Tuesday, March 27, 2007

'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for March 27

Guests: Howard Fineman, Bill Maher, Mary Tillman

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

The war vote in the Senate. Republicans there will no longer block debate or the vote, because Mr. Bush will veto any legislation demanding withdrawal anyway. In other words, Mr. President, you do your dirty work for yourself.

And the same words in Gonzales-gate. Mr. Attorney General, you do your dirty work for yourself. The report tonight that nobody in the administration is trying to talk Republicans on the Hill into defending Alberto Gonzales.

For his aide, Monica Goodling, it's try to 86 taking the Fifth. Bad reaction to her plan to invoke her right against self-incrimination, instead of testifying to the Senate, especially considering her ex-colleague, Kyle Sampson, still, quote, "plans to testify fully, truthfully, and publicly," and tomorrow.

Testimony to bipartisan humanity in a partisan world. The White House press secretary, Tony Snow, diagnosed with a recurrence of cancer, and the administration and its critics unite in their affection and their optimism.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He is not going to let this whip him, and he's upbeat.

SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER: He has been a tremendously good representative for the president.

I hope and I pray that Tony Snow will again be able to whip this cancer. He's already whipped once.


OLBERMANN: The day after the latest story from the Army about the death of Ranger Pat Tillman, the former football star, in friendly fire in Afghanistan. More anger, more heartbreak from his mother, Mary. Tonight, her extraordinary interview with me and Dan Patrick.


MARY TILLMAN, PAT TILLMAN'S MOTHER: This is an attempt to dupe the public and to promote this war.


OLBERMANN: Thus, much to go over with another special guest tonight, Bill Maher.

And our comic relief, our Internet awards, in the category tonight of Everyday Idiots.




OLBERMANN: All that and more, now on Countdown.




OLBERMANN: Good evening.

The vote in the Senate early this evening was historic enough by itself. But behind it may have been a sea change in current American politics, Republicans no longer trying to stop Senate debate or even legislation, decreeing timelines for bringing the troops home from Iraq, saying that President Bush will veto any timelines in any case, as he has indeed just promised tonight to do in this case.

But are the Republican senators also saying, We're not spending our political capital to block what the majority of Americans want, Mr. President, you are on your own?

Our fifth story on the Countdown, you are on your own, the Senate tonight joining the House in voting to send Mr. Bush a specific timeline for redeployment of U.S. troops out of Iraq, as well as within Iraq, but only for specifically defined missions.

A presidential veto would include a veto of the spending bill to which it will be attached, a spending bill providing $100 billion in military funding the Pentagon says it needs urgently, starting as soon as next month. Even Vice President Cheney at one point was headed to Capitol Hill tonight, the vice president, of course, wielding the power of tiebreaker in the Senate, and it would have been a tie, 49-49, instead of the ultimate tally of 50 to 48, had it not been for one Republican who voted against a timeline just a week ago, but came out passionately today in support of it.


SEN. CHUCK HAGEL (R), NEBRASKA: It is now time for the Congress to step forward after a disastrous four years in Iraq. The language in the Senate supplemental bill does this in a responsible way. The Senate language, Mr. President, does not cut off funds. It does not impose a precipitous withdrawal of troops from Iraq. This language establishes a limited U.S. military mission in Iraq, counterterrorism, training Iraqi forces, and protecting U.S. personnel.

That is not new, Mr. President. We have heard that from this administration over the last four years. This wasn't dreamed up. And this idea that somehow you don't support the troops if you don't continue, in a lemming-like way, to accept whatever this administration's policy is, that's what's wrong.


OLBERMANN: Notable to political observers, the fact that Hagel's fellow Republicans could, in fact, have won this fight today, because they had well over the 40 votes they needed to sustain a filibuster to prevent the vote on this timeline alone from ever coming to the floor. But they chose not to. We will explore the implications of that at length in a moment.

But first, the president has another issue of allies with which to deal, not just their scarcity, but the evident scarcity of his efforts to recruit them, allies willing to come to the aid of the common center of gravity in a series of orbiting scandals, the attorney general, Alberto Gonzales, Congress today dealing with hearings and upcoming hearings on no less than three Gonzales scandals, most notably, Congress reacting today to news that Monica Goodling, the Justice Department official who serves as the Gonzales liaison to the White House, and a graduate of the Pat Robertson Law School, will take the Fifth rather than cooperate, as Gonzales promised she would, with the congressional inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the hiring and firing of U.S. attorneys, the publication "Roll Call" today uncovering one possible reason.

