Wednesday, August 8, 2007

'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for August 8

Guests: Joseph Biden, Richard Justice, Joel McHale, Jonathan Alter

KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST: Good evening from Chicago. "Countdown" will be seen in its entirety in about 35 seconds. But first a message of vital importance from my colleagues at MSNBC Sports and Olympics.

Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow? No endorsement after the Woodstock of campaign '08 debates. The AFL-CIO puts its seal of approval process on hold. It can't pick a winner yet. Can we?


HILLARY CLINTON, (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: For 15 years I have stood up against the right wing machine and I have come out stronger. If you want a winner who knows how to take them on, I'm your girl.


OLBERMANN: Did Senator Clinton overcome Senator Obama's home-field advantage? Did Senator Obama overcome two weeks of criticism from just about everybody else?


BARACK OBAMA, (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I find it amusing that those who helped to authorize and engineer the biggest foreign policy disaster in our generation are now criticizing me.


OLBERMANN: The day after in Chicago. I think I finally got the crowd at Soldier Field to calm down. And the debate from the viewpoint of one of the participants.


OLBERMANN: Senator Biden, would you pledge to stop no-bid contracts?


OLBERMANN: You have an additional 20 seconds.


OLBERMANN: Senator Joe Biden joins us.

It's deep and I don't think it's legitimate.


BASEBALL ANNOUNCER: He swings. Deep into right center field. Way back there. It's gone. A home run.

HANK AARON, BASEBALL PLAYER: I'll move over now and offer my best wishes to Barry and his family on this historical achievement.

BARRY BONDS, BASEBALL PLAYER: This record is not tainted at all. You can say whatever you want.


OLBERMANN: We will. Oh, we will. See, I told you that was a good question for Senator Obama. Maybe I should have asked him about Britney Sears reportedly making out with a 21-year-old college kid. Nah. There is only one man who could address that, the host of "Ease the Soup," Joel McHale joins us for tonight's top feel bad story.




OLBERMANN: All that and more now on "Countdown."


SPEARS: Stop looking through the peep hole.


OLBERMANN: Good evening from Chicago. In front of 15,000 workers and unions in Soldier Field, seven Democrats who want to be president did their best last night. Our fifth story in the "Countdown," none succeed technically and not yet. The AFL-CIO announcing it will hold off endorsing any candidate for now, thus allowing its 55 unions to pick their own candidates.

Only one contender in the field was missing last night, former Senator Mike Gravel. The rest standing in the sweltering Chicago sun taking plenty of heat from the audience. The thousands of union members who were unafraid to shout their approval or disapproval throughout the forum.


OBAMA: It is not just Washington insiders that are part of the debate that has to take place with respect to how we are going to shift our foreign policy.

GOV. BILL RICHARDSON (D), NEW MEXICO: My first day as president, I will get rid of all the union-busting attorneys at the Department of Labor and OSHA and all our agencies.

CLINTON: We don't need that right now.

OLBERMANN: Senator Dodd, I owe Senator Dodd a response.

BIDEN: It's time everybody start to know the facts. The facts.

REP. DENNIS KUCINICH (D), OHIO: I am kind of the Seabiscuit of this campaign. When I come from behind to win this race, people are going to say no way are we going to run against this guy.

CLINTON: I am your girl.

OLBERMANN: I am just wondering if Stephen A. Douglas and Lincoln had a moderator. And if he had, if they tried to quiet the crowd down.


OLBERMANN: The funny things that happened on the way from the forum.

I am joined by our own Jonathan Alter, senior editor of "Newsweek" magazine.

John thanks for your time tonight.


OLBERMANN: Let's start with the most heated exchange of the night about Senator Obama's position that he would consider some sort of direct military action against militants in Pakistan. Let's look at this again.


DODD: I think it's highly irresponsible for people who are running for the presidency and seek that office to suggest we may unilaterally invade a nation here to try it get them to be more cooperative with us in Afghanistan and elsewhere. I say this respectfully, I think it was wrong to say what he did.

OBAMA: I find it amusing that those who helped to authorize and engineer the biggest foreign policy disaster in our generation are now criticizing me for making sure that we are on the right battlefield and not the wrong battlefield in the war against terrorism.

CLINTON: I do not believe people running for president should engage in hypotheticals and it may well be that the strategy we have to pursue on the basis of actionable intelligence, but remember we have had some real difficult experiences with actionable intelligence, might lead to a certain action. You can think big, but remember, you shouldn't always say everything you think if you are running for president because it can have consequences across the world and we don't need that right now.


