Thursday, May 10, 2007

'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for May 10, 2007

Guests: Howard Fineman, John Dean, John Batiste, Craig Crawford, Alex Borstein

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

In the wake of the visit by the gang of 11, the president picks a peck of Peter Pace's predictions.

Plus, Petraeus's.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I agree with General Petraeus's assessment that there are two clocks, one ticking here in Washington and one ticking there.


OLBERMANN: But did the loudest alarm go off Tuesday afternoon when 11 Republican congressmen read the president the riot act? Or was that just grandstanding?


TONY SNOW, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: It's not a watershed moment. The president has heard real criticism before. He's heard vigorous criticism before. It hasn't all been in the press.

JIM AXELROD, CBS NEWS: (INAUDIBLE) source. (INAUDIBLE) Maxine Waters here.


OLBERMANN: Good one, Jim Axelrod of CBS.

Bad one, CBS. General John Batiste dropped as an analyst by the Eyeball after his appearance in the VoteVets ad.


GEN. JOHN BATISTE (RET.), U.S. ARMY: Mr. President, you have placed our nation in peril.


OLBERMANN: Tonight, our exclusive interview with General John Batiste.

Gonzales-gate. Now we've got faith-based testimony.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You said you knew the president and the vice president didn't. How do you know they didn't?

ALBERTO GONZALES, ATTORNEY GENERAL: Well, (INAUDIBLE), I, I just know that they would not do that.


OLBERMANN: They probably sent him an e-mail.

More new evidence tonight that the White House signed off on giving Congress the phony cover stories that the fired attorneys weren't canned for their policies.

And politics, meet Family Guy. Maybe the most political episode yet of a pretty political show. We'll be joined by Alex Borstein, who wrote it and who stars as Lois Griffin.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mrs. Griffin, what are your plans for cleaning up our environment?



OLBERMANN: Oh, and she let me be a guest star.

All that and more, now on Countdown.


OLBERMANN: Excellent.


OLBERMANN: Good evening from New York.

There are, justifiably, suspicions that we know about the visit of the gang of 11 to the White House because the visit was more about making those 11 Republican congressmen look good than actually doing anything about the war in Iraq. But at minimum, it does look like one of the bubble boy's bubbles has burst.

Our fifth story on the Countdown, as the House votes at this hour to approve the half-and-half funding bill, half now, half later, at least one of the messages from the group led by Pennsylvania Representative Charlie Dent appears to have gotten through, that the commander in chief no longer has any credibility on Iraq, and that any word about the war and/or its purported progress would need to come only from General David Petraeus.

No Petraeus today, not in person, but lots of Petraeus name dropping, as well as a Pentagon field trip, President Bush today dropping by the Potomac Puzzle Palace, perhaps hoping for some credibility by association, at least by location, repeatedly inserting General Petraeus's name into his remarks as the expert on positions he normally would have stated himself.

In all, President Bush cited the general's name some 15 times, more significantly, the president offering his first major concession in the debate over funding for the war, backing down from his demand that Congress eliminate any restrictions, apparently now warming the idea of benchmarks.


BUSH: One message I have heard from people from both parties, and, is that the idea of benchmarks makes sense, and I agree. It makes sense to have benchmarks as a part of our discussion on how to go forward. And so I've empowered Josh Bolten to find common ground on benchmarks, and he will continue to have dialogue with both Republicans and Democrats.


OLBERMANN: Congress itself uncertain on how to proceed, in the House, lawmakers today voting on a liberal measure doomed from failure - or for failure virtually from the start that would have required troops to start coming home in just 90 days. The second, more moderate measure would offer the half now, half later idea, some funding now, some more later, if Iraq delivers on benchmarks, the bill having just reached the minimum number of votes required for passage in the House, but expected to be DOA in the Senate.

Let's turn now to our own Howard Fineman, senior Washington correspondent for "Newsweek" magazine.

Howard, good evening.


Hi, Keith.

OLBERMANN: How significant is it that President Bush finally appears to be willing to negotiate on that one word, "benchmarks"?

FINEMAN: Keith, this is like watching a gigantic supertanker begin to turn around inch by inch by inch.

This is a tactical concession on the president's part, but it's an important one. I think his goal remains the same, which is to keep his policy in place as long as possible, with a maximum amount of troops necessary or possible, to try and reach some kind of civil peace in Iraq.

But he's conceded the obvious here, and I think it was carefully choreographed. I think it's no accident that Dick Cheney was over in Iraq talking tough to Maliki's government, while at the same time, these House Republicans were there speaking frankly to him. And his top aide, Josh Bolten, the chief of staff, I'm told, met yesterday with Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader in the Senate, and Harry Reid, the Democratic leader, and it was there yesterday, the day before the president's press conference today, that Bolten told those Senate leaders that it was time to start talking about benchmarks.

