Friday, July 13, 2007

'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for July 13

Guests: Michael Musto

KEITH OLBERMANN, MSNBC HOST: Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow? First goes the credibility and then goes the support for the war he's still selling and now goes the cash. Senator McCain is reportedly bankrupt. No jokes, please, we're talking about his campaign and he's still talking about Iraq, not about Rudy Giuliani.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R) AZ: We must recognize that our enemies are in this fight to win. So we must be also.


OLBERMANN: And two of the three leading Democrats still don't recognize that a microphone might be open even when you don't expect it to be. Hillary Clinton and John Edwards discussing a more serious and smaller group for the next debate.

And the debate over intel about al Qaeda. Another leak about its attempts to get operatives here and obtain WMD, followed by in the small print about how it's failing at both. Were these leaks actually attempts to distract from the Chertoff gut-feeling faux pas.

More bad use of bad terminology. First President Bush said it .


GEORGE W. BUSH, U.S. PRESIDENT: The Scooter Libby decision was, I thought, a fair and balanced decision.


OLBERMANN: And now the State Department's Iraq coordinator has the same catch phrase in an interview with al-Jazeera. Product placement for Fox Noise or will we soon hear the vice president say, "Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?"

And how did Paris Hilton survive jail relatively unscathed. She didn't have to wear a recycled uniform, she got a brand-new uniform and that lineup to use the payphone? Uh-huh, she got to use a cell. Accusations of special treatment in the big house.

And speaking of accusations, as the most controversial figure in sports today comes within five homeruns of breaking the most vaunted record in sports today, how the Barry Bonds story is now touched by - Scooter Libby. All of that and more now on Countdown.

Good evening from New York. Breaking news tonight on the almost unbelievable premise that the president has invoked executive privilege in the investigation of the death of Pat Tillman by friendly fire in Afghanistan. Those details in a moment.

First, his run for the White House in freefall. John McCain has seemingly narrowed his goal to match that of the actual lame duck president, Mr. Bush. In our first story on the Countdown Mr. McCain now appears to be running against al Qaeda. Speculation rife that the Arizona Republican's visit to New Hampshire today might well be the last of his campaign, Senator McCain proving either unable or unwilling to move away from the issue that has cost him so much support, Iraq.

His speech devoted entirely conflict, including 15 references to al Qaeda, the man who likely will not be president and accusing Democrats of not understanding what is at stake and also of Neville Chamberlainesque isolationism.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R) AZ: Defeatism will not buy peace in our time, it will only lead to more bloodshed and more American casualties in the future. If we choose to lose in Iraq our enemies will hit us harder in Afghanistan, helping to erode our political will and will encourage calls in western capitals for withdrawal and accommodation with our enemy there as well.


OLBERMANN: Senator McCain making the same mistaken historical parallel that former Secretary Rumsfeld did 11 months ago. It was not Neville Chamberlain's willingness to appease Hitler that doomed his British government, it was his insistence that his government alone had all the answers and it's assessment of world politics could not possibly be mistaken in the least.

An exact historical match to the administration of President George W. Bush. The senator perhaps reasoning that being Mr. President's mini-me will be the closest to commander in chief he might get. His 2008 presidential bid all but broke at the end of a very bad week. The senator flying commercially to New Hampshire today and even carrying his own bag, the reason, the final $2 million out of about 25 in his campaign war chest reported to be tied up almost entirely in debt. Two more senior advisors having walked off the campaign and another aide busted in Florida for allegedly soliciting sex from an undercover cop.

Mr. McCain saying the responsibility for his campaign's troubles, at least his campaign troubles, rests entirely with him and saying it was not the amount of money that his campaign raised but the amount that it had spent. And time to turn on our own Dana Milbank, national political reporter for the "Washington Post." Dana, good evening.


OLBERMANN: We'll go with Senator McCain first. He told Andrea Mitchell, our correspondent, that he brought his son Jimmy along with him today to New Hampshire because the young Marine is going to be deploying to Iraq very, very soon and he wants him to see New Hampshire and a campaign event before he leaves.

Is that before the son leaves for Iraq or before the father leaves the campaign trail?

MILBANK: No. I don't think that this father is leaving the campaign trail at all. I think it was Mo Udall (ph) that the only thing that cures presidential ambitions is embalming fluid, and McCain himself has used that line a good bit.

But it's really tragic to see how fast and how dramatically he's fallen. And that telling number, a couple hundred thousand dollars in the bank, that's what you use to print bumper stickers to run for the school board. This is a candidate who ran before talking about Washington spending money like drunken sailors and now it turns out the drunken sailors are right onboard his ship.

