Friday, December 18, 2009

'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Friday, December 18th, 2009
video podcast

Guests: Eugene Robinson, Craig Crawford, Chris Kofinis, James Hansen


LAWRENCE O'DONNELL, GUEST HOST (voice-over): Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?

The big gamble by Senate Democrats to get their health care bill passed before the end of the year. The big push by Republicans to kill reform and delay every bill they can - even funding for the troops.


SEN. HARRY REID (D-NEV), MAJORITY LEADER: Rarely have I seen such brazen irresponsibility, and rarely have our nation's citizens received such little regard from their leaders.


O'DONNELL: The price of GOP obstructionism: everybody gets to work Christmas.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nobody's leaving. Nobody's walking out on this fun, old fashioned family Christmas. No. No, we're all in this together.


O'DONNELL: We'll look at how Harry Reid plans to push the bill to a final vote in the Senate. Plus, will health care reform pay off in next year's congressional midterms or can Democrats really make yet another election a referendum of George W. Bush?


GEORGE W. BUSH, FMR. U.S. PRESIDENT: And it's hard work.


O'DONNELL: The fierce urgency of now.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: All of you would not be here unless you, like me, were convinced that this danger is real. This is not fiction. It is science.


O'DONNELL: President Obama rushes to the rescue in Copenhagen, trying to get China on board to fight climate change in talks with the Chinese premier.

Blue Christmas.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're not in Kansas anymore.


O'DONNELL: Twelve years after taking us into the deep with "Titanic," filmmaker James Cameron takes us to a whole new world with "Avatar."

And Tiger in the night - that's when the golf legend used to party.

Now, he apparently prowls alone.

At least Keith's having fun with the scandal in the Countdown year-ender.


KEITH OLBERMANN, Countdown HOST: Tiger makes public appearances,

adoring crowds, then the spanky-spanky


O'DONNELL: All the news and commentary - now Countdown.


OLBERMANN: Ouch, ouch, I fell on my keys.



O'DONNELL: Good evening from New York. I'm Lawrence O'Donnell, in for Keith Olbermann.

Once, Senate Democrats said they would pass health care by the fall, but let it sit in committee, then Thanksgiving, but let it simmer with the leadership, and now, Christmas Day.

In our number five story: One minor hitch among many, Senate Democrats have not yet finished writing the bill. But the current Harry Reid hope is for a final vote on the bill that does not yet exist and has not been scored by CBO, at 7:00 on Christmas Eve, after the all important make-or-break hurdle coming with a vote on Monday.

That schedule was made possible - hypothetically possible - after Democrats got help across the aisle defeating Republican leaders who wanted to slow health care down by voting against hundreds of billions of dollars in equipment training, mine-resistant vehicles and pay raises for America's troops who's funding runs out at midnight tonight.


REID: Senate Republicans so desperately want to turn their backs on Americans who are suffering and dying for want decent of health care, 45,000 a year, 750, 000 bankruptcies, 140,000 losing their insurance every day, that they're turning their backs on America's troops at a wartime.


O'DONNELL: Of course, Democrats always knew that Republicans would drag their feet and use parliamentary delay tactics.

Even with Republicans out of their way for now, it is only Democrats who remain blocking the way forward. It is the effort to appease Nebraska Senator Ben Nelson on abortion - he opposes insurance coverage of it - that has Democrats still writing the bill. And now, Senator Nelson who has cast himself as an "almost there" vote has a more general problem with the bill.

Senator Nelson was asked on local radio yesterday whether he would vote not for the bill, but just for Democrats to get an up-or-down vote on it if he got everything he wanted on abortion. His answer was no, because the bill does not have real cost control.


SEN. BEN NELSON (D), NEBRASKA: The way in which money is raised is not acceptable. And so, if there isn't a way to raise the money in tight times, I think you have to look at scaled-back version. I've said this needs to be handled on an incremental basis. We need to - we need to address first - not that it's not important find coverage for people, I think that's essential - but the first order is to get cost under control, because let me be clear, if we don't get cost under control, under the current system, adding more people just makes the problem bigger.


O'DONNELL: Of course, Senator Nelson was a key player in eliminating cost control o from the bill by opposing the public option.

