Friday, September 15, 2006

'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Sept. 15
Special bonus podcast (Today Show)

Guests: Howard Fineman, Jonathan Turley, Larry Sutton

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

After the rebuke on rewriting the Geneva Conventions from three heavyweight Republican senators, the president scrambles.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Congress has got a decision to make. Do you want the program to go forward, or not?


OLBERMANN: After the rebuke from his former secretary of state about how we're beginning to lose the moral basis in the fight against terror, the president tells him and us what we may and may not think.


BUSH: It's unacceptable to think that there's any kind of comparison between the behavior of the United States of America and the action of Islamic extremists who kill innocent women and children in an understand - to, to achieve an objective.


OLBERMANN: An America in which the president says it is unacceptable to think something. We will again invoke everyone from Abraham Lincoln at Gettysburg to Rod Serling on Maple Street, and ask why, five years later, 9/11 is still just a photo op, why it's not a centerpiece of national unity, but rather a political football, why there is no memorial, just a hole in the ground, and in our hearts. My special comment ahead.

The death of the son of Anna Nicole Smith. What are we missing here? Three people in her hospital room, her self, her lawyer, her son. Her son winds up dead there. Is she under suspicion?

And a world truly gone mad. Do your little turn on the catwalk, yes, on the catwalk, on the catwalk, yes. And have a blintz or a milkshake first.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We don't want them skinny.


OLBERMANN: Spain bans models whose body fat is too low. Better see if you can get your money back on those drugs and cigarette, girls.

All that and more, now on Countdown.

Good evening. This is Friday, September 15, 53 days until the 2006 midterm elections.

"It's unacceptable to think - " Sounds like something straight out of George Orwell's "1984." Instead, it was something straight out of George Bush's mouth.

Our fifth story on the Countdown, that massive preelection struggle Mr. Bush had engineered over national security having gone horribly wrong, not that Democrats defending now themselves against Republicans, but rather the president having to do so, and not only issuing those chilling wards, "It's unacceptable to think - " but doing so in answer to the call to conscience from his own former secretary of state, Colin Powell, having lost round one over his proposal for the interrogation of terror suspects with the Senate Armed Services Committee just yesterday, Mr. Bush subjecting himself to an interrogation today at the White House Rose Garden, in the course of the news conference, the president pretty much playing chicken with Congress, threatening to abandon all U.S. efforts to question terror suspects unless the Senate sees fit to rewrite Article Three of the Geneva Conventions, you know, the part that prohibits the cruel and inhuman treatment of detainees, Mr. Bush also rebuking his former secretary of state for not believing exactly what he wants him to believe.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, former secretary of state Colin Powell says, "The world is beginning to doubt the moral basis of our fight against terrorism." If a former chairman of the Joint Chief of Staffs and former secretary of state feels this way, don't you think that Americans and the rest of the world are beginning to wonder whether you're following a flawed strategy?

BUSH: If there's any comparison between the compassion and decency of the American people and the terrorist tactics of extremists, it's flawed, flawed logic. It's just - it's just - (INAUDIBLE) - simply can't accept that. It's unacceptable to think that there's any kind of comparison between the behavior of the United States of America and the action of Islamic extremists who kill innocent women and children in an understand (INAUDIBLE) - to achieve an objective.



BUSH: Want me to - would you like me to go to somebody else here, till you...

GREGORY: No, sorry.

BUSH: Well, take your time, please.

GREGORY: I really apologize for that. Anyway...

BUSH: I must say, having gone through those gyrations, you're looking beautiful today, David.

GREGORY: Thank you very much.

Mr. President, critics of your proposed bill on interrogation rules say there's another important test. These critics include John McCain, who you mentioned several times this morning. And that test is this, if a CIA officer, paramilitary, or a special operations soldier from the United States were captured in Iran or North Korea, and they were roughed up, and those governments said, Well, they were interrogated in accordance with our interpretation of the Geneva Conventions, and then they were put on trial, and they were convicted based on secret evidence that they were not able to see, how would you react to that as commander in chief?

BUSH: David, my reaction is, is that if the nations such as those you named adopted the standards within the Detainee Detention Act, the world with be better. That's my reaction. We're trying to clarify law, we're trying to set high standard, not ambiguous standards.

And let me just repeat, Dave, we can debate this issue all we want, but the practical matter is, if our professionals don't have clear standards in the law, the program is not going to go forward. You cannot ask a young intelligence officer to violate the law, and they're not going to. They - Let me finish, please. They will not violate the law.

