Thursday, May 31, 2007

'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for May 31

Guests: Jonathan Soltz, Howard Fineman, John Phillips, Jack Hanna

ALISON STEWART, HOST: Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?

"I see progress." Where? Iraq, according to Senator Joe Lieberman, who dropped into Baghdad, pronounced things better, and then head home to Connecticut. But not before he faced tough questions from troops who think otherwise and want to know when they get to go home. Until then, they just want the body armor they need.

Well, here in the states at Fort Lewis, it was announced individual memorials will no longer be held for troops, because there are too many.

She's already a lawyer and a mom, but will she be a first lady? She's campaigning for a fellow who might make that so. We go on the trail with Michelle Obama.

Two people dead, 15 people injured, one speeding motorcycle, a fatal pileup in Maryland set into motion during a police chase. When is a chase not worth it?

His name is Andrew Speaker. He's a 31-year-old attorney from Atlanta, and he's likely to have exposed hundreds of people to a dangerous strain of TB. Oh, and one more thing. His father-in-law works for the CDC as a tuberculosis specialist. No, really, that's true.

And that's some pig. An 11-year-old hog hunter claims he shot a nine-foot hogzilla. But is this for real? Some aren't as sure as Jerry the taxidermist.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, 1,000 pounds is a supermonster pig.


STEWART: Jack Hanna gives us his take on the monster pig mystery.


JACK HANNA: Never seen a pig anywhere close in size to this one.


STEWART: All that and more, now on Countdown.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I just saw a pig man.



STEWART: Good evening. Keith Olbermann has the night off. I'm Alison Stewart.

At least 123 Americans have been killed in Iraq this May, making it the third-deadliest month since the war began.

Our fifth story on the Countdown, soldiers still stationed in Iraq now asking the question, quote, "When are we going to get out of here?" end quote, amid new questions that President Bush envisions keeping a military presence in that country for the long haul, one U.S. senator praising progress being made in Iraq and the selection of knockoff designer sunglasses, Connecticut Independent Joe Lieberman wore his new shades to lunch with Specialist David Williams of the 82nd Airborne Division, who says nearly every one of his fellow soldiers begged him to ask the senator, quote, "When are we going to get out of here?" another soldier at the lunch, a Connecticut constituent of the senator, telling a reporter that he was going to tell Senator Lieberman, quote, "We're not making any progress. It just seems like we drive around and wait to get shot at," one report concluding that President Bush is, quote, "more convinced than ever of his righteousness on Iraq, syndicated columnist Georgie Ann Geyer (ph) writing in "The Dallas Morning News" that, quote, "Friends of his," the president, "from Texas were shocked recently to find him nearly wild-eyed, thumping himself in the chest three times while he repeated, 'I am the president.' He also made it clear he was setting Iraq up so his successor could not get out of our country's destiny," end quote.

Dealing with the loss of American lives has been especially difficult at Washington State's Fort Lewis, where one out of every six soldiers killed in Iraq this month was stationed, so many that, starting tomorrow, Fort Lewis will no longer hold individual memorial ceremonies for fallen soldiers. Instead, the Army post will honor its war dead in a single ceremony, to be held once a month.

Many Fort Lewis families reacting that a shared ceremony would impersonalize the sacrifices of these soldiers, the mother of one fallen soldier equating it to, quote, "the birthday party once a month thing. That's wrong."

For more reaction on this and the rest of the day's news, we're joined now by Jon Soltz, an Army captain who served in Iraq in 2003. He is now chairman of

Jon, thanks for being with us.

JONATHAN SOLTZ, CHAIRMAN, VOTEVETS.ORG: Thank you for having me, ma'am.

STEWART: Now, officials at Fort Lewis are no doubt feeling overwhelmed. I can't even imagine what they're going through. But I do want to know your opinion, was stopping individual memorial services the best way to have handled this?

SOLTZ: Well, obviously, at, we fight for the troops, and we remember all of them when they fall for this country. But I think it's a sign that the Army's completely overextended. One of the additional brigades that President Bush sent to Iraq, and obviously now (INAUDIBLE) in place, was one of these brigades from the 2nd Infantry Division at Fort Lewis. That's why the causalities are so high.

This month in May was the highest month of casualties in Iraq in deaths since November of 2004. And it's unfortunate, because we need to remember all of our soldiers that die. I understand that they're overextended at Fort Lewis, like the rest of the Army, but we need to remember our troops. It's the worst thing that could ever - a soldier could ever think of is that they'll be forgotten once they fall. And we owe it to them to remember them individually every time.

STEWART: Need to do it every day. Yesterday came word that the White House sees the U.S. having a long-term military presence in Iraq similar to the one that it's had in Korea for so many years. Do you think that's a valid comparison?

SOLTZ: I couldn't think of a worst comparison. When we went to Korea, we went in under a U.N. mandate. It was a conventional, high-intensity conflict, force-on-force conflict. We used diplomatic solutions to get a stabilization on the peninsula, and we've had a presence ever since. But the presence has been in peace. Our soldiers aren't being shot at in Korea every day. They're not coming home in body bags.

And for the troops on the ground, I mean, this is the second blatant example of this administration with their words undermining our troops in the field and emboldening the enemy. When they passed their torture bill last year in Congress, our soldiers are on the ground every day trying to win the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people, and they validated everything that happened at Abu Ghraib, which undermines the popularity of the troops in Iraq.

And then when you go and you say, We're going to be there indefinitely, that's like a recruiting tool for al Qaeda. That's a recruiting tool. Our soldiers are in the villages every day, they're trying to say that we're here temporarily to help your government get established. And here come the people in Washington, D.C., who've never had the courage to fight for this country. They stand up and they say, Well, we're going to be there for 50 years or indefinitely.

Only 1 percent of the Iraqi population supports an indefinite American presence in Iraq. So what the president did today and Tony Snow is, they gave al Qaeda a recruiting poster, and it's very unfortunate for our men and women in combat.

STEWART: I do want to follow up on one more thing about that Korea comparison. No one won in the Korean War. It was a cease-fire. Do you expect a change in the language about winning in Iraq?

SOLTZ: Well, I think that's funny, when they went after Senator Reid, winning or losing troop levels more, troop levels less. This is about diplomacy, this is about finding the politicians, or the people in charge, who control the armies or the militias or the guns. And we need some form of political settlement, both at the regional level and internally in Iraq.

I have no idea what victory looks like, because the commander in chief has not laid (ph) that. So we'll see, but I'm not quite sure if we'll ever see victory or defeat, or if we'll just see something in the middle.

STEWART: I want to get your impression about those two soldiers who told the media that fellow soldiers do not think that progress is being made, and they want to know when are they actually going to get out of there, get to go home? How many more soldiers can we expect who are not willing to speak out publicly? And why don't they speak out publicly, sir?

SOLTZ: Well, I think what's interesting is that soldiers are speaking out. When Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld was in Kuwait and the specialist spoke up, that's why we had up-armored Humvees in Iraq. And last year Zogby did a poll in Iraq of combat troops that were there, 70 percent thought we needed to get out within a year.

And now you have Joe Lieberman, who spent his Vietnam War years in law school, and claims that he's some kind of arbiter of patriotism, going to Iraq wearing his fake ugly sunglasses. And it's hard for me to know that he actually gets to see the troops, because those soldiers, they wanted to talk to Joe Lieberman, and they wanted to tell him the truth. They wanted to tell him what they saw, which was that they're driving around, they're getting shot, and they want to know when they're going home.

And for me, you know, when I came home, I was lucky to get to meet, you know, someone like Senator John Kerry, who took the time out to talk to me. And he really let me know that my opinion mattered to him. Obviously he had questioned the war in Vietnam when he came home.

But for these soldiers to have to go and talk to a guy like Senator Lieberman, who's not going to listen to their concerns, because he's - I don't quite know why he thinks what he thinks, but it's not based on fact and it's not based on reality, but it's bad for their morale. And it's hard for them to do that, like you said, because they're inside the military. And, you know, it's a culture of discipline. And it's obviously very difficult.

But I really wish they would have been able to talk to a senator that would have cared what they thought.

STEWART: Jon Soltz, the chairman of Thanks for being with us tonight.

SOLTZ: Thank you, ma'am.

STEWART: At the White House today, President Bush got on board with the rest of the Western world in saying that something needs to be done about global warming. Mr. Bush called on 15 other nations to join the U.S. in taking new steps to reverse climate change. His critics are, to put it mildly, skeptical, wondering if it's just some sort of hot air emission.

Chief White House correspondent David Gregory has our report.



DAVID GREGORY, NBC CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Alison, as you might imagine, critics are already saying that the president has not gone far enough. But what is significant is this. For the first time, this president has committed the U.S. to lowering the emissions that scientists insist cause global warming.

(voice-over): It was an attempt today to end the administration's isolation on climate change. It comes just days before the president will meet allies in Europe, who have long criticized the U.S. for failing to join the Kyoto treaty, an international agreement mandating a cap on greenhouse gas emissions.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The United States takes this issue seriously.

GREGORY: Now, Mr. Bush proposes that the U.S. and other top producers of greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, and methane, should work together.

BUSH: By the end of next year, America and other nations will set a long-term global goal for reducing greenhouse gases.

GREGORY: Still missing, specifics on how much each country should curb emissions. The White House has rejected mandated cuts, arguing countries should set their own strategies.

Climate change, sanctions against Sudan, and more money to combat AIDS in Africa are all issues the president has highlighted this week before next week's G-8 summit, in order to mend frayed relations with U.S. allies.

(on camera): That, of course, an important gathering in Germany next week.

On the subject of climate change, at least one member of the Bush administration was pretty far off-message today, NASA administrator Michael Griffin telling NPR this morning that global warming isn't necessarily a bad thing, leaving one astonished NASA scientist to call him uninformed, Alison.


STEWART: David Gregory at the White House. Thanks.

To those who might like to live in the White House, Al Gore gave Keith what sounded like a definite maybe in a possible '08 run. Now some good poll news for the former VP.

And a potential first lady, Michelle Obama, on her husband, her family, and the campaign.

And later, the risk of high-speed chases. When will the practice stop? In Maryland, two innocent bystanders killed and 15 others injured as cops chase a motorcyclist.

You're watching Countdown on MSNBC.


STEWART: Tonight, the 2008 campaign officially enters the you know stage.

Number four in our Countdown, you know Al Gore is not running, at least not now, but you know why he might be tempted. "An Inconvenient Truth" won an Oscar. His new book, "The Assault on Reason," is a bestseller in its first week on the shelves. And Gore is actually more popular with some voters than the Democrats who are actually running.

You know voters are restless when Gore does better than Clinton against the Republican frontrunner. Both Democrats and Republicans in the swing state of Pennsylvania say they'd choose Gore over Rudy Giuliani. Now, it's a slim 1 percent margin, but remember, Gore isn't even running.

Then there's former senator Fred Thompson, the man who some Reagan conservatives seem to have a man-crush on. You know he may declare himself a candidate because he's given up his fat check from "Law and Order" in favor of launching a big fundraising campaign.

And then there's Senator John McCain and Bill O'Reilly. Let's just say you know you're watching Fox News when Mr. O'Reilly said immigrants would, quote, "break down the white Christian male power structure."


BILL O'REILLY, HOST: That would sink the Republican party, I believe, so we'd have a one-party system, and change, pardon the pun, the whole complexion of America. Am I wrong?



STEWART: Personally, I don't really pardon the pun.

Let's bring in MSNBC analyst and "Newsweek" columnist Howard Fineman.

Howard, nice to see you.


Hi, there.

STEWART: So that exchange, did Senator McCain just step in it with anyone who has any attachment to immigration or has a person of color in their family or as a friend? Or did O'Reilly kind of do him a favor with a certain segment? O'Reilly said it, and the senator just had to agree.

FINEMAN: I don't think he did him any favors. If you play that segment again in slow motion, Alison, I think you'll see an exceedingly high blink rate on John McCain's part, and a sort of - You noticed when he first was asked the question, he kind of shook his head no, as if, you know, I read McCain's secret language, and I know what he was saying in his mind, which is, I can't believe I have to do this.

I think McCain is just caught in a nightmare situation, where he's running a campaign in 2008 that he shouldn't be running. He should be running the campaign that he ran in 2000, as the outsider, as the truth teller. Instead, he's running as the insider, touching all the bases, kissing all the butts. And I'm sure it's not a happy experience for him.

STEWART: Let's talk about a guy who's not living a nightmare, he's living a dream right now. Things are going pretty swell for Al Gore at the moment. You had to column today, saying you ran into Mr. Gore recently, and he's worried about the political system collapsing, partly because of TV news playing into emotion and fear. But I know you challenged him that emotions can be a good things in politics. What was the argument you folks had, (INAUDIBLE) discussion, and how did he respond?

FINEMAN: Well, it wasn't an argument based on emotion. But I said, Look, you need the passions of people to get interested in politics enough to take part. That's what you want. And he said, Yes, but facts matter, and I agree with him about that.

Really, what his book is about, Alison, it's a philosophical argument that hides what I think is a campaign book, if he chooses to run. He's basically saying that the Bush administration runs only on emotion, runs only on fear and passion, has literally lost touch with reality, and has been able to manipulate an electorate that is too used to yelling and screaming on TV. What he's really saying is, Elect me, I'm the only rational guy on the planet.

