Wednesday, October 31, 2007

'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Oct. 31
video 'podcast'

KEITH OLBERMANN: Good evening. Democracy wrote the French-born, New Zealand raised, historian and surgeon Robert Briffault is the worst form of government. It is the most inefficient, the most clumsy, the most unpractical, it reduces wisdom to impotence and secures the triumph of folly, ignorance, claptrap, demagogy, he continued. Yet, democracy is the only form of social order admissible because it's the only one consistent with justice. Our fifth story on the Countdown: Mr. Bush evidently stopped listening at that word - ignorance. He is evidently taking us from democracy to government by administrative order. The president's public assault on Congress continuing unabated today, even as he is planning to bypass the legislative branch as much as possible during this final year of his administration. The "Washington Post" reporting that Mr. Bush has concluded he can't do much business with Democrats in Congress because they have failed to meet him halfway. As for the public assault part in a speech about health care this morning, Mr. Bush using the convenience of the calendar to bash the Democrats for wanting to expand a popular children's health insurance program.


GEORGE W. BUSH, U.S. PRESIDENT: Halloween is an appropriate day to talk about it because there is a bill moving through the Congress that's disguised as a bill to help children. But I think it's really a trick on the American people.


OLBERMANN: Yet, it seems Mr. Bush has taken a play out of the

Democrats' play book. In yesterday's tirade from the White House north

protocol (ph) , the president criticizing Congress for failing to give him

separate pieces of legislation, each covering only one topic. So why then

has the president included more than $2.5 billion in the 2008 emergency war

funding supplemental, for spending that is not directly related to the wars

in Iraq or Afghanistan - spending request asking for, among other things,

724 million for peace-keeping aid in Darfur, 350 million in food aid to

Africa, half a billion in assistance to Mexico to fight organized crime and

narcotics trafficking. Not exactly what one would describe as supporting

the troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. Mr. Bush apparently not just learning

from the Democrats, it seems he might not also have been paying attention

to, is it possible? Me? Based on his speech this morning, it seems our

little lessons about S-chip versus Medicaid can now stop


BUSH: S-chip was created to provide coverage for poor and uninsured children whose parents make too much money to qualify for Medicaid. Let me make sure you understand the facts.


OLBERMANN: Somebody got him the facts. Here to help us understand other facts tonight, our own Howard Fineman, senior Washington correspondent for "Newsweek" magazine. Howard, good evening.


OLBERMANN: Would governing via administrative orders be a variation of government via signing statements of damn congress and damn the Constitution. Is it legal? Is it constitutional? Is it democracy?

FINEMAN: Within certain limits, yes. But the whole narrative of this administration, especially since 9/11, but really even before, has been to give the broadest possible interpretation of presidential powers after 9/11, after declaration of the "War on Terror," after Afghanistan and Iraq. The president and his advisors have used every tool and then some, to get around Congress and if it's all war all the time, if their only emergencies and only supplementals, we used the word supplemental, that's a special method of funding in Congress that by pass as lot of Congress's own procedures to begin with, the president is laying claim to every tool - that's executive orders, administrative orders, signing statements, you know, going it his own way to the extent possible. That's the theme of this presidency.

OLBERMANN: He left one out though - revelations within dreams. We are waiting on that one. But in the last couple weeks he issued administrative orders on veterans health care, on air traffic congestion, and immigration. At the same time, he has been speaking out for the need for fiscal responsibility and for Congress to meet him half way. If you are going to run the country by executive fiat, do you really have the right to complain about people meeting you half way? Didn't he just erase the half way?

FINEMAN: Yes, I think the Democrats are a little bit complicit here, too. I mean, they're playing politics with the whole budget process as well. And there is a little bit of a limit on the president with some of these administrative and executive orders. Eventually, he runs up against spending limits. He can change policy almost by fiat. He can override the administrative procedures act. Mocking (ph) around with what the executive departments are doing, but he is going to need money at some point for a lot of these things. And that's where Congress, still, has a role.

OLBERMANN: Is there anything? Again, we are going to ask Congress to do a lot by asking them to do anything. But is there anything Congress can do specifically on this point besides letting the financial clock run out? I mean, pass a law? Stop appropriating funds for the executive branch? Write a letter to their congressman? Is there anything to do to stop these administrative orders?