Gonzales is rapidly losing support in Congress. The White House has decided not to work the phones on his behalf. Why not? Some members of Congress apparently leery about going to bat for Mr. Gonzales without knowing what new revelation might emerge next.

And Mr. Bush's position on how the truth should come out about the U.S. attorneys also finds him without many allies today among the American people, a "USA Today" poll showing that Americans, by a ratio of 68 to 26, reject Mr. Bush's assertion that Karl Rove and other aides should be allowed to give their accounts in secret without swearing to tell the truth.

And at this critical political moment of his presidency, the man who articulates Mr. Bush's policies and positions has been sidelined, at least for now. Less than a year after joining the White House as press secretary, Tony Snow yesterday learned that the cancer he fought in 2005 has returned. Mr. Snow underwent surgery yesterday to remove a growth from his abdomen. Doctors determined that his cancer, previously confined to his colon, has now returned, and has shown up in his liver.

President Bush today had a message for Snow that addressed both the personal ordeal and the political blow it represents.


BUSH: My message to Tony is, stay strong. A lot of people love you and care for you and will pray for you. And we're hoping for all the best. I'm looking forward to the day that he comes back to the White House and briefs the press corps on the decisions that I'm making and why I'm making them.


OLBERMANN: We here echo the president's words wholeheartedly. This may seem improbable, but Tony Snow and I are e-mail correspondents. Baseball has been our primary topic. But he says he watches this newscast, says he enjoys it, and can even resist the temptation to yell at the screen.

And we are honored to have him. His comments about Elizabeth Edwards last week could not have been more perfectly suitable.

Do whatever you can to get better, sir. If yelling might help, we will be honored by that too.

Filling in for Tony Snow will be his deputy, Dana Perino. She told the White House press corps today that Snow is optimistic about his treatment. She also acknowledged the daunting task she faces in a comment both brief and self-deprecating.




OLBERMANN: Joined now by Howard Fineman, our political analyst, the senior Washington correspondent for "Newsweek" magazine.

Howard, good evening. Thanks for your time.


Good evening, Keith.

OLBERMANN: Two questions about Tony Snow. First, give us a further idea about why the reaction to his misfortune is so nonpartisan and so heartfelt. And then step away from the personal for a moment to asses how his absence, hopefully brief, will affect this White House.

FINEMAN: Well, he's very much liked in Washington because he's something rare in Washington. He's a gentleman. You always have the feeling with Tony, even if he can disagree with you deeply on matters of philosophy and etiology, even if, as White House spokesman, he was stonewalling to a fare-thee-well, he was doing it as a man of goodwill, out of his sense of shared belief in the country.

So a gentleman and a patriot, and a classy guy, and everybody around town regards him as such.

Politically, the White House needed him, needs somebody of his skill and determination and general likeability to deal with George Bush's deepening political problems here in Washington. He's not only a man alone, but a man who's losing what little support he had on Capitol Hill, and the sense of goodwill that Tony could create, along with antagonism, but gentlemanly antagonism, will be missed in the press room.

OLBERMANN: All right. Let's turn to the first of the problems that you referred to, Iraq. This issue of the Republicans waiving the prospect, the filibuster option, letting an Iraq timeline hit the president's desk, and the problems that come with it hit the president's desk. Are those Republican senators indeed primarily protecting themselves here, or is there some other construction?

FINEMAN: Well, they would argue, and this - the people I talked to, the Republican leaders I talked to on the Hill, claim that they want to speed up the process so there will be a veto, so there will be a deal, so the money will get to Iraq. That's the nice governmental answer, war answer.

But the real answer, the political answer, is that they're tired of playing the 300, you know, the Spartans, you know, being besieged by the Persians here, all around the country, who disagree with the president's war policy.

They didn't want to spend, including Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader in the Senate, who's up for reelection in Kentucky next year, and who, by the way, may actually have a race, he didn't - he and his fellow Republicans didn't want to spend the next week or two in the well of the Senate throwing up whatever procedural trick they had, sort of standing shield to shield, as in the movie, you know, to prevent their defeat.