There are people who might not agree. There are even some people who might think that Al Gore uses emotions sometimes when he talks about the environment. But he's immensely popular out there among Democrats. I (INAUDIBLE) was in Pennsylvania yesterday, as a matter of fact. He's very popular there. I got a lot of questions from people. Is Al Gore going to run? I think he's sort of practicing the Zen of running by not running now, and he'll decide for sure in the fall.

STEWART: Want to talk about health care, obviously a big issue. And Barack Obama just detailed his plans, cutting insurance premiums and covering the uninsured by ending tax cuts for the wealthy. You know, but you think about Senator Clinton, who's this uniquely sticky position here, because of her failure of her health care initiative in the '90s. Is this why she's holding back on this issue?

FINEMAN: Well, I think she's careful, because she touched the wet paint sign, you know, once, and she doesn't want to get stuck on it again. She knows anything she suggests in health care is going to be scrutinized more closely than anybody else's policy position on anything, because she's supposed to be an expert. People are going to compare what she suggests now to the more sweeping things she proposed back in '94.

I had talked to her about this awhile back, and I observed that the states were moving rapidly. And she said, Yes, maybe what we ought to do is just let the states take care of it. You know, I think that's not realistic. She knows that. But she was almost wistful for the possibility that she wouldn't have to take the lead on this again, because I think she's a little gun-shy on it.

STEWART: When do we hear anything about health care from the Republican side? I mean, it's amazing, on Mitt Romney's Web site, there's barely a mention, there's two little paragraphs, when you type on his health care tab. Yet he signed this landmark health care coverage law in Massachusetts.

FINEMAN: Well, in Mitt Romney's case, the problem is in Massachusetts, that the premiums that are required under that system are skyrocketing. It's going to be very burdensome, and it's scared a lot of people in Massachusetts. That's why he doesn't want to brag about it.

I think what the Republicans are going to do generally is go to their default position, which is vouchers, some kind of voucher program for health care is probably where they're going to end up. And it's not their favorite issue, and it's about government, it's about big government, and they'd rather, I think, avoid it than deal directly with it.

One person who wants to deal with it directly, by the way, is Newt Gingrich, who's another guy who's studied that closely and who's thinking of running in the fall.

STEWART: And we will no doubt be discussing him in days to come.

FINEMAN: At great length, yes.

STEWART: Howard Fineman. Thanks again, Howard.

FINEMAN: Thank you.

STEWART: Behind every candidate, there's usually a political spouse who tries hard to balance campaign fundraising with family, and sometimes even gives up a professional career. Michelle Obama is doing just that. And, you know, oddly, the mainstream media seems fascinated with the concept of a strong, well-educated black professional woman who speaks her mind.

In my family, we call that normal. What is not normal is, the woman's husband could become the first black to occupy the White House.

Michelle Obama is working hard for her husband's campaign, as NBC's Janet Shamlian found out during this exclusive one-on-one-interview.


JANET SHAMLIAN, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): She spends her days before crowds in places like Iowa and New Hampshire, but her nights are home in Chicago with an audience of two, 8-year-old Malia (ph) and 5-year-old Sasha (ph).

MICHELLE OBAMA, BARACK OBAMA'S WIFE: I get up in the morning, I get the girls ready, get their lunch, hair fixed, get them off. Then I get on a plane, I come here, I do events, I get on a plane, and I'm home before bedtime.

SHAMLIAN: Raised on Chicago's South Side, perseverance paved the way to Princeton and Harvard Law School, then to a Chicago law firm, where she married a hotshot new hire named Barack Obama. His campaign is why she's quitting her job, unemployed for the first time.

(on camera): Are you conflicted about leaving the workforce?

OBAMA: Yes, I wouldn't be honest if I didn't say that there - I mean, I think this is what professional mothers sort of grapple with all the time. Do I stay home? Am I working too much?

SHAMLIAN (voice-over): Aggressive and direct, 43-year-old Michelle Obama is not unlike her husband's most formidable opponent.

OBAMA: We have this window where maybe we're just sick and tired of the way things are.

SHAMLIAN: The campaign considers her crucial to reaching a pivotal voting bloc, working mothers. She says she's doing it on her own terms.

OBAMA: The campaign is going to have to adjust to a mommy being involved in it. Fortunately, I know the boss.

SHAMLIAN: She acknowledges her role as her husband's most trusted adviser. And while critics suggest it's one that's been manipulated for political advantage, she's willing to take serious issues head on.

(on camera): You have heard the criticism that he's not black enough, that he can't - he doesn't have that civil rights experience.

OBAMA: Folks aren't asking about whether Barack is black or what have

They want to know, what's his policy positions? What is his stance on the war in Iraq? They're not confused about race on this.

SHAMLIAN (voice-over): Michelle Obama knows what shapes her life, her husband, the campaign, and those two little girls.

OBAMA: This interview, I'm not quite sure they're going to want to watch it if Spongebob is on. You know, they're kids, so their first priority is them.


STEWART: Janet Shamlian reporting.

The twist in the tuberculosis case. As if there could be more drama, the brand-new father-in-law of the patient works for the CDC. And the coincidence gets even stranger beyond that.

And nothing to see here. Just a deer in the middle of the legislature.

Oddball's next.


STEWART: Welcome back. I'm Alison Stewart, in for Keith Olbermann.

And today marks a particularly poignant anniversary that still affects the nation. No, make that the world, for it was exactly nine years ago today that we found out the dreadful truth. Geri Halliwell, a.k.a. Ginger Spice, was leaving the group. The Spice Girls' Posh, Baby, Scary, Sporty, Sleepy, Doc, and Dopey, as we know them, were no more. So much for friendship is for never ends.

Let's play Oddball.

Oh, we begin in (INAUDIBLE), New Brunswick, Canada. And there's an intruder in the legislature, the pitter-patter of not-so-little cloven hooves echoing through the halls of power, alerting the local security guard, who gave chase as the furry fiend charged the lobby, into an elevator, then into the press room, which he trashed before fleeing out of a window.

Look at this together. Politics, intruders, press abuse? David Gregory is having a flashback somewhere.

Next up, the second installment of cool slow-motion camera stuff. Last night we brought you this winner, a water balloon bursting on his face. Tonight, a variation on the theme. First, what happens to a water balloon that doesn't break when you drop it? Splurge. Ooh, it's (INAUDIBLE). Now, how about an unburstable balloon to the face? I don't really know even know what to say about that.

So I move on to Loch Ness, Scotland, and fresh evidence that there is indeed a monstrous creature living in the lake. And by evidence, I mean this shaky home video. Apparently that moving shadow is meant to be Nessie. Got to say, as far as proof of a living dinosaur, maybe if you had (INAUDIBLE). (INAUDIBLE)?

Now, this is more like it. You better run for your lives. A dinosaur with a huge butt and (INAUDIBLE) tails terrorizing children and tourists in Australia. Oh, wait. It's just a dude in a suit. That could be real after five, six (INAUDIBLE). Neat, no (INAUDIBLE).

Turning to a living monster, at least it was living until an 11-year-old kid chased it through the woods and shot it dead. But is this so-called monster pig real? An exclusive Countdown investigation ahead.

And another deadly police pursuit, once again raising the question, given that speeding cars put the public in danger, are high-speed police chases worth the potential danger?

Those stories ahead.

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

Number three, Robert Alan Soloway. He's a spammer in the slammer. If you have noticed a decline in the amount of spam in your email box since his arrest yesterday, here's why: federal authorities say he ran a massive spam operation, sending out millions and millions of bogus e-mails and then scamming people who replied. His arrest literally may stop the amount of you know what enlargement advertisements you get. However, he does still hold the title of one of the top ten spammers in the entire world.

Number two, Angel Santamaria, voted in as councilor for the small Spanish town of Royce. Santamaria's campaign promises included wearing his Elvis Presley outfit to all council meetings, turning the town square into a nudist pool, painting the town hall pink, planting marijuana in the park, and the coup de gras, giving local police GPS devices to find people who have marijuana, not so they can arrest them, but so they can supply smokers with a light for their joints.

Number one, Linette Servais, fired from a St. Joseph's Catholic Parish in New Frampton, Wisconsin because of her second job. She works part-time for Pure Romance, a self-described, quote, "romance enhancer business." But the father at St. Joseph's Parish felt that sex toys are, quote, "not consistent with church teachings." Thus Miss Servais was summarily dismissed from her church position, which was, I'm not making this up, playing the organ.


STEWART: So you know that nightmare where your fiancee's dad works in a federal tuberculosis lab and then during your honeymoon, you expose her to one of scariest forms of TB there is? Yes, I hate that one. In our third story tonight, it turns out that the man who flew internationally and then snuck back into the United States knowing he had carried an often deadly form of TB, is the son-in-law of a long-time tuberculosis researcher who works at the Federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Conspiracy theorists, start your engines. Both father and son in law's identities were revealed today. And NBC's Robert Bazell followed the story through the day's bizarre and possibly Freudian twists.


ROBERT BAZELL, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The patient is Andrew Speaker, a 31-year-old Atlanta lawyer. Overnight a federal government jet flew him to National Jewish Medical Center in Denver. Doctors say he appears healthy, but is concerned about all the fuss his case has caused.

DR. GWEN HUITT, NATIONAL JEWISH HOSPITAL: He obviously very emotional about what has gone on.

BAZELL: In a bizarre twist, it was also revealed today that Speaker's wife's father is Dr. Robert Cooksey, a tuberculosis researcher at the CDC labs in Atlanta. Today Dr. Cooksey read a statement, strongly denying he had or the CDC had anything to do with the infection. And he had a plea for reporters.

DR. ROBERT COOKSEY, CDC: Please, try to refrain from uniformed anchor desk chit chat about this. There's so many factors involved. Please try not to hype this, because it is a very complicated situation and speculation will not do anyone any good.

BAZELL: Meanwhile, health officials continue to search for passengers who sat near Speaker on his trans-Atlantic fights. Jason Vik, was in the same row on the May 12th Atlanta to Paris flight.

JASON VIK, PASSENGER: They tested me. They gave me some X-rays of my chest, and then I have the skin test. But I stayed in this room for about five hours or so.

BAZELL: Officials say, so far they have found no infections. National Jewish became renowned as a TB treatment center early in the last century. Back then, it pioneered the surgical removal of a part of the infected lung. Speaker will undergo that same surgery.

The head of the hospital's TB program says Speaker's condition will deteriorate if the surgery doesn't work.

DR. MICHAEL ISEMAN, NATIONAL JEWISH HOSPITAL: If we don't manage to control the infection, remove the diseased portion of his lung, the rest of his life will be involved with TB. So this is the one central moment of this man's life.


BAZELL: And we've learned there was a computer order to stop Speaker at any U.S. border crossing. But an inspector let him in from Canada because the inspector says he looked healthy. Tonight that inspector is on administrative duties pending an investigation. Allison?

STEWART: Robert Bazell, thank you. The danger of high-speed chases. When will the practice stop? A deadly accident in Maryland kills two innocent bystanders.

And Harry Potter fans can celebrate. When the last book and the last movie are done, you can still visit the new Harry Potter theme park. Details ahead, but first here are Countdown's top three sound bytes of this day.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Believe it or not, there's a guy in Buffalo that's been living in this underground bunker for the past six years. This is Clarence Rounds, 47 years old. His home is literally down to Earth. The Earth is his walls. The bunker is six and a half feet under ground, about 16 by 20 feet. It took Clarence two years to build his bunker. It's awfully dark.

How did you do it?

CLARENCE ROUNDS, BUNKER OWNER: With a bucket and a shovel, day by day.

LAURA BUSH, FIRST LADY: Thank you all very much. Yet poverty, a lack of education - I'll visit homes protected by mosquito sprays - these are just some of the things our government is doing.

Ladies and gentlemen, my husband, President George W. Bush.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Laura, thanks for that short introduction.




ADUAD: Sardoodledom. S-A-R-D-O-O-D-L-E-D-O-M?



STEWART: If you have seen a police car chase on TV lately, there's a reason why more likely than not it's low speed. In our number two story on the Countdown, the risks of a high-speed chases. Depending on the crime, it would seem police are better off letting the speeding vehicle escape than weaving through heavy traffic to catch the culprit.

There are people in the D.C. are who not doubt think this. Two people dead, 15 people injured, including two police officers, all because one motorcycle was speeding on the Capital Beltway outside Washington, D.C. It happened last night during rush hour on the Maryland portion of the beltway in Prince George's County.

A police cruiser tried to cut off the motorcycle, which swerved and sped off. The police car then slammed into another vehicle, which caused that car to become airborne, over the median, and into oncoming traffic. The chain reaction crash that followed involved five more cars. All told, the seven car pile up closed down most lanes of traffic for five hours.

The two innocent motorists have been since identified as Kevin McCarter (ph) of Fort Washington, Maryland and Sidney Clanton (ph) of Buffalo, New York. Joining me now John Phillips, president of, which tries to educate the public, the police and the press about police pursuits. Thanks for your time tonight.

JOHN PHILLIPS, PURSUITWATCH.ORG: Absolutely, thanks for having me.