OLBERMANN: The home-field crowd clearly rooting for Senator Obama there, but did he win that argument on the merits?

ALTER: I don't think he did because I don't think he drove home the point that when Hillary Clinton and others say that this view of going after Osama bin Laden is dangerous, the onus should be on them and on the Republican candidates for that matter as to why they don't want to catch the guy who did this to us on 9/11. So Obama was still a little too professorial and seemed too much on the defensive. But he has some material to work with here on the substance.

OLBERMANN: In the context of that remark from Senator Clinton about you should not say everything you think if you are running for president, is that going to come back to haunt her? Because that sounds like it's already ready to be written up as Republican commercials at some point, especially since she seems keen to leave the rest of the Democratic field behind to challenge the GOP right now.

ALTER: I had the same reaction when I heard her say that line. I said you know, this sound bite is going to live not just for the Republicans who will say in the fall see, she's not telling you what she's really going to do. She really a crazy liberal and is not telling you what she thinks.

But in the Democratic primaries, I think one of her opponents once they focus on this will go after her with this line and say, look, these foreign policy issues need to get debated publicly, and of course we want the candidates to say what they really think during a presidential campaign. I think she'll regret that line.

OLBERMANN: We touched on Senator Obama and part of his performance last night. Let's look at the big picture. Let's start by listening how he responded when I asked him why we didn't know until he cast his vote on the Iraq war supplemental until the evening of May 24 after it was decided what he was going to vote. Here is what he said.


OBAMA: Because the fact is that it is difficult to send a message to the president who has been so obstinate for so long, all of us on this stage want to make sure that our troops are funded. And all of us believe that we need to be orderly and careful in bringing them out. My hope was that we would start seeing some progress among the Republicans, where they would begin to agree with us on a timetable to withdraw.

We have convinced some people, including some folks on this stage, that this was a mistake and that it was important for us to start drawing troops down. But apparently we have not convinced enough Republicans.

At that point, it was my belief that the only way we could send a strong signal to the president to make sure that he came back to the table was to vote no on that supplemental.


OLBERMANN: Last night I wasn't sure I knew what he said. This morning I wasn't sure what he said. Listening to it again, I still don't know if I know what he said.

He and Senator Clinton waited until after the funding bill had gotten enough vote to assure approval and then they cast their votes against it. Was Senator Obama artful? Did he have trouble giving a straight answer?

ALTER: I would say yes. This is one of those things where the real answer is they're playing a game of chicken between of two of them or they wanted to see who would go first. He went first by a matter of a few minutes and they were playing the angles in the presidential campaign.

His answer was labored and reflective of the fact that he is lacking some crispness in these debates. He is not messing up. He is not doing a terrible job, but he is not as sharp and crisp as he is going to need it be to overtake Hillary Clinton.

OLBERMANN: And the Senator got a couple of boos from the crowd there

almost everybody did - but particularly for her position on Pakistan.

Then she also elicited wild applause from this demonstrative crowd at other times like this example here.


CLINTON: I want the Democrats to win and I want a united Democratic party that will stand against the Republicans, and I will say that for 15 years, I have stood up against the right-wing and I've come out stronger. So if you want a winner who knows how to take them on, I am your girl.


OLBERMANN: The other quote about you shouldn't say everything if you think you are running for president, in this one she invoked the right-wing machine which is the institutionalized latter-day death-star version of the old vast right wing conspiracy, plus that gender terminology about herself, all things considered that's a hell of a quote right there.

ALTER: That was probably the sound bite of the evening and I think it helped her to close the sale with a lot of women voters. The big surprise so far, if these national polls are to be believed, and they probably aren't because they don't mean very much at this point in the campaign, but nonetheless she's doing extraordinarily well with women Democrats.

And in the past, there really has been no correlation in state races between women candidates and getting women votes. But she seems to be breaking that precedent and this is part of a skillful effort on her part to nail down the women's vote. It's working so far.

OLBERMANN: Senator Edwards has been positioning himself for the past two years as the champion of the working man. When I asked all the candidates about whether or not NAFTA should be scrapped, it was Congressman Kucinich who got the huge reaction. Let's listen to that.


JOHN EDWARDS, (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It needs to be fixed, but the first thing I want to say is NAFTA is a perfect example of the bigger problem. This deal was negotiated by Washington insiders, not by anybody in this stadium tonight.

REP. DENNIS KUCINICH, (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: No one else on this stage could give a direct answer because they don't intend to scrap NAFTA. I am your candidate if you want to get out of NAFTA. Let's hear it if you want out of NAFTA. Do you want out of the WTO? Tell these candidates. Listen to the workers.

