'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for May 12
Guests: Mo Rocca, Richard Wolffe, John Dean
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST: Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
Phone call for you, and for him. The president mum after the initial fallout over the private domestic phone records database revelations. But fifty Democrats demand the appointment of a special counsel.
The first polling, two out of three think to some degree this is OK, but just under half of us disapprove how the president is treating our privacy rights, and six in 10 think there was nothing wrong with the media breaking the story.
What, another Michael Jackson raid? No, that's Dusty Foggo's house down there the friend of ousted CIA chief Goss, and Mr. Foggo has just gotten a visit from the FBI, IRS, Defense Criminal Investigation Service, CIA, inspector general's office, the U.S. attorney, and the Visiting Nurse Association.
Not quite that bad at the new press secretary's first gaggle. He started it earlier than scheduled. He couldn't answer many of the questions. But there's Snow turning back now, Tony.
The Washington merry-go-round as viewed for us by Mo Rocca. Tom Cruise, John Travolta, Kirstie Alley, Priscilla Presley, Jenna Elfman, what do they have in common, I mean, besides not being funny any more?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "TODAY")
TOM CRUISE: You're glib.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: They're all Scientologists. We get a rare glimpse inside their religion. As news breaks, it's about to unveil something it calls superpower. It involves gyroscopes.
And O.J. Simpson cranking (ph) a used car dealer, trying to sell him the Bronco. The rest of the planet might think this grotesque, Simpson thinks he made a funny.
All that and more, now on Countdown.
There is one area of his presidency in which George W. Bush is exceeding expectations. Every time a pundit predicts that the president's job approval rating has hit rock bottom, he proves them wrong.
Our fifth story on the Countdown tonight, 29 and counting down. The various domestic spy scandals may be dragging his popularity towards the ocean floor, but the most newly revealed of them, the personal phone records database, has actually received more than twice the support that the president has.
John Dean joins us in a moment.
First, Mr. Bush's job approval rating falling to the lowest mark of his presidency, according to a new Harris Interactive poll out today. As we mentioned, only 29 percent are of the opinion that he is doing an excellent or a pretty good job. Just one month ago, that number 6 percentage points higher, at least 54 members of Congress now demanding that President Bush appoint a special counsel to investigate the disclosure that the NSA has assembled a massive database of every phone call made in the U.S. on most of the major telephone carriers over the last three years.
There is instant polling out on how many of us feel there is a real threat. Like all overnight surveys, it has a wide margin of error, 4 percent, and one of the key questions may have been seriously misleading, "The Washington Post" finding that a majority of Americans support the National Security Agency in its domestic phone records grab, 63 percent deeming the action acceptable, although only 41 percent will say strongly acceptable.
Americans nearly split on the job the president is doing protecting
privacy rights, 51 percent for, 47 percent against, a clear majority of
Americans glad to at least know that they are being spied upon, 56 percent
said it was appropriate for the news media to have disclosed the existence
of the secret government program,
Of interest, the survey question underscored that the NSA was keeping track of the calls, quote, "without listening to or recording the conversations," which isn't entirely true. The data collection has been used in part to choose which conversations to listen to, or record, as part of one of the other domestic spying scandals.
As promised, time now to call in the White House counsel under Richard Nixon, John Dean. Also the author of "Worse Than Watergate: The Secret Presidency of George W. Bush."
John, Welcome back.
JOHN DEAN, FORMER NIXON WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL: Hi, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Starting on the last point, is the immediate danger here the idea of confluence, there are phone records being kept, there are other phone conversations being tapped without warrant, there's at least one instance of this administration giving secret knowledge to the media in hopes of smearing its political opponents. Has the administration done a good job of insisting these are all unrelated things and nobody needs to worry about any interconnection among them?
DEAN: Well, they've done a pretty good job on that, but I think they're up against increasing and growing information. In fact, reports are now that the leaker who initially blew the whistle on this and reported the NSA program is about to go public with even further information, and he says that we've just seen the tip of the iceberg.
So there are other conflators that are still gathering that may add to this whole problem for them.
OLBERMANN: Well, to some degree, obviously, this is familiar territory for you, because this seems like a 21st century update on some of the things that Richard Nixon tried in the early '70s. What - I'm almost afraid to ask, what could be next?
DEAN: Well, by Nixon standards, this is not - Bush has so outdone Nixon that Nixon almost looks innocent in this area. We're now reaching into such broad scale and widespread programs with just utter in-your-face defiance of the law that even Nixon himself didn't push the envelope nearly as far as this administration is.
So it - they're a little bit different, and I'm quite surprised that this presidency is insisting on pushing the envelope the way they are.
OLBERMANN: Whether or not this push, the surveillance program of American phone calls, is lawful, is there an obvious reason why the administration did not test its legality in any way?