FINEMAN: Yes, it's all about the money. And if you read the Constitution, that's the power that Congress has and that's the first thing discussed in the Constitution. Yes, they could deny funds to the executive branch to operate because the executive branch operates on money appropriated by the Congress. The president doesn't go out and get it himself, at least, you know, he doesn't do it outside of the campaign. So, yes and they can stand in the way of funding for the war in Iraq, for any department they want to, they can shut down - the Congress can shut down most of the executive branches of government, departments of government because they're not in the Constitution, most of them. But, of course, they're not thinking in any such radical ways. It's an amazing thing to watch an administration that thinks so radically in constitutional terms in a Congress that is just the opposite.

OLBERMANN: Now, there's one team out there playing national football league rules and other one is playing arena rules.

FINEMAN: Yes, one is bill belly-check (ph) and one isn't.

OLBERMANN: Yes, yesterday though, as a final point, Mr. Bush mock what he called these three bill pileups, is not an emergency war funding measure that includes anti-drug trafficking, aid for Darfur, lots of other non-war spending is, that not a three-bill pileup or 33-bill pileup?

FINEMAN: Sure it is. He's taking advantage of the thing that he knows politically Congress has to pass to load it up with every foreign policy thing he can get his hands on, as you mentioned, Darfur, Mexico drug trafficking, yes, I look at that list, ironically, what's so brazen about it - the entire list is on the White House's own Web site. It's not like they were hiding it. They're saying you know, too bad, we are going to do it our way and claim it's right and not let you do it when you want to do it.

OLBERMANN: Howard Fineman of MSNBC and "Newsweek." Next week, we'll discuss punting in the relative to sports. As always, sir, great thanks.

FINEMAN: OK, take care.

OLBERMANN: The president losing another one of his closest and longest serving advisors today, which is either good news or bad news based on what she actually accomplished. Karen Hughes resigning today as undersecretary of Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs. What that title means is she was in charge of improving America's image abroad. Secretary of State Rice praising Mrs. Hughes today for the remarkable job she has done. Note the first definition of remarkable is notably or conspicuously unusual, extraordinary, says nothing here about good. When asked how recent events like last month's shootings of Iraqi civilians by Blackwater security guards hired by the State Department would affect the way the world sees the U.S., Mrs. Hughes admitted to the Associated Press that negative events never help. The department also creating uproar by releasing promotional tourism video which the footage of Niagara Falls was actually of a Canadian side of Niagara Falls and shoot from the Canadian side of the border near Niagara Falls. And those are only the recent controversies. Time to call in "Washington Post" contributor, James Moore who worked around Hughes since her days as a TV reporter of Dallas Wentworth (ph) who's covered her devotion to Mr. Bush since their days in the Texas state house. Thank you for your time tonight, Jim.

JAMES MOORE, HUFFINGTONPOST.COM: Always good to be with you.

OLBERMANN: I want to get your read on those administrative orders, too. But first, Karen Hughes, you described her connection to the president as obsessive. Let me read it exactly. She seems to have lost her ability to distinguish between the real world and red, white and blue movie playing on a loop in her head. It's a drama. Where W is the hero and crowds are cheering him as a savior while the national anthem plays as the sound track. Pretty potent words there, do they explain why polls show no improvement in the world's view of the U.S. since she became our pitch man?

MOORE: Well, I'm reminded of that famous (INAUDIBLE) article where he said, in quotes an unnamed senior White House official, whom everyone knew as Rove (ph) when he said, "We are about creating alternative realities." And so they've turned the White House, all of these folks, into a sort of "Palace of Pathology." - where they have created a reality in which the United States is the good guy and we're going to take democracy around the world, whether you want democracy or not and Karen lives in that world. Karen has believed everything the president has told her and they have essentially tried to continue to push his belief system into the wider world and of course, it's their belief system. But it constantly clashes with reality and leads to this kind of nonsense where the polls, all of the international polls have shown in Iraq, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, the united states has gone from a 60 to 70 percent favorability down to about 15 percent.

OLBERMANN: Position her correctly for us in the big picture of the White House. Was she part of the once vast group of people whom the president could trust and never seriously disabuse them of the notion of his wonderfulness and, if so, who's left in that group?

MOORE: I don't think there is anybody left in Washington anymore who is from that internal group. That, of course, was Karen's ultimate role and to the point where the president was so close to her that he had a sort of mommy kind of approval thing with her. Even after she left the White House, she's become obviously with this latest departure a kind of a serial quitter. You remember she famously did this before and even as she left the first time, to bring her family back to Austin, he was on the phone with her two, three, and four times a day constantly seeking her approval, constantly having her tell him that, yes, this was the right move; yes he's doing the right thing; yes, you're great, Mr. President. So, yes, that's been the nature of the relationship from the beginning. Now, whether that changes and she actually spends time here in Austin this go around is something that we'll have to see.