OLBERMANN: But he can't afford the embalming fluid at this point. How bad, seriously, and can he stay in a campaign without any money? Is he going to go door-to-door, riding a bike or what?

MILBANK: Well, I remember the John McCain campaign of 1999 and it was just a couple of people riding in a car. Now, you can do that, of course, he built up this huge infrastructure and he's trying to run basically the sort of campaign that George W. Bush ran last time around, and success begets more success and failure begets more failure, unfortunately.

OLBERMANN: About what he was talking about today, perhaps the main argument of those who criticize the war in Iraq is our fight there has detracted from the actual fight against terrorism, and particularly the activity in Afghanistan and yet in that clip of that speech we ran earlier, Senator McCain was saying that withdrawing from Iraq would inevitably lead for calls to withdrawing from Afghanistan as well. This would be a new line of attack against Democrats and other war critics, but does it also suffer from being about 300 percent factually inaccurate and have any Democrats even hinted at withdrawal from Afghanistan?

MILBANK: Well, it does seem to be a bit of a detour from the straight talk express. I fished out the official John McCain T-shirt from the 2000 campaign and this was the slogan right now. And this has become a bit of an issue, I mean, John McCain is citing almost exactly word for word things like, "Iraq is the central front in the war on terror" and employing the al Qaeda frequency that President Bush does.

And, indeed, the message that the Democrats have had is to concentrate more forces in Afghanistan rather than fewer. And so it's - it's undermining John McCain's straight talk bona fides.

OLBERMANN: And if he changed his position on almost everything else which cost him the straight talk reputation, why did he stick this one note on Iraq, why is that the lone one that he maintained?

MILBANK: Well, it's really not the lone one. I think that actually immigration cost him a great deal more. In terms of lost fundraising, and in terms of lost support in these Republican primaries, but I think overall he just made a miscalculation that the way to win in 2008 is to tie himself as closely as possible to President Bush and by the time everybody realized how much the Bush presidency had sunk and even among the base Republican supporters it was too late for him to change.

OLBERMANN: Lastly, I mentioned this at the start of the hour, this extraordinary story tonight that the White House is apparently invoking a claim of executive privilege in the Pat Tillman investigation. This was a request from the House Oversight Committee seeking any White House documents related to the corporal's death and somehow this ties into executive privilege.

Can you talk us through this, do you have any idea what they're talking about this time?

MILBANK: Well it, seems to me that what is happening is a run out the clock theory here, since we're talking about Tillman. But the White House is in a variety of areas is now saying, look, if we can tie this up in congressional proceedings, possibly court proceedings, by the time this is resolved he'll belong out of office and so perhaps this is the new counsel, Fred Fielding's strategy and as a legal matter it's quite effective because this can indeed bottle up proceedings for months, if not all 18 months.

OLBERMANN: So where does this end? When we asked Tony Snow at a press briefing how does he feel, is he going to say, well, I've had a conversation with the president about that and therefore it's - executive privilege that applies?

MILBANK: I'm afraid, Keith, I've asked the president some questions in the past and so I'm going to have to evoke executive privilege as well.

OLBERMANN: Well done. Dana Milbank, national political reporter and resident wit of the "Washington Post," great thanks and have a great weekend.

MILBANK: Thank you sir.

OLBERMANN: And moving on to the Democrats, an embarrassing open mike night for two of them, first in the race for 2008 a couple of campaigners in Keane, New Hampshire who may look familiar. Former President Clinton introducing candidate Clinton after a two-hour delay so the senator could cast a vote to double the bounty on the head of Osama bin Laden, and Bill Clinton telling the crowd that electing her will restore America's standing in the world virtually overnight.

In a stark departure from the Republicans, Senators Clinton, Edwards and Obama agreeing to debate gay issues next month. Among those planning to ask the candidates about their stands on gay marriage and don't ask and don't tell, singer and gay activist Melissa Etheridge.

As to the open mike incident, that happened at the end of yesterday's NAACP event. Curiously, Fox Noise somehow leaving Edwards' and Clinton's microphones open after the event was over.

Senator Edwards and Senator Clinton only barely audible but according to the Associated Press they were complaining about the race being trivialized because of too many Democratic candidates. Edwards quoted as saying, "We should try to have a more serious and smaller group." Clinton in response, "We've got to cut the number. They're not serious."

In New Hampshire Senator Clinton said that Edwards just wanted to talk about ideas and the Edwards campaign saying he does not want to exclude anyone but wants smaller groups chosen at random for the debates.

An angry Dennis Kucinich campaign calling Edwards and Clinton imperial candidates who want to dictate who voters hear. Now you're just assuming they want to throw you out. They might mean Senator Obama.

