updated 12/7/2005 10:13:29 AM ET 2005-12-07T15:13:29

Guests: Mo Rocca

KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST:  Which of these stories will you talking about tomorrow?

Withdrawal.  We would hand over Iraq to car bombers and assassins, so says the vice president.  Thinking we‘re going to win in Iraq is just plain wrong, so says the head of the Democratic National Committee.  The war of war words escalates again.

Disorder in the House, polling in his district showing Tom DeLay trailing any Democrat by 13 points.

As he prepares for big switch to satellite, the Howard Stern interview.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  What about the Scotch-guarding carpet and water-resistant surfaces for any fun and games involving whipped cream?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Katie, did you ask him if he‘s going to plug COUNTDOWN again?

The Michael Irvin cop stop, caught on tape.

But who didn‘t look familiar?  Who pulled off the annual Steal Baby Jesus from the Nativity Scene prank in Arkansas?  A 70-year-old.  A 70-year-old grandma.  A 70-year-old grandma Bible school teacher.

All that and more now, on COUNTDOWN.

Good evening.

From his final and biggest political stage, he today shouted, Go to hell, and then complained that he‘d been wearing the same shirt and underwear for three days.  Dick Cheney?  Howard Dean?  No, American politics have not slid that far, not yet.  It was Saddam Hussein at his trial.

But in our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN, the debate over what now constitutes victory in his former country is nearly that harsh right here, with a majority of Americans, and some longtime hawkish politicians, saying Iraq can‘t be won.  The administration again fired back, using the word “victory” as often as possible, and claiming its critics are merely accepting defeat.

Cue the military backdrop, Vice President Cheney today making the administration‘s case in Fort Drum in northern New York, arguing that an early withdrawal of American forces from Iraq would be unwise in the extreme, alleging that leaving Iraq would be akin to handing it, quote, “over to car bombers and assassins,” and insinuating that those who suggest otherwise do not have the moral fiber to stick it out.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  On this, both Republican and Democrats should be able to agree.  The only way the terrorists can win is if we lose our nerve and abandon our mission.

But the world can have confidence in the resolve of the United States.  We will stand by our friends.  We will help Iraqis build a nation that is free and secure and able to defend itself.  We will confront our enemies on this and every other front in the war on terror, and with good allies at our side, we will prevail.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  And H.L. Mencken thought journalists kept repeating things in the hope that eventually they would come true.

Congressman John Murtha, meantime, again trying to break through the din.  The Pennsylvania Democrat, Vietnam vet, once one of then-Defense Secretary Cheney‘s best friends in Congress, again challenging the administration, not only on its premise in Iraq, but also on its repeated use of the terms “terrorism” and “insurgency” interchangeably.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JOHN MURTHA (D), PENNSYLVANIA:  But let me point out my difference between the White House—the administration—and myself.  First of all, the way they lump terrorism in with insurgency.  Terrorism started in Afghanistan.  We have every legitimate right to go into Afghanistan.  Bin Laden says he attacked Saudi Arabia because we had troops still in Saudi Arabia.  That‘s terrorism.  London terror, in Spain.

But insurgency is what we‘re facing in Iraq.  And that‘s the thing that worries me.  They don‘t discriminate between the two.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Congressman Murtha not alone in drawing fire from the Bush administration.  Democratic Party chairman Howard Dean, always an easy target, all but paining a bull‘s eye on his own forehead by using a V-word other than victory in an interview on radio station WOAI in San Antonio.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HOWARD DEAN, CHAIRMAN, DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL COMMITTEE:  Now that we‘re there, we‘ve got to figure out how to leave, because we cannot have a permanent commitment.

I remember going through this in Vietnam.  And everybody kept saying, Oh, just another year.  Yes, we‘re going to have a victory.  Well, we didn‘t have a victory then, and it cost us 25,000 more American troops because people were too stubborn to be truthful.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Is anybody right here?  Time now to call in Colonel Jack Jacobs, MSNBC military analyst, more importantly, a Vietnam combat veteran, just one of 117 living recipients of the Medal of Honor.

As always, Jack, a pleasure.  Thanks for your time tonight.

COL. JACK JACOBS (RET.), MSNBC MILITARY ANALYST:  Good to be here.

OLBERMANN:  Cheney, Murtha, Dean, Republican, Democrat, does any one of them know what he‘s talking about militarily?

JACOBS:  No, militarily, from a military standpoint, not a single one of them knows anything at all about what he‘s talking about.  And every one of the statements you‘ve been talking about, plus a bunch of others, merely a contribution to public rhetoric.

I think the only statement I‘ve heard recently that made any sense at all was one the today from Senator Joseph Lieberman, who said all these public statements don‘t make any military sense.

OLBERMANN:  What, in your assessment, is victory in Iraq at this point?  And can it be achieved with the current policy of the administration and the Pentagon?

JACOBS:  Well, from the administration standpoint, a victory would be the ability of the Iraqis to maintain their own defense so that we can withdraw.  And it is achievable.  But it requires a number of different things to take place all at the same time.

