'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Feb. 8
Guests: Tony Potts, Howard Fineman, Tia Brown
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST: Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
Anna Nicole Smith is dead. Never quite a true Hollywood starlet, she died in Hollywood, Florida, collapsing and dying at the hotel at an Indian gaming casino.
From topless dancer to trophy wife of a octogenarian billionaire, from "Playboy" centerfold to nominal centerpiece of a case before the Supreme Court, from bearing a daughter on September 7, to losing a son on September 10, the long, strange story of Vickie Lynn Hogan Smith Marshall Stern ends under mysterious circumstances at age 39. The bombshell about the bombshell, full coverage ahead.
And of the Senate Republicans. First they cosponsor debate on the nonbinding resolution on Iraq. Then they stop debate on the nonbinding resolution on Iraq. Now they want to resume debate on the nonbinding resolution on Iraq.
Washington itself debating another vital question, Iraq, something to stop the deaths of our friends and neighbors serving there? No. Why Speaker Pelosi's government plane is lightly bigger than Speaker Hastert's plane was.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER: This information, these leaks coming out of the Pentagon to the press serve somebody's purpose. I don't know whose. You probably could guess.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Oh, oh, Mr. Kotter, my guess is comedian Rush Limbaugh.
The prosecution rests at the Scooter Libby trial. What the jury thinks he did, we do not know. What he thinks he did, we do.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
SCOOTER LIBBY, FORMER CHENEY CHIEF OF STAFF: I don't believe I really did much of anything.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: And what did astronaut Lisa Nowak do? She reportedly stalked her presumed romantic rival for two months, and maybe those weren't Depends. They might have been MAGs, NASA, NASA maximum absorption garments.
All that, and the latest on the bizarre end of a bizarre life, now on
Good evening from New York.
Hers was one of the most famous faces and figures in America. Thus, though she was principally famous merely for being famous, and though we need to cover and will cover how the Senate Republicans have gone from a triple backflip on Iraq to a full quadruple somersault today, and though the prosecution has rested today in the Scooter Libby case, we have to begin tonight with our fifth story, the startling if not shocking sudden collapse and death this afternoon of Anna Nicole Smith, not five months after the birth of her youngest child and the death of her 20-year-old son, events that were separated by just three days.
Miss Smith and her self-declared husband, Howard K. Stern, were staying at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood, Florida, waiting to pick up a new boat to take back to her temporary home in the Bahamas. But at 1:37 Eastern time, the hotel operator got a call from Anna Nicole Smith's personal nurse, saying that Smith had collapsed. Her bodyguards started CPR, paramedics arrived to administer, among other things, an antioverdose drug.
According to firefighters, it was unclear how long Miss Smith had been unconscious, and even though they tried to revive her, it appears, by the time they got there, she was already dead.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hollywood Rescue 74 stepped in and took over the scene, and intubated the patient, that means put the tube down her throat. We started an IV, we pushed all the medications. We took 12-lead EKGs. We attempted pacing her, which would be an external pacemaker for the heart. And we had electrical captures and no mechanical capture, which means we couldn't get her heart beating.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Was she alive when you all arrived?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No. She was unconscious and not breathing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Smith was rushed to the Memorial Hospital in Hollywood, but was declared dead one hour later. A local medical examiner will now be investigating exactly what killed her, her lawyer telling MSNBC that she had been suffering flu-like symptoms for several days.
Our Mark Potter now joins us from the hospital tonight.
Mark, good evening.
MARK POTTER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Good evening, Keith.
Her body has now been moved from the hospital behind me to the medical examiner's office in downtown Fort Lauderdale. Authorities are now involved in the process of trying to determine why she died, and that could be a somewhat lengthy process. The medical examiner will not only have to do the physical autopsy, he will also do the toxicology exam, and that can take some time.
In the meantime, police officials are also actively involved. The Broward County sheriff's office crime unit has been in the hotel room, cooperating with the Seminole Police Department, which asked them to come in. That's the lead agency. They're working together to go through the room to see if there's anything they can find. They will be working with the medical examiner together to try to piece all this together. They say they're doing it very, very thoroughly.
They say they do that all the time, but with the high media attention on this, they are being particularly careful. And again, it's a process that may take some time. It's involving a number of agencies, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Anything, Mark, on this anti-overdose treatment? Obviously, we would make all sorts of inferences from there, from that kind of information. Are they fair inferences?
POTTER: What I can say is that that is something that the medical examiner very clearly will be looking into. There's been a lot of talk on the cable networks today, people suggesting drug use. Again, I don't know. The authorities will look at that. They don't know yet, either. But that toxicology report could be very important.
They'll also be looking at postpartum depression. They'll be looking at her - the problems that she had in November, pneumonia, her health history. They'll be looking at everything.