STEWART: I want to break this down, focusing first on the incident last night. We don't have video of that actual event or specific details yet, but generally, why would police ever try to intercept a speeding vehicle on a freeway or highway during rush hour?

PHILLIPS: I don't know. I don't know what to tell you. I can't tell you what the officers were thinking. I can't explain why they would make that decision at a time like that, during rush hour traffic. First off, even if it was a car, I wouldn't be able to justify the decision, much less a motorcycle, which could outrun just about any police car there is anyway.

STEWART: Who usually makes the call about when to go into a chase mode, specifically a high-speed chase?

PHILLIPS: It varies. It could vary from the individual officer themselves up the chain of command.

STEWART: A lot of people talk about low-speed chases. Are there risks involved there as well? I mean, we shouldn't just assume that that's the safe way to go.

PHILLIPS: I think any chase is a chase in my book. You can kill someone going 10 miles an hour. You can kill someone going 110 miles an hour. It doesn't matter. A chase is a chase.

STEWART: On your site, you write that mandatory reporting of pursuit activity should be required by law enforcement agencies. How do you think that would affect things?

PHILLIPS: I think you would see right now - you would see a spike in the number of fatalities, not so much a spike. But as of right now it's a voluntary procedure, and that leads to a lower number than the actual number. Also, many times a report is filed, let's say, the day after and a victim were to die three days later, so they might not count, even though they were clearly a victim.

STEWART: Shouldn't there be some sort of sliding scale based on the offense? I mean, a kid steals a purse, jumps in his own car. That has to be a whole lot different than a murderer or car jacking someone and taking off.

PHILLIPS: Absolutely. What we've done here in Orlando, in the central Florida area, is we've gone to - police can pursue anything that is considered a violent crime. So we have, like you said, a murder, a rapist, a car jacker; in those instances it is worth the risk, for lack of a better word, to apprehend the suspect as soon as possible. Anything less than that, a busted tail light, speeding violation, anything like that; it's not worth the risk to the public, to the officers themselves and even those who are fleeing.

Many times it's just a dumb, stupid kid making a very bad decision.

It's not worth it. It's that simple.

STEWART: John, how often do police review these policies and jurisdiction change or adapt their updates, their pursuit books?

PHILLIPS: I think we're starting to see a trend of more restrictive policies. So policies that are not allowing officers to pursue at will. There is, although, a little bit of people - there are some people who are against that. But I think once these decisions are made to make policies more restrictive that everyone benefits and everyone agrees with that too.

STEWART: John Phillips, the president of, thanks for taking the time tonight.

PHILLIPS: Absolutely, it was my pleasure.

STEWART: Turning now to our nightly round-up of celebrity and entertainment news, Keeping Tabs. And if just reading the books or seeing the movies isn't enough for you, there's a new pursuit for Harry Potter fans, a 20 acre theme park. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter opens up in the fall of 2009 on one of the Islands of Adventure in Universal Orlando.

Full disclosure, we here at MSNBC are part of the NBC Universal Company, and what do you know, the CEO of Universal Parks and Resorts appeared on the "Today Show" this morning for a little Potter talk.


THOMAS WILLIAMS, CHAIRMAN AND CEO, UNIVERSAL PARKS: It's really going to be authentic. You know, J.K. Rawling writes the book, and the film makers interpret that book into the visually stunning landscapes that are so renowned in the film. And we have the same production designers that worked on the film doing the design of this theme park within a theme park, the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

You will be able to walk through at your own pace. It's three dimensional. There's restaurants. There's shops. There's three different attractions. The environment is completely replicative of Hogsmeade Village. You'll be able to go to Hogwarts Castle. You'll be in the Forbidden Forest. It really affords the fans of Harry Potter, which number in the hundreds of millions around the world, to see this park, to see Islands of Adventure and the Wizarding World of Harry Potter within it, at whatever pace they choose.


STEWART: And as the world turns, so do the days of our lives. When we last checked in with Lindsay Lohan, Li-Lo had entered rehab after a Memorial Day weekend that involved a car crash, an arrest for DUI, an alleged white substance and passing out in a friend's car. Or was she merely sleeping.

Anyway, Miss Lohan was also at risk of losing her part in the movie "Poor Things," which was set to begin filming this week. But the producer and co-star of that film, Shirley MacLaine, has now weighed in, saying she's willing to rearrange the shooting schedule to allow Lohan to complete rehabilitation.

MacLaine and another producer said, in a statement, "we wish her love and the blending of mind, body and spirit." But the blending of frozen margaritas, forget about it.

And to someone who still, despite everything, again insists she does not take drugs or use alcohol, that would be Ms. Paula Abdul. Abdul tells "OK Magazine" that, quote, I've never been drunk. I don't do recreational drugs, end quote.

As for her sometimes bizarre behavior, she says it is simply sleep deprivation because of chronic back pain from her cheer leading days, quote, I try to say something and I stumble, and that's what people have picked up on.

OK, so maybe that explains the whole "American Idol" schtick, maybe, but what about her recent appearance on QVC?


PAULA ABDUL, "AMERICAN IDOL": I'm creating my own - Wow.


STEWART: Paula. Another conundrum for the unsolved mysteries file, the monster pig, is it real? Is it a hoax? Is it an exaggerated fishing tail. The story has been everywhere on the Internet, on the TV. The one and only Jack Hanna weighs in with his opinion on the monster pig mystery next.


STEWART: rMD+IN_rMDNM_E.B. White's "Charlotte's Web" is one of the most beloved children stories of our time, the tale of Wilbur is a runt who was saved by the love of a child and a friend's ingenuity. Our number one story on the Countdown tonight, sure is not "Charlotte's Web;" it is one of the most popular stories on the Internet right now, the tale of Monster pig, an enormous feral hog killed by a child and his gun.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'll tell the story. I killed a 1,051 pound hog.

Just want to tell you all how it happened.


STEWART: Jameson, I'll tell what you're story is. This is how your family says it happened. Accompanied by his dad and some guides, Jameson hunted this Hogzilla over the course of three hours early this month at an Alabama hunting reserve, shooting him eight separate times with a 50 caliber hand cannon.

The story has raised a lot of questions, like is that thing for real? And what about the pig? If it is real, it would be one, if not the biggest on record, if anyone were keeping records of such things. Jameson's father said yes, the monster pig is really real. And he has the skull and the revolting details to prove it.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've seen a lot of hogs over the last couple of years. I have never seen a pig anywhere close to the size of this one. This pig, as you can see here by these marks - Most hogs you can take and put your knife between the vertebrae and basically the spine separates. You can pop the head off. This one, it wasn't happening. We had to take a chain saw.


STEWART: OK, that's quite enough. Our lunch might be gone. But the question still remains. There are still skeptics who believe this picture may be photo-shopped or maybe it's just coincidence this photo came out the same month that casting started for a film called "Legend of Hogzilla."

Tonight, in a special Countdown investigation, we dig up absolutely no definitive answers whatsoever, but we get some pretty informed insight. Joining us now, who else, Jack Hanna, director emeritus of the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium. Jack, thank you so much for being with us.


STEWART: OK Jack, as part of this whole investigation we're doing here on Countdown, one of our producers spoke with the National Swine Registry, which confirmed that pigs can exceed 1,000 pounds. What's your take? Could this size pig exist? And how common are the big fellows if they do?

HANNA: We'll see, this is the thing, how does it exist out in the wild? Most pigs - I just talked to a good friend of mine, Gary Nicholas, a great conservationist, a guy who has hunted pigs like this before. He and I both agree - because I had to talk to somebody that hunted these pigs - if one of these hogs is fed somewhere, near a dump or something -

Most of them weigh 300 or 400 pounds. A boar is maybe 400 pounds, the big ones. Now how does this animal get to be not quite two and half times larger? Number one. Is the hog, again, around a dump or something like that.

A hog like this, when you are hunting them also, they don't see very well. So their smell and their hearing is what they rely on. Now, if that is going toward the hunter, that is great. But if it's going toward the pig and the hunter is standing there, that animal is going to take off quicker than a dear. So these are just questions. I'm not going to say if the pictures involved, or it's been doctored or whatever else.

I'm just telling you about the animal itself. These are wild animals. Some people hunt them with rifles. Some people hunt them with dogs and locate the animal. How did the young boy get that close? I was in the army and shot a .45.

Now in Alabama, he looks like he's a sturdy kid. But to shoot a .50 -

what was it, .50 magnum or something. Man, that is a big weapon. That thing would go like this. That's fine if he's been taught that. But there are just so many things here that, to me, I'm just trying to figure out how the hog got that big. And how all of a sudden they went out with four other hunters and they got.

More than likely, maybe he did get it. But I talked to Gary and these folks who have hunted them and just a lot of questions to be answered.

STEWART: Normally, who would verify whether or not something like this is true? If someone you happened to know had a situation like this, who do you call to verify this, Jack?

HANNA: I can tell you right now there's quite a few people that are going to look at it. The Game and Fish Commission want to know, because if this hog was brought in - some of these are Russian Boars by the way. The ones in Florida came in from Spain. They're Feral Hogs.

This might be part Russian, which do get bigger. And if that animal

was brought in without the proper permits or papers from somewhere, then

somebody's going to be in big trouble. Because it's very difficult for us

For example, a wart hog from Africa, very, very few ever come in this country unless there is tremendous quarantine because of certain diseases.

Now, maybe this hog, plus being a nocturnal animal - they like to hunt at night time a lot. How all of a sudden the animal is running around in the day time. So, you see, there are just a lot of questions. The father might - they both might be honest, but they have to answer these questions on how, all of a sudden, this monster just showed up out of nowhere.

I mean, is it on 30,000 acres or on 3,000? If it's on 30,000 acres, then maybe he his somewhere and had his own big food pot. I don't know. But it is puzzling how the animal got this big and never was seen.

STEWART: From what I've read, pigs are supposed to be very, very smart. How is it an 11-year-old could sneak up on an animal that big and kill it?

HANNA: Good point. That's what I've been saying, unless this pig had been fed somewhere, and someone knew about this pig and was fattening it up. All of a sudden, like you said, maybe the movie was coming out and they wanted to get a bigger hog. Because pigs are intelligent. I used to have pigs on our farm in Tennessee. I mean, we raised one big pig that was about 650 pounds. I thought he was the biggest pig in the world.

Obviously, I was wrong. We fed him - I fed him where he just laid there and rolled around. He couldn't even walk hardly.

STEWART: Well he was one happy pig. Jack Hanna, we thank you so much for lending your expertise and helping us out with this.

HANNA: We'll see soon if it was a real pig or a fake boar.

STEWART: We shall see. That is it for this Thursday edition of Countdown. Up next, "SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY" with Joe Scarborough. I'm Allison Stewart, in for Keith Olbermann. Thanks for watching.


Wednesday, May 30, 2007

'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for May 30

Guests: Al Gore, Dana Milbank, Rachel Maddow, Mo Rocca

ALISON STEWART, HOST: Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?

Fred Thompson is a really definite maybe. The former senator and "Law and Order" star is testing the waters in a bid for the GOP nod. So which of the front-runners won't be joining the Friends of Fred Thompson Committee come Monday?

More Al Gore. Part two of Mr. Olbermann's interview with Mr. Gore, the former vice president.


AL GORE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT: It's like the old line from "Alice in Wonderland." First the verdict, then the trial. If they decide to invade Iraq, regardless of the facts, then there's no discussion of the facts that's going to matter.


STEWART: Very scary, for real. A drug-resistant strain of tuberculosis, and its hosts come in contact with the public. As new details emerge, one question still remains, how did this guy get on a plane?

A parachute that didn't open. Who could forget the skydiver who hit the ground at 100 miles an hour after his chute failed? Well, he survived, and six months later, he's at it again. And we have the video.

Tonight, a special Countdown investigation. Tom DeLay says there's a big difference between his extramarital affair and Newt Gingrich's extracurriculars. Uh-huh.

And "American Idol" winner Jordan Sparks says she's never had professional training. Her former vocal coach says otherwise. How do you spell Oops? Mo Rocca will answer that, and so much more.


FORMER CONGRESSMAN TOM DELAY: I haven't done anything wrong.


STEWART: All that and more, now on Countdown.


DELAY: This is a made-up scandal.


STEWART: Good evening, I'm not Keith Olbermann. That man has the day off. But I am Alison Stewart.

And it looks like former senator Fred Thompson is hoping to be the next Ronald Reagan.

Our fifth story on the Countdown, think about it. A Hollywood actor turned Republican politician, in this case turned Hollywood actor again, about to make a run for the White House. Now, it's far from official yet, but new reports say Senator Thompson is planning to enter the presidential race in early July, hoping to take advantage of the Fourth of July holiday, the "Law and Order" star announcing this week that has already raised several million dollars and is launching an exploratory committee.

If you thought that stage was crowded at the first Republican debate, now imagine making room for one more podium.

Let's turn now to our own Dana Milbanks, national political reporter for "The Washington Post."

Good evening, Dana.


Hello, Alison.

STEWART: So when it comes to Senator Thompson, he's saying, I'm forming this exploratory committee, I'm raising some money. What's the likelihood that he would say, You know, not going to run.

MILBANK: Yes, that ain't going to happen. You know, it's not quite even the exploratory committee. We're sort of in the testing the water committee, which leads to the exploratory committee, and then you announce that you're running.