In a rare scolding of the Senate, Obama's senior adviser David Axelrod yesterday said, quote, "The main thing I would say to Nelson and other members of the Senate is that after a long, long, long thorough debate, let us have a vote."

Progressive independent Senator Bernie Sanders also remains a question mark, however.

And in an interview with "Salon" today, former DNC chairman, Howard Dean, renewed his call to vote against the bill saying, quote, "We didn't elect Democrats to pass crap."

Let's bring in MSNBC political analyst Eugene Robinson, also an associate editor and Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist at "The Washington Post."

Good evening, Gene.


O'DONNELL: Gene, how did it come to this for the Democrats? Is their current position not precisely where their tactics, their own tactics have led them?

ROBINSON: Absolutely. Which Democrat should I start with? The president's basic outline for how to proceed was to let Congress do it, and so, this is what you got out of the Senate and you've got 60 Democratic votes, maybe period. Not one more. Not a margin of anything, a margin of zero. And - so, that means that any one senator can make what are either principled or extortionate demands, and hold the thing up.

So, that's where we are, but it is the tactics that were chosen that brought us here.

O'DONNELL: And he - and these senators can move their own goal posts as we've seen Joe Lieberman do. A few months ago, an option to buy in to Medicare for people under 65 was OK. Then when they finally came up with that idea, it wasn't OK.

With Ben Nelson, he seems to isolate recently just on the abortion issue. That seemed to be what the Senate needed to do to make the bill work for him, was find a way to keep abortion of out these health care plans. But now, he seems to be saying something much more general, much more troubling, it seems to me, if you're Harry Reid trying to get his vote. He's worried about cost control. He's worried about the fundamental design of the bill now, isn't he?

ROBINSON: Yes, absolutely. I mean, he is saying, if what I've read about that interview is correct and then we listened to the sound bite just now, is that, you know, this bill covers too many people. We can't cover all these people. We have to cover a lot fewer people with this first incremental step. That seems to be what he's saying. That's completely counter to the essence of the bill to what this bill is trying to accomplish.

And so, if that is really his position, then why are we going through with this exercise if they don't have his vote for this bill. Now, he had a private meeting with Harry Reid this evening, I understand, or this late this afternoon. He came out making - Nelson came out making what sounded like semi-positive noises. So, we'll see how that shakes out as the evening wears on and as we go into tomorrow.

O'DONNELL: And Ben Nelson has a long and good history with Barack Obama. He's one of the senators who helped Barack Obama get to the White House. One of the early endorses of Barack Obama in the Democratic field for the presidency. They've asked Bob Kerry, former Democratic senator from Nebraska to help with Ben Nelson.

Does the White House have any way to get to Nelson that Harry Reid doesn't have?

ROBINSON: I am not sure. White House aides, including the deputy chief of staff, were up on Capitol Hill today, trying to deal, trying to understand Senator Nelson's demands and assess them and then figure, I guess, how to respond.

You know, I would imagine that in this sort of situation, you always have in your back pocket, you know, the phone call, the visit, whatever, from the president himself if it comes to that. But I think you want to try to deal with it before it comes to that. But at this point, I think, the White House, you do what you got to do.

O'DONNELL: And finally, Gene, the Senate schedule - Harry Reid has a week or a few days scheduled in front of us like I've never seen before.

I just got on my BlackBerry the schedule for tomorrow morning. Senate convenes at 6:45 a.m. There will be votes at 7:30 a.m. on the Defense Appropriations Bill before they can turn back to health care.

Is there any way that you see that this can actually get done by Christmas Eve or even Christmas Day at this point?

ROBINSON: I wouldn't bet a lot of money on it, Lawrence. You know the workings of the Senate better than I, having worked there yourself. The majority leader can call him in and he can - he can try to move this stuff, but it's going to be - it's going to be a fascinating week.

Add to it of course, we're expecting a historic snowfall tonight, beginning tonight here in Washington, up to 16 inches. So.

O'DONNELL: It's going to have to be a walk to workday for senators tomorrow.

ROBINSON: They can do that or just have to sleep there.

O'DONNELL: MSNBC political analyst Eugene Robinson, also of "The Washington Post" - thanks for your time.

ROBINSON: Good to be here.

O'DONNELL: Right now, let's bring in Democratic strategist, Chris Kofinis.

