discovered it was a mistake, and all the TV and radio stations came back on. Of course, nobody ever really figured out if the mistake was taking them all off, or putting them all back.
On that note, let's play Oddball.
We begin in the red-light district of Amsterdam, which, for the first time ever, has flung back its curtains and had itself a big old open house. Everybody's invited. Bring the kids.
Business owners have become more image-conscious lately and organized Open Day to allow the general public in to see things for themselves. See? It's not so bad. Come, see a prostitute's bedroom, talk to a working girl, watch a free peep show, or sit in the shop window chair, like a real live harlot.
A virtual amusement park of perversion, fun for all ages, but sorry, kids, you must be this tall to ride the rides.
Back at home, Florida, where all that's left of yesterday's Super Bowl of auto racing is the lingering scent of Daytona 500 by Elizabeth Arden, yes, the new cologne in the glass jar with the rubber-tire lid that is said to capture, quote, "the essence of the Daytona 500."
Hard to guess exactly what that essence would smell like, but I'm guessing it's a mixture of gasoline, burning rubber, I smell a little suntan lotion, and that - whatever that stuff is that pools in the grass underneath the Winnebago. Smells like NASCAR.
Auto racing was just about the only sport whose broadcasts he did not dominate, the man who announced a total of 60 Super Bowls, Rose Bowls, World Series, and final fours is gone tonight.
And first he says he's retiring next fall, then he says he's just playing psychological games with himself. Is baseball playing games with Barry Bonds? Is it trying to force him out?
Those stories ahead.
But now, here are Countdown's top three newsmakers of this day.
Number three, Mike Rau, the deputy police chief of Owasso, Michigan. His boys are out there, always watching. Two guys broke into a convenience store, stole beer and cigarettes. Then it started to snow. Two Owasso officers saw the parallel wheel tracks in the fresh covering and followed them, where they found the thieves, the beer, the cigarettes, and the shopping cart they'd stolen to take them away in.
Number two, Joyce Pool. She's with the Ambicelli (ph) Elephant Research Project in Kenya. She's worried by the number of villages there being destroyed by elephants. There's no shortage of space for the elephants nor food for the elephants. She and others are beginning to think the elephants have simply discovered revenge.
And number one, Bruce Carter, aviation director at Quad City International Airport in Moline, Illinois. His pride and joy is one of the five finalists, the only one from an airport, not from a casino or a restaurant, one of the five finalists in the annual competition to decide America's best restroom.
Yes, he's flush with pride.
OLBERMANN: Childhood unofficially ended for several generations of sports fans this afternoon. Curt Gowdy died. It is impossible to comprehend his ubiquitousness in the sports world from the 1960's to the late 1970's. As we begin our third story in THE Countdown, a peck of controversial comments by sports casters and sports heroes alike, consider the impossibility of anyone producing a resume that looked like this.
Curt Gowdy announced 13 World Series and nine Super Bowls, eight Olympics, 14 Rose Bowls, 24 college basketball championships and 16 baseball all-star games. Nearly all of that resume here at NBC. Plus, there were two years announcing the games of the New York Yankees and 10 of the Boston Red Sox. Never overselling, rarely yelling, Curt Gowdy sounded, in the words of essayist John Updike, like everybody's brother-in-law.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CURT GOWDY, SPORTS ANNOUNCER: Last chance for the Steelers. Bradshaw trying to get away. And his pass is - broken up by - it's gone! Franco Harris has it. It is over! Franco Harris runs the ball for a touchdown! Five seconds to go! He grabbed it with five seconds to go and scored!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: And there was a sincerity to the man. NBC sportscaster Al Michaels told me on the radio this afternoon that when he was a student at Arizona State he asked Gowdy for career advice and Gowdy responded by listening to tapes of Michaels' college broadcasts. Curt Gowdy suffering for several years from leukemia, died in Florida today. He was 86 years old.
All of which makes the second story more strange by contrast. Sports is so often a barometer even a harbinger of race relations in this country. A prominent TV journalist like Curt Gowdy, a long time NBC sportscaster, said he had no interest in the Winter Olympics in part because of, quote, a paucity of blacks that makes the Winter Games look like the G.O.P. convention.