They're tired of doing it. They feel that this White House has never particularly had their interests at heart anyway. So let the president speed up the process.

OLBERMANN: Did the Democrats win the political maneuvering here, Howard? I mean, if the president has pointedly called on Democrats not to block war funding, does he - how does he sell the idea that it's OK for him to veto war funding, and perhaps endanger the troops by, at least in theory, holding up supplies and the like?

FINEMAN: Well, that's where the skill not just of a Tony Snow, but of a Ronald Reagan or a Bill Clinton may be required. This is going to be the big political spin battle of the next few weeks, and indeed, of this whole political cycle, in a way, is to who - as to who gets blamed for the lack of funding for the troops.

Now, it is true that the - it's the Congress that appropriates the money. So a lot of traditionalists around here think that in the end, it's the Democrats in control of Congress who will be backed into a corner. I'm not sure that's the case, when the public is so overwhelmingly against the war as they are now.

We're sort of in an uncharted territory here, Keith, a vote on cutting off funding in the middle of a war. And I don't know how it's going to turn out.

OLBERMANN: And lastly, the Alberto Gonzales situation going from bad to worse. Kyle Sampson testifies on Thursday, Monica Goodling refuses to testify at all. Forty-eight hours from now, is Alberto Gonzales packing up his office, or what's the status? What's the prediction?

FINEMAN: Well, I don't know the hour, and I don't know the day, but I think it's going to happen. Again, the Senate Republicans aren't going to spend any effort defending him. I'm told that, again, Mitch McConnell, that Republican minority leader, is going to turn Gonzales's fate over to, on the Republican side, Arlen Specter, the ranking Republican on that committee. Specter's a moderate Republican from Pennsylvania. He's going to be up again in 2010. Specter loves to turn everything into a court case. That will be slow torture on a spit if Gonzales gets that far.

OLBERMANN: And for the president, it's a choice of critics or crickets.

Howard Fineman of "Newsweek." As always, Howard, thanks.

FINEMAN: Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN: One other subject touching tonight on the president and the war, the death of the former NFL star, Army Ranger, Pat Tillman from friendly fire in Afghanistan. On the "Dan Patrick Show" on ESPN Radio this afternoon, his mother talked to Dan and me at length about the Army's latest briefing to her and her family about her son's death.


TILLMAN: It became pretty obvious early on, because we were given kind of an agenda to follow. We were told to listen to their presentation and ask questions when they were finished. And we were absolutely prepared to do that.

However, it became very obvious early on that they were lying to us.

It was quite clear.


OLBERMANN: Mary Tillman also believes she can measure the extent of the coverup by the military in her son's death. She says her family still is not getting the full truth now. She believes this is not a personal tragedy for the Tillman family, but rather, a tragedy for the entire nation.

Ahead in this newshour, much more of Mary Tillman in her own words today.

The Tillman probe just the latest in a laundry list of problems for the administration. It gets dirtier by the day. The stench of scandal in D.C., as it is perceived by our special guest, Bill Maher, who does not have to follow the (INAUDIBLE) night two of nominees in our Internet awards. You get to vote.

You are watching Countdown on MSNBC.


OLBERMANN: (INAUDIBLE) succession of scandals in the Bush administration might now be likened to a carousel.

In our fourth story on the Countdown, close scrutiny of any one of them may occasionally subside, replaced by the next. But with time, each of them seems to come back around again.

The agency, the outing of CIA operative Valerie Plame Wilson, came back to primacy with Scooter Libby's conviction and Libby's appeal, and a civil suit and a book by Ms. Plame guaranteeing a further airing, perhaps even more illuminating. The Army Ranger, another apparent end to an investigation, the findings by the Pentagon inspector general on misinformation surrounding the death of Pat Tillman. It's really just a start to prying open a Pandora's box of lies.

And Alberto KO-ed by five. The attorney general may find himself a player in other congressional investigations long after the scandal of the U.S. attorneys' firings, and his own possible firing, have played out.

And that's only just the A's.

I'm joined now by the host of "Real Time with Bill Maher" on HBO, my fellow product of the den of heathen iniquity that was Cornell University in the 1970s, Bill Maher himself.