Thanks for your time tonight, Chris.


O'DONNELL: Chris, $100 billion for ongoing operations in Afghanistan and Iraq; $23 billion for their equipment, including mine-resistant vehicles; $30 billion for their health care and a 3.4 percent pay raise - all but three Republican senators vote against this - against this, for our troops, openly admitting that it's just a tactic to slow down health care reform.

Can they get away with votes like that?

KOFINIS: I don't - I don't think they're going to get away with that. I mean, this has to be, I think, one of the most disgusting, politically brazen ploys I've seen in a long time. And what was the purpose? The purpose was to slow down health care.

I mean, the tragic thing here is this again exposes that the really difficult political environment the White House and Congress has been operating, particularly the Democratic leadership. Forget - put aside just the internal Democratic Party difficulties. You have a Republican Party that does not have any intention, nor any desire to actually debate health care reform. What they have exposed in that attempt is basically they do not want health care, period.

And so, it is fortunate, but again, this is, I think, a very big mistake the Republican Party has made.

O'DONNELL: And they cast this vote against defense appropriations, kind of a holy grail of Republican politics, voting for defense funding. They cast it simply to get to delay health care by 12 hours, by maybe 20 hours. Not more than that.

And now, after these procedural votes, they do intend to vote for the

final passage of the Defense Appropriations Bill tomorrow, which I believe

I believe, Chris - counts as voting against it before you voted for it, doesn't it?

KOFINIS: That's exactly right. What they're going to try to do is say we actually didn't vote against defense spending. But that - see, they're trying to explain a process story.

And trying to explain a process story to the American people, that is just too complex. And the reality is, it is much easier to make the point that they voted against defense spending. And ironically, that is exactly what Republicans would have done had Democrats done this.

And so, this is the political equivalent of cutting off your nose to spite your face. I do not understand why they chose to go down this road. It is, again, as I said earlier, something that the Democratic Party is going to be able to come back to again and again and again. That they'll play politics not just with the military and the men and women in the armed services, but they play politics with the country's health care issue. And you combine those two together, it creates a terrible political narrative for the Republican Party.

O'DONNELL: All right, Chris, take your shot at predicting how the next five days go in the United States Senate.


O'DONNELL: Do you get a final passage vote in the United States Senate on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day?

KOFINIS: Possible. I mean, this has become so difficult, as we've seen, because the 60th vote, whoever, you know, that person may be, has an ability to shape what the final legislation is and you know, I think what you need almost is, and clearly, this is happening, and I think Senator Reid is clearly trying to push this forward and probably saying to them in private, "Listen, you may have concerns whether you're on the left or you're more conservative member of the Democratic Party, but we can fix this in conference."

But I think there's also going to be a need here for President Obama to come out, you know - and this, I think, is only possible if we know we're going to have a vote. But to come out and say, you know, here are the good things and this is why we need to get this vote done.

O'DONNELL: Democratic strategist Chris Kofinis - many thanks.

KOFINIS: Thanks, Lawrence.

O'DONNELL: Coming up, the Democrats' plan for the congressional midterms: defeat the Republicans for being the party of George W. Bush. Seriously. That's the plan.

And later, Tiger walks alone. The reportedly lonely nights of a man for whom the evening hours used to be anything but.


O'DONNELL: In the wake of health care reform, whatever the outcome of next week's vote, Democrats have to find a solid strategy for next year's congressional midterm elections. But is going after Republicans the "party of no" as the "party of Bush" really the best plan? It's deja vu all over again.

Ahead on Countdown.


O'DONNELL: Ten percent unemployment, no real reform on health care, troop escalation in Afghanistan, not to mention dismal poll numbers - how do Democrats survive the midterm elections? By painting the Republicans as the party of George W. Bush.

Our fourth story on the Countdown: Yes, it's deja vu all over again.

Congressman Chris Van Hollen, chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is trying to put a positive spin on signs pointing to the Republicans gaining seats and possible control. Van Hollen admits 2010 will be a challenging cycle, but "this is not going to be 1994 all over again. The fundamentals are very different today."

Instead, Democrats will be turning to the same playbook that helped them win the 2006 and 2008 congressional elections. Van Hollen noting that today's GOP is no different than the Republican Party that ran the Congress before. Remember when George Bush was president?

