'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Feb. 21
Guests: Howard Fineman, Dana Milbank, David Boies
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST: Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
Pay no attention to the British. Yes, they are heading to lifeboats, but it's not because Iraq is sinking.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICHARD CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I want you to know that the American people will not support a policy of retreat.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: And pay no attention to reality. The British pulling out a quarter of their force is good news.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHENEY: What I see is an affirmation of the fact that there are parts of Iraq where things are going pretty well.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Like they went well for Scooter Libby. The jury now has the case. The prosecutor may have made an overture to the defense attorney, If your man is convicted, we can reduce his sentence if he gives us information.
Information about counterterror, fake threats, politically motivated alerts, plain old incompetence, now, cooking the books. Immigration violations, drug trafficking, marriage fraud among the crimes listed in the Justice Department stats on how many terror cases it has pursued.
The right-wing "Half Hour News Hour," ratings half good, half bad. A lot of viewers for its debut, but most of them started to leave 11 minutes into the show.
The prince is here. Richard Lewis joins us on that topic. If you deliberately preplan humor to be conservative or liberal, can it ever be funny? And everything else, including his hair on the cover of the new "Anything But Love" DVD.
Hair, rehab. Britney is here. Britney isn't here. Britney isn't here.
And Judge Larry still isn't all there. Countdown condenses the day's absurdities as the Anna Nicole Smith circus continues, the honorable Judge Seidlin emceeing.
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JUDGE SEIDLIN: No circus here, my friends. Don't use that term. It turns me off.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: How I wish I could turn you off.
All that and more, now on Countdown.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEIDLIN: That's offensive.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Good evening.
The British have almost always known when to get out, Virginia in 1781, Dunkirk in 1940, Iraq in 2007. Today, it became official, and today, it became just a little bit worse.
Our fifth story on the Countdown, Great Britain proving not to be alone in announcing it will be withdrawing some or all of its troops from Iraq, Denmark also revealing it will be pulling out as well amid signs that Lithuania and even Australia could well be next, Prime Minister Blair before Parliament today saying the British have done all they can do in southern Iraq, making the case for a significant drawdown of British troops within weeks.
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TONY BLAIR, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: Now in Basra, over the coming months, we will transfer more of the responsibility directly to Iraqis. The actual reduction in forces will be from the present 7,100, itself down from over 9,000 two years ago, and 40,000 at the time of the conflict, to roughly 5,500.
However, with the exception of forces which will remain at Basra Palace, the British forces will be located at Basra Air Base and be in a support role.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Mr. Blair careful to say that his decision does not mean Basra is how he wants it to be, merely that it is time for the Iraqis to secure it themselves, Vice President Dick Cheney, in Japan today, opting for spin over caution, claiming the British withdrawal is good news, and a sign of progress in Iraq.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHENEY: Well, what I see is an affirmation of the fact that there are parts of Iraq where things are going pretty well. In fact, I talked to a friend just the other day, who had driven from Baghdad down to Basra in seven hours, found the situation dramatically improved compared to where it was a year or so ago.
Sort of validated the British view that they have made progress in southern Iraq, and that they can therefore afford to reduce their force levels.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Turn left at the Halliburton Interchange on the Cheney Expressway, Mr. Cheney spinning in opposite directions. He told American troops aboard the U.S.S. "Kitty Hawk" in Tokyo that despite that good news of the British withdrawal, U.S. forces would not be leaving Iraq.
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CHENEY: Every member of our military can be certain that America will stay on the offensive in the war on terror. And I want you to know that the American people will not support a policy of retreat.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: If by that you mean a majority.
Mr. Cheney heading next to Australia, where the prime minister there, though fresh from equating Senator Obama and the Democrats to Al Qaeda in Iraq, is said to be under pressure to start withdrawing that nation's roughly 1,200 troops in and around Iraq, Lithuania said to be seriously considering not replacing its contingent of 53 - yes, 53 - when their mission ends in August.
So who then is actually left in the coalition of the dwindling? And how many troops are we talking about here? And for how long? In descending order, according to the Associated Press's count, South Korea, 2,300 in the northern Iraqi city of Irbil, not for long, bringing home 1,100 by April, and all troops by the end of the year. Poland, 900, all noncombat troops, committed only until the end of the year. Georgia, another 900, serving under U.S. command in Baqubah. Rumania, 600, that nation's prime minister saying he too wants them withdrawn. El Salvador, 380, doing peacekeeping and humanitarian work only. Mongolia, Bulgaria, Azerbaijan, Latvia, Albania, all in the mid-hundreds, everybody else in the low double digits, Slovenia, four.
Time now to call in our own Howard Fineman, also the senior Washington correspondent for "Newsweek" magazine.