But let's get rid of this fiction now once and for all. These are just technical terms that the FEC sets up. He is in the race, and if he decides not to run at this point, he is pulling out of the race. So let's not grant him the cover of any of these sort of peculiar terms. He's running.

STEWART: Let's talk about cover of a different kind. I'm sort of interested in these draft Fred Thompson Web sites, I mean, it looks mighty slick to me, as opposed to some sort of organic movement of people getting together and saying, Fred Thompson needs to run. Are they really organic, or is it orchestrated?

MILBANK: And it's got that nice Tennessee address as well, which I'm sure is no coincidence.

By law, they cannot be technically orchestrated and coordinated. But no doubt that these are people who know each other, and this has certainly benefited Fred Thompson. Now, that said, that doesn't necessarily mean his campaign is going to get off to a well-run and slick start. The Wes Clark, the draft Wes Clark campaign from the last presidential campaign was highly successful. But Clark did a big belly flop when he got in the race.

STEWART: All right. So we're still going to say if he enters the race, although we all know he's going to. Which candidates in the GOP field might Thompson, well, might he hurt?

MILBANK: Well, when Fred Thompson enters the race...

STEWART: You're sticking by that when.

MILBANK: You go with if, I'll go with when. But the big loser here is likely to be Romney, because he's been trying to morph his way into the conservative role, whereas Fred Thompson is a genuine conservative. That'll be very difficult for him. The winner's probably Giuliani, because he gets to stay above the fray, as the moderate in the race, as the would-be conservatives do get out.

And then McCain's sort of in between. His - McCain advisers see a way in which this could help him, but it may further complicate McCain's fundraising efforts, which are really not very good already.

STEWART: There's a little bit of inside baseball, but it could be really interesting. John Harwood of CNBC and "The Wall Street Journal" reported today that Thompson's aides had discussions with a man named Tim Griffin about taking a top job with the campaign. Now, Mr. Griffin, as you know, some of our viewers may not, he's a Karl Rove prot'g', and one of the U.S. attorneys who replaced the U.S. attorneys who were fired.

And given allegations that Griffin was involved in some sort of voter fraud, using caging during the '04 election to eliminate, shall we say, voters who might not cast a ballot his party's way, why would Thompson's campaign go down this road before it has even begun?

MILBANK: That's really quite a mystery. And I - they're safe in the sense that they are - have been in talks with Griffin. That doesn't mean they're actually doing it. Hard to see, other than appealing to a particularly small segment of the Republican base.

But what are they going to do next? Is Scooter Libby going to be the national security adviser and Gonzales the legal counsel? You just think that this is something Thompson doesn't want to bring on himself right now.

STEWART: Dana Milbank, national political reporter for "The Washington Post." Thanks again for joining us.

MILBANK: Thanks, Alison.

STEWART: As far as the Democratic field is concerned, the wishful thinking candidate in the party reaffirmed here on Countdown last night that he's not planning to enter the race, but he hasn't ruled it out completely, Al Gore telling Keith Olbermann that right now, the politician turned activist is focused on spreading his views.

Mr. Gore's new book, "The Assault on Reason," lays out his argument that the current administration has consistently manipulated the American populace, especially on the subject of Iraq, a point he discussed with the host of this show, Keith Olbermann.


KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST: To the point of the manipulation, one of the most compelling points you make about why the democracy is in danger is that, and a quote again, "The single most surprising new element in America's national conversation is the prominence and intensity of constant fear." You pointed out the studies which show that people who watched television most during the 9/11 attacks were also those who were stressed out the most by the attacks.

I have thought a lot in the last five and a half years about this idea of sort of mass post-traumatic stress disorder and television and what's happened since. How do you cure a nation - and this is a broad question, and also a specific one, to that point of being manipulated by fear, how do you cure a nation that doesn't know it has a disease?

GORE: Well, I don't use that terminology precisely, but, you know, we have always, as Americans, been a mixture of people who reason and people who feel emotions and who have instincts and just the whole package of humankind. That's who we are, obviously.

But as Americans, in the past, we have had an almost unique ability to lift up facts and reasoned discussion to a more prominent level than in most any other country in the world. And I think that's the reason that, over most of our history, we made better decisions than most other countries. We were able to draw on the collective wisdom of the American people.

But when the American people are seen by these media Machiavellis that do these 30-second TV ads and the computerized psychology-driven polling techniques, when the American people are treated as objects for just herding in one direction or another, that's insulting to the integrity of our democracy.

I do think that the new tools available to us that some are beginning to use, the blogging, the Wikipedia, all the different Internet-based tools, are actually beginning to make a difference. A lot of newscasters on television are now hearing about it, and having whistles blown if they persist in presenting information that is unintentionally false or misleading. And the - and some of them actually do care when they get this feedback from the American people.

We need a lot more of that. We need to invite the American people fully into the conversation, so that they can take part as fully as our founders expected they would.

OLBERMANN: Who on earth could mean by that remark about newscasters?



OLBERMANN: The premise of the book appears to be, in sum, and if I'm wrong, please correct me, or someone will send in an e-mail immediately, for democracy to work, people need to connect with each other, connect with the political system, and actively take part in the democratic process. But at the heart of it, aren't you demanding first that people think? How do you - you can't force them to think.

GORE: Well, I think that all of the activities of democracy that come natural to us as human beings, regardless of where we were born, immigrants who come here from other countries take to our democratic processes like ducks to water, because it's a universal desire for dignity and respect. But when the conversation is diverted to these trivialities, and to these propagandistic efforts to sway public opinion this way and that in a one-way dialogue, then people don't have a way to join the conversation.

One of the reasons why so many Americans feel as if their votes don't count, that their opinions aren't heard, and that they have no way of meaningfully participating in our democracy is because they know that, for example, in the last election in November, 80 percent of the campaign budgets in contested races were spent on these 30-second TV ads. Those are one way. They aren't based on facts and logic. And campaigns never have been entirely thus based.

But when the bulk of it is made up of these mass persuasion techniques that don't respect the facts and don't respect the people who are the objects of this persuasion, then we get the kinds of serious mistakes that we have seen with the climate crisis, with the invasion of Iraq, with the mass warrantless eavesdropping on American citizens, eliminating the prohibition against torture that General George Washington laid down, that's been respected by every president in both parties for more than 200 years.

These things happen not just because one White House makes terrible decisions, but because we are more vulnerable to these kinds of sophisticated efforts to bypass reason and logic to reach a preconceived policy that was decided before the fact were ever brought into play. It's like the old line from "Alice in Wonderland," first the verdict, then the trial. If they decide to invade Iraq regardless of the facts, then there's no discussion of the facts that's going to matter.

But we the people, without using the phase in a way that inevitably sounds corny, we the people must reclaim the integrity of our democracy by using the new tools that are now beginning to be available to us to insist on respect for reason and logic, to a degree that our founders hoped would be the case.


STEWART: And that was a portion of Keith's interview with former vice president Al Gore. If you'd like to watch more, go to our Web site at

The pope made headlines today. The pontiff is taking up the cause of a missing girl. The hunt is still on to find little Madeleine McCann.

Even the initials sound scary, XDR-TB. And now the government says a man with drug-resistant tuberculosis was able to take transatlantic flights.

You're watching Countdown on MSNBC.


STEWART: Unfortunately, stories about missing children are all too common. Most we don't ever hear about, while others dominate the 24-hour news cycle. There's often a lot of discussion about which sad tales of lost children get coverage, and which don't. So when the pope gets involved, there's no doubt you'll hear about it on the news.

Number four in our Countdown, the search for a British 4-year-old has captivated most of Europe for the past 27 days. Her parents' desperate quest has millionaires, celebrities, and even Benedict XVI reaching out to the family today. From London, here's NBC's Dawna Friesen.


DAWNA FRIESEN, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Across Europe, her face is everywhere, from posters, to billboards, even a video appeal shown at soccer matches. Still no sign of 4-year-old British girl Madeleine McCann, snatched from her bed in this Portuguese resort, while her parents dined 50 yards away, their agony and private guilt unimaginable.

KATE MCCANN, MADELENE'S MOTHER: The first 48, 72 hours in particular were, as you can imagine, very difficult and quite (INAUDIBLE).

FRIESEN: Rather than collapse in despair, they've held tight to their 2-year-old twins and an unshakable belief that Madelene is alive and well somewhere.

(on camera): They've gone to extraordinary lengths to find her, enlisting family and friends to run a global campaign that's touched a nerve with parents everywhere.

(voice-over): The Missing Madeleine Web site has had an astonishing 135 million hits. Prince Charles and his wife have sent their prayers. Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling, Virgin boss Richard Branson, and "American Idol" star Simon Cowell have contributed to a reward fund that's climbed to $5 million.

They say their faith has kept them strong, and this morning, Kate and Jerry McCann were in the front row for Pope Benedict XVI's weekly audience. Afterward, a brief emotional meeting, as the pope blessed a picture of their missing daughter.

GERRY MCCANN, MADELENE'S FATHER: Looking at (INAUDIBLE) has touched (INAUDIBLE) to obtain them, and we could have hoped, and that will help sustain us, giving us (INAUDIBLE).

FRIESEN: The police in Portugal have released a description of a suspect and have questioned a British man who lives near the resort, but they don't have enough evidence to arrest him. New video was released showing the family leaving on their holiday four weeks ago, little Madelene dressed in pink.

GERRY MCCANN: We will not give up looking for her until we find her.

FRIESEN: Kate McCann constantly clings to her daughter's favorite stuffed toy. If she isn't found, it won't be for lack of trying.

Dawna Friesen, NBC News, London.


STEWART: Remember when things went really wrong for this fellow? His parachute doesn't work, the backup chute doesn't work, yet the man survives, hitting the ground at 100 miles an hour. And now he wants to do it again. OK, crazy.

And the race of races. Less emphasis on speed and more points for general overall weirdness.

Oddball's next on Countdown.


STEWART: Welcome back, everybody. I'm Alison Stewart, in for Keith Olbermann on a very salient anniversary for anyone who's ever endured a fender-bender, because exactly 111 years ago today, automobile history was made, not the first car, but the very first car accident. The driver, a Mr. Henry Wells, slammed into a bicyclist called Evelyn Thomas. Her leg was broken. He spent the night in the hoosegow.

And now we are going to play Oddball.

We begin in Vilnius, Lithuania, where, despite a nationwide crackdown on illegal baby racing, it's still really entertaining. The tiny tykes are pumped up, lined, up, forced to crawl while the crowd cheers on their bets. Ar, we made up the last part. Well, we made up some of it. It is Lithuania, and it's kind of a baby race.

Twenty tots took part in this legitimate crawling competition. Aw, come on, he's cute. And while most performed outstandingly, there were still some promising front-runners who apparently never got their training manual - dude! - either stopping short of the finish line or belly sliding to victory. Some kids will never learn. A for effort.

To Fresersdorf (ph), Germany, for the annual bed race. Look at them go. That's a Confederate motorized flag bed. I don't really want to know what that's about. Then came Anthony and Cleopatra's car bed, complete with half-naked guy waving a palm leaf. Who wouldn't want that in a boudoir? We have no idea what a guy wearing a dragon suit, breathing fire and riding a motorbike, has to do with bed racing, but, you know, he showed up.

And finally, there were races who couldn't afford any horsepower, carrying their beds on their backs, they're carting around linen in wheelbarrows, or even, you know, carrying their womenfolk with one hand and beer with the other. Now, you know, that's Germany. You will carry that bed, and you will enjoy it. Ja.

And regular viewers of Oddball remember well the wonder of the slow-motion cameras. We already brought you the super-slow-mo slap and the super-slow look at what really happens when you shoot an apple, if you're shooting apples. Tonight, in honor of summertime, the water balloon. First, what happens when you punch one in slow motion. That's a thing of beauty. Loverly. Then, what happens during the more traditional use of the water balloon. Contact! That either really hurts, or feels really good.

Not so much fun, a tuberculosis scare. Serious questions on how the man with extreme TB was allowed to leaf the country and then get back in, putting hundreds of people at potential risk. Do we have the mechanisms in place to halt future outbreaks?

And The Hammer nails down the big difference between his infidelity and that of Newt Gingrich. Tom DeLay speaks, coming up.

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

At number three, the Kominato Hotel, Mikazuki, in Kamagawa (ph), Japan. The resort is so fancypants, it had a million-dollar bathtub made of 18-caret gold available for guests to use. Notice my use of the past tense, as in "had a tub of gold." Despite the fact that the tub was only open to the public for a few hours a day because of, quote, "security reasons," someone still managed to steal it, carting a 176-pound gold bathtub right on out of the hotel. Yet according to officials, there were no witnesses, and also no video cameras. You got to say Sayonara to that soaker, folks.

Number two, Renel Frage, manager at a Wendy's restaurant in Miami, Florida. A customer at drive-through wanted extra chili sauce with his meal. So the attendant explained that Wendy's company policy only allows three packets per client. The customer kept arguing, so the attendant handed over 10-pack of chili. The customer wanted more chili sauce, so the attendant got the manager, Mr. Frage. That's when the customer shot him in the arm, Mr. Frage telling reporters, quote, "As soon as I realized I was shot, I started praying to God. I don't think he'd want me to die over some chili." Amen to that, brother. (INAUDIBLE).

