Wednesday, March 15, 2006

'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for March 15

Guests: Markos Moulitsas; Thomas DeFrank; Jeff Pearlman; Michael Musto

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

Boy, is that bandwagon getting full. Now it's Republican Senator Norm Coleman ripping President bush's White House staff, agreeing much of it has developed a political tin ear.

The better with which to hear the poll numbers fall further still. NBC poll tonight, the president loses another 2 points, going in the right direction, down to 26, want a Republican Congress elected this fall, 37 percent.

First NSA eavesdropping without warrants, now FBI photography of antiwar protesters in Pittsburgh four months before the war in Iraq had even begun.

Ted Baxter time. Oh, here we go.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE COLBERT REPORT," COMEDY CHANNEL)

STEPHEN COLBERT, HOST: Why do you have a problem with my hero, Papa Bear Bill O'Reilly.

You guys have been going at it hammer and tongs.

OLBERMANN: Well, Stephen, he's an idiot.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (on phone): Welcome to the O'Reilly world.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. You know, you may have gotten the lawyers involved in it, but I - they came after me with the police.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN: Is somebody coming after Barry Bonds? The author of the newest new book on Bonds and steroids joins us. Is baseball getting Bonds through leaks and reporters?

And the story of stories that my producers are still forcing me to cover, Tom Cruise demanding sole custody of his new baby even before Katie Holmes gives birth to it. That would make her, what, a toaster?

All that and more, now on Countdown.

Good evening.

President Bush has often said he does not make decisions based on opinion polls, nor let them govern what he believes. Admirable enough as a principle, but when a prominent Republican senator is now echoing a call for a shakeup inside the West Wing, and new poll numbers come in that are about as encouraging as word that you need nine root canals, it may not really be the most practical thing politically or, more importantly, governmentally.

Our fifth story on the Countdown, Norm Coleman's term was "tin ear."

It's that or a blind eye.

We begin with the numbers, only 37 percent of those surveyed in our new NBC News poll tonight approving of the president's job performance. The disapproval figure, 58 percent, the highest it has ever been for Mr.

Bush.

This may be why. Six in 10 now critical of how the president is handling the war in Iraq, only barely over a quarter feeling the country is headed in the right direction, against that backdrop, Republican Norm Coleman of Minnesota publicly voicing his apprehension about the president's advice, advisers and their team during a week when the buzz inside the Beltway has it that many on the White House payroll might now be suffering from burnout.

"I have some concerns," he said, "about the team that's around the president. All of a sudden, we're hearing the phrase 'tin ear.' That's a phrase you shouldn't hear. The fact that you're hearing it says that the kind of political sensitivity, the ear to the ground, that you need in the White House isn't there at the level it needs to be," the White House firing back today, even at Senator Coleman, maintaining that the only thing it has grown tired of are questions about staff fatigue.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SCOTT MCCLELLAN, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: But this president greatly appreciates the team that he has in place and all that the team is doing to help him his - advance his agenda. If Washington wants to play the parlor game, they can do that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So I can take that as a no?

MCCLELLAN: I'm sorry?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'll take that as a no, there are no staffing changes imminent?

MCCLELLAN: Jim, I just told you that I never publicly speculate about personnel matters. People in that, this room who have covered this White House know that very well.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So that means there could be staff changes imminent, and we wouldn't know about it.

MCCLELLAN: No, that means you're jumping into speculation.

Go ahead.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can we talk about the president's meeting with the Republicans...

MCCLELLAN: One CBS reporter at a time. Go ahead.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Meeting with the Republican lawmakers today...

MCCLELLAN: CBS got any more changes to announce?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But that doesn't mean that they aren't in the works.

MCCLELLAN: Not yet, OK. Nothing imminent, though. OK, fair enough.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN: To discuss the lack of imminent staffing changes at the White House, I'm joined by Thomas DeFrank, Washington bureau chief of "The New York Daily News."

Tom, thanks for your time again tonight, sir.

THOMAS DEFRANK, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, "THE NEW YORK DAILY NEWS":

Always a pleasure, Keith.

OLBERMANN: What some would call the president's stubborn streak, others praise as his steadfastness. When it comes to the performance-slash-fatigue of his staff, should we be praising him now for being loyal to those advisers who've stood by him since the beginning, or should we be saying, he doesn't appear to be willing to accept that there might be a problem?

DEFRANK: Well, I mean, it doesn't matter what I think, it does matter what Republicans on Capitol Hill and within the Washington political establishment think. And both those Republican entities are increasingly privately worried. And I think what you saw Senator Coleman verbalize today what lots of other Republicans who would like to be loyal to the president are saying even more vehemently in private.

I mean, I - the president is a loyal guy, but my view is, the staff changes won't happen till they happen. And then they happen. But it's a little premature, and it's clear the president's resisting. He doesn't like to be told by Republicans, especially Washington Republicans, not to mention reporters, that he ought to be cleaning house.

OLBERMANN: Doing the basic math on the just the position of chief of staff, obviously the toughest of the jobs in that personal spectrum, anyway, Andrew Card is now seven months away from beating the record of Sherman Adams under President Eisenhower for the longest-serving chief of staff in history. And history majors will remind us that things did not end well for Sherman Adams. Is Card in some kind of bull's-eye here?