We have to have a successful election on the 15th of December, and a center government has to hold.  There has to be a rapid increase in both the number and the capability of the Iraqi self-defense forces, particularly the army.  And hotheaded, outspoken, ambitious ideologues like Muktada al-Sadr have to not be so aggressive that they wind up destroying the fledgling government.

All these things need to take place.  It‘s a tall order, but it is possible.

OLBERMANN:  And the particular element of the insurgency and its defeat, is that plausible?  And is there a direct line to doing it?

JACOBS:  To defeating the...

OLBERMANN:  The insurgents in particular.

JACOBS:  ... the insurgency?  Yes, it‘s entirely possible to do that. 

But we have to go about it in a way that we have not until recently done.  In the upper northwest of the country, in the Euphrates Valley, there‘s been an ongoing combat exercise to destroy a large number of enemy troops.  It has been largely successful, and it is continuing, at least partially because it has been successful.

Both the American and the Iraqi troops have to move into cities, destroy the insurgency, and move outward through political, military, and economic control.  And you can‘t do that with the number of forces we have.  And as a result, we‘re going to have to rely increasingly on the developing Iraqi army.  And if that holds, then victory is possible.

OLBERMANN:  And that addresses one of the fundamental premises, going into this, and going into the current administration, the secretary of defense, Mr. Rumsfeld‘s plan, long before the action in Iraq, to remake the military of the United States into the leaner, meaner nimble fighting force.  Was it a bad idea altogether, or did it merely not fit Iraq?

JACOBS:  Well, as it turns out, it‘s one of his few good ideas.  It‘s a good idea globally.  It‘s actually not a bad idea for Iraq, but it took us far too long to do that.  We decided to go into Iraq before transformation of the U.S. military into a leaner, meaner, quicker fighting force had developed.

What‘s actually required to defeat an insurgency of forces we don‘t currently have in tactics that we‘re not willing to employ.  Means we have to go into places like Ramadi and Fallujah and Mosul and places like that, start small and work outward, gaining control.

And when you do that, it means that you have to add forces, not take them away.  It requires a continuous increase in forces.  Well, we‘re not about ready to do that.  And as a result, we‘re going to have to rely on Iraqis to do the job that we should have started about two years ago.

OLBERMANN:  The retired U.S. Army colonel and MSNBC military analyst Jack Jacobs.  As always, Jack, great thanks for your insights.

JACOBS:  Good to be here.

OLBERMANN:  That an administration which tried to keep the public from having the option to see merely the returns of the caskets of the more than 2,100 U.S. soldiers lost in Iraq thus far should fail to communicate properly how some of those lives were lost should not be surprising, but that doesn‘t not make it any less disturbing.

As Pentagon correspondent Jim Miklaszewski reports, what defense officials initially said about the 10 Marines killed in a bomb attack outside Fallujah last week was definitely not the full story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JIM MIKLASZEWSKI, MSNBC PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  The Marines were killed last week at this flour factory outside Fallujah.  The U.S. military first said they were on routine foot patrol, but today revealed they had actually gone to the compound to hold a promotion ceremony for three of the Marines.

When the ceremony ended, the Marines filed out of the factory into an open courtyard, where four artillery shells were buried in two separate holes spaced apart for maximum blast effect, to kill as many as possible.

One Marine stepped on a pressure plate buried underground, detonating the four shells, killing the 10 Marines and wounding 11 others.

(on camera):  But Marine Corps officials say the company commander‘s decision to hold the promotion ceremony at an unsecure location in a war zone raises serious questions.

The officials say there was no apparent reason to hold the ceremony outside their permanent and well-protected home base in Fallujah.  And Marines had often used the flour factory as a staging area for patrols, a dangerous pattern the enemy could easily exploit.

LT. GEN. BERNARD TRAINOR (RET.), MSNBC MILITARY ANALYST:  If you‘re of the habit of returning to this one particular place, then it is relatively easy for them to plant an IED and camouflage it and make you vulnerable to it.

MIKLASZEWSKI:  The Marines reportedly swept the courtyard for explosives, but experts claim even buried, the shells should have been easily detected.

JACOBS:  I believe either that the area was not swept at all, or it was not properly swept.

MIKLASZEWSKI:  Relatives of some of the dead and wounded Marines tell NBC News they want answers as to how this could have happened.

In Fallujah, the Marines have launched a preliminary investigation to determine if the company commander simply exercised bad judgment, or was negligent, putting his Marines at unnecessary risk.

Jim Miklaszewski, NBC News, the Pentagon.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  And something else that seems to be going differently than we were told it would, or had, the trial of Saddam Hussein.  It is not quite farce, not quite the courtroom scene from “And Justice for All,” and not yet, anyway, the political relaunching of the former dictator.  But it seems to have the potential to be any or all of the above.

Today‘s testimony, beginning with a woman identified only as Witness A, who graphically described from behind that curtain, and with her voice totally distorted, the abuse she suffered when she was 16 years old at the hands of Saddam‘s soldiers.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator):  They started stripping and then they forced themselves on me.  They took of my clothes and they put my legs up and tied my hands and they started giving me an electric shock and beating me and asking me to talk.  There was more than one, maybe more than five of them.  Then they took me into the “red room.”

