Wednesday, February 28, 2007

'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Feb. 28

Guests: Kelly Kennedy, Richard Wolffe, Anne Kornblut, Jane Mayer

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

The CIA says bin Laden is alive and well and reestablishing training camps in Pakistan. The Pakistanis say bin Laden is not there, and nobody's reestablishing training camps in Pakistan. The White House says bin Laden is still on the run.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you really have bin Laden on the run, how is he reestablishing training camps?

TONY SNOW, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Well, that's a question - that's an intelligence matter that I'm not going to be able to go into.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You continually say the leadership's on the run...


OLBERMANN: Well, obviously, bin Laden establishes a training camp, then runs to the next place he's going to establish another training camp.

So some questions about intel, including how the director of National Intelligence says the term "civil war" accurately describes key elements of the Iraqi conflict. So the right wing has to attack him now?

The military on the attack after the fiasco for outpatient Iraqi vets at Walter Reed. Who's getting punished for the rodent and insect infestation stories? Well, of course, the patients who told the media.

What's the entertainment media telling our society about torture and terror? The troubling series "24" takes an important step back.


KIEFER SUTHERLAND: People in this country are dying. And I need some information. Are you going to give it to me, or do I have to start hurting you?


OLBERMANN: Jack Bauer, Kiefer Sutherland, goes to West Point, at the commandant's request, to tell the cadets to forget what they see on TV, torture is bad, and it doesn't even work.

The torture of the Anna Nicole Smith legal process. Is it finally over with a ruling today?

And Hogwarts and all, "Equus" premieres in London, including actor Daniel Radcliffe's nude scenes.


DANIEL RADCLIFFE, ACTOR: It was a risk. But it was an exciting one.


OLBERMANN: You got it. Harry Potter shows us his magic wand.

All that and more, now on Countdown.




OLBERMANN: Good evening.

If told as a children's fable, what passes for foreign policy in the Bush administration these days could well be titled, "The Senior Administration Official Who Cried Wolfowitz."

Our fifth story on the Countdown, Vice President Cheney and the administration learning the hard way that if you squander your credibility in the pre-Iraq buildup, your subsequent quotations of intel will hold little sway on the world stage, and your subsequent attempts to manipulate intel will really require that you send intelligence officials fully marked scripts to read to the appropriate congressional committees.

And one more lesson for Vice President Cheney, when trying to leak something about yourself anonymously, do not suddenly switch your grammar into the first person, only two days removed from his meeting with Pakistani President Musharraf, the vice president failing to deliver both on results and on the attempt to spin his own visit, the government of Pakistan today saying, in effect, that the hunt for bin Laden is not Pakistan's problem, choosing to do that by refuting U.S. intelligence claims that the al Qaeda leader is even in Pakistan, let alone that he is setting up training camps near the Afghan border.

According to the interior minister of Pakistan, We will act on any such intelligence, but so far, they have not provided any.

With bin Laden still at large, it is getting increasingly difficult for the administration to continue to claim that the war in Iraq is the central front in the war against terror, on Capitol Hill Tuesday, the new director of National intelligence, Mike McConnell, describing the violence in Iraq as a civil war, the DNI further refusing to stick to the administration talking points by letting the softballs lobbed at him by Republican Senator Lindsey Graham just pass him by.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Do you believe the outcome in Iraq is part of the overall war on terror?

MIKE MCCONNELL, DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: A stabilized Iraq would be in our interests in terms of fighting the overall global war on terror.

GRAHAM: Do you believe that Iraq is a central battlefront in the overall war on terror?

MCCONNELL: The outcome of Iraq makes it - it makes it so today based on where we are today.

GRAHAM: Does al Qaeda believe that the outcome in Iraq is part of their overall strategy?

MCCONNELL: I wouldn't go so far as to say al Qaeda would necessarily believe that. Al Qaeda may have...

GRAHAM: Haven't they said that?

MCCONNELL: Well, they want to reestablish their base. And their objective could be in Afghanistan.

GRAHAM: OK. So you don't think al Qaeda sees democracy in Iraq as a threat to their agenda?

MCCONNELL: Well, you described al Qaeda as one large organization.

There are elements of al Qaeda in Iraq. And...

GRAHAM: And I don't want to use any more - Bottom line is, if we withdraw to Kuwait, what's the likelihood that al Qaeda-type elements would follow us to Kuwait?

MCCONNELL: Unlikely.

GRAHAM: Unlikely?


OLBERMANN: Is it used around the home? Is it bigger than a breadbox? White House press secretary Snow choosing to spin that exchange By cherry-picking and elevating the words of one general over those of the nation's top spy chief.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you really have bin Laden on the run, how is he reestablishing training camps?

SNOW: Well, that's a question - that's an intelligence matter that I'm not going to be able to go into.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You continually say the leadership's on the run.


SNOW: Well, if you take a look also at statements that have been made by generals in recent days, that there was - you know, General Schoomaker the other day had a comment that I was asked about, which is, you thought bin Laden had been marginalized.


OLBERMANN: President Bush and Vice President Cheney inviting lawmakers of both parties to the White House this afternoon to discuss the resurgence of the Taliban in Afghanistan, House Speaker Pelosi saying that the Democrats have long believed that country should be the focus of the war against terror, and that the bipartisan, bicameral meeting represented the kind of consultation that has been solely lacking on Iraq.

Time now to call in our own Richard Wolffe, of course, the senior White House correspondent for "Newsweek" magazine.

Richard, good evening.


Good evening, Keith.

OLBERMANN: Pakistan refuting the intelligence, arguably because it's easiest for them domestically to ignore that problem, but then you have the White House press secretary refuting, in essence, the director of National Intelligence, and the director of National Intelligence refusing to hit the softballs being lobbed at him by a Republican senator. Has the administration put itself in a position now where not only nobody believes anyone anymore, but everybody's agenda is clashing with everybody else's internally?

WOLFFE: Well, I guess there's a reason they call it intelligence. And we're seeing, I guess, some people inside the administration finding it hard to understand that they have a powerful director of National Intelligence who's out there in public, not like the old CIA chief. And he has to stand by these assessments they're putting out.

We discussed it when the NIE came out, the National Intelligence Estimate, about Iraq. Civil war was very clearly what they were describing in that NIE. And what you have, with Pakistan in particular, is a conflict between the politics of how to handle Pakistan and the intelligence, which points very clearly to the fact that Pakistan is not a clear ally in the war on terror.

So, you know, that's where the rubber hits the road. It's when the DNI starts talking about it.

OLBERMANN: And about the DNI, Mr. McConnell, Seymour Hersh's article in "The New Yorker" this week reporting that a big factor in his predecessor, John Negroponte's decision to leave his tenure as the DNI were these echoes of Iran-contra in the administration funding of the Sunni jihadists linked to al Qaeda from in Lebanon. Could this have been director McConnell's attempt to claim his independence, to say, You know what? This is more important than the administration's political ends?

WOLFFE: You know, I'm not sure about Negroponte's motives, and I'm not entirely convinced that Negroponte could find a way out of whatever happens in Iran by moving to the State Department, because clearly, the State Department is handling everything to do with Iran right now.

If there are military strikes, if anything does escalate in that way, he'll still have to deal with it. But I think Negroponte actually - intelligence and McConnell now are both asserting their independence. And as you pointed out before, a lot of that has to do with what happened in the runup to the war in Iraq.

OLBERMANN: But in a response to a question from Senator Clinton, Mr. McConnell said it will likely take Iran until 2015 to develop a nuclear weapon, making that threat seem something less than immediate. Did he really cut the president's legs out from under him about Iran with that one answer?

WOLFFE: Well, certainly it cut the legs out from under the hawks. And one of the most hawkish voices in all of this has actually been coming from Israeli sources, saying that the Iranians are much closer to getting a nuke than anyone thinks inside the administration.

I've got to say this. At the highest level inside the White House, they actually think their intelligence on Iran is very weak, even weaker than it was in Iraq. And we all know how that turned out, including the White House.

OLBERMANN: Well, I don't know, how could that be weaker? They've got the wrong country entirely?

WOLFFE: Right.

OLBERMANN: This was a White House and an administration that, whatever else is true or false about it, prided itself on self-discipline. There was strife in the leadup to the war in Iraq, but we didn't hear about it until literally years later. What's happening here? Is that discipline unraveling?

WOLFFE: Well, it is to an extent. People are looking to defend their reputation. Remember, inside the intelligence community, they felt very compromised by George Tenet saying that it was a slam-dunk about Iraq. Tenet was also telling Powell that actually the case didn't really stack up in many ways.

So Iraq has been an object lesson for everyone. And you've definitely got people, who maybe before would have been quoted anonymously, now being much more open about saying how Iran - taking on Iran with military strikes just doesn't make any sense. That's what we're seeing now.

OLBERMANN: Richard Wolffe of MSNBC and "Newsweek," of course. As always, Richard, great thanks.

WOLFFE: Any time.

OLBERMANN: The veil of secrecy in which the White House tends to wrap itself finally managing to suffocate the common sense out of at least one official. It happened during said official's attempt to deny that the vice president had gone into his meeting with Pervez Musharraf this week in order to beat up on the president of Pakistan, the official insisting that he should be referred to only as a senior administration official.

That ground rule being established, let's take a look at what Mr. Anonymous had to say about Mr. Cheney's reported browbeating of the Pakistani president, quote, "That's not the way I work. The idea that I'd go in and threaten someone is an invalid misreading of the way I do business."

Any guesses? Buehler? Buehler? Buehler?

Asked further about the vice president's suggestion earlier in his trip that House Speaker Pelosi and Congressman Murtha were lending comfort to the terrorists, the senior administration official continued, quote, "What I said was that the al Qaeda strategy is based on the notion that they can break the will of the American people, and my point was that if we follow what I believe Speaker Pelosi really wants to do in terms of withdrawal, that that would validate the al Qaeda strategy. I was very careful in those words I selected. I didn't say, Give aid and comfort to terrorists. I didn't say, unpatriotic. I said it would validate the al Qaeda strategy."

The only word he apparently did not select carefully is liberal use of the word pronoun "I."

Quick note to the senior administration official in question, who just might be Vice President Cheney, next time you want to conduct a background interview with reporters, sir, you might want to employ the third person. Call yourself "that guy" or "the vice president." Or "Mr. X."

In comparison, today's big drama in the Libby trial deliberations, anticlimactic at best, anticipation growing overnight regarding the note sent by the jury to Judge Reggie Walton late yesterday. What would they ask? And more importantly, what could it mean? the jury's question turning out to be rather confusing, about the technical legal language in count three of the charge, count three alleging that Scooter Libby lied to the FBI about a conversation he had had with "TIME" magazine reporter Matt Cooper two days before Valerie Plame Wilson was outed, Judge Walton responding to jurors this morning, asking them to clarify that question.

But by then, they no longer needed his help. They replied, quote, "After further discussion, we are clear on what we need to do. No further clarification needed. Thank you. We apologize," some taking the note as an indication that jurors have made it through two of the five charges against Mr. Libby and are now debating the third, or at least were debating it yesterday afternoon. But naturally, there is no guarantee that the jury is taking the charges in order. No verdict today, bottom line.

But a terrible verdict at Walter Reed Hospital, where those Iraq vet outpatients had to stay amid vermin and insects. The ones who blew the whistle are now evidently being punished by the military.

And with only 10 months until the primaries, Barack Obama gaining on Hillary Clinton, and, for the first time, Rudy Giuliani taking the lead against John McCain. An announcement from McCain, and the new polling, ahead.

You are watching Countdown on MSNBC.


OLBERMANN: It was only last week that we learned of the disgraceful treatment and conditions which some wounded vets were enduring in the outpatient facilities at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington. Within days, the Army sprang into action, vowing repairs and reviews and commending the media.

But today, in the fourth story on our Countdown, we're also learning now of additional steps the Army is taking, steps being taken against those wounded vets.

Specifically, wounded vets have been stripped of some of their First Amendment rights, ordered not to speak to the media any more, the Army also suspending previously planned media coverage, including projects by CNN and the Discovery Channel, also from now on, recovering vets will have to wake up every morning at 6:00, be ready for inspection by 7:00, even though most healthy soldiers no longer go through daily inspections after basic training.

And some have been ordered to observe the chain of command from now on when complaining about their living conditions or seeking help with their paperwork.

All of these developments being reported today, not by one of the news outlets that reported the Washington situation last week, but by the "Military Times" newspaper chain.

Let's bring in the reporter responsible for that, "Military Times" staff writer Kelly Kennedy, an Army vet herself, who's been chronicling vet treatment at Walter Reed for the last several months and doing a terrific job in doing so.

Thanks for your time tonight.


OLBERMANN: Your story is based on statements made to you by anonymous soldiers at the medical hold unit. Is there any official confirmation, denial, any response to their claims?

KENNEDY: There is. They confirmed only that the soldiers will be moving from Building 18 to Building 14. But everything else, the public relations people denied. They said that there were no formations, and that there were no orders not to speak to the media.

OLBERMANN: So they're moving from 18 to 14. Is that for the reasons we'd hoped, that they're closing down 18, or remodeling it? It was the one with the particularly outstanding vermin and insect problem. Is that the reason they're being moved out of there?

KENNEDY: Well, that's what the Army says. The soldiers were under the impression that they were being moved, that the media would not have access to them, so the media would not be able to talk to them. And, of course, the Army did say that they need to move them out of Building 18 to refurbish it, to remodel it, and get rid of the mold and the mice.

OLBERMANN: The business about being prepared for inspection at the crack of dawn, wounded vets, is there any plausible explanation for that, other than they're being punished because they went, they went, to some degree, public?

KENNEDY: Well, the soldiers say that the Army says that they aren't requiring these formations, and I don't think they are any more. But it sounds like yesterday morning at 6:00 in the morning, people went through the barracks screaming, Wake up, wake up, wake up, and banging on doors. And the soldiers said they felt like they were in basic training.

But this morning that didn't happen, so I think that someone realized that that was a bad idea.