And for analysis let's turn to "Congressional Quarterly" columnist Craig Crawford whose latest book is "The Politics of Life, 25 Rules for Survival in a Brutal and Manipulative World" by Craig Crawford.

Welcome Craig, and please remember, your microphone is now open.

CRAIG CRAWFORD, "CONGRESSIONAL QUARTERLY": Always. Twenty-four seven, ever since the PATRIOT Act I assume I'm .

OLBERMANN: Well played. How damaging, presuming that it's damaging, how damaging is this for either Edwards or Clinton?

CRAWFORD: I don't think that it's that damaging at all, Keith. I think they have every right to talk about this, there is a problem with these debates not focusing enough on - you know, fewer candidates. I like the random idea of smaller groups but it did look like they were playing the elitists.

What I took from it was they looked like a pretty interesting team to me and I could see a Clinton Edwards ticket after watching that on YouTube.

OLBERMANN: Do you think that the Edwards point that there were so many candidates in the debates thus far that nobody really gets enough time to cover enough issues, is that a valid point, do you think, in terms of the entire process and not just as it pertains to those two candidates?

CRAWFORD: The last couple of debates, Keith, I went back and fast-forwarded and just listened to the top three candidates one by one and counted and I think that they each spoke about four or five times in a 90-minute debate and that's getting a little ridiculous. And I actually have to wonder if Senator Clinton might like the way it is, and might not actually have been that genuine in what she was saying with Senator Edwards because if you're the frontrunner you're better off really if you only talk four or five times, less opportunity to get yourself in trouble.

OLBERMANN: The Clintons campaigning with each other in New Hampshire today, he's obviously still this huge draw, this rock star with Democratic voters, how is that balancing of the value of that to her campaign and the distraction to her campaign, how is that going?

CRAWFORD: I don't see a lot of downside so far. I mean, after all they're campaigning among Democratic grassroots activists and party loyalists and the crowd that is the most adoring of Bill Clinton. We might see les of this in a general election if she were the nominee to avoid some of that fallout with those who hate the Clintons so much, but I think that as a primary campaign strategy for Democratic votes, Bill Clinton is hard to beat.

OLBERMANN: I have to ask you, and there's lots to talk about still with the campaign, but we're going to go into this in full detail on Monday, I think, but I have got to ask you while you're here about this Pat Tillman executive privilege story.

From a process angle here, if you're Senator Waxman - or Congressman Waxman and you're going to let it out that the White House has actually invoked executive privilege about documents relating to the death of Pat Tillman, this archetypical hero of the action in Afghanistan, why if your Congressman Waxman would you do this on a Friday afternoon when almost nobody is paying attention, why not hold it till Monday?

CRAWFORD: I agree, and I think that some Dems are not all that savvy about playing the media game, but this executive privilege stuff, when you get to the signing statements and everything else that's happened, Keith, I mean, Congress has got to take the long view about the relative powers of the two branches of government and begin to deal with and push back on this administration and the imperial attitude they have about presidential power and the more this stuff goes unanswered, the more it becomes a matter of precedence for history for administrations along to come, Democrat or Republican.

Whenever these folks get in the White House they suddenly become very protective of whatever party they're in and those who set precedent like this president has create a real danger for Congress down the road that we see now with congress trying to get its handle on the war.

OLBERMANN: Indeed, Craig Crawford of MSNBC and of course "Congressional Quarterly." Craig, many thanks, have a great weekend.

CRAWFORD: You too.

OLBERMANN: The latest leaked counterterrorism report warns al Qaeda wants to send operatives, a cell to the U.S. Down in the fine print it mentions al Qaeda's ability to attack in the U.S. is lower than ever. And as he starts the home stretch toward the homerun that will break Hank Aaron's record of 755 down to the fine print of the Barry Bond's saga is improbably enough, the name Scooter Libby.

You're watching Countdown on MSNBC.


OLBERMANN: First the argument ran that the September 11 attacks by al Qaeda based in Afghanistan required us to invade Iraq and now because a terrorist in Iraq was savvy enough to name his group al Qaeda in Iraq, the administration argues that the resurgence of the real al Qaeda in Pakistan requires us to stay in Iraq. In our fourth story tonight, however, today's woes in Iraq are not due to either al Qaeda organization.

In fact, early this morning U.S. forces came under attack by gunmen who are backed by a regime in Washington. That's right, Iraqi police officers opened fire on American soldiers. Fortunately Mr. Bush has not made Iraqi training a priority and so the only fatalities were the six Iraqi policemen. The police force there still notorious for its militias and death squads.

And there have been, however, American casualties in two mortar strikes this week in the Green Zone, supposedly and maybe really the safest spot in Baghdad, this as a high level intelligence official tells NBC News the real al Qaeda is not back to its pre9/11 strength but it's the strongest since President Bush outsourced the hunt for Osama bin Laden to tribal leaders in Afghanistan and then to Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf.