One silver lining, House Democrats have a big cash advantage over the GOP going into the 2010 campaign season, raising more funds than the Republicans by a three to one margin, although it may not be enough to sway voters.

A new Research 2000 Poll shows both Democrats and independents are frustrated with President Obama's reluctance to fight for a public option:

87 percent of Democrats and 72 percent of independents say the president didn't do enough to quash Senator Lieberman's charge to kill reform.

But the Dems are hoping the specter of Bush and the "party of no" will change voters' minds. Van Hollen telling reporters, the big question will be, who was on your side during this very difficult period of time.

Time now to call in MSNBC political analyst and columnist for, Craig Crawford. He's also co-author of "Listen Up, Mr. President: Everything You Always Wanted Your President to Know and Do."

Good evening, Craig.

CRAIG CRAWFORD, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Hi. I wish it was "GQ" but it's actually "CQ."

O'DONNELL: Oh, I'm sorry. "CQ." "CQ." "CQ."


CRAWFORD: I take that though.

O'DONNELL: You could write for "GQ" easily. You have a lot to tell them about that.

CRAWFORD: Oh, why not? I couldn't dress - I couldn't dress for them, but I'd love to write for them.

O'DONNELL: Now, Craig, is there a way - is there a way to pull the Bush rabbit out of the hat and somehow dangle George W. Bush in front of voters in the 2010 congressional elections? Do the Republicans - do the Democrats have any way of doing that?

CRAWFORD: Well, the first problem I see, Lawrence, is saying that Republicans would take us back to the Bush era. Well, the Democrats haven't taken us out of the Bush era.

I mean, Iraq looks the same. There are double the troops in Afghanistan. The health reform is falling apart. The economy still stinks and we're bailing out Wall Street more than ever.

I mean, it's like what my friend and co-author Helen Thomas said to the White House recently, you can say to most Democrats in Washington, their conscience should bother them.

O'DONNELL: What should the Democrats be aiming for as a strategy for 2010 at this point for the House Democrats? Now, it's a tricky thing to come up with because you don't yet know the outcome of health care and some other important legislation that will be going through the House. But as of now, what should they be aiming for in 2010?

CRAWFORD: Well, on a tactical level, I'd say set up some votes where no Republicans get on board for things people want, whether it's public option or any other imaginable thing. And show the public that these Republicans are standing against the future.

And that's the point. I think, look ahead, not look back, and talk about what the party is trying to take - where the party is trying to take the country and show we can't get there because of these Republicans. It's not because anything in the Bush era, it's because these Republicans don't want to go forward and not worry about what was in the past.

O'DONNELL: Now, when Bill Clinton started running for president, it looked absolutely impossible for anyone to knock of the first President Bush and his incumbent position in the White House. Then along came this guy, Ross Perot. And Bill Clinton managed to get himself into the White House with 43 percent of the vote.

Should the - should the Democrats try to see if in this tea party movement that is willing to produce third party candidates to run against Republicans who they don't deem conservative enough, can they hope there's a Perot-like movement in there that can splinter the anti-Democrat vote and they can squeak out in some of these races for the win?

CRAWFORD: As we saw in that upstate race in New York and the congressional races, if that happens, and Republicans split apart, and that is something Democrats can hope for, but, you know, that's counting on something that you almost don't deserve. I mean, I still think what Democrats need to do is stand up for what they believe in and be Democrats.

And, you know, move - we talk about the audacity of hope. I mean, we've gotten to this fleeting hope for audacity. And I think that is where Democrats need to stand up and take a stand and not just count on Republicans to give it to them by default.

O'DONNELL: Let Democrats be Democrats. Not a bad strategy.

Craig Crawford of MSNBC.

CRAWFORD: Why not?

O'DONNELL: . and "Congressional Quarterly" - many thanks, Craig.

CRAWFORD: Thank you.

O'DONNELL: Ahead: President Obama on the world stage. The president reaches a deal on climate change in Copenhagen. Is it climate change we can believe in?

And later, the breakfast of the champion. How Tiger is reportedly spending his time eating cereal, watching cartoons, and hitting golf balls at night.


O'DONNELL: Coming up: The president and the premier. The climate talks in Copenhagen get a new jolt of energy when President Obama spends his day trying to persuade China to reach a deal. But is the agreement they reached what the rest of the world is looking for?

