updated 12/8/2005 9:12:37 AM ET 2005-12-08T14:12:37

Guest: Dana Milbank

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

The war on Christmas.  New suspects, the president and the first lady?  With all this yapping about saying “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas,” how come the White House Christmas card says “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas”?

Who was he?  What happened?  The man shot and killed by an air marshal as he tried to run from a plane in Miami, sources saying he claimed he had a bomb, others claiming his wife said he was a bipolar patient who had not taken his medication.

The Howard Stern interview, day two.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HOWARD STERN, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST:  That‘s the beauty of it.  I‘m obnoxious.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  You bet.

And you heard that the president doesn‘t read the papers or watch the news, right?  Evidently, his dog does.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Coming up on “Access Hollywood”...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  The annual Barney video, analyzed by presidential pet historian Mo Rocca.  And no, Patrick Fitzgerald did not flip Miss Beazley.

All that and more, now on COUNTDOWN.

Good evening.

“The War on Christmas,” begins the title of our old colleague John Gibson‘s breathless book, “How the Liberal Plot to Ban the Sacred Christian Holiday Is Worse Than You Thought.”

Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN, the wish of season‘s greetings from the Bush administration this year is officially termed “the White House holiday card.”  Not Christmas, holiday.  George W. and Laura Bush, part of the liberal plot to ban the sacred Christian holiday, which is worse than you thought.  To say nothing of their dogs.

This has arrived in the mail of some of the 1.4 million presidential pals, the annual White House holiday Christmas or whatever card, featuring the president‘s pets playing in the snow outside the People‘s House.  Open it up, and it says, “With best wishes for a holiday season of hope and happiness.”  It‘s that “holiday” part that now has gotten members of the religious right all worked up.

They say it should say “Christmas,” and they see the lack of Christmas in the card as evidence of a cultural war on Christmas.  According to William Donohue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, a man who can spot heresy in a slow-starting snow blower, quote, “This clearly demonstrates that the Bush administration has suffered a loss of will and that they have capitulated to the worst elements in our culture.”

Joseph Farrah (ph), the editor of the conservative Web site WorldNetDaily, piled on, adding that the president, quote, “claims to be a born-again evangelical Christian, but he sure doesn‘t act like one,” and adding, “I threw out my White House card as soon as I got it.”  Could have sold it on eBay, the White House responding to the outrage over the Christmas omission by saying that while the president and first lady celebrate Christmas because of their faith, they still chose to call it a holiday card because it goes out to members of all faiths.

Let‘s bring in “Washington Post” national political reporter Dana Milbank.

Dana, thanks for joining us.

I think perhaps you need some attention to your hair, I‘m not sure.

DANA MILBANK, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, “THE WASHINGTON POST”: 

Happy Winter Solstice, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Thank you kindly.  Let me get this straight.  The White House has a born-again evangelical Christian as the president.  How is it that anyone could think that they were trying to kill Christmas?

MILBANK:  Oh, Keith, it‘s worse than you think.  I mean, you mentioned the card with Barney and Beazley here, and the cat, Indigo, but now for the actual invitation to the White House Christmas party, we now see there‘s no God here on this cover, and it‘s called a “holiday reception.”

So it goes on and on.  Now, this is a year when the speaker of the House has turned the Capitol holiday tree back into a Christmas tree, and it is very intriguing that the White House is the last holdout, and it suggests that the ACLU has finally taken over this Bush White House, as we expected it always would.

OLBERMANN:  And next year, they‘re going to call it Festivus.

Why has this become an issue this year?  Seriously, I mean, the Bushes have put out a holiday card, not a Christmas card, since year one for them, since 2001.  It seems to address the multifaceted nature of society.  Why is this an issue now?

MILBANK:  It‘s not really this year.  It‘s becoming some sort of a perennial, you know, like Charlie brown‘s Christmas and the Heat Miser.  It comes around at this time of year each time.  It‘s done by a lot of these conservative groups to sort of rile up people on their mailing list.  It‘s like the flag-burning issue.  It‘s not—there‘s not really a threat, but people find that it can really motivate folks to get out there.