The soldiers also said that in a meeting on Monday, they were told that they would have inspections because there's going to be the investigation next week. And generals and civilians will be walking through that building, so it needs to be clean.

OLBERMANN: Do you, from your experience, and from the soldiers you spoke to, do you buy that explanation?

KENNEDY: I buy the explanation that the barracks need to be cleaned, but that if officials are walking through, they will need to keep it clean. I'm not sure I buy that there never was an inspection to begin with. The Army PAO said that the inspections would be unobtrusive, and that they wouldn't be at 7:00 in the morning. But that's not what it sound like happened.

OLBERMANN: Just last week, the new defense secretary, Mr. Gates, praised the media in an exceptional - I mean, if not necessarily complimentarily, but exceptional as in unusual manner, praised the media for shedding the light on the conditions at Walter Reed, including places that don't ordinarily get praise from people connected to the Bush administration, like "The Washington Post," like NBC News.

Do you have an assessment? Was he being disingenuous? Or (INAUDIBLE) is, is the, is whatever happened to these, to these kids in Walter Reed something he doesn't know about? How - there seems to be a disconnect between those two things.

KENNEDY: I - my big question to this whole thing has been the GAO reports, the government accountability reports, documenting these problems with the disability evaluation system. Came out in March of 2006, so I'm not really sure how people could not know. I don't know that the media necessarily uncovered something that people didn't know about. There were congressional hearings, people came - soldiers came and talked about their problems there. So I'm not sure where that's coming from.

OLBERMANN: Do you know (INAUDIBLE) - are the promises that were made to clean this situation up from Mr. Gates and others in the military chain of command, were - do - have they been acted upon? Have, have measures been taken as promised? Have quick steps been taken to, to ameliorate the situation for these vets?

KENNEDY: I know the elevator was fixed in Building 18 on Sunday, the day that the "Army Times" and "The Washington Post" articles came out, the first ones. And they've been coming through and checking with the soldiers to see what needs to be taken care of in their rooms.

As far as the disability evaluation system, it does look like they're looking into it. And there was a Army Surgeon General report that found 87 problems with the system. So they've been looking at it.

OLBERMANN: At least that part of it seems to be happening.

Kelly Kennedy, correspondent for the "Military Times," ahead on this story, and really to the Public Good in capital letters. Thanks for joining us, and thanks for staying on top of the story.

KENNEDY: Thanks for having me.

OLBERMANN: The Army is also now turning to a fictional character, Jack Bauer, to explain that torture is bad, after cadets apparently got the idea from the TV show that torture is good. That's not us saying that. That's the brigadier general of West Point saying that.

And, of course, from watching our TV show, you'd have to get the idea that all they do in Japan is build another new robot every other week. Yes, pretty much. The latest robot.

Ahead on Countdown.


OLBERMANN: The professional wrestler, the former Ricky the Dragon Steamboat, turns 54 today. I did not misspeak there. His ex-wife got the rights to his name. Now, that's a bitter divorce. Anyway, he was actually born Richard Blood, which would seem to have been a perfectly sufficient name for a pro wrestler, but what the hell do I know about marketing wrestlers?

Let's play Oddball.

We begin in Tokyo, with the Countdown Cool-Ass Robot of the Week. And check this one out. Not only does it look like Optimus Prime, it also serves you drinks, vacuums the carpet, and folds the laundry, all this for just over $400,000. But it also does dishes. Now how much would you pay? As usual, the Japanese way ahead of the U.S. in the robot race. Or are they?

Oddball has obtained this video from the Internets of a robotic minifridge designed by John Cornwell, a graduate of Duke. It delivers a cold beer with the push of a remote control button. I think we may finally have found a winner.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) to be a walking fridge.


OLBERMANN: To Lisensee (ph), Austria, where extreme divers may have found a way to make the sport of hockey interesting. They play it on the underside of the ice. Whoa, that is freaking. Nah, still kind of boring, actually. Players use sticks to try to whack a Styrofoam biscuit into an upside-down basket. They're allowed to check and charge, as in the above water version of the game. The players have to surface every 30 seconds or so to breathe. And the Zamboni ice resurfacing machine, well, they sent it out after the first period of the first game, and it just sank without a trace.

Finally to New York, where the rats have never eaten better. Another video this week, capturing the critters inside a Manhattan Au Bon Pain restaurant, a slightly more upscale night out for the vermin after a bunch of them were spotted at a Greenwich Village KFC last week. That place had passed health inspection the day before. New York Health Inspector Chester has not been available for comment.

Also tonight, are the presidential front-runners in danger of losing their leads? What, with just 10 months until the first primary, Clinton losing some ground to Obama? McCain behind Giuliani? McCain goes on Letterman to announce? Explanations ahead.

And theatergoers are shouting Bravo! after seeing a whole new dimension into Harry Potter on the London stage, his acting. Oh, yes, oh, yes, the acting. No, it's Daniel Radcliffe naked. We'll have the Mr. First Nighter report.

Details ahead.

But first, time for Countdown's top three newsmakers of this day.

Number three, Mayor William Stortz of Bristol, Connecticut. For the third time in a month, somebody has thrown a brick with a message attached to it at his car or at his home. I was nowhere near Bristol, Connecticut.

Number two, John Harris, formerly of "The Washington Post," now the editor at, that phrase "slow-bleed strategy" Republicans stuck on the Democrats for a couple of days before it faded out last week, the one all the leading Republicans claimed all the leading Democrats had actually used to describe the Democrats' plan for Iraq, Mr. Harris has today acknowledged that no Democrat ever said it. He thought it up and inserted it into one of his Web site pieces about Iraq policy.

And number one, Kevin Russell of Gary, Indiana, arrested at the Chase Bank in nearby Hobart for trying to cash a phony check, $50,000, made out to him and signed, "King Savior, King of Kings, Lord of Lords, Servant." He had several other checks made out to him by God. Next time, sir, get it from him in cash.


OLBERMANN: With almost a year and a half to go until the 2008 nominating conventions, two separate polls showing signs of serious stirring among two important constituencies in each party's base. Our third story on the Countdown tonight, here come Obama and Giuliani.

Both polls in question, Zogby and an ABC -"Washington Post" poll showing Senator Barack Obama taking the lead over Senator Hillary Clinton in a key Democratic constituency, African-American voters. Zogby gives Obama 36 percent support among black voters, to Clinton's 27 percent. The ABC -"Washington Post" numbers, 44 and 33 percent.

More surprising, perhaps, the latter poll shows former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani doubling the support of fellow front-runner Senator John McCain, 44 percent to 21. In large part, the paper says, that is thanks to Giuliani's support among perhaps the key Republican base, evangelicals. And that is surprising, obviously due not just to Mr. McCain's assiduous courting of that base, but also to Mr. Giuliani's long-time support of gay rights and reproductive choice, perhaps the most important issues from the perspective of the religious right.

Let's turn to "Washington Post" political reporter Anne Kornblut to put some flesh on these figures. Anne, good evening.


OLBERMANN: Let's start with the simple one. Has Hillary Clinton lost some kind of edge among black voters, simply because Barack Obama has now had time to introduce himself?

KORNBLUT: Well, from these poll numbers, it does look that way. She had a distinct advantage as recently as December and January. She was - she had a double sized lead. She was 60-20 among black voters over Obama, and now that has reversed. He is now, as you mentioned earlier, in the lead. He's now leading her among African-American voters. And his campaign would say that this is because voters have had - African-American voters, all voters, have had more time to get to know him.

Her campaign would say that these numbers might be exaggerated and certainly aren't locked in.

OLBERMANN: Is there anything else in the polling regarding Clinton and Obama that suggests that kind of switch?

KORNBLUT: Well, the voters in here do say that they favor their candidate strongly. So - but, what it doesn't tell you is why people have gone from one to the other. So, no, there is not really a way to figure out people's motivations, just that they are now supporting Obama.

OLBERMANN: The other side of the equation; how is it that a conservative war hero, John McCain, after six years of largely carrying Bush water, or going further than him, and courting the evangelicals lately particularly, has seemingly lost their support to a twice divorced, pro-choice New Yorker, who supports gay rights? There seems to be something counter-intuitive there, to say the least.

KORNBLUT: That was really the most surprising number of all in this poll. I think everyone agreed. Our analysts looked at this and said, and people I talked to today looked at this and said that, as much as it is perhaps a sign of strong support for Giuliani, it could also be that people are just dissatisfied. They're dissatisfied with the war. They are fishing around. They are uncommitted.

Certainly, the numbers suggested that the support for Giuliani is not as strong as the support for Democrats, on the Democratic side is. So this could just be some early casting about, trying to figure out what they're doing, but not really locking in to him, just being dissatisfied with the others.

OLBERMANN: Does it say anything about Mr. McCain that while his official announcement is not supposed to be until April, he's - he went to David Letterman show tonight. They're going to play this this evening. He's already taped it. He said this tonight. Listen to this.


DAVID LETTERMAN, "THE LATE SHOW": Are you running? Are you going to announce that you're running?

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: The last time we were on this program, I'm sure you remember everything very clearly -


MCCAIN: - that we say. But you asked me if I would come back on the show -


MCCAIN: - if I was going to announce.


MCCAIN: I am announcing that I will be a candidate for president of the United States.



OLBERMANN: Always an electric charge going through the audience when you hear that announcement. I mean, if Letterman had said that, there might have been a round of applause too. But that particular thing seems more out of the Arnold Schwarzenegger or John Edwards playbook. Is McCain revising strategy? Is he reaching out to other people at this point?

KORNBLUT: Well, I don't know. Come on, it's not exactly a surprise that he's announcing that he's running for president, and we're still going to have a big rollout speech in Sedona when he does his real announcement. But I do think that McCain is trying to lighten up a little, show the fun McCain that he was back in 2000 when he ran, that people seemed to like so much.

He's been very downcast recently because of the war, and certainly with these poll numbers like this. And so I think he's trying to, you know, capture a lit bit of the old McCain, the maverick McCain who went and did fun things and said what he felt, as opposed to being the serious front runner.

OLBERMANN: One other thing about McCain's candidacy, Tom Ridge, the original secretary of Homeland Security, already announced his support of McCain, but he's going to be the co-chair of the Exploratory McCain Committee. Obviously Rudy Giuliani's national reputation, deserved or not, stems from what he was perceived as doing on 9-11. Does it matter if the country's first official counter-terrorist says, I'm supporting the other guy?

KORNBLUT: Well, I don't know about. He's, after all, just a surrogate. But it does show you what we see in the poll numbers too, which is that national security and leadership in national security are the most important issues. They appear to be trumping social issues in the Republican field, which is not something we've seen in the last two elections on the Republican side alone.

So I think you'll see some serious duking it out between, especially, Giuliani and McCain over national security issues. And that's one first sign of it.

OLBERMANN: Any indicator of how the dark horses are doing? Is there a self-fulfilling prophecy in these polls, or can a Mitt Romney or Bill Richardson still work their way into the lead in the groups?

KORNBLUT: Well, we've seen already people like Vilsack drop out, because they can't get above single digits and they can't raise money. That said, it's still - We keep saying this, but it's actually true: it's still a long way out. There will be people - whether it's Romney, who's still in single digits, or Richardson, there will be people who are able to go to the debates, maybe gain some traction that way. And we don't know what's going to happen to the front-runners. We have already seen them reverse themselves now.

OLBERMANN: Yes, this Letterman show tonight with McCain announcing will replay four times before the conventions. Anne Kornblut, of the "Washington Post," great thanks Anne.

KORNBLUT: Thank you.

OLBERMANN: Also tonight, where is that invisibility cloak when the audience needs it? After all hope, Daniel Radcliffe finally bears all on stage.

And is this possible? Could Anna Nicole Smith be buried finally, and before James Brown? A team of judges weighs in on Judge Larry's decision. And the unfounded rumors about the fate of the late model's dog? Details ahead, but first here are Countdown's top three sound bites of this today.


JAY LENO, "THE TONIGHT SHOW": Georgia Governor Sonny Purdue introduced President Bush to the Republican Governors Association Meeting. And this sounded like a backhanded compliment.

GOV. SONNY PURDUE, GEORGIA: You know, Vince Lombardi once said that success is not about strength, it's not about knowledge, but it's about will. That's the leadership that President George W. Bush has provided. Thank you Mr. president.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If it's FedExed, it's absolutely, positively overnight? Not the case.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: His beloved and newly won Oscar is MIA. Asman won the award for his sound editing work on "Letters From Iwo Jima," but wasn't allowed to carry the Oscar on the plane, because it is considered a blunt object. So, he shipped it, but it never left L.A.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sky 9 hovered right over him after a 150-pound boulder crashed down the hill and into his car. Today, we were there when James and his new girlfriend Jenette saw that car for the first time.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, my gosh. How did you get out?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What are you're going to Colorado - what are you going to do there? You're a city boy. What are you going to do in Colorado?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'll find something to do.


OLBERMANN: In London right now you can see Daniel Radcliffe, better known as Harry Potter, playing a mentally disturbed boy, who likes to mutilate horses. Yet, in our number two story on the Countdown, it's not his character in Peter Shaffer's play "Equus" that's causing scandal, but the fact that he swears, smokes, and for a brief moment gets completely naked. Hundreds of theater fans and celebrities showed up to last night's premiere performance to see the horse, no doubt. Also there, our correspondent Dawna Friesen. And if you think Dawna was Friesen, think about Mr. Radcliffe out there, aux natural.


DAWNA FRIESEN, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): After seven years playing a clean-cut boy wizard, Daniel Radcliffe has made a radical move, stripping bare on stage in a dark psychological drama about a disturbed stable boy who commits a brutal crime.

DANIEL RADCLIFFE, ACTOR: It was a risk, but it was an exciting one. You if you never took a risk, then that would just be diabolical. It would just be terrible and boring all the time.

FRIESEN: Radcliffe swears and smokes in the play, but makes no apologies for it, or for the nudity.

RADCLIFFE: It's not a big part of the play. It's probably four minutes at the most, I'm guessing. The implication in the papers was that it was going to be sort of gratuitous, which it's not.