So I think this has been planned. I think it's a concession to the obvious, but only the first of many cards the president thinks he has to play here to keep things on his own timetable.

OLBERMANN: Do we have a clear idea yet about the gang of 11 and Tuesday? Was that political grandstanding for them, and for a president who can now say, I'm listenin', or were they sincere, at least about the message that they conveyed, more or less quoting them, We're facing political disaster in 2008?

FINEMAN: Yes, well, it was sincere grandstanding.


FINEMAN: Because they are in trouble politically, and they know it, and they don't mind if the whole world knows that they told George Bush that. That's all part of the theater of this.

Keep in mind hat the situation on the ground is that the president is still putting more troops in there. The surge has not reached its crest yet. I would predict that right around the moment the surge reaches its crest, which is this summer, you're going to see more and more serious negotiations about, first, benchmarks, then timetables, et cetera, as the president plays this out.

His end is still the same, which is to end up his administration with plenty of American troops still in Iraq.

OLBERMANN: On that point, though, if Mr. - General Petraeus suggested there were two clocks ticking, and the president agreed with that and quoted him 15 times, maybe Petraeus was underestimating. it might be three, because in the Iraqi parliament, a majority of lawmakers today endorsed the draft of a bill that would call for the timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. troops. Now, what does the White House do if they have to deal with Iraqi politicians arguing for that?

FINEMAN: Well, that's a good question. That was a petition that was signed by a majority of the members of the Iraqi parliament, as you said. It's not official government policy yet. The president has basically said earlier in this whole drama, going back a year or two, that if the Iraqis told us to leave, we'd leave. He may regret having said that. But that's not an official policy, by any means, of the Iraqi government.

And look, I think that the Republicans know, and they told the president, that he's got to be on the downward slide here. In other words, the number of troops needs to be dwindling not long after the surge reaches its crest in the fall. If the number of troops isn't going down, if it isn't going down significantly, then the Republicans have no chance in the elections in the fall of 2008, and I think that's what they're playing for, what they're hoping for, and what Bush is hoping to accomplish.

OLBERMANN: So the talk of September is still valid, or is that now an outside date? Would we see more action before then from scared Republicans?

FINEMAN: Well, you're going to see some from scared Republicans and from angry Democrats. I mean, part of the White House strategy here - the White House wants the money, they need the money for the troops. They've been told by Mitch McConnell and other Republicans on the Hill that the Democrats want a deal too, because the Democrats want to get the spending issue behind them, so they're not constantly hung with the notion that, you know, they're holding up money for the troops, and then they can talk about Iraq all they want.

That's what the White House has been told. I think we've got a lot more urgency this summer than the White House is still prepared for.

OLBERMANN: Howard Fineman of MSNBC and "Newsweek." As always, Howard, great thanks.

FINEMAN: Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN: White House press secretary Tony Snow, who sat in on that meeting among Mr. Bush, Secretary Rice, Secretary Gates, Karl Rove, and House Republican moderates, saying it should not be overdramatized nor seen as another marching up to Nixon, trying to wave off reporters from giving it even the status of watershed.

For more on its possible significance, a man who has seen that, at least nearly at first hand, former Nixon White House counsel John Dean, author, of course, of "Worse Than Watergate" and "Conservatives Without Conscience."

John, good evening.


OLBERMANN: When even Alberto Gonzales is not going to leave, it's not as if we're discuss George W. Bush's departure tonight. But which interpretation of that meeting do you think lies closest to the truth? That it was grandstanding, or it was the proverbial watershed moment, come to Jesus, this is a - this warning is for your benefit, Mr. President?

DEAN: I think it was a symbolic moment, Keith. I think that there was no question that the meeting was arranged to help these moderate Republicans deal with their constituents. They can go back home and say, Listen, we tried to tell the president what to do, we tried to give him our advice and counsel, and if he doesn't follow it, we've done everything in our power to do. So there's that side of it.

There's also the side - that it - this isn't really a rope-a-dope. He knew exactly what was going to go on before it happened. And he - for him, it was a stroking session, where he was really just trying to keep these people in line a little bit longer so he doesn't get confronted with a team that's capable of overriding a veto.

OLBERMANN: So do you have a sense that there was - that the analogy of the bubble bursting and cold and bracing fresh air running into that room, or is that just a fiction construction that we're putting on top of it out of wishful thinking?