So you can ask this question all you want, but the bottom line is, and the American people have got to understand this, that this program won't go forward if there's vague standards applied like those in Article - Common Article Three from the Geneva Convention. It's just not going to go forward.

Now, perhaps some in Congress don't think the program is important. That's fine. I don't know if they do or don't. I think it's vital. And I have the obligation to make sure that our professionals, who I would ask to go conduct interrogations to find out what might be happening, who might be coming to this country, I got to give them the tools they need. And that is clear law.

GREGORY: This is an important point, and I think it (INAUDIBLE)...

BUSH: The point I just made is the most important point...


BUSH:... and that is, the program is not going forward. David, you can give a hypothetical about North Korea or any other country. The point is that the program is not going to go forward if our professionals do not have clarity in the law. And the best way to provide clarity in the law is to make sure the Detainee Treatment Act is the crux of the law. That's how we define Common Article Three, and it sets good standard for the countries that you just talked about.

Next man.


BUSH: I know you think it's an important point.

GREGORY: Sir, with respect, if other countries interpret the Geneva Conventions as they see fit, as they see fit, you're saying you'd be OK with that?

BUSH: I am saying I would hope that they would adopt the same standards we adopt, and that by clarifying Article Three, we make it stronger, we make is clearer, we make it definite.

And I will tell you again, David, you can ask every hypothetical you want, but the American people have got to know the facts. And the bottom line is simple. If Congress passes a law that does not clarify the rules, if they do not do that, the program's not going forward.

GREGORY: Will it endanger U.S. troops?

BUSH: Next man.


BUSH: David. Next man, please. Thank you. Took you a long time to unravel, and it took you a long time to ask your question.


OLBERMANN: Time to call in our own Howard Fineman, who, of course, is also the chief political correspondent for "Newsweek."

Howard, good evening.


Good evening, Keith.

OLBERMANN: I realize there was a lot more to that sentence, but can the leader of the free world ever, under any circumstances, let alone in answer to his own former secretary of state, begin a sentence with the phrase, "It's unacceptable to think - "?

FINEMAN: Well, it was remarkable, for a couple of reasons. First of all, I talked to John McCain last night. People like McCain and Powell and a lot of other serious people, Republicans, are very concerned about the torture rules, because of America's moral standing in the world, and because of what David Gregory was talking about in terms of captured American troops in other countries.

The other thing is, whether you like it or not, whether the president likes it or not, there are probably hundreds of millions of people around the world, especially in the Muslim world, who would agree with what Colin Powell says. And it's a fact of life on the planet, even if the president doesn't think anybody should be thinking that way.

OLBERMANN: The president, on a purely domestic level, was, in effect, threatening to pack up the marbles, take his ball, and go home if the Senate does not do things exactly his way. What happens, as we have some indication certainly could happen, if the Senate says, OK, we're calling your bluff?

FINEMAN: Very good question. I think if they do do that, the president will take it to the country in the fall elections and try to accuse the Democrats of - and even some of his own party members, by extension - of being weak in the face of terrorism. But his critics can come back and say, Look, there are other ways to do this, there are other people who can do it. And if you're so concerned about it, you can proceed on some other basis.

I think, in the end, there will be a deal. There's a possibility of a filibuster in the Senate. I don't think it'll happen. I think there will be a deal. I think the language will be fuzzier than the president wants, but it'll be approved by Congress somehow.

OLBERMANN: So the idea of shutting down the CIA interrogation is, although a loud threat, not necessarily a firm threat?

FINEMAN: I don't think it's a firm threat. I think they'll find their ways. I think other things could happen. Although it's interesting to speculate, if it doesn't pass, and if these CIA officers who are afraid of getting sued don't do the interrogations of the detainees, maybe somebody with immunity, a further immunity could, maybe the vice president or somebody.

OLBERMANN: And bring his hunting materials with him. If you're the Democrats, how do you take - what do you - what take do you position yourself in, in this kind of showdown, other than sit back and watch the opposition implode? I mean, do you just stand aside for this?

FINEMAN: I think you stand aside, for the most part. And the reason why you do is, it's not just John McCain, a known maverick. It's not just Lindsey Graham, Senator Graham, and known maverick. It's not even Colin Powell, who's very popular in the country but sort of outside the system right now.

The key guy here is Senator John Warner, the Republican of Virginia, as well as Colin Powell. The thing about Warner is, he is the establishment man, he is the very symbol of the Pentagon establishment, the defense establishment, in a way, the intelligence establishment over there in northern Virginia. And if he is taking the side of the rebels on this, the Republican rebels, it's a very serious division in the party, and the ones that - one that the (INAUDIBLE) - the Democrats will just sit back and watch.