FRIESEN: It was compliments all around last night.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it's astonishing. You keep forgetting, he's only 17.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Daniel Radcliffe has to be one of the bravest young actors to grace the stage.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He certainly proved himself as a serious actor.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think you're just more absorbed in the whole play, as opposed to him appearing nude.

FRIESEN (on camera): Having Radcliffe in the cast is working magic here at the box office. Tickets are going fast. Almost two million dollars worth were sold before the play even opened.

MATT WOLF, THEATER CRITIC: If people are going to see this production to discover whether or not Dan Radcliffe has a life beyond Harry Potter, the answer to that emphatically is yes.

FRIESEN (voice-over): But Harry isn't dead yet. Radcliffe is heading back to Hogwarts. The fifth Harry Potter film is out in July, and Radcliffe begins shooting the sixth this summer.

Dawna Friesen, NBC News, London.


OLBERMANN: Harry Potter and the unexpected stare toward his crotch in the next film. What we believe is the final decision in the legal wrangling over Anna Nicole Smith's dead body eclipsed for a few moments this afternoon by an Internet rumor that her famed dog Sugar Pie had joined her in that great beyond.

Leading off Keeping Tabs tonight, first about Ms. Smith, a Florida appeals court upholding the outcome of the Judge Larry Show, that the court advocate for Ms. Smith's infant daughter should decide where Ms. Smith should be buried, and that the last ascertainable wish of the deceased was to rest next to her late son in the Bahamas. Smith's mother had sought the right to bury her estranged daughter in Texas. The baby's advocate, Richard Milstein, has scheduled Smith's funeral, in the Bahamas, for Friday morning.

Fortunately we do not have to deal with such somber rights about Anna Nicole Smith's dog. It was reported from the Bahamas that Sugar Pie had not only been run over and killed, but run over and killed by a news vehicle. It turns out the dog is just fine. This relieves us then of having to ask these questions: what was the cause of death; was the dog on any drugs; can Howard K. Stern make any money off a dead dog; who was the real father; will there be a legal battle over where to bury Sugar Pie; and, of course, will the loser in the who gets to bury Anna Nicole Smith battle get to bury Sugar Pie as a consolation prize? All moot now. Sugar Pie is not dead.

And Antonella Barba is not kicked off "American Idol," at least not for the naughty photos of her that surfaced on the Internet. The executive producer of the so-called reality show says that any decision to get rid of the New Jersey singer will be in the hands of voters alone, and the two male judges who "USA Today" cornered at the Playboy mansion, and I'm not making that part up, agree. Simon Cowell opining, if the public wants to keep her in, they will keep her in. Randy Jackson adding, nobody is clean in the entertainment business. Well, you guys would know.

From reality TV to a dangerous blurring of the lines between reality and TV. Why Jack Bauer has to go to West Point to tell American soldiers in training that torture is bad. That's ahead, but first time for Countdown's latest list of nominees for Worst Person in the World.

The bronze to an unnamed woman substitute teacher at Pleasant Grove Elementary School in Jefferson County, Alabama. Filling in in a fourth grade classroom, she got a little overmatched and a lot overzealous. She scotch taped one boy's mouth shut. She scotch taped four other fourth graders to their seats. Don't worry, she won't be back teaching there, unless she brings more tape.

Our silver medalist tonight, the folks at one of the Borders Bookstores in New York City, prominently displaying our ABC colleague Bob Woodruff's new book "In An Instant," complete with a sizable price discount sticker, 30 percent off, with the sticker on the corner of Bob's head. After what happened to him in Iraq, you couldn't have put it in the other corner, or at the bottom, or something? Come on.

But our winner, Melanie Morgan of KSFO, an ABC radio station in San Francisco, whose program director had to formally correct statements on the air about billionaire financier George Soros made by the station's sleep deprived morning hosts, led by the reprehensible Ms. Morgan. Co-host Lee Rogers had said that when Soros was a teenager in occupied Hungry, he had, quote, apparently very cheerfully and willfully went to work for the Nazis. A sidekick named Tom Brenner added, he just kind of complied willingly.

Ms. Morgan added that Soros had done so, quote, in order to further his own career. The station's program director went on the air during their show to say the remarks and others were not accurate and that the station regrets that they were broadcast. OK, a first step. Now get out there, pal, and admit the station regrets everything Melanie Morgan has ever said is not accurate. Melanie Morgan of KSFO, the ABC radio station in San Francisco, today's Worst Person in the World.


OLBERMANN: To anyone curious as to why atrocities like Abu Ghraib might have happen, and could happen again, this message from former and current soldiers, turn on your TV. In our top story on the Countdown, the concern that U.S. troops could be influenced by successful use of torture on shows like "24" is no longer hypothetical. According to former Army Specialist Tony Lagaranis, who was discharged in 2005, his unit did get inspiration from fictional drama. Quoting him, "interrogators didn't have guidance from the military on what to do because we were told that the Geneva Conventions didn't apply anymore, so our training was obsolete and we were encouraged to be creative. We turned to television and moves to look for ways of interrogating."

Which is exactly what the Dean of West Point Military Academy, Brigadier General Patrick Finnegan was afraid of it, and why he and three interrogators visited the set of "24" to ask the producers and writers to stop portraying torture techniques as effective and acceptable. The show's star, Kiefer Sutherland, has since agreed to come talk to the cadets at West Point, to help teach them that torture is wrong.

But the show's creator, Joel Surnow, who you may remember skipped out of that meeting with the general in Hollywood, in order to have a conference call instead with Fox noise channel head Roger Ails, is adamant that "24" does not influence people. He has said as much to Jane Mayer of the "New Yorker," who joins us now. Great thanks for your time tonight.

JANE MAYER, "THE NEW YORKER": Great to be here.

OLBERMANN: I want to get your impression on Kiefer Sutherland's action in a moment here. But first about Mr. Surnow and - he told you - let me make sure I'm quoting him exactly here from your piece, "Young interrogators don't need our show. What the human mind can imagine is so much greater than what we show on TV. No one needs us to tell them what to do. It's not like somebody goes, 'oh, look, what they're doing, I'll do that,' is it."

Apparently, he was 100 percent wrong on that and even the people at West Point knew that, right?

MAYER: Well, that is certainly what the people at West Point have said, that the soldiers are getting completely inspired by the show "24" to try to copy what they see on the TV show every week. And there's a torture scene almost every week on the show. So, I think what, you know, Joel Surnow was trying to say is that, you know, you don't need a TV show to inspire sadism. You've got that, maybe, as part of human nature. But what the TV show does do is it kind of normalizes a certain sort of behavior and makes it look acceptable.

It is almost like an advertisement for torture every week.

OLBERMANN: Yes, I don't think a psychoanalyst's have named this phenomenon yet. Maybe it will be called TV disconnect or something. You work in an industry in which advertisers pay billions of dollars a year to try to influence viewers, yet everybody is inclined to think your show does not influence viewers. And yet, Mr. Surnow has kind of an advanced form of this. "24" does not influence people to torture, yet he was involved in launching this conservative comedy show on Fox News with really an express purpose to influence people. Did you gather at all from him that he realized that that might be a very heavy rationalization to carry around for any length of time?

MAYER: I think that he is rationalizing it fine. He seems to be happy with the justification. He has kind of let himself off the hook on this. But you're right. I mean, there is a complete contradiction. The advertising industry would not exist if television did not influence people. I mean, companies spend millions of dollars just for placing their products on these shows. Obviously, the TV show influences people's behavior.

It is funny because conservatives have made this argument for a long time about sex being shown on television. And I think pretty much, at large, the society has decided they don't want to see certain types of racial stereotypes and smoking and alcohol, and other kinds of things that influence people's behavior. So what West Point was saying is, torture is actually influencing soldiers here.

OLBERMANN: The recruit who said he was told the Geneva Convention no longer applied, could he have gotten that impression by accident, or did one of his trainers or superiors literally tell him that?

MAYER: Well, I interviewed Tony Lagaranis. He was an Army interrogator in Iraq. He said he was told that directly by his supervisor. It is not surprising really. Because after 9/11, you remember, President Bush said that the Geneva Conventions did not apply to terrorism suspects. And so, you talk about what kind of suspect did the soldiers encounter in Iraq? Well, a lot of time there's been this merging in the rhetoric, anyway, of the Bush administration, saying it's a war on terror in Iraq.

So, you are dealing with suspects who could be argued were terror suspects. It was completely confusing to the soldiers. And I think, in that void, that is when they turned to popular culture, because they really weren't sure what the rules were.

OLBERMANN: So, back to Kiefer Sutherland, who from my experience is a good guy with a great conscience, and he's actually going to talk to these kids at West Point like McGruff the Crime Dog coming in to give a speech. But if he says torture is bad, but his character on TV is still torturing somebody every week on "24," are the cadets more likely to ignore him and just listen to his character?

MAYER: Well, you know, you could make fun of him for basically saying, I am not a torturer, I just play one on TV. But, in truth, I think it is a great gesture that he is making. And the problem is, while he might be reaching a class or two of cadets at West Point, the show reaches 15 million viewers every night.

OLBERMANN: And does that, in fact, desensitize those other viewers, the ordinary civilians who are watching it?

MAYER: Well, it's one of those things that it is very hard to tell. It is a long argument about popular culture's affect on thinking in America. But certainly according to the dean of West Point, it is having a big effect. It is particularly hard for this show because it always wraps itself up as a very uber-patriotic show. And now you have the real patriots saying, hey, this is a toxic environment you are creating for real soldiers.

OLBERMANN: I don't think the brigadier general is some sort of left wing lunatic. Jane Mayer of the "New Yorker Magazine," great thanks for the reporting and for joining us tonight.

MAYER: Glad to be here.

OLBERMANN: That's Countdown for this the 1,417th day since the declaration of mission accomplished in Iraq. I'm Keith Olbermann, good night and good luck.


Tuesday, February 27, 2007

'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Feb. 27

Guests: Ben Venzke, Dana Milbank, Patrick Murphy, Chris Cillizza

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

A suicide bomber attacks Bagram Air Force Base in Afghanistan. Vice President Cheney was there at the time. The Taliban claims he was the target. We say he was not.

Undisputed, the Taliban is back to suicide bombing, and at least a dozen are dead.

Also undisputed, anybody in the administration will blame the media, anybody, including the first lady, who says the problem in Iraq is the one bombing a day shown on television. Uh-huh.

Meantime, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs' report suggests our military is not ready if another crisis springs up anywhere else. Not ready in training, in munitions, in protection for the troops.


TONY SNOW, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Do you send any forces into battle that are not fully ready? And the answer is no.


OLBERMANN: Reality check. Congressman Patrick Murphy of Pennsylvania, Iraq vet, just back from there, and from Afghanistan, joins us.

Target, Al Gore. After the Oscar, after the administration said we had to fight global warming just like he said, the right-wing water carriers go after Al Gore's utility bill.

Her 8-year-old weighs 218 pounds. So her solution, naturally, put him on TV.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What they're doing is, through the way they're treating him and feeding him, they're slowly killing him.


OLBERMANN: Other growth problems, how does a man's shoe size go from 10 ½ to 13 after he turns 29 years old? That man is Barry Bonds. His saga continues.

And did you watch this saga online? Ryan and Mindy, the North Carolina students who broke up on YouTube, have we got a surprise for you about them.

All that and more, now on Countdown.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Want to air it all out?


OLBERMANN: Good evening.

The suicide bomb attack on a U.S. air base in Afghanistan during a vice presidential visit, just coincidence. The report characterizing the U.S. military readiness as significantly at risk, just jargon. The two-thirds of this country opposed to the president's surge in Iraq, just the result of the media showing one bombing a day.

Our fifth story on the Countdown, given how well things are going in the many wars of George W. Bush, it's amazing how many "justs" there are.

At least 12 people, maybe as many as 23, including a U.S. soldier, died when a suicide bomber blew himself up at an entrance to Bagram Air Force Base in Afghanistan this morning. The Taliban says the bomber was trying to reach Vice President Cheney, who was inside, about a mile away from the actual blast site.

Mr. Cheney said afterwards, quote, "I heard a loud boom," the U.S. military dismissing any suggestion that Cheney was the target, one official characterizing the possibility as, quote, "so remote that I would say it is implausible," even though suicide attacks on U.S. bases in Afghanistan are, by the military's own admission, a rarity, and attacks on Bagram Air Base are even rarer. This was the first since July of 2006.

The "Remain calm, all is well" mantra from the administration not limited to Afghanistan. According to the first lady, quote, "Many parts of Iraq are stable now. But, of course, what we see on television is the one bombing a day that discourages everybody."

No comment from Mrs. Bush about the dozens of bombings in Iraq today, suicide bombers killing at least 10 people in Mosul. Another 10 died in a series of bombings in Baghdad. Three U.S. soldiers were killed by roadside bombs south of the capital. And 18 young boys died when a bomb blew up at a soccer field in Ramadi.

Hundreds more injured by explosions, including 31 Iraqis wounded by a controlled detonation by U.S. forces.

Joining us now, "Washington Post" national political reporter, MSNBC analyst Dana Milbank.

Thanks for your time tonight, Dana.


Good evening, Keith.

OLBERMANN: There are hundreds of attacks in Iraq every week. Most of them are not shown on TV because it is to dangerous for journalists to go and get the footage of them. Did the first lady misspeak when she said that there is one discouraging bombing a day? Or does she really expect people to buy the idea that somehow the media is to blame for what's happening in Iraq?

MILBANK: Yes, it's amazing how a car bombing will ruin an otherwise perfectly good day. She - I think, in fairness, she may have been misspeaking. She presumes - there could be other car bombings that she did not find to be discouraging.

But more likely, what's going on here is that the first lady's press office, frequently the last one to get sort of the talking points, the administration, even President Bush recently, has been saying, you know, It's really going to affect things here is the facts on the ground there. It's not what he says about it, it's not what anybody says about it.