OLBERMANN: As promised, the reports of the president turning to government by administrative order, in a sense, Jim is, this now his dream job?


OLBERMANN: If almost full insulation from oversight.

MOORE: Yes, in fact, he's famously joked a couple times here in Texas, Keith, and in Washington as well, that this would be whole lot easier if he were just a dictator. And this isn't just a joke, I mean this is a case where humor comes very close to revealing the truth and I challenge anybody to see where this guy has ever compromised. Every single time that something has happened, it's happened because he has been defeated. Otherwise, the way they want it, the way they perceive it, the way they see it is the way that it is. And the president has decided that these Democrats aren't going to meet me and do what I want done. And I'm certainly not going to compromise with them. So, I'm going to find the legal ways or the not-so-legal ways, the marginally legal ways to do what I want.

OLBERMANN: When it comes to that subject of dictatorship, a song lyric suddenly pops into mind, here hold on tight to your dreams. Jim Moore, co-author of "Bush's Brain." Great thanks as always, sir.

MOORE: My pleasure, Keith.

OLBERMANN: The president might have to appoint a new attorney general by administrative order because the vote on the nominee has been scheduled and the opposition is mounting. And Joe Biden rips Rudy Giuliani. Rudy Giuliani fires back about Biden's involuntary plagiarism from 1987. But did you know about the allegations of plagiarism against Mr. Giuliani? The dirty little secret ahead, you are watching Countdown on MSNBC.


OLBERMANN: After the debacle that was Alberto Gonzales, Judge Michael Mukasey was thought to be the safe choice for attorney general. He was even suggested to the White House by Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer. But on our fourth story on the Countdown: His refusal to call water boarding torture could end up costing him a nomination. The chairman of the Judiciary Committee, Senator Leahy, he has now scheduled that vote for next Tuesday, this after Judge Mukasey responded Democratic demands for the clarification about water boarding by writing it while it seems over the line and it's personally repugnant to him he cannot clearly say whether it is illegal without being briefed on the technique. A classified briefing and while Republican Senators Arlen Specter and Lindsey Graham who have expressed concerns about Judge Mukasey's views on torture profess themselves somewhat satisfied by his written response. Their Democratic counterparts find his unwillingness to clearly define his legal stance - disturbing.


SEN. PATRICK LEAHY, (D) CHAIRMAN, JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: Obviously many of us felt that the United States, which would roundly and universally condemn the water boarding of an American held by any other country, many of us have felt that the attorney general nominee should do the same thing.


OLBERMANN: I'm joined now by constitutional lawyer -


SEN. DICK DURBIN, (D) ILLINOIS: If we are going to restore the image of the United States of America then the highest law enforcement official in the land should be clear, firm, and unequivocal that water boarding, torture are unacceptable, un-American, illegal and unconstitutional.


OLBERMANN: We're joined by constitutional lawyer Bruce Fein, chairman of the American Freedom Agenda, former Reagan associate deputy attorney general. As always, great thanks for your time, sir.


OLBERMANN: Let's start with this White House response to this today that the water boarding issue is an unfair and unexpected litmus test for any attorney general nominee but given that the last attorney general actually helped write the White House position that torturing al Qaeda suspects might be legally defensible, did not the White House make this subject both fair game and expected?

FEIN: Of course they did and they certainly knew that this kind of question would be raised. And to be equivocal about water boarding is like being equivocal about the rack and the screw or vivisection. It doesn't depend on any special circumstances. There's a generic way in which it's done. And I think this is an effort to try to save the Bush administration embarrassment if they have an attorney general pronouncing the practice illegal that we know has been perpetrated by high level officials in the Bush administration, including in the CIA.

OLBERMANN: I know that this may sound like an old-fashioned, quaint solution to this. But is there any preventing Judge Mukasey from being briefed on this? Perhaps getting a presentation from those who think waterboarding is torture and then get a presentation from those who think it isn't and perhaps maybe there is something in his background that would allow him to judge the presentations?