OLBERMANN: Last question, quickly. Does the president do himself a favor when he appears as angry as he did at that news conference today?

FINEMAN: Not really. But he's not really speaking to the people. I think he's speaking to history, and he's speaking to himself, in the sense that he's trying to explain how he might be an martyr to the political cause here, he may lose this election, but he's going to do it going down the way he wants to do it.

He does believe in this, and he's talking to himself and to history as much as the American people at this point.

OLBERMANN: Howard Fineman of "Newsweek" and MSNBC. Great thanks for your time. Have a great weekend.

FINEMAN: Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN: We've explored the politics. Now the legal and ethical implications over this battle about the detainees. Is it, perhaps, all an attempt to make how we've already treated detainees kind of retroactively legal?

And a second viewing tonight of this hole in the ground. My special comment on what has become of the memorial and the country in the five years 9/11.

Plus, late developments about the memorial that you will not believe.

You are watching Countdown on MSNBC.


OLBERMANN: One hundred and ninety-four countries agreed to uphold the laws laid out in the Geneva Conventions, but the president of the United States now wants to essentially reinterpret those international codes through an American law.

Our fourth story in the Countdown, we've looked at the purely political, now the legal and ethical slippery slopes the president is hell-bent on running down. At issue, General Article Three of the Geneva Convention, which states that people in detention, quote, "shall in all circumstances be treated humanely." It goes on to ban "violence to life and person, in particular murder of all kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment, and torture, and outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment."

But the administration argues that all this is covered under an American law, the 2005 Detainee Treatment Act that states, quote, "No individual in the custody or under the physical control of the United States government, regardless of nationality or physical location, shall be subject to cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment."

Joining us now, Jonathan Turley, constitutional law professor at George Washington University. He's been good enough to take some time to be with us tonight.

Jonathan, good evening.



OLBERMANN: Have we been looking at this through the wrong end of the telescope, that the president's rush, fury to get this done in only his way is not about getting new information, about protecting against new threats, but about somehow trying to make the way we've already treated detainees retroactively OK? Is he covering his own backside with this?

HURLEY: Quite frankly, I think that there's evidence to say he is. You know, the thing that is ticking here, in terms of a clock, is the fact that these 14 guys that were recently transferred just arrived not that long ago in Gitmo in Cuba. They are going to be, or have been, interviewed by the Red Cross. Most people believe that waterboarding, they where (ph) you are held underwater until you think that you're going to drown. That is undeniably torture under the international standard.

If that occurs in the coming days, the United States, and specifically the president, will be accused of committing a very serious violation of international law. Torture is one of the top three or four things that the international law is designed to prevent.

And so the reason there's this move to try to get legislation as fast as possible is because I think the administration senses that there's a lot of trouble coming down this mountain.

OLBERMANN: How would some sort of Senate authorization to adjust the Geneva Conventions, our end of it, after we've signed the document, how would that, though, protect the president or anybody involved in the waterboarding or anything else they might be accused of?

HURLEY: Well, he would retroactively define what he did not to be a violation. That's pretty good, if you're going to commit a violation of law, to go and get the legislature to retroactively say what you did was not a violation.

But remember, the president stands accused of 30 felonies in the NSA controversy. Many of us believe he committed felony crimes there. If now he's going to be accused of intentionally and knowingly ordering serious violations of international law, it's not going to go well for the United States.

We're already viewed as a rogue nation around the world. But here's something the president most likely knew about and condoned.

OLBERMANN: Well, that would certainly explain Secretary Powell's terminology about losing the moral basis.

But let's focus this back in on what we're seeing right now here, what we know of. The editorial in "The Washington Post" today summarized what the paper believes the administration wants to do by changing the law. Let me read part of this thing.

"It wants to authorize" - or "wants authorization for the CIA to hide detainees in overseas prisons where even the International Committee of the Red Cross won't have access. It wants permission to interrogate those detainees with abusive practices that in the past have included induced hypothermia and waterboarding, or simulated drowni8ng. And it wants the right to try such detainees, and perhaps sentence them to death, on the basis of evidence that the defendants cannot see and that may have been extracted during those abusive interrogation sessions."

Jonathan, "The Post" also called this a defining moment in our history. Is it that? If the president gets his way, have we just become what the terrorists want us to become?