Then, it's the most wonderful time of the year for going to the movies. They hype behind "Avatar," the biggest film to hit the multiplex.

And later, he may be in self-imposed exile, but he has not been forgotten among his peers. We'll tell you why Tiger Woods is leaving the world of golf on a high note.

Those stories ahead on Countdown.


O'DONNELL: President Obama says that nations have made a meaningful and unprecedented breakthrough at climate talks, creating a foundation for global action on climate change. But in our third story on the Countdown, how meaningful and what the agreement actually means may not be so clear. Because the president also said that the world must work toward a binding climate agreement that was not achievable at this summit.

One fact is certain though, due to current weather conditions, the president will return to Washington before a final vote at the UN Climate Summit in Copenhagen. An event which might normally be stayed turned chaotic today, as Obama arrived at the international climate meeting about the time that it appeared to be on the verge of collapse. The primary reason, the Chinese would not agree to all-important monitoring. So President Obama reportedly ripped up his schedule to that he could meet privately with China's premier, Wen Jiabao, which he did for 55 minutes.

Before that, the president gave his speech to 119 world leaders. He diverged from his prepared text at times. And the president pointedly referred to China when he criticized the uselessness of an agreement on reducing carbon emissions without transparency in verifying those efforts.


OBAMA: I don't know how you have an international agreement where we all are not sharing information and ensuring that we are meeting our commitments. That doesn't make sense. It would be a hollow victory.

And at this point, the question is whether we will move forward together or split apart, whether we prefer posturing to action.


O'DONNELL: After the president's first meeting with Wen, further emergency meetings with other nations ensued. But Mr. Wen did not attend, reportedly infuriating US officials.

However, the Chinese premier did attend yet another impromptu meeting late in the day. Even later, President Obama announced that the United States had reached a deal with China, India, South Africa and Brazil that would include a mechanism for verifying that countries are meeting their commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.


OBAMA: It will not be legally binding, but what it will do is allow for each country to show to the world what they're doing, and there will be a sense on the part of each country that we're in this together, and we'll know who is meeting, and who's not meeting the mutual obligations that have been set forth.


O'DONNELL: Joining me now, climate research scientist Dr. James Hansen, an adjunct professor at Columbia University and author of "Storms of My Grandchildren." Thanks for your time tonight, professor.


O'DONNELL: OK, what happened there today? What did President Obama pull out of this?

HANSEN: Well, what was good was that the Chinese leader, Mr. Wen, and Mr. Obama, did not have a split. I mean, they came together and had an agreement, even though that agreement is not going to do anything for reducing greenhouse gases. But in the end, it's really about China and the United States. They're going to have to come to an agreement. And so the fact that they parted on friendly terms is the best thing that came out of it.

O'DONNELL: Are you saying that China and the United States are going to have to come to a bilateral agreement, negotiated one-on-one?

HANSEN: Well, it really comes down to that, yeah. They actually both had very good reasons for doing it, because we would both like to break our addictions to fossil fuels. We'd like to clean up our atmospheres. And we would like to assure climate for our children and grandchildren, which is stable. So, I think there's a very good chance that they will eventually come to an agreement.

O'DONNELL: How does today's outcome at Copenhagen compare to the anticipation? I get the sense that anticipation of what was possible kept diminishing the closer we got to this date.

HANSEN: Yes, there was really no chance that anything important would come out of this. You can't get an agreement with 100 or 200 countries, especially because it was equivalent to a situation like the Indulgences in the Middle Ages, where the church would grant forgiveness of sins. And that was great for the bishops, who would collect a lot of money from the sinners, and it was good for the sinners, because they forgot forgiveness for their sins. But, of course, there's a higher power that decides that.

In the case of the planet, what is happening there is the developed countries want to continue their business as usual with their fossil fuel emissions, and the developing countries want to get money. So that's what they were talking about, 100 billion dollars a year. But that doesn't solve the problem. It's analogous to what happened at Kyoto, where we got an agreement, but the emissions, which had been increasing 1.5 percent per year, increased three percent per year after the agreement. So that kind of an agreement is not going to work, anyhow.

