'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Feb. 2
Guests: Eugene Robinson
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST: Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
The national intelligence estimate on Iraq, the sum total of what our government officially knows, officially believes.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The words "civil war" oversimplify a very complex situation in Iraq.
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OLBERMANN: So it's more complex, worse, than a civil war. Except for the part about Iran, which the NIE concludes is not a major factor in violence in Iraq.
What does a president whose own beliefs are again disproved by experts on his own side do now?
Richard Wolffe on the political fallout, former CIA European chief Tyler Drumheller on the intelligence fallout.
Does the president now have to claim his own intelligence agencies don't know what they're talking about? Or does Mr. Bush just continue to drive his policy the way this video suggests our soldiers have to drive their Humvees in Iraq?
Week two of the Libby trial. The vice president revealed as Tony Soprano, his office revealed as the Bada Bing? Those the metaphors of our guest, Eugene Robinson of "The Washington Post."
Global warming, it's real, and at best made much worse by man. That's the scientific final score. So that might explain why ExxonMobil was reportedly willing to pay, through intermediaries, 10 grand to any scientist who undermined the report.
As if on cue, disaster strikes from the skies in Florida. At least 19 dead in Lake and Valusia Counties. Tornadoes.
And old-fashioned political scandal, the mayor, his campaign manager's wife, the mayor's ex-wife, the cable TV heartthrob, and a confession.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everything you've heard and read is true. And I am deeply story about that.
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OLBERMANN: Oh, yes, the campaign manager's wife he had the affair with, she's named Ruby.
And least this didn't happen. And the mayor's critics have yet to put the bite on him. And this is not how the whole mess will be resolved. It's all just part of life's rich pageant and the Oddball Plays of the Month.
All that and more, now on Countdown.
Good evening from New York.
National Intelligence Estimates are, quoting from the latest NIE, "the intelligence community's most authoritative written judgments on national security issues, designed to help U.S. civilian and military leaders develop policies to protect U.S. national security interests." And apparently not current civilian and military leaders.
Our fifth story on the Countdown, the president and his administration not only ignoring the new NIE on Iraq, but also withholding and demanding rewrites of an intelligence report about Iran with which it does not agree, the U.S. government today releasing its grimmer-than-grim assessment of the situation in Iraq, including that while the term "civil war" does not fully capture the complexity of the violence there, it does accurately describe "key elements of the Iraqi conflict, including the hardening of ethno-sectarian identities, and a sea change in the character of the violence," the report adding that "unless efforts to reverse these conditions show measurable progress in the coming 12 to 18 months, we assess that the overall security situation will continue to deteriorate at rates comparable to the latter part of 2006," despite that, this morning, the national security adviser, Stephen Hadley, explaining why the White House will continue to avoid any mention of civil war.
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STEPHEN HADLEY, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: We know what kind of fight we're in. We know the facts. That is described well in this NIE. And we have a strategy to deal with those facts and to try to succeed. I go back to - I will tell you what this NIE says.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I want to know why you (INAUDIBLE)...
HADLEY: The intelligence - because it's not an adequate description of the situation we find ourselves, as the intelligence community says. The intelligence community judges the term "civil war" does not adequately capture the complexities of the conflict in Iraq. And what we're doing is saying, if you're going to run policy and if you're going to explain it to the American people, we need to get across the complexities of the situation we face in Iraq and what is our strategy dealing - to deal with that. And simple labels, don't do that. We're going to try and force everybody to get into the facts.
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OLBERMANN: The White House apparently trying to force everybody into its facts on Iran, as well, the NIE having concluded the nation is not a major factor in the violence in Iraq, Mr. Hadley continuing to insist that it is, as for why he has failed to offer any evidence supporting that claim, the national security adviser revealing the White House had sent back a report on Iran's reported involvement inside Iraq that had been scheduled for release this week because he believed the briefing overstated the facts, the White House, in effect, demanding a rewrite on the facts, at the Pentagon this morning, the defense secretary, Mr. Gates, denying there is any grand plan for Iran.
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ROBERT GATES, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: The president has made clear, the secretary of state has made clear, I've made clear, nobody is planning - no - we are not planning for a war with Iran. What we are trying to do is, in Iraq, counter what the Iranians are doing to our soldiers, their involvement in activities, particularly these explosively formed projectiles that are killing our troops.