FEIN: Well, you get individuals who are not government officials cleared all the time for access to information. That's routinely done, for example, with regard to government contractors. So if he asked, I'd like to be cleared so I can get a first-hand briefing from those, in fact, who are undertaking the waterboarding that certainly would be done. It's very clear, it seems to me that it wasn't done simply to provide some opportunity for evasion because he knew a candid answer would either infuriate the Senate or suggest that Bush administration was in for serious trouble when it comes to criminal prosecution for torture.

OLBERMANN: Senator McCain, Senator Graham, and Senator Warner all wrote to the judge today. They praised him for his personal stance on waterboarding and they added collectively: "Once you are fully confirmed and fully briefed on the relevant programs and legal analyses, we urge you to publicly make clear that waterboarding can never be employed."

I realize it was a different political world in 1973. But the Senate that time got a previous attorney general, Elliott Richardson to agree to a special Watergate prosecutor, essentially against his own boss as a condition of his approval. The best a Senate now can get is after we hand you this blank check you send us a note promising us not to overspend?

FEIN: It shows the growing effectiveness of Congress and how far we have come from the Nixon administration. Because the Judiciary Committee not only demanded the appointment of Archibald Cox by name but the negotiation of his charter by which outline what crimes he would pursue. This was all before a vote. Obviously after the vote you lose leverage and the attorney general can say circumstances have changed. I'm too busy, I've changed my mind or he won't answer. At that point there really is no leverage that Congress has. And moreover, you want to have this information in the public limelight, which is at the time of confirmation. That's where the concentration of the public is at its peak. And that's where you want the greatest amount of reassurance that an attorney general is not going to sponsor torture.

OLBERMANN: The vote is Tuesday. The leverage presumably dissipates on Tuesday. Do you have any hope that what is asked for here, what is sought, some sort of definition of his legal opinion on waterboarding will be achieved before Tuesday?

FEIN: No. I don't think that Mukasey has the space to separate himself out from President Bush. The only question is will the Senate Judiciary Committee give a pass and basically endorsed everything the president has done for the last seven years and reduce itself largely to irrelevancy.

OLBERMANN: Bruce Fein, former deputy associate to attorney general in the administration of Ronald Reagan. As always, great thanks for your insight and your time, sir.

FEIN: Thank you.

OLBERMANN: And the other great legal issue of the moment, Britney Spears' custody battle and she really helps herself by giving a live radio interview today and then taking a shower.

And maybe set the table just as fast as you are able - details on this breaking story when Countdown continues.


OLBERMANN: This was John Candice birthday. If he had lived, he would have been 57 years old today. Not just a comedian particularly on SCTV but an actor gifted enough to shine on everything from blues brother to uncle buck to JFK. So raise your can a badge rolls and coffee on memory of Yush Mingling (ph).

And let's play Oddball. We begin on the Internet with reason number 687 why Japanese TV is superior to ours besides the fact that we no longer have the happy wanders. Look its dogs jumping rope. No idea why they were trained to do this but they're good at it. They can even jump into the moving rope and back out again. Thanks to the fine production team. Where you learn to think about how to react to such astounding feats. Instead they gave us the visual clues, tell us how well footie performed. But may be how they train them. That and cattle prods.

To our nation's capital where there is drag racing afoot. Not drag cars but drag queens. Dozens of them putting on the stilettos, they are on the annual high-heel race to the streets of Washington, wait a minute. We just saw this yesterday from Mexico with real women and one of the women fell down and go boom. So, what is this? None of the men fell down. One of them won the race in 90 seconds? What a gyp.

Senator Clinton targeted and Mayor Giuliani targeted. Any idea who are the other candidates think the candidate would probably be. So, late news about Giuliani and plagiarism and one of the candidates admits he has seen one of these. And has the courage to also question the President's mental well-being. All meat for the plate of the satirist ahead - Jim Morris ahead.

First up: The Best Person's of the World, number three - best rehabilitation (ph) Graeme Alford. In several years in cell number 43 at Pentrod (ph) Prison in Melbourne, Australia for embezzling and robbery in the '70s and '80s, the jail is being redeveloped into apartments. Mr.

Alford got redeveloped too into a motivational speaker. So now he is

buying a unit in the prison turned apartment complex, cell number 43. he -

Number two best eyes. An unidentified teller at Suntrust Bank in Daytona Beach, Florida, and Mr. Scott Reilly allegedly handed the manager a stickup note, he changed his mind and walked out two. Two hours later, one of the bank tellers was driving home and she saw standing on the gas station the same guy, Scott Reilly.