DEAN: I doubt if much fresh air really came in. I think the president - it's been seeping in for some time as he's watched his poll numbers absolutely seep out the bottom. And he knows he has to do something to even have any capability whatsoever to govern. These are the sorts of meetings where he can at least stay the course, and that's what he's trying to do. He's bargaining for all the time he can get.

OLBERMANN: From your own experience in that building, how do you keep that bubble intact when there is so much pressure from outside the White House to face reality?

DEAN: Well, it clearly differs with different presidents. I don't -

I'm not old enough to go back to Woodrow Wilson to know how he insulated himself when he was trying to sell the League of Nations. I am old enough to have watched Lyndon Johnson, in a very similar play, escalate Vietnam, where he just didn't seem to ever want to hear - or let reality come into the White House, and kept marching to the wrong drummer until he realized that he could never get himself reelected.

These are personalities. Nixon, of course, did the same. He pushed his bogus defense of Watergate until it finally crumbled on him.

So I think we have a personality type, and these are very consistent, that Bush is going to push it as far as he can, Keith.

OLBERMANN: Boy, Woodrow Wilson and the League of Nations is probably the perfect historical analogy, John, I have to compliment you again on that. But - and I didn't see it either.

But the White - this White House continually asks for more time. We've heard the, Oh, in a few months we're going to review everything all over again, it will take this much time, give us this much time. How much time, realistically, does the White House have left without a major course correction, without what Howard Fineman just described as turning the tanker around?

DEAN: Well, as I listen to your question, a couple things flash in my head. There's one - the various scenarios that have probably been laid out for the president, and one of them, of course, is the miracle scenario, where you wait for the miracle. The other is the intervening event scenario that can change the entire dimensions. Let's say there is another terrorist attack in the United States. Obviously that would buy him a lot of time. It would change the entire dynamics and it would be a very different situation.

I think he's clearly trying to push this, Keith, into somebody else's presidency, or, if the (INAUDIBLE), in worst case, have a Democratic Congress force him to end the war, and then he can say, Well, I did what I did, and I'm sorry the Democrats didn't see it this way and decided to surrender.

OLBERMANN: As to one last possible outside event or changed event in the near future, is there the prospect, after this meeting of the gang of 11 in there with - on Tuesday that other Republicans who are seeing their incumbencies threatened in 2008 or even beyond may be less malleable, may be less lined up behind the president, than even on they are now? Are they forcing him immediately into, conceivably forcing him immediately into lame-duck, lame-duck status?

DEAN: Well, he clearly is in lame-duck status. He is trying to his best to do something as a lame duck. But he has so little going for him, Keith. He has no real domestic programs that he's trying to get through the Congress. There's nobody who can dessert him on that. The big issue, and the last major issue, is what happens on Iraq, and he's losing ground constantly.

OLBERMANN: John Dean, the author of "Worse Than Watergate," "Conservatives Without Conscience," and soon, the analogous - the book that analogizes Woodrow Wilson and George Bush, I'm sure. Great thanks, sir. Our pleasure, as always.

DEAN: Good night.

OLBERMANN: General John Batiste loses his CBS job after appearing in an advertisement critical of the president. Countdown exclusive tonight, the general's first interview since the ad controversy.

And Alberto Gonzales returns to Capitol Hill. Doesn't bring many answers with him. Meantime, senior officials in Washington say the attorney general is deliberately avoiding telling the truth. Details on that.

You are watching Countdown on MSNBC.


OLBERMANN: In the military, it is a given, an active general who disobeys or publicly criticizes the commander in chief pays a price, an indecisive McClellan removed by Lincoln, an unraveling MacArthur fired by Truman. But the generals are not always wrong, and the badly bungled war in Iraq may be setting a new standard for career military officers willing to criticize the competence of the president, even if it means their early retirement.

Our fourth story on the Countdown, retired general John Batiste the latest example, one of two generals who actually commanded troops in Iraq, one of three generals in total now appearing in a series of scathing ads sponsored by a veteran's group alarmed at the effect the president's decisions are having on the military they love.


BATISTE: Mr. President, you did not listen. You continue to pursue a failed strategy that is breaking our great Army and Marine Corps.

I left the Army in protest in order to speak out. Mr. President, you have placed our nation in peril. Our only hope is that Congress will act now to protect our fighting men and women.


OLBERMANN: General Batiste says he resigned because he couldn't stand what former secretary of defense Rumsfeld was doing to the military, and he is still paying the price. The general, who describes himself as a diehard Republican, has been asked to leave his position as a consultant to CBS News because of that ad.

That means he is free to join us tonight for an exclusive interview.

And we're honored to have you with us, General. Thank you for your time.

BATISTE: Thanks, Keith. Good to be with you.