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Two other unidentified witnesses testified before the judge called it a day.  At that point, Saddam Hussein got agitated that he had not more time to talk.  He told the judge to go to hell.  Then he said he would not return to court tomorrow, there‘d been too many court days in a row, and also complained that he had been wearing the same shirt and underwear for three days.  Thanks for sharing that.

The court-controlled cameras did not show that exchange.  The audio feed was cut off to the media room, so it is not yet clear at this hour if Saddam will be forced to show up for his own trial, or in his own underwear, tomorrow.

Speaking of trials, the House is back in session, having to deal with a criminal congressman before moving on to the business of state, like the other members of Congress under investigation.

At first the paperwork, then the mug shot.  Now we get to actually see the moment Michael Irvin of football fame was pulled over, and police found a drug pipe in his car.

You are watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  It marked an ominous and yet appropriate way, perhaps, to reconvene the House of Representatives.  First item on the agenda, that‘s it for the Duke, pilgrim, the formal resignation of Congressman Randy “Duke” Cunningham, who had tearfully quit in personal last week after pleading guilty to taking $2.4 million in bribes while pushing business towards defense contractors.

Our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN, there‘s Cunningham, there‘s the SEC‘s investigation of Bill Frist, and the continuing prosecution of Tom DeLay.  The latter has had its impact on the voters in his district, Gallup asking 803 adults in the Texas 22nd.

Forty-nine percent of registered voters say they‘d go for a Democrat, any Democrat, if DeLay runs against in 2006, 36 for the incumbent Mr.  DeLay.  His approval rating, 37 percent among the voters in his district.  The margin of error in the entire poll, 4 percent, all which of combining to suggest that the margin of error in the current Congress may be just a tad higher, say, oh, about 100 percent.

Here‘s Chip Reid on Capitol Hill.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CHIP REID, MSNBC CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  As the House came back into session today, its approval rating stood at an abysmal 33 percent.  And the first order of business helped explain why, the clerk reading the resignation letter of Republican Duke Cunningham.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  “... as I have discredited my high office and the party that I love.”

REID:  Last week, Cunningham pleaded guilty to receiving nearly $2.5 million in bribes.  Just yesterday, it was former majority leader Tom DeLay whose troubles were in the headlines, a Texas judge dropping one charge, but refusing to throw out a charge of money laundering.

Even more worrisome to some in Congress, the criminal investigation of former Republican superlobbyist Jack Abramoff.  One recent report says at least six members of Congress are in the scope of the inquiry, including, government sources tell NBC News, Ohio Republican Bob Ney, so powerful, he‘s known as the mayor of Capitol Hill.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), MINORITY LEADER:  The Republicans believe they‘re above the law.  Their hubris, their arrogance is something that the American people are paying a price for.

REID:  Republican say, Nonsense, it‘s just Democrats playing politics.

REP. DAVID DREIER ®, CALIFORNIA:  They made a decision very early on that all they were going to do is attack Republicans based on this issue of ethics.

REID:  Congressman Dreier says neither party is immune to ethical problems.  But political analyst James Thurber says the ethical cloud over Republicans is much darker.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Absolute power corrupts absolutely.

REID:  He says it happened to House Democrats in the early 1990s.  Years of power led to a series of scandals that contributed to their fall from power.  Thurber calls the Lear jet effect.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  They start running around on Lear jets, going to conferences.  And it corrupts them, in the sense that they think that they deserve this.

REID (on camera):  With all this going on, the House Ethics Committee is barely functioning, due to partisan gridlock.  But its members do promise to set aside their differences and get back to work next year.

Chip Reid, NBC News, the Capitol.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  And the woman at the center of the most damaging scandal in Washington right now is leaving her post.  The most recent in a series of stories about the retirement of Valerie Plame from the CIA is the first to put a date on it.  Friday, reports “The Los Angeles Times,” though officially she will still be employed by the agency until a formal retirement day in January.  She was in an undercover capacity until the columnist Robert Novak exposed her identity in 2003.

The paper cites a friend and formal colleague of Ms. Plame, Larry Johnson, as saying that after her cover was blown, her career was effectively destroyed, quoting, “She is either a nonentity or radioactive.  Getting connected with her is not something that is going to enhance your career.  She has become, or she has been, something of a leper.”

Valerie Plame has worked with the CIA  For 20 years.

Also tonight, Santa‘s got a brand-new sled.  Rudolph, take a hike.

And you‘ve heard that there is this attack on Christmas.  Well, that would be a live shot of the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree, if I‘m not mistaken.  But we‘ll go searching for something behind the holiday paranoia with guest analyst Mo Rocca, ahead here on COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Back again, and for a moment we step away from our COUNTDOWN of current events for a brief collection of stories aimed at trying to find the true meaning of Christmas.  And I think we get pretty close tonight.

Let‘s play Oddball.

And we begin in Los Angeles, California, for a glimpse at Bill O‘Reilly‘s new car.  It is the pimp-my-ride Christmas Mustang, made in America, pal, OK?  Shut up.