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OLBERMANN: Let's call in our own Richard Wolffe, senior White House correspondent for "Newsweek" magazine.
Richard, good evening.
RICHARD WOLFFE, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, "NEWSWEEK" MAGAZINE:
Good evening, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Yesterday, the White House was denying flat-out the CBO, the Congressional Budget Office report that had failed - that it had failed to mention 15,000 to 28,000 additional support troops that would have to go along with the escalation of the 21,500 combat troops to Iraq. It didn't give a number as to how many troops it would actually have supporting those combat troops. Today, it's ignoring, it's refuting key conclusions of its own National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq. What are they relying on inside the White House, the fortunes inside the fortune cookies?
WOLFFE: Well, they're grasping at very slender straws there. If you heard Steve Hadley, for a start, this is an incredibly grim reading, this intelligence estimate. And what Hadley was saying was, first of all, the war is actually worse than a pure civil war, as you pointed out in the opening. It's more complex, more violent, more extreme.
And also that the slender reeds of optimism in the NIE, things like this bottom-up approach that the intelligence agency suggests, things like a neighborhood watch program - I mean, you know, you look at the balance of this - this is just the executive summary And the downside, the risks of things getting even worse than they are today are clearly much greater than the chances of anything getting better. So what they're relying on is pure optimism, in this case.
OLBERMANN: Yes, we're moving past Vietnam right towards Cambodia here on the outlook path. But the Republicans on the Hill were saying today, all of a sudden they're planning to filibuster to cut off any debate, any debate over the war in Iraq in the Senate. Did the NIE impact that? Did that just harden two sides? And what would happen if the administration had to go and get a reauthorization on Iraq now, or an authorization on Iran, after this?
WOLFFE: What's been going on behind the scenes is a lot of arm-twisting and pressure from the administration on congressional Republicans. They think, in the words of the vice president, and they've shored up support among Republicans, but in the end, their final line of defense is a filibuster, and it's Mitch McConnell, who happens to be married to someone inside the administration.
So they're working very closely with him, they think he's going to block things in the final run. But, you know, this is only a temporary blocking measure. Really, politics has already moved on.
OLBERMANN: There are senior administration officials telling NBC News, they did this this morning, that the underlying intelligence in the NIE was used to formulate the president's new strategy in Iraq, even as the president and his people were disputing the key claims in the report. Is the hope somehow, Richard, that by focusing on the complexity of the situation in Iraq, the media and the public will not be able to figure out that the White House is doing one thing, while saying another, that there's more of this cherry-picking going on?
WOLFFE: The hope is that things are going to get better in two or three months, or at least hey can point to things getting better. Now, the new defense secretary said that actually Iraqi troops still weren't showing up for the job, which is not a good sign. On the other hand, you know, they've rounded up some of the militias.
But look again at what that intelligence estimate was saying. National reconciliation, the key part of what they're hoping Maliki will provide, is a long, long, long way away if it ever will happen. You know, based on that, it is hard to be an optimist. But this administration still is.
OLBERMANN: Boy, oh, boy. We'll see how long it can last. It always looks like it's about to evaporate, and they come back with more.
Richard Wolffe of MSNBC and "Newsweek." As always, great thanks.
Have a good weekend.
WOLFFE: And you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: For more on the intelligence implications of the NIE and the White House response to that NIE, let's call in Tyler Drumheller, the now-retired CIA official who was head of covert operations in Europe during the lead-up to the war in Iraq, also author of the new book, "On the Brink:
An Insider's Account of How the White House Compromised American Intelligence."
Thank you for some of your time tonight, sir.
TYLER DRUMHELLER, FORMER CIA OFFICIAL: Thanks for having me.
OLBERMANN: As we reported Mr. Hadley saying today, he had sent back a report on Iran's (INAUDIBLE) purported involvement inside Iraq because the White House believed there was some overstatement of the facts. Never mind what the reason for sending it back was, in your experience, did this same sort of manipulation of intelligence occur during the lead-up to the war in Iraq?
DRUMHELLER: Well, and in fact, it's disconcerting to see that, because in the lead-up to the war in Iraq, there was an NIE that was done on the weapons of mass destruction that was based on faulty sourcing, but the administration grasped that and used that as the reason for going to war. In this case, they - if it's true that they sent it back for that reason, they didn't like the conclusion, so they didn't use it and they sent it back, and it just means that politics is still in the middle of the whole process, instead of policy.
