'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Feb. 23
Guests: Anne Kornbluth, Jonathan Alter, Marc Klaas
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST: Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
Mission admonished. The Democrats' plan to turn back the clock and redefine the authorization of the war on Iraq, a support mission only, attached to counterterror bills already pending in the Senate. Genius or pipe dream?
And what does the White House think on Tony Snow's day off?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TONY FRATTO, DEPUTY WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: It's not a Chinese menu where you can, you know, take from column A and column B. You take it in whole.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: How would Joe Lieberman vote? Is Joe Lieberman a Democrat, an independent, or on the verge of officially becoming a Republican? And if it's the latter, could he be recalled by the voters of Connecticut?
The blowback at the Walter Reed outpatient center. Mr. Bush's secretary of defense thanks the media for pointing out the awful conditions awaiting injured veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERT GATES, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: Those responsible for having allowed this unacceptable situation to develop will indeed be held accountable.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Who will hold Bill O'Reilly accountable? Defending anew his claim that Sean Hornbeck had fun while being abducted and raped. And Oprah Winfrey under attack for interviewing O'Reilly as if he had fought for imperiled children, not defended one of their captors.
The father of the late Polly Klaas, child advocate Mark Klaas, joins us.
And Judge Larry, his week of fame and stream of consciousness live TV talking is over. But we'll remember him fondly in a Countdown instant retrospective.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
JUDGE LARRY SEIDLIN: When I used to teach tennis, I used to wear a white shorts and a white top.
In the old days, I'd take you in the back room, and we, we would, we would, we, we would be chopping down some trees.
You know, the more you talk in this business, the worse off you are, really. The less you say, the better.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Gone, but not forgotten. And probably still talking.
All that and more, now on Countdown.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEIDLIN: When a fish has a little smell...
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Good evening from New York.
If offered one trip on a time machine, few of us would choose October 11, 2002, as the destination, but that's what Senate Democrats would evidently select. October 11, 2002, the day most of them, with the highest level of patriotism and the lowest level of oversight, voted with the Republican majority to authorize the president's military gallivanting in Iraq.
Our fifth story on the Countdown, what broke this time last night is official now. The Democrats want a time machine, and a different authorization, Senators Biden and Levin penning legislation to either amend or perhaps repeal the authorization that Congress gave to President Bush in 2002, which allowed him to go to Iraq in the first place.
The draft will also reportedly limit U.S. troop duties to just training Iraqi forces to fighting al Qaeda, to protecting the borders, and it would set March 2008 as the date to try to begin withdrawing from the war.
Very few Democrats have actually seen the proposed legislation, though it will be discussed at their weekly caucus on Tuesday, and could possibly be attached to a bill implementing the 9/11 Commission's findings, due next week.
Republicans say they will filibuster any such attempt, and the White House says it too will oppose any effort to repeal the war authorization, which, as it stands right now, allows the president to use the armed forces in order to, one, "defend the national security of the U.S. against the continuing threat posed by Iraq, and two, enforce all relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions regarding Iraq," the administration seizing on the second part to somehow suggest that because the United Nations has since authorized a multinational force to help stabilize Iraq, the U.S. has been ordered to stay there.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FRATTO: So we're operating under a mandate. If you look at U.N. Security Council Resolution 1723, it specifically authorizes the presence of the multinatural - multinational force in Iraq, at the request of the government of Iraq.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Those resolutions apply to all member states of the United Nations, and clearly there are member states of the United Nations...
FRATTO: No, the - no, no, no...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE:... who have interpreted those quite differently.
FRATTO: No. They refer to the multinational forces in Iraq.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Even some of the multinational forces have interpreted it differently. The Italians...
FRATTO: That's true, but...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE:... (INAUDIBLE), and they're gone now. The Koreans were there, they're leaving.
FRATTO: That's true. But the - there are still a significant number of countries represented there. They comprise the multinational force. And the U.N. Security Council resolution speaks to the multinational force.
It's very clear.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Given its previous lack of affection for the United Nations, when you hear anybody in this administration talk about the U.N. making anything clear, check to make sure nobody's stolen your wallet out of your pants.
I'm joined now by "Newsweek" senior editor Jonathan Alter.
Jon, good evening.
JONATHAN ALTER, SENIOR EDITOR, "NEWSWEEK" MAGAZINE: Hi, Keith.
OLBERMANN: So the White House is now claiming the U.S. has to stay in Iraq even while other members of the multinational force leave, because of a U.N. resolution? Was there anybody in the administration who feared that the inconsistency in this stance might be too transparent even for us media morons to miss?