That same official telling NBC Musharraf is preparing missions to gain control of the region that bin Laden is believed to have turned into a safe haven, and despite lacking the capacity for a long-term fight there.

Let's turn now to Tyler Drumheller, former chief of the CIA's clandestine operations in Europe and the author of "On the Brink, an Insider's Account of How the White House Compromised American Intelligence."

Great thanks you for your time again tonight, sir.


Thanks for having me.

OLBERMANN: Cut through the spin on this, if you would, and if you can, al Qaeda, the real al Qaeda, bin Laden and Zawahiri, what threat do they really represent?

DRUMHELLER: They represent the same threat they always have, that if they could attack us, they will. And they're in that part of western Pakistan and eastern Afghanistan, and it's the threat there - this information doesn't seem all that new, the greatest threat to us comes from the type of cells in Europe and the United States, the type of attacks that we saw last week in London, and in Glasgow and last year in London and Madrid.

OLBERMANN: The national intelligence estimate is due out next week and we heard the dribs and drabs coming out of preliminary draft versions and parts of that estimate, what do you make of the timing of the leaking of those preliminary parts this is week, could this have been done in reaction to, as cover for, in response to Mr. Chertoff's remarks about his gut and how egregious those remarks seemed?

DRUMHELLER: Well, if it was cover for it, it's not very smart because it shows that there's still a problem and that we haven't gotten ahead of it and if it was in reaction to, I could see if someone was frustrated by the fact that here it is all the years after 9/11 and we still don't have a plan in place of what to do in case there's an attack, and so it's - it's possible. It could be though, either way it doesn't make much sense. And it just shows how much the real problem is that politics still plays such a large part in the intelligence community and that's a real issue, an important issue.

OLBERMANN: And it's an issue that you raised on many occasions, a rather disturbing assessment that you have of the fact that we are discussing whether that intel is coming out for a reason and whether it's trustworthy, can you expand on that?

DRUMHELLER: Yeah, here we are and this is an immediate threat to the united states and it could be something that is very serious, people's lives are at stake and yet we're discussing it from the point of view, is it a political, is it being done for political purposes?

And that's because every announcement that's been made in this has been linked to we need to stay in Iraq and then all of a sudden there's a leak of something like this, and so then it destroys the credibility of the intelligence community at a time when it's really essential that you have that and until they stop using intelligence as a political tool, it's going to hurt - it's going to hurt that validity and it's going to be a problem for us.

OLBERMANN: Is there not also a kind of feeding back and forth that hurt this is whole process between this political structure that deals with intelligence and the media that everybody seems to treat this as plot turns in a Hollywood movie, the perfect example of this, Associated Press report is the second this week that hinted that al Qaeda's efforts to get a cell of operatives into this country is ongoing and the same summary way at the end, there's a note indicating that al Qaeda may never had less of a chance doing anything on U.S. soil and even terrorists acknowledged this and that which would be a positive suggestion that we have been doing something right, to whatever degree is arguable, we've been doing something right, that will not get any attention and the negative, the fear, is the only thing that gets that attention.

DRUMHELLER: And I think that's true. There are people - I think the intelligence services of the U.S. working with our allies and on their own have done a really good job on this, and it's still a problem and still a threat that's there, but it makes such a nice story, such an exciting story to say al Qaeda is trying to get into the United States. That - none of this should be new to anybody, al Qaeda has wanted to get in the United States for 15 years and their whole goal is to come here and stage massive attacks and so saying they want to come to the United States and attack us should not be a headline, you know, that's the other part of it, you're right.

OLBERMANN: And the sun is expected to rise in the morning. And, obviously, it needs a thousand long-term fixes but is there one short-term fix to resolve something, to give us some handle on the domestic use of intelligence versus fear of information and warning versus the sky is falling?

DRUMHELLER: Well, it can only be done by the white house and it can't be the secretary of homeland security, the director of national intelligence, they work at the pleasure of the president. The tone has to be set by the president, how he deals with the service, the type of relationship that he with them and how he sees that as a tool either to really do the job or as a political weapon or tool. And that's where it starts. It's kind of a civics lesson, is the only way around it, unfortunately.

OLBERMANN: Yeah, it's a little late to be handing out textbooks to the White House. Tyler Drumheller, the former head of covert ops for the CEO in Europe, again, great thanks for your time and insight, sir.

DRUMHELLER: Thanks for having me.