OLBERMANN: Congressman? Congressman, forgive me.

KUCINICH: Thank you.

OLBERMANN: You are undermining my cause to try to contain some of the applause.


OLBERMANN: That cause, Keith, was lost by that hour.

ALTER: Early.

OLBERMANN: Did Kucinich steal any of Edwards' turf last night?

ALTER: He did. I was in the audience, and I kept going during the commercial breaks and asking people what do you think? I kept hearing Kucinich, Kucinich. There are a lot of rank-and-file who want to go for the most pro-labor candidate. He is the only one who is against NAFTA and for repealing the whole thing. So I wouldn't say he had a majority of the people there last night. Most people are undecided. He had a lot more than you would expect sitting at home.

But I talked to an AFL-CIO official this morning and she said there was no chance that any of the unions would actually endorse Kucinich. So there is a bit of a gap between the rank-and-file here and what these unions will do.

All of it got in the way of John Edwards trying to close the deal with organized labor by being the most ardent supporter. It didn't really fully work for him, and this is taking him off of his strategy, which is it really try to get as many of these unions to go his way as possible. He will get a number of them but probably not as many as he had hoped.

OLBERMANN: So probably Kucinich did not win anything but Edwards may have lost something.

ALTER: That sounds correct.

OLBERMANN: If anybody was going to get the nomination last night it was not the candidates. There was one standing ovation for the whole night.


STEVE SKVARA, LOST PENSION & HEALTH INSURANCE: After 34 years I was forced to retire because of a disability. Two years later, LTB filed bankruptcy. I lost one-third of my pension and my family lost their health care. Every day of my life, I sit at the kitchen table across from the woman who devoted 36 years of her life to my family and I can't afford to pay for her health care. What's wrong with America and what will you do to change it?


OLBERMANN: I saw that man, Steve Skvara, downstairs this afternoon in front of the NBC bureau here. He has to have a friend deal with the media. I offered him our congratulations and our condolences. And he said it was entirely worth it and he wished the AFL-CIO would do this every month because it put a human face on the conditions in the country right now. That was the moment of the debate, correct?

ALTER: I absolutely agree. I had my nephew and my 16-year-old son with me last night and after that, I turned to them and I said, this is not sports. We tend to look at this as if it's a contest, a horserace, you know, boxing match. Yes, on some level that helps makes politics fun to cover and fun for people to watch, but this is about real people's lives. And he drove that home.

The importance of what we are talking about - when people say forget politics, who cares about any of this, there are real people out there who are really suffering because of policies that are made in Washington. This was a reminder of it. And I think it was - it will be seen as one of the highlights of the whole campaign season.

OLBERMANN: You can be sure the campaigns are trying to get the Steve Skvara endorsement right now.

Jonathan Alter, of MSNBC and "Newsweek," as always, thanks.

ALTER: Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN: You've had the view of the analysts.

Next from one of the participants, Senator Joe Biden joins us.

And that Barry Bonds. Three hours after Senator Obama didn't have to answer the question about whether to honor his 756th home run, because he hadn't hit his 756th home run yet, Bonds hits it. Now, Obama has answered it.

Your watching "Countdown" on MSNBC.


OLBERMANN: We've already indulged in some analysis of last night's presidential forum but, for our fourth story, we wanted to get an insider's perspective, not my slacker's position, rather the view from the arena itself. Of the seven candidates last night, three had previous presidential campaigns under their belts, Senator Edwards, Congressman Kucinich and Senator Joe Biden, who's a veteran of 34 years in the Senate and one presidential resignation and one presidential impeachment. Let us turn to his perspective, as both the current presidential hopeful and author of his memoir "Promises to Keep."

Senator, thanks for joining us.

BIDEN: Great to be back with you, Keith. It was a nice night last night.

OLBERMANN: Yes, it was. Big picture on the subject of debates. Do we have too many of them? Do we really learn anything? Are they getting closer to stump speeches with brief and futile interruptions from people like me?

BIDEN: No. I think you learn. People start to get a picture of all of us. It's a process. Not many people watch the debates. That's not a reflection on you or MSNBC or even on us. Most people are trying to figure out how to pay the college tuition for their kid going back it school in September. They're not going to focus. These polls don't mean anything now. But I think they begin to paint a picture of the nature of who each of us are.