It was Bryant Gumbel in the latest episode of his HBO series "Real Sports" that premiered about two weeks ago. On the subject the Winter Olympics, Bryant was identifying himself as among those who don't like them and don't watch them. He mentioned sports based on judging not on game results, he pointed out that many of the reporters don't understand some of the exotic sports nor care about them between the Olympics, then he played an unusual race card.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRYANT GUMBEL, HOST "REAL SPORTS": Tonight the winter games. Count me among those who don't like them and don't watch them. In fact, when Thomas Payne said these are the time that try men's souls, he must have been talking about the start of another Winter Olympics.
Because they are so trying, maybe over the next three weeks we should all try too. Try not to be incredulous when someone attempts to link these games to those of the ancient Greeks who never heard of skating or skiing. So, try not to laugh when somebody says these are the world's greatest athletes. Despite a paucity of blacks that makes the Winter Games look like a G.O.P. convention.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: As the transcript of that inched its I way around the Internet, Gumbel was attacked by far right bloggers. Rush Limbaugh accused him of calling the Republican Party totally racist, which I don't think he said. A writer at the right-wing Web site "Newsbusters" noted Gumbel's remarks perfectly sum up my feelings regarding the Winter Olympics.
But the most far-reaching reaction to what Bryan Gumbel said, Shani Davis of Chicago, son of the south side who ran hope to avoid being beaten up by gangs and other toughs as a kid, winning a gold in the men's 1,000 meter speed skating, the first African-American ever to win a gold in an individual Winter Olympic event.
Putting Shani Davis aside for a moment. He lives in Canada. Many of his American teammates barely know him. What about Gumbel? Did he get a pass? With the exception of Shani Davis, was he right?
I'm joined now by my dear friend Tony Bruno, host of his own national morning show and the unofficial commissioner of outrage in the world of sports. Good evening.
TONY BRUNO, SPORTING NEWS RADIO: Good evening, Keith. I'm not outraged. It's America, isn't it. You can say whatever you want. The only problem is if you're politically correct in a society in which we live and you say something, somebody's going to be outraged. If I went on the air and said watching the NBA playoffs is like watching the Democratic National Convention, I would be hammered all over the place. Depending on which way you lean, you're going to get hammered in this country and Bryant Gumbel is getting hammered.
OLBERMANN: Of course, if you said that about the NBA playoffs and the Democratic convention, no one would know what you're talking about. What is he in this, is he being hammered for? Is he honest? Is he racist? Is he uninformed? What is he in this?
BRUNO: He's very bright. I didn't even know Bryant Gumbel was black, but that's another issue for another talk show. No, I'm just kidding. I don't have a problem with what he said, because I know one thing in our business, if you do a sports show, you don't play the race card, you don't play the politic card, and you don't play the religion card.
Those are three arguments you're never going to win. Because no matter what side you're on, whether you're a liberal or right-wing whack job - whatever you are - or if you're a liberal whack job, like some of my friends here in California. No matter what you say, somebody's going to be outraged.
What he said is it accurate? Are there few blacks at the Republican National Committee? Absolutely. What does that have to do with the Olympics? So he's liberal. He's a liberal guy. Who cares?
OLBERMANN: Rush Limbaugh, got fired by ESPN in part for suggesting that the media was padding the resume of The Philadelphia Eagle quarterback Donovan McNabb because we all supposedly wanted to see a black football quarterback succeeding. Limbaugh hears what Gumbel says, he then predicts Gumbel would get away with it on ESPN or anywhere else. Is he right and, more importantly, is there a moral equivalency between what Gumbel said and what Limbaugh said?
BRUNO: I think it's a fair argument. Rush Limbaugh worked for ESPN Disney, a very politically correct company. They're not going to allow anybody to do anything that's going to make the company look bad. So Rush Limbaugh was rushed out the door for saying the media - we want McNabb to succeed because he's a black quarterback.
I didn't buy that either. I think Rush Limbaugh's about 12 years behind the time on that argument because there's been black quarterbacks in the NFL long before Donovan McNabb. If Bryant Gumbel worked for ABC or Disney, there would be more outrage, because they're not going to allow anyone to get either side of the fence - the Democrats, the Republicans, the race card players, the non race card players, it's one of the three things you don't talk about without getting in trouble, race, religion - and what's the third one? Politics.
OLBERMANN: So the outcome here is what, he should be pointed by those who disagree with him, but not reprimanded?