So I think, if anything, the president himself has been lightening up a bit on that. But he's got to get this memo over to the East Wing so the first lady can get with the program.

OLBERMANN: Do we know to what degree there might be spin involved in the story out of Bagram Air Base, whether or not the Taliban did know the vice president was unexpectedly still there? It does seem like an extraordinary coincidence that the first attack there in seven months happens to come when the vice president just happened to still be there.

MILBANK: Yes, it really does seem unusual, and I think it's worth noting that those reports out of - the officials out in Afghanistan, there may be a bit of CYA going on there. And even Tony Snow was saying, We didn't know one way or the other. But clearly, the Taliban knows he's there.

And as you note, the larger question here is not whether they were targeting Cheney. Obviously, they were aware that they weren't going to hit him from such a tremendous distance. But the fact is that you do have this extraordinarily resurgent Taliban in Afghanistan that's becoming an increasing problem for the military and for everybody in Washington.

OLBERMANN: The premise with this trip was, he was still there - he was there later than expected. Is that the gist of it?

MILBANK: Yes. Little snowstorm came in the night before. But nobody has - the Taliban has not taken any credit for the weather.

OLBERMANN: So in sum here, Dana, the administration's telling us that most of Iraq is stable, is - the first lady said that, the vice president was not targeted, although they could have known he was there yesterday, there's one bombing a day from Iraq seen on TV. The same administration told us a few months ago that the insurgency was in its last throes, it told us the Taliban was basically out of business.

Where is the credibility regarding the war on terror and what's going on on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan? Or is that no longer relevant to their equation?

MILBANK: Well, you know, there's two competing narratives here. And it's also interesting today that the secretary of state, perhaps responding to your words to her yesterday, tried a bit of honesty today before the Senate, was saying that, after all, we are going to now talk to Iran and Syria. Secretary Gates was today saying we're facing five different wars in Iraq. Mike McConnell, new intelligence director, was talking about the deteriorating and difficult situation in Iraq.

So you do have some of these folks beginning to tether themselves a bit more closely to reality. And, of course, you also have the examples of what you're talking about.

I think there's a tension within the administration, and they're aware that they don't have a great deal of credibility at this point.

OLBERMANN: And let's be clear, we both know Secretary Rice was not responding to anything done here.

MILBANK: Oh, I think she was, Keith.

OLBERMANN: Well, all right, thanks. Our own Dana Milbank, national political reporter for "The Washington Post," who's always right, except just there. Great thanks, Dana.

It's not just the current situation in Iraq and Afghanistan to which the administration appears to be oblivious, but the U.S. ability to fight future wars as well, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, General Peter Pace, telling Congress in a classified report that the military's readiness declined last year.

As it stands, there is a significant risk that it would not be able to fully respond to a sudden crisis elsewhere, the chairman's report submitted to the Pentagon at the start of the year, and so does not take the president's latest troop increase into account. Despite his warning, the White House is characterizing the assessment as a wish list rather than harsh reality.


TONY SNOW, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: It is simply an assessment of, you know, if you had what you think you'd really like, and what you consider absolutely necessary in the long run, do you want more? And the answer is, Yes, and we believe that's necessary, and that is why that is part of the recommendation that the president has put together for this.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: "The Washington Post" reported Friday that according to Army officials, virtually all of the U.S.-based Army combat brigades are rated right now as unready to deploy. So when you say you have improved end strength...

SNOW: Well, but, you, it's, this gets you into part of the jargon. What happens is that if you also ask the commanders, When the time comes for deployment, will you have readiness? and the answer is yes. A lot of that has to do with whether the equipment is here, or in theater. The equipment's in theater, for the most part. No reason to sort of take stuff out and then put it back in.

We're also in the process of seeking funding to continue to improve and replenish equipment. So the really important question is, do you send any forces into battle that are not fully ready? And the answer is no.


OLBERMANN: Tell that, though, to the 4th Stryker Brigade of the 2nd Infantry Division, or the 2nd Brigade of the 3rd Infantry Division. Both of those combat units are having to forego the benefit of counterinsurgency training at the National Training Center in Fort Irwin, California, which has been specially designed to prepare them for war in the desert of Iraq.

They have to forego these trainings because they are deploying early, as part of the president's troop escalation in Iraq.

Joining us now, the only congressman who's actually served there, Representative Patrick Murphy of Pennsylvania.

OLBERMANN: Thank you for some of your time, sir.

REP. PATRICK MURPHY (D), PENNSYLVANIA: Thanks, Keith, thanks for having me on the show. I appreciate it.

OLBERMANN: You just got back from a tour of the region. You were in Iraq, you were in Afghanistan. Do you agree with General Pace's assessment about lack of military readiness? Or do you agree with the administration's contention that the U.S. troops are fully battle-ready?

MURPHY: I side with the military. General Pace is a good man, and I'll - he's a straight shooter, Keith. And the reality of it is, is our troops are spread very thin, and they need help, and we're going to give it to them in Congress.

OLBERMANN: All right, specifically, what do you do about two Army brigades, the ones we just mentioned, going to Iraq this spring, no longer getting the specialized training to fight in the desert, because they're part of this surge? What is Congress going to do to try to stop that from happening (INAUDIBLE)?

MURPHY: Well, the president has ordered them to go, and, you know, the reality of it is, I think all of us here at home need to pray for them. We're looking at what we can do in Congress right now. We obviously have a supplemental coming up, and we look forward to - You know, we were having these hearings. The reality of it is, is, you know, they didn't even talk about it for the past six years. You know, they had a Congress that didn't like to ask the tough questions.

And, you know, I, you know, General Pace - I served under him, obviously, you know, Keith, that I served in the military, just got off of active duty a few years ago. And, you know, I talked to him about the training of the Iraqis. I talked to him about the readiness issue.

And Congress, you know, has finally asked him, you know, Do you need more troops? Do you need more troops? Under Rumsfeld, they never needed more troops. And now they're saying, We need 92,000 more. So we're looking at how we could do that for them.

OLBERMANN: All right, how do you deal with the issue of equipment? The administration promised to fix that appalling lack of body armor and the armor-plated Humvees. Has anything changed on that?

MURPHY: Well, they got the body armor, and the Humvees are getting fitted. You know, there's still more we can do. And the reality of it is, is that, you know, I think a lot of us who served over there are a little disappointed. We think they should be acting with a little bit more sense of urgency. And they're not. And so we need to make sure that we do, as a Congress, act with a sense of urgency and ask the tough questions.

OLBERMANN: All right. The tough question about Congress at the moment was - pertains to nonbinding and binding House resolutions. You voted for the nonbinding against the troop increase in Iraq. What is Congress going to do, bindingly, to resolve this war? When is the electorate going to see some concrete action on getting U.S. troops out of Iraq?

MURPHY: Sure, Keith, and we always said that the - that resolution that we had two weeks ago was the first step. So let's, you know, understand that. And I was very happy that it passed, I'm very happy that we had the debate, 393 members of Congress actually debated this on the floor, a debate that we haven't had.

So that was the first step. I have offered a piece of legislation with Senator Barack Obama and Congressman Mike Thompson, who is a Vietnam veteran, another paratrooper like I was. And the reality of it is, is that we said, We need a binding piece of legislation. We need to give the Iraqis a timeline. We've called for a 12-month timeline, so they come off the sidelines and finally fight for their country, so we can refocus our efforts on Afghanistan.

Keith, you mentioned - you know, I just was in Iraq, Afghanistan, Turkey, Pakistan. But I met with General McNeil (ph). He is the commander, the NATO commander, an American general that I served under when I was at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. And I asked him, I said, Sir, what do you need? Do you need more troops? And he looked at me in the eye and he said, Murph, I need four more brigades, I need two more - I'm sorry, I need four more battalions, two battalions, about 1,500 troops of Brits, 1,500 troops of Americans.

The Brits just came through, and now he's asking our military for more troops. And we need to give it to him, because the Taliban, who are going to resurge and have this spring offensive, are coming, and we need to make sure that we support our military and put our eye back on the ball in Afghanistan, Keith.

OLBERMANN: Politically speaking, as the last question, Congressman, your majority leader, Mr. Hoyer, told reporters today that the Democrats are, now, let me quote him, "in the process of choosing the least dangerous, least negative alternative to resolving the situation in Iraq." Where do you stand on that? What's the most promising alternative that you see right now, besides the one that you proposed?

MURPHY: Well, I think the one I'm proposing...


MURPHY:... is the best, Keith. But I think the reality of it is, is that we need to make sure that we win in the Middle East. We all are in agreement that we need to win there. But how do you do that? How you do that is, refocus on Afghanistan, and really set a timeline. A lot of people aren't willing to do a timeline. We need to give a timeline.

When I was there, I was a captain, Keith, as a member of the 82nd Airborne Division in 2003 and 2004. We had timelines for everything, timelines to pass their constitution, timelines to have their two elections. And every military operation has a military timeline. We need to make sure that we have that, so the Iraqis know that we're not going to be there forever.

And I'm call for a moderate approach, and I think that's what we need right now, is a bipartisan approach to this problem, and say, Listen, we can't bring all our troops home tomorrow from Iraq, but we can have an open-ended commitment, like the president wants.

What I've called for is a 12-month timeline to start bringing our troops home, so we could bring them home and refocus on Afghanistan.

OLBERMANN: Well, that latest "Washington Post" poll says you're now over 50 percent supporting timelines so maybe we will finally get this.

Representative Patrick Murphy...

MURPHY: Well, I tell you, the American people have a right, Keith, and I'm happy to stand with them.

OLBERMANN: Congressman, great thanks for your service to the country, and great thanks for your time tonight.

MURPHY: Thanks, Keith, I appreciate it.

OLBERMANN: And not to pile on, but from the "that's the way the ball

bounces" file, there was one last problem for President Bush today,

greeting last year's NBA champions, the Miami Heat. All going well until -

OK. Double or nothing. Chew some gum?

The president, of course, took his eye off the Taliban ball, moving resources from Afghanistan to Iraq, as Congressman Murphy mentioned. What does today's suicide attack near the vice president say about the resurgence of that group and of al Qaeda?

And the far right resumes its offensive against Al Gore. He presents "An Inconvenient Truth," so they unleash a convenient lie. They bleat the former vice president's utility bills are way higher than average. The explanation is, he's paying more to use green power. That, they left out. We will not.

You are watching Countdown on MSNBC.


OLBERMANN: It was a red, waving flag at the tip of an iceberg.

In our fourth story on the Countdown, after a year that saw dramatic increase in attacks by the Taliban in Afghanistan, and amid so many reports that the Taliban and al Qaeda were planning a spring offensive, a story that has gotten so much coverage that they might as well put up posters, today's deadly suicide bombing at the Bagram Air Base evoked, literally and symbolically, the resurgence of the enemy we were supposed to have already defeated, whether or not it was actually targeting the vice president.

Today it was one suicide bomber outside the main entrance to the air base where the vice president was staying, but last year alone, there were 139 suicide bombings in Afghanistan, five times as many as in 2005.

And U.S., NATO, and Afghan forces are bracing for that spring offensive.

Meanwhile, the vice president's stated, if latent, concern that President Musharraf of Pakistan is not doing enough to combat terrorist breeding grounds in his own country was echoed today by the director of national intelligence, the DNI, Mike McConnell. The intelligence chief testified that al Qaeda is rebuilding training camps in the northwest frontier of that country, and that al Qaeda's diminished leadership has been replaced.

Let's turn to Ben Venzke, founder and CEO of Intel Center.

Ben, thanks for your time tonight.

BEN VENZKE, TERRORISM EXPERT: Hi, good to be here, Keith.

OLBERMANN: Let's first assume that Vice President Cheney was not the target of the suicide bombing. Does it even matter? Does the attack still become still emblematic of a larger problem?

VENZKE: Well, it's one small representative piece. I mean, I think if you're looking at the larger picture here, it's not the attack today, but it's the dramatic increase in attacks that we've seen since the summer of 2005 that's significant.

OLBERMANN: The vice president, as we discussed with Dana Milbank earlier, had stayed overnight in Bagram, later than expected, due to the bad weather. If the Taliban did, in fact, target him, would it suggest that they had pretty good intelligence regarding his whereabouts? Would it raise questions about where that intelligence would be coming from?

VENZKE: Well, I mean, it's certainly something that you need to look at. We're still in the early stages of this. Clearly, if there were people, say, support personnel or others that were working on the base that had knowledge, that passed that information on, that's a counterintelligence threat that you need to take seriously.

It also could have been that there was an attack planned against the base, and it just so happened to coincide with his visit. So there's a lot of unknowns now, but there are certainly things that need to be investigated.

OLBERMANN: Does what has been happening since the middle of '05 underscore the argument that is made in a lot of quarters that we really took our eye off the terrorist ball by shifting resources from Afghanistan to Iraq? Is that now clear in retrospect? Is that still arguable the other way?

VENZKE: Well, I think what it emphasizes is the fact that Afghanistan, regardless of what's going on, say, in Iraq or in other places in the world, that Afghanistan is still a very important piece in this overall battle against al Qaeda and against other jihadist groups, if for no other reason that we still have the al Qaeda senior leadership there, and a significant presence.

OLBERMANN: We can't talk about this in a vacuum. There are those tribal areas in Pakistan which President Musharraf essentially ceded to tribal leaders last fall. Basically it was a cease-fire, arguably gave al Qaeda free rein there. How constrained is Musharraf? How constrained is the Bush administration to do something about that now?

VENZKE: Well, whenever you're talking about that region and the Pakistan side of the border, it's unfortunately not as black and white as saying, Well, there's these training camps here, we need to move against them. You have to take it in the context of the overall political picture that Musharraf has to deal with, and in terms of unstabilizing or causing additional stability problems with the government of Pakistan.

So, you know, on a certain level, you could just say, Yes, we know there's this presence here, it needs to be addressed. But at the same time, you can't sort of pull the carpet out from under Musharraf. He needs to still be able to function and be able to control the rest of his country. So unfortunately, there's no clearcut answer to that. But it's something that is a very pressing concern.