O'DONNELL: What is is next stage for a global agreement? If you suggest that what we need now is one-on-one negotiations between the US and China, how will that then bring in the other over 100 nations that are interested in participating in this?

HANSEN: The first thing is that we have to admit that as long as fossil fuels are the cheapest form of energy, we're just going to use them more and more. So what we have to do is put a price on carbon, so that gives an economic incentive for businesses and the public to use energy efficiency, renewable power, nuclear power, the things that do not produce these gases.

And once we would move in that direction, and the United States and China would agree to put a price on carbon, then the rest of the world would be willing to go along with this. I'm sure Europe and Japan would readily go along with that. And if some countries don't want to go along with that, then you put a import duty on the products coming from those countries that are made with fossil fuels.

O'DONNELL: Now there are some countries that see themselves as benefiting economically from this kind of agreement, in effect recipients of the economic benefits of this kind of agreement. Other countries see themselves as donors, countries that will be paying the price, economic price of this kind of agreement. How do you ever get to an agreement when these nations look at themselves that way, instead of equal participants and equal shares in the burden?

HANSEN: Yeah, that's why you won't get an agreement with the Kyoto or Copenhagen type approach. You've got to get an honest approach, in which the participants realize that as long as fossil fuels are the cheapest, we're not going to solve the problem. So you have to put a price on carbon emissions.

The way you do that, and get the public to accept it, you put a fee on oil, gas and coal at the mine or port of entry. But then you give that money to the public, so that they have the funds to invest in more efficient vehicles or insulating their home. That way, we can move gradually to the world beyond fossil fuels. And that's what we're going to have to do, or we can't solve the climate problem.

O'DONNELL: Now, with your experience in these negotiations so far, having watched them, how long do you think it would take us to get enough nations to get to that kind of working agreement?

HANSEN: Well, it wouldn't take very long if the United States would take the right actions. The things we've been talking about in Congress are cap and trade and offsets. That's exactly what was done with Kyoto. It actually led to increased emissions, not decreased emissions. What we have to do is get Congress to move in the direction of a carbon price with dividends. So you give that money that you collect on the oil, gas and coal, give that to the public. That's what we need to do.

HANSEN: Climate research scientist James Hansen, thank you for your time tonight.

HANSEN: Thanks.

O'DONNELL: Coming up, the new frontier of movie making. The director who took us on Titanic's fatal voyage spends a reported 300 million dollars to journey to another world.

Later, where's Tiger? More importantly, where would Countdown's look at the best of 2009 be without Tiger? And when Rachel joins you at the top of the hour, look who's co-sponsoring this year's Conservative Political action Conference. It's the good old folks at the John Birch Society. So paranoid, they once accused Dwight Eisenhower of taking part in a Communist conspiracy.


O'DONNELL: James Cameron's last movie, "Titanic," grossed a record one billion 835 million dollars worldwide. So you can understand why they let him break the bank on giant 3-D Smurfs in space. In our number two story, the critics have spoken: "Avatar" is apparently not awful. But 12 years after Cameron's last hit, will the movie-going public still show up? Here's NBC's George Lewis.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're not in Kansas anymore. You're on Pandora.

KEN LEWIS, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: The release of "Avatar" opens up Pandora's Box of questions about how big this 300 million dollars movie will be at the box office and how it will influence movie making in general.

HENRY SHEEHAN, FILM CRITIC: I think it will be huge, maybe the highest grossing movie of the decade.

LEWIS: Director James Cameron says he doesn't feel guilty about spending all that money making "Avatar."

JAMES CAMERON, DIRECTOR: We went in knowing it was going to be an expensive film. That's what sort of Fox expects me to do.

LEWIS: reviewers have raved about the 3-D special effects and the digital creatures.

Whose movements and facial expressions faithfully mirror those of the human actors playing them.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it will have long-term affects on technology and how movies will use them.

O'DONNELL: Harry Noels of Ain' has a lot of audience with young males, the core audience for films like this.

HARRY NOELS, AINTITCOOLNEWS.COM: Personally, I feel "Avatar" is one to have most tremendous sign fiction films that I've seen.

LEWIS: Some move-goes say the 3-D special effects are almost too good.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I had to leave the theatre just once and I was pretty disorientated.

LEWIS: James Cameron is the director that gave us that all time blockbuster, "Titanic." The secret to the success of that film, teenage girls, attracted by the love story, who kept going to see "Titanic" over and over.