And number one, an unnamed octogenarian in San Francisco. When police responded to reports of a fire at a local pizzeria, they found the business ablaze, and an 80-year-old man inside. The man claimed he was a customer who got locked in the eatery, and said that in order to get out, he set the place on fire. Then the pizza shop owner noticed money missing from the till, at which point the 80-year-old customer pulled out a wad of cash from his pocket, and said he rescued it from the blaze. He's now in jail, charged with arson and burglary. Guess no good deed goes unpunished.


STEWART: Since approximately September 12th, 2001, almost six years ago now, this administration has assured us it would institute and uphold policies and procedures that would keep Americans safe, except for that sick guy who wanted to fly to his wedding. In our number three story tonight, one of the administration's first responders when it comes to biological warfare, which can include the use of infectious diseases, has been put to the test.

Specifically, could the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in conjunction with the rest of the U.S. government, stop one man carrying a deadly disease from entering the country? The answer was no, and today was a day for excuses. His for why he did it, and the government for why it failed to stop him, even though it knew exactly who it was.

We'll get to the security and political ramifications in just a moment. But first, the facts and figures in this report from NBC's Robert Bazell.


ROBERT BAZELL, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The unidentified 32-year-old man remains locked in this Atlanta hospital this evening. Today it was revealed he took seven flights between May 12th and May 24th. CDC officials are looking to test the approximately 90 people, the crew members and those who sat in the rows close to him on the two trans-Atlantic flights.

Officials say the chances are the TB did not spread.

DR. KENNETH CASTRO, CDC: We can offer a certain level of reassurance, but the reassurance will really come with the investigation.

BAZELL: The man's saga began last January when a routine chest X-ray during a physical reviled a spot. Subsequent tests showed it was Tuberculosis, even though he has never had symptoms. As soon as he was diagnosed, health officials in Fulton County, Georgia got involved. Skin tests showed good news, he had not infected his fiance, whom he was planning to marry in Europe.

DR. ERIC BENNING, FULTON COUNTRY HEALTH DEPT: We advised him not to travel. I mean, I didn't get into his personal plans.

BAZELL: So he took off anyway. By the time he got to Rome on May 21st, tests showed just how dangerous the TB strain is, and federal officials wanted him in isolation right away.

DR. MARTIN CETRON, CDC: We were exploring all sorts of options to remove the public health concerns that he represented.

BAZELL: But in an interview with the "Atlanta Journal Constitution," the man said he had no intention of going into an Italian hospital. "I have cooperated with everything. Other than the whole solitary confinement in Italy thing," he said.

So he flew to Prague and on to Montreal, before driving to the United States, where he voluntarily checked into a New York City hospital. The man will soon be treated at National Jewish Hospital in Denver. Doctors there say the risk he infected anyone is low, but because the disease is so hard to treat, you can't take chances.

DR. MICHAEL ISEMAN, NATIONAL JEWISH MEDICAL CENTER: In a way it's an inverted lottery. You probably won't lose, but if you lose, you could lose big.


BAZELL: Extremely drug-resistant TB is rare in the United States. No one knows where this man got it, but he did say he'd been on a business trip to Asia. Allison?

STEWART: Bob Bazell in New York, thanks to you. And joining us now to address some of the questions raised by this case is Rachel Maddow, who's program airs every night on Air America Radio. Rachel, nice to see you.

RACHEL MADDOW, AIR AMERICA RADIO: Hi Allison, nice to see you too.

STEWART: So, in your opinion, what could or should the government have done differently without running afoul of civil rights concerns?

MADDOW: The first thing the government should have done is have a plan. The single scariest thing about this entire response and everything we've learned in the last two days was the statement by the head of the CDC, Julie Gerberding, when she actually said, we just kind of had to make up the plan as we went along.

There have been 17 cases of extensively drug resistant tuberculosis in the United States just since 2000, 17 cases, a dozen and a half cases. A public health system that doesn't have a plan to deal with that? That told the guy, maybe it would be best if you didn't travel, but then didn't let him know about those test results until he was already overseas. The public health system here is the scariest thing about this case.

STEWART: The thing that was very scary to me is that it just announced a huge hole in American security. If you're on a no-fly list, which this guy was, and you know it, you can take a flight to an adjacent country and then drive across the Canadian border, which made me wonder, have we ignored security on the borders to the north while trying to build fences in the south?

MADDOW: You know, it's interesting, a lot of people in the border regions, for example, the border regions of Texas and Arizona, local officials there have pointed out the contrast in our security on the southern and northern borders. This is actually a little bit scary on both sides of the security issue, because, sure, you had him able to drive into the United States after evading the no-fly list restrictions by flying into Canada.

On the other hand, we also learned that health agencies can put people on the terrorism no-flight list. It kind of makes you wonder if every agency can do that, like if you ran afoul of the Faith Based Initiatives Office, if they could no fly list or something. So there's concerns - all sorts of stuff that we have learned about through this very case.

But the response to an airborne transmitted, multi-drug resistant potentially fatal virus is the reason that we have government at a very basic level. It's the reason that Libertarians don't get elected to office. You need to have a government competent enough to recognize this as a threat, to isolate it when it happens, and to either neutralize or at least contain it.

The public health system in this country failed at every level in this case.

STEWART: One of the things that's interesting - well not interesting, but perhaps one of the illuminating things after 9/11 was the issue of coordination between different agencies. What do you think this whole episode says about the coordination between federal agencies, and coordination between nations?

MADDOW: Even within the public health system just within the United States, even if you don't take into account Italy and the other countries involved here, we still haven't heard a clear story from public health officials about what the patient was advised, what he was told he should or should not do, how seriously those restrictions were communicated to him.

They still haven't gotten the story straight, just in terms of the United States. A big issue about how we're kept safe is not just that we stop threats before they arise, not just that we kill terrorists or that we infiltrate terrorist cells. It's that when something happens, we recognize it as a threat, and we have core government functions that can respond to it. That's true for transportation, communications, public health.

It's as true for terrorism as it for hurricanes, and as it is for Avian Flu or Tuberculosis. We need to have resilient systems that can take a punch, contain a threat and respond.

STEWART: Rachel Maddow of the Rachel Maddow Show on Air America.

Thanks for spending some time with us, Rachel.

MADDOW: Thanks Allison.

STEWART: A wild update tonight to a breath taking story of survival. A man cheats death in a sky diving accident and now he's putting his faith in a parachute once again.

Paris Hilton to the pokey. We have the 4-11 on the inmate who will be locked behind bars with Paris. Details ahead, but first, here are Countdown's top three sound bites of this day.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He really was just a little guy the first time his grandpa Floyd took tiny fishing. Tim Smith grew up on fried catfish and all the fixings. Just like anybody else, Tiny doesn't look very big from a distance.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A lot of people will say I'm big boned or something like that. That's not me. I'm fat. I just like to eat.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He's a character. He likes what he does and it's nice to see someone enjoy their work.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I've been watching this man. He's hysterical.

He has his own beat going.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm noticing this wild guy just dancing up and down. It gets everyone going.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: People don't realize that while I'm moving, they say oh, you're dancing, what have you. No, I'm just keeping on my toes and keeping aware.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Members of Billings High School's class of 1937. At least 17 of the class' graduates gathered to celebrate the 70th anniversary of their high school graduation. The evening started with a live performance from the Jammers, a band led by Jerry Spear, who graduated with the class of 1937. A few weeks ago Spear was diagnosed with pneumonia, but she attended Saturday's party without oxygen.

JERRY SPEAR, SINGER: The show must go on.



STEWART: It all seems to simple, just like when you were a kid learning to ride a bike. You fall down, get right back on. Works with horses too. Not so much with parachutes. Our number two story on the Countdown, you might remember the skydiving instructor from new Zealand who miraculously survived a three-mile plunge to Earth last December while taking absolutely breathtaking video of what should have been his final moments the entire time.

That was five months ago. So what's he doing now? Getting back on the horse, or bike, or airplane in this case. Neal Connery of affiliated network ITV went along for the dive.


NEIL CONNERY, ITV NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): He is the man who fell to Earth from 15,000 feet when his parachute malfunctioned and lived to tell the tale. Now Michael Holmes is preparing to go up again for his first jump since his miraculous escape.

MICHAEL HOLMES, SKYDIVER: Where I'm concerned, maybe a little bit nervous. Who can know, really? I mean, it will all come real when the door opens and I go out.

CONNERY: This is what greeted Michael six months ago after his main canopy tangled, leaving him spinning to Earth. His friend also filmed the drama. When Michael tried to release his reserve chute, the cord came away. He thought these would be his last words.

HOLMES: Goodbye.

CONNERY: He hit the ground at more than 100 miles per hour.

Amazingly, he suffered just a broken ankle and a collapsed lung.

Now, six months on, he's about to try again. Anyone would be nervous at a moment like this, but given what happened the last time, it's breath taking to think Michael is jumping again.

And this time it all goes to plan. A huge sense of relief and a textbook landing.

HOLMES: It felt a bit alien, really, because I haven't done it for so long. But, yes, the second we were out in free fall, it was like I never left it. It was great.

CONNERY: And now that he's got his wings back, Michael says he can't wait to jump again.

Neal Connery, ITV News.


STEWART: And that's enough reason to pull the emergency chute, cross our fingers and plunge into Keeping Tabs, our nightly look at celebrity and entertainment news, beginning with Paris Hilton, just six days away from check in time for her 23-day stay at a women's prison in L.A. The website reports officials have carefully hand picked a cell mate for the millionaire heiress, a woman doing time for reckless driving, who they believe won't cash in on all that late-night girl talk with the reflective Paris. Deep thoughts, you know, on what's hot and what's not hot.

Or maybe Paris will be seeking comfort in being dropped from a book that lists the world's top heiresses. She's being dropped because of her behavior. Apparently a sex video and drunk driving wasn't enough, but violating parole, that's not hot when it comes to rich chick behavior.

On to Larry Birkhead, the official legal, genetically tested and calcium fortified father of Anna Nicole's child Dannielynn. We wish we could tell you some good news about how he's bonding with his baby, but no, it's back to court for Birkhead. His former lawyer is suing him. The suit claims Birkhead didn't pay for hundreds of hours of legal work and international travel during the paternity dispute.

No dollar amount is mentioned, although it might be time for Mr. Birkhead to reconsider two things, that open letter he got last month from Candy Spelling, the widow of the titan Aaron Spelling, warning that lawyers will soon see him as a cash machine, and Birkhead might also want to reconsider a 100,000 dollar offer to pose nude in "Playgirl."

He turned it down because he said he was chicken. Larry, three words for you, man up buddy.

All right, I'm trying to get through the next story without laughing or an FCC fine. The preferred pronunciation of the seventh planet from the sun is Uranus. Our next story is for anyone who giggles whenever anyone pronounces it the other way and those who are still in the fourth grade. Throughout the history of anatomical and sexual homonyms, there are people who get a bit testy about it and seek to use the legal system or even the penal system, and others who laughed so hard at rectum. I mean they were pooped.

In fact, one company has decided to exploit a linguistic near-miss in this category. Rehema Ellis reports on the subject, because it's her duty.


REHEMA ELLIS, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Have you ever ordered what's in that burger? New TV ads are making it an issue.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have just launched the first 100 percent sirloin burger in fast-food history. Take a look.

ELLIS: Jack in the Box is taking a shot at its competition.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's the sirloin area.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Jack, our competitors serve Angus burgers? Could you point to the Angus area?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'd rather not.

ELLIS: One competitor, the owner of Carl's Junior and Hardeys, is making a federal case out of this, filing suit in U.S. district court to stop the ads, claiming the Jack in the Box commercials are misleading and bad for business.

ANDREW PUZDER, CEO: Angus beef actually has sirloin as one of its cuts. When you try and take the G out of angus, which is kind of the joke in their ads, when you try to take the G out, and say that Angus beef comes from the hind section of the cow, it's just not true.

ELLIS: Jack in the Box called the suit senseless and without merit. Adding, "It's a shame to waste time and resources on such a trivial matter." Controversial ads are pretty common in the burger wars. The irony is it was Carl's Jr. that used Paris Hilton in ads that raised some eyebrows.

Who are these ads for, anyway?

DRIC HIRSHBERG, PRESIDENT, DEUTSCH LA: Context is everything and the context of this ad is that their target is the same as most beer companies, young men. And I guarantee you that audience is already making Angus jokes.

ELLIS: It makes the old-time ads seem tame.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where's the beef?

ELLIS: Now a judge will have to decide if this beef is valid.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you saying that people will find our sirloin more attractive than their anguses?

ELLIS: Rehema Ellis, NBC News, New York.


STEWART: Speaking of Angus and arguments, here's one for you, former House Majority Leader Tom Delay says his adulterous behavior is better than Newt Gingrich's adulterous behavior. Didn't know it was a competition. Mo Rocca joins us to assess their cheating hearts next on Countdown.


STEWART: There are real models of integrity in the world of politics. Stop laughing. There are those who speak without hypocrisy, and who inspire us to do more for our country. And then there is Tom Delay, as in the indicted former House majority leader. In our number one story on the Countdown, Mr. Delay says that there is a big difference between his own adultery and that of former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.