BRUNO: I don't know. It depends. HBO's his boss. If they don't care, if they say no big deal it will die down eventually, everybody will move on. If HBO wants to suspend him, fine him - I don't know if HBO's issued a statement. Do they think it's a big deal that he's comparing the Winter Olympics to the Republican Convention.
OLBERMANN: They scrubbed the transcript from the Web site. That's the only thing they did. Stand by a second...
BRUNO: Oh, did they?
OLBERMANN: I want to ask you another question about another sports story, Tony, but first, I've got to give the headline.
OLBERMANN: Barry Bonds says he is retiring at the end of the season, unless he isn't. Bonds, 47 homers shy of tying baseball's all-time career home run record, told "USA Today" that he will quit at the end of the 2006 season whether he gets the homers or not. "I'm not playing baseball anymore after this. The game isn't fun anymore. I'm tired of all the crap going on. I never cared about records anyway, so what difference does it make?"
A couple of hours later, he told an interviewer from the Web site MLB.com, "If I can play in 2007, I'm going to play. If I can't, I won't. I'm playing psychological games with myself right now."
Back to Tony Bruno. He's been doing this for two years, I'm retiring/I'm not retiring. He's been the subject of steroid stories for longer than that. It's clear now baseball has, in effect, run its other steroids suspects like Rafael Palmeiro and Sammy Sosa out of the business, out of the game. Is that what's going on here? Have they given Bonds a quit or you'll be banned ultimatum, and he's just freaked out over it?
BRUNO: No, I don't think he's freaked out, because that's the way Barry has been the last years. I talked to Bob Nightingale of "USA Today" who wrote the story, and I said, Bob, did it sound like Barry Bonds really is going to quit at the end of the year? And he said yes. And as you mentioned, then MLB.com interviews him, Seth Everett, and he says an entirely different thing.
I don't know whether this is steroids fear, but I know out here at UCLA they're doing research on human growth hormone, which I think a lot of guys are more concerned about, because they've been able to beat the steroids testing of the past - I think the concern of the future for a lot of these guys is human growth hormone, which Major League Baseball doesn't test for.
So I don't know whether Barry Bonds is hiding, whether he's just lost his mind, whether he really cares, he doesn't care one hour - or whether he's just like you and I, we just don't know what we're doing from hour to hour. Do you know what you're doing next hour, Keith?
OLBERMANN: Yeah, I'm going home. Tony Bruno...
OLBERMANN: .. the host of the "Tony Bruno Show" on Sporting News Radio, with Tony Bruno. As always, my friend, great thanks for joining me.
BRUNO: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Take care.
Also tonight, just one person will collect the entire $365 million from this weekend's massive Powerball lottery. And the still unknown winner could actually be a college kid. Little bastard.
Meanwhile, in New York, a strange and sad end for veteran of "The Godfather" trilogy. A member of the film family killed by a bus. His story ahead on Countdown.
OLBERMANN: It was at a convenience store, it was in a college town in the dead middle of winter. It was with numbers picked by a computer. Our number two story on THE Countdown, somebody won - somebody in Lincoln, Nebraska won the entire $365 million, 28-state Powerball lottery. We're guessing it was a student, hitting a little more than a $15 check from the rents. Our correspondent is Lisa Daniels.
LISA DANIELS, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Of all 28 Powerball states, of the millions who had a dollar and a dream, only one lucky soul here in the nation's heartland is waking up to a new reality, beyond most dreamers' imagination.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I can't even fathom it. I don't know, like, $100 is a lot of money to me.
DANIELS: $365 million. The biggest jackpot of any lottery, ever. The U-stop on this college town's main drag is already reviewing the store surveillance tape, looking at faces who came through last Friday, wondering which one could be the newest multi-millionaire?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If somebody local won, I hope it's a student here in town. That would just be great.
DANIELS: The store phone is ringing nonstop. Cashier Stacy Carey (ph) doesn't mind the attention.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I've been here a little more than a year, and I don't think we've even sold a $1,000 ticket since I've been here.
DANIELS: The store's owner is excited, too. He has got a $50,000 check coming his way. But he's more focused on who bought the ticket.
MICK MANOL, U-STOP OWNER: Hopefully it's somebody from the city mission that's down on their luck.
DANIELS: Whoever won won't be lacking for ideas on how to spend the money.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I would buy myself a Ford F350, brand new crew cab.