Teenage girls may not identify with the 10-foot tall, big-footed aliens in "Avatar," but still those blue beings are expected to bring in a lot of box office green starting this weekend.

George Lewis, NBC News, Los Angeles.


O'DONNELL: Up next, good news and more good news for Tiger Woods. First, the golfer is awarded top honors in a survey of his peers, then he takes home another trophy of sorts, winning a prime spot in Countdown's year end special. You won't want to miss our preview.


O'DONNELL: There is an ancient Chinese proverb that goes: "he who rides the tiger is afraid to dismount." There really is. In our number one story, nobody can even find Tiger Woods, but that hasn't stopped anyone from riding him. The "New York Post," for example, has had him on their cover for 20 straight days.

Before we search for Tiger, there is good news. For the tenth time, Tiger Woods was named PGA Player of the Year. Also, the husband of the year people asked for their mug back. As to his whereabouts, the tabloid magazine "US Weekly" says Tiger Woods has been passing his time driving golf balls at a course near his Windemere, Florida home. Quoting an unnamed source, "he goes after dark, so he can't be seen. For him, what's more therapeutic than hitting golf balls?"

Well, I think we know what's more therapeutic. Well, back to the quote - "for him, what's more therapeutic than hitting golf balls, the thing he's best at in the world." That's what he's best at in the world? OK. Of course that's what he's best at in the world.

How about cereal and cartoons? A Fox News gossip website, quoting no one in particular, says the world's number one golfer, quote, "has been spending his days in seclusion, eating cereal and watching cartoons."

I can tell you which cartoon he's not watching, the animated efforts of our friends at Apple Daily. The semi-newsy reenactments of trivial details of the Tiger Woods saga became a staple here on Countdown shortly after the Woods story broke. They have also become part of our year-end show, Countdown's Favorites of 2009.

That full hour of Countdown's greatest hits airs the Monday after Christmas. Here now, a sneak preview, featuring your old pal, Keith Olbermann, and the animated Tiger Woods.


OLBERMANN: Depending on whose reporting you trust, the marriage of Tiger Woods is between six and ten women over par. But his wife has reportedly taken a powder, if not a mulligan, and moved out of their home in Florida. Our number one story, "Radar Online" reporting Elin Woods is living in another house nearby, but his people are trying to keep it quiet, because, quote, "they don't want any publicity about what is going on in the marriage. Yes, that's working well."

No publicity, just a team of Taiwanese animators, working around the clock in shifts, having pumped out three more of their mini-masterpieces. Using Sims like style of animation and a liberal interpretation of facts and gossip, Apple Daily last week produced its first video, title translating as "Woods, Broken Windows at Night to Save His Wife Crash, Shady Husband."

The three new creations include the newspapers own translations from Mandarin to English, kind of English. Here now, a selection from the third animation: "Tiger Woods' Lover Number Three Exposed." We're not saying any of this is exactly true. We think of it more as art.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tiger Woods is facing the biggest challenge of his love. Tabloids have exposed a third lover, Vegas club executive Kalika Muqueen (ph). She was a very influential person of the city. The relationship happened when Elin was pregnant.

They met regularly and were seen publicly. Woods was also seen at the VIP part of a bar, with girls on either side, and hand sup their skirts. Reports said lover number two, Jaimee Grubbs, not only bragged to friends about the relationship, but also played the voicemail.

TIGER WOODS, PGA GOLFER: Can you please take your name of your phone? my wife went through my phone.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We see it as anonymous phone call.

OLBERMANN: Unanimous phone call. Well, if it's ten women, maybe it was a unanimous phone call. We continue with the animated tale of the prenup.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: According to "US Weekly," the settlement is over 30 million. Sources say Elin asked for revision short of the ten year limitation, and Woods has agreed, but has already transferred million of dollars into her account.

The couple has also begun intense marriage counseling at home.

OLBERMANN: That was intense. As you saw, Woods got a free Michael Jordan shoe phone with his subscription to "Sports Illustrated."

I know what you're saying. What about alleged lover number one?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Alleged lover number one, Rachel Uchitel, canceled a scheduled press conference on Thursday. Sources say Uchitel lawyer was bargaining on the phone with Woods, and finally agreed to a million dollars to keep quite.