Let's try not too hard to reach the bottom. Mr. Delay, in his memoir, has criticized former House Speaker Newt Gingrich for having an affair with a Capital Hill employee while he was pushing the impeachment of former President Bill Clinton for his whole mess. But as a piece in the "New Yorker Magazine" notes, Mr. Delay had his own issues, which he discusses in his book.

When he was a young congressman, he said he drank heavily, had the nickname Hot Tub Tom, and, as he himself admits, committed adultery. But it was different than Gingrich's stepping out on his wife. Delay tells the "New Yorker," that, quote, I was no longer committing adultery by that time, the impeachment trial. There's a big difference," end quote.

Delay said that Gingrich couldn't set a high moral standard during the impeachment. Quote, you can't do that if you are keeping secrets about your own adulterous affairs."

Elected officials not holding up their own marriage vows, is that any example for a nice Christian 17-year-old "American Idol" winner? Well one person says Jordan Sparks has not been fully forthright about her own past. More on that in just a moment.

But joining me now, TV personality Mo Rocca, currently starring on Broadway in the "25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee" through June 10th. Good evening Broadway star Mo Rocca.

MO ROCCA, TV PERSONALITY: Thank you Allison.

STEWART: So Tom Delay drawing a nice distinction between his cheating and Newt Gingrich's. Is this the kind of moral authority that got him to the heights of political influence that he currently enjoys?

ROCCA: Well perhaps. Look, Hot Tub Tom committed adultery, but Gingrich committed adultery plus hypocrisy. Now you don't need to be an ethicists to know that hypocrisy free adultery is far more ethical than hypocrisy enhanced adultery.

Now I should say, on behalf of Gingrich, Gingrich, his camp reject any comparison between his adultery and Clinton's adultery, which is where the whole hypocrisy charge rests. For instance, while both were married at the time, Clinton and Gingrich, Gingrich had an affair with a staff member. Clinton, of course, had an affair with an intern. So Gingrich's mistress was getting paid to sleep with him. This much sounder labor practice, I think.

Also, on behalf of Gingrich, Gingrich later ended up marrying his mistress after dumping his wife. So he was much better on the follow through. And finally, and this is a key distinction, Gingrich's adultery did not involve pizza, and it's pizza that really makes adultery skanky.

STEWART: I didn't know there was adultery algebra, but I like the way you laid that out for me. Thank you Mo. Delay also said that the Clinton impeachment and Terry Schiavo case were some of his proudest moments in Congress. Is he right, Mo, to be proud?

ROCCA: Well, to be fair, he later was indicted and forced to resign.

So, I mean, it's all about context, sure.

STEWART: Meanwhile, Mr. Gingrich, in the same "New Yorker" article says that the Republican party hasn't been in such bad conditions since Watergate. He blames a lot of it on Karl Rove. So maybe a good strategy for someone who might be running for president doesn't seem wise to throw some stones at your own house, looking pretty glass?

ROCCA: It isn't. I mean, what Gingrich is trying to do is he is trying to link the current White House is Watergate, with Nixon's White House, thereby making Gingrich's own leadership of the House in the mid-1990s look better by comparison. The problem is that in 1997, before Gingrich's fall, his approval stood at 28 percent, which is exactly where the current White House stands. This is actual real news I'm imparting, 28 percent, so jinx, I mean, this is not a good thing.

STEWART: All right. It is Wednesday Mo, and normally you and I would be sitting, getting settled into our couches, watching "American Idol." No show this week man, can we talk about it anyway?

ROCCA: I need my Idol.

STEWART: What about this flap with Jordan Sparks? A vocal coach telling the stellar publication "Star Magazine" she gave Sparks lessons for nine months when Miss Jordan was 14 years old. But Miss Sparks in her Idol bio answered no on whether she had formal training. Say it aint' so, Mo, or no big deal?

ROCCA: You know, look, in America we want our baseball players to be steroid free. We want our pageant winners to be virgins. Is that still a rule. I think it is. And we want our "American Idol" winners to be amateurs. I mean, this is part of the whole thing Horatio Alger, sort of rags to riches thing. So it disillusioning. I think it is.

I love her "You'll Never Walk Alone." It definitely eclipsed the Jerry Lewis telethon version.

STEWART: All right, I heard a rumor here that Ozzy Osbourne was supposed to have actually been on the final, but that he backed out.

ROCCA: Yes, I believe that's true, because he didn't want to perform a duet with Sanjaya. And this goes back to something I've written and spoken extensively about, which is the tension on "American Idol" between British and Indian people. We saw this with Simon and Sanjaya.

It is sort of a replay of 1947 independence movement of India from the Raj, the British Raj. You know, Ozzy himself is British. We see this historical tension played out between the viceroy, in this case Ozzy Osbourne, and the upstart, the peaceful upstart, Sanjaya, the Indian.

STEWART: But Osbourne said he didn't want to go on stage with a hair style challenged idiot.

ROCCA: It could just be that then. Yes, I don't know.

STEWART: Probably something like that. The one and only Mo Rocca, star of television, star of Broadway -

ROCCA: Yes, that's right. Come see me, N-O-W, now. Right, it's a spelling bee musical, whatever.

STEWART: Thanks Mo.

ROCCA: Thank you.

STEWART: That's going to do it for this Wednesday edition of Countdown. I'm Allison Stewart, in for Keith Olbermann. Thank you so much for watching. Up next "SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY." Joe, are you there? Good evening to you.


Tuesday, May 29, 2007

'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for May 29

Guests: Al Gore, Chris Cillizza, Paul F. Tompkins

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

Memorial Day is now every day. Ten more American service personnel killed in Iraq, 115 there this month.

And there are other casualties, of a kind. "I have invested everything I have into trying to bring peace with justice to a country that wants neither." With that, Cindy Sheehan is out. Her resignation as the face of the antiwar movement.

Al Gore, 50-50 about running. So says one of his closest friends and financial advisers, a source of Howard Fineman's and "Newsweek." That ever-present question, and his latest quest, no less than returning facts and dialogue to the American political discourse, outlined in his new book, "The Assault on Reason." Our special guest tonight, the former vice president.


AL GORE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT: When the American people are treated as objects for just herding in one direction or another, that's insulting to the integrity of our democracy.


OLBERMANN: New presidential polling, McCain and Giuliani capable of beating Clinton, Clinton capable of beating Romney and Thompson, but Obama capable of beating anybody.

Quarantine. For the first time in 44 years, the American government puts an American traveler in American isolation, after he flies twice internationally while afflicted with a rare, drug-resistant form of tuberculosis.

Lindsey Lohan in rare form. Forty-eight hours after the DUI, she's seen again, evidently the worse for wear, on the streets of Hollywood. And now she's in rehab, or in her case, re-rehab.

And Miss USA, try misstep. The latest in the epidemic of catwalk catastrophes. What's going on here? Too much oil? Weak ankles? Black ice? Nah, just make it part of the competition. Winner chosen on best two out of three falls.

All that and Al Gore, now on Countdown.

Good evening.

In his Rose Garden news conference last week, President Bush, having told Americans to expect heavy fighting in Iraq in the months ahead, warning of a, quote, "bloody, very difficult August," the month Mr. Bush should have been warning about, perhaps, the one we are in right now.

Our fifth story on the Countdown, 10 American soldiers dying in Iraq on Memorial Day, making May, with three days still to go, already the deadliest month of the year for U.S. troops, as well as the deadliest overall month since November 2004.

It freezes the soul to wonder what Mr. Bush imagines August would look like in comparison.

Mr. Bush's sixth Memorial Day as a wartime president one of the costliest, U.S. officials announcing the deaths of the 10 American soldiers yesterday, American casualties for this month now at 115 and counting, at least one top U.S. official having trouble keeping track of the death toll, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, General Peter Pace, not even close in estimating the number of Iraq war dead in a Memorial Day interview.


GEN. PETER PACE, CHAIRMAN, JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF: You know, we had more than 3,000 Americans murdered on 11 September, 2001, that the number who have died, sacrificed themselves, since that time is approaching that number.


OLBERMANN: For the record, General, it has long since exceeded that number. As of yesterday morning, 3,456 Americans had lost their lives in Iraq. And you, sir, have just lost a large measure your credibility, antiwar protester Cindy Sheehan deciding that she has already lost far too much to the war in Iraq, in addition to the life of her dear son Casey, Ms. Sheehan saying she is tired of being smeared and ridiculed, particularly now by the left, in a Memorial Day resignation letter, posted on the blog, concluding it is time to get out, quoting her, "Casey died for a country which cares more about who will be the next 'American Idol' than how many people will be killed in the next few months while Democrats and Republicans pay politics with human lives. I'm going to take whatever I have left and go home. I'm going to go home and be a mother to my surviving children and try to regain some of what I have lost."


OLBERMANN: As promised, a pleasure to once again be joined by Vice President Al Gore. The new book is "The Assault on Reason."

Thanks for your time again, sir.

GORE: My pleasure.

OLBERMANN: Cindy Sheehan's point, that this country cares more about a game show than the war in Iraq, so she's getting out of the whole process, do you agree with her? And is what she's saying kind of representative of what you've written about in the new book?

GORE: I don't agree with that sentiment as it was expressed. I think that our public airwaves and, more importantly, the national conversation of democracy, if you will, now is dominated by elements that were not features of the conversation that our founders expected that we would have.

And a lot of the - a lot of the public forum is taken up not just with trivialities, but also with very cleverly constructed propagandistic messaging that really doesn't take logic and reason into account.

And we - there was never a golden age when everything was all logical in the past, of course not. But the relative role of facts and logic and reason used to be much larger than it has become in the age of 30-second TV ads and the multiscreen experience.

OLBERMANN: The sense of defeat in her statement, that the country doesn't want change, that she's beating her head against a wall, taking out the specifics of her and her situation, it does seem to be symbolic of what we're talking about, though. How on earth do you change the broader sense that protest, that dialogue, that involvement is meaningless or pointless?

GORE: Well, first of all, my heart goes out to all those Americans who have lost loved ones, be it children or spouses or partners or brothers and sisters, in the war. And, of course, Mrs. Sheehan is one of those who has tried to also play a role in our national dialogue.

And I'd like to separate those two things. I think that it is difficult for any individual to gain access to the public forum in the same way that was the case when the printed word was dominant. I think that the Internet is bringing back not only the printed word, but a public marketplace of ideas, that is more accessible to individuals.

And for all of its excesses and bad features, the Internet does invite a robust multi-way conversation that I think is already beginning to serve as a corrective for some of the abuses of the mass media persuasion campaigns that brought us the invasion of Iraq and the ignoring of the climate crisis and the other serious mistakes that we've been making over the last few years.

OLBERMANN: Put in context with me on this, and I want to get back to the Internet, because it's obviously, it's vitally important to any kind of feedback, any kind of interaction. But in terms of this public perception that it can or cannot effect change in this nation, the Democrats' agreement last week to continue to fund the war in Iraq, basically on President Bush's terms, do you see one as representative of the other? Fit them together for me.

GORE: Well, I think that it might have happened even without it, even without these trends, because the tools available to the legislative branch of government are less precise, and often more difficult to wield, than those available to the executive branch.

The power available to the executive branch has increased in the television age. And the use of symbols is something the - any president has the upper hand with over Congress, by and large. And when the congressional leaders didn't have the votes to override the president's veto, then their options were diminished.

I have a lot of faith in Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid and the new leaders of the committees, but they didn't have the votes. And so I understand that their options were reduced sharply.

But there's no doubt that a lot of people who felt that they would just instantly change the course of the war may not give them as much credit as they should for trying as hard and effectively as they have. And they're not done yet.

OLBERMANN: To one of those points in there, I was intrigued by the suggestion you made in the book about Congress should hold its key votes in prime time. That would get, theoretically, some of the public momentum back. At least people might initially mistake it for some sort of live-action series or reality show.

But why is it that you or I can check on the minute-by-minute progress of a football game or a basketball game or a baseball game or an "American Idol" show on the Internet, on a BlackBerry, on your cell phone, but last week, during those votes in the House and the Senate, I couldn't get a representative-by-representative vote or Senate-by-Senate vote, senator-by-senator vote, anywhere on the Internet. What happened there?

GORE: I think that's an excellent point, Keith, and it should be remedied. And I have a list of specific recommendations for a lot of the institutions of our society, including the Congress, and that's one of them. I think that we should have the most important debates in prime time, so that the American people could watch if they choose to.

And I think that the Congress and all parts of the government should be transparent to those citizens who wish to contact them over the Internet and get a minute-by-minute, second-by-second account of what's going on, and give their own opinions during the process.

OLBERMANN: And on the subject of transparency, you also argue in the book, let me read the quote precisely, "The current White House has engaged in an unprecedented and sustained campaign of mass deception, especially where its policies in Iraq are concerned." Should that not be put in the present tense? Isn't the administration still using propaganda and disinformation, especially on Iraq? And what are the immediate steps to try to remedy that?

GORE: Well, the - they have - the president himself has changed his rhetoric slightly on the implied linkage between Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden, but the vice president has not. And overall, more than half of Americans still have the opinion that Saddam was involved in that attack. At the time the Congress voted, 70 percent believed that Saddam Hussein was primarily responsible for the attack of 9/11.