DEFRANK: Well, I think he's in a bull's-eye, but not a Sherman Adams bull's-eye. Andy Card doesn't have a vicuna coat problem like Sherman Adams did.

But the fact is, think about it, Keith, how the job of chief of staff has changed. And I've covered every White House since Nixon, so I've covered 13 or 14 chiefs of staff.

This is a brutal job. It was a brutal job back then. But when Sherman Adams was chief of staff, you didn't have cable, you didn't have the Internet, you didn't have 24-hour news cycles. So Sherman Adams's job was infinitely easier than the job that Andy confronts.

I think it's - just as a personal matter, somebody spent most of my career hanging around the White House, I think it's cruel and unusual punishment for any senior aide to have to be in a job like that for more than four years.

OLBERMANN: I'd love to talk to you about Sherman Adams and the vicuna coat, but we're going to have to, I guess, refer the viewers to the Web or the history books to get a good look at that story.

Mr. Bush may not be worried about these poll numbers. He may not even know about them. If the thing in "Insight" magazine yesterday was correct, he's only focused on the election itself upcoming and Iraq. But would it be safe to say that there is somebody inside the White House, no matter how tired they might be, or how under pressure they might be, who is looking at this set of numbers and is concerned, to say the least?

DEFRANK: Oh, there's no question about it. The White House is - there is a - it's a bunker at the moment. They're beleaguered, they're optimistic, they're cheerful, how else could they be? But they're concerned. And I guess I would say also, there doesn't seem to be any evidence of some elder statesman around who can walk into the president and say, Mr. President, you've blown this one. We've booted this one. We got to do something different.

Now, the vice president could do that, but I don't know that that's happening.

OLBERMANN: And you've seen at least the highlights of this NBC News poll tonight. What's the one that jumps out at you, the idea that 50 percent are saying they'd like a Democratic-controlled Congress in the fall, and only 37 percent are saying Republican?

DEFRANK: That, that's, that is the, that's the, that's the gold standard of that poll, Keith, because, as everybody knows, the Republicans can control Congress, and usually what they call the generic number is very, very close. And that's a big jump. That basically is a vote of no confidence in Republicans.

But I think it's basically a vote of no confidence in the president. And the only way that people who are disenchanted can make their feelings known are to - is to say, Let's have a change on Capitol Hill, because President Bush is not up.

OLBERMANN: Thus, perhaps, Norm Coleman's remarks.

Tom DeFrank, the Washington bureau chief of "The New York Daily News."

As always, sir, great thanks.

DEFRANK: Thanks a lot, Keith.

OLBERMANN: The president and his party have this to cling to tonight. There is, of course, an evident lack of agreement among the Democrats on how best to capitalize on these woes of the White House.

Take Senator Feingold's call just two days ago for a censure of the president for the warrant-fee wiretap program. The only agreement there, they do not appear to want it. It is coming up with a viable alternative that's the problem. One Democrat on record is saying he would actually vote for the censure motion. That gives Russ Feingold exactly two votes, including his own. The junior center from Wisconsin not alone in believing it is time for his party to get a backbone.

"I'm concerned about the approach the Democrats are taking, which is too often cowering," the senator said. So if not censure, then what? And if not now, then when? The iron never hotter for a strike.

Take this nugget from our NBC News poll, the number I just mentioned,

50 percent of those surveyed saying they would now prefer to see Democrats

in control of Congress. That's more significant than even it appears right

there. That number, the highest it has ever been, 50 percent for either

party. Neither the Democrats nor Republicans in that poll has ever before

have ever before hit the 50 percent mark.

The ins and outs, mostly the outs of the state of the Democratic Party, dissected at length, especially on the liberal blocs, like The Daily Kos. Its creator, Markos Moulitsas, co-author of the new book "Crashing the Gate: Netroots, Grassroots, and People-Powered Politics," joins us now.

Thank you for your time tonight, sir.

MARKOS MOULITSAS, THE DAILY KOS: Keith, it's great have - being on the show. You know, the Daily Kos community loves you, so it's an honor.

OLBERMANN: Thank you kindly.

Describe what you're seeing in your community, in the debate in general. Is there evidence either way on this, or that - are the prominent Democrats too scared to line up behind Russ Feingold, or is Russ Feingold too far out there for most Democrats?

MOULITSAS: I think there's definitely a element of fear. A lot of that is driven by these consultants that really kind of run D.C., run the party, and advise these Democrats. And they're telling them, you know, Don't go out too far. Don't be too partisan. Don't roll the waters.

And the fact is that, at this point, you know, Democrats are essentially at rock bottom. They have nothing to lose. And as you say, the polls are really showing that the people, the American people, are not happy with this administration. And at this point, really, there's not much risk in really strongly opposing Bush and his administration.

OLBERMANN: But it seems to me, in fact, to take the devil's advocate position, that there might be two risks in here that aren't being hit hard enough. The particular issue, the censure, the NSA spying - the poll numbers on this, in terms of outrage in general over that program, are very soft. The majority of Americans still willing to sacrifice some freedom if they believe, and that is the key phrase to this, if they believe it will make them safer.

Does a censure motion in that regard throw the baby out with the bathwater, to use a tired clich,?