The number one best dumb criminal: an unidentified 54-year-old man in Queensland, Australia charged with stealing a laptop and various other computer equipment worth about 13,000 bucks all tolled. Among the equipment a global positioning navigation device which the guy promptly turned on, immediately alerting the police to his exact global position.


OLBERMANN: The line of the night at the latest Democratic presidential debate has turned into a fight of words between Senator Joe Biden and former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, a fight that evidently went one round too many for Mr. Giuliani. Our third story on the Countdown, Giuliani's replies today invoked a series of 1987 speeches in which Biden credited much of his remarks to British Politician Neil Kinnick (ph), all for one speech in which he infamously left Kinnick out of it and thus wound up inadvertently plagiarizing the material.

Mr. Giuliani rehashed all of this today, evidently forgetting that 26 days ago he was accused by Mitt Romney's campaign of plagiarizing material from Romney's speeches and ads. We start at the beginning at Drexel University last night.


SEN. JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm not running against Hillary Clinton. I'm running to lead the free world. I'm running to lead this country. And the irony is Rudy Giuliani, probably the most underqualified man since George Bush to seek the presidency, is here talking about any of the people here. Rudy Giuliani? I mean, think about it. Rudy Giuliani, there is only three things he mentions in a sentence, a noun, a verb, and 9/11. I mean, there is nothing else. There is nothing else. I mean it sincerely.


OLBERMANN: Mr. Giuliani's spokeswoman, Katie Levinson, responded first on paper, answering nothing of the senator's point, noting merely, quote, Rudy rarely reads prepared speeches. And when he does, he isn't prone to ripping off the text to others. If anybody missed the allusion to plagiarism 20 years ago, after which, incidentally, Biden ended that presidential campaign, Giuliani himself dived into the deep end of the pool with no water in it.


RUDY GIULIANI (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: My response is who wrote it? I mean, I know Joe read it. I saw him read it. I'm just wondering who wrote it? When I know who wrote it, then I can respond to it.


OLBERMANN: Giuliani was accused of plagiarism, not in 1987, but on the fifth of this month; "if the mayor's words about wasteful spending sounded familiar today," said Governor Romney's spokesman, Kevin Madden (ph), "I would have to agree."

In Democrat-on-Democrat violence, the obvious target was the obvious target. Senator Clinton tried to split the middle of the bid by the governor of her home state to get illegal immigrants to get legal driver's licenses.


SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: So what Governor Spitzer is trying to do is to fill the vacuum. I believe we need to get back to comprehensive immigration reform, because no state, no matter how well intentioned, can fill this gap.

SEN. CHRIS DODD (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The idea that we are going to extend this privilege here of a driver's license is troublesome. I think the American people are reacting to it?

CLINTON: I want to add, I didn't say that it should be done. But I certainly recognize why Governor Spitzer is trying to do it.

DODD: Wait a minute, wait a minute.

CLINTON: We have failed.

DODD: No, no, no. You said, yes, you thought it made sense to do.

TIM RUSSERT, NBC NEWS ANCHOR: Senator Clinton, I want to make sure what I heard. Do you, the New York senator, support the New York governor's plan to give illegal immigrants a driver's license?

CLINTON: This is where everybody plays gotcha. It makes a lot of sense. What is the governor supposed to do?

JOHN EDWARDS (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I want to add something that Chris Dodd just said a minute ago, because I don't want it to go unnoticed. Unless I missed something, Senator Clinton said two different things in the course of about two of minutes just a few minutes ago.


OLBERMANN: And today, AFSME, the power house political union of state, county municipal workers, ended an earlier period of collective indecision to endorse Senator Clinton. That's a 60 million dollar campaign fund and 40,000 campaign workers across the country. AFSME's president calling her the overwhelming choice of its 1.4 million members; 30,000 of them are in the most important caucus state, Iowa.

Let's turn now to Craig Crawford of "Congressional Quarterly" and, of course, MSNBC. Good evening.

CRAIG CRAWFORD, "CONGRESSIONAL QUARTERLY": That was quite a rumble last night.

OLBERMANN: Let me start about today, relative to last night. How smart was it politically to, as Mr. Giuliani did, answer a fairly serious point about what we could generously call the focused nature of his campaign by invoking the 20-year-old plagiarism charge when he, himself, was accused of plagiarism four weeks ago?