And I think that impression did not come about accidentally, I think that there was an organized effort, with all of these administration spokesmen in the same week going out and using the same phrases, a mushroom cloud over an American city, the uranium from Africa that Saddam was supposedly using to make a bomb that he would then give to Osama, it was all false, it was all nonsense.

But the fact that it was conveyed so skillfully and so effectively that more than two-thirds of the American people had it firmly in mind as the principal reason to support the invasion of Iraq, that's an indictment of the integrity of this national conversation of democracy that our founders assumed would take place, with a well-informed citizenry that would hold our elected officials accountable.

And the fact that that's not working is not so much an indictment of President Bush and Vice President Cheney, although it is, but much more serious, in my view, is that our nation was so vulnerable to such crass efforts to manipulate opinion and drive the country in directions we would never have chosen if we had a full and open debate.

OLBERMANN: The premise of the book appears to be, in sum, and if I'm wrong, please correct me, or someone will send in an e-mail immediately, for democracy to work, people need to connect with each other, connect with the political system, and actively take part in the democratic process. But at the heart of it, aren't you demanding first that people think? How do you - you can't force them to think.

GORE: Well, I think that all of the activities of democracy that come natural to us as human beings, regardless of where we were born - immigrants who come here from other countries take to our democratic processes like ducks to water, because it's a universal desire for dignity and respect.

But when the conversation is diverted to these trivialities and to these propagandistic efforts to sway public opinion this way and that in a one-way dialogue, then people don't have a way to join the conversation.

One of the reasons why so many Americans feel as if their votes don't count, that their opinions aren't heard, and that they have no way of meaningfully participating in our democracy, is because they know that, for example, in the last election in November, 80 percent of the campaign budgets and contested races were spent on these 30-second TV ads. Those are one-way. They aren't based on facts and logic. And campaigns never have been entirely thus based.

But, when the bulk of it is made up of these mass persuasion techniques that don't respect the facts and don't respect the people who are the objects of this persuasion, then we get the kinds of serious mistakes that we have seen with the climate crisis, with the invasion of Iraq, with the mass warrantless eavesdropping on American citizens, eliminating the prohibition against torture that General George Washington laid down that's been respected by every president and both parties for more than 200 years.

These things happen not just because one White House makes terrible decisions, but because we are more vulnerable to these kinds of sophisticated efforts to bypass reason and logic to reach a preconceived policy that was decided before the facts were ever brought into play.

It's like the old line from "Alice in Wonderland," first the verdict, then the trial. If they decide to invade Iraq regardless of the facts, then there's no discussion of the facts that's going to matter. But we the people, without using the phrase in a way that inevitably sounds corny, we the people must reclaim the integrity of our democracy by using the new tools that are now beginning to be available to us, to insist on respect for reason and logic to a degree that our founders hoped would be the case.


OLBERMANN: So you're wondering about the other thing with Al Gore, the running stuff? Think you'll find he is now officially undecided. Our interview continues.

And among the candidates who are decided, Senator Obama gets extraordinarily good news from the polls.

You are watching Countdown on MSNBC.


OLBERMANN: The only reason Al Gore's movie, "An Inconvenient Truth," was even in a position to win an Oscar this past February was because he had lost the 2000 Florida recount.

Our fourth story on the Countdown, as plan B's go, Mr. Gore's comeback career has been hugely successful.

But he as his finding out on the media tour for this, his latest book, "The Assault on Reason," questions about whether he's planning to take another shot at the White House are impossible to escape. Many, myself included, cannot help but wonder if, on global warming, on Iraq, on any of a number of imperative issues, Mr. Gore could surely be more effective from inside the Oval Office than from the top of the bestseller lists.

More now of our conversation with Al Gore from earlier today.


OLBERMANN: Listen, by the way, one other topic while you're here, I know nobody ever asks you about this, it's the prospect of you seeking the presidential nomination next year. There's an item in the "Newsweek" June 4 issue that reads, "He," and that would be you, "is 50-50, according to one of his closest friends and financial backers." What's your reaction to that item?

GORE: Well, whoever that was doesn't reflect my thinking. And I can't even answer the question, Keith, without sounding repetitious. You know my answer. I'm not thinking about running. I don't expect to run. Yes, I haven't ruled out the possibility at some point in the future, but I'm not keeping that exception alive to be coy. I really don't expect to be a candidate again.

But here we are, 500 days or so before the next election. I don't see why, you know, everybody has to close the doors and say, OK, let's narrow the field, and make your bets. I'm an American citizen. I'm going to continue speaking out on my views forcefully and as best I can.

And this book, "The Assault on Reason," is really about not politics or candidates, but about the way the whole system operates, and how it's gone off course, in my opinion, and how we can set it right again.

OLBERMANN: And it is a call to action to the American electorate, to get more involved in the things that really matter to our survival, not just as a democracy, but, as you pointed out in "An Inconvenient Truth," as the human race.

But to that point, sort of threading these two things together, could it not be argued that the best thing you could do personally to get the changes you say that we need is to actually become president of the United States?

GORE: Well, I respect that argument, and I'm under no illusions that there's any position as influential as that of president of the United States. I don't think I'm necessarily very good at politics or at a lot of the things that our modern political system rewards. And as a result, I'm serving in other ways. I'm involved in a different kind of campaign, to persuade people to solve the climate crisis.

And it's really as part that effort that I've addressed the problems with our democracy. I'm convinced that we have to fix the foundations in our democracy in order to make better choices and solve the climate crisis.

OLBERMANN: All right. The one last topical or nontopical question, depending, I guess we would view it as topical and you would view it as nontopical. You mentioned the door closing. When does the door close?

GORE: I have no idea.

OLBERMANN: You don't know that? That's still up in the air?

GORE: Oh, I thought you were talking about deadlines and dates and so forth. I really don't know those dates.

OLBERMANN: That's where we'll leave it. The 45th vice president of the United States, Al Gore, whose new book is "The Assault on Reason." I hope you are as successful with it as you were with "An Inconvenient Truth," and that the results are as positive for all of us.

GORE: Thank you very much, Keith. And thanks for your passionate involvement, in your own way, trying to address a lot of these same issues.

OLBERMANN: You're very kind, sir. As ever, great thanks for being so generous with your time.


OLBERMANN: Well, I tried. More with Al Gore, including the possibility that the Internet might still save our democracy, tonight - tomorrow night, rather, here on Countdown.

Now, a frightening health alert. They told him not to fly, not with drug-resistant tuberculosis. He flew anyway. Authorities now scrambling to find his fellow passengers.

And, boy, this is happening with startling regularity these days.

Another modeling-related tragedy.

That's next. This is Countdown.


OLBERMANN: This is another one of the several anniversaries, May 29, 1849, when Abraham Lincoln is supposed to have issued his famous maxim, You can fool some of the people all the time, and all the people some of the time, but you can't fool all the people all the time. Except, according to exhaustive research by the Abraham Lincoln Association, he never said it. The first reference to him ever saying it is more than 20 years after his assassination. So evidently, you can fool all the people all the time.

Let's play Oddball.

Yes, this didn't fool nobody. We begin in Mexico City, site of last night's annual crowning of a sexy lady to rule the universe, Miss Universe pageant. (INAUDIBLE) is a known fact that most of the universe lacks any gravitational pull, Miss USA, Rachel Smith, proved last night at the stage in Mexico City does not. And down goes Frazier. Really a very, very nice and smooth drop. Smith got up, dusted herself off, kept smiling all the way to a fifth-place finish, never lost the smile. Turns out they do take some points off for not knowing how to walk, but not that many. Whee.

Speak of gravity, time for the annual Gloucester Cheese Roll. Each year, contestants from all over gather in the hamlet of Gloucester, in England, to get drunk, climb Coppers Hill, and then wildly helicopter down the side of that hill, chasing the elusive cheese whiz. I'm sorry, cheese wheel. My gosh, this gets better every year. Actually, it did get slightly better this year. They added a race just for the ladies. And I'm hoping that Rachel Smith, Miss USA, is watching. This is how you fall down.

And finally, if ladies smashing down a hill after cheese is not your thing, how about women in bathing suits racing on a horse track? And they're off. It's the incredibly classy Hollywood Park bikini race. It's like the Python joke about the Queen Victoria handicap. It's Queen Victoria, followed by Queen Victoria, Queen Victoria, and Queen Victoria. I don't know if they do this all the time or if this is the first time, but boy, what a finish.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) with a final surge (INAUDIBLE). (INAUDIBLE) reaches for the wire, Blazing Blondy doesn't get there (INAUDIBLE) in the final (INAUDIBLE), (INAUDIBLE) street sense to me.


OLBERMANN: And that's right, that was Miss USA falling there at the finish line.

Senator Clinton can beat some Republicans, Senator McCain and Mayor Giuliani can beat some Democrats. But only one Democrat or Republican can beat everybody else according to the latest polls. And it's not Lindsey Lohan. Back to rehab.

First time for Countdown's top three news makers of this day. Number three, an unnamed elephant in the Indian state of Orissa, who has it figured out, figured it out. As traffic approaches, the elephant blocks the local highway, taps on the windows with its trunk and then sniffs for vegetables or bananas and then eats them and then, and only then, gets out of the motorists' way. Yes, it's a toll elephant.

Number two, the guy who burglarized Lisa Seifert's (ph) home in Wasilla, Alaska. She was in the process of reporting the theft of her hand guns, food and alcohol when she noticed an unfamiliar vehicle inside her garage and asleep behind the wheel was a guy evidently passed out wearing one of her sweat shirts. Police have deduced he's probably the burglar.

But number, if not the dumbest criminal of the year, close, certainly the least focused one. Two guys walk into a U-Haul in Milwaukee and rob the till. One of the burglars flees with the money. The other does not. He stays, goes up to the woman clerk, one of the people he had just robbed and asks, can I get your number and go out some time? Surprisingly enough, she turned him down.


OLBERMANN: Again, we turn to politics and two of the latest surprises in the 2008 campaign. Our third story tonight, funny, though, wasn't it that Vice President Gore new it was 500 or so days to the election? The correct figure is 525, not counting today.

Meantime, good news for a Democratic not undecided and a seismic shift for conservatives that some might call power over principle. First, Senator Barack Obama launching his universal health care plan today in the politically fertile state of Iowa. Obama promising cheaper insurance premiums if you're already covered, savings of 2,500 dollars for the average family, he says, and rolling back the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest to cover the uninsured.

It was the latest in a series of Obama campaign speeches designed to dispel the perception that he might be too inexperienced. The strategy seems to be paying off, at least according to a Zogby poll showing Obama is the only Democrat capable of defeating the leading Republican contenders Giuliani, McCain, Romney, anybody else, head to head in the general election.

And while his opponent, Senator Hillary Clinton, is preferred by most Democrats, Zogby's polling says right now she could not defeat McCain or Giuliani in a theoretical general election. That perceived weakness against Giuliani could be a significant threat for Democrats, because, according to the non-partisan Pew Center analysis, many social conservatives are now more than willing to tolerate Rudy Giuliani's more than liberal views on abortion, gay rights, among other items, for the sake of winning. That could reverse decades of demands that any Republican candidate must hold a rigid line against abortion and gay rights.

Now, the Pew report says, many see Giuliani as their only chance of winning next year. Chris Cillizza joins us now. He has been following all of this, of course, in his political blog the Fix at "" Chris, good evening.


OLBERMANN: First, the Pew analysis of Giuliani, socially liberal Republican, support from social conservatives. All the other candidates are trying to be Reagan and the Republican right still is warming up to Giuliani. What are we missing here? Where is the disconnect? What fact don't we know about this?

CILLIZZA: Well, you know, I'm missing something because for a long time I have assumed that the more social conservatives get to know Rudy Giuliani's positions on abortion, on gay rights, on guns, the less interested they would be in him.

The one explanation - I'll give you two explanations. One is they still don't know detailed things about the mayor. They have a sense that he's more liberal than they are. But they don't know the details. The other one could be simply that September 11, 2001 fundamentally changed the calculus of how Republican voters think. National security, who can keep us safer, trumps abortion, gay marriage, those other wedge issues that typically had decided the nominee.

OLBERMANN: The polls, of course, also generally show health care as a top voter issue, even though television doesn't mention it. John Edwards first with his fleshed-out plan. Senator Clinton's incomplete. Will the Obama plan give him a significant lift? Is it enough to worry the Clinton camp?

CILLIZZA: You know, politics is a strange business. And frankly in the last two hours after Obama put out his plan, I got a statement from both Edwards and Clinton, both of whom expressed some skepticism subtly, but still skepticism that Obama's plan does not mandate universal coverage, that this would not cover everyone. It would attempt to do so, but it would not necessarily do so.

That's the danger when you put out a big comprehensive plan. It gives a lot of people a lot of time to shoot at it. And that's the problem you mentioned about Senator Obama. He has been criticized that his resume is too thin. When he comes out and puts out a policy proposal to show he has some depth to his position, people say it's wrong. This isn't right.

So he's in a catch 22. He has to roll out some big policy proposals, but he also has to realize that he's going to have to weather some criticism from his opponents who don't think it's enough or think it's too much.