If there's something that jumps out very obviously, we're told that the medical examiner might say something early, but otherwise he will have to wait for the toxicology report. And it could be the most important part of this investigation, given what you just said.
OLBERMANN: And Mark, the call for distress in the hotel was from her nurse. Why does a 39-year-old woman have a nurse with her? This was not in connection with her 5-month-old daughter, was it?
POTTER: No, I don't - she has a large entourage, as do many stars. Politicians travel with nurses and ambulances behind them sometimes, and she is doing the same. I understand that this was a personal nurse. Her husband was there. She had bodyguard.
She lived a much different life than you and I. I know you don't travel with one, and I certainly don't. And it may just bespeak her very unusual and dramatic lifestyle.
OLBERMANN: Not full answers yet, but good and pertinent ones from Mark Potter at Memorial Hospital in Hollywood, Florida. Mark, great thanks, as always.
POTTER: Thank you.
OLBERMANN: All through her 39 years, Anna Nicole Smith battled alcohol, weight, and depression, not to mention numerous foes in legal battles that went as high as the Supreme Court of the United States. When she died, she left two notable pieces of litigation ongoing, the fight for her share of the fortune of her second husband, the oil tycoon J. Howard Marshall, and, more recently, a paternity test for her baby daughter that was ordered by a judge after her former boyfriend, Larry Birkhead, claimed to be the father. That is scheduled still for February 21.
The birth of her daughter last September was also marked by the death of her 20-year-old son, Daniel, from a drug overdose, accidental, initially ruled, as he slept in the very hospital in which she had given birth, Smith's acquaintances now speculating that that tragedy could have contributed to her death, potentially with the assistance of narcotics, even though she had always had various health problems.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
DAVID GRANOFF, SMITH'S FORMER PUBLICIST: She really was not the healthiest person in the world. I remember she was always going in and out of the hospital, so I don't know, I mean, you know, she's too young, obviously, to die of old age, so natural causes, so I don't know. But I have to say, I'm not shocked.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: We're joined know by Tony Potts of "Access Hollywood," who's been following this all day.
Tony, thanks for your time tonight.
TONY POTTS, "ACCESS HOLLYWOOD": You're welcome, Keith.
OLBERMANN: I was asked this question today, and it's a good place to start. Let me give you a shot at it. Why has her death seemed to resonate so loudly? What is - what was she actually famous for?
POTTS: Two words, Keith, I would say Marilyn Monroe. She kind of embodied for those of us who didn't live through the Marilyn Monroe era this buxom, beautiful blonde who came on the scene after her "Playboy" spread, and subsequent appearance in the Guess? ads. Remember those? And it was, like, Oh, who is this woman?
And much like Marilyn Monroe, she was followed, she was tailed, of course, much more closely in this day and age with the electronic media, with the Internet, the paparazzi around every corner. And much like Marilyn, who died in Hollywood, so did Anna Nicole Smith, albeit in Florida.
One of the things I wanted to tell you earlier, Mark Potter was talking about, and you asked the question about, why would she be traveling with her nurse? I can tell you from sources that I know that her bodyguard is indeed also a nurse, sources tell me. He's the one who found her in the room. Not sure how long she had been there. And he's the one who called and also (INAUDIBLE) administered CPR as well.
But with Anna Nicole Smith, you do have this woman who we've watched rise and fall, rise and fall, again and again, not just in her career, but also with her weight. Nineteen ninety-five, she was in - admitted to Betty Ford Clinic for admitted drug and alcohol abuse.
And Keith, I'll tell you quite frankly, I interviewed her not too long ago. Where I'm sitting now, as you well know, in Burbank, "Access Hollywood" is right next to Jay Leno and his studios. We're in the old Johnny Carson studios. Our dressing rooms border each other in the hallway there.
And a number of years back, Anna Nicole Smith, when she was very large and on drugs and what have you, was on the "TONIGHT" show. I waited for her outside to do an interview with her. When she came out, did not recognize me, although she had seen me just two days prior and many times before that.
Was incoherent, walking down what's called the Midway, which is outside of the "TONIGHT" show. Didn't know where to go, was sweating profusely. And I could tell by her eyes were dilated and what have you. And I thought to myself at the time, Somebody here needs to take control of this woman, help her out, and not just, as you know, what happens in Hollywood a lot of times, when you have a cash cow, so to speak, somebody who is paying for a lot of people's lives, they tend to prop them up. And I think in this case, this may ultimately be what has happened to Anna Nicole Smith, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Yes, (INAUDIBLE), what was the person like? I mean, if that was the exposure that you had to her, or if the people on television saw the larger-than-life sex star, the reality show that she did showed an almost naive woman who's struggling against all sorts of demons, the infamous award show tape showed somebody who was, much like you just described, incoherent. Yet some people who met her away from cameras, away from this perpetual maelstrom about her, said she was mild-mannered, even sweet.