OLBERMANN: Yes, for context on what we are seeing today and what we saw today about this process of it being cherry-picked or sent back, you watched the speech that was given by the then-secretary of state, Mr. Powell, to the U.N. in February 2002. What was your visceral reaction to it, and why?
DRUMHELLER: Well, I was very upset. I said many times it was - I had, the week before, warned the director, George Tenet, and the week before that, the deputy director, that there was a - there were problems with the reporting that was in the base for the report, that the one source, Curveball, that a lot of people have heard about was actually probably a fabricator, and that it shouldn't be used in this type of case for war.
Thought that we had had it taken out of the speech, and when they gave the speech, it was there.
OLBERMANN: So did you think it was the wrong speech had been handed to the secretary?
DRUMHELLER: Well, that's actually what we thought, me being an old bureaucrat, I thought, for many years, I thought, Well, we probably just sent him the wrong speech. But, in fact, as my executive officer told me, No, they just ignored you.
OLBERMANN: Yes. Well, as it turned out, they sent him the wrong speech. But do you feel these same sort of things are still, despite all that has happened to this administration, that they're still taking these kind of shortcuts regarding particularly Iran's involvement in the war in Iraq?
DRUMHELLER: Well, I think the disturbing thing is that everything is driven - seems to be driven by politics and that the decision - the feeling about Iran is something that's already seems to have been - that seems to be deep within the administration. And they're getting that have the same sort of emigre sources and the same sort of people telling them things that are obviously at odds with what the intelligence community is telling them. And they don't - and it's that sort of conflict.
And they've got to get away from that, or they're never get out of this situation.
OLBERMANN: If - remind me, as an amateur here in this situation trying to understand it, if, if intelligence, if the consensus of the intelligence agencies is, statements one through 10 are true, these are the most important bits of information we've been able to assemble, here's the sourcing, here are the ramifications, here are the political implications, but basically, here are 10 facts. If you go and say, Well, all right, I'm only going to accept facts two, five, eight, and nine, have you not really invalidated the usefulness of the whole process?
DRUMHELLER: And that's - yes. It makes the whole thing worthless, because the fact is, when they make actual judgments in an NIE, the actual judgments have to be based on real hard intelligence reports. When they get off into saying, Well, if there's better, you know, neighborhood policing, then people will be happier, maybe things will go better, those are opinions. But where they actually draw the line and say, This exists, or this is a finding, this is a finding, those are based on hard intelligence reports, not just analysis.
And when you just (INAUDIBLE) pick and choose which of those you like, it doesn't work that way, and you get deeper and deeper into these situations.
OLBERMANN: It's as if you said, Two plus two is four, I'll accept that, but two plus three does not equal five.
DRUMHELLER: That's right.
OLBERMANN: The former CIA officer Tyler Drumheller. The book is called "On the Brink." It's essential reading. Great thanks for your time tonight, sir.
DRUMHELLER: Thanks for having me.
OLBERMANN: Another kind of evidence about Iraq and more visceral, to use that word again, those homemade videos from soldiers there increasingly posted on the Internet. One such posting we'll show you presently, with a military Humvee driving through a congested, though unidentified, city in Iraq, the vehicle seems to be making every effort to prevent itself from slowing town.
One of MSNBC's military experts, Colonel Jack Jacobs, watched the video, tells us that soldiers are taught to drive this way now to reduce the risk from IEDs, improvised explosive devices, and that this is the best way to defeat a possible ambush. So assumptions about why the Humvee is driving this way are perfectly reasonable. How average Iraqi citizens might react to these maneuvers, that's another matter. We've condensed the 2.5-minute video. Here it is.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) take a left.
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OLBERMANN: Also tonight, playing politics with global warming. World scientists say it's a clear and very present danger. A prominent think tank with ties to big oil offers inducements to find scientists who are willing to undermine the conclusions.
Global warming promises more severe storms. Florida has already gotten that promise fulfilled. The deadliest tornado there in a decade hits overnight. There's now a state of emergency in effect in part of central Florida.
You are watching Countdown on MSNBC.
OLBERMANN: As if anyone needed yet another overwhelming mountain of scientific evidence, a new report assuring us today that global warming is accelerating, and that manmade causes are the primary culprit. And so a think tank funded largely by ExxonMobil wants to pay other scientists $10,000 apiece to rebut that international study.