DANIELS: The ticket was a quick pick. A lump sum payment would mean an immediate check for more than $124 million. The winner, though, still a mystery, with six months to present the matching numbers to the lottery office in Lincoln and cash in on a dream.
Lisa Daniels, NBC News, Lincoln, Nebraska.
OLBERMANN: Often the sadness of the day's hard news makes the segue tough when we do our roundup of celebrity and entertainment news. This time, it's the other way around. The death of one of the more familiar faces, if not necessarily names, from "The Godfather" films. Richard Bright has died. He was the other figure in one of cinema's most memorable scenes as the henchman Al Neri. He's the one who took Fredo Corleone out for his last fishing trip in "The Godfather, Part II." Mr. Bright had appeared in dozens of movies, including all three of "The Godfather" trilogy. He was truck and killed by a bus near his home in Manhattan over the weekend. An investigation is ongoing. Police say the bus driver was not aware he had hit anyone. Richard Bright was 68 years old.
And how far has the mighty James Bond franchise fallen, when the following line about the star appears at a news item? Quote: "He will continue filming with a gum shield in place." That after actor Daniel Craig had his two front teeth knocked out in his first-ever fight as 007. Shooting the upcoming "Casino Royale" in Prague, a stunt went awry, and Craig took a punch from an extra square in the mouth. Production was only on hold for a day or two while Craig's personal dentist flew in and implanted some new caps. He will continue filming with a gum shield in place. Somewhere Sean Connery is shaking his head in disappointment, but George Lazenby is chanting "I'm not the worst, I'm not the worst."
Also tonight, speaking of the worst, more stories my producers are forcing me to cover. Mr. Britney Spears wants to rap. The new ex-Mr. Jessica Simpson wants her to take the rap, or at least pay some of the bills.
But first, time for Countdown's list of today's three worst persons in the world.
The bronze, the only civilian tonight. An 18-year-old senior in the theater group of the L.D. Bell High School in Hurst, Texas. She was understudying a sophomore in a school play. She really wanted the part, though. She brought the girl a Mountain Dew. The girl smelled something funny, got a teacher. The understudy had spiked the soda with bleach. We'll call the senior Eve Harrington.
The runner-up: Harold Hurtt, the police chief of Houston. He says the city should be blanketed with surveillance cameras, including in apartment complexes and private homes. You can make that argument, but not by saying what he said, quote, "I know a lot of people are concerned about 'Big Brother,' but my response to that is, if you are not doing anything wrong, why should you worry about it?" Because, Big Brother Hurtt, I'd like to remind you that the definition of doing anything wrong can change from time to time.
As an example, tonight's winners, two members of the Homeland Security Department of Montgomery County, Maryland. They actually walked into a public library there in Bethesda last Friday and announced to the patrons that the viewing of Internet pornography was forbidden. One of them actually went up to a guy on a computer and challenged the Web site he was at and said the man need to step outside. A librarian intervened, one who had actually read the Constitution, apparently. The police were called. The two Homeland Security zealots were escorted from the library, but not before they earned the unquestioned status as today's worst persons in the world.
OLBERMANN: It's our fault. Yours, mine, "Newsweek's." We enable these guys, all of us, plus the women. And I'm using the term women merely out of respect who actually married them. Kevin Federline wants to shock and awe you with his musical ability. Nick Lachey wants alimony. Our No. 1 story on the Countdown.
I want to go a whole week without any stories my producers are forcing me to cover. Well this one shot to hell already. They starred in a reality show together in which she didn't know Chicken of the Sea wasn't really chicken. Little could Jessica Simpson have known that term best described her own future ex-husband. Nick Lachey has now filed papers in L.A. reserving the right to seek spousal support from the moneymaker in the family. Spousal support, also known as alimony.
This, also known as the sound of cats being poked with sticks. Mr. Britney Spears, Kevin Federline, the subject of a feature in "Newsweek" about his rap career. Not his career getting rapped for having no career, rap music. He tells the magazine that with his new rap album, quote, "there will be the initial shock and awe."
OLBERMANN: Well schlock and awe. One husband will not go away quietly, the other one does not know to go away at all. We go to our go-to celebrity maven, the columnist of the "Village Voice," Michael Musto. Good evening, Michael.
MICHAEL MUSTO, VILLAGE VOICE: Hi, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Can we get Jessica Simpson to pay Nick Lachey's alimony to Kevin Federline, just to keep him from rapping?