HURLEY: Well, I'm afraid it would be. But this is really a redefining moment. You know, I always tell people, the presidents use that term as well. Our defining moment came in 1787, when we defined ourselves in a constitutional document that committed us to the rule of law.

And what would happen here, if we embrace torture at the president's invitation, it would be to redefine ourselves. And we will become something that we have long fought against. And the fact that this is occurring, you know, this week is Constitution Day, which we're supposed to celebrate our commitment to the rule of law. And for the president to celebrate it by calling for us to embrace torture is perhaps the most bizarre combination I've ever seen.

OLBERMANN: And don't (INAUDIBLE) forget this either, Jonathan, "It is

unacceptable to think - "

Expert, constitutional law expert Jonathan Turley. Great pleasure of having - having you on this show. As always, great thanks to you.

HURLEY: Thanks, Keith. Good to see you.

OLBERMANN: Also ahead, my special comment on how the president has politicized the terror threat, and why ground zero is still a hole in the ground and in our society.

And also disheartening new developments about all that.

And the death of the son of Anna Nicole Smith. Today comes word she is hiring her own pathologist to conduct a second autopsy. Something is not adding up here.

And going to extremes for your favorite college football team. What would you give for tickets to see the Fighting Irish?

That and more, ahead on Countdown.


OLBERMANN: Twenty-four years ago today, on the 106th anniversary of the birth of the company's founder, the Gannett Company introduced America's first truly national newspaper, "USA Today." It's only urban legend that, for the first years, the company gave away 470 million copies at hotels and airports, and actually only sold 17, but that each of the first - I'm sorry. The anniversary note has now exceeded the length of the average "USA Today" article, so I have to stop now.

Let's play Oddball.

And we begin on the gridiron of Suthpen (ph), Indiana. The Fighting Irish of Notre Dame set to take on the Wolverines of Michigan tomorrow, a game you're not likely to get a ticket to. So when Jason Gordon of Michigan, a huge Irish fan, said he wanted to go, his buddies said they'd give him two seats if he'd submit to a full body waxing. Oh, doctor! Kelly Clarkson. That woman is turning a furry wolverine into a hairless leprechaun. That fellow is losing hair faster than a (INAUDIBLE) defense gives up field position.

Jason got the tickets, although he may not be able to use the actual seats.


JASON GORDON: I was crying and breathing and getting in my happy place. Feel a lot better than (INAUDIBLE).


OLBERMANN: They did say full body. Oooh.

The Hudson River in New York, where the pollution problem is clearly getting out of hand. Actually, they meant to do that. It's the million-dollar duck race. Thousands of rubber duckies dumped into the river and slowly guided towards the finish line, each duck sponsored. Proceeds benefiting the Special Olympics of New York. This year's winning duck was owned by a New York native, a shaggy-haired, striped-shirt-wearing guy who ran off simply yelling, "Burt, Burt, Burt."

Also here tonight, as Anna Nicole Smith is granted the right to bring in her own doctor to conduct an autopsy of her late son, Daniel, there's something here that just does not seem to add up.

We will again try to add up the parts of the last five years since 9/11. Where did the memorial and the spirit of unity go so horribly wrong? My special comment from ground zero. And late news that, incredibly, makes the story even worse.

All that ahead.

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

Number three, Mayor Don Wright of Gallatin (ph), Tennessee. He's being criticized for having let a production company film a movie in his office over the weekend. The movie, "Thong Girl 3." Mayor Wright says he was told it was a film about a superhero woman who fights crime. Fair enough. Producers say there's no nudity, no sex. Although Thong Girl apparently draws her superpowers from special red underwear.

Number two, Paul Lewis of Milford, Connecticut. Seeking $15,000 in damages from Paula's Wig Boutique of Orange, Connecticut. Claims he went in to pick up his hairpiece. It was not only ill fitting, it was the wrong color. Told Paula he wouldn't pay the $1,200 she wanted. She told him she'd have to call the police. He says that's when he suffered a heart attack.

She says he's lying, that he liked the rug so much he hugged her in gratitude. Nevertheless, clearly Mr. Lewis has flipped his lid.

And number one, Fire Marshall Brian Charlesworth of Waukeshau (ph), Wisconsin. Normally arson cases are tough to prove, suspects hard to find. Not at the fire they had there this week. The suspect left a clue at the scene, his birth certificate. Who does this? Let's see, gasoline, check. Matches, check. Fuses, check. Birth certificate, check.