It‘s everything the Baby Jesus would demand in a high-end holiday mobile, smooth paint job, snowman steering wheel, fish tank.  It‘s the creation of Mr. Brian Fujay (ph), who says he turns off the flashing colored lights when he‘s on the highway, so as not to cause an accident.  Oh, like that‘s the differentiating factor on the freeways.

Plus, you never know when some secular progressive might try to run you off the road.  We are at war, you know.

Don‘t do it, Santy!  Don‘t do it!  No!

Not to worry, kids, that‘s the scuba-diving Santa.  He‘s come to visit all the good little guppies at the Mall of America in Minneapolis.  Dozens showed up to see the swimming Kris Kringle.  But due to an unfortunate scheduling error, Santa showed up on Barracuda Day, and the rest of the day‘s events were canceled.

Finally, to Roanoke, Virginia, where the kids get to visit Santy Claus behind a big black curtain, after numerous parent complaints that Santa‘s Village happens to be situated right next to Victoria‘s Secret.  All the kids in line had to wait in front of a shop window filled with half-naked mannequins and images of supermodels wearing sexy lingerie.

What do you want for Christmas, Jimmy?  One of those, please.  No need to wrap it, Santa.

The curtain solution seems to be a success, shielding the kids in line from the provocative storefront, and, let‘s be honest, it‘s just prudent.  See, because it‘s not just the kids who can stare at the models, right, Santa?

See, Howard Stern would have accompanied that joke with the sound effect of a spring uncoiling.  By spring, he‘ll be uncoiling via satellite, the big move, the big interview with Mr. Stern, just ahead.

And censorship, or, neutralizing a security risk.  How a pro football team handles a fan with a complaint about management.

Those stories ahead.

But now, here are COUNTDOWN‘s top three newsmakers of this day.

Number three, Carol Thatcher.  The same week that Britain‘s conservatives chose a man described as the least-experienced party leader since William Pitt the Younger in 1783, the daughter of their last great leader wins the TV reality show “I‘m a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here.”  What did her mom, Baroness Margaret Thatcher, think of Carol‘s victory?  “I don‘t even know her number.  She doesn‘t even know I‘m here, so she won‘t notice.”  Uh-oh.

Number two, unnamed cab drivers in Odense (ph), Denmark.  Five men try to get into his taxi.  He says he can only take four passengers.  Scuffle breaks out.  One of the men says the cabby bit him, took off the end of his finger.  Well, you know how these cab drivers are about tips.  Ha, ha, ha.

Number one, Vegard Sjaastad.  He‘s a pizza-delivery man in the Norwegian city of Aalsund (ph).  He had his wallet stolen the other day, lost his license, his credit cards.  So he‘s delivering this pizza to a customer‘s house, and the customer hands him his credit card.  Not the customer‘s credit card, the driver‘s stolen credit card.  The guy who stole Sjaastad‘s credit card tried to buy a pizza from Sjaastad, using the same credit card.

Punchline, it was one of those cards with the owner‘s photo on it, and this idiot didn‘t even recognize Sjaastad when he was standing in front of him.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Throughout history, rare has been the entertainer who is also a superb businessman.  Gene Autry come to mine.  Baseball‘s Ty Cobb who invested his money in Coca Cola and General Motors about 1910.  But the entertainer who has been a visionary businessman has been rarer still.  Nearly all the Broadway stars of say, 1900, saw the movies as a cheap diversion which might be why George M. Cohan here did not appear in a full length film until 1932 and nobody these days can tell you a lot about the first great actress named Maude Adams.  Radio stars of the 1940s were similarly short sighted about TV and TV‘s heroes, laugh at cable well into the 1990s.

So our third story on the COUNTDOWN, is Howard Stern that once in a century visionary who switch from broadcast radio to satellite is the augur of a sea change in his business or is he just like the newscaster who quit a comfortable network job in 1974 to join a new all news radio network, only to see it go out of business the next day?  Howard Stern, at length tonight with the “Today Show‘s” Katie Couric.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Good morning, everybody!

KATIE COURIC, NBC HOST:  Some call it anarchy on the airwaves.

HOWARD STERN, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST:  What is it, you creep?

COURIC:  But 13 million morning listeners call it their drive time radio addiction.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Anything for you, Howard.

COURIC:  For two decades now, Howard Stern‘s radio show has been the home of inquiring minds.

STERN:  Honey, I heard that you like to get spanked.  Is that true?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Yes.

COURIC:  Confessions of the rich and famous.

STERN:  How old were you when you lost your virginity?

PAUL MCCARTNEY, FORMER BEATLE:  I was approximately 15.

COURIC:  And, of course, provocative porn star revelations.

STERN:  I do like a great sexual joke.

Did you sleep with him right away when you met .

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  No.

STERN:  I like childish humor.  I like barnyard humor.  But I also like discussing politics.  I think I‘m a pretty well rounded person in that I‘ll show you sides of me that most men won‘t in public.  My theory on radio, since I was a kid, was to let it all hang out.  To have real fun.  Blast off.