ALTER: Well, no, I think they just assume that they can, you know, unload any kind of hooey and get away with it. Look, they use the United Nations when it's convenient for them. They ignore it when they want to ignore it.
Remember, they want to went to war without explicit authorization of the United Nations. So this is a, you know, a fig leaf that they're trying to use to maintain their policy.
The question is whether the Democrats in Congress will be able to get enough votes on the Senate side to really move forward with curtailing this war. And it's actually an very exciting moment right now, because I think they've got a proposal with the possibility to do that.
OLBERMANN: But of all the options the Democrats have, why this one?
Why is this more likely to get some sort of consensus?
ALTER: Because the first option, which is to cut off funding for the war, is a nonstarter. Democrats are afraid that if they did that, they would be tagged as wimps and hurting the troops. So that's just not going to happen. The nonbinding resolution, which is what they tried before, was seen as, you know, such a weak tea that nobody really wanted to bother with it very much out in the rest of the country. It was very hard to rally the country around that nonbinding resolution.
But you could, I believe, rally the country at the grassroots around a repeal of the 2002 war resolution, essentially say, Let's make the war in Iraq illegal. Let's repeal that resolution.
Indeed, if you go back, Keith, to the Vietnam War, the repeal of the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution in 1971 was really the beginning of the antiwar movement's efforts to wind down in that war.
OLBERMANN: Yes, but could (INAUDIBLE) given what the Republicans did to the nonbinding resolution, wouldn't they be able to squelch this one just as easily?
ALTER: Yes. Right now, the Democrats do not have the votes for it.
They need 60 votes in the Senate to end a filibuster and get this done. And right now, they're far from that. They're, you know, I don't know, probably 10 votes sort of that.
But this is something that antiwar activists can use. Already in the states, Keith, there are efforts, local communities, states are mobilizing against this war. And this resolution repealing the 2002 resolution, essentially making a war in Iraq illegal, is something that I think could get some traction.
Whether they get to those 60 votes or not, who knows? But at least has more possibility of moving the country than cutting off funding would.
OLBERMANN: Yes, and you could continue, keep throwing it in various forms till it stuck.
But one last thing, Jon. The White House is using this latest National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq as a shield now against any suggestion of pulling out. Let me just play this clip from today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FRATTO: It's not a Chinese menu where you can, you know, take from column A and column B. You take it in whole.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: But, of course, the administration did not take the whole NIE. They treated it exactly like a Chinese menu, and then asked for a la carte on the side. I mean, does this administration stay afloat because a lot of people can't remember what it did a month ago?
ALTER: Well, you know, I don't think that the administration has credibility with the - certainly with the Democrats, or what the - what you could call the mainstream of the country. As you say, they cherry-picked the NIE before, and they're going to cherry-pick it again now.
But the question is whether they could hold the Republicans. And that's where people who want to end this war have to work, is in those states that have Republican senators, but where polls show that people have had it with the war in Iraq. And so I think there's a real possibility of progress on this in the next few months for those who oppose this war.
OLBERMANN: "Newsweek" senior editor Jonathan Alter. As always, Jon, great thanks. Have a good weekend.
ALTER: Thanks, Keith.
OLBERMANN: It was in the early hours of Wednesday, November 8 last, that the startling reality began to break across the political landscape. Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut, probably still a Democrat, officially an independent, off and on since 1998 a virtual Republican, would be the linchpin in the Senate, could decide every vote and run both parties if he chose to.
Now, as this Iraq proposal arises, so does the prospect that he might run from one party to the other. One of the last war hawks in either party says there is a, quote, "very remote possibility" that he could leave the Democratic caucus, TIME.com, implying he could even leave the party itself.
This was not some one-shot thinking-out-loud stuff. In a different interview, Lieberman told the Politico Web site that if he ever does change parties, quote, "It is because I feel the majority of Democrats have gone in a direction that I don't feel comfortable with."
If Senator Lieberman did defect to the GOP, it would put the Senate in a 50-50 split with Vice President Cheney as the tie-breaking vote. And, of course, South Dakota Senator Tim Johnson still out recuperating till further notice.
So could he jump? But if he did, how would the Democrats try to jump him?
We're joined by "Washington Post" national political reporter Anne Kornbluth.
Thanks again for your time tonight, Anne.
ANNE KORNBLUTH, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, "THE Washington POST":
OLBERMANN: Cart first, then horse. How serious is the senator's flirtation with Republicans? How much of this is just coming out to give him even more leverage?
KORNBLUTH: I would have said six weeks ago, not close at all, but the people who are close to Lieberman who I've spoken to recently said they think it actually is a still a remote possibility, but a possibility, and that his feelings were hurt by what happened in the primary in 2004, and that he's seriously considering it.