And it goes far beyond the White House.  And I mentioned the Capitol Christmas tree, the various states are having issues with their Christmas trees.  Virtually every major retailer, Wal-Mart, Kmart, Sears, Home Depot, is either being boycotted for not honoring Christmas, or has capitulated already, or us in risk are falling and knuckling under to one of these boycotts.

OLBERMANN:  So let‘s burn a flag on Christmas.

Has anybody pointed out to anyone who‘s protesting here that the word “holiday” is rather easily understood and breaks down to the two other words, “holy day”?

MILBANK:  I don‘t—this isn‘t a group that appreciates those finer points, I think.

OLBERMANN:  Those learned things.

MILBANK:  We could point out that the Christmas tree itself is something of a pagan tradition.  I mean, it can get carried to some extreme.  There‘s a church in Chicago, I understand, that‘s taken it so far that they‘re not even going to have services on Christmas, so that people can return to be at home, sort of with the babe in the manger kind of situation.

So it‘s unclear exactly how far this can go.  Of course, the greatest irony here is the—nobody‘s saying a word about the commercialism that is taking all the spirituality out of Christmas.  They‘re busy boycotting the stores.

OLBERMANN:  A political question, a purely political question in this.  Is there a kind of a passive-aggressive message from the White House about the purported war on Christmas in their card, and in their other gestures, like, This is too silly for words, even we‘re not going to try to make this fly, you shouldn‘t either?

MILBANK:  There could be an element to that.  I mean, here you do have a case in which the president is talking about—actually is fulfilling his words of being a uniter, not a divider in reality.  He (INAUDIBLE) was confronted between the issue, Do you offend the Jews, the Muslims, the nonbelievers on the list, or do you offend a couple of these extreme groups?  And the president has taken the route of being somewhat more inclusive.

He still is going to have a Christmas reception, he‘s still going to have a Hanukkah party, but he‘s going to try to be as inclusive as he can for all Americans.

OLBERMANN:  Well, perhaps we could just agree to say “Merry Christmas and happy holiday” and cover everybody.

Dana Milbank of “The Washington Post,” also known as Santy, great thanks for your keen insights, and for wearing the hat all the way through the interview.

MILBANK:  Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Merry Christmas.

Oddly enough, the annual holiday-time video released today by the White House, starring the president‘s dogs, Barney and Miss Beazley, is entitled “The White House Holiday Video” but rather “A Very Beazley Christmas.”  Yet in the dialogue, if you want to call it that, White House chief of staff Andy Card is heard asking Barney the terrier, “Are you ready for the holidays?”

The entire thing is close to 10 minutes long, so for your viewing pleasure, we‘ve knocked it down to less than half that.  Without further ado, here‘s “A Very Beazley Christmas,” portions edited for time, portions edited to fit your screen, portions edited to supply work for our editors.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANDREW CARD, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF:  Hey, Barney.  Are you ready for the holidays?  It‘s going to be great this year.  You‘ve got a new sister.   Miss Beazley is terrific.  She‘s going to have a great holiday.

I‘m about ready to watch the news.  Do you want to watch the news and see what‘s going on?

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS:  It is all about Miss Beazley at the Bush White House this Christmas.  At the end of her first year with the first family, this pretty pooch is the star in show this holiday season.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  And coming up on “Access Hollywood,” Miss Beazley has taken Washington by storm.  The presidential pup tells all, when we come back.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (subtitles):  Miss Beazley, a birthday present to Mrs. Bush last year, will spend her first holiday season at the White House, and everyone is looking forward to it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Joining us live here on C-Span from the West Wing of the White House is Miss Beazley.  For those of you who support Miss Beazley, the number to call is 202-456-1415, and for all others, 202-456-1416.