Meantime, the kind of dangers posed by global warming, like violent tornadoes, has now ravaged central Florida, all of it fitting disturbingly into our fourth story on the Countdown tonight. First, to central Florida, where at least one tornado hit in the dark predawn hours.
Our correspondent is Kerry Sanders.
KERRY SANDERS, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Keith, here in Lake Mac alone, at least 13 people died. The sheriff's department has a curfew in effect tonight. Residents who want to go near to what were their homes will not be allowed back to them.
Most survivors will be spending the night in shelters.
(voice-over): Devastation, mile after mile.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have heavy, heavy damage.
SANDERS: After mile.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's sad. There's trees down, it's - houses are down. Cars are flipped.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All I heard was trees breaking and pine tree smell, glass breaking, and people screaming.
SANDERS: The National Weather Service estimates at least nine tornadoes touched down in central Florida, one almost a half-mile wide. Together they ripped a 50-mile path through four Florida counties.
The timing could not have been worse.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're lucky to be alive.
SANDERS: First reported touchdown at 3:15 a.m. in Lady Lake, Florida.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was only like, maybe, 10 seconds, and it was over.
SANDERS: Local television news become a lifeline to viewers.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE:... some 50, 60 miles an hour, these storms have been traveling through...
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SANDERS: Mother Nature's fury was indiscriminate.
BEN JOHNSON, VOLUSIA COUNTY SHERIFF: This storm showed no conscience.
It took out mobile homes, it took out apartment complexes.
SANDERS: And shopping centers, even a police substation.
Throughout the day, teams searched for those who might still be trapped in the debris.
Hundreds are homeless tonight, including Ilse Campbell.
(on camera): You got out of here somehow after the house collapsed?
(voice-over): She survived the World War II bombings in Germany.
ILSE CAMPBELL: This is war, but there's no one to fight.
SANDERS (voice-over): Like a growing number of Floridians, Ilse has no insurance. Insurance costs have tripled here in the last two years because of hurricanes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Help is on the way through FEMA and Homeland Security.
SANDERS: FEMA is promising mobile homes to victims, to folks like Saul Castro (ph) and his family, who crawled into the bathroom moments before the house imploded.
(on camera): Look at this. You survived in the bathroom somewhere under this mess.
SAUL CASTRO: That'll be my lucky day.
SANDERS (voice-over): Vern and Lou Edna Herbert (ph), members of the Greatest Generation, knew to take cover 11 minutes before the tornado touched down, thanks to a warning broadcast on their weather radio.
LOU EDNA HERBERT: We just (INAUDIBLE) and took them right in there and put them up on our head like this.
SANDERS: Florida, which celebrated a season with no hurricanes, is tonight feeling a familiar pain.
(on camera): The police have set up roadblocks. Tomorrow, when residents return, they will check the driver's license of every person who claims that they live back here, and only allow them back in, to prevent looting, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Kerry Sanders at Lake Mac, Florida. Great thanks, Kerry.
Extreme Florida tornadoes precisely the type of events scientists fear will be one of the inevitable results of global warming.
And now, for the first time, an international scientific panel has concluded that evidence of global warming is, quote, "unequivocal," and that with 90 percent certainty, manmade activities are its main causes.
The United Nations report, its fourth since 1990, comprised from the research of hundreds of scientists, it states that greenhouse gases, largely from excessive burning of oil and coal, are causing an unacceptable risk in the rate and severity of the earth's warming. The scientific panel also says it is not too late to slow the trend with swift action.
The scientist-authors were not paid. The charter for the U.N. panel prohibits it from entering into speculation, providing an impressive threshold of credibility and fact that is not required of the scientists ExxonMobil is fishing for. The oil company has provided much of the funding for a think tank called the American Enterprise Institute, which is offering $10,000 a pop to scientists who will challenge the global warming report.
AEI has received approximately $1.25 million from ExxonMobil, a drop in the bucket for that company, which yesterday announced nearly $40 billion in annual profits. More than 20 staffers at AEI have worked as consultants to the Bush administration.
Not Scooter Libby nor Dick "Deadeye" Cheney. They have other frying pans to be fish in. What the first two weeks of the Libby trial have done to the vice president.
Speaking of fish, tattooing your guppy? And a washing machine for your cat?
Countdown continues with our News for Pets segment.
