'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Feb. 13
Guests: Jonathan Alter, Chris Cilizza, Harvey Levin
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST: Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
Pull out of Iraq by the end of next year. Sixty-three percent of Americans now favor that in the newest Gallup poll. But in the House, it's read-a-patriotic-essay-aloud day.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER: No more blank checks for President Bush on Iraq.
REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R), MINORITY LEADER: If we leave, they'll just follow us home. It's as simple as that.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
OLBERMANN: No, it's as simple as this. When, Democrats and antiwar Republicans, do you intend to do something?
The Libby trial, what they will not do. Vice President Cheney will not testify. Scooter Libby almost certainly will not testify. One of his defense witnesses did testify. He portrayed Libby as a man who offered ideas as his own that he had heard proposed by others six hours earlier.
A proposition from a Republican, long shot or no shot.
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MITT ROMNEY (R), FORMER MASSACHUSETTS GOVERNOR: I declare my intention to run for president of the United States.
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OLBERMANN: Do you have any idea who he is? Do you have any idea what he stands for?
And what of a more familiar Republican? Is Rudy Giuliani pro-life or pro-choice, or one and then the other?
What's Hollywood's choice? Could Clinton-friendly Tinseltown actually be wooed by Senator Obama?
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NORMAN LEAR, PEOPLE FOR THE AMERICAN WAY: We need to hear them in vigorous debate with each other. We need all the fallout, all the (INAUDIBLE) from all of that. And we've earned it. We've waited a long time. And we've earned that discussion.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Has not Anna Nicole Smith earned a little rest? Her mother and her purported husband fighting literally over her dead body.
And this, says the immigration minister of the Bahamas, this is not what it appears. It was a party, and she was bedridden, see, and this was the way she said hello to everybody. And, and, did I mention it's better in the Bahamas?
All that and more, now on Countdown.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't need a Bahama (INAUDIBLE).
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OLBERMANN: Good evening.
If the latest Gallup poll suggests nearly two-thirds of us want withdrawal from Iraq by the end of next year, why is the House of Representatives debating a nonbinding resolution that barely amounts to wagging a reproachful finger at a president, president who's not even required to watch while that finger is wagged?
Our fifth story on the Countdown, the answer, in part, a "Dear Colleague" letter written to their colleagues by Republican hawks Peter Hoekstra and John Shadegg. In it, they say the liberal mainstream media has failed to educate the country about why losing in Iraq is unacceptable. They also say that if Republicans, quote, "let Democrats force us into a debate on the surge or the current situation in Iraq, we lose," those Democrats saying that the nonbinding resolution is just the first step in a campaign to pressure the president to change course and end U.S. military involvement in Iraq.
No, really, that mean that.
That the House is debating at all would seem to be an embarrassment to the Senate, debate there still blocked by a Republican filibuster. The GOP might wish to consider the latest polling from the folks at Gallup, showing that the American public likes to see its elected officials debating - the more nonbinding the measure the better, apparently - by 51 percent to 19 percent, those surveyed placing the blame for the Senate stalemate firmly on Republicans.
Sixty-three percent want a timetable by which troops will leave Iraq by the end of 2008, 57 percent wanting Congress to put a cap on the number of troops sent out to fight. Yet the message sent by voters in the poll is nothing if not mixed, 58 percent against denying funding for additional troops.
Interpreting those numbers enough to drive anyone to tears, even the Republican leader in the House, John Boehner said to have gotten emotional this morning at the words expressed by his colleague Sam Johnson, recounting his seven years spent at a North Vietnamese prison camp, and aides saying off the record not to overdo this, that Mr. Boehner cries at almost everything.
Boehner, gathering himself slightly by the time he addressed the cameras, the debate itself actually starting around lunchtime, the House only Iraq war vet, Democrat Patrick Murphy of Pennsylvania, among those speaking, the first speaker, appropriately enough, the new speaker.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
PELOSI: The American people have lost faith in President Bush's course of action in Iraq, and they are demanding a new direction.
REP. JOHN CONYERS (D), MICHIGAN: No longer will Congress stand by while the president wages a war that defies logic, common sense, and human decency. This week, we shall take a stand. This week, we tell this administration, Enough is enough.
REP. DAVID DREIER (R), California: You can't claim support for our troops without supporting their mission, Mr. Speaker. Again, you cannot claim to support our troops without supporting their mission.
REP. ROY BLUNT (R), MISSOURI: It's hard to imagine a group less capable of making tactical decisions about specific troop deployments than 535 members of Congress. The resolution today is about the exact number of troops. Will the one tomorrow or next week be a vote on which block in Baghdad to target?