OLBERMANN: Two more incidents raising concerns about congestion on the tarmacs at America's airports, and speaking of means of transportation, it may be hazardous to your health. The hints have been there all week. Was today the day that the bulls finally got together and simply stood shoulder-to-shoulder, blocking the street of Pamplona, Spain. Next on Countdown.


OLBMERMANN: It was on this date, July 13, 1865 when "New York Tribune" editor Horace Greeley introduced an iconic phrase the American language, writing, "Go west, young man." And if you think that context is everything, consider the images those four words evoke of broad prairies and breathtaking mountain vistas and hardship and exploration and then remember that Greeley wrote "Go west, young man" in answer to a question from a government clerk in Washington who wanted Greeley's opinion on whether or not he should leave the capital for a job in Erie County, Pennsylvania.

Let's play "Oddball."

We begin with some bull on man action, on this, the seventh day of the running of the bulls in Pamplona, a city still reeling from the surprise victory by the bulls yesterday in which seven runners were gored and a total of 15 were sent to the hospital. But apparently today's bulls did not have a TV in their pen because they showed no signs of having been inspired by yesterday's squad; only a handful of minor trampling related injuries. But we will always have day xi, these two days in particular, Lawrence and Michael Lanahan of southern California, two brothers who traveled all the way to Spain for the event and each got their very own horn in the backside.

Ah, those memories will last a lifetime. Say nothing of the scars.

To Battu City (ph) China, if you thought that last image was disturbing, check out the world's smallest man being placed on a table for an audience with Bau Chi Shun (ph), the world's tallest man. He's 7'9 and once reached down the gullet of a dolphin to pull plastic out of its stomach. The other guy Ping-Ping, in the tie, is just 29-inches tall and, incredible as it might seem, that was his dolphin.

I made that last part up. Both men are from inner Mongolia. Both share the same dream, to one day dance the chorus line with the world famous radio city rockets. Made that up too.

And our Oddball thanks to Dennis Horgan (ph) for four years of whatever the hell he's been doing here. We're now just five homers away from seeing the most fabled record in sports turned over to a man accused of cheating in record breaking fashion. And now Scooter Libby is somehow part of this story.

Cheating accusations too against Paris Hilton, or at least who supervised her in jail and appear to have given her preferential treatment. These stories ahead, but first Countdown's top three news makers of this day.

Number three, an unnamed vandal still at large in Gastonia, North Carolina. Police are asking for tips as they try to find out who went up to a Saturn and A Jeep Parked outside of a home and covered them in butter.

Number two, Peter Adamson, the lord mayor of Darwin in Australia, he maintains his innocence, but he has been convicted of using funds stolen from the City Council to purchase a refrigerator, a large quantity of underwear - women's underwear, a punching bag and a Darth Vader voice distorter. Luke, I am your cross dressing, boxing fan father.

And number one the as of yet unidentified home invasion suspect who burst upon a patio party at a home on Capital Hill in Washington, he put the barrel of his handgun against the head of a 14-year-old girl and told the terrified guest, give me your money or I'll start shooting. That's when one of the adults, Christina Roan (ph), said something unusual to the armed man, we were just finishing dinner. Why don't you have a glass of wine with us.

The man paused and said OK, and was enchanted by the Chateaux Malexosan Zubri (ph). Damn he said, that's good wine. They then offered him the whole bottle. Instead he took a bite of some cheese then put the gun in his pocket and asked, can I get a hug? He hugged each of the guests in turn, then asked, how about a group hug? After which, the burglar said, I think I may have come to the wrong house. And he walked away.

He wound up stealing two glasses of wine and the glass. And to be fair, they did give him the wine.


OLBERMANN: After a four-day break for baseball's All-Star game, tonight we rejoin the Barry Bonds home run record chase, already in progress, as his San Francisco Giants begin a weekend series with their arch rivals, the L.A. Dodger, the most controversial figure in baseball history remaining four home runs behind the all time leader, Hank Aaron.

The unparalleled announcer of the Dodgers, Vin Scully (ph), has already said he would rather not be on duty when Bonds ties or breaks the mark. The announcer for Fox's game of the week broadcast tomorrow says if either milestone should happen on his watch, he will not treat it as a cause for celebration.

In our third story tonight, Bonds sits at 751 homers and the guy who shined the light on the Bonds steroid and human growth hormones scandal will sit in jail for two to three years. The latter first, Troy Ellerman, an attorney for the owner of the lab that made Bonds' drugs for him was sentenced to two and a half years in jail for his role in leaking sealed Grand Jury testimony to the "San Francisco Chronicle."

It was in that testimony that Barry Bonds implicated himself as a steroid user. Ellerman's attorney had lobbied the court to reduce the sentence from 30 months to probation citing the president's commutation of Scooter Libby, who was also convicted of obstruction of justice. We're going to hear about that for a while. Aren't we?