OLBERMANN: OK, Al Gore tonight, the "Newsweek" source, 50-50. Parsing his answers form one interview to the next is like trying to judge how much a particular tree has grown in, say, the last four hours. But sometimes you get lucky. Let me play again what he said tonight and then ask you about it.


GORE: You know my answer. I'm not thinking about running. I don't expect to run. Yes, I haven't ruled out the possibility at some point in the future. But I'm not keeping that exception alive to be coy. I really don't expect to be a candidate again. But here we are, 500 days or so before the next election. I don't see why, you know, everybody has to close the doors and say, OK, let's narrow the field and make your bets.


OLBERMANN: And Chris, he also said afterwards that he's not sure when the door closes. Is his position any clearer? It sounded to me more like more of a maybe than it was before. Did the tree grow an inch in the last couple hours?

CILLIZZA: You know, I've spent more time than I'd like to admit trying to figure out what Al Gore is going to do in 2008. What I heard just now was a definite maybe. I think there are two potential reasons. Al Gore is a politician. He understand that if he - and he could have done it tonight - said I absolutely will not run and I won't serve if drafted, that would end the speculation. He didn't do that.

So there's one of two reasons why not. One, he is genuinely considering it at some level and doesn't want to close the door. Or two, this is somebody who has a new book out. This is someone who continues to travel the country hoping to raise the profile of global warming through his documentary "An Inconvenient Truth." Al Gore knows that Al Gore potential 2008 candidate gets a lot more coverage for his issue than Al Gore 2000 presidential candidate.

So it's one or the other. Again, he would rule it out absolutely if he had made a decision. So until he rules it out absolutely, I think it's valid to continue talking about it and speculating on.

OLBERMANN: I agree with you and I think maybe that "Newsweek" source is absolutely on the money. He may be, good grief, undecided just like he's implying there.

CILLIZZA: He may be thinking about it.

OLBERMANN: He may be thinking about it. Chris Cillizza, the man behind the Fix, the political blog at "" As always, Chris, great thanks.

CILLIZZA: Thank you Keith.

OLBERMANN: A man flies to Paris while carrying a highly resistant form of tuberculosis. Now he is under the first government-ordered quarantine since 1963.

And for a show that bade farewell to Rosie O'Donnell, "The View" sure spent a lot of time today talking about Rosie O'Donnell. Details ahead on Countdown.


OLBERMANN: The last time the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention quarantined an individual carrying a dangerous disease was 1963. The disease was smallpox. In our number two story tonight, 44 years later, it's a man with a rare drug resistant form of tuberculosis in quarantine. And this time there are two plane loads of people who may have been exposed.

The CDC is now tracking down the passengers who flew with him when he traveled to Europe and then back to Canada. Our correspondent in Washington is Tom Costello. Tom, good evening.

TOM COSTELLO, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Keith, good evening. Health authorities here, in Canada and also in Europe are trying to track down anyone who might have been anywhere near this patient. And what's particularly troubling is that this man knew he had T.B., yet he decided to travel anyway.


COSTELLO (voice-over): It was on two long trans-Atlantic flights that a single person may have exposed fellow passengers to extensively drug resistant tuberculosis. The patient is described only as a male from the Atlanta area who was being treated for T.B. and had been advised not to travel.

DR. JULIE GERBERDING, DOCTOR, CDC: He was aware of his diagnosis, but at the time that he departed he may not have been aware of the fact that he had extensively drug resistant tuberculosis.

COSTELLO: But authorities say the patient boarded Air France Flight 385 from Atlanta to Paris, arriving on May 13th. Then, on May 24th, left Prague on Czech Air Flight 104 to Montreal. He then drove to New York State. Meanwhile, federal health experts were urgently discussing his case.

DR. CHARLES DALEY, NATIONAL JEWISH HOSPITAL: They called me a few weeks ago about this case because of their concern that every day or so they found out that it was resistant to another drug.

COSTELLO: Last week, the CDC tracked down the patient, who agreed to check into a New York City hospital. Then yesterday flew to Atlanta on a government plane, where he is now in federally ordered isolation. Tuberculosis is potentially deadly infection that can affect the lungs, as well the lymph, circulatory and central nervous system. Transmitted by coughing, sneezing, even talking.

Only about 10 percent of those infected ever get sick, but this drug resistant strain of TB is very serious, in some cases a 50 percent mortality rate.

DR. WILLIAM SCHAFFNER, VANDERBILT UNIVERSITY: We have learned from previous episodes where people with tuberculosis have been on airplanes that the people close by, a couple of rows ahead and a couple of rows behind, have been the folks at greatest risks.


COSTELLO: Health experts say this case illustrates just how interconnected the world is right now and how a single trans-oceanic flight can quickly spread some of the most dangerous diseases on the plant. Keith, back to you.

OLBERMANN: Tom Costello in Washington, great thanks. As every tabloid news person knows, celebrity knows no three-day weekends. And so we begin our nightly roundup of tabloid news tonight with a celebrity feud that did not take the weekend off. Rosie O'Donnell's dust-up with Elizabeth Hasselbeck Wednesday got new life on the Internets this week. O'Donnell posted messages on her blog about it, for one thing griping about this split screen that her producers at "The View" used, but also answering a fan's question about a what transpired afterwards with Hasselbeck, E.H.


ROSIE O'DONNELL, FORMERLY OF "THE VIEW": Did E.H. send you apologies?

She called. And Kelly and her spoke for a long time. And I haven't spoken to her and I probably won't. And I think it's just as well. And I wrote her an email and she wrote me back and there you have it.


OLBERMANN: Or there you don't have it. Because that was Saturday and on today's edition of "The View," Miss Hasselbeck painted a picture of their weekend communication that was much, well, rosier.


ELIZABETH HASSELBACK, "THE VIEW": This weekend we were in communication a lot.

JOY BEHAR, "THE VIEW": You were?

HASSELBACK: We were in communication. And you know, I think this weekend gave us the opportunity to tackle our most important hot topic yet, and that was the power of forgiveness. And I believe that we've begun that process. And so now that enables us to move on in a very positive way. So I'm really happy about that.


OLBERMANN: If everybody's going to forgive each other, we're just going to leave. O'Donnell today responded online herself, sticking to what she said Saturday that they had one, count them one email exchange this weekend.

Britney Spears, meantime, seems to have skipped past the admitting you have a problem step. On a website, the former singer refers to her recent performances in rehab and says, quote, until this day I don't think it was alcohol or depression. I was like a bad kid running around with ADD. She says she's beginning to use her brain for a change, but that, quote, I am 25 and I do still have a lot to learn. And I am going to make mistakes every day. Like when she wrote every day as one word.

And in a scary closing she said, figuring out life is god's job. Quote, I can't wait to meet him or her. Pretty sure she's hanging out with Justin these days, Brit. From one struggling diva to another, a busy weekend for Lindsey Lohan, putting several re's into the word rehab.

That's ahead, but first time for Countdown's latest list of nominees for Worst Person in the World. The bronze to the former Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz who told the BBC that the real reason he had to leave the World Bank after steering contracts to old cronies and guiding through and extraordinary raise for his girlfriend and then throwing his girlfriend under the bus, the real reason he had to leave was the media. You wonder how we got into this mess in Iraq.

Our runner up, the unfortunate Bay Buchanan, claiming on CNN that Hillary Clinton, quote, after 9/11, as a U.S. senator, went on national television and fabricated where her daughter was, talked about her daughter out jogging that morning and stopped near the Towers, heard the planes crash. It was all fabricated. It was all made up. Chelsea herself says she never left the apartment that morning, unquote.

Except, of course, neither Senator Clinton nor Chelsea Clinton said such things. Six days after the attack, Senator Clinton said of daughter on "Dateline," "she had gone on what she thought would be a great jog. She was going to go down to Battery Park. She was going to go around the towers. She went to get a cup of coffee and that's when the plane hit." That would make what Bay Buchanan said fabricated. It was all made up.

But our winner, Sean Hannity. Bashing John Edwards that is, quote, not really viewed as somebody that is up to the task of understanding the nature in the battle in the war that's being waged against us because he got a $400 haircut. Hannity even played videotape of Edwards doing his hair before he did a TV interview.

Couldn't stand up to al Qaeda because he gets his hair done. Right, Sean, and your own hair just looks like that right out of bed every morning and Mitt Romney's gets to looking like that for free and President Bush cuts his own hair? What does he use, a Flowbee? Sean Hannity, today's Worst Person in the World!


OLBERMANN: The number of young and dubiously talented celebrities having problems under the influence is multiplying and fast. So Lindsey Lohan, after her latest flame out this weekend, went almost immediately for the encore. In our number one story on the Countdown, DWL, driving while Lindsay. Ms. Lohan reportedly back in rehab now after a three day weekend that would make Paris Hilton blush.

First there was the car crash, the 20-year-old actress reportedly running her Mercedes convertible into a cur on Sunset Boulevard at about 5:30 local time Saturday morning. Two friends were with her. Police at the scene found usable amounts of a substance tentatively identified as cocaine, although a lieutenant said Miss Lohan was not carrying it.

Of course, Lohan was not there by the time the cops arrived. Friends had taken her to Century City Hospital, where she was treated for minor injuries and was later charged by police on suspicion of driving under the influence. Further charges may follow.

Cue to Monday morning. Less than 48 hours after the crash, Miss Lohan photographed in the passenger seat of this car while it was at a gas station. She was alternately incoherent and retching, according to a columnist for the "Washington Post." Later the same day, according to, it was check in time for Lohan. Her lawyer taking her to the Promises Rehabilitation Facility in L.A.

If you have a map of these movie star rehab facilities, just look for Promises. Let's turn to comedian Paul F. Tompkins, also, of course, a regular contributor to VH1's "Best Week Ever." Paul, good evening.

PAUL F. TOMPKINS, COMEDIAN: Good evening to you, Keith.

OLBERMANN: A few more details. Police say Miss Lohan may have been speeding at the time of the crash. She had been at an L.A. hot spot Friday night, apparently one that is willing to serve patrons who might not be the legal age. reports that one of the people she was hanging out with was her buddy and body guard Jazz.

Are we burying the lead here? Is the whole situation summed up by the idea that your pal and body guard is named Jazz?

TOMPKINS: Yes, that is spelled J-A-Z, by the way, which I can only hope is short for Jazz. Maybe she should have a body guard named Wheels, like someone who could be her driver and drive her around places if she's going to indulge in underage drinking at these hot spots.

OLBERMANN: I think Jazz dropped the other Z under the advice of an astrologer. That's just a guess. This bulletin about her going into rehab included an assertion by a source that this is not the in and out ruse used by other starlets of recent past, apparently referring to Britney Spears. Does this mean we actually have a competition to see whose rehab is better than somebody else's rehab?

TOMPKINS: I have a feeling it is going to be a tie if there is such a competition. I think we all know how it's going to end up. That raises the interesting question of what exactly is Promises' batting average here? Doesn't it seem like every famous celebrity user has been in and out of that place a number of times. I don't know what their actual rehab method is. Maybe it is actually making you take a promise to not do drugs any more.

OLBERMANN: Rehab, we promise to get it right the second or third time. Clearly she did not lie low after her arrest. The pictures of her slumped in the car at the gas station reportedly taken right after she left an event at the hotel Roosevelt in L.A. with a friend. In fairness, what is the criticism of her for those shots? She is sleeping. She is not behind wheel. Is there not a paparazzi time out for that or for stops at the gas station?

TOMPKINS: You would think. I don't know if the paparazzi are waiting to see if she is actually going to drink in her sleep, which I think at this point seems entirely probable.

OLBERMANN: Or, if we get to test one of those things, can you ignite yourself by lighting a cigarette and your cell phone at the same time. Because of this, she is supposed to miss the scheduled filming - it was going to start this week - of a movie called "Poor Thing." She was going to be in this, Shirley MacLean and Olympia Dukakis.

Obviously you and I and everybody else connected with the world wishes her all the best. But Paul, it cannot be a good sign if you cannot hold on to a movie entitled, of all things, "Poor Things."

TOMPKINS: Well, I thank you for reminding me that she is ostensibly an actress. I had completely forgotten there for a while. The problem is the Internet. If this was the old studio days, you know, Louis B. Meyer would have her married off to some closeted gay leading man and they could have their Caligula like parties at home. It is easy to suppress those pictures.

I think at this point all these girls should just cut out the middle man and just make a deal with TMZ, you know, try to make that their source of primary income. They don't need to make the movies anymore.

OLBERMANN: Or do the reverse, buy it some how. Speaking of selling and buying things, the debris from her car is being sold on eBay? Doesn't she get the right of first refusal on her own stuff?

TOMPKINS: You would think that would be the case. Those slivers of plastic that used to comprise the cover of her turn signal are the 2007 equivalent of the chunks of the Berlin Wall. What are her grandchildren supposed to do?

OLBERMANN: Miss Lohan, tear down this wall. Paul F. Tompkins, comedian and contributor to VH1's "Best Week Ever," and when we're lucky to Countdown. Great thanks, Paul.

TOMPKINS: Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN: That is Countdown for this the 1,490th day since the declaration of Mission Accomplished in Iraq. Up next, "SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY." I'm Keith Olbermann, good night and good luck.