REP. TOM LANTOS (D), CALIFORNIA: We cannot create a stable Iraq when the Iraqis themselves don't seem to want it. Let's not leave our finest young men and women literally stranded in an Iraqi maze. Let's make this resolution the first step on their journey home.
REP. DUNCAN HUNTER (R), CALIFORNIA: And I think it's going to be received by friend and foe alike as the first sound of retreat in the world battle against extremists and terrorist.
REP. PATRICK MURPHY (D-PA), IRAQ WAR VETERAN: From my time serving with the 82nd Airborne Division in Iraq, it became clear that in order to succeed there, you must tell the Iraqis that we will not be there forever. Yet three years now since I have been home, it's still Americans leading cowboys up and down Ambush Alley and securing Iraqi street corners. We must make the Iraqis stand up for Iraq and set a timeline to start bringing our heroes home.
REP. DAN BURTON (R), INDIANA: War is hell. But sometimes it's necessary. If you don't stand up to a bully or a tyrant, then they'll push and they'll push and they'll push, until you have to fight. And if you wait too long, the fight is so severe that you really get hurt. It's better to whip them at the beginning than wait until later on when the cost is much, much, much higher.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
OLBERMANN: Hey, what do you know, Mr. Burton not on the golf course today.
Time now to call in our own Jonathan Alter, senior editor at "Newsweek" magazine.
Jon, good evening.
JONATHAN ALTER, SENIOR EDITOR, "NEWSWEEK" MAGAZINE: Hi, Keith.
OLBERMANN: What's going on here? Are Representatives Shadegg and Hoekstra succeeding in hamstringing the Democrats on this? Or are the Democrats still tip-toeing around in this misguided standard-issue political belief that if you just do it right when you stand for reelection, you can get 100 percent of the vote?
ALTER: Well, I think what the Democrats are trying to do here, Keith, is just get on the scoreboard with something. So even though a nonbinding resolution isn't very satisfactory for their constituents, or maybe even for the American people as a whole, it at least lays down a marker. It's a vote of no confidence in the surge.
And you have to start somewhere if you oppose this war. So they've stripped down this resolution. It's only 97 words long. It's very simple. And it puts the House of Representatives on record - it will by the end of this week - opposing the surge.
OLBERMANN: And is it correct, "The Washington Post" report today, that the Democrats have this binding resolution in the wings that would fully fund the president's request for $100 billion on the war, but only with conditions like, you have to fully equip the troops, the National Guard and Reservists can only be deployed two times each at most, and the administration can use of none of the money to build the permanent bases in Iraq? Is that that true? And why, why not just come out and, and, and swing for the fences with that at the beginning?
ALTER: Well, first of all, I think that those are all very interesting, important debates to have. You know, when you look at something like permanent bases there, this is one of the big irritants for people in the region, as they think that we're an imperialist power that wants to have permanent bases there. So to get the Congress to say, Look, we won't, you know, (INAUDIBLE) cut the purse strings tomorrow, but we do want to put some limitations on this and get directly involved in foreign policy-making of this country, is real important legislation.
You can't do everything at once. And so I'm not sure that there's not some sense of reason on the part of the Democrats here to take this step by step. If it weren't for the surge, the Democrats would be on much, much less firm ground right here.
But by going for this surge, which is so unpopular, it gives Democrats an opportunity to be against that without being against the troops.
So for the Republicans to say, as you just heard them argue, that, you know, You can't support the troops without supporting the mission, is like saying, You can't have a democracy, you can't have a debate about whether this country should be at war with another country, without, you know, showing lack of respect for the troops.
So we know that's not true. That's a fallacious argument. The Shadegg point, though, the one that you mentioned in that letter, is something very important for the Congress to consider. And that's whether the larger consequences of withdrawal from Iraq should be part of this debate.
And I would agree here with the Republicans. I think they should debate all of this. And clearly, the larger geopolitical consequences should be part of the argument.
OLBERMANN: But if that debate boils down to, or that argument from Shadegg and Hoekstra boils down to, We can't lose in Iraq, never mind whether or not we are losing in Iraq, or we're going to lose in Iraq, if the surge is opposed by 60 percent of country, that's got to include some Republicans. Are these guys going out on their own limb that is to some degree more dangerous than the Democrats by just saying, No, no, no, no, no, no matter what you want, we're not going to listen at all?
ALTER: Well, you know, in the same way that the administration can basically do what it wants here, the Democratic majority in the Congress can do what it wants. So they, you know, Shadegg and Hoekstra can argue till they're blue in the face that they want the debate to not be about the surge and, you know, not be about the fact that we're losing this war.