DEAN: Well, obviously, there are questions about the legality of what's going on. There is a pretty strong criminal statute with some civil penalties that could be well involved in this. We don't have all the facts, but Title 18, what is it, 27-01 and -02, I would think the phone companies should be looking at. They've already been sued under the civil provisions of that, AT&T has.
And there is a minimum $1,000-per-incident damage. Then if you're talking 200 million people, some phone companies could be in very deep trouble if the civil side of this were ever pursued.
So I think that, in fact, we know that Qwest thought it was indeed illegal and didn't want to tamper with it or mess with it. I don't know how the other phone companies are explaining their conduct, because when I read the statute, it doesn't seem to create an exception that they're claiming that they can walk through.
OLBERMANN: Perhaps it's this. Our justice correspondent, Pete Williams, reported on "NIGHTLY NEWS" that - and it may surprise some people - the Supreme Court, he said, had ruled that the phone companies' records of numbers dialed are not covered by the Fourth Amendment requirement for a search warrant. In 1979, the court had said that customers already realize that a phone company keeps a record of the numbers that they dial to generate bills and whatnot.
So what you say on the phone is considered private, but not the numbers you dial. Does that jibe with what you've researched on this legally?
DEAN: It does. The statute can indeed narrow the Fourth Amendment. That's the broad constitutional standard. And Congress indeed has done that. In fact, there have been efforts to even tighten it further that Republicans resisted on this kind of record keeping.
They're not terribly pro-privacy and protection of privacy, and I think that one of the consequences, Keith, we're going to see from this broad-scale invasion of privacy is the fact that people are going to demand that the law catch up with technology, because it's really not just in this area, it's all of our records, all of our digital transactions, all of our credit card purchases.
My wife recently bought shoes. Suddenly she gets 10 catalogs from shoe sellers. So I think people will become aware of this, and this just makes it a little bit more specific.
OLBERMANN: Let me know if she gets a catalog from George Bush.
What's, what is your explanation, or what is your analysis of this initial "Washington Post" poll that suggested that 60-some-odd percent of the public does not seem to have a problem with the collection of these phone records, even though only about 40 percent are willing to say they strongly approve of the idea?
DEAN: Keith, this is very typical of civil liberties problems, where only a few people, a very small minority, really appreciates and takes concern. Most people take their rights so for granted, that until they've lost them, they don't really have any concern. Then suddenly they realize they're gone, and they begin to worry.
So it's that - fortunately, there is a small minority that worries about these things and keeps pounding the drum, and they're protecting the rights of all of us by doing so.
OLBERMANN: Lastly, John, when this story broke, the Republican majority leader in the House, Mr. Boehner, said he was troubled by it. Newt Gingrich's initial response was he was very troubled by it. Is there any suggestion that there are enough conservatives or Republicans who might see this as the exact antithesis of their prime directive, to use the "Star Trek" term, the minimalized government, that it might lead the far right to cooperate with the left and begin some sort of genuine investigation of at least what the administration has done in terms of privacy?
DEAN: That certainly could happen. The libertarians amongst conservatives have to be very concerned about this. This is a sort of nightmare for them. This is the sort of thing they feel very strongly about. And while they have other parts of their agenda that they agree with this administration, they could have strong enough feelings about something like this that indeed they will join with others.
OLBERMANN: John Dean, the White House counsel to President Nixon, author of "Worse Than Watergate." As always, sir, our greatest thanks for your perspective and your time.
DEAN: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: And some of this would actually be funny if the democracy were not at stake. Take, for instance, the raids on the office and home of Kyle "Dusty" Foggo, the ones which looked like a cross between warrant day at Michael Jackson's ranch and the invasion of Panama when Noriega was in charge.
It involved the efforts of five different government agencies. At times, it looked like the raiders were so unknown to each other that they should have been wearing nametags. If only Kyle Foggo had not been the number three man in the CIA, working for a CIA (INAUDIBLE) director who got the bum's rush a week ago and is to be replaced by the former boss of the NSA apparently did his painting from a vast palette of domestic spying options.
Our correspondent is Lisa Myers.
LISA MYERS, MSNBC CHIEF INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):
This morning, a stunning development. The FBI searched the home and CIA office of Kyle "Dusty" Foggo, the number three official at the agency, part of an accelerating criminal investigation into corruption in defense and intelligence contracts.
WILLIAM HARLOW, FORMER CIA OFFICIAL: To have the FBI gathering information from the executive director's office makes this really extraordinary.
MYERS: When Foggo showed up for work today, he was told to leave. Said one official, "You can say he was escorted off the premises, and that his badge no longer works." Foggo had submitted his resignation earlier this week, but was still on the job.
FBI agents also recently visited Frankfurt, Germany, where Foggo once worked. That CIA office gave a $2.4 million contract to a company associated with Foggo's long-time friend, Brent Wilkes. Wilkes was among four contractors who allegedly bribed former congressman Duke Cunningham, who's now in prison.
Wilkes has not been charged and denies wrongdoing.