OLBERMANN: Ben Venzke, the terrorism analyst, CEO of Intel Center.

Ben, as always, great thanks for your time.

VENZKE: Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN: Also tonight, boy, this was the big hit on the Internet, the North Carolina kids who broke up in public on Valentine's Day on YouTube. Just one small problem with this.

And Prince Charles of England has a problem with McDonald's. Ban McDonald's? That's what he says. The company's response translates as, Bite my Big Mac.

That and more, ahead here on Countdown.


OLBERMANN: It's the 46th birthday of the gifted actor Grant Shaw (ph). He's had a variety of great roles, but he shines eternally as Miles Silverberg, the long-suffering boy manager at the fictional magazine show "FYI" on "Murphy Brown."

On that note, let's play Oddball.

We begin on the Italian island of Stromboli, where the local volcano has erupted and piping-hot red sauce is oozing out of the crevices and - mmm, hot Stromboli. Ah. All right, sorry about that.

Deerfield Beach, Florida, hello. You may remember this story from a couple of weeks ago. An 80-year-old woman on her way to take the driving test crashes through the front window of the DMV. No one seriously injured. Irony? Ah, maybe.

What if we told you the real irony was that Superman himself was there that day, and did nothing to help? This the securitycam video just released from inside the DMV. And though it's tough to see in all the commotion, there is clearly a guy in a Superman costume who enters the office in the upper right portion of the screen.

Does he use his superpowers to begin saving people, maybe lift up the car and toss it back out into the parking lot? No. He stands there and watches as others jump into action. Busty (ph). This was your big chance, buster. On the day you chose to dress up as Superman, you're on the scene for a real-life emergency, and you choke. You, sir, are not fit to wear this uniform.

Finally to Clearfield, Pennsylvania, where, if you order the Big Burger at Denny's Beer Barrel Pub, it comes with a free ride in an ambulance. Denny Lahey (ph) is pretty sure his restaurant is serving the world's largest cheeseburger. It's 80 pounds of ground beef, 30 pounds of bun, a pound each of mayo, ketchup, and mustard, five whole onions. Price, $379, but you can save a bit with the Value Meal. A bargain at any price for a big - a meal big enough to give the entire town heart disease.

Also tonight, and here's the kid who ate it. His mother puts him on TV instead of on a diet, while Prince Charles proposes banning McDonald's.

And for the right-wing water carriers, global warming is simply too hard to believe. So now it's pre-9/11 political thinking, attack Al Gore again.

Details ahead, but first time for Countdown's top three newsmakers of this day. Number three, Susan Tepper of Villanova, Pennsylvania, the Naomi Campbell of main line society. She has been placed on probation for a year, sent to community service and anger management, and fined 2,800 bucks for getting angry at her nanny because the refrigerator was dirty. Well, not just for getting angry, she also pulled the nanny's hair, hit the woman with a phone and threw a bag of carrots at her. I wanted these Julienne.

Number two, Harold James of Lagrange, New York. He's a janitor at the Dutchess County courthouse, and Friday he was staying a little late, mopping up a floor in a secure room inside the courthouse when the door suddenly slammed shut. It next opened 60 hours later. In the interim, over the weekend, for Mr. Jones, no food, no water, no bathroom and the biggest concern, since he is OK, nobody went looking for him, thanks.

And number one, the stock market. The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 416 points today, precipitated by sell-offs in Asian markets. The New York Stock Market now admitting it had computer glitches in the afternoon that created a backlog that made the Dow drop a couple hundred points in one minute. Some Wall Streeters saying panicky stockholders saw that and thought something had really gone wrong, so that only made their panic panickier (sic).

Fox noise insisted though that the drop off was because of the assassination attempt on Vice President Cheney. You guys are really opening a business channel?


OLBERMANN: He may never run for office again, and the man chosen president over him has now come around to his way of thinking about global warming. But face it, to the far right, Al Gore is still an inconvenient truth teller. Hard on the heels of his documentary's Oscar came the headlines a non-partisan think tank had revealed that Mr. Gore's own personal energy bill is 20 times the national average.

So is our third story tonight outrageous hypocrisy, a minor embarrassment or a demonstration of a different kind of wind power? First, that allegedly non-partisan think tank, which just happens to have gotten its story picked up by the notorious Drudge Report today, is called the Tennessee Center for Policy Research. Twenty seven-year-old President Jason Drew Johnson, hailing from the same American Enterprise Institute that takes money from big oil, cheer-leads the war in Iraq and consistently, and now to pretty consistent laughter, downplays global warming.

That said, even a partisan think tank can get the facts straight. So the facts, last year, Gore's Tennessee property consumed almost 221,000 kilowatt hours, 20 times the national average. It cost him more than 16,300 dollars. But Johnson's press release, calling on Gore to walk the walk when it comes to home energy use, omits several other key facts. The former vice president's home has 20 rooms, including home offices for himself and his wife, as well as a guest house and special security measures.

Furthermore the Gores buy energy produced from renewable sources, such as wind and solar. Tonight, Countdown confirmed with the local utility officials that their program, called the Green Power Switch, actually costs more for the Gores, four dollars for every 150 kilowatt hours. Meaning, by our calculations, our math here, that the Gores actually chose to increase their electric bill by more 5,893 dollars, more than 50 percent, in order to minimize carbon pollution.

The utility is also telling us that some smaller homes consume energy in the same range of usage as does the one on the Gores' property. Surprise, surprise, there seems to be political subtext here. I'm joined now by political reporter, Chris Cillizza. Chris, thanks as always, for your time tonight.


OLBERMANN: It's a political hit, obviously, but is it one directed at Mr. Gore or at global warming?

CILLIZZA: A little of both, I think. I think the reality is that Al Gore has built up a nice streak of momentum here, the most recent being, obviously, his win of an Academy Award for "An Inconvenient Truth," but he has been a public figure and has sort of been an admired public figure, strangely, more admired out of public life than in public life. And the rumor mill continues to churn and Al Gore, while he says he has no plans to run for president in 2008, refuses to say, I will not run.

So I think what Republicans are doing are saying, well, if we think we can take a hit at him, let's do it. It's possible he might run. He's moving up in the polls. Our most recent poll, the Post poll that came out tonight, has Gore at 14 percent. He's moved up four percent in the last month. So, you know, he has a target on his back as a result.

OLBERMANN: But why is the right afraid of him, when he seemed to be such a good target in 2000? Is it not to the advantage of anybody who wants the Democrats to lose in 2008 to have him run, and have him run right now, and then have three Democratic heavyweights in there bloodying each other a year before the first primary?

CILLIZZA: I think this gets to the transformation I was talking about. If you had said to almost anyone in politics, I think that Al Gore would be the potential heavyweight in the Democratic field in 2008, they would have laughed at you, even a year or two ago. This is somebody who I think Republicans were wishing and praying that he would run in 2004, because they thought he would be the weakest possible candidate.

I think it speaks to the fact that Al Gore has, in many ways, transformed himself. People see him as this wonkish guy who really believes in climate change, and oh, by the way, he happened to be against the war in Iraq from the beginning, has been an outspoken opponent of President Bush's domestic wire tapping policies, and has made this global warming issue something that went from the back of voters' minds to the front of voters' minds. So I think he's a more daunting figure than anyone would have thought six months or a year or two years ago.

OLBERMANN: I suggested a couple of weeks ago, from personal

experience with him, and some of these really public jokes about campaigns

he made the whole thing on Saturday Night Live out of one of them a year ago, Sunday at the Oscars when the band came in just as supposedly he was going to make an announcement - that they might be indications that he might actually run, if enough people asked him. I guess he would run if he was guaranteed to win. But what are the latest soundings in Washington about Gore and a potential candidacy?

CILLIZZA: Well, I've spent a lot of time talking to sort of former Gore advisors, trying to get a sense of where he stands. I do think his current public pronouncement that he has no plans to run is in keeping with his private belief, that he is not presently planning to run for president. Again, though, that does not mean that this isn't a possibility.

I do think that Al Gore, if he saw Hillary Rodham Clinton likely to win the nomination in March, April, May, June, even July of this year, I think he believes that Senator Clinton might take the party in a direction he does not agree with, and if Barack Obama does not wind up being the anti-Clinton in this field - or John Edwards, for that matter - I think Al Gore would think very seriously about it, and he would come under considerable pressure, especially from the liberal left, the anti-war - the strongest anti-war partisans on the left, to do so. And so, while I don't think it's likely, and a betting man would not bet on him running, I also don't think you can count him out just yet.

OLBERMANN: Briefly, the politics of global warming, whatever the deniers do to Gore, how do they get around the idea that the evangelicals and the Bush administration have recognized this and said, we have to act and act fast?

CILLIZZA: I don't think they do. I think the reality - and this is from empirical evidence. I've talked to a lot of the candidates running for president, and many of them, unbidden, I don't ask this question, they bring up global warming as an issue. I think it's moved from a back of the mind issue in voters' minds to a front of the mind issue. And I don't think that's going to change, whether Mr. Gore is in the race or not.

OLBERMANN: Chris Cillizza of "Washington Post,"

As always, Chris, great thanks, good night.

CILLIZZA: Thank you Keith.

OLBERMANN: Also tonight, he tips the scales at 218 pounds and eight years old, and today his parents find out whether the government is going to take him away for his own good.

And, over Anna Nicole Smith's dead body, more arguments, this time though, without Judge Larry. Details ahead on Countdown.


OLBERMANN: Great Britain is tonight in the throes of another Prince Charles event. Discussing the local childhood obesity and diabetes problem with a nutritionist in the United Arab Emirates today, the heir to the British thrown was overheard by journalists asking that nutritionist, quote, "Have you got anywhere with McDonalds? Have you tried getting it banned? That's the key."

From its end of the battle of the Prince of Wales versus the Hamburglar, McDonald's has pointed out that Prince Charles' son Harry and his mother, the queen, have both eaten at its restaurants. In our number two story on the Countdown, another Brit has a different idea about overweight children, in this case her own. Nicola Mckeown son Connor weighs 218 pounds. He's eight. Her solution? Put him on television.

Our correspondent is Paul Brennan from our affiliated British network



PAUL BRENNAN, ITV (voice-over): Four times the size of an average eight-year-old, refusing to eat fruit and vegetables, and missing school because of poor health. Just who is to blame for Connor McReady's (ph) weight problem? Not me, says his mom. She has she has done all she can, and has pleaded with professionals for help.

NICOLA MCKEOWN, CONNOR'S MOM: (INAUDIBLE) something can be done and be turning pint, and help Connor lose the weight I think he needs to lose.

BRENNAN: North Times Council and Primary Care Trust refused to take the blame. They say they have been working with Connor's family for a long time and will continue to do so. Connor's interests, they say, are paramount, but so does his family.

MCKEOWN: We're extremely worried, because if he ever gets taken into care, I think that will be the finish of me, seriously.

BRENNAN: Since Christmas, Connor's been on an intensive exercise and healthy food regime, and has shed 1.5 stone, but doctors say at 14 stone, he still faces an early death and his family must take greater responsibility.

DR. MICHAEL MARKIEWICZ, CONSULTANT PEDIATRICIAN: They love him. They actually love him to death, literally. In fact, not saying they can't care for him, but what they're doing is, through the way they're treating him, and feeding him, they're slowly killing him.

BRENNAN: At just eight years old, many experts say Connor's not old enough to take responsibility for his eating habits, but until someone does, this young boy's life hangs in the balance.

Paul Brennan, ITV news.


OLBERMANN: And British social workers decided today to allow Connor McReady to remain at home with his mother. They said they've reached an agreement with her on safeguarding his welfare. No details of that agreement have been provided though.

A perversely appropriate segue then into our nightly roundup of celebrity news, keeping tabs. And due to popular demand, the court battle over Anna Nicole Smith's body will get a sequel tomorrow. Smith's mother, Virgie Arthur, will have her appeal heard by the court of appeal, surprisingly enough, each side getting 20 minutes to present its case.

Miss Arthur is appealing last week's epic ruling that Smith's body be given to the custody of the guardian of her next of kin, her infant daughter. Miss Smith and Miss Arthur were estranged. At stake is whether Smith is buried in Texas, where her mother wants, or in the Bahamas, where Judge Larry Seidlin was really, really hoping she would be buried.

It's been tough to explain even to a serious baseball fan how something like steroids or human growth hormone can make it possible for a player to hit 10 more home runs a season, or 20 or 30, but the impact of illegal performance enhancers just got a little clearer, thanks to news about the shoe size of Barry Bonds. When Bonds first joined the Giants in 1993, he wore size 10.5 cleats. He now wears size 13.

His 1993 Giants hat was a size 7 1/8th. He now wears a 7 ½, even after having shaved his head. Ordinarily the head and feet of adult humans do not grow any further past the age of 21 or 22. Bonds is now 42. A possible alternate explanation to drug use, that Bonds has been exposed to atomic radiation and will soon grow to the size of the Empire State Building. The information is included in the new revised paperback version of the book "Game of Shadows," by San Francisco Chronicle reporters Lance Williams and Mark Fainaru-Wada (ph).

Not the only bad baseball headline of the day. The attorney for hall of famer, former Dodgers manager Tom Lasorda says his client will sue if a book by former Hollywood madam Jody "Baby Doll" Gibson, supposed to be released the day after tomorrow, indeed lists Lasorda as one of her former celebrity clients. He says it's not true. So does actor Bruce Willis, who is also on that list, supposedly. Nobody apparently thought to ask Lasorda what he thought of her performance. That's an inside baseball joke.

One non-negative baseball note, the famed 1909 Honus Wagner cigarette card, once owned by Hockey great Wayne Gretzky, has been sold again for 2,300,000 dollars. Gretzky bought it in 1991 for less than half a million. Nobody even cares that card experts believe the card used to be a little larger and in a little less perfect shape, and was trimmed down at some point in the 1980's to make it look mint by somebody who had the guts of a cat burglar.