U.S. District Court Judge Jeffrey White wasn't buying it and responded, quote, if Mr. Ellerman is dissatisfied with his sentence, he should seek a commutation from the president. Ellerman will not begin serving his time until September, so he like the rest of us gets to watch the bizarre Bonds saga unfold, and perhaps also watch Bonds' head and feet grow just a little bit more.


OLBERMANN (voice-over): Barry Bonds is the prime suspect in the time of CSI sports, accused of using illegal performance-enhancing drugs and using them to such effect that he, in the season he turned age 37 hit nearly three times as many home runs as he had hit in the season he turned age 27, accused of using illegal performing enhancing drugs to such effect that since he left the Pittsburgh Pirates to join the San Francisco Giants in 1993, his head has reportedly grown one hat size; his feet three shoe sizes.

Accused of deliberately altering himself. No longer a combination of ability and hard work, now the once greatest natural player of an artificial ingredients era. Barry Bonds represents a time in which the fans confidence about what the game, about what sports means has been shaken. In two decades alone, the gambling on baseball by and banning from baseball of Pete Rose.

PETE ROSE, FORMER REDS MANAGER: I made some mistakes.

OLBERMANN: A strike that led to the cancellation of the World Series, the decline of African Americans in the first sport in which they became transcendent. There were more American blacks on the roster of the 1950 Dodgers than there are on the roster of the 2007 Dodgers.

And the gradual revelation that the thunderous bats and near invisible pitches may have been partially the result not of work, but of syringes and creams. Barry Bonds has a personal trainer who continually chooses to go to jail rather than to testify about him. He may have a clause that punishes him if he's indicted for steroids or for perjury.

And as he approaches that all-time home run record, he has even the commissioner of baseball flummoxed. Allan H. Bud Selig has yet to decide, even at this late date, if the solemnities of the game demand his presence when Bonds hits his record-breaking 756th career home run, or if they demand his absence.

Yet in this oscillating vortex of controversy, Barry Bonds retains remarkable support among fans who think him more sinned against than sinning. Thirty seven percent of all fans in a recent survey still say they want him to break Hank Aaron's record; 73 percent of black fans do. But lurking behind all this is an idiosyncrasy of baseball, as Barry Bonds nears the summit, he is not the first to hear the booing. As Roger Marris approached Babe Ruth's old record for home runs in a single season, he faced criticism, threats against his family, and a ruling from the then commission that since his season contained more games than Ruth's, his record would not really count.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Fastball hit deep to the left, this could be it.

OLBERMANN: In fact, only 23,000 fans went to the game in which Marris set his record.

When Hank Aaron vaulted Ruth's career record he got death threats and racism. And the commissioner at that time did not attend the game in which the record breaking home run was hit because he had a prior engagement to speak to the Cleveland Indians Wahoo Fan Club Meeting.

As Cal Ripken marched inexorably toward the consecutive games played streak of Lou Gehrig, there were scattered humble lamentations that perhaps Ripken should ties the mark and then deliberately sit out, because Gehrig's streak had not ended owing to choice or by injury, but rather to a fatal disease of the body's disintegration.

And even as Mark Mcguire bulldozed past the Marris and Ruth single season home run records just nine years ago, there was a queasy subtext. In August 1998, a container of a supplement, Androsteindion (ph), considered so powerful that in Canada and England not even a doctor could prescribe it legally was spotted in plain sight in Mcguire's locker.

Baseball's past simply does not give up its records gently. In the best of times to applaud Roger Marris is to be somehow seen as booing Babe Ruth. In the best of times, acknowledging Cal Ripken is to be somehow forgetting Lou Gehrig. And as Barry Bonds displaces Hank Aaron and baseball fans try to decide whether or not to applaud him, these are not the best of times.


OLBERMANN: Scheduled to get on an airplane this weekend like me? You'll really enjoy the latest on a near hit by two aircraft in Fort Lauderdale. Better to travel by Port Key, or the flu network. Harry Potter's movie magic is movie magic, next on Countdown.


OLBERMANN: Thirty years ago two loaded Boeing 747's, one landing and one taking off, collided on a runway in the Canary Islands. The Tennareef Tragedy (ph), the worst in the history of flight, cost 583 lives and changed the way cockpit crews and control towers talk to each other. And for 25 years, unless you were still on the ground, you were never likely to look out a cabin window and see another plane closer than a dash in the distant sky. Our number two story in the Countdown, that has changed lately, underscored twice this week, one by an incident the FAA said it is investigating, the other of which it says is not.

Our correspondent is Michelle Fransen.