OLBERMANN: Are the Democrats, to some degree, pandering to him about Iraq, in order to keep him within the party? I mean, obviously we're hearing about this make that war resolution illegal retroactively now. But does the reticence to this point, as particularly about funding war, does that owe anything to trying to keep him in the fold?
KORNBLUTH: I have not seen any signs of that. I mean, the Democrats are trying to herd cats anyway on Iraq, and they've obviously had a hard time, weren't able to get the last resolution even up to a vote. If I don't see evidence that they're pandering to him substantively, but I was told today that they have avoided talking about Iraq in some Democratic caucus meetings, in order to avoid making Lieberman uncomfortable. So they're acutely aware of what would happen if he were to switch sides.
OLBERMANN: But if he did switch sides, is there a silver lining in there for the Democrats? Would they feel as if they no longer even had to worry about him? Would they have, if not able to accomplish anything with a free hand, would they have a freer hand without him?
KORNBLUTH: I mean, I guess there's always the, you know, you know, the freedom of being a loser, and not having to be accountable for anything. But it's hard for me to see any Democrat really celebrating this now, except for maybe the Democrats who are running for president, who would be freer to go off onto the campaign trail, and not have to be here and actually be in the majority.
OLBERMANN: All right, so that's the cart. What about the horse?
Connecticut voted the senator back into office as an independent Democrat. If he switched parties, if he registered as a Republican, as he declared as a Republican, caucused as a Republican, is there a provision for recall? And if not, is there anything they could do to him, either in Washington or in Connecticut?
KORNBLUTH: As far as I know, there's nothing explicitly in Connecticut that they could do, there's nothing sort of allowing for a recall. There's no explicit mechanism for that. What I don't know is whether there is some other legal way, an impeachment. Certainly the Democrats here could stop talking to him. But I don't know if there's any recourse at this point.
I can assure you, though, that as bloggers have already started doing, people in Connecticut would start looking at those possibilities.
OLBERMANN: Yes, that would not be a pleasant situation for him, necessarily, back in Hartford.
Anne Kornbluth of "The Washington Post." Great thanks, and have a very good weekend.
KORNBLUTH: Thank you.
OLBERMANN: Also tonight, what looks like a Bush administration first. The media reports a scandal involving the U.S. military, how wounded vets are mistreated at the annex to Walter Reed Hospital. The secretary of defense, A, goes there, B, says it will stop, C, thanks the reporters who broke the story.
Not only no such candor from Bill O'Reilly on his awful comments about how a kidnapped boy had fun while captive, but he's defended those remarks again, blamed everybody else. And Oprah Winfrey gave him a pass.
Mark Klaas will join us.
You are watching Countdown on MSNBC.
OLBERMANN: It is a circumstance not seen in this country since early 2001, a scandalous failure by government, American troops wounded in our service, treated for their injuries in substandard, unhygienic conditions, the nightmare revealed by reporters from "The Washington Post" and NBC News. And the secretary of defense not only does not pass the buck nor blame the coverage, but thanks the media.
Our fourth story on the Countdown, Secretary Robert Gates touring the inadequate outpatient facilities at Walter Reed Hospital in Washington today, and vowing things will change there.
Our correspondent John Yang was there too.
JOHN YANG, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The furor over the squalid living conditions for recovering soldiers at the hospital's Building 18 drew Defense Secretary Robert Gates for a firsthand look. He called it unacceptable treatment for those who've given so much for their country.
GATES: They should not have to recuperate in substandard housing, nor should they be expected to tackle mountains of paperwork.
YANG: Gates said he'd just briefed President Bush, who found the conditions worrying.
GATES: He is understandably concerned and emphatic in wanting the best possible care for our wounded soldiers and for their families.
YANG: At Walter Reed, it's been a week of hurried repair work and painting, all put on display for reporters, lawmakers, and top Pentagon officials, as the Army engages in a frantic mission of damage control. Every day, officials have appeared to publicly apologize for what wounded soldiers have had to endure here at home.
GEN. RICHARD CODY: I'll take responsibility for this, and I'll make sure that it's fixed.
YANG: Dana Priest, one of the "Washington Post" reporters who broke the story in "The Post" and on "NBC NIGHTLY NEWS," says the Army has even sent letters to every retired general around the world.
DANA PRIEST, REPORTER, "THE WASHINGTON POST": They are incensed at this. And I think they had to let them know, in an unusual way, that they were dealing with it, because they were hearing for so many of them.
YANG: But not everyone's been on the same page. Yesterday, the Army's surgeon general, a former Walter Reed commander, said the news coverage has been unfair.
LT. GEN. KEVIN KILEY: I'm not sure that's an accurate representation. It was a one-sided representation, and if given the opportunity, we could have talked about a little of this.