COURIC:  Well, on January 9, Stern will become the first shock jock in space.  When he takes his sophomoric stick to Sirius satellite radio.

I recently visited Howard at his future home.

I can almost smell the silicone.

A studio still under construction in New York‘s Rockefeller Center.

STERN:  Here we are.

COURIC (on camera):  Your new digs.

STERN:  This is my place.  I‘m really excited about this.  First of all, we actually have room in here.  I mean, you can‘t b get a sense from the ceiling height and everything but this is very rare for radio.

COURIC:  What about the Scotch Guarded carpet and water resistant surfaces for any fun and gamed involving whip cream?

STERN:  Katie, you know the truth of the “Howard Stern Show.”  Anything goes.  So this place is smart.  They are Scotch Guarding.  They are coating everything.  Because it does.  It gets messy in here.  This is a physical radio program.  I mean, there are people flying threw, lighting themselves on fire.  Don‘t ask.

COURIC (voice-over):  With only eight shows left on his terrestrial radio show, Howard has been getting surprisingly sentimental.

STERN:  It has been a spectacular 20 years.

COURIC:  Radio‘s raunchiest deejay even apologized recently to his audience for what he called 10 years of sub par broadcasts.  Laying the blame squarely at the feet of the Federal Communications Commission.

STERN:  I think I came on the scene and I was this breath of fresh air, if you will.  I went .

COURIC (on camera):  That‘s one way to describe it.

STERN:  Yeah.  Some people would probably take an opposite tack and say I was the foulest smelling odor in the building.

COURIC:  Stench comes to mind.

STERN:  Yes.  Right.  Yeah.  Gas.  But people remember a wild show with me.  They remember that I say anything and do anything and I push the envelope.  And what happened for so long between the FCC, the religious right, and everybody‘s grandmother complaining, what happened is the stations got so much pressure that I couldn‘t do my show anymore.  I couldn‘t do it the way I wanted to.  I found that I had to stifle my speech.  I had to stop saying certain things a certain way.  So you know, it is like the erosion of the “Howard Stern Show.”

COURIC (voice-over):  Over the years, Stern and his employers have been hit with some of the biggest fines in broadcasting history prompting ClearChannel Communication, a company which ran the show on six of its stations, to permanently pull the plug.

(on camera):  You‘re also responsible for the largest cumulative fine in history, $1.7 million in 1995.

STERN:  I‘m very proud of that.

COURIC:  In total, sine you‘ve been on the air, you‘ve cost your licensees more than $2.2 million in fines.  So you know, part of the fun, it seems to me, doing a commercial radio for you, was pushing the envelope.  There are no restrictions here.  It is anything goes.  So without an envelope to push, is it going to have sort of the same sort of risky tension that your show had before?

STERN:  I‘ve heard so many people say, you need the government clamping down on you to be outrageous.  And early in my career, I didn‘t have the government clamping down on me.  And the fact of the matter is was that was my best radio.  That‘s the radio that got me the highest ratings.  That‘s the radio that put me on the map.  And now, even looking at this, I‘m shocked when people say you need censorship in order to be funny.  I‘m not coming on satellite just so I can say the f word.  You know.  That‘s never been my scene.  That‘s not what I‘m about.  I‘m all about the language of fun.  If it is fun, we do it.

COURIC (voice-over):  Stern may be making the switch at just the right time.  Though his show is still number one in nearly all of his 46 markets, his ratings have hit a slide.  Some fans argue his jump the shark moment was the divorce from his wife Alison in 2001.

(n camera):  A lot of your stick was the poor depressed sex crazed guy who was sort of flirting with the hot women and kept to this sort of closet lascivious side.  Maybe not so closeted.  Do you give any credence, though, Howard, to people who say, OK, we can‘t relate to him as much now that dating a super model and going clubbing all the time.

STERN:  Well, it‘s funny to me—Anyone who is really my audience would know.  My show has always been about whatever is going on in my life.  The sad fact is, I‘ve got—I‘m trapped inside of me.  And I don‘t go out at all.  That‘s why I‘m shocked that you go out during the week.  You‘re probably out there clubbing.

COURIC:  No, I‘m not.

STERN:  I‘m not clubbing.  I go to bed at 8:00 at night.  I never go out during the week.  And I‘m in psychotherapy four days a week.  Pretty heavy commitment .

COURIC:  Seriously?  Wow!

STERN:  I think I can .

COURIC:  That‘s a lot.

STERN:  It is a lot.  There‘s a lot of problems up there.  Come on! 

Look at me.

COURIC (voice-over):  At Sirius, Howard gets not one but two channels to get out all that‘s in his head.  He even has his own 24-hour news team that covers any breaking stories about, well, Howard.

STERN:  So we‘ve put together .

COURIC (on camera):  That‘s not the .

STERN:  The ultimate ego.

COURIC:  I was going to say.  What an egomaniac, Howard.

STERN:  I was going to say.  Tune into it.  It is the funniest thing. 

We have 17.

COURIC:  If you do say so yourself.

STERN:  It is great.  I‘m telling you, you‘ll end up working there.