It's going to be about that. The question is whether it will also take account of some of these larger what you could call, you know, Churchillian issues, about whether we will stand up to terrorism or not. And I think the Democrats should just say, OK, fine, we'll debate both. We'll debate the short-term consequences, and, if you want the long-term consequences, and whether a military approach is the right way to deal with that, or whether, as the commission, the, the commission, the Hamilton-Baker commission recommended, we need a diplomatic initiative.
OLBERMANN: Jonathan Alter of MSNBC, and, of course, of "Newsweek" magazine. As always, great thanks for your time tonight, Jon.
ALTER: Thanks, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Atypical news from the administration about Iran and North Korea tonight, a U.S. military official telling NBC News that the military will dial back on the intelligence about Iran at tomorrow's news briefing in Baghdad, that there will be a, quote, "new outlook" on the possible connection between Iran's government and the weapons found in Iraq, and the administration taking an entirely new approach in its diplomatic efforts by actually engaging in difficult six-party talks about North Korea, and offering compassion instead of contempt in negotiations in Beijing, North Korea agreeing to shut down its main nuclear weapon reactor and dismantle its atomic weapons program in exchange for millions of dollars in aid, the deal coming only four months after North Korea shocked the world by testing a nuclear bomb, again, any breakthrough still tentative, North Korea having allegedly broken other agreements like this in the past, former U.N. ambassador John Bolton complaining about the deal today that the U.S. has given away the store, in his opinion, Secretary of State Rice using the occasion to turn back and continue the mixed message to Iran by saying that the international community is capable of uniting against Iran, never mind the irony that the U.S. is not even engaging in talks with Iran.
Big news at the Scooter Libby trial about who will not be making news there. The vice president will not take the witness stand, nor the defendant. However, what one of the defense witnesses said today may supply some of the missing fireworks.
And Mitt Romney makes it official. There are now three Republicans running for president. They have had six or more positions on abortion among them.
You are watching Countdown on MSNBC.
OLBERMANN: Before his trial began, Lewis "Scooter" Libby planned to testify in his own behalf, to publicly defend himself against charges that he committed perjury and lied to federal investigators.
Today, in our fourth story on the Countdown, a shocker, plans vowed by a veteran of the Bush administration not coming to pass. In fact, neither Mr. Libby nor his former boss, Vice President Cheney, will be taking the stand in this trial after all, despite months of pretrial work predicated on the Libby defense team's stated plans to call both men to the stand.
The 180 was a disappointment to prosecutors, but also to a nation to some degree hungry for what their testimony might have revealed about the selling of the war and the operational style of a (INAUDIBLE) deeply secretive vice president. The news came after the jury heard testimony from a witness who served, in essence, as the defense team's surrogate for Libby, his former deputy, John Hanna, who has since replaced Mr. Libby as Cheney's national security adviser, who had some eye-opening observations about both Mr. Libby and the vice president.
Not covering the testimony of Libby and Cheney for us, but all over the actual testimony, as always, David Shuster.
David, good evening.
DAVID SHUSTER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Good evening, Keith.
OLBERMANN: To Mr. Hanna in a moment. But first, both size and the judge literally went through months in pretrial discussion and motion based on the plan to call Libby in his own defense. They also, as you have mentioned here, started this trial just a couple weeks ago saying the vice president would take the stand, first sitting vice president to do so in a criminal trial.
Where did the witnesses go?
SHUSTER: Well, Keith, the case was much more focused and damaging, at least politically, for Vice President Cheney than many of his supporters had expected. So if Cheney testified now and testified in keeping with notes and other documentary evidence about when he learned of the CIA operative, that would bolster the prosecution timeline and harm Scooter Libby.
And if Cheney had memory problems, that would open the door for prosecutors to force Cheney through a perjury minefield. So Libby's actually doing Cheney a favor by not calling him to the witness stand.
With Libby, in not testifying, his defense wants the jury to focus on the credibility of prosecution witnesses, not on the credibility of Libby. And if Libby testified, the attention would be on Libby's demeanor on the stand as he tried to explain learning something, forgetting it, then learning it again, and then thinking he never knew it in the first place.
The biggest risk for Libby, however, may be on the expectation put forward by his lawyers early in the case that Libby would testify, combined with the general expectation juries tend to have with public figures defending themselves.
For example, Keith, the highest-profile case I've ever covered was more than 10 years ago, a Whitewater case involving then-Governor Jim Guy Tucker of Arkansas. After two months of evidence, Tucker decided not to testify. And while the jury wasn't supposed to hold that against him, the expectation that Tucker would testify and explain things himself hurt him, and Tucker was convicted.