MOULITSAS: Well, the issue here isn't whether the NSA is defending the American people, or it's not doing it, or if the law goes far enough or it doesn't. The issue here is that Bush willfully knew the law was there and ignored it. This was in violation of the United States law. If the law does not protect the American people, all the president had to do is go to Congress, say, I need more power, I need more - I need the law, that I need the authorization for the NSA to do these things, and Congress probably would have acted.

But he didn't do that, he just violated the law.

OLBERMANN: But why is it believed in the political reality part of the world, of the community that you - I don't want to say ringmaster, but you sort of sit around watching at all times, why is it believed that a censure motion would be a good thing politically against George Bush at this point, when the one that was against Bill Clinton by the Republicans only seemed to shore up Mr. Clinton's popularity?

MOULITSAS: Well, the Republicans weren't out for censure. The Republicans were out to impeach Bill Clinton. They were out to drive him out of office. Democrats aren't saying that. We recognize that in three years, in two years, we're going to have a Democratic president replacing the current Republican regime. And that's fine. We can wait two years.

What we're saying is that we need send a message to this administration and to the American people that willfully violating American law will not be tolerated.

OLBERMANN: But from your vantage point in the marketplace of ideas among the Democrats and the liberals and the left-of-center moderates, might there be too many trees and not enough forest? Is - putting the president's feet to the fire, whether he deserves it or not, or how much he deserves it or not, is that more important than focusing on November and that statistic from the NBC poll that 37 percent think they want a Republican Congress, 50 percent say Democrat, 13 percent unsure? Isn't - shouldn't that be the thing that sort of overwhelms the purely political debate right now?

MOULITSAS: Well, this is about the pure political debate. Fact is, the American people are not happy with this administration, they're not happy with Republicans. And what they're going to be looking for is, Are Democrats different? Are they offering an alternative? Are they going to do something that is different than what this administration and what this Republican Congress has done?

And unless we stake out those differences, I think it's going to be very hard for the American people to get too excited about Democrats, no matter what they're talking about in the polls today.

OLBERMANN: Markos Moulitsas, the publisher of The Daily Kos, great thanks for joining us tonight.

OLBERMANN: Also tonight, well, OK, here we go, another domestic spy scandal. The ACLU has documents purporting to prove that the FBI spied on at least one antiwar group before there was a war, and apparently without very much cause.

And the latest craziness from my insane producers, stories they're forcing me to cover again, Tom Cruise reportedly wants sole custody of a fetus.

You are watching Countdown on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN: The president's hand on authorization of National Security Agency spying, free of those pesky judge-signed warrants, those you know about. The FBI's investigation of such radical groups as a Quaker Friends meeting in Florida, that you may also recall.

But in our fourth story on the Countdown tonight, a new item you can put under that heading of post-9/11 thinking, Why let the terrorists destroy our freedoms when we can do it perfectly well ourselves?

It's the Pittsburgh perfect picture pickle. In 2002, the FBI monitored members of an antiwar group, the Thomas Merton Center in Pittsburgh, this according to documents released by the FBI under a Freedom of Information Act request made by the American Civil Liberties Union. The surveillance included photographs of an antiwar event on November 29, 2002. Do the math with me. That's four months before the war had even begun.

The once-secret FBI report from that date describes the Merton Center as a, quote, "left-wing organization advocating, among many political causes, pacifism," and that it "holds daily leaflet distribution activities and is currently focused on opposition to the potential war with Iraq."

Further, "There are more than a few Muslims and people of Middle Eastern descent among the regulars."

The FBI, through a statement, essentially says it was looking for one person only, and when the photos did not reveal that person, the photos were destroyed. But a draft letter by the FBI dated February 26 of 2003 describes the Thomas Merton Center as an antiwar group under the title "International Terrorism Matters."

Joining me now, an attorney with the ACLU, has been - who's been coordinating its national effort on FBI surveillance, Ben Wizner.

Thanks for your time tonight, sir.

BEN WIZNER, ACLU: Thanks for having me on, Keith.

OLBERMANN: The FBI says the purpose here was to look for one person, not to monitor an entire group. Is that likely? Does it make any difference?

WIZNER: I don't know, I mean, I saw the FBI statement. I think I'm still waiting for the English translation.

If you look at that document, and I hope that your viewers will look at it, it's posted on the ACLU's Web site, it says pretty clearly that the purpose of the memo is to document antiwar activity in Pittsburgh. And you read significant portions.

You know, the idea that milk-and-cookies peace activists who advocate pacifism are being labeled in a memo "International Terrorism Matters" is not at all excused by the kind of statement the FBI put out yesterday.

OLBERMANN: Let me run a possible FBI argument past you, even for the sake of argument, conceding that the bureau's statement was what's called politely nonsense. The bureau says, Look, we need sometimes to follow a person of interest wherever they may go. We're not sure who he is, we're not sure what he does. Even if he shows up as part of an honest to goodness, as you put it, milk-and-cookies protest, do they have, is there a security issue here, that they have that right to go and follow that person?

WIZNER: Of course they have that right. I mean, no one's arguing that there's a - some kind of constitutional forcefield around antiwar protests or church basements or college classrooms. If the FBI is investigating a real crime, in particular, a real terrorism crime, they need to follow that investigation where it takes them.