Howard, good evening.
HOWARD FINEMAN, SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, "NEWSWEEK" MAGAZINE:
That sounded like a partial baseball score there.
OLBERMANN: Yes, back at the Olympics, we are here.
All right, so here we are again. The White House is focusing its spin on the differences between the conditions in Basra and in Baghdad. Is that a thin piece of cover? Does it not overlook the fact that whatever the original You handle this part of the country, we'll handle this part of the country, Britain is not willing to move its troops from Basra to Baghdad?
FINEMAN: Well, I think it's important that the British are leaving, and not going to Baghdad, where they could make the surge even surgier if they had wanted to.
And I think focusing on the success in Basra begs the question of the difficulties of Iraq, the Sunni triangle, and other parts of the country. Basra's largely Shia dominated. The British were very brave, very skillful.
By the way, I'm told by a British military analyst that one reason that the British troops want to go home, rather than into Baghdad, besides the obvious one, is that they don't trust the competence of the American military. They think the American military in many ways has done a poor job of execution on the ground, and they don't want to have anything to do with closer partnership with the Americans.
OLBERMANN: So the British quite clearly declared victory in Basra and got out. But in that country, there was some surprise that the withdrawal would not be as rapid as many had been led to expect last night. Is there any belief in Washington that the administration leaned successfully on Tony Blair about that, and that that's what they're - what they actually mean when they claim this is good news?
FINEMAN: Well, I talked to a friend of mine in London who said that, you know, the administration here wanted to make sure that it was as smooth and as - if anything could be undramatic in this situation, as undramatic as possible. If Dick Cheney's right that this is a big success in Basra, then the administration should have been calling up on Tony - calling up Tony Blair and saying, Hey, why don't you get all of your troops out of there now? But that's not what the administration was doing. They wanted the British to be slow, careful, and considerate.
OLBERMANN: We touched on this, as we discussed this when the news was breaking last night, Howard, but does the fact that Mr. Blair said specifically today that the majority of Britain's remaining troops are going to be there in a support role, does that only strengthen the hand of Democratic lawmakers who are now considering their own plan to, as strange and offbeat as this sounds, to revise, go back and revise the 2002 war resolution to limit American troops to that same kind of definition, support mission only?
FINEMAN: I think it's possible. I think that's where disputes in this country and in the Congress often end up, in language. What is exactly meant by support troops? And that could be vague enough for some kind of deal that might even draw some Republicans in, because it wouldn't be retreat, it wouldn't be dishonor, it wouldn't be all those things Dick Cheney was talking about. It would just be support, definition to come.
OLBERMANN: The vice president also said something today that accused Democrats - here's a shock - of aiding al Qaeda. Let me quote him again directly. "If we were to do what Speaker Pelosi and Congressman Murtha are suggesting, all we'll do is validate the al Qaeda strategy. The al Qaeda strategy is to break the will of the American people. In fact, knowing they can't win in a standup fight, try to convince us to throw in the towel and come home, and then they win because we quit?"
It didn't really work too well to attack the patriotism of the Democrats in the midterms. In fact, it was a shutout. Now, they're clearly on the side of the majority of the American public. Does it make any success for Mr. Cheney to do that now?
FINEMAN: Well, I think you have to know who he's talking to, Keith.
I think he's talking to some wavering Republicans in the House and Senate. And he's talking to some American allies, like Australia, like the Saudis, who are keeping the lid on oil prices to pressure Iran.
This is Cheney sort of woofing to our allies in the Middle East and threatening Republicans in Congress. The Democrats and much of the rest of the country, the United States here, have stopped listening to him.
OLBERMANN: He's got his own Dunkirk to deal with.
Howard Fineman of MSNBC and "Newsweek." As always, Howard, great thanks.
FINEMAN: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: The other other shoe waiting to drop for the Bush administration, a possible guilty verdict for Scooter Libby, the jury's first day of deliberations ending without a decision at the trial of the former White House aide, after 14 days of testimony, and a full day of closing arguments, jurors hearing more than an hour of instructions this morning before they started their deliberations. Four and a half hours of deliberation later, they called it a day.
Mr. Libby, of course, you will recall, accused of obstructing the investigation into who leaked the identity of CIA operative Valerie Plame Wilson. Whatever the outcome, Republican spin about it will seem to be inevitable.
For more on what we might be hearing before we hear it, let's turn now to the man who knows all and tells all, our own Dana Milbank, national political reporter for "The Washington Post."
Dana, good evening.
DANA MILBANK, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, "THE WASHINGTON POST":
Well, tells all, at least.