OLBERMANN: The death was deemed suspicious, even though authorities hastened to add that the term did not necessarily mean foul play. In the third story on the Countdown, why a 20-year-old man died suddenly in his mother's hospital room. Daniel Smith's mother, Anna Nicole Smith, has now hired a private pathologist to perform a second autopsy in the search of the correct answer. The doctor will arrive in the Bahamas from the U.S. tomorrow and perform the autopsy Sunday. The Bahamian head coroner, Linda Virgil, who authorized the second autopsy, said "It is nothing unusual for families to want their own pathologist to confirm or look for something that may have been overlooked."

Meanwhile the results of the official autopsy have not been released and a toxicology test, which Miss Virgil has said will confirm the cause of death won't be completed until some time next week.

Joining us now, the staff editor for "People" magazine, Larry Sutton.

Thank you for your time tonight, sir.


OLBERMANN: We can only guess Miss Smith's motivation in hiring a private pathologist on the second autopsy, but to use the words of the head coroner in the Bahamas, do you think Miss Smith is indeed trying to confirm something, find something that might have been overlooked? What's going on here?

SUTTON: I don't think she's necessarily trying to confirm something, I think she's trying to avoid a lot of problems down the road. It's just as if you're a live and you want a second opinion from a doctor. In this sad, tragic case she wants a second opinion. They she is in a strange country with doctors she's not familiar with. She'd like to have her own doctor there taking a look into what caused the death of her son.

OLBERMANN: Anybody looking at this around the water cooler says something doesn't seem to add up here. Apparently only Miss Smith and her son and her long-time attorney and spokesman Mr. Stern were in the room when he died. Her lawyer said she was in such bad shape and needed to be sedated after his death, now has memory loss. The term suspicious death is implied here or brought in there, though it does not necessarily imply foul play. Is anybody offering any theory of how this young man died?

SUTTON: Well, people who don't know are offering plenty of theories, anything from a heart attack to drug overdose to who knows what. None of those theories are going to hold any water at this moment because no facts are out there at the moment. We are awaiting an official report from the government and we're waiting for a report from the pathologist that the Smith family has hired to look into the reason for the death.

OLBERMANN: This head coroner, Miss Vigil said also, "We know the cause of death, but we need to confirm it with a toxicology report." You're not an investigator, I'm not an investigator. But is it fair to assess this - to suggest the statement and that report are central to whatever we will find out about the rest of this case?

SUTTON: Well, I think the statement is a little maddening, it's like, "I know it, but I'm not going to tell you what I know." If she has information and she's confident about it, you would expect her to release that information, just for the reason you don't want mysteries this to develop when perhaps there is no mystery. It could be a simple cause of death. It could be a heart murmur it could be who knows what. But if she's got an answer and - it's kind of puzzling why she doesn't release it right now. In fact originally she had planned to release that information, the toxicology reports, it this morning. Why she changed her mind, I don't know.

OLBERMANN: And we don't have any time on when that might be released or is this all going to be held under wraps until that inquiry in the end of October?

SUTTON: Well, it's probably the end of October. Or they've got information that they could release now, which is probably pretty good information. You know, the reports of their own doctors, what they found. I don't see any reason for them to hold it. But they would prefer to wait until the end of October, so it could be a month before we really know what happened.

OLBERMANN: And no matter what those results are, there're going to be this formal inquest, anybody in the room when Daniel Smith died, will be called as a witness. Do we know? Is that standard procedure under the law in the Bahamas? Is there some possible cause for suspicion in any direction based on that idea of an inquest?

SUTTON: I think it's standard procedure. Again, as you mentioned earlier, the term, you know, the death was suspicion; well of course, it's a 20-year-old man who the day before appeared to be healthy when you looked at him. Of course it's suspicious because it is not a normal thing to occur. Is it something where something went on that was illegal or something went on that was nefarious, no one will know until the toxicology reports come out.

OLBERMANN: Larry Sutton, staff editor at "People" magazine on this extraordinary case of Anna Nicole the Late Daniel Smith. Great thanks for your time.

SUTTON: Thank you.

OLBERMANN: The term "fashion police," tonight, taking a whole new twist. Cracking down on stick thin models and the nation rejoices.

The hysteria in Australia, meanwhile, the mad rush to get a seat at the public memorial to Steve Irwin. That and more ahead on Countdown.


OLBERMANN: Super-sizing the super-thin. One country's mission to get models to beef up or else. And we will repeat the special comment on 9/11 and the World Trade Center along with a new development, tonight, that makes it all just a little worse. Countdown continues.