YANG: Wounded troops praise the medical care at Walter Reed. They say it's their later outpatient experience that's the problem, an experience that can add needless stress on soldiers recuperating from devastating injuries.
OLBERMANN: John Yang at Walter Reed reporting.
Judge Larry says he's not talking about the Anna Nicole Smith case any more, but the country can't stop talking about him. And his wife has a story about him and a bird on his shoulder. You'll plotz.
Countdown's special look back at the week that was. Set your TiVOs.
And Britney Spears' final hours before finally going back to rehab.
Let a smile be your umbrella. That's not a smile.
That ahead and more, ahead on Countdown.
OLBERMANN: Twenty-four years ago tonight, they held the 25th Annual Grammy Awards. This is 1983, mind you. To show you the value and prescience of the selectors in predicting where music was going, the rock winners included the band Survivor for "Eye of the Tiger." The best new artists were Men at Work, cleaning up with six Grammys. The song of the year, "Rosanna," about actress Rosanna Arquette, and the album of the year included the group Toto. Toto! Were we all deaf in 1983?
Let's play Oddball.
We begin in India, home of the guy with the world's largest mustache. Looks like a pretzel. He's 54 years old, he's from northern India, and his mustache is 12 feet long, almost twice as long as John Bolton's. While the Guinness people are still investigating before they declare it officially the world's longest, people came from miles around just to get a photo with the guy and watch him eat soup, which is completely hideous.
So Kiryamotskin (ph) in Israel, for the latest technology in the field of recreational safety devices. It's the bicycle airbag, developed by a ninth-grade high school class in conjunction with the country's top arms manufacturer. Of course, Oddball sent a camera crew all the way to Israel to cover this story, and we didn't even get to see a kid crash. But from what we can gather, it all seems very straightforward. Step one, wrap this totally not cumbersome thing around your waist, step two, climb aboard your Schwinn, step three, get beaten to shreds by the bullies. Science!
Speaking of the bullies, the real kind. The cries of a teenage kidnap victim accompanied by the bleating of an idiot, who defended the boy's abductor, and who now claims anybody who quotes him defending the boy's abductor is doing so for political purposes. Mark Klaas joins me to discuss.
And he used to drive a cab. Now he just drives us nuts. The week with Judge Larry, highlights you might actually want to record and preserve for disbelieving future generations.
But first, Countdown's top three newsmakers of this day.
Number three, a 28-year-old suspect in a high-speed pursuit in Lakewood, Washington. Police had to crash into his truck to stop him. He fled. They finally found him in the backyard of a neighborhood home in the hot tub, naked, in Washington state, in February. Didn't stick out like a sore thumb at all.
Number two, another criminal mastermind, this one in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. He tried to rob a building next door to where local police were training their police dog, with their marked black-and-white police car parked out in front. Then he tried to escape in a stolen car, which first he first drove into the building, and into a snowbank, where it got stuck. Then he tried to run away, whereupon the rookie police dog tracked him down and caught him.
But the winner, Robert Hannon, a jailer employed by Corrections Corporation of America, which staffs the county jail in LeFlore (ph) County, Mississippi. Guard Hannon had made it clear he did not like potatoes. So his colleagues were perplexed when a woman brought him lunch at the jail, including mashed potatoes, with extra seasoning in the mashed potatoes, $200 dollars in cash and two ounces of marijuana. Mr. Hannon, who has put the P-O-T back into potatoes.
OLBERMANN: They say there is no true believer like a convert, and there's also no fraud like a grandstander. Bill O'Reilly has again defended his remarks that Shawn Hornbeck, the abducted and sexually abused teenager from Missouri, had more fun with his captor than he'd had at home.
And now, in our third story on the Countdown, as so often happens with those who wander into the ethical garbage dump that is O'Reilly, Oprah Winfrey has been dragged into O'Reilly's scandal by dint of what she did not ask him when he appeared on her show about child molesters. Not asking him why he said Hornbeck consciously chose to stay with his captor, because he was having fun playing games and enjoyed not having to go to school. Those were O'Reilly's words. Last night, on his own show, a viewer referred to the angry reaction of Winfrey viewers on line.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILL O'REILLY, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: They say you owe Shawn Hornbeck an apology for insinuating he wanted to stay with us abductor. What say you?
Well Heather, I say the far left loons who took my analysis out of context are despicable. These people haven't done a single thing to protect kids from danger in this country. Our reporting on the Hornbeck case has been dead-on accurate.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: You do not report, Mr. O'Reilly, you decide. And you decided, on a hunch-born somewhere in your unhappy soul, that a kidnapped teenager preferred being raped and tortured to living at home. Or maybe this is a tape of some other man named Bill O'Reilly.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
O'REILLY: The situation here for this kid looks to me to be a lot more fun than what he had under his old parents. He didn't have to go to school. He could run around and do whatever he wanted.
GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: Some kids like school.
O'REILLY: Well, I don't believe this kid did. And I think, when it all comes down, what is going to happen is there was an element here that this kid liked about his circumstances.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: We contacted the Oprah Show to ask why O'Reilly's original comments and his consistent failure to correct them, and his exit as keynote speaker at a Florida fund raiser for the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children were not addressed during O'Reilly's appearance on her show. A spokesperson, who would not let us use her name, said only, quote, "all I can tell you is Bill O'Reilly was invited to appear on yesterday's Oprah Show to share his views about advocating stronger legislation against child predators."
Joining us now fresh from his own appearance on O'Reilly's program Wednesday is Marc Klaas, the president of Beyond Missing, and someone who knows all too well the horrors of losing a child to violence. Mark, thanks again for your time.
MARC KLAAS, BEYOND MISSING: Sure thing, Keith. It's always a pleasure.
OLBERMANN: You have appeared on Oprah Winfrey's show, and we all know her admirable goal to defend the vulnerable, the victims. What did she miss here? What should she have been saying to Bill O'Reilly about his original statements?
KLAAS: Well, I suspect that there was probably some kind of a backroom deal that was contingent upon Mr. O'Reilly appearing on the show. But I think what she should done is she should have educated Mr. O'Reilly and the viewing public on the need to protect child victims. You know, America has a juvenile justice system that has existed for almost 100 years and is predicated on the preposition that children are not mini-adults, but that they are vulnerable individuals, who do not have fully developed cognitive or moral capabilities.
And I think we have to understand that above anything else, Shawn Hornbeck was 11-years-old when he was snatched and for that entire four year period, he was a victim. He needs to be treated with dignity and he' needs to be treated with care. He should not be exploited or humiliated or otherwise undermined.
OLBERMANN: Bill O'Reilly started all this by claiming, as we heard there, based simply on the fact that Shawn Hornbeck did not escape, that he must have preferred life in captivity, the life at home, because it was fun. We heard it. We don't have to hear it again. He doesn't say any of that him anymore, but he's now pushing a simplistic remedy: Kids need to know their parents always will want them back. Is the common thread in this the point that he still hasn't figure out, is that he's still putting the onus on the children for horrors visited upon them, rather than entirely on the adults?
KLAAS: And, you know, we've fallen in to that trap in this country. We have to understand that my daughter Pauly, that Elizabeth Mart, that Jessica Lunsford all left their homes with a predator - inhabited home with a predator and they all knew not to. That Shawn Hornbeck and Ben Ownby both knew that they shouldn't go with this individual. We've all seen the video of Karly Brusher (ph) being led off by her predator, and the video of Shasto Grow (ph), following the monster around the convenience store.
The reality is that there's not a young child in this country that is physically or mentally equipped to stand up to a determined predator. We have to take the responsibility, as adults, to do two things. Number one, to protect children from the predators that exist today. And number two, ensure that today's children don't become predators.
It's up to us. It's never up to the kids.
OLBERMANN: What happened with this keynote speech that O'Reilly was supposed to give two weeks tonight in Florida, to the fund raiser to the Center for Missing and Exploited Children. I mean, it just sort of vanished from the website. Do you know what happened there?
KLAAS: Well, I think that Mr. O'Reilly is going to say and do what he has to do. He's a provocative individual, and he's got a large audience. On the other hand, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children should always be standing up for the rights of the children. And to know that Mr. O'Reilly had said those things, but to continue to allow him to be the keynote speaker, until they buckled, probably under pressure from your show, I think is unconscionable.
You have to remember, this is the same organization, the very same organization, that in the aftermath of the Mark Foley scandal last October are the only entity on the face of the Earth that continued to defend his right to do what he did.
OLBERMANN: We saw this with Malmady (ph) story, the World War II war crime, when the Nazis slaughtered American prisoners, only O'Reilly said it was the dead Americans who had slaughtered German prisoners. He just got it wrong. There was no nuance, no context, nobody to blame but himself, and it all could have gone away if he had just said, now a correction.
And this with Shawn Hornbeck, this could have all gone away too, if he said, I got it wrong. I need to make a correction. Why aren't these kids more important to anybody, but particularly to this man, than is his own ego?
KLAAS: Well, clearly they are. I mean, everybody understands that. And let's put a little context in this. When Polly was kidnaped in 1993, there were no protocols to recover her. There was no legislation that allowed us to keep predators behind bars. In fact, most of these characters were living their life sentence on the installment plan.