OLBERMANN: Yes, exactly. If Libby is acquitted, does this all get spun, then, as having been a conspiracy against not only him but also against the Bush administration, and the media needed - needs to apologize, et cetera?
MILBANK: Well, I'm sure there are certain commentators on certain cable noise networks that are already planning this.
The difficulty in that is that this is long ago stopped, as a political matter, stopped being an issue of Scooter Libby's guilt or innocence. And what's emerged through the trial is, there were at least four and possibly five senior administration officials who had essentially unmasked Valerie Plame to half a dozen or more reporters, and then at least three of those officials then subsequently denied it under oath.
So the larger significance is how broad this effort was. And that - as a political matter, the jury verdict probably doesn't matter a whole lot. Of course, it matters a whole lot to Scooter Libby.
OLBERMANN: Does that still obtain if he is found guilty, even though it is so distantly past the specifics of it? I mean, is there not going to be some more difficult Republican spin coming out if - in the event of a guilty verdict?
MILBANK: Yes. I mean, (INAUDIBLE) there'll be some political impact in either case. But I think also for the administration, the downside is somewhat limited. They'll, of course, go back to the points being made in the first case, that nobody was prosecuted for the underlying crime of outing a CIA agent. It's always - it's about the coverup and the question of perjury.
Views are pretty hardened against the Iraq war, views of the administration's honesty, views of - about the weapons of mass destruction. So it's hard to see how that gets nudged terribly far in any direction, regardless of the verdict.
OLBERMANN: Of course, (INAUDIBLE), practically speaking, Mr. Fitzgerald, the prosecutor, was seen with Mr. Wells, the defense attorney, at the end, after the jury instructions, chatting, apparently very seriously, for about 10 minutes, not telling jokes, according to the witnesses in the courtroom.
Which begs the question of, if they find Libby guilty the first thing the prosecution is going to do is say, Hey, you know, you want to trade something, or do you want to go to jail? Are they going to go after the vice president in that situation? Is that the target? Or is there any other possibility that would spare Scooter Libby some time in jail if convicted?
MILBANK: It doesn't seem terribly likely that, you know, if there were a time for deal making, that would have passed by now. And Fitzgerald's made it fairly clear that he's finished his investigation, and this is it.
What does get interesting here, if there is a conviction, is the question of a pardon. And Bush, you saw when my colleague Peter Baker asked him about it at the press conference, was squirming all over the place to avoid asking that question. The president will be under a lot of pressure from Vice President Cheney. And the president, who relies on this sense of loyalty, will feel an awful lot of pressure to give Libby that pardon.
OLBERMANN: Can he do that? A pardon is something that transcends. That's people, that invokes all kinds of visceral emotions here. Is that too risky, even when his opinion poll numbers are as low as they are?
MILBANK: Well, I guess you could argue that either way, and say, when you've got, you know, 35 percent of American public supporting you, what's the harm of losing another percent or two? The president's, you know, well into his lame duck years here. Neither he nor the vice president is going to be on the ballot in 2008.
So sure, he can take that kind of hit. Not clear that he wants to.
But when this president came to town, it was all about reciprocal loyalty. He was loyal to his aides, and they were loyal to him. The - this would be, of course, the largest test of that.
OLBERMANN: Yes, well, we'll see how that turns out. But that mud's got to stick somewhere.
Dana Milbank of "The Washington Post" and MSNBC. As always, Dana, great thanks for your time tonight.
MILBANK: Thanks, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Also tonight, an audit of the statistics the president throws out about how many terrorism cases his government has prosecuted shows that those numbers are padded with drug cases, even with phony weddings. They are cooking the books.
And the nexus of politics and humor. Can a preplanned political agenda and punch lines mix? We'll discuss that and much more with the one and only Richard Lewis.
You are watching Countdown on MSNBC.
OLBERMANN: A new report shows that the Bush administration has been using inflated statistics about its antiterror activity to pat itself on the back, justify the erosion of civil liberties, and to argue for additional spending of your tax dollars.
In our fourth story tonight, said report comes not from the left nor even from the Democrats, but from the Inspector General's Office of the Bush Justice Department, which tells us the administration's terror statistics includes such crimes as drug trafficking, immigration violations, and that scourge of free societies everywhere, marriage fraud.
On the FBI specifically, the report concludes, quote, "The FBI
significantly overstated the number of terrorism-related convictions during
fiscal year 2004 because the FBI initially coded the investigative cases as
terrorism-related when the cases were opened, but did not recode cases when
no link to terrorism was established."-
In other words, the report says, any crime that was originally suspected as terrorism, or was just investigated by an antiterrorism unit, ended up as a terrorism statistic, which in turn was used by lawmakers to help shape our national policies.