COURIC:  Oh, God.

STERN:  “The Today Show” is a real drag.  You will.

COURIC (voice-over):  But the stratosphere of satellite radio isn‘t even the final frontier.  Digital cable customers who want to OD on Howard can now subscribe to Howard On Demand.  A tawdry trove of uncensored and unpixilated best-of moment from his E-channel TV show.

STERN:  It is a whole new universe.  And I see myself as a content provider.  That we have television now uncensored and we have radio programming uncensored.  The two will merge and I think it .

COURIC (on camera):  And you‘ll are going to take over the world.

STERN:  I‘m going to take over the world.  And everyone, watch out. 

You‘re in big trouble.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  We‘ll have part two of Katie Couric‘s exclusive interview with Howard Stern when he takes her on a tour of his new satellite facility tomorrow night here on COUNTDOWN.  And they run into an unexpected person in those studios.  Les Moonves?  Les Moonves.  That will be at 8:00 Eastern, 9:00 Pacific.  Be there.  Aloha.

And also tonight, speaking of aloha, football TV analyst Michael Irvin now lives via videotaped replay so of course, now we have the videotape replay of his arrest.  And new still pictures of Jennifer Aniston, courtesy of the paparazzi, only in them, Ms. Aniston is topless.  And now she‘s also suing.  That‘s next.  This is COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Is it double jeopardy to release the videotape of the arrest of an ex sports star, now commentator, 10 days after that arrest and a day after his suspension from his TV network ended?  Is it protected speech to walk around a sports stadium carrying a sign calling for the team‘s president to be fired?  A could a baseball team‘s entire off season rebuilding plan really be entirely predicated on the letter J?

Our number two story on the COUNTDOWN.  The world of wide sports.  November 25, outside Dallas, ex-Cowboys star.  Now ESPN commentator Michael Irvin pulled over for speeding.  Watch the former receiver‘s size, strength and agility.  The brilliance that made him a football Hall of Fame finalist.  A finalist with a bunch of still outstanding previous driving violations.

The driving violations and the paraphernalia led to this.  A pipe with marijuana residue which Irvin says he had confiscated from a friend or brother who he was trying to help kick the habit.

The difference between Irvin‘s Dallas Cowboys of yesterday and the Detroit Lions of today, the Lions couldn‘t get arrested.  But one of their fan says he nearly did as they lost the eighth out of 12 this year, the ticket holder Duncan Debruin (ph) ran through the stands of Detroit‘s Ford Field on Sunday holding a sign saying “fire Millen.”  That would be Matt Millen, the team‘s president.  Debruin says he was chased by security guards through 10 sections of the stadium.  Then tackled by the guards and thrown out.  He says he thought he had been banned for life for his editorial comment.  The team says no, he had just become a safety risk, running through stands like that.  There‘s the tackle.  And he can come back any time.

Football expert say it was the only time a Lions‘ employee had caught anything all season.

And the Toronto Blue Jays baseball team has sign free agent pitcher A.J. Burnett who has a layoff time record of 49 wins and 50 losses to a five-year contract worth a total of $55 million.  Outlandish, to be sure.  Why does it merit inclusion here?  Because of his name.  He is Toronto‘s second high priced free agent pitcher signing of the off-season.  A.J.  Burnett.  Following B.J. Ryan.  So the Js signed B.J. then A.J., $102 million spent by their team general manager, J.P. Ricchardi.  And he wants to sign more pitchers there are plenty who can apparently fit into this theme.  With the Jays, J.P. can add to B.J. and A.J., C.J. Nitkowski (ph), D.J. Holton (ph), J.J. Proops (ph) and T.J. Tucker (ph).

We segue into our nightly round up of celebrity and entertainment news, “Keeping Tabs,” and she‘s already been Pittless and survived that, pretty much careerless and survived that.  But topless?  That‘s where Jennifer Aniston is drawing the line.  The former “Friends” star and ex-Mrs.Brad Pitt is seeking monetary damages and a court order prohibitating - prohibitating?  In English that would be prohibiting infamous paparazzo Peter Brandt from selling or benefiting from these pictures commercially.

The suit claims the shots show Ms. Aniston on her own property.  The only way that Brandt could have taken them was if he was violating her privacy.  It is the lawsuit way of calling somebody a peeping Tom.  Anniston was awarded $550,000 in the settlement of a similar invasion of privacy lawsuit two years ago.

If souls really do get to pick the body into which they will be born there has to be a lot of soul searching, literally, for whoever drew the rights to be the offspring of Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes.  Positives?  Money, food, healthcare, up to and including your own accommodation, rumpus room, and MRI facility.  All you have to do is ask dad.  Negatives?  Just about everything else.

This info apparently now available to the soul in question.  However, you‘ll be a guy.  Apparently the couple was spotted in an upscale Beverly Hills baby store shopping for boy stuff.  So reports msnbc.com‘s Jeanette Walls.  The anonymous eyewitness saying quote, “They were buying stuff like blankets for a boy and taking picture of other large items such as a baby crib.  They were interested in the classic and elegant.”  The store declined come.  And nobody saw them shopping for a live-in doctor, fortunately.