MICHELLE FRANSEN, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Airports and air traffic controllers and airlines are struggling with a spike in delays, cancellations and near misses, or when planes come within 500 feet or less of one another. At Fort Lauderdale on Wednesday, the NTSB says a Delta airlines flight that had just touched down had to quickly take off again to avoid a United Airlines plane on the same runway.

ROBERT SUMWALT, NTSB VICE CHAIRMAN: Our information now is that they passed somewhere around 100 feet vertically from each other.

FRANSEN: In the northeast alone since May, there have been more than five near misses. Last night at Newark's Liberty International, Rich Domich, a sports news executive, says the Continental commuter jet he was on had just landed when it had a close call with a 747 taking off.

RICH DOMICH, SPORTS NEWS EXECUTIVE: We slam on the brakes, we roll; we take a right. And then there's another jar that he's applying the brakes and you look up and you see that plane right in front of you.

FRANSEN: So far Continental Express is calling it a non-incident and the FAA says it's reviewing the air traffic control tape. The FAA admits a shortage of air traffic controllers and an increase in air travel are taxiing an already strained system.

MARION BLAKEY, FAA ADMINISTRATOR: You're flying in some of the most congested air space we have with airports that at this point do not have an adequate air traffic control system until we go to the next gen.

FRANSEN: But lawmakers said that something needs to be done now.

SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: How could the FAA let this happen? How can the FAA say that it's the guardian of our skies when things have deteriorated so dramatically?

FRANSEN: Questions, frustrations and challenges as America takes to the skies in record numbers.

Michelle Fransen, NBC News, New York.


OLBERMANN: We begin tonight's in-flight movie, the round up of entertainment news, with stunning word about the new Harry Potter film. It made a pit load of money. "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix," the fifth installment in the franchise, opened on Wednesday, taking in 44.2 million. The tally set an industry record for a Wednesday. That's the film industry, not the magic industry.

Analysts say the film may have been helped by the buzz surrounding upcoming release of the seventh and final book in the best-selling series in which we finally learn that Rosebud was a sled.

Moving on to our second Keeping Tabs story and still no Paris or Britney. No it's Jordan Sparks, the most recent "American Idol" winner. According to those pesky teenage hormones of hers are kicking in backstage at the "American Idol" concert tour. The lucky recipient of her ardor is Chris Richardson, the 23-year old "American Idol" loser who is also on the tour. Probably not too different from his previous job, supervisor at Hooters, seriously.

Anyway, let's hope he's aware that Sparks is only 17 or he might end up on the "Dateline, The Predator Tour." Once she's legal we may all hope for a Romeo and Juliette story here with the same happy ending.

And we already know they let her turn her exit into an advertisement for a new clothing line. Now accusations of more preferential treatment when Miss Hilton was in the pokey.

That's ahead, but first time for Countdown's latest list of nominees for worst person in the world. The bronze to NASA, which has set up pad 39a at the Kennedy Space Center for the next launch of the Shuttle Endeavour and put up a sign there to that effect. When they put it up, somebody noticed they had misspelled endeavour. It has that U between the O and the R at the end there, British style, since it's meant to honor Captain Cook's vessel in the 18th century. They fixed it now.

Our runner-up, White House press secretary Tony Snow, appearing on his alma mater, Fox Noise, to say, quote, walk out of Iraq right now would plant a seed that ultimately would lead to destabilization there, hundreds of thousands of deaths, loss of our influence in the region, would create instability throughout the Middle East, throughout east Asia, throughout Europe. And sooner or later, it would come to our shores to a shopping mall near you.

Tony, we love you, but, come on, we're still, even if worse comes to worst, at greater risk at the mall from the stuff they sell at the food court.

And our winner, Ambassador David Sadderfield (ph), senior advisor to the U.S. secretary of state, coordinator for Iraq. First it was President Bush calling his commutation of Scooter Libby's sentence fair and balanced. Now Ambassador has sad that in September the administration will judge the progress of the surge and then make, quote, a fair and balanced assessment.

Why not just have Bill-O run the White House personnel office? Why not just have a Fox noise host become press secretary? Why not have Roger Ale (ph) send instructional policy memos to the president? Why not - oh, wait, those last two things happened. David Sadderfield of Fox Noise - I'm sorry, David Sadderfield, senior advisor to the U.S. secretary of state, coordinator for Iraq, today's Worst Person in the World!


OLBERMANN: We already know that whether they understand it or not at the time, jailers in Los Angeles permitted Paris Hilton to turn her midnight release from prison into a runway modeling advertisement for a new line of clothing for a department store. Now, in our number one story on the Countdown, the L.A. sheriff's department is investigating whether the heiress got special treatment while still in the big house.