Let's turn to a veteran of the Justice Department, attorney David Boies, perhaps best known for prosecuting the Microsoft antitrust case and for representing the 2000 Gore campaign in the Supreme Court.
Mr. Boies, a great pleasure to have you with us tonight.
DAVID BOIES, AUTHOR, "COURTING JUSTICE": Good to be here.
OLBERMANN: The first question seems obvious, but specifically, how does the president benefit by getting these numbers wrong?
BOIES: Well, I think in two ways. First, it escalates the fear of terrorism. And certainly, the concern about terrorism, and domestic terrorism in particular, has been an important aspect of this administration's policy. So that I think by increasing the apparent terrorist threat, that, sir, is a political advantage.
Second, I think by overstating the number of terrorism convictions, it helps the administration make the case that it's being tough on terrorism, that it's being successful in prosecuting terrorism. And I think that we know from these statistics that both of those claims are somewhat overexaggerated.
OLBERMANN: Which should terrify us more, that this is intentional, or that this is incompetent, in terms of the botching of these numbers?
BOIES: Well, obviously, both are disturbing. I think if you believe that it was intentional, that is probably more disturbing than believing that they simply got it wrong.
I think one of the things we ought to point out is that this was uncovered, this was brought to people's attention, by the Justice Department itself. Now, it did so after there were already some news stories that suggested that these statistics were overstated. But I think the Inspector General's Office of the Justice Department deserves credit for what they did.
OLBERMANN: On the other hand, even giving them that credit, the inspector general also says when he - his auditors went back to the Department of Justice to get more accurate numbers, they were still getting bad data. And this is not even the first report that identified these problems. You worked there. How is it that this vital agency, five years after 9/11, can't give Congress or the public accurate numbers about its biggest priority on even the second try?
BOIES: It's hard to understand. One of the things that's gotten a lot of press attention is the inspector general saying that 24 out of 26 of the statistics that they examined were inaccurate. What hasn't gotten so much attention is that there were really 196 statistics that were looked at. And the vast majority of those, the Inspector General's Office concluded they really couldn't evaluate, in part because they had already tried and failed to correct those in the past.
OLBERMANN: So this is - or - the raw data that the nation is supposed to be using to formulate strategy for fighting terror at home. And I'm asking this as if Iraq never happened. But what are the risks of going forward using bad data?
BOIES: Well, the risks are, we're going to make mistakes. We're going to put resources where they don't belong. We're not going to put enough resources where they do belong. We're going to scare the public. We're going to make the public believe that terrorism, domestic terrorism, is more of an immediate threat than it is.
We're going to overstate the extent to which we are being successful in the drive against terrorism. Maybe that will lead people to relax too much, maybe it will lead people not to put enough resources on terrorism.
When you have bad data, you can't make good decisions. And the thing that's most disturbing about this, whether it's just an honest mistake or an intentional inflation, is that we now know that we've had bad data, bad data for the public, bad data for public decision makers.
OLBERMANN: Of course, no government would ever deliberately scare the public.
Attorney David Boies, great thanks for your time tonight, sir.
OLBERMANN: Also tonight, JetBlue Airlines had 1,000 bad flights last week. This week, it's 1,001 apologies.
And another gem from the Internets, the latest and greatest about what happens when you mix Mentos (ph) and cola.
Next on Countdown.
OLBERMANN: For the first time ever, we begin Oddball with a historical commemoration that requires a sound bite. Nineteen years ago today, live on his "Hour of Power" or whatever it was, televangelist Jimmy Swaggart, his life aswirl with reports of prostitutes and stuff, created for himself a unique kind of immortality.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JIMMY SWAGGART: I have sinned against you, my Lord.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: In February of 1988, the 21st was not Ash Wednesday, as it was today, but a word that sounds like "ash" seemed to have fit that February 21 as well.
On that note, let's play Oddball.
We begin on the Internets, where we're constantly following the latest trends of the whole Diet Coke and Mentos movement. It began when someone realized the mix of the two would result in soda fountains, then evolved into Coke bottle rockets, and now the inevitable, dorm room Coke and Mentos booby traps. We approve.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you want some ice?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's all right.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: I don't know about the first one. I'm not buying the second one.
To Manila in the Philippines, for the logical next step after all that junk food, brush your teeth, with thousands of your closest friends, 40,000 grade-school students gathered together by the country's department of education to clean their choppers at the same time. Not only did they break a Guinness world record, but the (INAUDIBLE), the kids learned a thing or two about oral hygiene.
Of course, they all shared one toothbrush, which I think may have defeated the purpose.
OK, now, everybody, spit.