OLBERMANN: From Eric Shinseki, the four-star general who was criticized by, of all people, Paul Wolfowitz when he said at the start that the war would require several hundred thousand troops, do these ads that you and General Eaton and General Clark have done for, there seemingly has never been this much public friction between the military and the civilian leaders. What moved you to make these ads and moved you to make them now?

BATISTE: Keith, it really is quite extraordinary. I was moved to make this ad working with VoteVets because I care about our country, and I care about our soldiers and Marines and their families.

I'm a patriot, as are the rest of us in VoteVets. VoteVets is not an antiwar organization. We're focused on what's best for this country. We're focused on being successful and winning the effort against global terrorism. And we're damn sure focused on doing what's right for our great military, which, by the way, is doing incredible work in Iraq and Afghanistan. God bless them all.

OLBERMANN: In a piece for called "America's Angriest General," Mike Hirsch from "Newsweek" says that you wish more generals would speak out. But last year you had said at the end of the day, you either salute and execute, or you make a decision to retire or resign, that's the way it is. Is this what you're trying to change? What are you hearing from the colleagues of yours who are still in uniform?

BATISTE: Keith, I'm in a very unique position. I have a platform upon which I can speak. I'm no longer wearing the uniform of our country. I have no ties to the defense industry. I can speak honestly. I have a duty to do so.

And I know there's other generals, both active duty and retired, that are doing all they can within their means. In my case, I'll continue to speak out.

OLBERMANN: You have said that it could take eight to 10 months to withdraw from Iraq in an orderly way once the president even agrees to that. This evening, the House rejected the plan to withdraw beginning in nine months. The military under such great stress. Is there a point at which any deadline, any time structure for this will be too late?

BATISTE: Keith, this is less about deadlines and timelines than it is about coming to grips with the fact that we went to war with a fatally flawed strategy, flawed then in March of 2003, flawed today over four years later. This is all about a president who's relying almost solely on the military component of strategy to accomplish the mission in Iraq.

Sadly, we're missing the diplomatic, the political, and the economic components that are fundamental and required to be successful. We have an interagency process that has been dysfunctional during this administration. There's no unity of effort between the agencies.

It - the bottom line is, we have a failed strategy now, and our president has not mobilized this great nation to accomplish the critical work to defeat global terrorism. And until we get these two things right, we're wasting our time.

OLBERMANN: General, are you encouraged, are you disinterested in, are you interested in what happened Tuesday at the White House between these 11 moderate Republicans and the president, and this discussion of the political implications of this? Do you see this as some sort of watershed moment?

BATISTE: Keith, I think so. Four of the 11 congressman were members that the VoteVet ad is targeting. I think that speaks volumes.

OLBERMANN: And lastly, sir, the benchmarks, the references continually made by those who went into the White House, that the words about this war have to now come from General Petraeus, that he is the one with the credibility, and the president is not the one with that, give us an honest assessment of his ability to give us an honest assessment of progress there.

BATISTE: General David Petraeus is the best we've got. If anybody can pull this off militarily, he can. We have the best military this nation has ever fielded. But the president's strategy relies almost wholly on the military, and ignores the important components of diplomatic, political, and economic hard work.

If we don't get this right, we're going to break our Army and Marine Corps. And at this point in our history, that's the last thing we can do.

OLBERMANN: Well said, sir. General John Batiste. Great thanks for your time tonight, and, of course, great thanks for your service.

BATISTE: Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN: Mickey Mouse used to help sell World War II, but now Hamas is using a similar character to try to sell kids on hating Israel and America. And a video (INAUDIBLE) the more shocking even than Middle East Mickey. What parent would be stupid enough to allow this?

That and more, ahead on Countdown.


OLBERMANN: Celebrity is a curious thing. A year ago today, on the occasion of her 43rd birthday, we would never have dreamed of starting Oddball with a notation of it. Today, on her 44th birthday, it is almost disturbingly fitting to salute former astronaut and dependable driver Lisa Nowak.

Let's play Oddball.

We begin on the Internets, with perhaps the dumbest and most dangerous thing we've ever seen. Move over, Britney, now there's somebody stupider. This appears to be from Europe. The video was posted without details as to the origin or the name of the driver. We assume the kid came out unscathed. It would have been strange for the parents to upload this video if something terrible had happened. The two important lessons here, please, never, ever do this. And also, if you need to be told that, it is time to give up your children now.

OK, if you thought that guy was the daddy of the year, you've obviously never watched "Nanny 911" on Fox, but it's not just the participants of that show who can be idiots. Some of the viewers evidently qualify as well. This week, the police department of Dodge County, Wisconsin, gives us perhaps the dumbest 911 call in recorded history, a woman who apparently thought "Nanny 911" was a commercial.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (on phone): Nine-one-one. What's the address of your emergency?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (on phone): (bleep) Shaw Hill Road?