The management of sex offenders and community notification wasn't even a concept. We've evolved hugely since that time, and we have to continue to do that by taking a realistic approach and not a simplistic approach.
OLBERMANN: Well put. Mark Klaas, the president of Beyond Missing. As always Marc, thanks for joining us tonight.
KLAAS: Thank you sir.
OLBERMANN: Minority performers make up nearly half of all the nominees in the best actor categories at Sunday's Oscars. Is that enough to help Hollywood shed allegations of subtle, quiet racism.
And the other half of Hollywood, Britney Spears evoking the meaning of her last name, using her weapon against the paparazzi, an umbrella. Details ahead on Countdown.
rMD+IN_rMDNM_OLBERMANN: The Oscars are Sunday night. There are two storylines this year that might encourage you to sit through the annual proof that not every television show is as tightly produced as say Arrested Development was. One is the chance that after starting 0 for five, Martin Scorcese might finally get an Academy Award for best director. The other, which is our number two story on the Countdown, described for us by correspondent Mike Taibbi, the chance that Hollywood might end its seeming and almost silent tilt away from minority performers.
SALMA HAYEK, ACTRESS: "Babel," Alejandro Gonzales Inaritu (ph).
MIKE TAIBBI, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: From the moment actress Salma Hayek announced the nominees last month, it was clear this would be the most diverse group in Oscar's eight decade history. Best picture entry "Babel" set the tone. Two Mexican filmmakers working on four continents in five languages, with two A-list stars merely players in a broad ensemble cast.
And in an awards ritual that's honored so few non-white actors, just 11 in the past 40 years, this year eight of the 20 top acting nominees are people of color, led by Forest Whittaker, Eddie Murphy and Jennifer Hudson, who are seen by many as favorites.
ROBERT OSBORNE, OSCARS HISTORIAN: This year is standing up because there are five African Americans nominated for acting, which has never happened before.
TAIBBI (on camera): As the world has changed, the world of film has changed along with it. But it's not a direct correlation. There are critics who say filmmakers still have some catching up to do.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Just hold on, and suck in.
TAIBBI: Patty McDaniel as Mammy in "Gone With The Wind," and Sidney Poitier in 1963 "Lilies of the Field" won breakthrough Oscars, but almost all of the African American acting winners and nominees over the years have played rolls stereotyped for black performers: an athlete, a musician, an African dictator.
Film studies professor Dr. Todd Boyd says let's wait until a few years go by, in which actors of any background are honored for any rolls.
TODD BOYD, UNIV OF CALIFORNIA: Until it becomes an integral part of Hollywood, and the way that they do business, I think it's still important to be somewhat cautious.
TAIBBI: Which doesn't mean that millions worldwide won't enjoy gawking at the stars and the spectacle of it all. For it is what it was, and always will be, show business.
Mike Taibbi, NBC News, New York.
OLBERMANN: From celebrity honors to histrionics, in our nightly roundup of tabloid and entertainment news, Keeping Tabs. Now, in my genteel upbringing, the family phrase, "it's one thing if you feel like you have to shove the umbrella up my derriere, just don't open it," was abbreviated for the sake of probity inside the family to one word, umbrella.
Britney Spears, umbrella. She had gone to the apartment of her estranged husband, Kevin Federline, at about 8:45 p.m. the other night to see her children, according to the "New York Daily News." But when Federline refused to let her in, Miss Spears unleashed her anger at this car. It was unoccupied, though apparently it belonged to one of the paparazzi following her around.
She repeatedly hit the doors and windows with an umbrella, until her mother, Lynn, watching from a nearby car, stopped her. Not long after, she returned to the Promises Treatment Center in Malibu, where she evidently has remained for a personal best 48 hours.
Mr. Federline reportedly visited her there today, although there's just a chance that he merely wanted to know where his umbrella was.
Meanwhile, Courtney Love has offered her best wishes to Miss Spears, according to TMZ.co, and when asked about Spears' new haircut, Miss Love said, quote, I think it was a cool thing she did. I'm dead serious.
And we mentioned last night that I was going to appear on "Late Night with Conan O'Brien." Ordinarily this is where television ego standards permit the news caster to run a clip of himself exchanging battonage with the host. But screw that. The guy on after me, Steven Kaplan, was the story.
He was billed as the world's leading authority on bread. And boy, was he. I think he's been married to a loaf of bread at least once in his life.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEVEN KAPLAN, BREAD EXPERT: Making bread is pretty much like a sexual act. One inseminates the flower with a fermenting agent. One mounts the flower.
CONAN O'BRIEN, "LATE NIGHT WITH CONAN O'BRIEN": How do you make bread?