CARD:  Hey, hey, Barney, where you going?  Miss Beazley, she was terrific.  What a fantastic job.  Barney, where are you going?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Hey, Barney, I saw your sister on television this morning.  Miss Beazley is really impressive.  What‘s it like to have such a talented sister?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Ooh, Barney, have you seen the latest presidential pet poll numbers?  Not good.  The numbers are way down.  But don‘t worry about it.  Remember, polls are just a snapshot in time.  That‘s right.  And besides, look, Miss Beazley‘s numbers are way up.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Look at that Miss Beazley.  I tell you what, she‘s gorgeous.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Unbelievable.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Unbelievable.  Lookit.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Wonder what do you think Barney thinks?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I don‘t know.  Barney who?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes, she looks great.  Boy, look at how bright-eyed she looks.  You know, I think she...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Very attentive.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  ... I think they dressed up that nose a little bit too.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Hey, Barney, we were just watching Miss Beazley on television.  Boy, they sure do love her.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  You know, Barney, that Miss Beazley, is she ever great.  I think you could learn a thing or two from her.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Miss Beazley, great job today.  Listen, I have the information here that you requested.  Our unemployment is declining, we‘re creating a lot of jobs, and you‘re doing a great job, Miss Beazley.  And I just wanted to let you know, your Spanish today was just perfecto.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Oh, hi, Barney.

LAURA BUSH:  Oh, Miss Beazley, where are all of your presents?  I know I put them under the tree earlier.  Who would have moved them?

Barney?

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I hear you‘re hiding Beazley‘s gift all around the White House.  Oh, what is it we have here?  Now, Miss Beazley, I understand you‘ve been a media hound.  Perhaps this is a case of sibling rivalry.  Both of you are important part of our family.  And you have to remember the true meaning of the holiday season.

Now, you two run on.  I‘ve got a lot of work to do.

LAURA BUSH:  Barney and Beazley, I‘m really happy to see you‘ve gotten into the holiday spirit.  These are very thoughtful gifts for each other.  I‘m glad that you‘re thankful for the holidays.

President Bush and I wish everyone a very happy holiday.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  So that‘s what happened to George Stephanopoulos.

It‘s all worthy of a COUNTDOWN investigation.  Later, we‘ll call in guest contributing presidential pet historian Mo Rocca to help us probe Barneycam 2005, coming up later in this newshour.

But up next, disturbing story from Miami.  The shooting at Miami Internet Airport, an air marshal shoots and kills a passenger, after what is described as a bomb threat.  We‘ll get the very latest in the investigation.

And the president‘s PR offensive to win back support for the war, amping up the language today.  The insurgents were stopping in Iraq, he says, would otherwise be killing Americans here.

You are watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Let us preface the fourth story on the COUNTDOWN with some recent history.  On July 22, at the Stockwell subway station in London, a 27-year-old man named Jean-Charles de Menezas (ph) was shot and killed by antiterror forces.  London‘s chief police official immediately and irrefutably identified him as a terrorist, a man who fled from officers in a desperate attempt to get aboard a train before deploying his suicide bomb device.

Within days, though, the horrible truth was clear.  De Menezas was not a terrorist, he had not fled, he had not run, he had not done anything to warrant arrest, let alone execution without a trial.

Tonight, at the airport in Miami, there is no evidence of a terrorist attempt, but there is another dead man killed by a counterterrorism expert, this time a U.S. federal air marshal.  Officials, but so far no witnesses, say the man claimed he had a bomb in his carry-on bag and then refused to respond to their instructions.

This is not to say none of that is not absolutely true.  Just a reminder that facts can sort out entirely differently in short and tragic order.

Our correspondent Mark Potter has been at Miami International Airport trying to sort those facts out, and he joins us now.

Mark, good evening.

MARK POTTER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT:  And good evening to you, Keith.

Tonight, the airport is back to normal here, the Miami International Airport, although some of the passengers who witnessed that incident are still being questioned at this hour by federal and local officials.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

POTTER (voice-over):  The shooting occurred around 2:00 this afternoon.  Passengers were boarding American Airlines flight 924 at gate D-42 at the Miami International Airport.  It had just arrived from Medellin (ph), Colombia, and was next headed for Orlando.

Federal officials and eyewitnesses say a woman passenger suddenly left the coach section of the plane and then returned.  Her husband, now identified as 44-year-old Rigoberto Alpazar (ph), then ran important the aisle.

MARY GARDENER, PASSENGER (on phone):  When I went on, there was a lady at the front who was (INAUDIBLE) back and forth.  She got a call, and she was called off the plane initially.  She was frantic.  They got on the plane, and all of a sudden, after everybody was on the plane sitting down, her husband ran through the aisles frantically.  She ran after him, and all of a sudden, there were about four to five shots that happened.