OLBERMANN: On this day in 1963, as the British rock and roll frenzy reached its apparent height, the first national tour began in that country by the act that had them all screaming in the aisles, Helen Shapiro. She was 16 years old, and pop-music-wise, she had actually hit her peak already. Her opening act, some guys from Liverpool with guitars, who were also on their first national tour, the Beatles.
Having proved something with that historical nugget, let's play Oddball.
We begin on the mean streets of Williamsville, New York, a town so tough, even the fish have tattoos. Yes, the new trend for your home aquarium, inking up your little fishies. The tattoos are applied either with a dye or a low-level laser. A laser, on fish. Choose from polka-dots, stripes, even a short message, like, "Ouch!" or "Help me, I can't swim."
Breeders say it does not hurt, but animal rights people have condemned the act, obviously before they saw the one with the cute little heart on it. Awww, so cute, less painful.
You don't like the tattoo you gave your little guppy, you can toss it in this thing. From the Internets, it's the Kitty Washing Machine. Cat gets dirty. Cat goes in box, and here come the waterworks. It's just that simple. And boy, does this little fellow seem to love this. Do you understand for him, this is like an earthquake, right? Hold your e-mail, folks, we're not endorsing the product seen here. The cat ends up being fine, clean as a whistle. And nervous for, like, 12 days. Just be glad we did not show you how they dried the cat. Always try to keep your cat dry.
And also tonight, "American Idol" has its freak show, we've got ours in the form of the month in review from Oddball. It's funny because it's not happening to you or your loved ones.
And the stakes in the Scooter Libby trial. Testimony placing the vice president at the center of efforts to out Valerie Plame. How much worse will things get for Dick Deadeye?
But first, time for Countdown's top three newsmakers of this day.
Number three, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, self described wannabe commissioner of the National Football League, offering a Super Bowl prediction. She says the Indianapolis Colts, favored to win, will win. Experience should tell you not to listen to this administration's predictions about victory. Take the Bears and the points.
Number two, Ishmael Lopez of Queens, New York, had a solid idea, honestly, about breaking into a local deli. Gut the air conditioner and slide on through the hole. Then he tried to get out the same way, while his pockets were suddenly stuffed full of money. This is what happened. Well Mr. Poez, at least you got your next Halloween outfit all set.
Number one, the Arkansas newspaper the "Pine Bluff Commercial" and how it covered the arrest of a streaker how was tracked down by the footprints he left in the new fallen snow outside the IHop. Let me just read this verbatim, officers, quote, followed the footprints of a bare foot runner in the snow until they found a shivering man behind a car on the lot of car wash nearby. Asked by police how he intended to get his clothing back from inside the restaurant or how expected to get home, the man said he did not think that far in advance.
The article then mentioned that much of northwest Arkansas got an inch of snow, with quote, a few spots getting as much as three inches, ahem.
OLBERMANN: If you think the Bears-Colts match-up is this weekend's most important battle, it's time to wake up and smell the third story on the Countdown tonight. At some point before the coin toss U.S district Judge Reggie Walton will decide a crucial contest between federal prosecutors and the lawyers representing the vice president's former chief of staff Lewis Scooter Libby.
At stake is whether you and I will be allowed next week to hear the tapes of Mr. Libby himself testifying before a grand jury, testifying about his role and his boss' role in leaking the identity of the covert CIA operative Valerie Plame to undermine the credibility of her husband, Joe Wilson, who was then an outspoken skeptic about the administration claims about Iraq.
In the trial so far we have heard literally half a dozen witnesses refute Libby's claim that he first learned about Plame from NBC's Tim Russert in July 2003. This week FBI agent Debra Bond revealed Libby told investigators he actually learned about Plame more than a month before, not from Russert, but from Vice President Cheney. Bond also saying when Libby was asked whether Cheney was part of the discussion about whether to leak Plame's identity publicly, Libby said yes, the vice president may have been.
Following this trial and crafting an intriguing analogy to it, as we will hear, is Eugene Robinson, columnist at the "Washington Post." Great thanks for some of your time tonight, sir.
EUGENE ROBINSON, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Good to be here Keith.
OLBERMANN: I want to hear that analogy, in your own words, in a moment, but first let me do a logic check about Mr. Libby. Based on this FBI agent, Miss Bond's testimony, Libby told investigators on July 10th Russert said, quote, all the reporters know about Valerie Plame. Two days later Libby and Cheney may have discussed leaking Plame's identify to reporters.