Thank you for your time tonight, sir.

BILL MAHER, HOST, "REAL TIME WITH BILL MAHER": Hello, fellow alum, how are you?

OLBERMANN: Not bad. But let me start with something that really turns the stomach, this stuff tonight from Mary Tillman about her son Pat. Can we combine that saga now with the Walter Reed hospital stuff, lack of armor for the troops, and even Valerie Plame, an intelligence officer, being thrown under the bus to protect fake intelligence, and make a theme out of this, that we've got an administration that prefers the appearance of phony patriotism to what right - what is real patriotism?

MAHER: Well, there's certainly that in the Bush administration. I wouldn't lump the Pat Tillman thing in with it, though, because I don't think, first of all, that that really had anything to do with the Bush administration.

And also, you have to look at motivation. Most of their scandals occur because they put staying in power and politics ahead of their country, ahead of patriotism. I agree with that. But I don't see how you put Pat Tillman in there. I mean, yes, it's terrible that they lie, but it's an Army affair. I imagine that the Army always tends to lie when someone is killed by friendly fire, because no one wants to think that that's how someone - one of their loved ones dies in service to their country.

OLBERMANN: All right, let's turn over here to the attorney general. What is more likely here, in your estimation? This is a classic case of the coverup far exceeding the original wrong, or that after hearings, after testimony, and probably the firing of the attorney general, it settles down, but serves as kind of this template for how Congress will be dealing with this administration for the rest of this administration?

MAHER: Well, I hope what comes out of it, first of all, is that Congress learns to start reading the PATRIOT Act. How long has it been since they have had this PATRIOT Act and still haven't read the damn thing? They were surprised to learn - Excuse me. They were surprised to learn that the statute was in there that said that the Bush administration was able to fire these attorneys without any oversight from the Senate.

The scandal, as in so many of the Bush scandals, and not just the Bush administration, but a lot of what goes on in Washington, the scandal is not what's illegal, it's what's legal. You know, it's hard to get these guys on this one on doing something illegal. It is within their power to fire these attorneys. What was so unprecedented was to do it in the middle of their terms, and for obviously political reasons.

OLBERMANN: Also, you know, in the PATRIOT Act, there are limericks and recipes that no one has noticed yet.

If you could take this president and hook him up to a lie detector, would you start with one question? Is something - something - some answer you actually want from this man?

MAHER: Well, gosh, this - Keith, you're giving me a - Hmm, so many things swimming in my head right now. But I would certainly want to ask him if he was - had the truth serum in him, Don't you think you're in way over your head? Won't you just admit that?

And as far as specifics, I would love to know, more than anything, what you were thinking on 9/11 for those seven minutes after you were told the words, "The country is under attack," when you still sat in your chair reading a children's book.

Of all the things that Bush has screwed up, to me, that remains the one most glaring error that any president could ever make, to sit still, like Forrest Gump on a bench, at the moment you are told those words, "The country's under attack." This is the nuclear age.

He didn't know what kind of an attack it was or whether it was becoming a nuclear attack. To sit there for seven minutes seems so unpardonable. And when people on the right have defended him for that, to me, that's just the ultimate in defending a person over your country.

OLBERMANN: Yes, boy, oh, boy, you get on his back. He does something, you get on his back, he doesn't do something, you get on his back.

Listen, the Democrats are pressing the administration on the war. Do you think they have finally caught up with public sentiment, or are they still basically politicians who are behind the curve?

MAHER: Oh, yes. They're behind the curve. I think the people in this country have gotten on the page that the war is lost. This is not going to happen. There's not going to be democracy in the Middle East as a result of it. At least, probably not in our lifetime. Victory. These words that Bush keeps throwing around are meaningless. We lost this one, and we made it far worse.

You know, when he talks about the terrorists following us home, who's enabling that? He is. When we went into Afghanistan, which was 1,000 miles east of Iraq, you know, we had the terrorists who attacked us pretty much in an area where they were, and they were actual terrorists.

Now we seem to have moved the terrorists' homeland 1,000 miles east, much closer to Turkey, which is part of NATO and Europe. So, in essence, they are following us home. Bush just keeps moving it closer to us.

OLBERMANN: That trail of bread crumbs works every time.