OLBERMANN: Two bits of unfinished business last night. One is about logistics and one from a question that was not addressed to you. Again, there are many moments in there where you would like to say stop the format and give everybody a chance to answer this. This Steve Skvara story, the man who lost his health care, he asked what is wrong with America? It seemed like he was asking what is it about our country, we as a people tolerate this state of affairs.

And although all of us gave him the empathy and support that he deserved and Senator Edwards gave a kind and encouraging answer about his pension and the bankruptcy issue, didn't really answer that big picture part of that question, what is wrong with us as a nation? Do you want to try to answer that?

BIDEN: I think in a nutshell it's the way we finance our elections. It's special interests. We should have public funding of elections. The truth is that the reason we don't have a national health care plan to deal with that man's problem and millions of people in America is that you have interests that don't want to see it changed. They're going to spend like remember in the Clinton years. We had "Harry and Louise" advertisements that they spent $250 million on. They'll spend a half a billion dollars this time to make sure that things don't change.

That's why - I know it sounds corny, but that's why it's going to take a president who is going to be able to take on those interest groups and who is going to be able to outsmart them by building a consensus that they can't overcome, by nit-picking whatever the plan is.

But it's about special interests. It really is. It's not hyperbole.

That's why nothing has happened.

OLBERMANN: And now for something for which I take a certain degree of culpability, you have taken criticism for not answering a question from a widow from the Sago mine disaster. You answered her and then moved on to the topic of actionable intelligence.

Let me split those fused answers back into two separate questions. Would you expand on your answer about the mining? You said you would implement recommendations the Bush administration has not. What are the recommendations? Are you blaming Sego or the current Utah tragedy on Mr. Bush's mining policies?

BIDEN: Well, yeah, I am blaming it on not implementing all of the policy recommendations that came out of that investigation. They should be mandatory. There is a reluctance on the part of mine owners to be mandatory. They should be mandatory nationally, not be state by state.

I also said - and I am afraid I felt so badly afterwards because what I said to the woman was I understand your loss. She has no idea. I lost a wife and I lost a child with a tractor-trailer smacked into them and killed them, and I was trying to empathize with her. I let my frustration of not being able to comment, not because you stopped me, because of the nature of the timing, on something that that I have a fair amount of knowledge about.

But A, the empathy was real. I've been there. This woman has gone through hell and it takes an awful long time and the pain never goes away. Secondly, the implementation of every one of those recommendations should be mandatory under the law and should be federal law. And thirdly, there is a need for us to understand that it costs money to implement these recommendations and it relates to safety. And we should be engaged in that.

OLBERMANN: All right. Let's do actionable intelligence. You are chairman, 34 year member of foreign relations. You wanted to address the dustup regarding the comments from Senator Obama about Musharraf and not moving on actionable intelligence about al Qaeda if he didn't do it, he, Obama, would. I was trying to get to this commercial, couldn't bring you in then. You came back to it. Tell us what you were trying to get at last night.

BIDEN: I thought all three of my colleagues were mistaken. The idea

the thing that surprised me was that a, if there is actionable intelligence, it is U.S. policy now that the president has the authority to act, number one. That's already the policy. The president has failed to act when he should have, in my view, but that's not number one.

Number two, it surprised me that my two colleagues, Senator Clinton and Senator Dodd, believe that somehow we don't have a right to act on that intelligence. The truth of the matter is when a nation-state harbors or does not deal with terrorists hurting us, they forfeit their sovereignty.

The last point is you can't act on actionable intelligence unless you get help from within the country. By announcing you are going to disregard the leadership of that country, you make it difficult to actually act.

OLBERMANN: Indeed. Senator and presidential candidate Joe Biden's new book is "Promises to Keep." Thanks for your time.

BIDEN: Thank you for having me. You had the tough job last night, not us.

OLBERMANN: That's why I got the chair.

BIDEN: That's true.

OLBERMANN: Thank you again, sir.

BIDEN: Thanks an awful lot.

OLBERMANN: In some places, politics are not this sophisticated. Elephants handing out campaign fliers. Problem is elephants are not good at handing out campaign flyers.

Speaking of flyers, up, up and away without incident, the shuttle Endeavour when "Countdown" continues.


OLBERMANN: Forty-six years ago today, in the Barking section of east London, David Howell Evans was born. If you know him by that name you either grew up with him or you are a real fan. He has been almost exclusively known by his nickname, The Edge, guitarists from the band U2. The nickname comes from one or both of two explanations. A, he's totally unafraid of heights and likes to stand near the edges of buildings and walls, or as he once answered simply, B, it's the nose.

On that note let's play "Oddball."