I'm not a lawyer, but if all the reporters knew, there would have been no need to leak to the reporters, correct?
ROBINSON: And that is correct. Yes, there would have been no need to leak anything to reporters who already knew about, so I think you passed the logic test. I think Scooter Libby fails the logic test. But as was said in the intro, there are at least a half dozen witnesses now who are saying the story of the outing of Valerie Plame was not as Scooter Libby wanted us to believe it was. I think we know that by now. That's pretty well established.
OLBERMANN: I know this is always a dicey thing to do, but let's take a long view on this. Fast forward past newspaper columns, accounts, TV newscasts, do you have a sense yet about what the history books will say about what this trial revealed?
ROBINSON: I think there are two things the history books will record, maybe three things. One, any time you have the former press secretary for the White House testifying under grant of immunity, you're having a really bad week. That's a bad thing. I think one thing that, at least, as far as I'm concerned is fairly well established is Scooter Libby does not seem to have told the truth.
I mean, you can't - you know, I'm not judge and jury, but it seems fairly clear now that his version of events just either didn't happen - and probably couldn't have happened. I think the other long view thing that we'll take away from this is this portrait of a cover-up that failed. My colleague David Ignatius used that phrase in a column he did today, and I think he really hit it spot on.
Here you have Dick Cheney before the war. He's trying to find evidence of WMD. He hears about this Niger rumor, calls the CIA and says what about this. The CIA jumps, sends Joe Wilson. He comes back and says this seems to be bogus. Then, you know - but the administration uses the information anyway. Then when this whole story kind of emerges, the vice president's office goes to extraordinary lengths to distance the office and the vice president himself from what he did, which was to really start the Wilson mission in motion.
He didn't specifically say go send Joe Wilson, but he did set it in motion. And they seemed to be really intent on burying that fact and coming up with some other reason why Joe Wilson got sent. So they settled on well, his wife works for the CIA and so it was some sort of nepotistic thing, or who knows what the logic of that is supposed to be.
OLBERMANN: Setting it in motion leads us to this analogy that you coined during the week about the Cheney operation. And we have just enough time to go through that in brief. Can you give it to us?
ROBINSON: Well, it's Tony Soprano. What's the difference between Dick Cheney and Tony Soprano? There are a couple of differences. The vice president's office is sounding a bit like the back room of the Bada Bing, with the crew kind of gathered around and looking, you know, what do we do now tone, to get out of this one?
They're kind of warring with the West Wing. There's some indication that in order to save Karl Rove, they're going to throw Scooter overboard. or put him through the meat grinder was the lovely image that we got. There are a couple of differences between Tony Soprano and Dick Cheney. I don't think Tony Soprano is going to have a henchman working for him named Scooter.
OLBERMANN: Yes, exactly.
ROBINSON: And I also don't think Dick Cheney is going to go to bare his soul to a shrink regularly. I think he's going to tough it out.
OLBERMANN: Eugene Robinson of the "Washington Post," with that other worldly kind of description of the Cheney office, great thanks for that and great thanks for joining us tonight.
ROBINSON: Good to be here.
OLBERMANN: Also tonight a good old fashioned political sex scandal. The wife of the mayor's own campaign manager. Why did he go and spoil it all by apologizing.
Boston gets an apology over the movie promo gone wrong, while the alleged perp and perps get what's coming to them. That's next. This is Countdown.
OLBERMANN: First there was the misses. She didn't spend a lot of time in the city in which her husband happened to be the mayor. In fact, she seemed instead to be on all the cable networks out in New York, now works for one of them on the weekends.
Then there was the 20-year-old the mayor was supposed to be dating. Most recently, there were the rumors about the mayor and Ruby, the wife of his campaign manager. But in our number two story on the Countdown, the saga of San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsome has taken an unexpected twist, an admission and an apology, instead of say, him going out and singing Kenny Rogers' old tear jerker song "Ruby, Don't Take Your Love to Town."
Here's George Lewis from the scene of the soap opera.
GEORGE LEWIS, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Mayor Gavin Newsome, handsome, charismatic, and now apologetic.
GAVIN NEWSOME, SAN FRANCISCO MAYOR: I want to make it clear that everything you've heard and read is true. And I am deeply sorry about that.