The department's union alleging that Hilton was allowed to use a cell phone any time she wanted to make a personal call, while other inmates were only allowed to, as per the rules, use the public pay phone at designated ours, that she also received visits from top officials every day, that a certain hand delivered - or captain hand delivered her mail, while others have to rely on their trusted fellow inmates to deliver their post, and that she was given a brand new prison outfit, unlike others, who often wear recycled uniforms.

And by the way, it fit like an F-ing dream. Time to turn, once again, to the incomparable Michael Musto of the "Village Voice," also author of "La Dolce Musto." Michael, thanks for your time tonight.


OLBERMANN: Given the security of having Paris Hilton incarcerated, could the cell phone and the mail delivery just have been the simplest, easiest no fuss, no muss way to keep this heiress away from her fellow inmates?

MUSTO: Maybe, I actually think giving her the mail was very cruel punishment. She can't read. This is like giving hair gel to Tele Savalis (ph) or Britney Spears. And giving her the cell phone was pretty mean too, because it had just come from Naomi Campbell. It was dripping in blood.

OLBERMANN: Well - why would they give her a brand-new prison uniform. Would she really have noticed the difference if they had given her an old one?

MUSTO: That's the only thing she does notice. This is so last season, and she refuses to wear anything used or old. She likes to be the one to confer cooties on clothing, and not vice versa. I totally understand.

OLBERMANN:, which is everywhere, got this mug shot of Paris Hilton's cousin, who was arrested, surprisingly enough, for a DUI. Do we think she's, by dint of being related to someone famous, going to get special treatment to?

MUSTO: No, didn't you see Gray Gardins (ph)? Jackie Kennedy's cousin ended up eating cat food. Remember the Patty Duke show? Her cousin Kathy never got laid.

Being a cousin gets you bupkiss. Paris' cousin will probably get special Olympics, but she's not getting special treatment.

OLBERMANN: Now, there was also, like we needed this, footage from TMZ of Paris Hilton hiding from the cameras. She's supposed to be under a towel in the back. Now is this shyness that's part of some new Paris Hilton public image, or are towels part of that new clothing line that she debuted on the cat walk out of jail?

MUSTO: Oh please, she's about as shy as Dictoria, you know, David and Victoria Beckham, who bravely faced the paparazzi in the airport while the kids were shunted to the side. No, she's not shy. This is her towel fashion line. It will be accessorized with tampax, earrings and toilet paper stuck to the shoe. People are going to be throwing lit matches at her all day.

OLBERMANN: What about these jeans. The deal is supposed to be with Macys. People are actually going to want to wear Paris Hilton style clothes?

MUSTO: Actually, Macys is negotiating with her to sell at other stores. But yes, people do want to wear it. Alas, the size 12 waste rules out about anyone accept Bindy Irwin. The problem there is that the hole between the legs makes it inappropriate for children to wear. I don't know who is going to wear this, Keith.

OLBERMANN: Her sister has been quoted by the British tabloid "The Sun." Nikki Hilton said that the reason that she and her sister have clothing lines and stuff, "well, we're working girls and we're so young too." Now, this you can go about nine different very, very unfortunate directions, but was there an accidental admission in there by the other Miss Hilton?

MUSTO: I'll go with the cheapest, coarsest way. I haven't heard that expression since the Donna Summer song, bad girls (INAUDIBLE). Then I heard Working Girl again in the Donna Summer song "She Works Hard For the Money," which is also about a really cheap hooker. So I'm glad these babes are finally getting tipped for their services.

OLBERMANN: All right, we have one other topic, the former BFF here, Britney Spears; there's a report out that she's victimized by a stalker who keeps calling child protective services on her. Boy, I'm just - this is a shot in the dark, could that be Kevin Federline?

MUSTO: I don't think so because the guy who called was grammatical, very well spoken. He wasn't chomping on beef jerky at the time. This could be anybody, OK. If you call CPS and say Britney is a bad mom, you're a stalker? Throw me in jail.

OLBERMANN: Press one if you're calling to report her - there's also this report that she's dating her male nanny, her manny right now and that Federline has hooked up with a local D.J. Are these just smoke screens to reports that they have rekindled their romance?

MUSTO: It's a misunderstanding. Federline is a local D.J. at this point. And Britney is a male nanny. But I do think she's hitching her mobile home back to his again, because, look, he's back with Char Jackson, let's not forget. And I think the idea appeals to Britney of stealing him again. So the cycle repeats. We have to throw these people all in jail. Stop the insanity.

OLBERMANN: It's a circle of life there. The one and only Michael Musto. Have a good weekend, Michael. Great thanks. That's Countdown for this the 1,535 day since the declaration of mission accomplished in Iraq. From New York, I'm Keith Olbermann, good night and good luck.