POTTER:  Officials say U.S. air marshals aboard the plane confronted the man and took him to the first-class cabin for questioning.  The man, who claimed he had a bomb, then bolted onto the jetway and was ordered to stop.  When he refused, and then reached into his carry-on bag, he was shot dead.

GARDENER:  I did hear the lady say that her husband was bipolar.

JAMES BAUER, FEDERAL AIR MARSHAL SERVICE:  There‘s no reason to believe right now that there is any nexus to terrorism, or that, indeed, any other events are associated with this one.

POTTER:  Federal and local law enforcement officials converged on the scene.  Bomb squad officers placed the man‘s luggage on the tarmac and blew it up, although officials had said earlier they found no explosives.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Police!

POTTER:  A spokesman for the air marshals says officers train for this sort of event, and that Alpazar never complied with any of the officers‘ commands.  Officials say the shooting was by the book.

DAVE ADAMS, FEDERAL AIR MARSHAL SERVICE:  During a situation where there‘s an immediate threat to them or passengers or civilians, they can discharge their weapon to stop the immediate threat.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

POTTER:  Now, federal officials say that while they now believe this

was an individual tragedy and not a terrorist plot, earlier in the day,

they did order air marshals at other airports to be on alert until they

were sure, Keith

OLBERMANN:  Mark, is it evident at this point that, at least according to the air marshals, that they followed all their protocols, that they followed their book, as it were?

POTTER:  They are saying that they followed exactly by the book, and they followed their training.  This is one of those situations where they say a man was threatening, that he had a bomb, he ignored all their orders, he went away from them, he reached into a bag.  Again, this is their telling, it‘s all being investigated right now by the FBI and by the Metro-Dade Police Department.

But according to their telling, they shot him exactly by the book, and they‘re claiming that they did exactly what they were trained to do, tragic as it was.

OLBERMANN:  Would any of this, could any of this conceivably have happened, either the international circumstances, the armed nature of the air marshals, their presence there, could any of it have happened before 9/11?

POTTER:  Oh, absolutely.  We all know that there were a lot of people who got in trouble before 9/11 making jokes about having guns on the plane, about bombs, that edict that we all got, Don‘t make jokes at the airport.  That was pre-9/11.  This could have easily happened.

This was one of the those rather outrageous cases, if, again, it turns out to be true, what the air marshals are saying, that the man said he had a bomb, that he reached in the bag, that he refused their orders, he was running up the aisle, running away from them, all of that, that could have then as easily as it could happen now, with the same tragic consequences, unfortunately.

OLBERMANN:  Mark Potter at Miami International.  Great thanks, Mark.

That first post-09/11 action by a U.S. air marshal occurring the same day that the president made his second major speech in the time immediately preceding the Iraqi elections.  And notably, while Mr. Bush acknowledged to the Council on Foreign Relations the fits and starts of the reconstruction efforts there, he also told his audience that if the U.S. was not fighting and destroying the enemy in Iraq, they would be plotting and killing our citizens across the world and within our own borders.

Our White House correspondent is David Gregory.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAVID GREGORY, MSNBC WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  The president described it as the battle after the battle, the hard, often overlooked task of rebuilding a country ravaged first by Saddam and then war.

BUSH:  Reconstruction has not always gone as well as we had hoped, primarily because of the security challenges on the ground.

GREGORY:  The administration has been criticized for failing to adequately plan for Iraq‘s reconstruction, losing critical time and credibility among Iraqis.  Today, Mr. Bush highlighted two Iraqi cities making strides controlling violence and starting reconstruction, Mosul in the north, and the holy city of Najaf south of Baghdad.  There, schools, markets, and hospitals have reopened, all with Iraqis in control.

BUSH:  And their confidence in Iraq‘s democracy is growing.

GREGORY:  But huge problems remain, including the critical shortage of electricity, meaning even hospitals that have reopened are forced to deny some lifesaving care.

MICHAEL O‘HANLON, BROOKINGS INSTITUTION:  In Iraq today, average electricity production is still not as good as it was under Saddam Hussein.