LEWIS: It was the "San Francisco Chronicle" that broke the story about the affair between Newsome and Ruby Rippy Turk (ph), the wife of Alex Turk, Newsome's former campaign manager, who abruptly quit his job.
NEWSOME: I've hurt someone I care deeply about, Alex Turk, his friends and family, and that is something that I have to live with and something that I am deeply sorry for.
LEWIS (on camera): The affair reportedly took place a year and a half ago, when Newsome was going through a divorce. The fact that he was romanticly involved with a subordinate has caused some critics to call for his resignation.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What has been the mayor's reaction to allegations, charges that he should resign.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The mayor is committed to working for the city, not just today, not just next week, but for many years to come.
LEWIS (voice-over): When Newsome, considered a rising star in the Democratic party, first ran from mayor, Bill Clinton and Al Gore campaigned on his behalf. Newsome later gained national attention by permitting same-sex marriages at city hall, until the courts intervened and declared that illegal. Now the focus is on Newsome's own extramarital behavior, and the question, what affect it will have on his political future, including his plans to run for reelection.
LARRY GERSTON, POLITICAL SCIENTIST: San Franciscans are pretty tolerant about these kind of things, particularly if they are consentual relationships.
LEWIS: One of Newsome's predecessors who had his own share of romantic escapades was sympathetic.
WILLIE BROWN, FORMER SAN FRANCISCO MAYOR: I think, frankly, the public, in many cases, finds it rather entertaining that suddenly they have someone who's still alive holding public office.
LEWIS: Now Gavin Newsome has to worry about staying alive politically, hoping the scandal fades away.
George Lewis, NBC News, Los Angeles.
OLBERMANN: Another apology kicking off our nightly roundup of celebrity and entertainment news, Keeping Tabs. This one from Turner Broadcasting to the entire city of Boston for the bomb scares caused by their bright light cartoon ads. The company taking out a full page ad in local papers, apologizing to residents for the, quote, confusion and inconvenience, promising to work, quote, to regain your respect.
I'm not sure about the respect part, but a reported million dollars the company is expected to pay out to the city and local transit authorities, will surely go a long way to soothe Boston's anger, if not its embarrassment. It's cheap at that price too, considering the company just got days worth of unintended free publicity for the upcoming film "Aqua Teen Hunger Force."
The two guys arrested for starting that publicity also off the hook tonight. Boston authorities telling NBC News they are dropping the charges against them. Now all we have to wait for is the city to apologize to its citizens for panicking in the way officials did not panic in New York and L.A., Chicago and Atlanta, and Austin, Seattle, Portland, San Francisco and Philadelphia. Philadelphia, where by actual count, 56 of those signs have been blinking for the last two weeks.
James Brown remains up and blinking, up ground anyway, for the sixth week since his demise. Meantime, his self proclaimed fourth wife is suing for half of his estate. Tommy Ray Heini (ph) has been locked out of the house she shared with Mr. Brown since his death on Christmas day. Neither she nor the 5-year-old son were included in his will.
Brown's lawyers claim she was never legally married to him, because she was technically a bigamist when they wed. Browns six other known children, who are in the will, have also filed suit, seeking to protect their shares of the estate. Both cases will be heard on the same day, same court house, but there's still no word on when Mr. Brown might finally be laid to rest.
Fun just never stops here, from a falling model to falling Pandas to falling wives? But first time for Countdown latest list of nominees for Worst Person in the World.
The bronze to the Fox TV series 24. We explored here a few weeks ago the possibility that the show was in part a device to get people thinking we were living in a country where a car bomb could go off at any moment. This was poo pooed in some corners. Of course not, I was told. It's just entertainment.
But now our esteemed colleague Cal Thomas of Fox noise has pretty much underscored this point in his latest newspaper column, quote, watch the TV drama 24 for what could be our prophetic and imminent future, with a nuclear device exploding in major cities.
Number two, the National Football League, insisting that a series of establishments in the Indianapolis area not show Sunday's Colts/Bears Super Bowl game on big screen TV's or there might be legal action. The institutions, a bunch of churches that want to have Super Bowl gathering for their Colt fan congregations.
The NFL will continue, however, to permit bars nationwide to show the games on big screen TV's and require patrons to buy drinks. Sue over viewings in church, endorse pay per view at bars. Why do I think the NFL might want to be rethinking that marketing strategy.