Also tonight, if comedy starts with a deliberate political label, can it still be funny? The one and only Richard Lewis joins me about that and whatever else we happen to think of.
And that which would be funny, were there not a dead woman named Anna Nicole Smith waiting for this judge to stop trying to stretch his 15 minutes of fame. We again take you inside the courtroom, also known as Sound Stage Number Two of Judge Larry.
But first, time for Countdown's top three newsmakers of this day.
Number three, James Van Iveren of Okonomawauk (ph), Wisconsin. From an apartment above his, he heard the sound of a woman screaming for help, screaming that she was being raped. He grabbed what was handy, a cavalry sword, a family heirloom. He raced upstairs, kicked in the door, and found a guy watching some porn. Interestingly, the guy had his sword drawn too.
Number two, somebody from the Orlando area who does not like stock-car racing nor the crowds that come to central Florida for the Daytona 500 race. The unknown individual somehow reprogrammed an electronic highway sign along Interstate 4, which for a time last weekend flashed the message, "NASCAR Sucks, Go Home." They shut the sign off.
Number one, Mickey Meyer, one of the goalies for the University of Southern California hockey team. That's right, USC has a hockey team. I lived there for 10 years, never knew about it. Mr. Meyer said he'd had enough of the referees during the Trojans game at Brigham Young, so he rode around on his stick as if it were a horse, dropped his pants, mooned the crowd, and slapped his buttocks, bringing a new meaning to the phrase in hockey, the Crease. Meyer was ejected, ticketed for public lewdness, leaving the goalkeeping responsibilities to USC's other goalie, whose name is - you can't make this up - Matt Buttwiler.
OLBERMANN: When comedy happens to express the comic's personal political point of view, the result is often something the pros call funny. When comedy is designed to express your employer's political point of view, the result is often something the pros call propaganda. Our third story in the Countdown, we'll talk about that and undoubtedly everything else in just a moment, with our special guest, my friend Richard Lewis.
Firstly, the news hook to this story. Ratings are in for the debut of the Fox noise channel "Half-Hour News Hour," described by its creators as a right-wing comedic answer to "The Daily Show." As somebody said recently, the left thought the right-wing comedic answer to "The Daily Show" was the execution of the war in Iraq.
The ratings are in and the heavily promoted show did very well for a Sunday night on cable, out rating its lead in, "Sean Hannity's America," another comedy program, and drawing just under a million and a half viewers in total, about a third of that in the coveted group of viewers, aged 25 to 54.
However that audience for the show peaked 11 minutes into it. There were 648,000 younger viewers at 10:11 Eastern time, and then it went straight downhill from there, reached a low of 340,000 at the 27 minute mark, and that is hardly auspicious, given that one of the show's guest stars, comedian Rush Limbaugh, virtually begged his listeners to watch.
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RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: The key is that it needs an audience. And I'm going to be blatant here. You know, normally I sit here and just tell these things to you and if you find these programs, or these books, or these I recommend, fine and dandy, but in order for this show to a chance of success, for these two pilots to be picked up and actually made into a regular series, with some substantive production values, and so forth, it needs an audience.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: And that's a man who know something about needing an audience.
RICHARD LEWIS, COMEDIAN: Is that a cigar or is that dynamite?
OLBERMANN: And some dessert.
LEWIS: I didn't know you had a punch line. I don't live with you. I don't know what you're writing. I love you and I'm proud to be here. Thanks for having me here.
OLBERMANN: I would do the talk show thing and say, how are you, but you've been here for 20 minutes. And I know how you are. You're well. You're good, yes.
LEWIS: I'm fine. I know Armageddon is coming sooner than it should because of the president. And all of this stuff. Look, here's the deal. You're smarter than me and you can focus on all these crazy things. You know, who has the sperm for this poor woman. What happened to the baby. And 9/11, an then for one day we had the whole world. And now we have the whole world against - I mean, it's all nuts.
So I try to personalize things and just try to get a good night's sleep. I know that's self centered.
OLBERMANN: I want to ask you one question about this thing that's on Fox. The comedy premise, if you start out saying, I'm going to try to put a label on this, this is going to be conservative comedy, or this is going to be liberal comedy, are you guaranteeing it's not going to be funny, because you're selling something, rather than trying to be funny?
LEWIS: No. I didn't watch that Fox show, to be frank. I didn't even know about it. I had a therapy appointment.
OLBERMANN: On a Sunday night at 10:00?
LEWIS: It's much cheaper on Sunday. And you know what she did? She literally said start without me and left. That's when I quit. I'm not going anymore. Never came back.