We begin in Thailand where the Republican Party is pulling out all stops to get the vote. Hello? Are you there? These are supporters of a referendum for a new Thai constitution, getting the word out by sitting on elephants during rush hour as the elephants pass our flyers to very confused citizens. Those lucky enough to get shaken down by the pachyderms got a stinky note reminding them to vote.

While this makes for great wacky video, it makes for lousy campaign tactics. The elephants were only able to pass out 12 flyers in eight hours. Some kind of metaphor here, but let it pass. Let it pass.

And then there is this story. Curious George comes to life, as it were. Best read exactly as it came across the Associated Press wire and while doing a bad Walter Cronkite impression ; Dateline, New York, a man smuggled a monkey onto an airplane Tuesday, stashing the furry, fist sized primate under his hat until the passengers spotted it perched on his pony tail, an airline official said.

The monkey escapade began in Lima, Peru late Monday, when a man boarded a flight to Fort Lauderdale. During the flight, people around the man noticed that the marmoset, which normally lives in forests and eats fruits and insects, had emerged from underneath his hat. Airline spokesperson Allison Russell said other passengers asked the man if he knew he had a monkey on him, she said.

The monkey spent the remainder of the flight on the man's seat and behaved well, said Russell, who didn't know how it skirted customs and security. Airport police were waiting for the man and his monkey. The plane landed about 3:00 p.m. The man was taken away for questioning. At no point did the man, quote, say leave my monkey alone.

That's the way it is. Wednesday, August 8th, 2008.

And then there was the man who got the proverbial monkey off his back last night, or did he? Barry Bonds steps into history and into more controversy.

And acting out by making out. Britney Spears and the 21-year-old college boy. These stories ahead but first time for Countdown's top three news makers of this day, an all dumb criminals addition.

Number three, Richard Byrd of Largo, Florida. Police say the 26-year-old went to rob a pawn shop, brought his young daughter with him. He is in jail. She's at child welfare.

Number two, an unnamed bank robbery suspect in New Hudson, Michigan. Sometimes it's not what you bring; it's what you forget to bring. He had a hoody, gloves, sunglasses and nothing to put the money in. When this was pointed out to him, he fled without the cash.

But number one, Brian Young of Ruxville, Florida. Sometimes it's your choice of weapon. He reportedly held up a fast food joint and told the clerk give me all your money. Don't try anything funny because I've got an excalibur. By this, he meant he was carrying the legendary magical sword of King Arthur. Then police realized that strange women lying in ponds distributing swords probably did not hand Mr. Young the weapon sometime around the year 500 a.d. They promptly subdued him and charged him with robbery, unarmed robbery.


OLBERMANN: Last night at Soldier Field, Illinois Senator Barack Obama was asked if he were president right now, would he honor Barry Bonds at the White House, or any of the Bonds? Obama artfully eluded answering that question by saying he hasn't done it yet. About three hours later, Barry Bonds did it. Tonight, at a news conference in Oakland, Senator Obama finally answered the question, saying he, quote, would probably go ahead and invite Barry Bonds to the White House.

Our third story in the Countdown, with the Giants and Nationals of Washington, 4-4 in the fifth inning, it was a 3-2 pitch from left hander Mike Bacsik. Bonds sent it over the right center field fence, eclipsing the 33-year-old home run record set by Hank Aaron. Interestingly, Mike Bacsik's father could have spared his son from the wrong side of the equation.

1976, Mike Bacsik Sr. was a pitcher for the Texas Rangers. He faced Hank Aaron when he was stuck on home run number 755. Bacsik Sr. did not let up the 756th homer to the hammer. No pitcher ever did. Aaron never hit another one. If Bacsik Sr. had though, 757 would be the record and his son would have been spared.

Back to last night. The view from the stands is something else. The YouTube version giving us this point of view shot. What it was like as Bonds hit the home run from the perspective of where the ball landed. A 22-year-old New York Mets fan named Matt Murphy of Queens, New York, who was stopping in San Francisco on his way to Australia, found himself at the bottom of the pile going after the ball. He kept shouting, I'm Matt Murphy from Queens, New York.

Aaron, baseball's now former all time greatest slugger, addressed Barry Bonds and the crowd, but notably only on videotape.


AARON: Throughout the past century, the home run has held a special place in baseball, and I have been privileged to hold this record for 33 of those years. I move over now and offer my best wishes to Barry and his family on this historical achievement.


OLBERMANN: And after thanking the Giants and their fans, Bonds emotionally invoked his late father and former player, Bobby Bonds.