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What's going on there?



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, this is a nanny 911. I need a babysitter and some friends, and - yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK, ma'am, I'm not understanding what you need.

What's going on?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I just need a babysitter.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK, 911 does not provide a babysitter, ma'am.



OLBERMANN: The call was not made by a member of the attorney general's staff. Testifying to Congress today, was he dumb, or just playing dumb?

And the politics of fear, "Family Guy" style, the voice of Lois and the writer of this week's remarkable episode joins us for a sneak peek, including a terrible cameo by, well, me.

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

Number three, John Paul May of Harrisville, Pennsylvania. The 10-year-old boy has a new heart after a transplant Saturday that almost did not happen. John's match and his turn came up, and they could not find him or his parents. So police asked their cell phone provider to figure out the coordinates of where his mother's phone was. They used it like a GPS system. They were at a jazz concert. They had the phone off. Officials interrupted the concert to tell John his new heart was waiting. The others in the crowd gave him a standing ovation as he and his mother left. Goodness.

Number two, Ricky Henderson. For 25 years a big league ball player, now a fan, trying to make comeback at age 48. What better way to do that than catch a foul ball, which is what Henderson did at a San Francisco Giants game, says he's always wanted to do that.

And number one, the love bug two, a marital aid, a remote controlled marital aid, manufactured by the Anne Summers company in England. It carries a warning, not for use in Cypress. Why? The remote control device apparently uses the same radio frequency as Cypress military. Was it good for you? Yes, but I think we blew up part of downtown Nicosia.


OLBERMANN: Attorney General Alberto Gonzales game to the House Judiciary Committee today with literally the same script he used for his Senate appearance last month. In our third story tonight, despite a flurry of new developments, including one bombshell landing while he was testifying, Mr. Gonzales re-hashed last month's widely criticized performance, sometimes word for word.


ALBERTO GONZALES, ATTORNEY GENERAL: I have provided the committee with a rather lengthy written statement detailing some of the department's work under my leadership to protect our nation, our children and our civil rights. In recent weeks, I have met with or spoken with all of our U.S. attorneys to hear their concerns. These discussions have been open and frank.

These discussions have been open and, quite frankly, very frank. Recognizing my limited involvement in the process, a mistake I freely acknowledge - a mistake that I freely acknowledge, I have soberly questioned my prior decisions.

I think we agree on what would be improper. I think we also agree on what would be improper. It would be improper to remove a U.S. attorney to interfere with or influence a particular prosecution for partisan political gain. I did not do that. I did not do that. I would never do that. I would never do that.


OLBERMANN: In a happier time, it would have looked like a shampoo ad. No mention of today's report in the "National Journal" that the Bush administration is sitting on secret emails between the White House and Department of Justice, emails which show that White House staffers, including Karl Rove's assistant, knew beforehand that information the DOJ gave Congress early this year was not true, information such as the plan to use the Patriot Act to appoint U.S. attorneys without Senate confirmation and the fact, only revealed later, that Mr. Rove was involved in getting at least one of those U.S. attorney hired.

The report also quoting unnamed senior administration officials as saying Gonzales has seen those secret emails, and even today, he is not telling the Congress the truth, a suspicion members of the House appear to have shared.


REP. ROBERT WEXLER (D), FLORIDA: Did the president select Mr.

Iglesias to be put on the termination list?

No, the president did not select them?

Did the vice president select to put Mr. Iglesias on the termination list?


WEXLER: No, OK. So, the president didn't; the vice president didn't. You, the attorney general, didn't. All of the assistant and former deputy attorney generals didn't put Mr. Iglesias on the termination list. So who did?

You won't tell the American people who put Mr. Iglesias on the list to be fired. It's a national secret, isn't it?

GONZALES: Congressman, if I knew the answer to that question, I would provide you the answer.


OLBERMANN: If you assume that the nation's top law man, expert, one would think, in evidentiary rules and standards of proof, would have a solid basis for any factual claim under oath, pay close attention.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You said you don't know who put Mr. Iglesias on the list. Is that correct?

GONZALES: That is correct.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But you said you knew the president and the vice president didn't. How do you know they didn't?

GONZALES: Well, I just - I know that they would not do that.


OLBERMANN: Why not? Unless there was something wrong with that answer.

Let's turn to MSNBC political analyst Craig Crawford, also a columnist, of course, for "Congressional Quarterly," and author, most recently, of "The Politics of Life." Craig, good evening.