KAPLAN: It has an architecture that's appealing. It has to have a line that makes us eager.
O'BRIEN: Stop stroking it.
KAPLAN: - of a geyser of aromas -
OLBERMANN: When that guy's around bread, it's not just the yeast that rises. On that note, I will do another of what Norman Maylor called advertisements for myself. CBS News Sunday morning continuing a series it calls, "Cable Guy." Susan Spencer, not shown in your picture, profiles your genial host this Sunday morning. They're on from 9:00 to 10:30 Eastern and pacific. Evidently, there will be videotape of me riding the New York City subway.
Will Larry Seidlin be the next profile on that show, and if so, as what? Babbling judge, babbling cab driver, babbling tennis instructor. The week that was, but we wish hadn't been. That's ahead, but first time for Countdown's latest list of nominees for Worst Person in the World.
The bronze to me, for once again going on a show like Conan O'Brien's or David Letterman's or Jay Leno's or Craig Ferguson's and not mentioning the Dan Patrick Show on ESPN radio, which I co-host every day for an hour, even though I keep swearing to Dan that I will mention it. I suck.
The silver, Greg Pierce, "Inside Politics" columnist for the mooney paper "The Washington Times." Ran verbatum today the official Republican National Committee talking points, the list of all the negative articles about Democratic presidential candidates, and proclaimed them findings that were, quote, not a pretty site. Not once did he note that the findings, the talking points, quoted 14 articles, columns and editorials from his own paper, "The Washington Times."
But tonight's gold medalists, NASA. When the astronaut Lisa Nowak drove from Texas to Florida to threaten the woman she saw as standing between her and her love for another astronaut, did it make you wonder, what are they supposed to do if an astronaut wigs out in space? The "Associated Press" wondered. It reports now that Nasa has a detailed set of written procedures for dealing with a psychotic astronaut, or suicidal one - or maybe a love-crazy one - while in flight.
The non-crazy spacemen should inject him with tranquilizers, but only after first binding his wrist and ankles with duct tape. Make it 5,001 uses. What the hell, you're not supposed to blind him first by throwing WD40 in his eyes? Nasa's emergency what to do if your mission specialist goes nuts in space planners, today's Worst Persons in or outside of the world.
OLBERMANN: We'll have to take Judge Larry Seidlin at his word when he said yesterday that he will never talk about the Anna Nicole Smith case again, words, plural. Our, here come the judge, week in review in a moment, but in our number one story on the Countdown, while his vow has not stopped his wife from speaking up, the Smith post-mortem legal issue has now become post-Seidlin as well.
Today another judge considered the paternity of Dannielynn Smith, but the low-key family court Judge Lawrence Corda admitted the issue should be resolved in a Bohemian court, though he is yet to make any ruling or give any tennis lessons.
Meanwhile, Miss Smith's estranged mother, Virgie Arthur, appealed Judge Seidlin's ruling, but the appeal will not be addressed before Monday.
To Belinda Seidlin then, the judge's wife, and her review, telling an interviewer that people who meet her husband on the street all say he should have his own TV show, and that his approach is part of his appeal. Quoting, "I don't think him to be crazy at all. I find him to be brilliant. And that's tough to say when you're married to someone for a long time. One day you'll see him walking down the street with a judge, and another day you'll see walking down the street with a guy with a bird on his shoulder."
And sometimes, I'm guessing, neither the judge nor the bird will actually be visible to anybody accept Mr. Seidlin himself. Judge Larry, his own words, his own week in review.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Waiting for this crucial hearing to begin any minute now in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
RITA COSBY, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Howard Stern, how are you doing? Are you ready for what could be a tough day? Do you think you'll get a decision today?
LARRY BIRKHEAD, BOYFRIEND OF ANNA NICOLE SMITH: I expect a lot of fireworks, but other than that I'm not worried.
LARRY SEIDLIN, FAMILY COURT JUDGE: How's everybody? Hello. Everyone being treated well?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, sir.
SEIDLIN: You have water, soda? We're all right? Be good, nice to have you.
Is everyone comfortable.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All rise please.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Let's go around the room.
RICHARD MILSTEIN, GUARDIAN OF ANNA NICOLE'S BABY: Good morning, your honor, Richard Milstein (INAUDIBLE).
SEIDLIN: Sounds like you're getting a little bit of a cold.
MILSTEIN: I am.
MILSTEIN: Get him some orange juice, later on.
I'm a product of a college in the Bronx, Hunter College, that produces school teachers. I guess it was no accident I did this. I have a love of students.
I'll give you a chance to speak. I remember when I was in Hunter College I was taking a - it was philosophy - They said, Seidlin, I don't know whether to give you an A or an A plus. I never gave an A plus before. I kidded her, I said, set precedent.