Bill Maher, the host of "Real Time with Bill Maher" on HBO, one of the reasons to own a television.

Great thanks for your time, sir.

MAHER: Oh, thank you. Right back at you.

OLBERMANN: Speaking of missteps in the administration, more on the coverup and the manipulation surrounding the friendly fire death of Pat Tillman. More of our interview with his mother.

And the most deadly airline accident ever was a runway incursion exactly 30 years ago. Why officials today are concerned another collision like that on the ground could be imminent.

That and more, ahead here on Countdown.


OLBERMANN: Singer and actor Sean Cassidy turns 49 years old today. I am apprised by my executive producer that all the girls of her age still swoon at the mention of that name. So the next time we have an "American Idol" segment planned, I'm just going to say...

Let's play Oddball. Sean Cassidy!

And we begin in Irwindale, California, where some bright spark figured the best way to promote the new movie "Red Line" was to let the star, comedian Eddie Griffin, drive the incredibly rare Enzo Ferrari featured in the film for a charity race. What could possibly go wrong?

Is that video of something going wrong, or of something going very right? Griffin was unhurt. The same can't be said for the $1.5 million car he totaled. That's only 17 times less money than it took to make the actual movie. And even worse, the car belonged to his executive producer.

But before you start feeling his pain, consider this. The website TMZ.com points out the cameraman right in front of the crash. See, he doesn't even flinch. There's a Ferrari coming screaming at him, which leads to speculation that the crash itself was the promotion, which might explain why Mr. Griffin then posed with his handiwork afterwards. Most expensive promo picture ever.

And to the appropriately named Darwin, Australia, where local residents stumbled upon this freak of nature, a toad the size of a chihuahua. The monster beast is a cane toad, a nonnative breed originally introduced into Australia to eat the cane better. Instead, it started eating everything else, and it's now considered a national pest. At least the local kids get some fun out of it, with the caution, whatever you do, do not lick this toad. Got to give it up. Give up the toad now.

Strange videos at the heart of our awards segment again tonight. Who is the best Everyday Idiot from the Internet? Nominees and your votes ahead.

But first, our interview with the mother of Pat Tillman. After the Pentagon's latest report and its latest briefing for her, Mary Tillman is even angrier than before, and talking about it. "It became very obvious," she says, "that they were lying to us."

That's next.

This is Countdown.


OLBERMANN: On the 22nd of next month it will have been three years since Corporal Pat Tillman was killed in an ambush by hostile forces in Afghanistan. Well that was the first version. Our third story on the Countdown, Pat Tillman's mother has had enough of the versions. Her remarkable interview in a moment.

At the end of May, 2004, after his memorial service, after the grief, after the patriotic surge at the thought of a professional football star having given up life itself for the country he loved, the Army reported it had just discovered that Pat Tillman had not been killed by the Taliban, but by friendly fire.

The next May the story changed again. The Army had known it was friendly fire from virtually the day he died. Yesterday came the latest story; nine officers, including four generals, had known, including at least one who attended Tillman's nationally televised memorial service, but said nothing to the family about the truth while he was there. But nobody, not whoever shot Pat Tillman, not whoever did not tell his family, nor the public, the truth, nobody in the military merits criminal prosecution.

Mary Tillman says she is not getting still the truth from the United States military; still not being told why the only testimony being permitted is from those who were part of the group that fired at and killed her son, and not from other witnesses, or at least those with less of an apparent motive to lie; still not being told why the military had told her that her son's diary had been lost, but now says, no, it was burned just after the incident, destroyed along with his clothes; still not being told why such high-ranking officers knew the truth, but did not tell her until after they had used the story of her son's death as a recruiting tool.

Mary Tillman joined Dan Patrick and me this afternoon on ESPN radio.


MARY TILLMAN, MOTHER OF PAT TILLMAN: Their attempts to cover it up are so outrageous from the outset that if they started admitting wrong, then they would just have to keep admitting such atrocious lies that it would just get out of hand. I mean, the idea in my mind that this was not something that possibly even Rumsfeld was aware of is kind of ludicrous. Because you have admittedly four generals who, you know, they're claiming, knew that it was a fratricide, didn't act appropriately, or there were errors and missteps.