But again, you've got to look at the actual documents, not a hypothetical scenario. These documents make clear that the FBI WAS not investigating any crime whatsoever, but was making observations about how peace activists were hanging out with people who looked Middle Eastern.

You know, the only potential crime that's even referred to in these documents is a planned civil disobedience at a federal building. But this is really par for the course for antiwar protests. Absolutely inappropriate and chilling for it to be labeled as "International Terrorism."

OLBERMANN: That draft FBI letter that - the one the bureau says was not included in the investigative file at any point, titled "International Terrorism Matters," with the Merton Center and other peace organizations as its content, is that the focus here? Is that the idea that everybody who is, who was opposed to governmental policy was in the same stew, didn't matter, pacifist, terrorist, anything with "- ist" in it?

WIZNER: You know, we have to look at the broader picture here also. I mean, we have released other documents, this is not the first one, where the FBI has labeled the Catholic Worker group as advocating a communist-like redistribution of resources, that talk about vegans, that talk about Quakers.

And when the administration says, with respect to the NSA spying that you led with, that we don't have to worry about it, this is a terrorist surveillance program, and therefore we don't need permission of courts, we don't need oversight from Congress, whose definition of terrorism are they using? Are they using this one?

If they're using this one, then the program may be a lot more troubling than people even think. I mean, terrorism is defined here so broadly, as anyone really opposing the administration's war policy, that I think it really highlights the need for both the courts and for Congress to play a little bit more of a role.

OLBERMANN: You're mentioning the vegans. That's the first glimmer of an idea in there that I've heard that even begins to justify any of this. I'm a little worried about the vegans.

WIZNER: (INAUDIBLE), I'm sure.

OLBERMANN: What's, what, what do you do next on this? Where else are you going? What else are you looking for? What else do you think is there?

WIZNER: You know, the problem right now is that - and the reason why these Freedom of Information Act requests have been so critical to the public's understanding of what's going on - is that we don't have a Congress that's doing any oversight whatsoever. I mean, their idea of oversight is to read about administration lawbreaking in "The New York Times" and then pass a law to make it legal, whatever they just did.

So these kinds of ways of educating the public, by getting these documents under the public record laws, releasing them to the public, and hoping that the public will do the kind of oversight that Congress isn't doing, either by putting pressure on their representatives to rein in these abuses of power, or by sending representatives to Congress who will do that for us.

OLBERMANN: The ACLU lawyer, in this case, Ben Wizner. Thanks for being with us tonight.

WIZNER: Thanks so much for having me.

OLBERMANN: Speaking of surveillance, if you're going to rob a convenience store, please, spend a little time on your disguise. Please? This is not arts and crafts in summer camp. Please. No crates.

Speaking of dumb, when it comes to Ted Baxter, Comedy Central's Stephen Colbert and I appear to agree on one thing and one thing only. Mr. Bill is an idiot.

Highlights ahoy on Countdown.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN: Well, it's the good old Ides of March, meaning, this is the exact 2050th anniversary of the day the Roman dictator Julius Caesar was assassinated, supposedly after warnings from soothsays to beware the Ides of March. That little slip-up by the emperor spawned a recent theory that Caesar, so bedraggled by illness and exhaustion, yet fearful of suicide, wanted to be knocked off, which would make his most famous assassin, Brutus, all-time dumbest criminal.

So in Brutus's honor, let's play Oddball.

Lend me your ears.

We begin in Pelham, Georgia, with the dumb criminal future Hall of Famer. This is 46-year-old Marty Simpson there, trying to hold up the Quickie Mart. Little tough to make out his face in the video on account of the milk crate he has on his head. A four-gallon milk crate, covering a half-gallon brain. Mr. Simpson was arrested shortly after leaving the store despite the ingenious disguise. Somehow people still recognized him. Of course.

Marty, is that you? Get that milk crate off your head.

Hiroshima and the Kuash (ph) Japanese robot of the day. Domo arigato Mr. Robot Carp, a fully remote-controlled electronic fish, designed to dive and swim around a tiny pond looking just like the real deal. It's everything you'd get from a real carp at only 200 times the price.

Plus, it never eats, it never sleeps, it can't be bargained with, it can't be reasoned with. It's an orange-spotted killing machine that won't stop until every other fish in that pond is dead. So they've got a few bugs to work out before it's available on the mass market.

Speaking of manmade creatures, Barry Bonds, and a second book linking him to steroid use. The author joins us.

No drugs for him. He's a Scientologist. So there's got to be some other explanation behind Tom Cruise's reported demand, sole custody of his yet-unborn child.

Those stories ahead.

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

Number three, the Swan, a pub in Ipswich, England, has been fined two pounds a year because a murder was committed on the premises. The murder occurred in 1664. Maybe the bill got lost in the mail. That's what I'm thinking.

Number two, Travis Maassen of LaCrosse, Wisconsin. The 20-year-old prankster awoke the other morning covered head to toe with syrup and dry oatmeal. He did not take it well. He got a gun and went after the guy who dipped him. Fortunately, he did not fire the gun. He has been arrested and given a shower.