OLBERMANN: About John Hanna, currently serving as Mr. Cheney's national security adviser, when Libby held that role, Mr. Hanna was his deputy. The prosecutors today characterized Hanna as a defense surrogate, letting them get, essentially get Libby's viewpoint on the record without actually having to have Libby exposed to say, cross-examination.
But I gather Mr. Hanna was supposed to show Mr. Libby had this bad memory, of which we've heard so much, but he may have wound up just showing that he had a bad memory when it came to giving others credit.
SHUSTER: Well, that's right, Keith. I mean, Hanna said, Yes, Scooter Libby does have an awful memory. But when pressed for an example, Hanna said he would tell Libby certain things in the morning, only to hear Libby repeat those same ideas later at staff meetings, and not give Hanna any credit.
I mean, it could underscore some of the memory problems for Libby, or it could have left some jurors with the impression that Libby was a cunning and dishonest boss who stole ideas from people who worked for him.
Hanna's testimony was a mixed bag for Libby in other ways as well. Hanna described a litany of national security matters Libby was focused on and portrayed Libby as being preoccupied on security issues, as evidenced by Hanna's testimony that Libby was only available in the evenings.
But on cross, prosecutors were able to remind the jury that Libby, during the crucial week, still made time in the midst of all this for a two-hour breakfast meeting with a reporter. Hanna also admitted under cross-examination that Libby's job as Cheney's chief of staff was not just to defend Cheney against criticism, but also to push back at critics. And "push back" is not exactly the phrase, Keith, that helps Scooter Libby.
OLBERMANN: Certainly, no member of the jury could ever have had the kind of boss you just referenced.
David Shuster, and down the stretch they come at the Libby trial.
David, great thanks.
SHUSTER: Thanks, Keith.
OLBERMANN: A true trial for any Democrat. Can you carry Hollywood?
Is it still Clinton country? Or is there a new player in town?
And politics can certainly get ugly. But does this look to you like a vicious assault on a city commissioner? Down goes Frasier! Down goes Frasier! Maybe if they were playing rock, paper, scissors.
Next on Countdown.
OLBERMANN: It is one of those quotes so classic that it's attributed both to an American president and to his wife. "If you want a friend in Washington, get a dog." So said Harry Truman, or his wife, Bess Truman, or Jim Carrey's film character, Truman Burbank. No matter who it was, Bess Truman was born on this day in 1885.
And on that note, let's play Oddball.
We begin with politics in Carson, California, with a shocking assault caught on tape. Or maybe not. The incident occurred at last week's city council meeting. The attacker, seen here, Vera Robles DeWitt (ph), leader of a movement to recall the mayor of Carson. She was arrested for what the mayor called a violent assault on city commissioner Jan Schafer (ph) with a handful of paper. And we have the video. A brutal attack, or the worst dive since Sonny Liston? You make the call.
She got hit in the eye? She's got an eye in the back of her head?
She should be president. Ms. DeWitt was arrested, but held only briefly. And though a doctor was called to the scene, Ms. Schafer bravely refused medical treatment. What a trouper.
To India, where they might not be celebrating Valentine's Day, but Cupid sure has done a number on these two cows. That's right, they're married. Dozens of guests showed up to the wedding to watch a bull and a cow. You know what? Can we just watch that city council thing again?
We used to see that all the time in NBA highlights.
Evangelical voters in the GOP with a conundrum. These are their choices, a Mormon, or someone who openly criticized Jerry Falwell and is now trying to get his support, or someone who once married his own second cousin.
And another even grimmer custody battle in the death of Anna Nicole Smith. First came the fight over Smith's baby, now there's a fight, literally, over Smith's dead body.
But first, time for Countdown's top three newsmakers of this day.
Number three, pitcher Adam Wainwright and catcher Yadier Molina of your world champion St. Louis Cardinals. In a friendly dispute, they say, over which one of them owns the ball with which the World Series ended last year, Molina says he did indeed promise to give the ball to the pitcher, Wainwright, but he added, he only hit .216 last year. I didn't earn much else, but I have the ball. That's my reward.
Number two, officials at the Lowry Park Zoo in Tampa. A new tour, just in time for Valentine's Day. All the zoo animals you will see are having sex, including the bisexual manatees. Champagne, chocolate-covered strawberries, and candlelight are included with this tour. Your ensuring 11 years of weekly psychotherapy are not included in the price.
Number one, Eric M. Nolan of East Dennis, Mass., this is on Cape Cod, wanted on domestic violence charges. He went out and hid in the woods outside his girlfriend's condo and forgot to turn off his cell phone. So police cleverly repeatedly dialed his cell phone number, and just followed the sound of the ring. Can you hear my stupidity now?