What was the - do we have an idea of who the person was at the center of this life?
POTTS: I would tend to say, you know, it's an interesting question, Keith. About a year and a half later, after she went on TrimSpa, got cleaned up, I saw her, quite frankly, outside of our studio once again, and it was like two different people. It was like her twin sister. She was coherent, she was very sweet, she was very nice.
Let's not forget that she is a Southern girl. She's a Southern woman. And she was very sweet in that respect at all things that Southern women usually are, very proper, very nice, in some respects, when you met her. Obviously not all women take their clothes off, and that's not quite the Southern woman. But when I met her, especially in the days when she was coherent, didn't appear to be on drugs, and was in full control of her faculties, she was very sweet, very nice, and very kind, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Lastly, Tony, I pointed this out earlier, she seemed to epitomize, nearly, truly making it. She had the billionaire octogenarian husband, yet she did not wind up with his money in her lifetime. She had a new daughter at 39. Her 20-year-old son died three days later. She tried to be the Hollywood star. When she died in Hollywood, it was in Hollywood, Florida. Is this the story of fame not quite achieved?
POTTS: You know, I think it's fame achieved. It's interesting. I've been doing live shots with Canada, with England, with France today, and I think that speaks that she had fame achieved. Was it the kind of fame she wanted? I doubt it, or most of us would want. I think she wanted to be an actress that was - who was accepted. I don't think that happened.
I think at the end of the day, Keith, I'm a father, the first thing I thought of when I found out that she had passed was that, you know, there's this little daughter Dannielynn, who is now 6 months old, who doesn't have a mother, does not have a brother. She'll never meet him, he's dead. And who knows who the father is? That has yet to be determined, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Tony Potts of "Access Hollywood," with insights on Anna Nicole Smith, and clearing up the issue of the nurse and the bodyguard, one, one and the same person. Tony, great thanks for all that.
POTTS: You're welcome, Keith. My pleasure.
OLBERMANN: More on the death of Anna Nicole Smith in this newshour. What happens next, from the investigation into the death to the custody battle for that baby, and the legal fight over the inheritance.
Also here tonight, the trial of Scooter Libby. The prosecution rests its case after the final witness, NBC's Tim Russert, weathers a long cross-examination. We'll hear from him, and David Shuster will take us inside the courtroom.
A bizarre day on Capitol Hill, as Republican members of the Senate continue to perform triple flips over their blocking of the war debate.
Other Republicans are worrying more about how Nancy Pelosi's plane may be too big or bigger than the last plane for the last speaker, more worried about that than worried about Americans dying in Iraq.
You are watching Countdown on MSNBC.
OLBERMANN: Your honor, the special prosecutor said at 3:20 p.m.
Eastern today, At this time the government rests its case.
In our fourth story on the Countdown tonight, after 10 witnesses over 10 days of testimony, eight hours of it on tape, prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald let his final witness, NBC's Tim Russert, leave the stand today in the case of the United States versus Lewis Libby. Scooter Libby, the former chief of staff and national security adviser to Vice President Cheney, and an adviser to the president, will launch his defense beginning Monday against charges of perjury, obstruction, and making false statements.
The crux of the case, Libby's claim that a conversation with Mr. Russert on July 10, 2003, was the first time he could recall hearing that presidential critic Joe Wilson's wife, Valerie, was a covert operative for the CIA.
Our colleague Tim was able to speak publicly today for the first time since the trial began, talking to Brian Williams on "NBC NIGHTLY NEWS" about his lengthy cross-examination, and about what he told the jury.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TIM RUSSERT, MODERATOR, "MEET THE PRESS": The cross-examination by defense council was about five hours or more. The central point here is this, both Mr. Libby and I agree that we talked in July. He called me to complain about some programming on MSNBC which I had not seen. He then said that I talked to him about Valerie Plame Wilson, her working at the CIA, and that other reporters knew that.
I said, That is absolutely untrue, I did not know anything about her until I read it in the Robert Novak column several days later.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Watching today's duel in court between Mr. Russert and Libby's attorney, Ted Wells, was our own David Shuster, as always.
David, good evening.
DAVID SHUSTER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Good evening, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Pretty much every witness who's testified that Libby knew about Plame before the July 10 call from Tim Russert has had their credibility, at least their memory, called into question by the Libby lawyers. Is it fair to say that none of those confrontations approached the intensity of the one Tim Russert got today?
SHUSTER: Yes, that's absolutely right. I mean, the interrogation today was more confrontational, more adversarial, than any defense cross-examination in this case so far. I mean, Tim Russert was badgered for not keeping notes of his conversations. He was ridiculed for not remembering a call he once made to a critic. He was repeatedly attacked for mot recalling the exact date of the Libby conversation.
And at one point, Tim Russert answered a question (INAUDIBLE), The most important matter to me is - And then he was suddenly interrupted, as the Libby lawyer thundered, Sir, I'm going to ask you the questions, and you answer only those, OK?