It seems to me that Rumsfeld would have to be aware of it. They're not going to destroy the uniform of their most high-profile soldier, who was killed by fratricide, without the knowledge of the secretary of defense. That's my opinion.

OLBERMANN: In death, do you believe that this administration used your son as a sales tool for war, if not in Afghanistan, then for the war in Iraq? Do you think that's what is at the heart of this?

TILLMAN: Oh, absolutely, absolutely, yes. I believe that's what they did. Because if you think about it, there was a leak. OK, there was an obvious leak on Friday. We were not told until yesterday. It was leaked that these generals were going to be reprimanded for missteps and errors.

DAN PATRICK, ESPN ANCHOR: Is that how it was described?

TILLMAN: Well, when it came out in the news on Friday, that's what they said. So we had a heads up that this was kind of going to be their conclusion. But if you think about it, you know, Pat was killed on April 22nd. On April 29th General Abizaid, General Brown and General Kensinger were notified that Pat was indeed killed by fratricide. General Kensinger was at Pat's memorial service on May 3rd. He already knew that Pat was killed by fratricide. Yet, the Army gave a Navy Seal friend of Pat's a narrative to read that indicated that Pat was killed by enemy fire.

That is not a misstep. That is not an error. That was an attempt to have this glamorous narrative read on national television, to basically dupe the public. I mean, it's very important to keep in mind that this was not simply to dupe our family and to assuage our family. This was an attempt to dupe the public, and to promote this war, and to get recruitments up.

And that is immoral. And it's a travesty that this young man, who did not, by the way, believe the war in Iraq was the right thing to do. I mean, that was just a horrible thing to do to his legacy.

PATRICK: What do you want, though, Mary?

TILLMAN: I would like everything - I want a congressional hearing, because I want to find out what actually happened. We've been lied to so much throughout this whole ordeal that I would like to hear - I would like to have it all aired out in a congressional hearing. And we're working to have that happen.

OLBERMANN: Do you have clearly in your mind what you think happened in Afghanistan to your son? Not what they're saying, not what they told you the first time, not what they told you the second time, not what they told you the third time, not what they told you the umpteenth time, and not what they said yesterday. Can you go through this, because I don't want to leave any doubt in anybody's mind, what do you think happened and why to your son?

TILLMAN: I don't know. I think there's three scenarios possibly, and I'd rather not get into them, but I really don't know what happened, because we have been told so many different things. I can't say that I really do know ultimately what happened to him.

OLBERMANN: But you have included among those three things the possibility that someone deliberately shot him?

TILLMAN: I'm not excluding that.


TILLMAN: I don't think we can at this point.

PATRICK: What do you think Pat would think of all this, what's going on?

TILLMAN: Well, I think he would be hurt. I think he'd be hurt and outraged. This is not why he enlisted. He had high regard for the ideals of the country, and he was constantly reading and investigating things, and it was becoming very clear to him that he thought the war in Iraq was illegal. He didn't like the idea of going in. And then when they got over there more and more, he believed that it was an unjustified war.

And I think he'd be kind of amused at the way the right and the left have used him. And that would probably amuse him, because he wasn't that easy to put in a box.

PATRICK: When you said that he looked at this as illegal, I mean, are we looking at a conspiracy theory, though, Mary? Just to be fair to your feelings and how sensitive this is, is there more to it that you don't want to get into now, because you feel that there could be a conspiracy theory with Pat's thoughts on the war, and using him as this shield or to prop him up, to say, you can be just like Pat Tillman, come join the war?

TILLMAN: Well, I definitely think Pat was used. Of course he was used. Once he was killed, I think, they saw this as an opportunity. You have to remember, this is right after Abu Ghraib. And this is the worst month of the war so far, the month of April, 2004. And so when he died, this is an opportunity for them.

Can I say there was a conspiracy? I don't know. I don't know if I can go so far as to say that. But I can't eliminate it, can I?


OLBERMANN: It's unclear if Mary Tillman will get the congressional inquiry she seeks. Goodness knows we as a nation have not given her anything else she wanted.

Also tonight, it was the worst aviation disaster in history; a runway incursion, two planes colliding, more than 500 killed. Safety officials worry we're dangerously close to seeing a modern repeat of that tragedy.

And another night of boozing by the young British royals leads to another embarrassing photo. Prince William's fiancee not appearing in your picture. That's next. This is Countdown.