MUSTO: Absolutely, and I'll chip in. And I think I could take up a collection, we'll chip in for this. Don't you think? Shock and awe, it's more like shock and oy. But actually shock and awe is a good description because that's the psychological destruction of the enemy's will. And I know my will is shot. He's well on his way to being the third worst white rapper in history, after Eminem and Vanilla Ice in that order.
OLBERMANN: I'm just amazed though that the arms coordinate on the model. I thought that would be - wouldn't work that way.
MUSTO: It's done with special effects.
OLBERMANN: In his conversation with "Newsweek" magazine, let me just say that again. In her conversation with "Newsweek" magazine, Federline said he was prepared for the backlash, saying his press could not get much worse and asking if he were really all that bad, would Britney put up with it? Do you want to try to answer that question for him?
MUSTO: She wouldn't. I know Britney and she's a woman of discernment and taste and she demands the best, the best bad white rapper, the best partier, the best lazy ass, self-promoter. And she's got it. My Britney doesn't put up, OK, she puts out. And Kevin has grabbed himself a piece all the way to a huge inevitable recording deal. And pigs fly and Dick Cheney wasn't drunk and I'm not going to run a picture of Mohammed.
OLBERMANN: I'm just thinking of this. Finally after seeing this picture again and again of him in that stupid hat, which Gibb brother is he trying to impersonate wearing that hat?
MUSTO: This is so tasteless, but I think the dead one.
OLBERMANN: Yes, OK, well, OK, I agree with you and I'll just let you hang out there by yourself.
MUSTO: Thank you.
OLBERMANN: Should we be giving any credit at all for trying to have a career of some sort?
MUSTO: Absolutely not. I mean, remember Cher's bagel boy who tried to be an actor? He's back to bartending. Kevin should know his place. He's Mr. Spears. Even if he made it, which ain't going to happen, it would be a star is born. Britney would have to drown herself. More likely scenario, he won't make it and he'll be sadder and smaller than ever. Just stay home, know your place, change diapers. It was good enough for my mother until last year.
OLBERMANN: So wait, you compared even in the most remote sense, Kevin Federline to a character played by James Mason. Congratulations on that.
MUSTO: Who Kevin Federline has never heard of. I've barely heard of him.
OLBERMANN: The Lachey/Simpson thing, reserving the right to file for spousal support. Is that him breaking it gently to her, saying those words slowly so she can get the gerbil to start running around in the wheel in her head, so she can understand that he wants alimony, big money?
MUSTO: That's not the usual place for a celebrity gerbil, but there is a lot of room up there for that gerbil. So yes, there's a lot of air up there. That's a great idea. He really needs to plant that idea because she has made a lot more with her screaming than with his moaning and whining and with her big chest and his big chest. And look, I like him. I like Anton LaVey, oh no, wait, that's the founder of the Church of Satan. I like Nick Lachey and I feel that he deserves all the support because he lied, he said they were still together. His looks are fading faster than hers and best reason of all, he needs the money.
OLBERMANN: He has asked in this for miscellaneous jewelry and other personal effects, that they be considered separate property. Is the implication there that he has nicer earrings than she does?
MUSTO: Absolutely. He doesn't have nicer earnings than she does, but he has great earrings and he doesn't want her grubby hands on them. And I hear, actually, the divorce was because he caught her with not only with all of Maroon 5, but she was wearing Nick's necklace and broach and he was horrified. He feels they clash. He also feels they look better on the gerbil.
OLBERMANN: All right, you went for the gerbil the second time.
MUSTO: It all comes together.
OLBERMANN: What is the - if it's not in the head, where is the place that the celebrity gerbil is most likely to be found?
MUSTO: OK, I was tasteless with the dead Bee Gee, and now you're going to go for where does the gerbil go in a celebrity - that's where I draw the line, Keith.
OLBERMANN: And you know what, we're out of time. I'm sorry we couldn't get the answer.
MUSTO: Let me go do my Mohammed cartoon.
OLBERMANN: The incomparable Michael Musto, as always, thanks for your time, Sir.
MUSTO: Thank you.
OLBERMANN: That's Countdown for this, the 1,026th day since the declaration of mission accomplished in Iraq. I'm Keith Olbermann. Keep your knees loose. Good night and good luck. Right over the top of the camera. Our MSNBC coverage continues now with Rita Cosby, "LIVE & DIRECT." Good evening, Rita.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END