The reason the defense tried so hard in so many different ways to attack Russert's credibility is because Tim Russert testified that he and Libby never discussed Valerie Wilson, and that is a huge contradiction with what Libby told the grand jury. Libby testified he first learned about Valerie Wilson in that July 10 conversation with Russert. Libby also blamed reporters for her outing.
Libby acknowledged, however, that his own notes indicate Libby spoke about Valerie Wilson with Vice President Cheney weeks before the Russert conversation. Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald questioned Libby's logic at the grand jury.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PATRICK FITZGERALD, PROSECUTOR: As you sit here today, you have a specific recollection of remembering that you had forgotten that you knew that Wilson's wife worked at the CIA?
LIBBY: As I sit here today, I have a specific recollection that I was
surprised when Tim Russert said it, and I thought during that conversation-
when I said, I don't know, I thought I was actually being truthful. I was being truthful. I didn't know, as I sat there.
FITZGERALD: And did you check with the Press Office to tell people, Hey, have you guys heard what all the press are saying, that Wilson's wife works at the CIA?
LIBBY: No, sir.
FITZGERALD: Had anyone told you from the Press Office that we've been getting calls from the press calling up to find out if Wilson's wife works at the CIA?
LIBBY: I don't recall any discussion with the Press Office about that.
FITZGERALD: And what did you do as a result of the fact that Russert told you something that you believed, you believed at the time was new to you, the fact that Wilson's wife worked at the CIA?
LIBBY: I don't believe I really did much of anything.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHUSTER: During the playing of those eight hour of tapes, which came right before Tim Russert's testimony began, the jury was very attentive and at times, in fact, they were all writing notes in their notebooks, Keith, especially whenever Scooter Libby seemed to be cornered and faced a tough question and answered in a very sort of hesitant and low voice, Keith.
OLBERMANN: And David, the, the, the, the prosecution has rested in this case. What - sum it up for us. What evidence has he presented to the jury?
SHUSTER: Well, the (INAUDIBLE) prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald showed that Scooter Libby lied repeatedly. Fitzgerald has introduced, of course, not only evidence of Tim Russert saying that he and Valerie Wilson - he and Scooter Libby, in fact, never discussed Valerie Wilson.
But there was also testimony from five government officials and another reporter, who all say that Scooter Libby did, in fact, know about Valerie Wilson in the weeks and days leading up to the Tim Russert conversation. (INAUDIBLE) a CIA official, Robert Grenier (ph), who testified that he spoke to Libby about Valerie Wilson on June the 11th. Undersecretary of State Mark Grossman testified he spoke to Libby about Valerie Wilson around June 11 or June 12. CIA briefer Craig Schmolz (ph) testified that Libby prompted him to write down Valerie Wilson's name on June the 14th.
Former "New York Times" reporter Judy Miller testified that Libby told her about Valerie Wilson in a face-to-face meeting on June the 23rd. Former Cheney press secretary Cathie Martin testified that she told Cheney and Libby directly about Valerie Wilson sometime in June. Former Bush press secretary Ari Fleischer testified that Libby told him about Valerie Wilson over lunch on July the 7th, and that Libby suggested Fleischer tell reporters about Valerie Wilson. And then, of course, Judy Miller testified about another meeting with Scooter Libby on July the 8th and said that Libby mentioned Valerie Wilson again.
And again, this was just a couple of days before Tim Russert's conversation, and that was just a couple of days before Valerie Wilson was outed, Keith.
OLBERMANN: It explains the interrogation Mr. Russert got.
David Shuster, once again, our eyes and ears at the Scooter Libby trial. Great thanks, David.
SHUSTER: Thanks, Keith.
OLBERMANN: The Republican spin machine in its post-Libby incarnation now going full-bore against the speaker of the House. There's absolutely no there there. We'll separate fact from fiction on the false allegations swirling around a plane provided to the speaker of the House.
And the latest crazy video from the Internets, dynamite surfing. Relax, this proves to be exactly what it looks like, a fake. A Countdown explosive expose next.
OLBERMANN: February 8, on this date in 1941, some say 1940, there was born in Lincoln, Nebraska, a baby christened Nicholas King Nolte. It's Nick Nolte's birthday, and you know what that means. Maybe that's what the look is. May - it's like, you know, maybe the birthday cake just blew up in front of him, that Daffy Duck high explosives look.
Whatever, let's play ODDBALL.
And speaking of explosives, we begin on the Internets, and for a change, it's a video we know is fake in advance, produced by a surf clothing company in the Netherlands to look like a bunch of dopes really went down to the river to go dynamite surfing. Well, that looks like good clean, unbelievably dangerous, probably fatal fun. We bring it to you as a public service to avoid fake Internet videos. Yes, that's it, a public service. Yes, yes.