CRAWFORD: Well, you know, Giuliani has a tendency to shoot from the hip, Keith. In this case, he might have maybe gotten it out of joint. This is something Giuliani may have a problem with in the future. As his own aides noticed he doesn't always read scripts. He talks off the cuff. This is where sometimes he might have some problems.

OLBERMANN: She brought it up first, of course, this Ms. Levinson, and in a really - even for politics, a fairly mean-spirited statement. Is there - are they still making rookie mistakes? We have talked about this previous with the Obama campaign and several of the lesser Republicans, several of the lesser Democrats. Are there still rookie mistakes being made in the Giuliani camp?

CRAWFORD: Sure. All campaigns, you know, have this - that's one good thing about the early presidential campaign, they are able to work out a lot of these kinks very early on. But it's getting close to the wire now and, you know, that's one thing about the Clinton campaign - I think it's one reason everybody focused so much on her driver's license answer last night. It wasn't quite as savvy as she has always been. But still, that campaign is showing a lot more veteran skill than most of the others.

OLBERMANN: I want to get to that, but - that particular answer. But let me ask you one more question about Biden and Giuliani. Did Biden open the door for other Democrats last night? Obviously, it's unlikely another Republican could go after Giuliani for being one-note Rudy. But could you see the eventual Democratic nominee running with this, if not running on it.

CRAWFORD: I think what we may see in a general election campaign is an effort to undercut some of his boasting about what he did after 9/11. The trouble with being almost a one-issue candidate is that one issue better be air-tight. I think there are a lot of questions about his decisions, both before and after 9/11, that Democrats will get into, that Republicans in the primary race are not. And that's always a problem because you don't get that issue tested. You don't work out your responses to it until everybody is watching in the general election.

OLBERMANN: To the Democrats; we had virtually this promise from Barack Obama that he was going to get tough on Senator Clinton. Did he do it last night.

CRAWFORD: Eventually. He was a little slow to trot, Keith. One thing I noticed here watching it last night was that it wasn't until after John Edwards was landing hit after hit on Senator Clinton that it almost seemed like Obama was playing catch up. Overall, I would say though, I think Edwards ended up being more effective and has gotten more credit for that today than Obama did. So Edwards was the principle challenger last night to Senator Clinton, although Obama chimed in quite a bit.

OLBERMANN: All right, the driver's licenses in New York, it sounded to me - and maybe I'm being naive - that she was saying she was not a very big fan of this idea, but until we have some comprehensive immigration solution, there are going to have to be almost ad hoc interim solutions around this country like that one. Was that her answer? Why wasn't it acceptable? Was she right in complaining that she was unfairly hounded over it.

CRAWFORD: It was her answer. I think what we find often with Senator Clinton, like her husband, is she is a policy wonk, Keith. Unlike the media, policy wonks don't think about these kinds of issues in black or white and yes or no and up and down. It's more complicated than that. Many times that's where the real answers are, just complicated and longer. That's what she was doing here. We do have this problem with not being able - you can't manage what you can't measure. The country doesn't know who these people are, these illegal immigrants or undocumented workers. She is seeing the need to actually try to find ways to document them, but actually measure them, know where they are. That's all she was saying.

The media jumped on her and I think everybody was just looking for that because she has been doing so well so long.

OLBERMANN: We will see if it has any traction through Friday.


OLBERMANN: Craig Crawford of MSNBC and "Congressional Quarterly." As always, Craig, great thanks.

CRAWFORD: Good to be here.

OLBERMANN: Another round in the Britney Spears debate, a live radio interview during which she winds up slamming herself. And well, says Morton Kondracke of Fixed News, it may feel like torture, but water boarding isn't really torture because it doesn't do long term damage. The fatal flaw - and I do mean fatal - as he goes up against Major League Baseball and John Gibson for Worst Person honors. That's next. This is Countdown.


OLBERMANN: Britney Spears took to the airwaves to discuss the judge's ruling against her in the custody battle over her kids, something else somebody else should have told her not to do. That leading off our number two story tonight, Keeping Tabs. Ryan Seacrest called Ms. Spears this morning during his radio show. She defended her parenting skills and says she does everything she can for her kids. But she could not tell Seacrest how much she got to see her kids in the new court order issued yesterday. She didn't remember.

The correct answer was 36 hours a week, and only while being supervised. She defended her lack of knowledge of the court ruling by saying, quote, that's like all in the court, stuff like that all my lawyers know all that stuff. The interview ended abruptly when Ms. Spears decided it was time for a shower, which is how I'm sure you feel right now just listening to this.