Another celebrity couple in the news.  Sir Elton John is finalizing plan for his nuptials to take place two weeks from tomorrow when Britain‘s civil partnership law comes into effect.  The singer and David Furnish will be wed in the same city hall where Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles got hitched last April.  In offering the couple the use of the town‘s guildhall, Windsor council leader Mary Rose Gliksten said they are making the solemn and formal commitment to each other in our guildhall offers them both dignity and privacy.  Ample parking, clean rest rooms and a variety of pastry and soft ice cream outlets.  All right.  I made that last half of that up.

Surveillance pictures capturing it all.  Punking the Baby Jesus at a nativity scene.  The punking done by grandma.  You thought they were kidding about that war on Christmas crap.  That‘s ahead.

But first time for COUNTDOWN‘s list of today‘s three nominees for the coveted title of worst person in the world.  There‘s a theme tonight.  The bronze goes to the manager of the Citgo station in Gary, Indiana.  Rosetta Hefner (ph) was robbed at knifepoint there while filling up the church van.  She ran to the clerk and asked for help.  Asked him to call the cops.  He replied, use your cell phone.  The manager said his clerks are instructed not to call the cops in such situations because the criminals will get mad at them.

The runner up, motorists, maybe police, anybody with a car who spent a weekend driving past that lump at the side of the road near Franklin, Pennsylvania, sure it was tan and slightly covered with snow but it was an deer carcass, it was a pedestrian who had been run over by a car and left to lie there for three days.

But the winner, the unidentified Washington, D.C. police officer. 

Charles Atherton, the urban designer, the former secretary of the U.S.  Commission on Fine Arts hit by a car in the capital over the weekend.  As he lay there on the street unresponsive and badly injured, witnesses saw the cops come over and give him a ticket for jaywalking.  Mr. Atherton died shortly there after.  A policeman, who did not think the elderly man lying in the street might have need something more than a $5 jay walking citation, today‘s worst person in the world!

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  To the top of the COUNTDOWN now, and tonight‘s number one story, “I don‘t care if it rains or freezes as long as I got my plastic Jesus sitting on the dashboard of my car, comes in colors, pink and pleasant and glows in the dark because it‘s iridescent.  Take it with you when you travel far.”  More from correspondent Tim Tialdo.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I found out about all the circumstances of the story, frankly, I was very shocked.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  As far as I know, people, kids, somebody, has take 10.

TIM TIALDO, KY3 NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  Virginia Voyers (ph) lived in Eureka Springs for 20 years.  She says it‘s well known around town someone steals the Baby Jesus from nativity in Basin Park every year.

UNIDENTFIED FEMALE:  Why would anyone touch the Baby Jesus.  This year, I know why.

TIALDO:  Every year since 1950, the Beta Sigma Phi sorority has put up the nativity scene up for the holidays this year in order to keep people from stealing the Baby Jesus, they decided they would put in a protective measure in the form of a security camera.  And this year in its very first trial run they were successful in catching someone it happened to be 70-year-old Virginia Voyers.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  They came up.  They were around me.  I had the black coat on.  And I just picked it up.  We put it around me and under my coat.

TIALDO:  But what Virginia didn‘t know police were watching her every move on this surveillance video.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  When the police finally called me and said Baby Jesus was stolen and recovered because of the camera.  And I said, that‘s great.  And they said it was a 70-year-old woman.  I said, great.

TIALDO:  It never crossed your mind that this could actually be a crime.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  It really didn‘t.  I had no idea they had a camera.  It‘s—no, I wasn‘t trying to commit a crime.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  It is considered a crime.  It‘s a theft of property class A misdemeanor.

TIALDO:  In Eureka Springs, Arkansas.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I really hope the judge has a sense of humor or I‘m cooked.

TIALDO:  Tim Tialdo, KY3 News.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  He‘s reporting from Springfield, Missouri near the Arkansas border, by the way, and adds when Ms. Voyers confessed her theft to the pastor he told her to sin no more and then added, you didn‘t tell them you‘re a Methodist, did you?  All of which begs the question, is there, as widely made up on what is more or less another cable news network a real attack on Christmas.  And is this evidence of it?  For answers, I‘d like to call in television personality and Christmas anti-attack analyst Mo Rocca.  Good evening, Mo.

MO ROCCA, CHRISTMAS ANTI-ATTACK ANALYST:  Good evening, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  I‘m having it hard finding evidence of this attack on Christmas given I live near five minutes from the Rockefeller Center Christmas trees and all the stores are selling Christmas cards and the first recorded claim of an attack on Christmas was made by Henry Ford in about 1920 and I think the last 85 Christmases happened as scheduled.  Am I missing something?

ROCCA:  Well, Keith, that Arkansas creche jacking is just one gristly example.  More commonly, what you have is a lot of people in the media that are constantly emphasizing the non Christian origins of the things that we associated with Christmas.  They will tell you that the Christmas tree was originally a pagan symbol of worship.  They‘ll tell you the cross was originally a T square used by architects and carpenters.  Which it was.  Just ask Mike Brady, Ty Pennington or Jesus.