It would seem to be an obvious fake, but that has not stopped hundreds of thousands of viewers on the Web. We have not yet heard of any copycat surfers. But when we do, we will not be showing you their video, probably.
Now for something we can confirm to be true, and it's so much safer than dynamite surfing. It's cheddarvision. Yes, cheese aging, live on the Internet. Look at it. Look at it. Look at it sit there. The Web site, set up by the Westcombe Dairy in Somerset, England, and actually features a 55-pound wheel of ched - Ooh, a mouse. Oh, no, it's just the cheese, sorry. This is something that makes me worry about copycats. You don't want the kids leaving dairy products out for extended periods. Ah - oh - it moved. No, no, I guess not.
Also tonight, the GOP in the Senate continues its mental gymnastics while trying to block Iraq debate without appearing to block Iraq debate. This as the Republican machine, and perhaps the Pentagon, try to throw Nancy Pelosi under the bus over the speaker's plane, but the facts show the GOP is yet again in fantasyland on this.
And the death of Anna Nicole Smith. There are late-breaking details coming up before the end of the hour that will not end a series of several high-profile disputes, the death won't. What happens to her baby? There may be something new on that tonight. What happens with the legal battle over the Marshall inheritance?
All that ahead.
But first, Countdown's top three newsmakers of this day.
Number three, William N. Barret of Albany, New York. He does not seem to be denying that he had a marijuana supply and a pipe in his pocket when he was greeted by police stepping off a ski resort gondola in Brattleboro, Vermont, but he's adamant that a witness in a passing gondola was mistaken when he reported seeing Barret standing in his gondola naked on the ride up the mountain. And, well, he had his gloves off too, if you know what I mean.
Number two, 8-year-old math whiz Parker Garrison of Charlotte, North Carolina. Officials at the Charlotte Nature Museum have now pulled part of the new science exhibit at its Discovery Place after this young math prodigy discovered errors in the formulas being used to determine how many jelly bean - Jelly Belly jelly beans were stacked in a giant pyramid. The 8-year-old was right, the museum was wrong. Hope you're happy, now, kid. Now nobody gets jelly beans.
Number one, the village of Zitiste in northern Serbia. Officials in the flood-ravaged town say they're sick and tired of only getting in the news when there's a natural disaster, so they're building a huge statue of Rocky Balboa to show how they bounce back from the frequent flooding. They're hoping the Stallone hero can change the type of press the town receives. Already we can see the headline in the near future, giant Rocky statue lost in massive flooding.
OLBERMANN: Well the Senate remained deadlocked in debate on Iraq. Republican Representative Eric Cantor of Virginia stood up on the floor of House of Representatives this afternoon to introduce an amendment disputing Speaker Nancy Pelosi's right to use a government plane. More on that nonsense in a moment.
But the headline in our the third story on the Countdown, the Republicans, they were for it before they were against it, before they were for it again? Three days after voting no on a debate about his own non-binding resolution against a troop increase in Iraq, another Virginia, Senator John Warner, along with six of his fellow Republicans, four of whom likewise voted against the debate, changed course, sending a letter to the Senate leadership of both parties urging debate, threatening to attach the resolution to other bills to force the discussion, and explaining the flip flop thusly: "Monday's procedural vote should not be interpreted as any lessening of our resolve to go forward advocating the concepts of the resolution."
Senator Warner avoided questions on his proposal last night, did not comment this morning, while Democrats continued to lambaste Republicans for killing the debate in the first place.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. HARRY REID (D), MINORITY LEADER: In the Senate this week we attempted to give the president another chance to listen. We tried to give the bipartisan majority of senators who oppose escalation the chance to send a clear message to President Bush. Unfortunately our majority was silenced by minority Republicans who decided protecting the president was more important than sending him a message: do not surge, do not escalate.
It's time the White House and its champions in Congress stop playing politics with this war.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: The White House denying any involvement in the resolution debacle and putting the onus back on the Senate.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tony, the president had groups of senators down at the White House for a reception a week or 10 days or so ago. Wasn't that, at least in part, trying to express influence over the -
TONY SNOW, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: No, I mean, I was in the meeting. I guarantee you, members there were expressing their concern about Iraq as well as a number of other issues. This was not an attempt to sit around and strategize about resolutions. Certainly the topic came up, but again, it's just - this is one where if the White House is trying to dictate language - I mean, these are senators.
Senators have their own sense of pride and their own obligations to work through these things and these are unique, because these are resolutions that have to do with the sentiments of the senators themselves. You can't day dictate that.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you think the power of the commander in chief is so all powerful that he can ignore the people?