And number one, this guy, a burglar in Jamestown, North Carolina. First, the guy with the crate, now him. When, oh, when will we get smarter criminals? This one robbed a convenience store wearing socks on his hands so he wouldn't leave fingerprints. But he did not cover his face so he wouldn't leave video evidence. They dubbed him the Tube Sock Bandit, and I'm guessing he's probably still walking around town still wearing the tube socks.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN: More important than the news last spring that Mark Felt had been identified as "Deep Throat" three decades after Watergate, was the fact that his motive was also identified. He and the FBI agents investigating the scandal felt stymied, felt they were being blocked from pursuing justice so they slipped the evidence out the back door via Felt's favorite reporter, a Mr. Woodward.

Our third story on the Countdown, is that what we're seeing today in baseball on the subject of Barry Bonds and the unauthorized performance enhancing drugs? If there's a steroidgate is there a "Deep Syringe" somewhere? This much for sure, there have been no new books about Bonds and steroids today. The author of the most recent one, from yesterday, joins me in a moment.

As reports and rumors continue to swirl, the baseball commissioner, Bud Selig, may suspend Bonds before opening day, a congressman has contacted Selig about more investigations. Bonds, today, hit his third homerun of the exhibition season. And the baseball superstar to whom Bonds reportedly told of his intent to roid (ph) up after the 1998 season, has made a curious denial that the conversation ever happy - happened. Ken Griffey Jr. telling reporters, quote, "I've been to Barry's house, he's been to my house since kids. That's nothing new. But the conversation that supposedly happened, I don't remember ever happening. I don't remember ever happening. That's it I just don't remember us every talking about the uses of any performance enhancing drugs." Griffey's "I can't recall" comes in response to Jeff Pearlman's new book "Love Me, Hate Me: Barry Bonds and the Making of an Anti-Hero" excerpted this week in "ESPN" the magazine. The book in stores on May 30 and Jeff Pearlman joins us now.

Thanks for your time tonight, sir.

JEFF PEARLMAN, AUTHOR "LOVE ME, HATE ME": Oh, thanks for having me.

OLBERMANN: Howard Bryant from the "Washington Post" who wrote his own book on steroids called "Juicing the Game," was with us last night and told us that he'd heard the Bonds tells Griffey's story too, couldn't confirm it, left it out of what he wrote. Give me your reaction to Griffey's denial of the story in your book, or at least his inability to remember it and his further statement that he believes Bonds doesn't use steroids.

PEARLMAN: Well, first of all, I mean, I understand Griffey's concern. Here's a guy, he's very close friends with Bonds, he's known him a long time and I think he's probably looking out for a friend. But, you know, the idea that Ken Griffey doesn't think Barry Bonds has used steroids after everything that's come out, after it's been proven beyond any shadow of doubt, is just ludicrous. You know, I chalk it up to a guy just being loyal to his friend.

And, you know, the thing about it that always bothers me, and that really bothers me here, is Griffey is actually a victim of everything that Bonds has done. Because Griffey was equal the player of Bonds before Bonds started using, you know, and Griffey never used.

OLBERMANN: I made this analogy before as we began this segment to the motive that we learned from Mark Felt's actions as "Deep Throat" three decades ago, that the bureaucracy was keeping the FBI from investigating Watergate so he simply slipped stuff into the public record via reporter. Your book is coming out, the one from the two San "Francisco Chronicle" reporters is coming out. Could something like this be happening to Barry Bonds? Could there be people in baseball seeking to punish Bonds, but are hamstrung by the players association who instead want to settle for some sort of trial in the court of public opinion?

PEARLMAN: You know, I think so to some degree. I mean, people are always complaining that, you know, a lot of people complain - why is this happening to Barry Bonds and it didn't happen to McGuire or it didn't happen to Sosa? And I think one thing with Barry Bonds is he has nobody and I mean absolutely nobody who is loyal to him besides his paid employees. So, it's not like people fell like, oh this is a good guy and I need to look out for him. Nobody feels that sense of loyalty to Barry. So, if someone has stuff on him, maybe people don't feel comfortable saying it on the record, maybe they don't feel comfortable coming out, you know, and writing their own account, you know, first person account of it,, but they do feel comfortable, especially now, sort of, gradually slipping it to people. And that's a lot of what I got in my book.

OLBERMANN: And by the way, as in a side (ph), the question of why it's just happening to Bonds, a year ago Friday, Mark McGuire cut his throat from ear to ear at the congressional hearing. Raphael Palmero is not in baseball anymore, Sammy Sosa has been squeezed out whether he did it to himself or baseball did it. It's happening to everybody one way or the other.

But on Griffey and Bonds and this of a long-standing friendship and the longstanding rivalry and Griffey as a protege of Bonds. We found this interview from 1994 with Bonds and Griffey on the "Today Show" talking about the runs Griffey was making in that season at the then record of 61 homers. Listen to this, I have a question about it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARRY BONDS, BASEBALL PLAYER: And when you look in the newspaper and see Junior with 33 homeruns, that inspires you to want to hit - to try to keep up with him so it doesn't make you look bad.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN: Apart from the fact that that's several hat sizes ago for Mr. Bonds, does it speak to the core of why, if Bonds indeed turned to steroids, he not only did that, but would have told Griffey about it?

PEARLMAN: Well first of all, there's no, you know, "if" Bonds turned to steroids.