OLBERMANN: The greatest threat to you, the airline passenger, is other airline passengers. Not any of them personally, just the volume of them, spiking ever higher, requiring ever more flights, cutting down ever more dangerously on the spaces between airplanes, literally and temporally. Our number two story on the Countdown, the specter on the occasion of the anniversary of the worst accident in aviation history, that cataclysmic collisions like that one, between two aircraft on the ground, could happen again, as it almost happened last year 330 times.

Our correspondent is Tom Costello.


TOM COSTELLO, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): March 27, 1977.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Both planes exploded and burst into flames.

COSTELLO: The worst aviation disaster in history; 583 people dead in the Canary Islands after a KLM 747 sped down a runway without takeoff clearance, crashing into a Pan Am 747. Today, in an NTSB hearing, the Pan Am co-pilot relived that moment in the cockpit 30 years ago today.

CAPT ROBERT BRAGG, PAN AM CO-PILOT: When I saw him lift off, I closed the my eyes and ducked. I think that's what saved my life. When I looked back to the left, the lounge and all those passengers were gone.

COSTELLO: Captain Bragg's story, part of an NTSB push to prevent another runway disaster.

(on camera): Last year there were 330 runway incursions or close calls in the U.S., 30 of those considered to be the most serious.

(voice-over): Carelessness in the control tower and inattentive or lost pilots often to blame. Now the FAA is approving new touch screen GPS maps for cockpits to help pilots avoid getting lost at unfamiliar airports.

MARION BLAKEY, FAA ADMINISTRATOR: This device is a game-changer.

COSTELLO: The FAA is also improving runway markings, testing runway hold lights in Dallas that warn pilots of runway traffic ahead. Also, in Dallas and other airports, building new perimeter taxi ways to reduce thousands of runway crossings each day. Now the NTSB wants to improve the automatic warning of an impending collision.

MARK ROSENKER, NTSB CHAIRMAN: We need a direct warning to the cockpit.

COSTELLO: For Pan Am co-pilot Bragg, a lesson for all pilots.

BRAGG: Don't get in a hurry and when in doubt, don't.

COSTELLO: Learned from witnessing a KLM pilot's mistake 30 years ago.

Tom Costello, NBC News, Washington.


OLBERMANN: Turning oddly to our nightly roundup of celebrity and entertainment news, Keeping Tabs. And not one, but both of the princes of England caught on camera indulging in bad behavior. The "Sun Newspaper" publishing a photo of Prince William, the future king therein, apparently gripping the breast of a Brazilian exchange student during a party. Welcome to our land.

The girl telling the paper, quote, I didn't really know what to do, so I made a silly gesture with my hand, giving a big peace sign. Now, as you can see, William clearly knew what he was doing with his hand, exclamation-pound, end quote.

Last week it was his brother, Prince Harry's turn for embarrassment. Photos were published with him evidently falling out of a taxi at 3:00 in the morning and lunging at a photographer. They've been trained.

But if either of them is in the doghouse, at least they aren't Snoop Dogg, who cannot even get into the Windsor's country. Mr. Dogg, real name Calvin Broadus, has been denied entry to Britain, forcing cancellation of his tour there with Sean Diddy Colmes. According to British Home Office rules, foreigners may be barred from entering the country if there are concerns about their presence. And Dogg made quite an impression April last when he and his posse allegedly started a fight at the Heathrow Airport because they could not get into the first class lounge at British Airways.

They were arrested on charges of violent disorder, all of which now leaves him pleading for reconsideration.


SNOOP DOGG, RAPPER: Let me in. I need to be back at home. London, England, U.K., someone speak for me.


OLBERMANN: He's talking a lot faster than he normally does. And this is back by popular demand, the Keithies. No, that kid wasn't watching them. Throngs watched last night's list of nominees. Is that throngs or thongs? Anyway, tonight's category, everyday idiots found on the Internets. That's next. First time for Countdown's latest list of nominees for Worst Person in the World.

The bronze tonight to Tanya Marie Taylor of Bono, Arkansas, arrested today with breaking or entering, after her supporting witness refused to give police a statement. She claimed that witness was going to say she had found the object in question they say she stole. The object in question was a teddy bear, which police believe she actually stole out of the arms of a three-year-old girl, while the girl's mother watched.