And then there are Mindy and Ryan. They got trimmed down too. They broke up on Valentine's Day. It was on YouTube, so it had to be real. Didn't it? That's ahead, but first time for Countdown's latest list of nominees for Worst Person in the World.

The Bronze to Coulter-geist, snapping out of her winter-long slump to say something vaguely entertaining. She is one of the global warming deniers, claims it is a plot by environmentalists to create a world, quote, where they, the beautiful rich people, live in their homes and there are few maids, well tempered maids will come in and take care of them. Maids, huh? Hey, Anne, you found your calling.

The silver to Michael Turner of Lapatcong (ph) Township, New Jersey. He e-mailed bomb threats to the president of the school he attends, North Hampton Community College. He said he would, quote, redden the hallways and darken your souls. He apologized today, saying he was out of it, due to fatigue and cold medicine. Mr. Turner also says he hopes to become an athletic trainer after graduation and maybe after prison.

But our winners tonight, the Baseball Hall of Fame Committee on Veterans. Given a choice of such overlooked immortals as Gil Hodges and Ron Santo, Jim Kaat and Maury Wills, such movers and shakers as Dodgers' owner Walter O'Malley, who moved the baseball to Los Angeles, Players Union founder Marvin Miller, they today elected nobody, nobody. Santo came closest, five votes short of the spot in the Hall of Fame that he has so long deserved.

There will not be another vote until 2009; 2011 for the non-players. The electors, including 61 current Hall of Famers, should voluntarily resign their positions or be compelled to. They have made fools of themselves, again. The Baseball Hall of Fame Committee on Veterans, today's Worst Persons in the World.


OLBERMANN: It was a very public breakup on a very public website, shocking YouTubers and mainstream media alike, kind of Jerry Springer show, organically popping up in the University of North Carolina's campus. Our number one story on the Countdown, hundreds of thousands watched transfixed, perhaps against their wills, on YouTube and elsewhere, like you might watch the show "Cops" or "Bridezilla."

On Valentine's Day a UNC student named Ryan Burke invited his girlfriend to his campus for what she thought would be a romantic Valentine's Day serenade. Instead, she got a profanity laced kick to the curb, and some a cappella accompaniment.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You seriously got these (EXPLETIVE DELETED) people to do this?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There's something wrong with you, that you need this many people to feel better about breaking up with me on Valentine's Day.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I hope you (EXPLETIVE DELETED) off and die. I hope you remember this and everyone. And I hope you remember me (EXPLETIVE DELETED) smiling.


OLBERMANN: Tremendous. But now we find out what Countdown's inter-web experts knew all along, the whole thing was staged. The only problem, some news organizations, though mildly skeptical, bought into the hoax. More than 700,000 hits on the YouTube later, Ryan Burke has now confessed that the breakup was a hoax.

He admitted he was never dating the girl, who's name is Mindy Morman, and that the elaborate stunt was meant to show the power of Internet communities. Mr. Burke also remarked, the fact that actual news agencies are interested is a surprise. Well, not this news agency buddy. We have a rigorous screening process when it comes to the Internets. We've never been fooled by it, other than that story where university research had proved that you lose IQ points after becoming a parent. I would like to pint out, each and every one of the parents involved in producing this news cast believed that, 100 percent, those that could still count that high.

But anyway, when it comes to the web video of dubious origins, there are three main groups. The first, clips we would never air on this news cast, the ones we know with 100 percent certainty are fake. Take this crazed Bridezilla, for example.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can you please just like go away. Just go away? Why did you let me cut my hair? Why did you let me cut my hair. I hate my hair. I hate it.


OLBERMANN: Lonely Girl 15 is another one who fit into that category, as does the fake infrared airport security camera footage, supposedly showing someone passing wind. It's fake. So we're only showing it for purposes of this expose, and never again.

Category two, stuff we know is faux, but it's too good not to use. Your studio light falling on anchor woman during a news report, for instance. I've seen something like that sort of happening. The other woman who took a header as she attempted to pump some gas into the car and the fake phenomenon of dynamite surfing, where a guy tosses a stick of dynamite into a lake and another guy hangs ten on the resultant wave.

Finally, the third and largest group, the stuff our web experts can't make a call on, but it's so good we have to get it in. Take, for instance, this clip of a fake Silvio Berlusconi, former premiere of Italy, getting it on. Or this one of a smoker getting busted in the bathroom by his co-worker, and the co-worker striking back.

And the all-time classic, the kid who made it big on the local news, only to blow his big shot.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There were two core individuals, myself and Ryan Reilly.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What I know Ryan was involved with was the (INAUDIBLE) that got a lot of publicity.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're going to take a commercial break.


OLBERMANN: Was it real? Well, it was real funny. That's Countdown for this the 1,416th day since the declaration of mission accomplished in Iraq. I'm Keith Olbermann, good night and good luck.


Monday, February 26, 2007

'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Feb. 26

Special Comment:
Condi goes too far
via YouTube, h/t fferkleheimer

Guests: Richard Wolffe, Lawrence Korb, Ron Allen, Maria Milito

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

The vice president goes to Pakistan - he's coming back - delivering an odd warning to President Musharraf, get tough on al Qaeda, or the Democrats may cut American aid to Pakistan. Did Mr. Cheney mention the president's veto power, or his addiction to signing statements, or the secretary of state's hint about the administration maybe ignoring whatever the Democrats in Congress do, or her other remarkable remark about what a congressional revision or revocation of the original Iraq authorization would be like?


CONDOLEEZZA RICE, SECRETARY OF STATE: It would be like saying that after Adolf Hitler was overthrown, we needed to change then the resolution that allowed the United States to do that, so that we could deal with creating a stable environment in Europe after he was overthrown.


OLBERMANN: How many historical facts are wrong in this picture? Saddam Hussein was not Adolf Hitler, and by the way, we did change the resolution that allowed the U.S. to help stop Hitler. Tonight, a special comment on the secretary of state.

And could our government really be financing al Qaeda operatives to get them to target Hezbollah?

We know the Libby jury is now playing down a man, a woman, actually, a juror, the one who would not wear that red T-shirt on Valentines Day, is dismissed after hearing outside info about the case.

A whole new meaning to the phrase, "finding Jesus." Filmmaker James Cameron claims his documentary shows they found the lost tomb of Christ.


JAMES CAMERON, "THE LOST TOMB OF JESUS": There's never been a shred of physical, archeological evidence to support that fact until right now.


OLBERMANN: Evidence to support our cynicism of last week. Judge Larry gets a TV offer.

And what exactly was this "American Idol" contestant offering online?

A friend says this could not be Antonella Barba (ph), because that's not her nose. She has a nose, you say?

All that and more, now on Countdown.


JUDGE LARRY SEIDLIN: You guys give the kid the right shot.


OLBERMANN: Good evening.

The maxim, "The enemy of my enemy is my friend," is believed, ironically in this context, to be an old Arabic proverb.

Our fifth story on the Countdown, the problem is, especially in a world evidently too complicated for the Bush administration, sometimes the enemy of your enemy is still your enemy. The same president who famously declared, little more than five years ago, that you are either with us or you are against us in the war on terror, is now reported to be secretly funding jihadists linked with al Qaeda in an attempt to stem the growth of Shiite influence across the Middle East, an influence the administration itself magnified by invading Iraq.

Yes, al Qaeda, as in 9/11.

Vice President Cheney today making a surprise visit to President Musharraf of Pakistan, delivering what officials say was a tough message, to shut down the Taliban and al Qaeda in that country, or risk using - losing U.S. aid, more specifically, the vice president saying that the newly elected Democratic Congress could cut the aid unless Pakistani forces became far more aggressive. One presumes Mr. Musharraf remembered Mr. Cheney and Mr. Bush still believe they have some measure of control over American foreign policy, say, about 150 percent, the vice president's visit coming in the wake of fresh U.S. intelligence claims that al Qaeda has reconstituted training camps in border areas with Afghanistan, the administration also taking further steps towards a military confrontation with Iran, an investigation by Seymour Hersh in the magazine "The New Yorker" revealing that Pentagon officials are now actively planning for a possible bombing attack on President Ahmadinejad's Iran, one that could be implemented upon President Bush's orders within 24 hours, military apparently brass not on board, "The Times" of London reporting that as many as five American generals and/or admirals have threatened to resign before approving what they believe would be a reckless attack.

Back in the pages of "The New Yorker," Mr. Hersh's single most startling revelation, an effort by the administration to stem the growth of Shiite influence in the Middle East by funding violent Sunni groups, groups with ties to al Qaeda, through intermediaries, the Bush administration spreading money to Sunni radical groups in northern Lebanon and around Palestinian refugee camps in the south, groups seen as a buffer to Hezbollah, and, by extension, to Iran, the high-risk strategy said to be putting money into the hands of many bad guys with serious potential unintended consequences.

And if the magazine's reporting is correct, this is being done without the approval of Congress, should not be that surprising that the effort, according to one of Mr. Hersh's sources, is also likely to be emanating from the vice president's office, should have been a good guess too, last and certainly not least, the diplomatic stylings of Secretary of State Rice over the weekend, Dr. Rice first suggesting Mr. Bush might just ignore anything Congress does about Iraq, calling it, quote, "micromanaging," and insisting, quoting again, "The president is going to, as command near chief, need to do what the country needs done."

And then she compared the Senate's current attempt to rewrite the 2002 resolution authorizing war in Iraq to pulling the plug on rebuilding Europe after the Second World War.


RICE: The consolidation of the - of a stable and democratic Iraq after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein is a part of what America owes to the Iraqi people, owes to the region, and owes to ourselves, so that our own security is there. It would be like saying that after Adolf Hitler was overthrown, we needed to change then the resolution that allowed the United States to do that, so that we could deal with creating a stable environment in Europe, after he was overthrown.


OLBERMANN: Ahead in this newshour, a special comment on Secretary Rice's evidently tenuous grasp of the history of the Second World War, and who Hitler was.

First, more on the impact as well as the implications of foreign policy that looks like an M.C. Escher drawing, with the same staircase going up and sideways.

Let me turn now to our own Richard Wolffe, senior White House correspondent for "Newsweek" magazine.

Richard, good evening.


Good evening, Keith.

OLBERMANN: Let's start by combining these two headlines. Dick Cheney goes to Pakistan to beat up Musharraf about not being tough enough on al Qaeda and the Taliban. But meanwhile, we're reportedly funding jihadists linked to al Qaeda. (INAUDIBLE) did anybody see a slight conflict of interest there?

WOLFFE: Well, let's rewind the tape a little bit, shall we? The first Bush doctrine was that terrorists and the states that harbor terrorists would be treated the same way. And there's no serious doubt now that Pakistan is home, a safe haven to the leadership of al Qaeda and has been for some time.

So with regard to Pakistan itself, Pakistan has been playing both sides of the war on terror very happily, and the Bush administration is only just beginning to come to grips with that, late and in a (INAUDIBLE) considerably weakened terms.

With regard to Iran, look, if they wanted to establish an ideological case against Iran, they could have done so in 2002, they could have said, This country is pursuing nuclear weapons, it's harboring al Qaeda operatives, and has been fomenting ideological revolution around the region. They didn't choose to make that case. And ever since then, the conceptual framework for this war has been strained to breaking point by Iraq, and that's what we're seeing now.

OLBERMANN: Apart from the fact that if an American citizen made some sort of overture to a group even vaguely connected to al Qaeda, he would be arrested on the spot, is this picture of Iran as serious as it sounds? The administration continues to deny all of this. Are we saber-rattling, or are we looking for actual sabers at this point?

WOLFFE: There is a lot of saber-rattling going on, but it's a dangerous game they're playing. Now, they think, inside the White House, that this has been successful. They think there (INAUDIBLE) are signs of tension within the Iranian regime. But, you know, the Iranian regime has never been monolithic. There have always been elements of tyranny and democracy side by side in Iran, and we're seeing some of those political tensions arising right now.

It's unclear whether it's because of the saber-rattling, or because there are just these power conflicts right now in Tehran.

But what they're also having to deal with is this real concern among Sunni allies in the region about this rise of the Shia. And again, they've come to this late, and they are maybe having to go too far in reassuring Sunnis that they're going to stop the rise of the Shia, which, as you pointed out earlier, that contributes to enormously in Iraq.

OLBERMANN: Also answer for me, if you can, this - about this disconnect between the secretary of state, who's implying that the president could ignore the Democrats about Iraq, and the vice president, who's telling President Musharraf that he had better not ignore the Democrats about his foreign aid. Is that enough of a bullwhip on President Musharraf? Does the administration think he won't see that there might be a little conflict there too?

WOLFFE: No, it's not (ph) Musharraf who's been playing this perfectly like a fiddle for a long time. You know, how can the Democrats be emboldening terrorists and emboldening the allies in the war on terror? It is ridiculous. But Musharraf has done very well. He's got a lot of foreign aid out of this.

He's trying to balance things out on his own terms. But, you know, he's also made a mockery of the whole democracy agenda. There is a real live debate now about whether he will hold free and fair elections in Pakistan. And the opposition, people represented, for instance, by former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, thinks that his idea that he's being pressured by radical parties, Islamist parties, is false. So there is an alternative there.

OLBERMANN: Richard Wolffe of MSNBC and "Newsweek," on a day when we go through the looking-glass. As always, sir, great thanks.

WOLFFE: Any time.

OLBERMANN: For more on the inconsistencies and the possible consequences of the administration's policy towards Iran, let's turn now to a Pentagon veteran from the Reagan administration, former assistant secretary of defense Lawrence Korb, now a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress.

Thanks once again for some of your time tonight, sir.


OLBERMANN: This key finding of the Hersh article, that the administration's secretly funding the Sunni jihadists with the links to al Qaeda, firstly, is the reporting valid? And secondly, if so, does that not have Iran-contra, the sequel, stamped all over it?

KORB: Well, there's no doubt about the fact that they're so concerned about Iran and the influence of the Shias in that part of the world that they're doing what they can to offset it. There's very little doubt that they're giving money to governments like the government of Lebanon. And as we know from what happened in Iraq, once you start giving money, you can't control where it ends up.