OLBERMANN: Yeah, I'm just doing that for courtesy.

PEARLMAN: You know, that's very nice of you. But unquestionably, I mean, I don't think, you know, as I found out in writing this biography, Griffey did this - I mean, Bonds did this, No. 1 out of jealousy. He looked at McGuire and he looked at Sosa, he saw what was going on in '98. The same season that Bonds went 400/400 and nobody paid attention to that. These two guys are getting all this attention for hitting these long homeruns at an insane pace, and Bonds says to Griffey in the off season, this is garbage, this is B.S., I'm getting no attention, I'm a better player than both of these guys. So, jealousy more than anything is the core of Barry Bonds.

OLBERMANN: Since the book excerpts came out, any body give you a further hint as to Bud Selig's plans about Bonds to punish, if at all?

PEARLMAN: I haven't. I haven't gotten anything, but I would be shocked if Selig really does anything, to be honest. I just thing his dream is that this kind of gradually goes away with time.

OLBERMANN: And a congressman now writing him from the state of Washington today, suggesting maybe we ought to have more hearings about why baseball didn't step in earlier on steroids, that's going to make it go away?

PEARLMAN: I just think - I just think Bud Selig, right now, is living in this nightmarish world where everything is caving in around him. And he looks like a buffoon and I think he's probably, right now, paralyzed by just not knowing what to do.

OLBERMANN: Well, he should be used to that. Jeff Pearlman the author of "Love Me, Hate Me: Barry Bonds and the Making of an Anti-hero," and previously also the author of what proved to be a controversial, but absolutely accurate to the last drop article about the controversial former Brave pitcher, John Rocker. Great thanks for joining us, sir.

PEARLMAN: Thanks for having me.

OLBERMANN: Speaking of loving and hating, based on the Colbert Rapport," on the "Al Franken Show," if I could put together 15 minutes of stand-up on Bill O'Reilly, I think I could get me like two weeks in Vegas every year.

And start praying that Kevin Federline makes it big in his music business career plan because his backup plan involves showing his baby maker in public. That's next, this is Countdown.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN: Some men are born expert, some achieve expertitude, others have expertness thrust upon them. Apparently I belong to the latter group. Which topic? The answer is next.

Speaking of experts, when there's breaking Tom cat pre-birth fetal custody news, there's only one person to whom to turn, Michael Muster. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Countdown.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN: An op ed in today's "Capital Times" of Madison, Wisconsin quotes the co-writer of the movie "Goodnight and Good Luck" on the reemergence in American politics of the tactics of the one-time junior senator from Wisconsin, Joe McCarthy. "The poster boy," says Grant Hesloff, "is obviously Bill O'Reilly."

Our No. 2 story on the Countdown, for some reason people keep asking me about him. Me? Why me? Just because he threatened callers to radio show who mentioned by name that they'd be getting visits from FOX security or even local authorities, thus I'm an expert?

OK, I'm an expert. We bring you tonight, from the latest shooting war

during a lull in the action from Al Franken's radios show today and first

from Stephen Colbert's superb satirical show on Comedy Central, last night

the "Colbert Rapport."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STEPHEN COLBERT, "COLBERT RAPPORT": I don't have a problem with you.

OLBERMANN: Good.

COLBERT: I think you seem like a pretty good guy.

OLBERMANN: No, not really, but go ahead with the premise.

COLBERT: Why do you have a problem with my hero, Papa Bear, Bill O'Reilly?

You guys have been going at it hammer and tongs.

OLBERMANN: Well Stephen, he's an idiot.

(APPLAUSE)

COLBERT: You say that like it's a bad thing. I think he sees the world simply. OK? Without all your complicated facts.

I got - Did I nail you?

OLBERMANN: We're both saying the same thing. He's an idiot.

COLBERT: Do you think he should soft peddle what's good for our nation? Oh yeah, I guess if people what to say bad things about our troops, just let them do it. No! He brings it.

OLBERMANN: He just doesn't know what "it" is when he brings it.

(APPLAUSE)

OLBERMANN: He was stridently for staying in Iraq no matter what, then announced a couple of weeks ago that the people are too crazy there so we ought to leave. And then came back and said no, I never said anything like that. There's a certain inconsistency from week to week, day to day - minute to minute with is positions.

COLBERT: Hey except, the only thing that is not inconsistent is the only thing that matters. That he feels he's right.

OLBERMANN: Well, on that point, yes, I can't argue with that, if that's the standard. Yes, then he is...

COLBERT: Do you sometimes think you're wrong? Have you ever said I might have been wrong on this?

OLBERMANN: Oh, yes.

COLBERT: Then why should I listen to you? You're sometimes wrong.

OLBERMANN: Oh. I see.

COLBERT: How can I trust? You didn't know you were wrong at the time. How can I know you are right this time? I - I think that you're shooting yourself in the foot is what I'm saying.

OLBERMANN: I just - I just, I misread that day the list of instructions that I get every morning at 9:00 a.m. from Hillary Clinton and I, you know, I just screwed it up.

COLBERT: I just know O'Reilly's got a good taste in women.

OLBERMANN: Well, all of that is on the record and on tape. But we know about that, but...