But the real story here for any who are willing to look for is worse than secularization, it is something I‘ve written about extensively.  I call it the drag queening of Christmas.  The victims here are the trees.  Innocent conifers that are uprooted and brought into people‘s homes and then they‘re decorated with baubles - really, jewels I call them and wrapped in garlands, which are basically boas and some people on the bottom put a little skirt.  This is just ungodly.  It‘s far from anything you‘d ever find in the New Testament.  It‘s virtually pagan.

OLBERMANN:  And the trees wind up looking like Dame Edna.

ROCCA:  Yes, exactly.  To Wong Foo, thanks for nothing.  We want our Christmas back.

OLBERMANN:  Relative to the shopping ends of this, we did find one on-line marketer guilty of swapping out the phrases Christmas ornaments and Christmas trees and replacing them with holiday ornaments and holiday trees.  The shopping part of the Fox News Channel where they were selling O‘REILLY FACTOR holiday ornaments with instructions to use them on your Holiday tree.  And we revealed this on COUNTDOWN and the next morning they had switched the item name to O‘REILLY FACTOR Christmas ornaments for your Christmas tree.  So is it fair to say the Fox News Channel attacked Christmas but we personally stopped them in their evil plan?

ROCCA:  Well, it‘s interesting you won this battle on the war on Christmas.  And I thank you.  Because now, I can decorate my Christmas tree with the very traditional O‘REILLY FACTOR Christmas ornament.  Quite frankly, I was tired of festooning my tree with HANNITY & COLMES ornaments.  It just didn‘t seem very much in the spirit and Hannity is such a grouse.

OLBERMANN:  Also, if you put the two of them too close to each other they hit.

ROCCA:  It‘s lopsided and tones fall down on one side and crash.

OLBERMANN:  So if Christmas is attacked and defeated by conservatives, what will replace it?  Are we going to get reruns of Dick Cheney speeches?  What‘s the plan, do you know?

ROCCA:  I think Christmas and Dick Cheney are equally controversial. 

Real problem here is the salutation merry Christmas versus happy holidays.  December 25 should be a day we all come together.  It just so happens December 25 is also the birthday of actress Sissy Spacek.  And who doesn‘t love Sissy Spacek?  I love the “Coal Miner‘s Daughter.”  “In the Bedroom” was a little bit of a downer I think we all some go around and be greeting each other, Sissy Spacek.  Sissy Spacek.  I think it would be really nice.  I has a nice ring.

Now, it‘s also the birthday of Anwar Sadat but that‘s a little bit morbid.  Anwar Sadat, Anwar Sadat, it doesn‘t quite work.

OLBERMANN:  If you go with sissy, though, you can get the afterlife and the whole religious aspect of it because Sissy as Carrie and the hand coming up out of the gravel pit at the grave—right?

ROCCA:  Sure.  And traditional pig‘s blood looks great on all celebrants.

OLBERMANN:  It‘s a nice bright festoonish red.

ROCCA:  Sure.  Absolutely.

OLBERMANN:  One other way this trickled into our discourse here, there‘s a radio commercial that runs starting Monday in Colorado and Wisconsin and West Virginia saying some judges have supported the radical agenda to end Christmas but not Judge Samuel Alito.  To your knowledge, would he be the first nominee confirmed to the Supreme Court who had determined in advance to overturn Santa v. Grinch?

ROCCA:  Well, his supporters are certainly hoping so.  Look, you have Alito being linked to Christmas here.  Now some people are going to object to the overcommercialization of the nomination of Judge Alito.  And these people complain about that every year at this time of year.  My beef is that the people selling Judge Alito this way are doing a crappy job of selling him.  Go all the way and commercialize him.  I say Tickle me Alito dolls, I‘d say Cabbage Patch Alito that comes with a certificate of confirmation from the Senate Judiciary Committee or Xbox Alito.  That‘s the way to do it here.

OLBERMANN:  The television personality Mo Rocca.  And we‘re happy to say that you‘ll be back with us tomorrow night in another of your many areas of expertise, perhaps your highest, the White House animal historian in you, as you talked us the release of the annual Barney cam video?  Briefly, anything to look for in 10 seconds?

ROCCA:  Look for a giant Barney scaling the umpire state building gripping Naomi Watts.

OLBERMANN:  I‘m betting he‘s going to come out and say we have to stay the course in Iraq.  He‘s actually going to address the audience for the first time.  That‘s the novelty.  That‘s my guess.

ROCCA:  Well, that would be exciting.

OLBERMANN:  We‘ll find out tomorrow, sir.

ROCCA:  I have to go Sissy Spacek shopping so .

OLBERMANN:  Have a great time.

ROCCA:  Thank you.

OLBERMANN:  Thank you, sir.  Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays.  That‘s COUNTDOWN.  I‘m Keith Olbermann.  Keep your knees loose.  Good night and good luck.

Our MSNBC coverage continues.  Billy Bush of Access Hollywood pinch hitting tonight for Rita Cosby.  Good evening, Billy.

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

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