OLBERMANN: When former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani prepared for his second run for that office in 1993, his campaign commissioned a vulnerability study to glean ideas on how to win in a largely Democratic city. That advice might haunt them now as the former mayor faces conservative Republicans in his bid for the presidential nomination. But in our third story on the COUNTODWN, perhaps former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, who formally announced his candidacy today, should commission his own vulnerability study.
And as to front runner John McCain, his study might be commissioned for him by friends of the reverend Jerry Falwell. Governor Romney skipping the state where he governed to return to the state where he was born and raised, Michigan, to formally announce his campaign and to try, as others already have, to lay claim to a transformation.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We're weary of the bickering and the bombast. We're fatigued by the posturing and self-promotion. It's time for innovation and transformation in Washington. It's what our country needs. It's what our people deserve. I don't believe Washington can be transformed from within by lifetime politicians.
There have been too many deals, too many favors, too many entanglements, and too little real world experience, managing, governing and leading.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: But if Governor Romney, still pro choice about two years ago, is now also trying to court social conservatives by declaring his belief in the sanctity in human life, he has simply joined a crowd.
Senator McCain will be the special guest at a reception a week from today, hosted by the Reverend Jerry Falwell, who was among those he once described as agents of intolerance, at the National Religious Broadcasters Convention in Orlando Florida.
Governor Romney will host a reception there as well for Christian radio and TV hosts. Mr. Giuliani may face a longer road into the fold of the conservatives. That 1993 vulnerability study posted online by the SmokingGun.com, recommended that the then mayoral candidate emphasize his independence from traditional national Republican policies, such as the fact that he was pro-choice and supported public funding for abortion.
It sighted concern about Mr. Giuliani's, quote, weirdness factor personally, end quote, as with a 14 year marriage to a second cousin.
Let's turn to WashingtonPost.com political reporter Chris Cilizza.
Chris, good evening.
CHRIS CILIZZA, WASHINGTONPOST.COM: Good evening Keith.
OLBERMANN: This is certainly an odd shopping list for Republicans? Is it now. I mean, are any of these three guys going to be supportable enough by the religious right? And if they are, or become such, wouldn't they lose the middle and be susceptible to being accused of hypocrisy by each other, to say nothing of Democrats?
CILIZZA: Well what we've seen actually, it's fascinating. Usually the social conservative end of the party is looking for the purist candidate. They want the person who down the line is supportive of their issues, regardless of their chances of winning. I actually wrote a story in today's Post where we talked to a lot of folks who were involved in social conservative politics, activists, leaders.
And time and time again, what they said to me is we want someone who can win, who is also as good as they can be on our issues. It's interesting. It's not a group that we've seen practice pragmatism in their politics in the past, but they appear to be doing it now.
OLBERMANN: Is there any reason for that? Did David Kwo's book wake them up, or how did that happen?
CILIZZA: Well, I think what they said - one person said to me is, look, we've backed people like Gary Bauer in the past and it hasn't gotten us anywhere. What we need to do is find the best mix of a conservative with someone who can win. Is that Governor Romney? Again, as you pointed out, there's real questions about that.
The central question is, is his transformation sincere? Is this a political move? Or is this a real change in his personal philosophy. Remember, when he was running for the Senate in 1994, then when he was running for governor in Massachusetts in 2002, reiterated the fact that while he was privately pro-life, he was publicly pro-choice. In 1994 he said he would be better on gay rights than Ted Kennedy. So that's a hard pill for a lot of people to swallow in the social conservative movement, that in that period of time he has now gone to the other extreme.
OLBERMANN: What about Senator McCain in that same way? Is there a worry, in his own camp, that he's gone so far to the right on issues where he was noted for his moderation, that he might be cutting off the nose, despite the face?
CILIZZA: Sure, actually a Democratic consultant made a very interesting analogy to me. He said that McCain back in 2000 was like Coca-Cola, a brand that a lot of people liked. Since then he's turned into the new Coke. And that's a brand that's not going down all that well, not with establishment folks and not necessarily with the social conservatives and the really conservatives he's trying to appeal to.
This consultant suggested he go back to Coca Cola Classic, McCain classic. The question is, will people accept that? I think he understands that he came close running as a maverick, but he didn't win. And so what the McCain people are trying to do is say, look, that maverick thing was all well and good, but, in the end, you have to be the nominee in order to really impact policy.
It's a question - It's a fine line he's walking between trying to maintain that image as a maverick, and also becoming the establishment candidate. They work at odds a lot of times.
OLBERMANN: And certainly that's true for Mayor Giuliani. Is my sense of this correct that there's a lot of people on both sides of the aisle who think he's one straw away from being broken? That there's so much stuff just waiting to collapse on top of him that he could be out shortly?