And so what's happened is, they're turning a blind eye to some of the Sunni groups that are associated with our friends in there, the government of Lebanon, the government of Saudi Arabia.

OLBERMANN: What is next to try to find out what's happened here? I mean, do we have to have congressional investigations into this? It would seem to be so counter-everything that's been done in this country for the last five years to be even in the same large photograph with people who have links to al Qaeda on theoretically, theoretically on our side.

KORB: Well, what you need to have, see, when the Republicans control the Senate Intelligence Committee and all the committees, there's very little oversight. Now that the Democrats are in charge, Senator Rockefeller, they're going to demand hearings on this to find out where the money went, under what auspices it went, and whether, in fact, this should have been reported to the committees.

I mean, you're not allowed to just transfer money around willy-nilly without letting the intelligence committees know what you're up to.

And from what I understand, and what Sy Hersh's article seems to imply, it's not done through the CIA, which would require a specific presidential finding, but controlled out of the National Security Council, and maybe the vice president's office, which becomes different.

And that, of course, as you pointed out, is how the whole Iran-contra thing got going, because the money (INAUDIBLE) operation was controlled by the White House, and the profits on the arms sales were used to fund the war in Nicaragua, which Congress had cut off funds for.

OLBERMANN: If - and I guess this is the question that people are - would be asking, trying to digest all this simultaneously. If the Sunnis are not the enemy, and the Shiites are not the enemy, and most importantly, the al Qaeda-linked jihadists are not the enemy, who is it that we're opposed to in the Middle East, and what is this country's policy towards the Middle East right now?

KORB: Well, what you should have as a policy, you should try and have stability in the Middle East, which, of course, we upset by going into Iraq without a plan to deal with the aftermath of the overthrow of Saddam Hussein. We never did a cost-benefit analysis of what would happen once we went in and got rid of Saddam Hussein.

The Saudis had told us, Look, you're going to solve one problem, you're going to create five others, which is what we've done. We've empowered Iran, because Iraq was the main enemy of Iran. In fact, for the longest time, we aided Saddam Hussein to prevent the expansion of Iranian influence. We also eliminated Iran's other enemy, the Taliban in Afghanistan.

And in 2003, when - after the Iranians said, Work with us in Afghanistan to get rid of the Taliban, they offered to sit down and talk to us about who would do what in the region. We refused to do it. We were kind of feeling our oats then, and we didn't want to negotiate with what we considered a rogue regime, so we didn't do it.

Now, here we are, you know, almost four years later, and we say, Well, we don't want to negotiate with the Iranians, because we would be in a position of weakness. And even Henry Kissinger said today, you know, you can't just have a military surge, you need a diplomatic surge. And we really need to get all of the countries in the region involved, or this thing's going to spin out of control.

OLBERMANN: Wrong ally, wrong place, wrong time. And it seems to be consistent all the way through.

Larry Korb, former assistant defense secretary, now at the Center for American Progress. Thank you again, sir.

KORB: Thanks for having me.

OLBERMANN: Ahead, Secretary of State Rice gets the key parts of the history of the Second World War wrong. Special comment, brought to you tonight more in snark than in anger.

And in one juror excused from the Libby trial, is there good news for either side, or just news-news? Either way, we'll cover it next.

You are watching Countdown on MSNBC.


OLBERMANN: She wouldn't take the T-shirt, so now instead she gets the boot.

In our fourth story on the Countdown, the sudden mysterious departure of a juror in the perjury trial of former Bush-Cheney adviser Lewis "Scooter" Libby, that juror, the same one who was the only holdout when the rest of the jury wore red-heart T-shirts on Valentines Day. She was excused today after the judge determined she had been tainted by exposure to media coverage of the trial, which coverage we do not now.

For a while today, the prospect of a mistrial loomed, until the judge decided no other juror had also been tainted, prosecution and defense then battling over whether to replace the ousted juror or, as federal law allows, proceed with a jury of just 11.

Joining us with the outcome of that battle and the rest of the day watching people deliberate, MSNBC's David Shuster.

Good evening, David.


Once the judge dismissed the elderly former art curator from the panel, the judge then heard arguments from both defense attorneys and prosecutors over how to proceed. After hearing those arguments, the judge ruled that the jury should continue deliberations with just the 11 members remaining.

That is exactly what Scooter Libby's team had wanted. They had asked the judge to have the jury continue their deliberations with 11, as federal rules provide for. Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald had asked the court to bring in one of the alternates, raise the number on the panel to 12, and start the deliberations from scratch all over again.

Fitzgerald noted that the jury had only been deliberating for two and a half days.

Again, just to repeat, the judge sided with the defense, declaring that he did not want to throw away the time the jurors had already invested in their deliberations.

Behind the scenes, though, and not mentioned in front of the judge, were the strong feelings both sides may have had about the first alternate, who stood to join the panel. She is an insurance industry lobbyist who took extensive notes during the trial. Furthermore, her body language during the defense closing argument suggested she is hostile to the Libby defense and more comfortable with the prosecution.

In any case, the alternate remains just that, an alternate sitting at home. And after the judge brought the 11 jurors into the courtroom, asked them to raise their hands and swear that they would avoid all media coverage, the jury was sent back to their jury room, and deliberations continue.

Again, the panel is trying to determine whether Scooter Libby's mistakes to the grand jury were honest mistakes, as the defense contends, or, as the prosecution has argued, whether those mistakes were deliberate lies intended to protect Libby and to protect his boss, Vice President Cheney, Keith.

OLBERMANN: So the note-taking on behalf of the first alternate was the reason that the prosecutor was hoping to go back and start all over again? Or were there other reasons that he was in favor of restarting the deliberations?

SHUSTER: Well, that might have been one of them. There's another theory, Keith, and that is that the longer that this jury has to look at the evidence, in other words, if they had to start all over again and relook at all the evidence, that that favors the prosecution, because it gets the jury farther and farther away from the emotional appeal, the appeal to feelings, that the defense argued during their closing arguments.

The idea is that if the jury has to start all over again, refresh the new juror with the evidence, that, again, it focuses on this prosecution timeline, and gets away from sort of the more emotional defense that Scooter Libby's lawyers offered, Keith.

OLBERMANN: MSNBC's David Shuster, watching and waiting with us for a verdict in the Libby trial. Keep watching. Many thanks.

SHUSTER: Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN: And speaking of judges, another year, another contestant in trouble on "American Idol," racy online photos. Smell a publicity rat, anyone?

Hear a laugh track, anyone? Tonight, another edition of Fox News, the 24-Hour Comedy Hour.

Next on Countdown.


OLBERMANN: On this date in 1994, one of the most original comedic talents of all time, Bill Hicks, died at just 32. Barely four months earlier, the last of his 12 appearances on the David Letterman show was edited out of the broadcast because he'd included a joke about how we all had to really examine our beliefs. He was born a Catholic, and it seemed crazy to him to believe that both that Christ was to return, and that the best way to honor him was to wear a cross, like he ever wants to see a cross again.

On that note, let's play Oddball.

We begin in Spain in the remote village of Hojo Casero (ph). It is a town on the verge of extinction, as all the residents are growing older and little or no children remain. There is an old Spanish tradition in times like this. An emergency call goes out. Women are needed to become wives of the menfolk and begin to repopulate the town. A hundred and fifty women responded to the call. They arrived by bus for the big party in the village square to meet their possible future husbands. And these, these women are ready and willing to repopulate.

I don't know if this is going to work. Do you want to call or something?

And finally on Oddball tonight, it was weekend two of that Fox Noise festival of right-wing comedy and prerecorded laughter known as the "Half Hour News Hour." We once again try out the laugh track on the rest of the network's programming with another edition of Fox News, the 24-Hour Comedy Hour, complete not just with a fake audience tonight, but also a fake liberal.


BILL O'REILLY, HOST: You are about to enter the no spin zone.

You're a liberal, and you know the role. And Bill Clinton was attacked personally, not as bad as Bush, but almost. What was it on the other side that drove the personal attacks (INAUDIBLE)?

TAMMY BRUCE, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Bill Clinton being a sexual predator in the White House.

Bill Clinton's behavior, what he was being chastised for was personal behavior that did destroy people's lives, and, in fact, almost destroyed this nation with him being distracted from the nation's business.

O'REILLY: But do you think that the attacks on Bush are worse than Bill Clinton?

BRUCE: Absolutely.


OLBERMANN: Secretary Rice was - State Rice was not going for laughs when she compared Saddam Hussein to Adolf Hitler, but that's exactly what she's getting. Special comment ahead.

And, in another time-honored tradition, "American Idol" contestant today, checkered past yesterday. The scoop on this from our "American Idol" (INAUDIBLE) Maria Milito.

First, time for Countdown's top three newsmakers of this day.

Number three, football's San Francisco 49ers, part of the long-standing threat to move out of that city, the team hopes to build an $800 million stadium in the city of Santa Clara, where, this weekend, the team found out that a portion of the land with which it is threatening the city of San Francisco happens to be owned by the city of San Francisco.

Number two, Chris Brooks, manager of the Krispy Kreme in Mobile, Alabama, who has answered an ancient question for us with a sign briefly posted on the store's front door, address to the police, firefighters, and paramedics, quote, "Uniformed personnel are given two dozen glazed donuts and coffee or a fountain drink free of charge." So the correct answer is 24.

And number one, an unidentified woman from Galaxia (ph) in Romania. She showed up at a local hospital claiming she had swallowed a foreign object. She would not say what it was. X-rays showed it was false teeth. She didn't need any false teeth. She said she was experimenting with a, quote, "special type of passionate kiss with her boyfriend." His dentures slipped, and she swallowed the dentures. And no, she is not currently a contestant on "American Idol."


OLBERMANN: Real justice might be this: Judge Larry Seidlin, of last week's Anna Nicole Smith hearing's fame, replacing judge Paula Abdul on "American Idol." Then all of the fans of Idol would either go crazy or the show would last 12-14 hours every night.

But in our third story on the Countdown, Judge Seidlin has apparently gotten a different kind of offer. While the judges on Idol are safe, even if scandal once again draws near. First, the offer to Judge Seidlin. It's from CBS Saturday "Early Show." In a letter, reportedly from its senior producer, Michael Rosen, quote, "I have been extremely impressed by your compassion in the Anna Nicole Case," he writes, "and I would love to discuss with you the idea of being our judge on a new segment, 'Morning Justice.' It would be a semi-regular segment, in which you would resolve the ethical and legal questions of our viewers, who send in issues troubling them."

Judge Seidlin's judicial assistant says she has been taking about 200 phone calls a day. This is the only offer, but the calls have came from all of the big names and the top shoes.

"American Idol" perhaps? Well, in the interim, another scandal, racy photos of a semifinalist on the Internet. But, wait there is more x-rated pictures possibly of the same semifinalist. The semifinalist Antonella Barba (ph), who survived the first round of eliminations from viewer voting, despite a tepid response from the judges.

Photographs of Miss Barba posing in a wet t-shirt or topless, or otherwise scantily clad, surfaced last Friday, as evidently did she. Many appear to be from her own website, though Miss Barba has not commented. But then several more pictures came out of someone engaged in a sexual act. We have cropped the photo. We can't really describe what she is doing in there. Whether or not these images are also of Miss Barba, eliciting the analyst a friend named Amanda Collucio (ph), who tells the "Newark Star Ledger" that, quote, the really bad ones are not her. I have studied them. It is not her nose. She has never had acrylic nail tips in her life. She is the least slutty person I know.

American Idol's executive producer, Nigel Lithgow, told "Entertainment Weekly" that he was unaware of the photographs. Now who can we ask to follow that but the person we enjoy calling our princess of "American Idol," the mid-day host of New York's classic rock station, Q-104.3, Maria Milito. Good evening my friend.

MARIA MILITO, Q-104.3: Hello, thank you for having me on tonight.

OLBERMANN: Every year we get at least one of these, a sleazy, attention getting scandal, and every year it gets attention like what we are doing now. Maria, I am beginning to wonder if we might not be getting played. Could they be deliberately leaving these for contestants with past out there for us, like the bait on the hook for the big fat scandal consuming fish we are?

MILITO: Yes, yes and yes. Think about it, "American Idol" last week and this week is on for three nights. So now it is being talked about on Monday everywhere. It will be talked - It was being talked about on Friday when her photos first came out. So, we are totally being played. But I think she released those photos, the original ones. I don't think these photos now, that came out this weekend, are her. I don't think that's her.

But, something very interesting though, when she auditioned last week

after she auditioned, she made it to Hollywood. She really was not very good. Now Fox News always promotes, during "American Idol," that they have some big thing about "American Idol" on the news, following, and they were talking about her, and supposedly, the rumor mill tells me, that her dad called Fox News, and begged for this not to go on the air, and Fox News said the thing that they were going to have on the air, due to technical difficulties, we can't carry it tonight.

OLBERMANN: Well, all right, either of those explanations is entirely plausible, because you're talking about the local news in New York, which is full of technical difficulties, and also -

MILITO: Absolutely, but still - So, I think she put those photos out there, you know, with MySpace page and everything else she has. The ones that came out over the weekend, I don't think it was her. I think they were doctored photos.

OLBERMANN: Because of the nose, or just you think they were doctored photos?

MILITO: Well, I was looking at her eyes actually.


MILITO: And the eyes look different.

OLBERMANN: That's the only part of the picture we could actually show. Listen, the comment from the show's executive producer that he was unaware of these photos apparently preceded this stuff over the weekend. But Mr. Lithgow said, also, we have really good background checks everybody, and we deal with that every season. It's sad, isn't it, that your best friends are the ones that come forward with information that will go to Smoking Gun, or put your photographs on the web.

To my earlier point, is he not be a little nonchalant here? Shouldn't there be some sort of shock or investigation?

MILITO: Yes, but they don't do background checks. They definitely don't. There were two brothers who made it to Hollywood, and then it came out, not through "American Idol" producers, but it came out that one of them was arrested. So hey, he never made it to Hollywood. They don't do background checks at all.