But the winner, Dr. Michael Kilpatrick, deputy director of Force Health Protection and Readiness at the Department of Defense. The number of injured American service personnel just dropped from 47,657 in Iraq to 31,493. Is it a miracle? No it's Dr. Kilpatrick's new math. Minor injuries, accidents, illnesses were counted along with actual war casualties, he says, and that gave a misleading leading view of how many of our friends and family have been hurt in Iraq.
So the new accounting shows only those Americans who required air transport out due to medical reasons. Next for Dr. Kilpatrick, trying to help the president out with the troop surge of 21,500, that will really require 35,000 troops. Pentagon Dr. Michael Kill-Patient, Kilpatrick, today's Worst Person in the World.
OLBERMANN: Time to start something new; February 2nd is the day to do it. Frank Sonatra made his professional singing debut on February 2nd. New York, still New Amsterdam, became a city on February 2nd, same anniversary for baseball's National League, Samuel Clemens, using the pen name Mark Twain, and NBC putting David Letterman on in late night.
Thus on our number one story on the Countdown, this of all days you should do something new. So we've got the highlights of the last month in Oddball. I don't like trends, roll them.
OLBERMANN (voice-over): We begin with fire, the untamed element, giver of warmth, destroyer of forests.
We begin on the Internets with another one of the things that kids are calling virus - I'm sorry, viral video.
We begin at the Helldris (ph) dairy farm in Wythe County, Virginia, that's the Helldris, milk with the two-headed cow right on the bottle.
We begin in California with the festival of mechanical brain teasers and dateless wonders, that is the big annual international rubics cube competition. Hey, puzzles.
To Huntsville, Utah, moose country, where in fact there are so many of the antlered animals, wild life officials have begun relocating some of them to Colorado to keep the population under control. And how exactly do they do that? I can see my house from here.
Portland, Oregon, scary home video, shot there after an ice storm has led to extraordinaire treacherous road conditions. Nothing a driver can really do in a situation like this but steer into the skid.
It's the Countdown butter sculpture of the month. No, it's not a turtle standing on its hind legs. It's a butter Ben Franklin and the Liberty Bell. Mmm, spreadable founding father. Mmm, greasy lamb. Mmm, he edible elves.
More gold gleaned from the Internets in a new feature in the program, videos that will later be used as evidence in the negligent homicide trial.
Too Look Out Pass, Idaho, where people are getting hurt, but it's good clean fun. The big first annual pacific northwest wife carrying contest. And don't bother helping your wife up, pal.
It's a chicken born with duck feet. Or it could be duck with the chicken's body except for the feet. No, probably not.
Now here are three men in Japan smelling their cell phones. You sick freaks.
Fifteen-year-old Nabratan Harsh (ph) says he's always had a passion for reptiles, but only recently began wearing them as accessory.
Remaining in India, we've got a pretty good look at how lizard boy's life is going to turn out if he doesn't drop all this creepy stuff and start dating. Yes, it's the candle faced dancing guy of Veranaci (ph). Isn't he something? I guess you have to be on X to really appreciate this.
A simple demonstration of basic physics from a foreign land. If the stuff in the cart weighs more than your extra small donkey, that's what happens.
Hey, it's another exciting episode of what's happened to this man's neck? If you guessed freak accident with a Norelco, you're wrong.
It's a totally disgusting prehistoric shark like creature thing, captured by the Japanese, revealed to the public for the first time ever. Yo.
The mood outside the Logan Valley Mall was tense today as dozens lined up to purchase the limited edition Punksatony Phil (ph) Beany Baby. Morons, your bus is leaving.
Finally, there's this robot butler, all you need to do is make the command and Optimus Prime here will bring you a drink and even do the dishes afterwards. The Japanese once again proving to be the worldwide leader in future technology. Then again, there's this item from Atlanta, the toilet of the future. Ta da.
To the Internets, where we find this video from some foreign fashion show. Where did she go?
Tai Pai, hello, don't you throw that shoe at me again or I'll -
That's it, if you throw that shoe at me one more time - Quit it.
To china now for some disturbing Panda video. Well, it's just there's a reason for that old saying about being out on a limb. And for the record, the Panda is just fine.
OLBERMANN: And that is Countdown for this, the 1,391st day since the declaration of mission accomplished in Iraq. From New York, I'm Keith Olbermann, good night and good luck.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END