But here's the thing. Listen, if it's good conservative comedy, then the conservatives will laugh, and we'll just poo poo it. I mean, I will, because I'm a - I don't know what liberal mean. I'm a Democrat. When I was four years, I was going to kindergarten to learn how to open a coconut and tie my shoe, my mother says Adlai Stevenson. I go, why? You're a Jew.
I had no idea what she was talking about. They're good for the Jews.
My first memory of going to Radio City, I went to see "10 Commandments." Why does Yul Brynner, why does he hate us? It's because we're Jews. I mean this is what happened. So I guess what I'm trying to say is that - look, there's only 2.5 percent Jews on America. I'm on guard. Everything's the pogrom. It should be in a marathon in Olympics.
So, I'm angry. This whole right-wing thing - look, this guy smoking his cigar, making that comment about, we have to have an audience, this guy makes millions and trillions of dollars. He makes absurd statements.
OLBERMANN: But his prescription medicine bill is just way over the top. He's got bills to pay.
LEWIS: Bills - is he still in recovery, is he out of recovery? Who cares. I which him the best. Look, I'm a recovered addict. I root for him, but that's it. That's where it ends. But your question is, look, like on SNL, there's a very funny liberal comedy. We're going to laugh. And conservatives are going to think it's like propaganda.
I was telling you before, like Lenny Bruce used to do both sides of the coin. He used to respect the law. And he did a very provocative bit about Jackie Onassis, Jackie Kennedy at the time, that horrible moment -
OLBERMANN: Right after the assassination.
LEWIS: Yes, it was called hauling - you know, when she jumped over, he just put out this premise that maybe she wasn't protecting, maybe she was trying to get out of the way. It was Lenny Bruce. And it doesn't mean that he was right, it just means that he took both sides of the coin. But he did that with every issue. Very few comedians can do that. They're either - you know it's my way or the highway.
And unfortunately, that's what's screwing up humanity, you know, no separation of church and state. What happened in 9/11, and it's a crazy analogy - I'm not articulate enough to really say it - but it trickles down to our country. I remember one phrase, the melting pot. I was so excited living in a melting pot, where, you know, African Americans, the blacks can get along with the Jews.
And all of a sudden, I said wait a minute, everyone's sitting at separate tables. There's a lot of crap. You know, they're selling us a bill of goods.
OLBERMANN: And we wind up going to war and now we wind up trying one of the guys who was involved in discrediting the critics of that war. His name is Libby.
LEWIS: Maybe he won't be, you never know.
OLBERMANN: But it ended in an unusual fashion yesterday with the attorney tearing up.
LEWIS: That's a bad sign. If my attorney would start to cry, I would run. I would just turn - first of all, you know those pea shooters in the back of the neck and run. It was an obvious sign that he has a tough case to win. But, you know what's really getting to me? Look, I'm a Democrat, but I just want - sue me - I want people to have health insurance.
No Child Left Behind, it's a joke. How about the gangs, help the gangs get education. The reason that people are so nuts all over the world is because they're hopeless, they have no money. They have to have some belief system, so they believe in these psychos, who hate us anyway. Look, Bush didn't create these people, but he turned the rest of the world, that was on our side, against us, against them, which was really the worst possible scenario, which is so disheartening to me.
That's why I basically go to therapy and just hope that I can get a good night's sleep, and not have a bad stomach. On occasion I get lazy politically, but the, after about an hour, I get very proactive and I really care. I've been political my whole life.
OLBERMANN: But now you need the sleep, because you're back in the saddle on the "Misery Loves Company" tour. It starts now?
LEWIS: I'm doing a place called Comix, sounds like a condom, but is a beautiful place. And then, dig this, I'm doing about 800 concert halls and clubs, but there's a place next week - you're going to mock me - the Funny Farm. I told them - It's in Atlanta. I said, if you don't take - the logo is Jerry Lewis on a mechanical bull.
Now, I can not perform, but it's one of the top clubs in America, and Comix is on 14th Street.
OLBERMANN: I'm coming to see you.
LEWIS: You gotta come. The bottom line is -
OLBERMANN: But I've got to get the plug in, because we got to go. I got to get the plugs in.
LEWIS: No, forget the plugs man, I just want -
OLBERMANN: Sixth season of "Curb Your Enthusiasm."
LEWIS: We're over selling that. But the point is people have to stay positive. This is supposed to be diversity here in this country. I'm fed up with these ideologues on both sides. And if we don't get it together, you know, we're going to screw up our country. We're a young country.
When you consider Jackie Robinson first played in '47, we're a young country.
OLBERMANN: Just 60 years.
LEWIS: Yes, so we have a lot to learn. But man, if we can't get it together in America, then, you know, no wonder the world is falling apart.
OLBERMANN: Thank you.
LEWIS: We need a president that has a voice. We need something to help us.