CILIZZA: I was one of these people who was skeptical that he would ever get into this race for exactly what you talk about. Mayor Giuliani is nothing if not a pragmatic politician. And he's well aware of the fact that there are a lot of things out there, whether its his personal life or professional life, where he's espoused views that are not in line with the conservative base of the party.
I've been surprised. He's moved forward. He's putting together a national organization. That said, there's clearly going to be either from his rivals, from the media, there's going to be an examination of all the things Rudy Giuliani has said between coming into office and now. I'm not sure he can withstand that. The X factor is September 11th. You know, in a pre-September 11th world I would say, no chance. He now is seen as the hero of September 11th.
Does that insulate him from these attacks on his liberal social positions? We don't know the answer yet.
OLBERMANN: We'll see. Chris Cilizza of WashingtonPost.com, great thanks Chris.
CILIZZA: Thank you Keith.
OLBERMANN: The race to build the biggest campaign war chest is on. And nowhere are wallets opening more widely than in Hollywood. This is supposed to be Clinton home turf, but maybe not this time.
And is "American Idol" jumping the shark? The latest rumor about a new celebrity judge. Your clue to his identity, Woo hoo who.
But first, here are Countdown's top three sound bytes of this day.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Here tonight a look at the home video of Nick and another boy wrestling during a tournament in Rolling Meadows last night. When the other boy gets pinned, watch what happens. That boy's father steps in, throwing Nicholas, who goes airborne, landing outside the ring, as the father then marches towards Nicholas' father, who is operating the camera.
NICK NASENBENY, CHILE WRESTLER: I was just wrestling and the guy throws me.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Fifty times more than our normal daily.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mail coming in from all over the country and throughout the world. In this case it's all in the name of postmark from Valentine on Valentine's Day.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: President and first lady please join us.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, right now. They're beckoning you to come to the stage right now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: In 1961, President Eisenhower warned, in his prophetic fair well address, against the acquisition of power by what he called the military industrial complex, saying that only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.
Well that boat sailed. As to what fictional FBI agent Fox Molder later warned against, the military industrial entertainment complex, at least you can remain alert and knowledgeable about it, while still getting to use NetFlix. And in that spirit, we give you tonight's number two story, this report from White House correspondent David Gregory.
DAVID GREGORY, NBC NEWS WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):
Forget the Oscars. The race in Hollywood these days is between the biggest names in politics, Clinton and Obama.
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), ILLINOIS: Because you guys kept on asking me.
GREGORY: Two standouts in a crowded Democratic field, vying for the heart of Hollywood, a community that knows how to create a star.
ARIANNA HUFFINGTON, HUFFINGTONPOST.COM: It's more than it can recognize talent because that's the job it's in. They recognize who can connect with the public.
GREGORY (on camera): Hollywood matters because it's worth tens of millions of dollars of campaign cash. But in a town where Bill and Hillary Clinton have always been the biggest names in Democratic party politics, this year there is a new face siphoning off money and star power.
OBAMA: Thank you so much, thank you.
GREGORY (voice-over): It made headlines here when Obama snatched the backing of movie and music mogul David Geffen. Geffen and his Dreamworks partners Steven Spielberg and Jeffrey Katzenberg, will throw Obama a $2,300 a person fund raiser in Beverly Hills. Geffin has bluntly broken with the Clintons, saying of Senator Clinton before a New York audience recently, quote, "She can't win. She's an incredibly polarizing figure, and I think that ambition is just not a good enough reason."
And Geffin is not alone. Clinton has lost favor with some key Hollywood figures, like actor George Clooney, over her support for the Iraq war, and what others consider belated criticism of the White House.
HUFFINGTON: She's triangulating. She's calculating. You can really smell the calculation. And there's a tremendous longing for authenticity. Hollywood, like every other Democrat in this country, wants to pick a winner this time.
GREGORY: Lawrence Bender, who produced "Good Will Hunting" and Al Gore's "An Inconvenient Truth," says Obama is something refreshingly different in a town that likes the new thing.
LAWRENCE BENDER, "AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH": I really feel like he's bringing a fresh voice, but a voice that people want to listen to, and a voice that can bring people together.
GREGORY: Hollywood's divisions are getting attention in part because of the intense race for campaign cash, and because California may move up the date of its primary to next February. It's all created a rush for attention among the party's top contenders, including former Senator John Edwards. And even former Vice President Al Gore, who still has support here.
NORMAN LEAR, PRODUCER: We need to hear them in vigorous debate with each other. We need all the fall out, all the rub off from all of that, and we've earned it. We waited a long time and we've earned that discussion.