OLBERMANN: In the "Bizarro World," once featured on "Saturday Night Live," all supermodels would be fat, presidents would say "I respect your opinion and defend your right to express it," and cable news networks would trumpet non-breaking, really only stories - oh, yeah, sorry. Several of them do that anyway.

Well, our No. 2 story in the Countdown, Spain is taking a step that seems at first to be straight out of "Bizarreo World" until you think about it for a while and then it seems like the kind of logical conclusion that could only be reached by somebody who has eaten at least one full meal in the last three years. Our correspondent is Dawna Friesen.


DAWNA FRIESEN, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Thin is in, especially on the runway.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm not going to eat today or tomorrow because I'm going to be a supermodel.

FRIESEN: But now in Spain, models are being told to beef up.


FRIESEN: They were too skinny at the last year's Madrid Fashion Week or so thought doctors and women's groups who complained that the emaciated look is setting a bad example.

PEREZ-PITA: Some of them might have given an image towards the girls that watch television and it might induce them in a way to trying to lose weight.

FRIESEN: So the local government pressured organizers to hire fuller figured women.

(on camera): For this year's show they're actually calculating the body mass index of all the models. That's a measure of their weight in relation to their height, and anyone who's deemed to underweight is out. So far, 30 percent of the models have failed.

(voice-over): Including Spain's own supermodel, Esther Canadas.

The average runway mold is 5'9", 110 pounds. Spain's new rule means a 5'9" model must weigh at least 123 pounds, still a lot thinner than the average American woman who's just 5'4", 142 pounds.

Fashion is about fantasies, say top agents not creating role models.

CATHY GOULD, ELITE NORTH AMERICA: We don't have any that are anorexic and bulimic. If they are thin and gazelle-like, it's because they're naturally like that.

FRIESEN: Still, experts say it's time the fashion world took some responsibility for the pressure young women feel to be super-skinny.

DR. ALAN MARYON DAVIS, DIRECTOR OF PUBLIC HEALTH, SOUTHWARK: It causes a lot of unhappiness, it causes a lot of illness and quite a few deaths.

FRIESEN: And organizers of the New York and London Fashion Week say they have no plans to follow Madrid's lead. In a world where skinniness is next to godliness, curves, it seems, still have no place on the catwalk.

Dawna Friesen, NBC NEWS, London.


OLBERMANN: Moving from catwalks to catfights. In our roundup of celebrity news, "Keeping Tabs," two of England's foremost divas have finally just kissed and made up. We don't mean that literally, necessarily. Elton John and George Michael were feuding for the better part of two years after Sir Elton accused Michael of wasting his talent, then Michael accused Sir Elton of sicking the media on him. Then things go really nasty, here is a Countdown recreation.



GEORGE MICHAEL, ENTERTAINER: (I hate not to be able to rise above it, but there's only so much you can take.

JOHN: Pig! Pig!


OLBERMANN: But now it appears the ugly spat is over. Elton John telling a British talk show host that, "George and I are fine, he came and stayed down my house last year. We 're fine." Of course, Sir Elton wasn't in his house at the time.

And 11 days after the "Crocodile Hunter," Steve Erwin, was killed in a statistically impossible stingray barb to the heart accident, his fans are still ling up to see him. Thousands of them camping out overnight to get free tickets to his memorial service, next week.

The tickets ran out in 15 minutes. His family has turned down the Australian prime minister's offer for a state funeral, preferring instead to hold a public event at the Australia Zoo's Crocoseum. His father says it will not be a sad funeral, but rather a celebration of Steve Erwin's life.

We end the week on Countdown where we began it. Because if your response we'll repeat the special comment about President Bush and the politicizing of September 11 and there is an unbelievable update to all this. That is ahead, but first time for Countdown latest list of nominees for "Worst Person in the World."

So I'm on the "Today" show this morning flogging the book and if you show it, the answer's no. No, no, no, no. It was just the new chairs.

By the way, Amazon has now exhausted its supply on hand. The delivery delay, they say, will now be like a week or two, which is amazing. Thank you and I'm sorry.

To tonight's nominees. The Bronze to Officer Travis Visser of the police department of Tarpons Springs, Florida, well, ex-officer Travis Visser. Remember the woman who called 911 and asked them to send back that really cute cop to her house. This is her mirror image. Officer Visser stopped Arianna Houllis for traffic violations and finds cocaine in her wallet. He gave her an arrest receipt, some tickets and his address at the MySpace website. He has resigned.