OLBERMANN: As you saw just there, apparently that was Secretary of State Hillary Clinton brokering the deal. It was apparently supposed to be attorney Gloria Allred.

Luckily, thanks to Apple Daily, we now know exactly what happened before the crash. Allegedly.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Uchitel saved hundreds of Woods' messages with highly sexual nature. The two were texting before the accident. Elin questioned Woods and tried to grab the phone. During the struggle, the phone was broken, and so was the vestibule of the house. That's why Woods refused to let the police.

OLBERMANN: I broke my vestibule. Refused to let him in, like a hockey goalie. No soup for you, officer. As for the post-accident blow by blow, Apple Daily has portrayed this before, but not with as much detail, and not with the neighbors who sleep in their day clothes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: US tabloids also report that, according to Woods' neighbor, Adams, about 2:30 am, right after the car crash, his sister heard a commotion and saw the car light shining in. Adams was awake and went outside, and saw Woods lying next to the car, and Elin was talking to him. Woods was unconscious and snoring.

OLBERMANN: Unconscious and snoring. I would have paid to see that. Back to that prenup. In the fourth video from Apple Daily, "Woods Break the Bank to Keep Lovers Quiet," we learn more about the alleged prenup settlement and about the mother of Tiger Woods and what she was doing during all of the sexy time.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Woods agreed to pay Elin five million dollars. If she stayed for two more years, she will be paid 55 million more, and must pretend to be still in love and not disclose anything to the public. If she stays for seven years, she will be paid 75 million.

Rumors said the rift between Elin and mom is the reason breaking the marriage, because Woods' mother demanded to build her a mansion next door, so Elin insisted to separate the house by water.

Last month, when Woods met Uchitel secretly in Australian hotel room, Woods mom was standing right downstairs.

OLBERMANN: Enjoying dinner, mother? Apparently, Mrs. Woods is a witch. The latest bombshell comes to us via a UK tabloid called "The News of the World." A waitress from a Perkins Restaurant in Orlando revealed steamy details of her alleged affair with the world's number one golfer. Unfortunately, Apple Daily hasn't translated this video yet, but I did my best.

Long cool woman in a red dress. Tiger meets Mindy at Perkins, high class style restaurant. He phones in order, has visions of red mushrooms. He asks her back to his place or another restaurant maybe.

MINDY LAWTON, ALLEGED TIGER WOODS MISTRESS: He texted me constantly and he would call me regular will. Every time he would contact me, it was for sex.

OLBERMANN: Some people look better as animated figures. I don't know what she's doing here, but it looks like she needs a shower. This they now do. They have relations all over the place, in his house, but never Tiger's bed, which is queen sized and located in a large closet.

First of all, clearly, the animation team has never been to a Perkins restaurant. Second, Mindy Lawton claims she and Woods were romantic all over the house, yes, in the shower, just not in his bed, which is queen sized and located in a large closet. Ms. Lawton's story continues.

Mindy says something about Tiger's wife, who suddenly getting an X over her face, possibly H1N1. Tiger makes public appearances, adoring crowds, then the spanky spanky. Tiger has thought bubble about underwear he wants her to wear, or maybe it's about Annika Sorenstam. Text messages in, order to restaurant. Van starts a rocking.

So, she helped him change a tire? Oh, you mean - oh.

Night of crash, Tiger didn't feel so hot. This is pill of Vicodin.

Ouch, ouch, I fell on my keys. Tiger Woods and wife check into hospital. Woods using clever name to hide celebrity, William Smith. Police wonder, now there are two pills of Vicodin.

Seriously, you want to remain anonymous, so you check into the hospital as Will Smith. Another tip if you want to remain anonymous, do not take pictures of yourself that might end up in "Playgirl."

Anonymous woman has naughty photo. Look at naughty photo go into lady's ponytail. Tiger Woods takes picture. That looks good. We can sell this. There is much rejoicing.

Dude, Levi Johnston is going to be so upstaged.


O'DONNELL: Countdown Favorites 2009 airs first on Monday the 28th at 8:00. Set your Tivos now. That will do it for this Friday edition of Countdown. I'm Lawrence O'Donnell, in for Keith Olbermann. Thanks for watching.