And in which Lindsay Lohan do you believe? The good one or the bad one? Lohan has canceled as the host of a New Year's Eve bash in Las Vegas, according to "US Weekly," her publicist saying the actress wants to focus on her work and sobriety. However, "Life and Style Weekly" says Ms. Lohan tried to order a drink at a bar in L.A. a couple weeks ago when she was out with friends. Lohan's publicist denies that story. But servers have reportedly been told to refuse such a request and Lohan walked out embarrassed.

He has told a Democratic debate audience that he has seen a UFO, but he has also now questioned President Bush's mental health. So a day of improved esteem for Dennis Kucinich. Political satirist Jim Morris joins me next. First time for Countdown's Worst Persons in the World.

The bronze to Major League Baseball, which, as the "New York Times" and Mike Schmidt revealed today, is probably tipping off its players about supposedly surprise testing for steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs. The drug testing units are told to contact the home team a day or more before going to the ballpark to get passes to park at and enter the stadium. This would tend to eliminate the surprise part of the surprise test. And, yes, there are drugs that can mask the presence of steroids and they can be effective in 24 hours or less.

The runner-up, John Gibson of Fox Noise. Honestly, is anybody down the block here paying attention? Yesterday on his show he hosts - sorry, show he now co-hosts, he rips Chris Matthews for saying on "Hardball" what he would tell Senator Obama to say at the debate to try to overtake Senator Clinton. Gibbie says "it is illegitimate for one news to publicly advise one candidate on how to defeat another and still try to pretend he's objective and neutral in his news presentations. My friends, fair and balanced that is not."

That was yesterday. On Monday, Gibson publicly advised one candidate on how to defeat another; "you would think Obama could be tougher than that," he advised. "That's attacking Hillary? Obama better wake up. That isn't even throwing an elbow." Monday he does it. Tuesday he criticizes somebody else for doing it. Somebody better inform.

But our winner Morton Kondracke, also of Fixed News, explaining that water boarding not only isn't illegal, it doesn't really even effect the water boardee; "I'm sure it feels like torture, you know. It doesn't result in any lasting damage, but it feels like torture." OK, two things, Dr. Kondracke, a month ago one of the top shrinks at the famous Belleview Hospital testified to the Senate that when it's done right, water boarding can produce panic attacks, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and other kinds of lasting damage.

But here is the thing, Mort - here is the thing you need to be thinking about late at night when it's real quiet, what happens if one of our guys doing the water boarding does it wrong? What if he produces not a panic attack but a heart attack? What if he pours too much water over the detainee and actually suffocates him? This is what you knit wits keep thinking about torture, and forgetting about enhanced interrogation or I can't believe it's not torture or whatever phrase you are using to fool yourselves this week.

What if we kill a guy? Would you view that as lasting damage? Plus, you don't even get the secrets he is making up to get you to stop making him feel just like he is being tortured because he is dead. Morton Kondracke of Fox Noise, today's Worst Person in the World.


OLBERMANN: Democratic presidential debate October 30th. Halloween,

October 31st. Not surprising then Halloween costumes came up at the

debate. But there was also talk of UFOs and extra terrestrial life. All

of it fodder in our number one story on the Countdown for political

impressionist and satirist Jim Morris. The debate at Drexel University in

Phillie offered plenty of friction, as discussed previously in this news

hour, and it dipped its toe into science fiction, as when Tim Russert asked

Congressman Dennis Kucinich if it were true that actress Shirley MacLaine -

what she had written - she is the god mother of Kucinich's daughter - what she had written in her new book.



REP. DENNIS KUCINICH (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I did. It was unidentified flying object, OK? It's not unidentified. I saw something. Now, to answer your question, I am moving my - and I'm also going to move my campaign office to Roswell, New Mexico and another one in Exeter, New Hampshire, OK? Also, you have to keep in mind that Jimmy Carter saw a UFO and also that more people in this country have seen UFOs than I think approve of George Bush's presidency.


OLBERMANN: In the same vein, as Mr. Russert noted, Senator Barack Obama was asked if he agreed with three Apollo 11 astronauts that there is life beyond Earth. The senator said he didn't know, deftly focusing, instead, on people already here and in need; "so as president," he concluded, "those are the people I will be attending to first. There may be some other folks on their way."