GREGORY: Few would argue that Bill and Hillary Clinton have been the darlings of the Hollywood establishment. But is the saga of the Clintons, the marriage, the intense criticism they inspire, setting up a failure of a sequel?
HAIM SABAN, CLINTON SUPPORTER It's just pictures of different politicians.
GREGORY: Haim Saban, one of the wealthiest and most powerful Hollywood moguls backing Mrs. Clinton, doesn't buy it.
SABAN: I had no issue at all raising support for Hillary Rodham Clinton. I personally don't think that we in America can afford to trade experience for potential.
GREGORY: And to those in Hollywood who have stood up to the Clinton machine by supporting Obama, Saban appears unconcerned.
SABAN: Those that have opted to support other candidates, I believe will very quickly come home.
OLBERMANN: From celebrities creeping around politics to a just plain old creepy celebrity. Keeping Tabs begins with the gossip that participating in a theme week on "American "Idol will be Michael Jackson. I don't want what the theme is. Jackson has reportedly met with show creator Simon Fuller to help retrieve his career from its place in a metaphorical Bahrain, but the website RealityTVMagazine.com thinks those meetings could be talks to have Jackson appear on Idol.
We're quote RealityTVMagazine.com. The report cites several other clues that a Jackson cameo is in the works, and that the King of Pop might mentor the impressionable young talent on the show. Here we go.
And 10 years later, new developments in the task to retrieve the 40 million dollars O.J. Simpson owes the family Ronald Goldman. The Goldmans have sent subpoenas to the Screen Actors Guild, the Producers Guild of America and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists for Simpson's pay stubs. They want to know how much Simpson got for his film and TV appearances. They want to see the residual checks.
Quoting the Goldman's attorney, "we've all seen Naked Gun repeatedly on cable. Each time its shown again, his residuals ad up. This is a matter of turning every stone."
Earlier this month the Goldmans got a restraining order against Simpson, stating he could not spend the 675,000 dollars he had received as an advance for the unpublished tell-all book, "If I Did It." Simpson said he did spend it and all in one place, no less.
Mega-millions on the Anna Nicole Smith saga. All of today's developments in the investigation and the custody battles, the one for her baby and for her body.
That's ahead, but first time for Countdown's nominees for Worst Person in the World. The bronze, former California Congressman Duke Cunningham, indictments today alleging that defense contractors bribed him with yachts, SeeDo boats, a Rolls Royce, a Glock handgun, Super Bowl tickets, fishing diving and machine gun shooting outings, a graduation party for his daughter, and hookers in Hawaii. Duke, you mean you didn't get a pony?
Our runner up, Angela Platt, former accountant for J and J Materials in Rehoboth, Massachusetts. She's pleaded guilty to doing a little embezzling at the firm. Six years, $7 million. Forget Duke Cunningham, she used the money to buy herself a 20-foot tall smoke breathing dragon, a private concert from Burt Bacharach, a life sized statue of Al Capone, 35 vehicles, a replica of a Model T made up to look like a goblin, a four-bedroom house in Rhode Island, and six mechanical talking trees like the ones in "The Wizard of Oz." Wait, you wasted the money on a four bedroom house in Rhode Island?
But our winner, Joel Surnow, the producer of the Fox series "24" and an evidently oxymoronic Fox noise comedy news series. The dean of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, Brigadier General Patrick Finnegan, went to Hollywood to meet with the creative team behind "24," to ask them to stop writing scenes suggesting that cutting corners on the law and torturing terror suspects was a good idea.
"I would like them to stop," General Finnegan told the "New Yorker Magazine." "They should do a show where torture backfires. The kids see it and say if torture is wrong, what about "24?" This was the guy in charge of West Point, having a meeting with the producers of "24" to ask them to cool it. Where was producer Surnow? He said he couldn't attend the meeting because he can't sit still that long, and he had a conference call with Roger Ailes at the same time. You bet he did.
Joel Surnow of Fox and Fox noise, today's Worst Person in the World.
OLBERMANN: The statistic from the Project For Excellence in Journalism is simply amazing. On cable news last Thursday and Friday, 50 percent of all live news programming was devoted to coverage of the death of Anna Nicole Smith. Our number one story on the Countdown, OK, after tonight it will be 50.02 percent.
The never ending story has shifted from the four living men vying for custody of her five month old daughter, to the two groups vying for custody of her Earthly remains. Her lawyer, lover, and alleged finance Howard K. Stern and her estranged mother have both filed custody papers for her body. Even though right now her former boyfriend Larry Birkhead has a legal hold on the corps, while he tries to obtain a DNA sample from it to bolster his paternity claim for the daughter Dannielynn Hope Marshall something.