Our runner-up, TruGreen Chemlawn of Ann Arbor, Michigan. That city's noted anti-pesticide activist, Tess Karwoski, once had a contract to get her lawn aerated, but of course, not sprayed. So she looks out of here house yesterday and there's a TruGreen employee spraying her lawn with pesticide. Company says, TruGreen had recently bought the company with which Karwoski had had her lawn aeration contract and it was all just a remarkable coincidence. Which would explain things if they had been aerating, but really doesn't address the spraying, does it?

But our winner, Bill-O. Oh, this is too good to be true. He's got a website full of crap he wants to sell you, including a t-shirt with the website logo on it. And no, the logo's not a falafel. But look at the actual description of the T-shirt. "Nice, comfortable, well conducted, 7.0 ounce, 100 percent jersey cotton T-shirt. T-shirts are full cut and run true to size." Cut and run.

Now, if Bill had a sense of humor, he'd be laughing like hell, just like the rest of us, but since we know he doesn't, that is a Freudian slip in a half!

Bill O'Reilly, today's "Worst Person in the World."


OLBERMANN: To merely say I'm grateful to all those who have written and e-mailed and called and downloaded the video, we count at least 800,000 in the last group, it does not do the feeling justice.

Our No. 1 story in the Countdown, we're going to bring you, again, Monday night's "Special Comment from Ground Zero" on all that site and that date has and has not become.

First though if the physical part of the story has could get worse, it has gotten worse. Governor George Pataki, who was there on Monday and felt the same enduring pain the rest of us did, yesterday vetoed a bill passed by the New York State Assembly, and the New York State Legislature which would have guaranteed that admission to the World Trade Center Memorial and Museum would be free.

The governor said that he understood the sentiment, but that a world-class memorial comes at a significant expense estimated at $50 million a year. It is a point of view that might have some merit if we were even close to actually building that memorial. We are not. Not physically, not emotionally, and certainly not to our great national grief, politically.


OLBERMANN: And lastly tonight, a special comment on why we are here. Half a lifetime ago I worked in the now empty space behind me. And for 40 days after the attacks, I worked here again, trying to make sense of what had happened and was yet to happen, as a reporter. And all the time I knew that the very air I breathed contained the remains of thousands of people, including four of my own friends, two in the planes and as I discovered from the missing posters, seared still into my soul, two more in the towers. And I knew as well that this is the pyre for hundreds of New York policemen and firemen of whom my family can claim half a dozen or more as our ancestors.

I belabor this to emphasize for me this was and is and always shall be personal, and anyone who claims that I and others like me are soft or have forgotten the lessons of what happened here is at best a grasping, opportunistic dilettante and at worst an idiot, whether he is a commentator or a vice president or a president.

However, of all the things of those of us who were here five years ago could have forecast, of all the nightmares that unfolded before our eyes, and the others that unfolded only in our minds, none of us could have predicted this.

Five years later this space is still empty. Five years later there is no memorial to the dead. Five years later there is no building rising to show with proud defiance that we would not have our America wrung from us by cowards and criminals. Five years later this country's wound is still open. Five years later this country's mass grave is still unmarked. Five years later this is still just a background for a photo op. It is beyond shameful.

At the dedication of the Gettysburg Memorial, barely four months after the last soldier staggered from another Pennsylvania field, Mr. Lincoln said, "We cannot dedicate. We cannot consecrate. We cannot hallow this ground. The brave men living and dead who struggled here have consecrated far above our poor power to add or detract."

Lincoln used those words to immortal words to their sacrifice. Today our leaders could use those words to rationalize their own reprehensible inaction. We cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow this ground, so we won't.

Instead they bicker and buck-pass. They thwart private efforts and jostle to claim credit for initiatives that go nowhere. They spend the money on irrelevant wars and elaborate self-congratulations and buying off columnists to write you on good a job they're doing, instead of doing any job at all.

Five years later, Mr. Bush, we are still fighting the terrorists on these streets and look carefully, sir, on these 16 empty acres the terrorists are clearly still winning. And in a crime against every victim here and every patriotic sentiment you mouthed, but did not enact, you have done nothing about it.

And there is something worse still than this vast gaping hole in this city and in the fabric of our nation, there is its symbolism, of the promise unfulfilled, the urgent oath reduced to lazy execution. The only positive on 9/11 and the days and weeks that so slowly and painfully followed it, was the unanimous humanity here and throughout the country. The government, the president in particular, was given every possible measure of support. Those who did not belong to his party - tabled that. Those who doubted the mechanics of his election - ignored that. Those who wondered of his qualifications - forgot that.