BARRY BONDS, HOME RUN KING: I've got to thank my family, my mother, my wife, Liz, my kids, Nikolai, Shikar and Asia, my dad - Thank you for everything.


OLBERMANN: And finally, in the post game news conference, a reporter addressed the 800-pound syringe in the room.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Some people have suggested that this record is - you've heard that word - tainted. Is this record tainted? Do you feel at all it's tainted? What would you say -

BONDS: This record is not tainted at all, at all, period. You guys can say whatever you want.


OLBERMANN: OK, he says it's not tainted. How about the leader of the free world? White House Press Secretary Tony Snow telling reporters this morning that the president would not reach out to Bonds, but congratulates him on his achievement. Later in the day though, Mr. Bush did call Bonds, confirming the conversation to reporters this afternoon, that he congratulated Bonds, telling reporters, quote, he is a really good hitter.

Let's turn once again to a really good sports columnist from the "Houston Chronicle," Richard justice. Good evening again.


OLBERMANN: This is a fine kettle of fish. The guy who holds the record for most base hits in a career still officially banned from the sport and now the guy who holds the record for most home runs is a guy a lot of fans would like to see officially or unofficially banned. Does nothing succeed like success? Is Bonds more popular tonight or less popular?

JUSTICE: You know what, I think he is more popular tonight. I think it was such a touching scene at home plate - even though you have this little voice on the other side of your brain telling you, it's not real; it doesn't mean what you think it means. It was a very nice scene. And now I think he begins to fade from the stage, as he goes around the ballparks around the country.

It's almost like it's OK to cheer him. He is going to go away now. Also, there is no angst over the record. It's his. We don't have to worry about it and gnash our teeth.

OLBERMANN: I was going to ask that; this question sort of dawned on everybody last night and today and we should have seen it coming. What does happen to Barry Bonds, the baseball player?

JUSTICE: He faces a very uncertain future. He has a Grand Jury investigation going on. George Mitchell is doing an investigation that we are told will name names and if names are going to be named, obviously his will be one of them. And the fact is the Giants have seemed to be distancing themselves from Barry Bonds, so who offers him a contract for next year?

He had one - count them, one offer for 2007. So I don't know where he goes from here. My guess is he is going to have some legal issues to deal with if, as expected, he is indicted for perjury and/or tax evasion. Then it's a matter of clearing that up and seeing if he can find a team that will buy him.

OLBERMANN: You invoked the emotional scene at home plate when they stopped the game for ten minutes and the remarks he made to the crowd after the home run. Obviously it's tough to watch a guy break down talking about his departed father and not have sympathy for him and perhaps empathy in many cases, but does that actually help him long term or does it, in some way, just remind everybody that certainly when he was a player, not too many people liked Bobby Bonds that much either.

JUSTICE: That is exactly right. My impression was always that Barry and Bobby had a very strained relationship over the years. If you go back to 2001, when Barry was going for the single season home run record, the more human side of Barry came out. I had never seen him so accessible with the things he gave and the willingness to interact with fans and all. So I think we saw a little of that last night.

This is a remarkable thing on a lot of levels. He's got the federal government going after him. He's got teammates who don't really have much interaction with him. The owner of his team has not had much to do with him. The commissioner of baseball has distanced himself from him. Yet he has been able to compartmentalize it and just go out to home plate and do his job. From that narrow perspective, Barry Bonds remains very remarkable.

OLBERMANN: And you mention the commissioner and now we have to think of Hank Aaron and the taped comments to Barry Bonds last night. This touches on what we discussed the other night, with commissioner Selig's tepid response to all this. Was what Hank Aaron did, just as planned, don't show up, damn him with faint videotaped praise?

JUSTICE: He did that as a favor to Bud Selig. He did it a couple weeks ago. Bud asked him to do it. It gets back to the conflict that Bud Selig has dealt with. On the one hand, he represents the game. He is the promoter, the defender of the game. This is a moment. To turn your back completely on this would make it even worse.

On the other hand, we know pretty much what we know. There is a mountain of evidence that suggests this record is tainted because Barry cheated. I think those two things. So I think this was the minimum they could do. It was a little diplomacy. You send Frank Robinson. You don't go yourself. And you say Hank, would you say the right things?

You notice the one word that was not used in that videotape was integrity. I think none of these things are accidental, when you are recording a moment that will be remembered forever.

OLBERMANN: It's a tremendous accomplishment. We are not going to characterize what kind of accomplishment it is. Richard Justice, sports columnist for the "Houston Chronicle," for the second time this week, many thanks.