On that front, Birkhead says he told Anna Nicole Smith to change her drug addles lifestyle when she got pregnant, or he would sue for custody. Instead, she ran away to the Bahamas and put lawyer Howard K. Stern on the birth certificate. Birkhead's lawyer says perhaps this will refresh everyone's memory, a speeding ticket, allegedly given to Birkhead when he rushed to see a four months pregnant Anna Nicole Smith after she had a fight with Mr. Stern.
Mr. Birkhead told the officer who pulled him over, quoting what the officer wrote on the ticket, I got a call from my pregnant wife. She's sick. And there are new revelations about another self-proclaimed father, Zsa Zsa Gabor's husband, Prince Frederick Von something. Allegedly on the payroll now of several European tabloids. They claim that he made this paternity claim up for them, so they would have something to write about when their folks started to show up in Hollywood for the Oscars.
I'm joined now by the man who's website revealed all of the above information, the managing editor of TMZ.com, my old friend Harvey Levin. Thanks for your time tonight Harvey.
HARVEY LEVIN, TMZ.COM: Hey Keith.
OLBERMANN: We'll get to the paternity claim in a moment. But first, let me ask you, your legal experience her as a lawyer, please explain how there's this grotesque custody battle over the body of this poor woman?
LEVIN: Well, it's complicated, but the bottom line is this, that Anna Nicole's mother really has claim to the body and to bury the body. The complication here is that there is an outstanding court order, which is essential to establish paternity of this child. And Larry Birkhead went to court in Los Angeles and a judge has said that Anna Nicole must submit a DNA sample. She can't submit it voluntarily now, but the judge can order it posthumously, if you will.
And what Larry Birkhead's lawyer is doing is he's going to the Bahamas tomorrow, and basically going to argue, look, we want to make sure that you will enforce this court order, that we will get this DNA before the body is buried. I'm told Birkhead has no problem allowing the mother to bury her daughter, but what he wants - and I kind of - not kind of, I understand it. He wants to make sure that he has the goods to establish paternity.
OLBERMANN: Is this going to wind up like James Brown? Are we going to have competing counts on how long these people are unburied?
LEVIN: No, I mean look, this is a really specific issue. She's not being buried because this DNA has to happen. It has to happen. It's the missing link. If it doesn't happen, in establishing paternity once and for all. So, I mean, I think it's very understandable, as a lawyer. I get it. But, as a human being, I get why Larry Birkhead wants this. Because it's essential.
He believes Howard K. Stern is dangerous for this child and he wants custody and believes the child is his.
OLBERMANN: About Mr. Birkhead and the paternity claim that he made and the evidence that he supplied with this traffic ticket, the cop noted that he said his pregnant wife was sick, but Anna Nicole Smith was not his wife, nor actually sick. Is there not just as much reason to infer from this that Birkhead is more fibber than father?
LEVIN: Well that's Keith Olbermann being clever, which I always expect.
OLBERMANN: Thank you Harvey.
LEVIN: He didn't supply us with it. We obtained it. And here's the deal there, his lawyer says that Birkhead actually said my girlfriend, and the cop wrote down wife. But honestly, it's all irrelevant. The fact is, she was four months pregnant. And this is before she even announced to the world that she was pregnant, and Larry Birkhead is getting a traffic ticket rushing to find her and telling the cop spontaneously my pregnant girlfriend, or my pregnant wife, whatever, the word pregnant is the key here.
And, you know, I think the evidence is building like a mountain here that Larry Birkhead is the father of this kid.
OLBERMANN: And is there reason, lastly here, is there reason to believe that the earlier reports that there was a will, but it didn't mention the child. That was incorrect, that there is a will and it does mention the daughter?
LEVIN: Well no, I'm told that the will mentions Daniel, the son. And, since Daniel died, what happens is, under the law, it all goes to the daughter, because she's the next in line. So basically Dannielynn will inherit whatever Nicole had.
OLBERMANN: And do we have anything on Prince Von Anhalt? Can we cross him off the list here? Is he delusional, but paid to be delusional, or what is that?
LEVIN: Yes, I mean, we were told that he was getting money from the tabloids and he wanted to stir up some heat right before the Oscars. But Keith, my favorite part of this is Zsa Zsa apparently was not upset about his allegation that he had an affair with Anna Nicole, she was upset because she didn't want a baby around the house.
OLBERMANN: She's been a winner for a long time. Harvey Levin of TMZ.com, survivor of the Zsa Zsa wars in the 1990s, great thanks for your time Harvey.
LEVIN: Bye Keith.
OLBERMANN: That's Countdown for this the 1,402nd day since the declaration of mission accomplished in Iraq. 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