GREGORY:  Security, too.  NBC News correspondent Jim Maceda says western Mosul remains dangerous for civilians.

JIM MACEDA, NBC NEWS:  You could encounter IEDs, you could be kidnapped within minutes, or you could be shot by a sniper.

GREGORY:  Mr. Bush received a cool reception today as he spoke at the Council on Foreign Relations, once again challenging Democrats.

BUSH:  There‘ll be good days, and there will be bad days in this war. 

I reject the pessimists in Washington who say we can‘t win this war.

GREGORY:  At a time when the U.S. is struggling to prepare Iraq for peace.

David Gregory, NBC News, the White House.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  From the very serious to the very silly.  Why can‘t Santa Claus ever make a normal entrance these days?  Oh, it‘s Dana Milbank.

And the big exit.  Howard Stern‘s leaving free radio, marking the occasion by talking to Katie Couric.  We will tour his new facilities and find out what he really thinks of the FCC.  The answer may surprise you.

Well, no, probably not, actually.

All that and more ahead on COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  We‘re back, and we pause our COUNTDOWN of the day‘s actual news to continue our special quest to find the true meaning of Christmas.  Tonight, Santa‘s revenge.

Let‘s play Oddball.

We begin in Budapest, which, unbeknownst to us, has apparently become one of the central fronts in the war on Christmas, which must be why Santy parachuted into the ice skating rink there last night, where underprivileged children were enjoying some highly offensive generic holiday fun.  Incoming, incoming!

But if Santa‘s dramatic entrance did not put an end to that, he certainly won them over when he took to the stage and unleashed a fury of rhymes.  That‘s right, he‘s Rapping Santa, and I ain‘t talking about presents, pal.

From song rapping to nail wrapping, Santy was, oddly enough, later spotted at this day spa in Knoxville, Tennessee.  Man, he gets around.  Apparently the gangsta-rapping presents guy needed a little knee time before the big day, so he stopped in for a nice manicure and hand massage, and it wasn‘t creepy at all, until the boots came off.  Ho, ho, ho.  Oh, my God.  It appears the leader of the Christmas war has got hideous bunions.

Colonel O‘Reilly, get this man a loofah, on the double.

Finally, to a different war, Japan‘s war on jellyfish, the grossest and least finished of all Santa‘s creatures.  This is supposedly not a doctored photo.  It‘s a six-foot-wide, 445-pound poisonous echizan koraje (ph), one of hundreds that have invaded the Sea of Japan.  Koraje?  Is that Dan Rather in a scuba outfit on the right?

Whoever it is, the diver lends some perspective to the photo.  Later, somebody needs to lend him some perspective about swimming next to sea monsters.

Howard Stern and racy material.  You don‘t need the government to censor it for your kids, he says.  You do need you to censor it for your kids.  The Stern interview, part two.

And the White House holiday video, making sense of the annual Bush Barneyfest.  Presidential pet historian Mo Rocca providing the analysis.

Details of those stories ahead.

Now, though, here are COUNTDOWN‘s top three news newsmakers of this day.

Number three, Roger Clemens, the baseball pitcher, who, this past season, at age 43, posted the lowest earned-run average of his 22-year career.  He has not been offered salary arbitration by his team, the Houston Astros.  He thus cannot re-sign with them before May 1 of next year.  On the radio with Dan Patrick and me today, our friend Peter Gammons (ph) of ESPN said Clemens might do that, or he might retire, or he might go pitch for the Texas Rangers, or go back and pitch for the New York Yankees.

Number two, Bellamy—Bellamy has arthritis.  Bellamy is a lion.  Bellamy is 13.  To alleviate painful cramping, his banders at the Rome Zoo have implanted 50 gold pellets into his muscles.  They say he feels much better.  Say nothing of richer.