CRAIG CRAWFORD, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Hello. I think you could put his face on that baby in Oddball, strapped to the steering wheel. He had just about as much control over at the Justice Department as that.

OLBERMANN: Or maybe it was just another videotape that we found on the Internet, his entire performance today. He responded to a report in the "Washington Post" during his testimony today that it's actually nine U.S. attorneys who were let go last year. Number nine, Todd Graves, telling that newspaper he was told he had to go to give another person a chance.

Mr. Gonzales actually said today that handing out those positions to people who needed to pad their resumes would not be improper. What would be improper?

CRAWFORD: His position - he said that he wouldn't do it, but he thought it was proper. It reminded me of Rudy Giuliani on abortion, I personally hate it, but it's OK. This whole idea of, you know, everything was mishandled but it was proper. They seem to be taking the position that it was proper mishandling. This is a new language of stone walling here.

But they are getting away with it, Keith.

OLBERMANN: Although the House followed the Senate's lead in questioning him and his ability, it pushed further this notion that the White House, specifically Karl Rove, put names on that to be fired list. Where does the whole thing go now?

CRAWFORD: That's a tough part, I think, for Democrats. The evidence they would need, if it exists, to force Gonzales out is just not going to be forthcoming, because they need the testimony and some other things from the White House, and the White House is not putting forward for, you know, transcripted, sworn in testimony by the White House officials.

So they just can't get the goods, if there are any, to go much further. I would say Democrats have achieved pretty much though, in one respect, Keith. This has always been about using the U.S. attorney's office in the elections on corruption investigations and other ways to influence the voters thinking about the various parties in the elections. And more than likely, this administration will now be hamstrung, if it were even attempted to go there with Gonzales still there.

OLBERMANN: In the interim, what impact will the testimony have, not on the Democrats, not on the 2008 campaign, but on Republicans?

CRAWFORD: Well, Republicans, I think, many of them have made a choice, Keith, to sacrifice him, to give his scalp to the Democrats just makes the story that much worse. Bad as it is, it could get even worst, not only because it would look like something wrong - there was wrong doing, and bring the story to the attention of many more Americans, who aren't paying as much attention now. That's one affect of giving him his scalp.

And I think the other is, you know, Republicans realize that at some point, when they run for reelection, this president is not going to be on the ballot. But the more they beat him up and tear down his administration, the worse they are going to be. So I think they have made a calculated decision here, politically, on this particular story that they are going to back the White House.

OLBERMANN: The columnist for the "Congressional Quarterly," our own Craig Crawford. Great thanks, Craig, as always, for being with us.

CRAWFORD: Good to be here.

OLBERMANN: He was featured in several films for this country in the second world war, but now Mickey Mouse has been co-opted as a salesman for Hamas.

First she gets a kiss. Now she gets the kiss off. One Idol down; and then there were three, ahead on Countdown.


OLBERMANN: The premise is simple and sinister, a children's television show using a Mickey Mouse rip off to spout violence against Israel. In our number two story on the Countdown, the program, broadcast in Gaza from a Hamas run television network. The dispute over whether and how to stop it reflects deep divisions within the Palestinian territories about how to deal with Israel. And Disney hasn't even been heard from. Our correspondent is Martin Fletcher.


MARTIN FLETCHER, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's not what the Mickey Mouse Club had in mind, a Palestinian rip-off called Farfur, with a message to little children.

"Oh Jerusalem, it is the time of death. We will never surrender to the enemies."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These are very, very problematic messages.

FLETCHER: The programs is run at least twice a week on Hamas TV. A lot of it is innocent fun. And a lot of it is isn't.

ITAMAR MARCUS, PALESTINIAN MEDIA WATCH: We would like to hear Mickey Mouse teaching these kids coexistence. We would like to hear him telling them that they have a neighbor that they can live with.

FLETCHER: Israelis aren't the only ones worried. This morning, the Palestinian minister of information said he had ordered the Mickey Mouse rip off off the air.

MUSTAFA BARGHOUTI, PALESTINIAN INFORMATION MINISTER: It's a primitive show and it's wrong. And we have contacted them, and we asked them to revise it and they agreed.

FLETCHER: But Hamas TV told NBC News they had received no such order, and Mickey's message to Palestinian children continues.

Martin Fletcher, NBC News, Jerusalem.


OLBERMANN: In a telecast more likely to produce slumber than outrage, "American Idol," that is the segue into our nightly round up of celebrity and entertainment news, Keeping Tabs. Another contestant got the boot last night. That would be Lakisha Jones. She's the ninth of the top 12 to peal away. Also, the only one among them who has ever kissed Simon Cowell. Well, they will always have that.