SNOW: The president never ignores the people and that's why it's a tendentious assumption on your part that somehow the president runs roughshod over the will of the people. But he does have an obligation to keep the people safe. No he doesn't - if you have a non-binding resolution, he certainly is not going to ignore it, but on the other hand, he's going to do what it takes to keep you safe.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Just her. He's going to do what it takes to keep just Helen Thomas safe? Meanwhile another great distraction from the real business of Washington over the kind of plane that the speaker of House will use to fly between Washington, D.C. and her home district in San Francisco. The facts first. The speaker, whoever he or she is, is afforded a military aircraft to and from his or her district for security measures, a measure put in place after 9/11, since the speaker is second in line of presidential succession, behind the vice president, the one with the four heart attacks, whose name keeps coming up in a criminal trial.
The sergeant at arms of the House, Bill Livendgood, was compelled, according to his statement released today, to request an aircraft that is capable of making the non-stop flight from Washington to San Francisco, but the speaker's critics, and right-wing pundit have said that she made an extravagant request, taking advantage of the fact that a plane large enough to make that non-stop flight would, according to the laws of physics, be much larger and include more amenities than the one used by former Speaker Dennis Hastert, who had a much shorter trip to make from Washington to Illinois. The speaker has now pushed back .
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: I have told them that I will travel cross country non-stop, commercially, as I have done and always done, probably how many times, 1,000 times since I've been in Congress. So this sill be nothing new for me. So this is really something that is very strange, that the Department of Defense, the Pentagon, which I have been a constant critic of the war in Iraq, and where I understand Mr. Rumsfeld still has a desk, even though he's no longer the secretary, has decided that they would go public about a conversation on an issue that applied to the previous speaker.
Now, as a woman, as a woman speaker of the House, I don't want any less opportunity than a male speakers have had when they served here. This information, these leaks coming out of the Pentagon to the press, serve somebody's purpose. I don't know whose. You probably could guess.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: And the White House, officially at least, supports the speaker's right to military transport.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SNOW: The sergeant at arms is conducting negotiations and everybody else seems to be getting up against this. I'm not going to get into the middle of negotiations about the way it works. When Tom Foley was speaker, he sometimes used military transports to go to North Dakota, but that doesn't mean - I think this is something that the sergeant at arms and DOD have to work out.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Mr. Snow seeming to leave himself some wiggle room there. Meanwhile the Department of Defense has informed Miss Pelosi that it will offer her the same plane Mr. Hastert used, which could make a coast to coast non-stop flight only under optimal wind conditions.
Having gotten this review of aerodynamics and transcontinental flights, let's call in "Newsweek's" senior Washington correspondent, MSNBC political analyst, Howard Fineman. Howard, good evening.
HOWARD FINEMAN, "NEWSWEEK": Hi Keith.
OLBERMANN: As trivial as the size of which speaker's plane is bigger might be, if you combine that with the four corners stall on the Iraq resolution in the Senate this week, are the Republicans, are there individual Republicans who are worried that they're going to be perceived as no longer being serious about Iraq, that they would rather stall a debate and rather whine about who has the biggest plane, than to address this issue that seems to be foremost on everybody else's mind, which is saving American lives in a combat theater?
FINEMAN: Well Keith, at a time when Americans are seeing on their news programs images of American helicopters crashing in Iraq, being shot down by shoulder-harnessed missiles by the bad guys, I think we're focusing on the wrong aircraft, and I think that the Republicans run the risk of looking that way.
When you put these two stories together, as you pointed out, post 9/11, speaker of the House is number two in the line of succession, needs and deserves to be protected. In terms of the debate in the Senate, you're dealing with an institution, Keith, where, as odd as it may sound, they were discussing morning business in the United States Senate at 6:00 p.m. this evening.
So, it's a weird institution, that both sides are using to prevent the debate. I think it's fair to say that the Republicans take most of the blame at this point.
OLBERMANN: And what about the Republicans and this - we've described it last night as a back flip. This is now looking like a quadruple summersault back to supporting debate about Iraq and the Senate? Is that the latest, or has it changed since we went on the air 41 minutes ago?
FINEMAN: No, against that possibility, I checked about five minutes before I went on. Nothing has changed right now. I think what's going to happen is the debate, and there will be a real one, will be in the House, not in the Senate. The Senate is hopelessly tied up in not debating, which is the exact opposite of what the Senate is supposed to do, and that's because Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader, in consultation with the White House, for sure, and any notion that he's not talking to the White House is ridiculous, has used the cloture rules and the filibuster rules to stymie the possibility of debate.
Now should Harry Reid and the Democrats have given the Republicans more of what they wanted in terms of debates on alternatives? Probably so. But the one who laid down the barrier really was the Republican side. Having talked to Mitch McConnell, he told me weeks ago that he was fully prepared to use the filibuster rules, which require a vote of 60 senators to move legislation, essentially. He was perfectly willing to do that and he's done it the first opportunity he could take, which is this debate on the war.