(on camera): Sources close to the investigation tell NBC News that FBI, IRS Pentagon, and CIA investigators are now examining whether Foggo improperly helped Wilkes get contracts and received unreported gifts from Wilkes, including vacation.
(voice-over): Foggo has acknowledged attending poker parties in lavish suites rented by Wilkes at Washington hotels. But Foggo has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.
SKIP BRANDON, FORMER CIA SENIOR OFFICIAL: To do what would be a very public search like this, they had to have a very high level of evidence backing their search warrant.
MYERS: Tonight, an investigator tells NBC the case goes well beyond Foggo, with more targets to come.
Lisa Myers, NBC News, Washington.
OLBERMANN: And the first day on the job for the future former press secretary. Not a good start. Details from inside Tony Snow's igloo, and a more rare glimpse still inside the mysterious world of Scientology, a counselor to its celebrity members on the dark secrets of the group. Of the individuals, they're all written down and locked away, and officials admit, yes, that true.
You are watching Countdown on MSNBC.
OLBERMANN: All kinds of way to deal with the media, Jefferson City. The Missouri General Assembly is debating whether or not to install a fitness center inside the state capitol and make room for it by removing the press work area. In Los Angeles, meanwhile, the police department has just launched its own a blog. Chief William Bratton is planning to post on it.
Or, as in our fourth story on the Countdown, you can do it as they did it at the White House, scheduled the new press secretary's first off-camera meeting with the media at 9:30 and start it at 9:20.
Tony Snow had moved the off-camera session with reporters, known as the gaggle, from the usual briefing room to his office in the West Wing, aiming for greater informality and getting instead chaos. After changing the time, Mr. Snow started the session early, before all reporters were present. Their numbers eventually swelled to fill the hallway outside his office.
And Snow kicked his answers to some of the questions into the proverbial hallway, taking a pass, quote, "As the new kid on the block, I'm not fully briefed." As for the change of venue, he said it was just a mess. That was met with laughter. Not so e-mails sent to reporters from the White House press office, missives about press misdeeds entitled "Setting the Record Straight" on the White House Web site, taking to task "USA Today," CBS News for their Medicare stories, "The New York Times" for downplaying the nation's economic progress, the Associated Press report on military recruiting targets and "The Washington Post" for an editorial about Republican-backed tax cuts benefiting the rich.
Mr. Snow's first full-fledged, on-camera media briefing has been pushed to Tuesday, unless it starts Monday.
Mr. Snow, paraphrasing Mark Twain, quote, "Rumors of the televised briefing's demise are greatly exaggerated."
Time now to call in the senior White House correspondent of "Newsweek" magazine, Richard Wolffe.
Thanks for your time, Richard.
RICHARD WOLFFE, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, "NEWSWEEK" MAGAZINE:
My pleasure, Keith.
OLBERMANN: You were there at what they call the gaggle. Was there goodwill on day one? Were these just logistical issues that need to be worked out? Or was there some sort of sense of purpose to this?
WOLFFE: Well, t was a lot of goodwill there, and let me just6 start by saying that of course if Tony's reading transcripts of this or watching tonight, he's a wonderfully talented press secretary. And as long as he puts my interview request at the top of the pile, that will continue to be the case.
But, you know, there was a goodwill there. He's an honest guy, he admitted that he'd screwed up with the logistics of the session. And I, you know, he did succeed in doing one thing, which was to shatter the myth that he understood how TV journalists operate, being a former TV guy himself, because they seemed to be the most annoyed at the whole logistical problem.
So, you know, he's got a learning curve ahead of him, and people in the White House accept that. I suspect Tony (INAUDIBLE) for today too.
OLBERMANN: I think everybody knows that those of us in TV know a lot less about it than we pretend to. The new kid on the block answer, though, to a couple of these questions, including when Helen Thomas asked why the Justice Department lawyers couldn't get security clearance to look into the NSA, is this an new honest, albeit unsatisfying policy? Or do we expect that Mr. Snow will be getting further up to speed in the days and weeks to come?
WOLFFE: Well, I'm told that there's a difference. This is how White House aides put it. There's a difference between a commentator or pundit, as Tony Snow has been, operating at sort of 50,000 feet, and having to get into the details of some of these issues, especially foreign affairs.
But on the subject of the national security program, he does always have a get-out-of-jail card, which is that this is a classified problem, and that he doesn't have to talk about stuff that's secret. He can use the I'm a new kid line for a couple of weeks, but it can't be like Ari Fleischer did, which was, you know, for several months saying, I'll refer you to this person, to that person, and don't ask me the question, I'm just the secretary. That won't hold.
OLBERMANN: But in the interim, we have these White House press releases called "Setting the Record Straight." They're not a new idea, but there've been five of them in three days, as Mr. Snow has taken the helm here. Is the trying to counter press accounts that the White House doesn't like? Is he looking for a debate? Is he continuing his syndicated column in a new form?