COLBERT: Hey, hey, hey, hey, hey, hey that was settled. It is illegal -

I think it is illegal to actually mention - I think it's illegal for anyone to actually mention that ever happened.

OLBERMANN: I believe Bill has said that it's illegal, yes.

COLBERT: Well, isn't it illegal on his radio show, isn't it illegal for anyone to say the name Olbermann on his radio show, now?

OLBERMANN: Apparently so. Apparently last...

COLBERT: Tell me what happened.

OLBERMANN: Apparently last week or the week before, somebody called up and used my name, he cut them off and then explained that they'd be getting a little visit from FOX security. And that FOX security would then contact the local authorities. So Mike from Orlando will be getting a little visit, he said. And two or three of these people who did call up and mention my name actually got phone calls from FOX security. Which is, you know, fascinating if, you know, we're living in, say, Nazi Germany, it's a good idea, otherwise, it's kind of a - you want to arrest people who disagree with you.

COLBERT: So, why are you asking these people to call O'Reilly?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN: Of course, I never suggested anybody call in and try to punk him. A. He's self-punking, no audience participation is necessary. B. Why would I want to you listen to him when I'm on the radio with Dan Patrick at the same hour? Before moving on to Mr. Franken, this observation about Mr. Colbert, his character is so dead on that I really think he could show up substituting for Brit Hume or Neil Cavuto and nobody at FOX News would notice the difference.

Now to today, we join the "Al Franken" show, already in progress.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

AL FRANKEN, THE "AL FRANKEN SHOW": I'm not buying, Olbermann. I'm not buying him.

OLBERMANN: Listen, I remember from personal experience...

FRANKEN: I'm not buying. What are you saying, you're an exception to the rule. I'm cutting you off.

OLBERMANN: I would...

FRANKEN: OK, listen, we're going to take a break now.

(LAUGHTER)

FRANKEN: I've give you the last word; I'll give you the last word next act. OK? We're taking a break. Be right back with this Olbermann guy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN: High profile feuds providing our transition tonight into the world of celebrity and news, "Keeping Tabs." And if you're looking to purchase the infamous Colin Farrell sex tape, keep looking. A judge has sided with Mr. Ferrell refused to throw out his law suite seeking to block distribution of the tape. He says if it got out it would cause irreparable damage to his career. Yeah, like the movie version of "SWAT" didn't do that already.

His partner in the tape, Playmate, Nicole Narain, doesn't see it that way. She says the two never agreed to keep the sex tape private. She's being caused irreparable harm because she can't cash in on sales of the videotape, tryst. So you're saying we know what you are, we're just arguing your profit margin?

Someone needs to file an injunction against Kevin Federline's back-up plan in the event that his rap C.D. flops. We, here at Countdown, provide this warning as a public service announcement. We have played portions of this on the program. We applaud his foresight in developing a career alternative, but msnbc.com Janet Walls reports in her column that K. Fed will fall back on his dancing background in case this all goes kablooey, except this time he's do the dancing at local strip clubs - naked. If that's a reason to run out and buy the C.D. I don't know what the hell is. In fact, get 10 of them, please!

Also tonight, more on the story my producers twisted my arm hardest to cover: Tom Cruise wants sole custody of his baby that hasn't born yet? Michael Musto joins us.

But first time for Countdown's list of today's three nominees for "Worst Person in the World." The bronze goes to two guards from the Securicor Company. Their van, parked outside a bank in a town in Lamcuder (ph), Wales, began to shriek with sirens and prerecorded calls to get the police, get the police. The van was under threat. Take a look. The threat? The two Securicor guards have locked themselves inside their van. It took them an hour to get them out.

Tonight's runners up: The doubters about global warning. Residents of the Western part of South Korea, told by authorities there to stay indoors or wear masks outside because that wasn't just snow falling from the sky. It was a mix of snow and yellow sand. Kids come in, it's sanding outside.

But tonight's winner Canadian, Rush Limbaugh. Another friendly word from the master of courteous political debate, referring to our former colleague Claire Schiffman, now an ABC News correspondent and her husband, Jay Carney, the deputy Washington bureau chief of "Time" magazine, quote, "Clair Schiffman and Jay Carney are slave owner and husband - a husband and wife, if you prefer that and slave master. I take it back. Slave master, not slave owner - slave master and wife," unquote. Yeah, pharmacy, I'd like to order some refills for Mr. Limbaugh. Rush Limbaugh, today's "Worst Person in the World."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN: I want to share something that will shock you. When Tom Cruise jumped up and down on the couch on the "Oprah Winfrey Show," a lot of people didn't buy it. No, it's true, I swear. The No. 1 story on the Countdown, more fodder for those doubting Thomas. Another story my producers are forcing me to cover, Tom Cruise reputedly seeking sole custody of his baby. Which would be real chutzpah considering the child is still inside the mother.

Michael Musto joins us in a moment, first the sundry Cruise and Katie Holmes headlines such as, well, according to the "National Inquirer," they're already married. They exchanged vows aboard a Caribbean cruise on a ship owned by the Church of Scientology, last July. And they will reportedly be welcoming the birth of their child, apparently a boy. That will also take place aboard a boat, presumably the same good ship Scientology on which they were supposedly hitched, unless it's the love boat. Those bulletins from "Star Magazine" and "Us Weekly." And then there's the jaw-dropper, it's from "Life and Style." They're not married, they're not going to get married aboard a ship or anywhere else. And Mr. Cruise has asked his baby's mother for sole custody of the child, causing Ms. Holmes to storm off in tears since she right now truly has sole custody of the child.