I think the entire Senate looks bad, but the Republicans, if you pay any attention to it, are the ones who are really gumming up the works.
OLBERMANN: And lastly here, how is John Warner dealing with this? Is he actually tearing his hair out or has he just sort of buckled under politically?
FINEMAN: I think the Republicans, such as Warner, who are up in 2008, wanted to get on record expressing their concern about the war. But because they were unwilling to depart from their party on that earlier procedural vote a day or two ago, they're now stuck, and no matter how many letters they write, it's not going to help them much politically.
OLBERMANN: Howard Fineman of MSNBC and "Newsweek," as always with great perspective on events in Washington. Howard, great thanks, have a good night.
FINEMAN: Thank you Keith.
OLBERMANN: More on the death of Anna Nicole Smith. The last six months of her life filled with tumult. Her life may be over, the tumult will continue. There will be an emergency paternity hearing tomorrow. More on that as we get the further information on it.
More controversy at NASA, a claim now that astronaut Lisa Nowak did not just attack her victim on Monday, she had been stalking the woman for months. And questions about astronaut garb; details on the diaper from outer space. That's next on Countdown.
OLBERMANN: If driving 900 miles to confront someone in a disguise, after having worn an adult diaper to avoid stopping to go to the bathroom, does not fit the profile of a stalker, it's difficult to imagine what would fit that profile. In our number two story on the Countdown, a claim that astronaut Lisa Nowak was stalking a woman she saw as a romantic rival for months, and while psychological services are available to astronauts, there may also be a stigma when they try to get that kind of help.
After Nowak is back at her home in Clear Lake, Houston now, her parents have joined her there. Her estranged husband and three children are elsewhere. Mrs. Nowak where's an electronic monitoring bracelet, is prohibited by court order from getting near Air Force Captain Colleen Shipman.
In Miss Shipman's request for protective orders there's a claim that Mrs. Nowak had been stalking her for about two months. Miss Shipman also refers in her documents to astronaut William Oefelein as her boyfriend. Miss Nowak had told police that her relationship with Commander Oefelein was more than professional, but less than romantic.
Meanwhile, Dr. John Clark, a NASA physician, who lost his wife in the Columbia disaster and who is a friend of Mrs. Nowak, tells the "New York Times" that psychological services are available to astronauts, on demand. But quoting him, "astronauts know there is a stigma attached to this stuff."
Whether Miss Nowak was she wearing a NASA issued diaper for her 900 mile journey or a mere store bought domestic, Earth bound variety is yet unknown, but the NASA version, called Maximum Absorption Device, or MAGS, influenced the commercial diaper market because they're so good. They can be pulled up, according to a special report on this in "Newsweek," like a pair of shorts, and can last reportedly eight to 10 hours or 600 miles, whichever comes first.
In a moment there's breaking news on the death, the autopsy and the litigation surrounding Anna Nicole Smith. That's next.
But first up, time for CountdownS latest list of nominees for Worst person in the world. The bronze, to Brice Fannensteel (ph) of the Atlantic Theaters in Atlantic Beach, Florida. Some woman called him up and complained about the name of one of the films on the marquee, so he changed the name. The film, "The Vagina Monologues." Now at that one theater, renamed "The Hoohaa Monologues."
The woman said the sign made her niece ask what a vagina was. It's a common, everyday object, found around the house. One passerby said the change was moronic, telling a local television station, "The Hoohaa Monologues," sounds like a country band. No, I'm not going to make the joke there.
Runner up, O.J. Simpson. That 675,00 dollar advance he got for the unpublished book, "If I Did It," Fred Goldman, father of Simpson victim Ron Goldman, has got a court order freezing the money until a hearing on the 20th. Simpson claims he's already spent the money.
But the winner, blogger Jonah Goldberg. On this date two years ago, February 8th, 2005, Goldberg wrote, "I predict that Iraq won't have a civil war, that it will have a viable constitution and that a majority of Iraqis and Americans will, in two years time, agree that the war was worth. I'll bet 1,000 dollars, which I can hardly spare right now."
Goldberg also said the blogger to whom he offered the bet could, if he won, give his winnings to the al Aqsa Martyr's Brigade. So, it's two years later. Where's the money short stuff? Goldberg says the rival blogger never actually accepted the bet, so he doesn't owe him or anybody else the 1,000 dollars. Kind of a metaphor for the entire war, isn't it? Jonah Goldberg, less prophetic than pathetic, today's Worst Person in the World.
OLBERMANN: We return with our number one story and to the latest information emerging on the sudden death this afternoon of actress and model Anna Nicole Smith. Late details breaking tonight about the custody and paternity of her suddenly orphaned five month old daughter.
With fatherhood disputed between her self-described husband Howard K. Stern and former boyfriend Larry Birkhead, what is described as an emergency hearing in that paternity case, has now been schedule by the presiding judge for tomorrow in Los Angeles.