WOLFFE: I don't think this is to do with Tony Snow, actually. This is much more to do with a campaign year. The press office was going to do this anyway. There is a problem here for Tony Snow, which is that he wants, in his own words, to have a collegial atmosphere with the pesky press corps, and that's going to be difficult while they're out there running the same effective operation that they ran in 2004, which is to attack the press, to take down negative stories, question the credibility of certain reporters.
I mean, this is a very robust operation. As I said, it was successful in '04. But it doesn't help smooth the way in the way Tony would like this to be.
OLBERMANN: And the president has, of course, scheduled a speech Monday night about immigration, so the first Snow formal news briefing Tuesday morning, will the subjects will be, of course, NSA?
WOLFFE: I don't think he can avoid that subject. And immigration isn't easy either. Even after the president goes out there and - Tony Snow will know this from his own radio show. The conservative base that the president is going to be speaking to, in large part, from that televised address is really divided on immigration, and striking the right balance there is going to be hard. He'll face some tough questions on day two about that, about whether the guest worker program is some kind of amnesty.
So it's not - the honeymoon isn't going to last very long.
OLBERMANN: But "Newsweek"'s Richard Wolffe wishes Tony Snow all the best in the world, at least (INAUDIBLE).
WOLFFE: I'm riding that honeymoon.
OLBERMANN: Great thanks, Richard.
WOLFFE: Any time.
OLBERMANN: Great comedian Ray Goulding once told me he and his partner, Bob Elliott, didn't do Watergate jokes because, How could we be funnier than they are? Mo Rocca tries, about Watergate, Jr.
And exactly where are they storing all of your phone records? Inside this guy.
No, actually there's another explanation, and it's next here on
OLBERMANN: Tom Snyder has just turned 70 years old. Apart from being one of the first network newscasters to double as the host of an interview program, one of the first to interject humor into his work, he was, as I once told him on his program, a great inspiration to aspiring broadcasters like myself, because he was proof people could succeed despite eyebrows like ours.
So happy birthday, Tom, enjoy a colortini (ph), and let's play Oddball, sir.
We begin in Scotland, with a special high-tech edition of Oddball, a new invention that could change the face of music forever, in addition to warning us about the dreaded (INAUDIBLE) the Gozarian (ph). Who is the key master? It's the Brain Cap. It's cap, not crap. Put it on, think about a tune, and the computer plays the song for you.
Researchers at the University of Edinburgh say that talent is not necessary. Your brain waves are enough to compose beautiful music. They demonstrated with a display of the music that was in this guy's head.
OK, we made up part of that.
Now to the technological promised land that is University of Florida. That is where students are proud to reveal their new invention, a 40 percent faster toaster. Look at it toast. We don't need a faster toaster, we need a microwave freezer. Can you hear me on that?
Anyway, the thing is pretty fast, which is great for drunken college students, who often pass out waiting the 15 minutes for their bagel bites to toast, and then wake up in the morning with charcoal briquettes in their noses and dorm rooms full of smoke.
Speaking of which, inside the celebrity world of Scientology, former insiders at the church talk about the quest to recruit big names, and the secrets the church keeps on file about them.
And whoever's keeping the file on O.J., his common sense is missing, again.
Details are ahead.
But here are Countdown's top three newsmakers of this day.
Number three, Arthur Naething. Constant viewers will recall our two-part interview with him. He taught 35 years' worth of students, including Joe Klein of "TIME" magazine and yours truly at the Hackley (ph) School in Tarrytown, New York. I'm happy to send him best wishes on his birthday today, and our love on behalf of all of us who are still learning from him. Although how this works, I'm not sure. Mr. Naething has just turned 45.
Number two, organizers of the charity auction at Bellvue (ph), Iowa. Among the items up for bid, a 10-gauge shotgun. A would-be buyer picked it up to inspect the thing, and it fired. He and another customer received minor injuries. But look at it from the positive viewpoint. Everybody knew the gun worked.
And number one, Otis Watkins of Durham, North Carolina. He's pleading guilty to throwing a homemade bottle bomb, but he swears he was not aiming at his ex-girlfriend's car, but rather at the beaver dam she just happened to be next to at the time.
You know, sometimes when you make stuff up, the truth emerges, only the words come out out of order. You threw a bomb at the beaver dam? Beaver dam.
OLBERMANN: It has been the lights-out moment for countless religions and cults. A leader announces he has super powers and promises on such-and-such a date to prove it. Day arrives, nothing happens, leader escapes to Nutley, New Jersey. Our third story in the Countdown, while Paramount Pictures wonders if it can overcome Tom Cruise's adherence to Scientology, at the box office, the faith is set to open up its own super center where believers can hone their super powers in beautiful downtown Clear Water, Florida much. The 57 perceptics, described by founder L. Ron Hubbard, will be brought out by use of machines including an anti-gravity simulator and something with a gyroscope. So, Mr. Cruise has a place to improve his gravity, his compass direction, and especially the saline content of self. While you check yours, "Dateline's" Hoda Kotb got to sit down with former and current members of the group to talk about the No. 1 face of the church of Scientology.