Number one, five deer in Charlestown, West Virginia.  Police got a call from a woman who said she said she saw deer falling from the sky.  Unfortunately, she was correct.  They were atop a parking garage.  Apparently they did not realize they were 5 stories up and they tried to jump from the roof to something they and only they saw in the distance, or   at least that‘s the police cover story. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  When an immigrant from the Balkans named Nikola Tesla (ph) discovered in 1890 that he could transmit energy through the air by illuminating a vacuum tube, it is all but certain that he never imagined how another New Yorker would manifest the technology more than a century later by playing butt bongo with naked strippers on morning drive-time radio.  Our third story in the COUNTDOWN, now imagine Howard Stern without any regulatory restraints.  The self-proclaimed king of all media is expanding his empire to the technological frontier of satellite radio where the F.C.C. can only listen along with millions of devoted fans provided they‘re each willing to cough up $12.95 a month.  The “Today Show‘s” Katie Couric getting an early tour of Stern‘s new digs at Sirius Satellite Radio in part two of their interview. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

HOWARD STERN, RADIO SHOW HOST:  People say to me the buzz kind of feels like the early days of MTV, you know. 

KATIE COURIC, TODAY SHOW (voice-over):  He‘s not on the payroll until January 9, but Howard Stern is already making himself at home. 

STERN:  What‘s going on?  How are you?  What are you working on?

COURIC:  He‘s a big fish in an even bigger pond.  Although Stern has got two channels all his own, Sirius broadcasts 120 more, including 55 channels of sports, news and talk, plus 65 channels of commercial-free music, and a lot of it is live. 

STERN:  Do you know who that is?  That‘s INXS.  That‘s the band INXS.  See, this is what‘s great about Satellite radio.  You could walk through the halls, like I would go in an interview those guys right now. 

COURIC (on camera):  Yeah.  And they wouldn‘t mind, you don‘t think, the host of the show? 

STERN:  I don‘t care.  That‘s the beauty of it.  I‘m obnoxious. 

COURIC (voice-over):  Sirius has become a sanctuary for die hard classic rock purists like former New York DJ Meg Griffin.

STERN:  Meg Griffin and I started out together at the same radio station. 

COURIC:  And original MTV dejay Allan Hunter. 

ALLEN HUNTER, FRM. MTV DJ:  I didn‘t know getting an internship here was going to be so cool.

COURIC:  And where else are you likely to run into the likes of Senator Bill Bradley and 70‘s pop icons Tony Orlando and Dawn? 

(SINGING)

TONY ORLANDO, SINGER:  Ready Howard? 

(SINGING)

COURIC:  He sounds just like you. 

Finish these sentences, my greatest accomplishment is? 

STERN:  My children. 

COURIC:  My girl friend Beth loves me because? 

STERN:  She swears it‘s because it‘s all about me. 

COURIC:  How boring. 

STERN:  I don‘t think it‘s all about me.  I think she loves me because I care about her, I‘m sensitive—that might be shocking—I‘m really great in bed.  I‘m being sarcastic.  Could you imagine?  I mean, really.  I mean, that can‘t be pleasant.

COURIC:  You know, this is going to run in the breakfast hour.  Let‘s not go there, Howard. 

The FCC is good for?

STERN:  Nothing. 

COURIC:  You don‘t think government—should government have a role in deciding what is appropriate or what is indecent? 

STERN:  Of course not. 

COURIC:  Never? 

STERN:  You know where government used to have that approval?  Nazi Germany. 

COURIC:  You have three daughters, Howard.  Aren‘t there some things that are just really over the line and completely inappropriate? 

STERN:  No.  I‘ve answered this question a million times.  When my kids were young, I wouldn‘t have them listen to my show.  I‘m a parent.  And I regulate what my kids listen to.  I don‘t need the government to be the parent.  If I‘m a crappy parent, then I need the government involved. 

COURIC:  So, you‘re basically saying change the channel if you don‘t like it? 

STERN:  That‘s right.  That‘s the way it‘s got to be.

COURIC:  My biggest regret is? 

STERN:  My divorce.  I wish that didn‘t go down like that.  That‘s real sad to me.  I can‘t believe I‘m divorced.  But it‘s sad.  But you know, you get married young and sometimes things change.  In my case it did. 

COURIC:  Do you think you‘ll ever get married again? 

STERN:  I don‘t think so.  I think I screwed it up once. 

COURIC:  You didn‘t really screw it up.  I mean, you had a happy marriage, didn‘t you?  Three beautiful daughters? 