JUSTICE: Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN: Liftoff, we have liftoff. The magic words as the shuttle goes up tonight. And lift up, we have lift up. The video a judge says we mercifully, the breast augmentation surgery of the late Anna Nicole Smith. Wish I was kidding, but I ain't. Countdown continues.


OLBERMANN: Praying that the weather will hold is something we have become all too familiar with here in Chicago this week. Our number two story in the Countdown, thus it was with relief and no small measure of empathy that we watched the space shuttle launch earlier this evening. Endeavour lifting off under favorable conditions, if you can consider light haze and temperatures about 100 favorable. Just after 6:30 eastern time from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Endeavour having undergone a massive overhaul since its last flight, November 2002, three months before the Columbia disaster. NASA officials saying the spacecraft is virtually new. On board, seven astronauts, including Barbara Morgan, once selected to be Christa McAuliffe's backup as the first teacher in space on the doomed Challenger mission 21 years ago. Now a fully trained astronaut, the 55-year-old former teacher had spent nearly half her life waiting for this launch.

Her task for the mission, operating a robotic arm from inside the shuttle during space walks, as she and her colleagues continue construction of the space station. In her role as teacher astronaut, Mrs. Morgan will also be speaking with school children from Idaho during a session one week into this 11 day mission.

From outer space to outer your mind, our nightly roundup of celebrity and entertainment news, Keeping Tabs. And the Anna Nicole Smith video we have been spared thanks to a judge who should not have had to waste his time on such a thing. This is a video documenting Miss Smith's breast augmentation surgery in 1994. An L.A. judge, Michael Beckloff - Mitchell Beckloff rather - granting a temporary restraining order, requested by Ms. Smith's former attorney and companion, the executor of her will, Howard K.


The Texas doctor who performed the surgery, Gerald Wayne Johnson, claimed in a letter to routinely have recorded such procedures. Mr. Stern says the doctor had sent the tape to an L.A. memorabilia dealer so it could be sold to various media outlets.

And then there is the breaking Britney Spears smooching news. Some boy toy, Joel McHale from "The Soup," no boy toy he. Our special guest next. That's ahead, but first time for Countdown's latest list of nominees for Worst person in the world.

The bronze to Senator Lindsay Graham from South Carolina, who has joined Mitt Romney in the read the damn sign carefully before you pose with it. Obama, Osama and Chelsea's mama say cut and run. Rule number one on this, senator, it's not even about linking American politicians to Osama bin Laden.

It's this; if the moron who hand you the sign is too stupid to spell mama correctly, don't take the sign from them.

The runner-up this evening, columnist Robert Novak, bristling at descriptions as - oh, I don't know - an unthinking, toady water carrier, who isn't sharp enough to realize Karl Rove manipulated him into doing the administration's dirty work. Quoting Mr. Novak, I don't support this administration. The president has cut me off the list of conservative columnists that are invited there. They consider me a lot of trouble. Every administration has considered me a lot of trouble. We start good, particularly with Republican administrations, but it's like a bad marriage. It starts nice after the honey moon and it just gets worse.

We will take you at your word, sir, which should lead you to the inevitable conclusion that the administration will repeatedly, happily throw even its strongest supporters under the bus.

But our winner, John Gibson of Fox noise. Yes, he is still on the air. I was surprised too. He is whining because I donated an autographed photo to the Yearly Kos convention. He says it's against journalistic policy. Quoting him, now, when I was at NBC, that got you fired.

Firstly, John, when you were at NBC, you were fired. Number two, John, you work for Roger Ailes - Roger Ailes, who is the lead political consultant for Rudy Giuliani's presidential campaign right now. Autographed picture over here, simultaneously running a presidential campaign and pretend news network over here.

John, there are people who never watch NBC who will still acknowledge NBC is a news organization. There is nobody outside of Fox viewers who has ever thought for a second that Fox is a news organization, nobody. You are part of an international embarrassment. And you are bitching about an autographed photo. John Gibson of fixed news, today's worst person in the world.


OLBERMANN: The ugly part, Britney Spears initiated a naked pool party at 2:00 a.m., even though her kids were set to come back to her care at noon later the same day. The beautiful part, in our number one story in the Countdown, Ms. Spears has found a brand-new Mr. Right or at least a brand new Mr. Right now. "US Weekly" just one publication to blow the lid off Miss Spears' recent romp with a 21-year-old college student, Matt Encinias.