HODA KOTB, "DATELINE NBC" (voice-over): Many celebrities swear by Scientology. There's John, Juliet, Jenna, and Jason, Kirstie, Leaha (ph), and Sophia. Not the king, but his wife and daughter, Beck and Bart.
BART SIMPSON, CARTOON CHARACTER: Is it a book report or a witch-hunt?
KOTB: Well, the actress doing his voice. And it is no coincidence.
KAREN PRESLEY, FMR. SCIENTOLOGIST: We were put under incredible duress, actually, to recruit celebrities.
KOTB: In my mission to find out if Cruise is in control or out of control, I met former Scientologist, Karen Presley, she says she used to work full time at the church's exclusive Celebrity Center in Hollywood. Her job, she says, recruiting the stars.
(on camera): Was there was a list?
PRESLEY: Actually there was. Young actors, that were really making it in film, at the time, I think, our biggest priorities.
KOTB (voice-over): Tom Cruise was exactly that. It was 1985 and he was filming "Top Gun." He says the church helped cure him of a learning disability and in recent years, he's out to fix the rest of us or at least his coworkers.
TOM CRUISE, ACTOR: You have to understand in Hollywood when people need help, they call me. When they're having trouble with something, they call me, because they know that I'm the type of person that they can depend on.
KOTB: But could Hollywood studios depend on Cruise or had his private life blown up his public appeal? Our mission to learn more about him takes us into one of the most personal rituals of Scientology. Clutching these metal rods connected to this machine called an E-Meter. Scientologists undergo intense spiritual counseling meant to clear their minds of past traumas and self defeating behavior. The person drawing it out of them is called an auditor.
(on camera): You've audited what dozens of people, hundreds of people?
BRUCE HINES (ph), SCIENTOLOGIST AUDITOR: Maybe a thousands.
KOTB (voice-over): Bruce Hines (ph) says he spent 30 years in the church and was an auditor to the stars. He says he sat with them drawing out fears, secrets, past indiscretions, and wrote everything down.
HINES: When I was auditing I would have to write, daily, how did it go and how are they doing and this report would go to people very high up in the organization. They keep tabs on it.
KOTB (on camera): Are there things in those folders or secrets that might change one's opinion of the celebrity.
KOTB: Better or worse?
KOTB (voice-over): He would not reveal what he learned from the stars, but he told us in 2000 he was sent to audit Cruise's then wife Nicole Kidman and find out if and why she was losing interest in Scientology.
(on camera): How concerned were the leaders in Scientology that Nicole Kidman wasn't really, you know, showing enough interest in the church?
HINES: Fairly concerned, as evidenced by the fact that they sent me down there.
KOTB: Why do you think Nicole left Scientology?
HINES: She felt it wasn't for her. You know, it wasn't what she wanted to do in life.
KOTB: Do you think she could have remained Mrs. Tom Cruise and not be a Scientologist?
HINES: In my opinion, no. Their view of life would be so at odds with each other, I don't think that they could have a very meaningful relationship.
KOTB (voice-over): So, with Katie it was court and convert.
QUESTION: Are you a Scientologist? Have you looked into it yourself?
KATIE HOLMES, ACTRESS: I have looked into it myself and I really like it and I think it's really wonderful.
QUESTION: Have you gone - have you tried any sessions at all or any auditing or anything like that?
HOLMES: Yeah, and it's really - I feel like I'm bettering myself.
KOTB: As she joined the A-list cast of Scientology, my mission was to delve into the world of church's leading man. I sat down with one of the highest ranking members of the church of Scientology. Mike Rinder rarely talks publicly about his most famous church member.
MIKE RINDER EXEC. DIR. OFFICE OF SPECIAL AFFAIRS INT'L: I've known Tom for 15 years. I consider him a friend.
KOTB (on camera): Do you think he's a good spokesperson for Scientology?
RINDER: I think he's a very good representation of what a Scientologist is. I think he's, obviously, successful. He's obviously very happy. He does a lot to help other people. He lives an ethical life.
KOTB (voice-over): But last year the star was orbiting far from planet Hollywood into the galaxies of Scientology. Many wondered did he wander off too far?
(on camera): Does the church ever call Tom Cruise and say, you know what, hold back the reigns a little?
RINDER: No, I don't think anybody in the world calls Tom Cruise and tells him to pull back the reigns.
KOTB (voice-over): But Tom Cruise and celebrities do promote Scientology's agenda.
(on camera): Does the church actively recruit celebrities?
RINDER: No. No. The church is open to anybody.
KOTB: No one specifically told, we'd like it get more celebrities because celebrities sort of up the profile of Scientology? We have a list of celebrities? None of that?