I am going to have everyone sit for a minute. Have a seat. I want to move on. You can all be seated. Have a seat. I appreciate it, Texas. Have a seat. Have a seat. You guys can have a seat. You can all be seated. I'm asking you to sit now, Texas. I'm moving on.
You can have a seat. I heard you're getting hungry for lunch. I am going to let you take a break soon.
You have a seat. Everybody have a seat. I'm going to ask you to have a seat. I'm going to stay seated. You can stand up if you want, I agree.
Milstein, unfortunately, he's a great lawyer.
MILSTEIN: Thank you.
SEIDLIN: He's got a cold today, a stress cold, probably.
Milstein, is your cold getting any better?
The natural father would speak for the child under the probate statute. It's true. You sneezed.
I'm going to get you some juice. Have a seat.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The bizarre battle over the former "Playboy" Playmate's remains is about to resume in Florida this hour.
SEIDLIN: I just wanted to say hello. Hello. Hello.
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.
When 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 would take you in the back room and we would be chopping down some trees. I remember what Alderman said to Ehrlichman, what are doing? We're just in the win. It's a lot of hot air. I can sit on it. And Milstein can sit on it. And you all aren't letting me do that anyway.
VIRGIE ARTHUR, MOTHER OF ANNA NICOLE SMITH: I didn't want to grow up to be a cop. I wanted to grow up to be a ballerina, believe it or not. That dream didn't come true. But I didn't want to be a cop. That wasn't my idea.
SEIDLIN: It's never too late.
ARTHUR: Because she was working.
SEIDLIN: Take a second. Doctor Pepper - Perper's on the phone.
Boy, 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's no circus here, my friend.
HOWARD STERN, LAWYER FOR ANNA NICOLE SMITH: Hold on -
SEIDLIN: Don't tell me to hold on. Don't use that term. It turns me off.
The wheels of justice aren't always round, those wheels. Sometimes they're a little bit square and it's a bumpy ride, like the old west, where it's a bumpy ride. And I'm not always going to be on that ride with you.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Today the battle some say has spiraled out of control resumes in a Florida courtroom.
SEIDLIN: The candle is burning for us. Time is of the essence. And now the dots are starting to fill in. Anna Nicole loves Marilyn Monroe, Camelot, Knights of the Roundtable, all for one, one for all. Anna Nicole thinks of Marilyn Monroe, Camelot, Knights of the Round Table, one for all, all for one.
I needed my glasses. I need my glasses. Thanks, I've got to do better than buying a pair of glasses from the flea market.
Here we have Anna Nicole Smith, who is thinking of Camelot, all for one, one for all. Trying the case in front of me, good old southern boy, Houston. My friend, Houston, yes.
California, listen to me. Houston, Texas. California. You remember the song "California Dreaming?" Texas, you're going to want to ask Larry some questions? Houston's going to do it. Houston, you're welcome. I knew that's why you were coming back.
Texas, I want you to start helping me, my friend.
I figured he's a diabetic and he didn't eat anything. I can see the color in him. Stay with me Texas. I want to be with you a long time from now. Here's my credit card. Just buy him an orange juice. I always pay. Are you allowed to eat a candy bar?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A protein bar, Luna Bar?
SEIDLIN: Give this to him.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, I'm going to call Daniel's father, Mr. Smith.
SEIDLIN: Over the phone?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Over the phone from Lahoya, Texas.
SEIDLIN: Billy, good, you're in Judge Seidlin's courtroom. How are you doing today?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Pretty good.
SEIDLIN: Would you raise your right hand? Madam clerk?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you swear or affirm that the testimony you're about to give is the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth?
SEIDLIN: I'm wrapping this case up in a few minutes. I gave little anecdotes during this case to try to take the pressure of you all. I did a lot of talking. The more you talk in this business, the worse off you are. The less you say, the better. I knew that from the beginning.
You know, I walked in to this building really at age 26, as a kid. I was a stranger in a strange land. And I always thought I'd leave at 56. You stay 30 years. I wanted to walk out of here. See, it's true. I wanted to walk out of here standing up, standing erect, not - I kid around with my friends and family, I didn't want to be carried out of here, like what happened to you, Texas, for a minute.
I'm done. And I'm not going to talk about this case ever again.
DAN ABRAMS, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: We have been wasting our time for three days.
OLBERMANN: You say that now, Dan. You won't be saying that when he's anchoring on Headline News form six to seven every night. That's Countdown for this the 1,412th day since the declaration of mission accomplished in Iraq. Up next, the latest on the Anna Nicole Smith legal drama. 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