That leaves three contestants standing, the former backup singer, the 17-year-old, and the beat boxer. All of them making Paula Abdul clap like a seal.

And I don't remember the last time there was a stock car racing story in Keeping Tabs, but here it is and it's a doozy. Dale Earnhardt Jr. is leaving his own family's racing team after failing to gain control of the company from his step mother. NASCAR's most popular driver announced the move at a news conference, saying, quote, there are some things you can't get with money, peace of mind and satisfaction in what you do every day.

Earnhardt Jr. had wanted 51 percent ownership of Dale Earnhardt Inc, founded by his later father. But Earnhardt's sister Kelly said that negotiations to renew his contract by the end of the month, quote, never even got close. Earnhardt will now seek a new team for next season, even as the company bearing his name and his father's will continue to race without him.

Speaking of guys and families, the upcoming episode of Seth McFarlane's genius comedy "Family Guy" features if not a familiar face, at least a familiar voice. Your hint; you are listening to it right now. The author of the episode, and star, of course, Alex Borstein joins us next. That's ahead.

First time for Countdown's latest list of nominees for Worst Person in the World. The bronze, the producers of the "News Hour With Jim Lehrer." Trying to balance a discussion of the soldier's view of Iraq, had our friend Jon Soltz from on, and as his balance anti-American San Francisco radio talker Melanie Morgan, the one who said George Soros helped the Nazis to promote his own career. This would be the first time the word balance has ever been associated with Melanie Morgan.

Our runners up tonight, the chemical warfare department, which left at least 132 vials full of toxic agents in the Salt Plains National Wildlife Refuge in Oklahoma, specifically in the area where tourists are told to go and search for crystals. A boy scout found one of the vials last week and had to be treated for exposure to an unknown yellowish liquid inside.

But the winner, Bill-O. With the presidential victory of the conservative Nicolas Sarkozy in France, Bill has now called off his famous boycott of France. You know, the one that the all mighty gazoo of Fox Noise claimed crippled the French economy. "They lost billions of dollars in France," according to the "Paris Business Review."

A, it turns out Americans bought more goods during Bill-O's fantasy of world domination boycott, not less. And B, there is no publication called the "Paris Business Review." Bill O'Reilly, in any language, today's Worst Person in the World.


OLBERMANN: If you have ever looked at actors at work and said, boy, that sure looks easy, think again. I once played a sports castor in a movie and I was so unconvincing that there were people on the set who would not believe that I actually was a sports castor. Our number one story, even when the actor is just trying to provide the voice for an animated show, it is way harder than it looks, unless you are working with real pros, like the folks at "Family Guy."

Sunday, Sunday, Sunday, a landmark television event, my debut as a cartoon. Unless you count this program. I will be on "Family Guy." As a huge fan of the brilliant animated comedy, I was thrilled last August to get a coveted invitation to record a guest voice. Seth McFarlane, the show's creator and producer, clearly found my presence hilarious, or perhaps it was my salary demands.

And now the rest of you can too this Sunday night when the episode premiers. Here is just a taste of what is to come.


OLBERMANN: Hi, Bob Grossbeard of Cohog Oil. I would like to buy you that coat.


OLBERMANN: All I ask in return is that you let my company do just a little bit of dumping in your lake.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This guy don't sit right with me, Lois. He don't sit right with me.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But I just cleaned up Cohog lake.

OLBERMANN: Do you want the coat or not?


OLBERMANN: Even if you think that part with me in it stunk, watch the episode anyway. It is brilliant, taking on the same politics of fear we have done far less artistically here. It centers on Lois Griffin, who, thanks to some advice from Brian, the dog, learns how to woo the public in her run for mayor of Cohog.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mrs. Griffin, what do you plan to do about crime in our city?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A lot. Because that is what Jesus wants. 9/11 was bad.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I agree with that.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I can't believe how easy this is.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mrs. Griffin, what are your plans for cleaning up our environment?



OLBERMANN: I'm joined now by Lois herself, comedian Alex Borstein, who not only wrote that upcoming episode, but also co-wrote the same titled book, "Family Guy, It Takes a Village Idiot, and I Married One." Alex, its a pleasure to talk with you.

ALEX BORSTEIN, "FAMILY GUY": A pleasure to be talked at.

OLBERMANN: As we saw in the clip, you, as Lois, wind up running for mayor and dumming it down, and constantly repeating the words 9/11. Can you give away something of the plot? Did it work in cartoon life.

BORSTEIN: That is all it takes. I will tell you, yes, it worked.

Lois rises to the top and becomes mayor of Cohog.