RINDER: Absolutely not. Absolutely not.
KOTB (voice-over): Maybe not, but how many religions have a designated Celebrity Center? And he confirms that the church keeps confidential files on celebrities, and other members of the church who undergo auditing.
(on camera): So, what happens - my question is, what happens to those notes? Those files?
RINDER: They are locked in file cabinets in locked rooms.
KOTB: Never to be opened?
RINDER: Never. Only the auditor. They're for the auditor. Not for anybody else.
KOTB (voice-over): The church says former auditor Bruce Hines never met with Nicole Kidman and should not discuss his work for the church. The church goes on to dispute both his and Karen Presley's statements and questions their motives.
RINDER: Just because someone says something, particularly a former someone who is, you know, seeking to have their minute of fame by making statements that sound sensational, that doesn't make it true.
KOTB: On thing is for sure, Tom Cruise's behavior over the last year raised the profile of Scientology. The question is, for better or worse?
(on camera): Do you consider Tom Cruise the church's biggest asset or liability?
RINDER: Oh, come on. Is that a joke question?
KOTB: It's a question.
RINDER: Asset or liability? Tom Cruise is the biggest movie star in the world and Tom Cruise is a Scientologist.
KOTB (voice-over): But will Cruise be an asset or liability for the movie studios that made "Mission: Impossible III?"
OLBERMANN: "Dateline's" Hoda Kotb reporting.
Perhaps an even greater mystery for women, anyway, from understanding Scientology to understanding guys. Is the answer to be found in your dog? Speaking of dogs, O.J. Simpson achieving a new high in low. Details on these stories ahead, but first time for Countdown's "Top 3 Sound Bites" of this day.
JAY LENO, "THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JAY LENO: What is going on with President Bush's security team? I'm not sure they take it seriously. What I'm going to show you is real footage. See the three men guarding Air Force One? See. Now, watch what they do here. I'm going to go wide. Watch what the guy in the center does here.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey man, I don't want to - I don't want to be on the news. Are you filming?
CHRIS HANSEN, "DATELINE NBC": We are filming.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't want to be on the news, though.
HANSEN: Well, it's late for that, dawg. She told you she was 14.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We were on a role-playing chatroom, dude.
HANSEN: You know how many times I hear that?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, NBC? Two words - role-playing and chatroom, dude, because...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good morning everybody, we are here in the Flow Rider, this is where you learn how to surf. And Natalie Morales is in there, so there's 30,000 gallons of water flowing through per minute. Oh, Natalie, give it another try. There she goes. All right. Oh, the humanity! Oh!
Stephanie, you're going to try and go back and do this again? But Stephanie - Natalie!
OLBERMANN: He didn't get paid. He just wants to do and wants to have fun with it. A "Candid Camera"- style program in which O.J. Simpson tries to sell his Bronco. That's humor. And the candid comments of presidential historian and TV personality Mo Rocca after one hell of a week in Washington. That's next. This is Countdown.
OLBERMANN: Amazing, isn't it? The battle of the human sexes almost invariably invokes analogies to animals. Men are pigs or dogs. Well, now there's actually a book insisting that the later reference is more than a metaphor. That your dog is your how-to manual for your man.
Our No. 2 story in the Countdown brought to us by the new hour's senior man-bites-dog senior correspondent, Monica Novotny - Monica.
MONICA NOVOTNY, NBC SR. CORRESPONDENT: Keith, this - the author of this new book say women an learn a lot about men form canines. So, we asked some New York City women what they thought and as you'll hear, it is hard to tell. Are these ladies talking about their men or their dogs?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You definitely have to punish them when they're bad.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They're really good at messing things up around the house.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: After a while they become very obedient.
NOVOTNY (voice-over): Turns out your old dog can teach you some new tricks. These days women are taking love lessons on the man from his best friend.
According to Author, Claire Staples, owner of Mr. Big, everything you need to know about men, you can learn from your dog, just like she did.
CLAIRE STAPLES, AUTHOR: I had real trouble getting me in come to me when I would call him in the park, but if I walked away he'd run after me and I said, you know, it's just like men.
NOVOTNY: Staples' firs step, train them right, ladies.
STAPLES: It's more about setting boundaries early on in a relationship.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Just like a dog, it involves consistency. If once you let, like, let the leash a little like, let go a little, they're you know, they're off doing what they want to do.
NOVOTNY: If they do misbehave, Staples says, keep them on that leash, at least for a while.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They need a leash for some guys, too, because I can't keep any around.
NOVOTNY: But do give them the freedom to spend time with friends. It's keep them coming back for more. Above all else, don't forget the sweet spot.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My boyfriend loves to be rubbed on the head, as well as on...
NOVOTNY (on camera): Don't tell us too much.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Make sure you take care of that sweet spot, because they'll just go out to make sure it gets taken care of, but they're not OK with leaving it alone.