And when asked, "Senator Obama said he was considering a Mitt Romney mask for Halloween, one with two sides going in both directions. Meantime, President Bush has now addressed Vice President Cheney's costume.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This morning I was with the vice president. I was asking him what costume he was planning? He said, well, I'm already wearing it. Then he mumbled something about the dark side of the Force.


OLBERMANN: Turns out Mr. Cheney dressed his dog as Darth Vader, unless the dog is just his, as they used to say, familiar. But regarding President Bush, Congressman Kucinich puts all kidding aside, still calling for his impeachment and telling the editorial board of the "Philadelphia Inquirer," quote, "I seriously believe we have to start asking questions about his mental health," regarding the president's comment that World War III could be brought on by Iran knowing how to build a nuclear weapon.

At this point, let's welcome political humorist and impressionist Jim Morris back to the program. Good evening, sir.


OLBERMANN: I'm good. The UFO thing first, Kucinich rightly pointed out that UFO doesn't necessarily mean alien spaceship. It means unidentified flying object. They asked Obama about extra terrestrials, but it sort of petered out. I'm sorry I didn't hear everybody's answer to this. I'm kind of sorry I didn't hear John Edwards' answer to this.

MORRIS: He was too busy attacking Hillary. If you believe it's OK to leave our troops in Iraq indefinitely than Hillary is your choice. If you bring we should bring them all home within a year, then you should vote for me. And if you believe that a UFO is going to land on your driveway, then vote for Dennis Kucinich.

OLBERMANN: Speaking of Congressman Kucinich, as for President Bush and this World War III thing, is not the Congressman just flat out asking what a lot of people have wondered about the president and his emotional well-being in there?

MORRIS: Well, look who is asking the question. I just have to say, good to be here with you. Your name, Keith, has been coming up an awful lot at the White House.

OLBERMANN: How so, sir?

MORRIS: Well, our good friend Bill-O suggests water boarding with a harsh loofa scrub. But look who we are dealing with here. We have got the president of Iran, Akmadinadudade (sic) and all those other clerics and mullahs calling for Jihad and Fatwas. I want to assure the American people that we're not going to be intimidated by all these Mullah Fatwas. You know, a real American doesn't question his commander and chief, Keith.

OLBERMANN: Well then I won't ask any more questions. By the way, will the Republican presidential contenders ever agree on whether water boarding constitutes torture, do you think?

MORRIS: I'm sure if you were to ask John McCain, he would say, he wouldn't permit it. But I support this - we have to support this president on Iraq. When I get a question like that, my friend, I am reminded of the incredible valor of the crew of the SS Minnow when they ran aground on the shores of an uncharted desert aisle. I mean, did the skipper fire Gilligan just because the professor and other egg heads and intellectual types said they were off course? No, Thurston Howell III and Lovie knew better. The ship of state is not sinking, my friends. It just needs a little patching up.

OLBERMANN: I just want to put in on the record, by the way, that I do the world's only impression of the new White House Press Secretary Dana Perino, but I will leave it to the professionals here. Last night Governor Richardson defended Senator Clinton in the middle of this dust up over the license plates. Is he running for vice president? What do you think?

MORRIS: Well, you know, here is what I would do. I hear all these holier than thou personal attacks and, you know, if Barack and Chris and John disagree with Hillary and want her to see things their way, a little bit of diplomacy is in order. Heck, the carrot and stick approach, it's Halloween, why not - they probably want to give her a - strap a carrot to her nose and give her a broom stick.

OLBERMANN: It's like I'm back at that debate in Chicago that I moderated. I'm hearing all the voices in my head again. Last point -

MORRIS: You did a great job in debate by the way.

OLBERMANN: Thank you. Fortunately it's 30 debates ago. Are we past the point where Al Gore might enter this race or is there still a chance?

MORRIS: Well, I have talked to Tipper and the problem is that if I did win - if I did win, I would be a bit concerned with the current makeup of the Supreme Court. They would probably overturn themselves, and say that I did win in 2000. Now, I can't succeed myself. I wouldn't put it past them.

You are a good American, Keith.

OLBERMANN: Thank you, sir. And as your new White House press secretary, I would just like to advise you that there are exits, here, here, here, and here. Jim Morris, comedian and impressionist, it's been too long. Thanks for coming on tonight, Jim.

MORRIS: Thanks for having me.

OLBERMANN: We'll have you on again, I hope. That's Countdown for this the 1,645th day since the declaration of mission accomplished in Iraq. From New York, I'm Keith Olbermann, good night and good luck.