LEWIS: I'll run if my defense attorney starts weeping.
OLBERMANN: Thanks for coming in.
LEWIS: I hope I didn't disappoint you. And I want to borrow that suit, because Woodrow Wilson was buried in that.
OLBERMANN: Richard Lewis. Also tonight on the anniversary of Jimmy Swaggart I have sinned against you, Jet Blue Airlines, right into the Apology Hall of Fame.
And Britney Spears and the old in and out. Twice in two weeks she has checked into rehab, only to just as quickly check out. That at more ahead. Countdown, unless we don't make it back.
OLBERMANN: There is something to be said about how an apology can help to revive good will, which may be why in our number two story on the Countdown, Jet Blue Airlines is now on the verge of having completed more apologies this week than it did complete flights last week. Today it was a full page ad in major east coast newspapers, including this one in the "New York Times," quoting, "we are sorry and embarrassed, but most of all, we are deeply sorry."
Sorry, of course, for that cascading breakdown in Jet Blue operations when bad weather caused delays in the airports on the tarmac, and in a bucket full of cancellations. The airline's founder and CEO David Neeleman, having already said he was humiliated and mortified, making the rounds. He was on "The Late Show With David Letterman" last night, presenting Jet Blue's passenger bill of rights on the "Today Show" today.
Is it possible he could turn this disaster into some sort of marketing home run? Our correspondent is Tom Costello.
TOM COSTELLO, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A week to the day since an ice storm caused a corporate meltdown at Jet Blue, the airline's new Passenger Bill of Rights seems to be winning over some skeptical customers.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm going to always fly Jet Blue. I love Jet Blue.
COSTELLO: Jet Blue's new Passenger Bill of Rights, announced Tuesday on the "Today Show," promises "to deplane passengers is an aircraft sits on the ground for five hours, to compensate arriving passengers with a 25 dollar voucher if they wait for more than 30 minutes for a gate, 50 dollars for departing passengers sitting two to four hours on the tarmac, free one way tickets for delays longer than four hours, and a thousand dollars for over booked customers."
CEO David Neeleman promising there will be no repeat of last week's mass cancellations and reservations breakdown.
DAVID NEELEMAN, CEO JET BLUE: We're going to create provisions and we're going to create SWAT teams to be able to do this and to accomplish and make sure it doesn't. That's why we're putting out this Customer Bill of Rights.
COSTELLO: If weather is to blame, you may still get nothing for your trouble. But will Jet Blue's new policy preempt proposals on Capitol Hill to create a legal Passenger Bill of Rights? The chairman of the House Aviation Subcommittee is promising hearings into airline customer service, but says other airlines should follow Jet Blue's lead, to, quote, "make sure they are meeting the needs of their customers in good times and bad."
Airline analyst Mike Boyd says Jet Blue may well push all airlines to make similar customer service promises.
MIKE BOYD, AVIATION ANALYST: I think what Jet Blue is doing may put some pressure on other airlines. But what it may do is hopefully shortstop the nonsense going on in Congress. Airlines can handle customers a whole lot better than Congress can.
OLBERMANN: On to our nightly roundup of celebrity and entertainment news, Keeping Tabs. And Britney Spears in and out of rehab faster than you can say Margarita-ville. And no, we're not in reruns. This has happened again. And all of it apparently prompting Kevin Federline to ask for an emergency court hearing.
Miss Spears left the Promises Residential Treatment Center in Malibu earlier today, less than 24 hours after she had voluntarily checked herself in. That would be a tad bit shorter than the usual stint, 28 to 45 days. This rehab attempt book ends with another one late last week, if reports are true, that she spent about a day at Crossroads in Antigua.
In between, Miss Spears shaved her head, which apparently did not make her more amenable to professional help, nor, oddly, more aerodynamic. The motivation for the pop diva grabbing those sheers, according to "OK Magazine," was a threat from Mr. Federline to have her hair tested for evidence of past drug use.
Now a spokesman for a superior court in downtown L.A. has told the "Associated Press" that Mr. Federline and his lawyer will appear there tomorrow for an emergency hearing. It's not yet known what issue Mr. Federline will raise. Ms. Spears, not expected to be present. If she is there, she'll only be there for 20 minutes.
No peace for yet Anna Nicole Smith. The war over her body continues in court, and the circus has indeed come back to town. Go inside the courtroom again.
But first here are Countdown's latest nominees for Worst Person in the World. The bronze shared by Bill O'Reilly and Oprah Winfrey. What is she doing inviting him on a show about protecting children against predators and then not asking him why he said that Shawn Hornbeck had fun during his abduction and constant sexual abuse? And never mentioning that after those remarks, the Center For Missing and Exploited Children dropped him as keynote speaker at its Florida fund raiser next month.