NOVOTNY (voice-over): But if you're lucky, they'll never leave you, even when you're the dog.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My dogs and men are loyal no matter how much of a (BLEEP) I am.
NOVOTNY: Now, to be fair, I did a little research and found lots of information on the internet regarding men who prefer their dogs to women. The list of reasons includes the fact that anyone can get a good-looking dog, a dog's parents never visit and dogs can't talk.
OLBERMANN: See, unless - unless there's on occasion dogs can talk, but we don't have time to get into that. That's from a past relationship of mine. I'll just leave that alone.
NOVOTNY: All right.
OLBERMANN: Countdown"s Monica, great thanks.
NOVOTNY: Thank you.
OLBERMANN: Well, here's a no-brainer. We go from dogs as guide books to men to the lead story of celebrity and entertainment news, "Keeping Tabs." O.J. Simpson is appearing in a Pay-Per-View special, so reports "Inside Edition," possibly a rerun of some earlier comedy bits he recorded a few years ago. In one he pretends to sell his infamous white Bronco to a prospective buyer bragging about how he made the vehicle famous. In the video, Simpson says, "It was good for me. It helped me get away." In an interview with "Inside Edition," Goldman's - Ron Goldman's father expressed his disgust saying Simpson's words are quote "morally reprehensible." The Pay-Per-View show planned for broadcast or cablecast this month. A DVD containing uncensored materials - that is O.J. under that makeup - set to be released. According to the executive producer, Simpson was not paid for the program. He did that all for free.
And an update on the "American Idol" controversy. Now, reports from voters that their calls on behalf of the kicked-off contestant were, themselves, kicked out. Online petitions with thousands of names are calling for recounts of Tuesday night's vote, the one that made favorite, Chris Daughtry, exit stage right. MSNBC.com also has received numbers of e-mails claiming voters who dialed in for Daughtry were greeted instead by "Idol" singer Katherine McPhee's recorded message, thanking callers for voting for here. "Thank you for voting for me."
Others reporting they got calls saying this number is not accepting calls at this time. And of course, still a third group that was somehow put through directly to CIA director designate, General Michael Hayden.
And there's a new Paris Hilton video. Unfortunately this one was intentional. Scantily clad in a green mini-dress and red platform shoes, the hotel heiress showed up late to promote her new video game. On arrival, she apologized and then got the name of the game wrong. "I'm really excited," she said, "to have my new videogame Diamond Quest." Actual title, called "Paris Hilton's Jewel Jam." Actually, for here that's pretty close.
And you know what they say, what happens in Paris stays in Paris. But what's happening in D.C. is not staying in D.C. From Watergate's Hookergate, to who's got your little black book at the NSA. Mo Rocca analyses the D.C. experience. That's ahead, but first it's time for Countdown's latest list of nominees for "Worst Person in the World."
The bronze to John Gibson of FOX News Channel. He's now encouraged his viewers to quote, "Do your duty. Make more babies" because Hispanics are quote, "having more kids than others. You know what that means, 25 years and the majority of the population is been Hispanic," unquote. John would have placed higher, but it's become obvious he no longer hears what he's saying, and besides which, the average age of his viewers is about 70, so this is only hypothetical eugenics.
Our runner-up, James Frey. First the "Million Little Pieces" fabrication, scandal, now his revelation that the sequel, "My Friend Leonard," not only also includes fiction in what was sold as a memoir, but the opening scene is fiction.
The winner, Laura Lee Medley of Los Angeles. She sued at least four California municipalities claiming she was injured, trying to negotiate her wheelchair through their jurisdictions. Police arrested her on fraud charges in Las Vegas, then left her alone for a moment in the wheelchair, in the hospital, and she got up and ran away. It's a miracle! I have legs! I can see! Laurie Lee Medley, today's "Worst Person in the World."
OLBERMANN: You may have heard or read somewhere lately that more people are voting for "American Idol" than are voting for the American president. Our No. 1 story in the Countdown, that simply is not true, it just feels that way. Sixty percent of voting age Americans casting a ballot in the last presidential election. Only 10 percent of the population has voted for an "American Idol" contestant. It's not even close. And just remember, the government can now prove exactly who you voted for in the last three seasons of the show. There may be a subtle reason that politics are still drawing more participants. The comedy material in government these days is, after all, A, A minus minimum. And we have former congressman, Duke Cunningham to thank, in part, for it. His roll in a massive political corruption scandal bringing us poker games at the Watergate Hotel at which defense contractors would lose the card games on purpose so the congressman and spies in attendance would have money to spend on hookers, should they so desire. The CIA chief losing his job amid the scandal, the president taking the rest of the afternoon off for a bike ride only to find out that the guy he picked to take over it, Langley, has been assembling the database every phone call made by every person in the country for everyday of the last three years.
Who better to evaluate than the absurdities of like in Washington at the moment than the one and only, Mo Rocca, telephone personality, political analyst, presidential historian, and frequent visitor to Countdown.