The silver, speaking of three-year-olds, Michael "Weiner" Savage, now attributing the school shootings at Columbine in 1999 in trans-gender surgery. Quoting him, "the capital of it is somewhere in Colorado, of course, near Columbine. You wonder why the kids shoot each other there with black rain coats." We'll skip the last imagery about shooting with raincoats for a moment.

That so-called capital of sex change surgery, Trinidad, Colorado, 194 miles away from Columbine High School in Littleton. Do you know how meaningless the geography is this case, exactly? Do you know what's 154 miles from Columbine, 40 miles closer than the capital of sex change surgery? The University of Wyoming, Dick Cheney's alma mater.

But our winner, Sean Hannity over at Fox Noise, well, the production team behind his solo show, which night before last used this graphic:

"Democrats are legislating defeat in Iraq." Not even a question mark, just stated as fact with his channel's brand name next to it, a brand name that for some inexplicable reason contains the word news. Just how irresponsible is that? Well, what if another network ran a graphic reading say, "Fox News enabling American deaths in Iraq." How does that work for you? Sean Hannity's production team, today's Worst Persons in the World.


OLBERMANN: In the closing decades of the 20th century, many of us feared for the future of the written word. As communications accelerated past cheap long distance calls, directly to free cell phones, we worried that writing would become the new alchemy. And then came the Internet, e-mails and blogs, online reporters and instant messages. The word was saved.

Our number one story on the Countdown, the price for that, of course, is the Keithies, the first annual best of the stuff we found on the Internets awards. This does not need much explanation. Last night we showed you the news stuff you would have missed but for the Internet. Tonight we'll show you five nominees in the category of every day idiots, and you can vote over the Internet. Let's start with an overview.


OLBERMANN (voice-over): Some of our idiots have the greatest of intentions, but simply fall short. There are three main sub-species of Internet idiots, the idiots who do not know they are on camera, the idiots who tape themselves, and the idiot victims of their idiot prankster buddies.

Surveillance video is the best way to find idiots who don't know they're on camera. Take this Quickie Mart classic, for example. She fell into the basement. This guy fell into the Gin and Vodka aisle. This fellow botched his first trip to Jiffy Lube. She had some trouble at the self-serve aisle. And if this next guy were a bird, he'd be dead right now.

Then you have the pranksters. It's "Jackass," meets "Candid Camera," meets Gitmo, meets the Internets. Spearheaded by the old Linda Blair in the maze trick.


OLBERMANN: There's the Diet Coke and the Mentos rub. The wedgie while you're awake bit.


OLBERMANN: The wedgie while you're not awake bit. If you think that's a rough way to start the day, how about this?


OLBERMANN: But the largest group of every day idiots are those who start out trying to make web video magic and succeed only - well, not in the way they hoped.


OLBERMANN: And the nominees for Best Everyday Idiot are never leave the vehicle while driving; Pickup truck versus telephone pole.

Next, the idiotic simply baseballs to the bucket head guy.

The subtlety there is the adjustment of the helmet.

Up next, the moronic father, letting his moronic kid take his brand new car for an idiotic spin. It's Mustang meets garage.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How much horsepower you got under there? Wow.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Holy (EXPLETIVE DELETED). Did you get this all on film?



OLBERMANN: They did it better in "Ferris Bueller." Sticking with cars, it's a group of ninnies trying to tow their car out of the driveway instead of just pick up a snow shovel.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Stop, stop, stop.


OLBERMANN: And to the final nominee in this category, show off your pecks, but please stand clear of the fish tank. It's the idiot weight lifter.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Momma, mom, mom.


OLBERMANN: Momma, momma, your everyday idiot Keithies award nominees. In the democratic spirit of the web - small D democratic - we report, you decide. Voting is open online at Countdown.MSNBC.com. You have until noon Friday. Pick your favorite. You can also watch last night's nominees and vote in that category too. All of you Keithies winners to be revealed on this newscast, if it's really still a newscast, on Friday. Tomorrow night's slate of nominees, Internet super stars, non-porn, category.

Sorry about the non part. That's Countdown for this the 1,444th day since the declaration of mission accomplished in Iraq. I'm Keith Olbermann, good night and good luck.