And as to Bill-O, how can he can he keep portraying himself as an advocate for abused children, when he is defending their abductors?
Our silver medallist tonight, Leslie Brown, spokeswoman for the National mountaineering group Access Fund, protesting a plan to require anybody who intends to climb past 10,000 feet on Mount Hood in Oregon, in the winter, to carry an electronic locator device. She says, it will make climbers lazy, and more likely to not try to save themselves, but wait for others to save them. This after the locators helped rescuers save three lost climbers on Mount Hood last week.
But the winners Dr. Redulavitch (ph) and Dr. Bookanavitch (ph) of Belgrade in Serbia. Dr. Redulavitch was busy treating a patient, when Dr. Bookanavitch came in and started yelling at him. Then he pulled his ear and slapped him. Dr. Redulavitch responded by socking Dr. Bookanavitch and the two tumbled to the floor.
The patient Dr. Redulavitch was treating did not see any of this, because, of course, this was in the operating room, where Dr. Redulavitch was taking out the man's appendix. Stay tuned for this plot line on the next "Grey's Anatomy." Dr. Redulavitch and Dr. Bookanavitch, today's Worst Persons in the World.
OLBERMANN: Judge Larry Seidlin promises Friday will be the day he will make a decision on the burial of Anna Nicole Smith. The judgment, he says, will last for all eternity. In our number one story on the Countdown, another day in his courtroom, and for anyone having to sit through it, certainly it felt like all eternity. Tonight, we will again largely get out of the way sights and sounds of the absurdity.
First the details in a minute flat. Ms. Smith's estranged mother, Virgie Arthur, offered her brilliant idea to have the body of her grandson Daniel Smith exhumed so she can bury it in Texas, right alongside Ms. Smith. Then it was back to Howard K. Stern, this time under cross-examination. He has apparently taken in no income since 2004, when he was paid for appearing as himself on "The Anna Nicole Show." The rest of his support had come from Ms. Smith, the person.
Up next, Larry Birkhead, the photographer, who claims he is the father of the daughter, Dannielynn. He described their relationship in great detail. He claimed that Smith had been pregnant by him on another occasion, but that she had miscarried in February of 2005. Also, he said that Ms. Smith referred to Mr. Stern as Uncle Howard while she was pregnant with Dannielynn.
And so back to the judge, who's 15 minutes of fame is turning into a week of infamy.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The bizarre battle over the former "Playboy" Playmate's remains is about to resume in Florida this hour.
JUDGE LARRY SEIDLIN, FAMILY COURT JUDGE: I just wanted to say hello.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All rise, please.
SEIDLIN: Our sons and daughters that are fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq and other parts of the world, the decisions they make are so much more life threatening.
I used to teach tennis. I used to wear white shorts and a white top.
It always looked good. You look good.
In the old days I'd take you in the back room and we would be chopping down some trees. But I remember what Haldeman said to Ehrlichman, what are we doing? We're twisting in the wind.
We're having things changing, changing. And to succeed in life, you have to keep changing with those changes. Otherwise you fail. They tell you there is no more smoking in the court house. Judges used to smoke cigars, some of them.
It's a lot of hot air until I can sit on it, and Millstein can sit on it. And you all aren't letting me do that anyway.
VIRGIE ARTHUR, MOTHER OF ANNA NICOLE: I didn't want to grow up to be a cop, I wanted to grow up to be a ballerina, believe it or not. And that dream didn't come true, but I didn't want to be a cop.
SEIDLIN: It's not too late. It's never too late.
ARTHUR: Oh, yes, right.
She was working.
SEIDLIN: Take a second, Doctor Pepper - Perper is on the phone. Can I destroy a name.
Listen to me, it's not who talks louder. It's who signs the report card at the end. There is no circus here, my friend. Don't tell me to hold on.
Don't use that term. It turns me off. Don't think I'm buying the Brooklyn bridge here.
DEBRA OPRI, ATTORNEY FOR LARRY BIRKHEAD: Are you the biological father?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Objection.
SEIDLIN: The wheels of justice aren't always round. Sometimes they're a little bit square, and a it's a bumpy ride like the old west, where it's a bumpy ride. I'm not always going to be on that ride with you.
OLBERMANN: Dr. Pepper? When I used to teach tennis, and what Haldeman said to Ehrlichman, we're twisting in the wind, your choice for the number one comment in there. Fortunately, they're all due back for another day of Judge Larry's autobiographical history of the world, 10:30 a.m. Eastern time tomorrow. Be there, aloha.
That is Countdown for this the 1,410th 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