Thanks for your time, Mo.
MO ROCCA, POLITICAL ANALYST: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Men nicknamed "Dusty," "Duke," and "Nine Fingers," hookers at poker parties - are we talking politics or porn?
ROCCA: He had nine fingers, I mean, that's really super freaky. That really is not my scene at all. You know, look, we haven't seen any pictures of the hookers yet, but the preliminary evidence, photos of Foggo right, and Duke suggested this is classic D.C porn where everybody is really, really ugly. I mean, these guys could not get arrested in the San Fernando Valley.
OLBERMANN: This is an unfortunate segue, but a perhaps valid one, none the less. Monica Lewinsky used to live at the Watergate and we all know what happened in the wake of break-in in '72 at the Democratic Party headquarters at the Watergate. Now we got politicians, spies attending poker parties, maybe they're pajama parties, there. If you're planning to do something illegal or simply troublesome inside D.C. city limits, Mo, is it safe to say you should just steer clear of the Watergate.
ROCCA: Well, certainly if you're - it's surprising that this guy, Foggo, from the CIA would actually go there, because the Watergate is located in Foggy Bottom. So, forgive me, if he ends up going to prison he's going to be nicknamed Foggo Bottom. It's just going to happen. And you know, I'm not the first to say it, I'm sure.
No, look, if you're going to commit a federal offense, you should not go to Watergate. If you're just going to smoke crack, you shouldn't go to the Vista, which is where Marion Barry was caught. But the truth of the matter is that all of D.C. is basically a brothel. You know, the famous little green house at 1625 K Street where Warren Hardy had his, you know, booze and hooker poker parties, has been replaced by a building that actually houses a headquarters for some of the 35,000 lobbyists in Washington, so it's fitting really, I guess.
OLBERMANN: Absolutely, no change whatsoever. They can just put the same plaque up for both buildings.
An often overlooked detail about the poker parties, the defense contractors who hosted them would lose the card games on purpose so the congressman had cash to spend on the prostitute, if they so desired. I mean, what we're reading into this is they don't have their own money to spend on the prostitutes anymore, are corruption and graft no longer as profitable as they once were. Are we not bribing our elected official sufficiently anymore?
ROCCA: Well, this is a separate and serious allegation that lobbyists are actually throwing games, they're taking a dive here. And remember with the Black Socks scandal in 1919, you had to appoint a judge to sort of clean this up, so we need to appoint somebody first and foremost to clean up these, you know, booze and hooker poker parties and make them more honest then they are right now. But the truth of the matter is, is that a congressman is paid $162,500 a year, right now. Dennis Hastert is paid more, so he might be able to afford more than, you know, the typical congressman.
But, there's no verifiable evidence of how much a hooker costs. But, the only evidence we have is Jeff Gannon who charged $200 an hour. So, that's expensive. You know, then again, I suppose if you're a republican hiring Jeff Gannon, you can write that off because it's - you're presumably talking policy.
OLBERMANN: And he can write that off because he's a journalist.
ROCCA: Exactly, right.
OLBERMANN: Here's the sequence of events from the president's schedule for May 5 - Friday, May 5. In the morning, find out the CIA is complete chaos, top officials caught in a corruption scandal. Two, at lunchtime bid ado to your CIA director in a hastily scheduled news conference. Three, immediately take the rest of the afternoon off for a bike ride. What's the lesson that we and the rest of the country should be taking away from that sequence of events?
ROCCA: Well, everybody needs an escape now and then, I suppose. Maybe that's all that it is. I mean, yeah. Let me just say this also about that, because I want to go back to the hookers for a moment. I think they're the real heroes here, by the way, no, I'm serious, because, you know, they are the whistleblowers right here, because, you know, Foggo and the other CIA operatives that were there were terribly disorganize. They weren't paying them on time, they leaked their names when they weren't getting their names confused. And so this is a - you get another revelation about how disorganized the CIA is.
OLBERMANN: Whistle blowers.
ROCCA: Oh gosh, wow. Yeah.
OLBERMANN: Two last pictures here. A photo of Dick Cheney from a meeting on Friday morning. Do we have this still? Ok, and then there's this other one from a meeting three weeks ago of Dick Cheney. Any lessons from this?
ROCCA: Yeah, I think it's probably that the frequency of the local NSA wiretapping was interfering with the frequency of his pacemaker. It could be that or it's just tryptophan. I don't know, turkey lunches.
OLBERMANN: Telephone personality Mo Rocca. Great thanks for your time.
OLBERMANN: Thanks for saving the week for us. That's Countdown for this the 1,107th day since the declaration of "Mission Accomplished" in Iraq. A reminder to join us again at midnight Eastern, 11:00 p.m. Central, 9:00 Pacific for the late edition Countdown. Until then, a special presentation of "Lockup: Inside Stateville." I'm Keith Olbermann, keep your knees loose. Good night and good luck. I hit him.
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