History teaches you that nearly unanimous support of a government cannot be taken away from that government by its critics. It can only be squandered by those who use it not to heal a nation's wounds, but to take political advantage.

Terrorists did not steal our newly-regained sense of being American first and political 50th, nor did the Democrats, nor did the media, nor did the people. The president and those around him did that.

They promised bipartisanship and then showed that to them bipartisanship meant that their party would rule and the rest would have to follow or be branded with ever escalating hysteria as morally or intellectually confused, as appeasers. As those who, in the vice president's words, yesterday, "validate the strategy of the terrorists."

They promised protection and then showed that to them protection meant going to war against a despot whose hand they had once shaken, a despot who we learn from our own Senate Intelligence Committee, hated al Qaeda as much as we did.

The polite phrase for how so many of us were duped in to supporting a war on the false premise it had "something to do with 9/11," is "lying by implication." The impolite phrase is "impeachable offense."

Not once, in now five years, has this president ever offered to assume responsibility for the failures that led to this empty space and to this the current and curdled version of our beloved country.

Still, there is a snapping flame from a final candle of respect and fairness. Even his most virulent critics have never suggested that he alone bears the full brunt of the blame for 9/11.

Half the time, in fact, this president has been so gently treated that he has seemed not even to be the man most responsible for anything in his own administration.

Yet, what is happening this very night, the miniseries, created, influenced, possibly financed by the most radical and cold of domestic political Machiavellis, continues to be televised into our homes.

The documented truths of the last 15 years are replaced by bold-faced lies, the talking points of the current regime parroted; the whole sorry story blurred by spin to make the party out of office seem vacillating and impotent and the party in office seem like the only option.

How dare you, Mr. President, after taking cynical advantage of the unanimity and love and transmuting both into fraudulent war and needless death, after monstrously transforming it into fear and suspicion and turning that fear in to the campaign slogan of three elections. How dare you or those around you ever spin 9/11?

Just as the terrorists have succeeded, are still succeeding, as long as there is no memorial and no construction here at Ground Zero, so too have they succeeded and are still succeeding as long as this government uses 9/11 as a wedge to pit Americans against Americans.

This is an odd point to site a television program, especially one from March of 1960, but as Disney's continuing sell-out of the truth and of this country suggests, even television program can be powerful things.

And long ago, a series called the "Twilight Zone" broadcast a riveting episode entitled "The Monsters are Due on Maple Street." In brief, a meteor sparks rumors of an invasion by extraterrestrials disguised as humans. The electricity goes out, a neighbor pleads for calm, suddenly his car and only his car starts. Someone suggests he must be the alien.

Then another man's lights go on. As charges and suspicion and panic overtake the street, guns are inevitably produced. An alien is shot, but then he turns out to be just another neighbor returning from having gone from help.

The camera pulls back to a nearby hill where two extraterrestrial are seen, finally, manipulating a small device that can jam electricity. The veteran tells his novice that there is no need to actually attack, that you just turn off a few of the human machines and then they pick the most dangerous enemy they can find, and it is themselves.

And then, in perhaps his finest piece of writing, Rod Serling sums it up with words of remarkable prescience, given where we find ourselves, tonight: "The tools of conquest," he said, "do not necessarily come with bombs and explosions and fallout. There are weapons that are simply thoughts, attitudes, prejudices, to be found only in the minds of men. For the record," he said, "prejudices can kill and suspicion can destroy, and a thoughtless, frightened search for a scapegoat has a fallout all its own for the children and the children yet unborn."

When those who dissent are told time and time again, as we will be if not tonight by the president, then tomorrow by his portable public chorus, that he is preserving our freedom, but that if we use that any of that freedom we are somehow un-American. When we are scolded that if we merely question, we have "forgotten the lessons of 9/11," look into this empty space behind me and the bipartisanship upon which this administration also did not build, and tell me this - who has left this hole in the ground?

We have not forgotten, Mr. President. You have.

May this country forgive you.


My special comment from Ground Zero, originally broadcast on this program this past Monday, September 11. And since then, remember, we have now been told by this president it is unacceptable to think, even if you are the former secretary of state in that president's first term.

That is Countdown for this the 1,231st day since the declaration of "Mission Accomplished" in Iraq.

This reminder, please join us again Midnight Eastern Time, tonight, 11:00 p.m. Central, 9:00 Pacific for the late edition of Countdown.

I'm Keith Olbermann, goodnight and good luck.