OLBERMANN: I have to give this away. The best part is when she simply cuts back to just screaming nine and that work works too.

BORSTEIN: It is kind of scary how close to reality it is though.

Isn't it?

OLBERMANN: Indeed, and obviously, since these there is so much lead time to preparing these shows, my first part of it was recorded last May and yet it is as topical right now as it was then.

BORSTEIN: Yes, we're really careful takes about nine months to make. It's like birthing a child, but you don't get as stretched out and there's not a lot of fluid, which is nice. But it takes a long time, so we have to be conscious about that. Is this still going to hold up? Is this still going to be funny six months from now.

We do have an opportunity along the way to rewrite and change things when we get certain screenings back. The animation is a slow process. We do get rewrites. But for the most part, we like to be really careful about what we are going to do and if it's going to hold up.

OLBERMANN: Yes, so unfortunately for the country, but fortunately for you this still works.

BORSTEIN: It will always work.

OLBERMANN: Can we get some advice in Lois' voice for the current crop of the political hopefuls? I mean, 9/11 obviously worked for her. Will it work for say Rudy Giuliani?

BORSTEIN: Well, I don't know so much advice, but I know personally what would be fun about having Mr. Giuliani in the White House is all that plastic cover on the furniture. I hear the Italian do that. It would be great.

OLBERMANN: And Lois' advice for Senator McCain?

BORSTEIN: Well, I just really think that if you want to stand a chance, you need a suit from this decade. You need a suit or a tie that doesn't scream 1986.

OLBERMANN: Moving to the other side of the political equation, insights tonight from Lois for Senator Barack Obama of Illinois?

BORSTEIN: I would love to see him in the White House, personally. It's just that name. I would love to make love to that man. I would love to scream Barack Obama when I climax. Am I alone? Is that just me?

OLBERMANN: I'm not joining you on that, but I'm sure there are women in the audience who are. And as a successful woman, and having been now a successful politician, surely Lois Griffin has some advice for Hillary Clinton's campaign.

BORSTEIN: Well, I don't know so much advice. I would like to see her keep the hair lose. I would like to see her keep it a little looser around her face. I would like to see her maybe in more pants, less skirts. And I just think it would be fun if she really did it, because then we would have Bill as our first man, the first gentlemen, I believe they call it, in the White House. And he has put an Xbox in every room and have a lot of black leather and chrome furniture. You know how bachelors do.

OLBERMANN: Do you need, Alex - do you need any more Bob Grossbeard cameos or were you fed up with that idiot who played him.

BORSTEIN: You know, I think you did a very fine job. And I'm not just saying that floating here in the city behind me. I'm saying that. I think you really did a great job.

It is - who knows, we will always need a bad guy in Cohog.

OLBERMANN: How much do you think you can get away with, in terms of political content, that you would not be able to get away with were you and Seth and everyone else involved in this show somehow able to perform the roles of all these characters as living characters? How much does the animation buy you in terms of political knifing ability?

BORSTEIN: I think it buys us a lot, not just political, but also with celebrities and everyone that we take jabs at and every religion and every race and every creed. I think it buys a lot. There is something a little less offensive and people don't feel attacked when it's coming out of a tiny little animated character.

I think it kind of helps. I think it helps break down lines and break down barriers, in my opinion. So I think we get away with a little bit more.

OLBERMANN: As a remember reading the script a year ago, there was a Bill O'Reilly cameo, not played by Mr. O'Reilly. Did that make it into the final episode? Do you know?

BORSTEIN: I don't know. I actually have not seen the final screening. So on Sunday it is going to be a big surprise for me.

OLBERMANN: As it was for me too, just to see my own little work there. That was the first time I had seen any of it and I'm quite thrilled by it, as you can tell. It was spectacular. It is an extraordinary group you have there too. Is it not?

BORSTEIN: It is. You made a fine, fine creepy jerk. So god bless you for that.

OLBERMANN: Seth McFarlane directed me on that personally. Coaxed that voice out of me and said, go for something like one of those crazy early Bond villains. So that's the best I could do.

BORSTEIN: He knows. He knows creepy.

OLBERMANN: Alex Borstein, Lois from "Family Guy," who wrote this Sunday's episode. Absolutely terrific political satire, despite my presence therein. And if you are in the New York area, Alex is appearing at the club Comics tomorrow and Saturday and Sunday. That's a great club as well. Great thanks, Alex.

BORSTEIN: Thank you. Thanks for being on "Family Guy."

OLBERMANN: A pleasure. That's Countdown for this the 1,471st day since the declaration of mission accomplished in Iraq. From New York, I'm Keith Olbermann, good night and good luck.