OLBERMANN: Would they throw her off do you think?

MILITO: I don't think so. Actually, there is a website called, and every season they choose people who should not win and she is the main contender on So she is not going to get thrown off. She won't get thrown off by the producers.

OLBERMANN: I'm sure that's underwritten by Fox as well.

MILITO: Of course.

OLBERMANN: Will this flap here possibly scare away a whole generation of picture happy adolescents from ever auditioning for the show, or worse still, would it scare them away from whoever that is doing that in that photo?

MILITO: The first part of that question, I don't think so. I don't think - and I don't mean to sound like an old hag, but I don't think kids today realize when they go out with their friends and they party and they get all these pictures taken, that they realize, down the road, these photos might come back to haunt them. I read an article about a woman who said that when she interviews someone, if it is a 20 something year-old, she goes to MySpace to really see the person's character and see what they do or don't do. It's very interesting, but I don't think kids today realize that.

OLBERMANN: And on top of that, they need to get off our lawns. The other scandal, in brief, this text messaging things, that it favors contestants from the south, what is that about?

MILITO: Well, they said, because with Cingular - that 44 percent of Cingular are from the south, and it is more popular in the south, because people can text message on "American Idol" and so far all five winners have been from the south. I don't know. They said that they would like it to be that you can vote through the Internet, like other contest shows, like "Dancing With The Stars." But they think it will be too difficult. You know -

OLBERMANN: Well, that is because you are on the Internet looking up the pictures of all the - naked pictures of all of the contestants.

MILITO: That's right.

OLBERMANN: Maria Milito, the mid-day mistress of classic rock, and the princess of "American Idol," from Q-104.3 radio in New York. always a pleasure Maria.

MILITO: Same here, thank you very much.

OLBERMANN: Now, this is news: film maker James Cameron claims he has found the bones of Jesus, along with his wife and their child. That's right, and I get to say this tonight, Jesus H. Christ himself.

And new details in the fight over Anna Nicole Smith's body and her little baby and her judge's TV career, all of which is next and this is Countdown.


OLBERMANN: What if the story that Jesus was resurrected and rose to heaven had somehow been contradicted by new, conclusive proof, other than, you know, the laws of physics? Would any Christian denomination really call it a day and pack up shop?

No matter what you think of the number two story on our Countdown tonight, if anyone ever hoped to use hard physical evidence to disprove Christianity, or any other established religion, that ship ascended long ago. Ron Allen is our reporter. First, let me say it now, because who knows when I'll get another opportunity like this, Jesus Christ, what a controversy.


JAMES CAMERON, PRODUCER: Jesus, son of Joseph.

RON ALLEN, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Could it be? These are the burial boxes of Jesus and his family? if these film makers are right, and many think that's a big if, they rewritten 2,000 years of Christian belief.

The Discovery Channel's "The Lost Tomb of Jesus" says the coffins came from this tomb outside Jerusalem, and that markings on the ten boxes reveal the name of Jesus and his relatives, including Mary Magdalene, who they say was his wife and a son named Judah.

SMICHA JACOBOVICI, DOCUMENTARY PRODUCER: It is quite surreal to know that they laid next to each other for 2,000 years and that they are here in New York.

ALLEN: Christians think that is blasphemy. "The Da Vinci Code" told a similar story as fiction, but this project claims, with new DNA and forensic evidence, to uncover fact.

(on camera): The film makers go as far as calling this perhaps the greatest archaeological find in history. While many Christians dismiss it all as Hollywood hype.

(voice-over): Father Thomas Williams thinks finding a place where the bones of Jesus rested on Earth is a hoax.

FATHER THOMAS WILLIAMS, CHRISTIAN: Christianity really stands or falls with the fact of Jesus' bodily resurrection from the dead.

ALLEN: Some scientists even doubt the markings on the caskets are names. While others say this could have been any family.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The most common name of that day was Maria, Mary.

Joseph is quite common. And even Jesus is a common name on its own.

ALLEN: Director James Cameron, who won an Oscar for Titanic," produced the documentary. He's been accused of trying to sink Christianity.

CAMERON: How can it be a bad thing to learn more about the most important human being that ever lived?

ALLEN: The film airs next week. The debate will last through eternity, those who claim they've uncovered the facts, versus those who live by their faith.

Ron Allen, NBC News, New York.


OLBERMANN: Tough act to follow, but on to our round up of celebrity and entertainment news, Keeping Tabs. With one man winning not just on his first Oscar nomination, but for his first movie. While another nominee is now a stunning 0 for 19. The film about former Vice President Gore's global warming sideshow, "An Inconvenient Truth," took the prize for best documentary at the Oscars. Though the Oscar actually went to film's director and producer, Mr. Gore was clearly the big winner. He had already taken the stage earlier with Leonardo DiCaprio to promote his cause, and to joke about whether or not he would run again for president.

Meanwhile sound engineer Kevin O'Connell, nominated for the 19th time last night, once again did not hear his name after those immortal words, "and the winner is." O'Connell's team was nominated for its work on Mel Gibson's "Apocalypto," but lost to the "Dreamgirls" nominee.

And 30 seconds of Anna Nicole Smith news. In essence, nothing yet resolved. An appeals court issued a stay on Judge Larry Seidlin's order. The body to body remain in Florida until the legal challenge from Mrs. Smith's mother is heard. A judge in the Bahamas might decide legal custody of Miss Smith's daughter, Daniel-Lynne, but not for several weeks. One of the professed fathers, Larry Birkhead, is pressing for DNA testing. says Mr. Birkhead finally met the infant after Howard K. Stern allowed it. A lot of initials there.

Finally, tonight a special comment. Secretary of State Rice compares the ouster of Saddam Hussein to the end of Adolf Hitler. Secretary Rice, meet American history. American history, Secretary Rice.

That's ahead, but first time for the Countdown's latest list of nominees for the Worst Person in the World. The bronze to Ronda Sue Solomon (ph) of Moorseburg, Tennessee, arrested for drunk driving, for drunk driving on a bicycle, for drunk driving on a stationary bicycle, for drunk driving on a stationary bicycle in a gym. Police say others at Gold Star Fitness called the cops. They said the woman wreaked of alcohol, was uncooperative with officers, and also, quote, appeared to be having trouble pedaling. Plus, she did not get very far when she tried to run away.

Our silver medallist tonight, the NRA, the National Rifle Associate. Perhaps the most famous rifle hunter of the day is Jim Zumbo, at least he was. He had the top rated show on Outdoor Channel TV and a column for "outdoor Life Magazine." He worked for most of the big gun makers. And then he wrote abusing assault weapons, quote, excuse me, maybe I'm a traditionalist, but I see no place for these weapons among our hunting fraternity. As hunters, we don't need to be lumped into the group of people who terrorize the world with him. I will go so far as to call them terrorist rifles. Zumbo's contract, TV show and column are all gone now. An NRA spokesman has pointed his fate out to anyone, including, quote, a fellow gun owner, who dares to challenge the, quote, right, unquote, of Americans to own assault weapons.

But our winner, Deputy White House Press Spokesman Tony Fratto, who explained to reporters that we did not invade Iraq. Quote, we went in as a multi-national force, under U.N. authorization, to take military action in Iraq, something that might be disagreed with by the facts. Next week it will be Iraq, we never invaded Iraq. We are not even there now. White House Spokesman Tony Fratto, today's Worst Person in the World!


OLBERMANN: Finally, as promised, special comments on the remarks yesterday by Secretary of State Rice. We already know about her suggestion that the president could just ignore whatever congressional Democrats do about Iraq. Just ignore Congress? We know how that game always turns out. Ask President Nixon, ask President Andrew Johnson.

But about what the secretary said regarding the prospect of Congress revising or repealing the 2002 authorization of the war in Iraq, and here we go again. From Springs spent trying to link Saddam Hussein, to Summers of cynically manipulated intelligence, through Autumns of false patriotism, to winters of war, we have had more than four years of every cheap trick and every degree of calculated cynicism from an administration filled with Three Card Monty players.

But the longer Dr. Rice and these other pickpocket of the nation's goodness have walked among us, waving flags and slandering opponents, and making true enemies, foreign and domestic, all hat and no cattle all the while, the overriding truth of their occupancy of our highest offices of state has only gradually become clear. As they asked once in the Avis commercial, ever get the feeling some people just stop trying?

Secretary Rumsfeld thought he could equate those who doubted him with Nazi appeasers, without reminding everybody that the actual historical Nazi appeasers in this country in the 1930's were the Republicans. Vice President Cheney thought he could talk as if he, and he alone, knew the truth about Iraq and 9/11, without anyone ever noticing that even the rest of the administration officially disagreed with him. The president really acted as if you could scare all the people all the time, and not lose your soul and your congressional majority as a result.

But Secretary of State Rice may have now taken the cake. On the Sunday morning interview show of broken record on Fox, Dr. Rice spoke a paragraph which, if it had been included in a remedial history paper at the weakest high school in the nation, would have gotten the writer an F, maybe an expulsion: "if Congress were now to revise the Iraq authorization," she said, out loud, with an adult present, quote, "it would be like saying that after Adolf Hitler was overthrown, we needed to change then the resolution that allowed the United States to do that, so that we could deal with creating a stable environment in Europe after he was overthrown."

The secretary's resume reads that she has a master's degree and PHD in political science. The interviewer should have demanded to see them on the spot. Dr. Rice spoke 42 words. She may have made more mistakes in them than did the president in his State of the Union Address in 2003. There is obviously no mistaking Saddam Hussein for a human being, but nor is there any mistaking him for Adolf Hitler. Invoking the German dictator, who subjugated Europe, who tried to exterminate the Jews, who sought to overtake the world, is not just in the poorest of tastes, but it is hyperbole.

It insults not merely the victims of the Third Reich, but also those in this country who fought it and who defeated it. Saddam Hussein was not Adolf Hitler, and George W. Bush is not Franklin D. Roosevelt, nor Dwight D. Eisenhower. He isn't even George H.W. Bush, who fought in that war.

However, even through the clouds of deliberately spread fear, and even under the weight of 1,000 exaggerations of the five years past, one can just barely make out how a battle against international terrorism in 2007 could be compared by some to the Second World War. The analogy is weak. It instantly begs the question of why those of the greatest generation focused on Hitler and Hirohito, but our leaders of today seem to have ignored their vague parallels of today, to instead concentrate on the Mussolinis of modern terrorism.

But in some small, you didn't fail junior, but you may need to go to summer school kind of way you can just make out that comparison. But Secretary Rice, overthrowing Saddam Hussein was akin to overthrowing Adolf Hitler? Are you kidding? Did you want to provoke the world's laughter? And please, madam secretary, if you are going to make that most implausible, dubious, subjective, ridiculous comparison, if you want to be as far off the mark about the Second World War as, say, this pathetic Holocaust denier from Iran, Ahmadinejad, at least get the easily verifiable facts right, the facts honed through history. Lie in your own department.

The resolution that allowed the United States to overthrow Hitler, on the 11th of December, 1941, at 8:00 in the morning, two of Hitler's diplomats walked up to the State Department, your office, Secretary Rice, and 90 minutes later, they were handing a declaration of war to the chief of the department's European division. The Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor four days earlier, and the Germans simply piled on.

Your predecessors, Dr. Rice, did not spend a year making up phony evidence, and mistaking German balloon inflating trucks for mobile germ warfare labs. They didn't pretend the world was ending, because a tin pot tyrant could not hand over the chemical weapons it turned out he had destroyed a decade earlier.

The Germans walked up to the front door of our State Department and said, we're at war. It was in all the papers. And when that war ended, more than three horrible years later, our troops and the Russian troops were in Berlin, and we stayed, as an occupying force, well into the 1950's, as an occupying force, madam secretary.

If you want to compare what we did to Hitler, and in Germany, to what we did to Saddam, and in Iraq, I'm afraid you're going to have to buy the whole analogy. We were an occupying force in Germany, Dr. Rice. And by your logic, we are now an occupying force in Iraq. And if that's the way you see it, you damn well better come out and tell the American people so. Save your breath telling it to the Iraqis, most of them already buy that part of the comparison.

"It would be like saying that after Adolf Hitler was overthrown, we needed to change, then, the resolution that allowed the United States to do that, so that we could deal with creating a stable environment in Europe after he was overthrown." We already have a subjectively false comparison between Hitler and Saddam. We already have a historically false comparison between Germany and Iraq. We already have blissful ignorance by our secretary of state about how this country got into the war against Hitler. But then there's this part about changing the resolution about Iraq, that it would be as ridiculous, in this secretary's eyes, as saying that after Hitler was defeated, we needed to go back to Congress to deal with creating a stable environment in Europe after he was overthrown.

Oh, good grief, Secretary Rice, that's exactly what we did do. We went back to Congress to deal with creating a stable environment in Europe after Hitler was overthrown. It was called the Marshall Plan, Marshall, General George Marshall, secretary of state, the job you have now. Come on!

Twelve billion four hundred thousand dollars to stabilize all of Europe economically, to keep the next enemies of freedom, the Russians, out and democracy in. How do you suppose that happened? The president of the United States went back to Congress and asked it for a new authorization and for the money. And do you have any idea, madam secretary, who opposed him when he did that? The Republicans.

We have spent enough money in Europe, said Senator Taft of Ohio. We spent enough of our resources, said former President Hoover. It's time to pull out of there. As they stand up, we'll stand down. This administration has long thought otherwise, but you cannot cherry pick life, whether life in 2007, or life in the history page marked 1945. You can't keep the facts that fit your prejudices and throw out the ones that destroy your theories.

If you're going to try to do that, if you still want to fool some people into thinking that Saddam was Hitler, and once we gave F.D.R. that blank check in Germany, he was no longer subject to the laws of Congress or gravity or physics, at least stop humiliating us. Get your facts straight. Use the Google.

You've been on Fox News Sunday, Secretary Rice. That network now has got another show premiering tomorrow night. You could go on that one too. It might be a better fit. It's called "Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader?"

That's Countdown. I'm Keith Olbermann, good night and good luck.