Meanwhile, though, Anna Nicole Smith's autopsy will not begin until tomorrow in Florida. The war of words is already well underway and it has centered already on conclusions leaped to that her death had something to do with drugs. "Undoubtedly, it will be found at the end of the day that drugs featured in her death, as they did in the death of poor Daniel," said a former attorney for Ms. Smith in the Bahamas, Michael Scott. "Ms. Smith always had problems with her weight going up and down. There is no question she used alcohol. She had a very troubled life and had so many, many problems," so said another former Smith attorney, Leonard Leads to the website TMZ.com.
However, claims that the death was drug-related are a bunch of nonsense, according to current Smith attorney Ron Rale and from the chief medical examiner of Broward County Florida, "I am not a prophet and I cannot tell you before the autopsy what I am going to find." One issue cleared up tonight during this news hour, an explanation for the presence of the personal nurse, who first raised the alarm that Ms. Smith had collapsed this afternoon.
As Tony Potts of "Access Hollywood" revealed to us tonight Ms. Smith's personal bodyguard was also a trained nurse. They were one and the same person. Still unresolved in this case, what happens to the fortune J. Howard Marshall left to her and a California court denied to her. The U.S. Supreme Court had ruled last year she could legally get another shot at least at the 474 million dollars.
Joining us now, as promised, the senior editor for "In Touch Weekly," Tia Brown. Ms. Brown, great thanks for your time tonight.
TIA BROWN, "IN TOUCH WEEKLY": Thanks for having me, and for calling me Ms. Brown.
OLBERMANN: You're welcome. There are a lost unresolved questions regarding this infant daughter. Who has custody now? Do we know where the child actually is?
BROWN: Well, Dannielynn is currently with a family friend in the Bahamas. She did not make the trip to the states with Anna Nicole. So until tomorrow, she'll presumably be with that family friend.
OLBERMANN: Do we have any idea how quickly a judge might act if there's going to be an emergency hearing about paternity? Is that to establish some sort of residency? Could that actually put the child in the hands of the one of the purported fathers?
BROWN: Definitely. I mean, this case was supposed to be decided some time ago. Unfortunately, Anna Nicole did postpone the DNA testing from happening earlier this month, and even last month. So I think the judge will definitely want to know. Now we have a child who potentially is an orphan, if neither one of these men are the father, so you would definitely want to establish who is the father, where Dannielynn belongs. I think the biggest tragedy is that she will never know her mother, and she's only five months old.
What about this Marshall inheritance? Is it Anna Nicole Smith's inheritance? Is there a chance for her to now have left it to someone else? Where does that stand?
BROWN: Well definitely. Whatever Anna stands to inherit will presumably go to Dannielynn, because she is the sole heir. And whoever has custody of Dannielynn will have control over that money, unless Anna made very strict provisions on how it would be doled out.
OLBERMANN: This marriage to Howard K. Stern, there's considerable discrepancy as to whether or not he and Anna Nicole Smith legally married. Do you know about that? How will he figure, both in terms of the future of the child, and the future of where the Howard Marshall money goes?
BROWN: Yes, based on the information that we have so far, Howard and Anna were never legally married. They did have a very romantic ceremony in the Bahamas and that was something done to lift her spirits and just to show that they were committed, and to present themselves as a couple to the world. But as far as being legally married, no. So if Howard is not Dannielynn's biological father, he would have no claim over her.
OLBERMANN: This war of words about, it's obvious that it's going to be drug-related; it's nonsense that it's drug-related. According to the rescue department in Seminole County, they used a drug called Nalaxone to try to revive Anna Nicole Smith today. That's used to counter effects of Heroin or Morphine overdose. Do we know anything else about possible drug use and why, if there was no possible drug use, they would have used an anti - overdose medication?
BROWN: Well, everyone has been saying that Anna was definitely on anti-depressants. She has admitted that in the past. She was very depressed after the loss of her son Daniel, which just happened four or five months ago, and so we know she was on that. We also know that she was on Methadone. So we don't know what other drugs she was currently using. Of course we won't know until the coroner's report comes out. But, based on her behavior in her most recent interviews, we definitely know that something was awry. She definitely seemed a little out of it and a little dazed during her most recent interviews. So, we'll really have to wait and find out.
OLBERMANN: Tia Brown, senior editor with "In Touch Weekly," great thanks for your time tonight, and the information you provided us with.
BROWN: Thanks for having me. Have a good day.
OLBERMANN: And you too. Well there it is, the late-breaking details. There will be an emergency hearing tomorrow on the custody and perhaps the paternity - or the paternity and perhaps the custody of the child in the Anna Nicole Smith death, and also this war of words developing over what is going to be found in the autopsy, whether or not there was drug-related causes to be determined when that autopsy begins in Florida tomorrow.
That's Countdown for this, the 1,397th 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