Ms. Spears had invited a number of male extras from a video shoot to an early morning pool party at the L.A. Standard Downtown Hotel, according to the magazine, and Mr. Encinias is not shy in providing details. Quote, "Britney was the first one to undress and then everyone else followed. I turned around and saw that she was topless and she had fake tattoos of flowers. I was talk all she wanted to do that night was kiss a boy and that's what she did. Mission accomplished."

Once again, that phrase gets everybody into trouble. The "Sun of London" picks it up from there, again quoting Mr. Encinias, "I went in and found Britney lying on the bed with her knees up and just a pair of pink panties on. She was looking like she was ready and I wanted to finalize it."

Burning a DVD. A great pleasure to welcome for the first time on Countdown, the host of E Entertainment's cultural newscast of record, "The Soup," Joel McHale. Joel, good evening.

JOEL MCHALE, "THE SOUP": Thank you for having me, Keith. It is great to be here.

OLBERMANN: I am glad that you think so. First, this other quote from Mr. Encinias, also from the sun, "she straddled me and put her legs around me. When I started kissing her, I did everything in power from my previous experience of kissing girls not to mess it up." This is romance, huh?

MCHALE: Can you read that again, because that is like a sonnet? Wow. That's how my wife and I met. I think the only thing that could have made that more romantic is if she had hit him in the head with a club and dragged him back to her cave, perhaps.

OLBERMANN: How do you think he got there in the first place? I didn't say this about those flower tattoos, is what they were supposed it be covering, according to Mr. Encinias, but is he -

MCHALE: Nipples. Say it, Keith. Nipples.


MCHALE: It was nipples. Or stretch marks.

OLBERMANN: Is he a cad for offering this tell all or did he make it up? If he made it up, why would he make it up about Britney Spears now?

MCHALE: I would say it's a lot like catching Barry Bonds' 756th home run, the record breaking ball. But replace ball with tongue.

OLBERMANN: In fairness to this situation, Joel, she is still just 25 and this guy is 21. If this had happened like three years ago, four years ago, most men would have been, overtly or not, slapping this guy on the back and congratulating him. Are we being too hard on these kids right now?

MCHALE: Well, obviously not hard enough, but I think they were slapping him on the back. But that was to dislodge Brittany's gum, because it was pretty far up there, his back.

OLBERMANN: Yes, never mind how it got there.

MCHALE: Sorry.

OLBERMANN: The amazing truth here is that there is another Britney Spears story, though it's less credible, coming from "Star Magazine," quotes a friend as saying, in a fit of rage, Brittany accused her mom of sleeping with Kevin, that would be Kevin Federline, as opposed to - I don't know - Kevin James or somebody. Even the magazine presumes such a thing probably didn't happen, even if Ms. Spears was angry enough to say it. Your thoughts?

MCHALE: Well, I wish I had a banjo and perhaps some moonshine I could break out. But at this point the weirder the story is, I don't put it past Kevin Federline at all. You never know how far Ax Body Spray and Salems -

Salem Lights will get you.

OLBERMANN: And how much - and what you'll do after the experience of Britney Spears. We've had a bevy of Britney news. Obviously, you and I cover this stuff intensely.

MCHALE: Yes, it's depressing.

OLBERMANN: But "OK! Magazine" and this cover, Britney's meltdown, and there were nearly simultaneous help, and help us magazine covers referring to her kids. Is Mr. Federline going to introduce these magazines evidence in this battle over the kids?

MCHALE: I don't think he will because then he would have to learn how to read. And so I think that would be the first step in introducing it as evidence. He would have to understand it.

OLBERMANN: He could have somebody read it aloud to the court. We have seen the pendulum swinging - it was all Paris Hilton for three weeks. Now it's gone back to Britney Spears. Do we know where next the fickle finger of fate points?

MCHALE: Two words, Keith, Nancy Grace. She's pregnant with twins. I think it's about to begin.

OLBERMANN: What, the end of civilization as we know it?

MCHALE: Yes, I think the stories about her will begin. She's going to rent out - she's going to open up pools on hotel roofs. It's just a matter of time before she is driving the wrong way down a highway.

OLBERMANN: You be the expert on this, are we sure they're humans?

MCHALE: Well, the jury is still out on that. They did put Nicole Richie underwater for 10 minutes and she came up fine. So she might be a witch.

OLBERMANN: Joel McHale, whose weekly show "The Soup" has a new episode each Friday night on E and is appointment viewing. A pleasure having you on the show Joel, finally.

MCHALE: Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN: That is Countdown for this the 1,561st day since the declaration of mission accomplished in Iraq. From Chicago, I am Keith Olbermann. Good night and good luck.