Let's call on "Village Voice" columnist and a Cruise and Holms-ologist, Michael Musto.

Good evening, Michael.

MICHAEL MUSTO, "VILLAGE VOICE": Hi Keith.

OLBERMANN: Am I being an alarmist here, or are all these stories somewhat conflicting tonight?

MUSTO: Somewhat? Oh, I'm getting a three-alarm migraine from this. You can only listen to me for the real gossip. I'm the editor of "Putts Weekly," I've got the real story. Now first of all, they were married on a cruise ship, but it was Rosie O'Donnell's. OK? She liked Tom, remember? Some say it was a spaceship, but that's just for the DVD version. Now here's another clarification I need to make. Tom doesn't want sole custody. He wants custody of Katie's soles. Her insoles, here Dr. Schoells massaging gel soles because he's so damn short.

OLBERMANN: The idea that he does want this baby, as I suggested earlier in the news hour, since the baby hasn't been born yet, this does makes Ms. Holmes into like a human toaster, right?

MUSTO: Well, it certainly doesn't make her into an actress, but - no, not a toaster, but more like a couch with that pillow, like the couch that Tom jumped up and down on. And now she probably going to have to return the pillow and the problem is a lot of these home furnishing stores have a no bastard pillow return policy. It's really awful. No, this is an erroneous gossip, too. This is just terrible. It's a real baby, it's a grinning, short little boy with a book contract and he's all set to marry Dakota Fanning in six months. It's all set for publicity. Katie's going to give them a toaster, a toaster bringing a toaster. It's really sick.

OLBERMANN: Now, the marriage story, not of the Dakota and infant Holmes-Cruise in here, but the Scientology ritual in which he hits her over the head with an L. Ron Hubbard paper back and she has to do an impression of John Travolta as Vinnie Barbarino from "Welcome Back Cotter." Could that not have happened on a cruise ship or elsewhere months ago and the bloom just come off the rose of the marriage by now?

MUSTO: Yeah, well she's not really that good at impressions, though she does a good couch, but yeah, it's possible that the bloom is off the L. Ron. Maybe they got married and now it's all wilted. I have no idea. You know, the strain of having to see each other every two weeks for a photo ops can really wear down a relationship. And now I think Katie is just wishing she never cruised Tom Cruise on a cruise ship the way Penelope Cruz cruised Tom Cruise on a cruise ship. It could drive you cruis-azy (ph)

OLBERMANN: By this point, is she also wondering if she might not have been better off doing the real life version of "Rosemary's Baby," just cut out the middleman and just bear the child of Satan. Would that not have been easier?

MUSTO: Some people feel she did cut out the middleman. But no, no, no, Tom was just her liaison to Satan, he only got 10 percent and now, you know, she's like Mia Farrow in the movie, she's going to rock the baby once a week as you hear the haunting music and Aunt Clara from "Mayberry RFD" will say, "he has his father's eyes." I've seen the movie a few times. But I think when the baby jumps up and down in the crib like daddy, the she's going to go to the big guy, Satan, and say look, bring on the prescriptions, enough of this.

OLBERMANN: So, you're saying this all sort of publicity stunt?

MUSTO: I never said that, no.

OLBERMANN: The hopeful note on this, the former Mrs. Cruise, Nicole Kidman, after her escape, is reportedly marrying bow, Keith Urban, even though he looks like that. What do we know about this, other than the optimism I implied it represents?

MUSTO: Well Keith is actually the only man who's prettier than Nicole. So at least she's sticking to her type. But, I liked him better than when he was Brad Basely or Kenny Chesney. And so did Renee Zellweger. She was also confused by these androgynous stars. But the gossip on this is supposedly Tom called Nicole and please hold off on your wedding, it's going conflict with mine. It's a publicity conflict. Now he's going to have to call her and say hold off on your breakup because it's going to conflict with my breakup. And Nicole was so hoping for a paisley wedding. Which is weird because she's marrying Keith Urban, but she didn't want and urban wedding because that might bring back Lenny Kravitz. Are you following me?

OLBERMANN: Got lost somewhere amid the paisley.

MUSTO: Back with the toaster thing, I think. I don't even understand it.

OLBERMANN: Well, I think now then that if you don't understand it, if you've lost the thread on this, then it's unanimous. Then the entire world doesn't know what the hell is going on.

MUSTO: Exactly. It's just - it's gobbledygook straight out of "Alice in Wonderland." It makes no sense whatsoever. Believe any magazine you choose because it's all equally true and equally fallacy.

OLBERMANN: The inimitable Michael Musto of the "Village Voice." As always, sir, great thanks for joining us.

MUSTO: Thanks Keith.

OLBERMANN: That's Countdown for the 1,049th day since the declaration of "Mission Accomplished" in Iraq. I'm Keith Olbermann, keep your knees loose. Goodnight and good luck.

Our MSNBC coverage continues now with "Rita Cosby Live and Direct." Good evening, Rita.

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END