STERN:  Yes.  But I can‘t imagine—the biggest blow to me was that marriage not working out.  That just flipped me out. 

COURIC:  I will miss terrestrial radio because? 

STERN:  Well, because I spent my entire career there.  I feel I was responsible for building it into a powerful medium and changing the medium.  And I‘m especially going to miss that feeling of hitting that button, putting the microphone on and instantly having access to millions and millions of people.  And I never would have imagined that all of this would have happened.  This—who would have imagined satellite radio? 

COURIC:  What if it doesn‘t take off in the way you hope it does? 

STERN:  Well, you know, I‘m a believer that satellite radio, whether I‘m on it or not, will take off.  I think right now I‘m the catalyst to perhaps get people to subscribe.  And beside, you ask me all these questions.  I‘m a dumb radio guy.  What do I know?  I don‘t know the answers.  I just want to broadcast and do jokes and have fun.  And that‘s really where it‘s at for me. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  Howard Stern with Katie Couric.  You can see more of the interview at MSNBC.com. 

Also tonight on the anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, the unexpected little known answer to the question, who actually fired the first shot that fateful Sunday morning? 

And the latest move in the legal battle to keep topless photographs of Jennifer Aniston from hitting magazines or the Internet.  A result has been declared.  Stand by for news. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Sixty-four years after a world-changing event like Pearl Harbor would seem to have been long enough for us to have learned everything there was to learn about the event.  Historians who still regularly dig up new angles on the assassination of Julius Caesar would disagree. 

Our number two story on the COUNTDOWN, thus on the 64th anniversary of Japanese attack on the U.S. Naval base in what was then the U.S. territory of Hawaii, it should not be a surprise that there is a surprise.  Who fired the first shots that morning?  Not the pilots of some Japanese zeros, but a bunch of U.S. naval reservists from Minnesota.  Our correspondent Kevin Tibbles went back to Pearl Harbor with some of them. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  OK, watch your step and please use the hand rail here. 

KEVIN TIBBLES, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  After 64 years, they come together again. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  That‘s the last time he was here, 1942. 

TIBBLES:  Former brothers in arms, witnesses to history, on this anniversary of a he day America can never forget. 

FRANK HADJU, FIRST SHOT NAVAL VETERAN:  Sure, we were at war.  In fact, an hour later I realized that when I saw all those airplanes coming in and I saw the smoke coming out of Pearl Harbor. 

TIBBLES:  On December 7, 1941, they were a group of young Minnesotans. 

WILL LEHNER, FIRST SHOT NAVAL VETERAN:  We were just a bunch of kids looking for a lot of fun. 

TIBBLES:  Eighty-five naval reservists, the crew of the U.S.S. Ward, an aging destroyer patrolling the waters just outside Pearl Harbor. 

DON PEPIN, FIRST SHOT NAVAL VETERAN:  And I could see just about everything that took place, the first gun that fired missed. 

TIBBLES:  At 6:40 a.m., the Ward spotted a periscope. 

RICHARD THILL, FIRST SHOT NAVAL VETERAN:   We had no judged it was a Japanese submarine at all.  It had no markings on it whatsoever. 

TIBBLES:  It was one of five secret Japanese minisubmarines headed to attack battleship row in Pearl Harbor. 

DANIEL MARTINEZ, HISTORIAN:  Kind of Japan‘s superweapon that they thought they could get into harbors with these carrying two 18-foot for torpedoes. 

TIBBLES:  The Ward opened fire. 

KEN SWEDBERG, FIRST SHOT NAVAL VETERAN:  I saw the second shell hit the submarine. 

TIBBLES:  For these young men from the midwest, their first battle. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  We were stunned.  We didn‘t know what was happening. 

TIBBLES (on camera):  What had happened was that these young sailors had sunk an enemy sub.  But they say their commanders on shore failed to realize its significance, that the United States was about to be plunged into the Second World War. 

(voice-over):  Just one hour later, all of Pearl Harbor was under massive attack from the air, and the U.S.S. Ward had no evidence the sub ever existed. 

LEHNER:  Repeated searches for the sunken sub came up empty until a team from the Hawaii Undersea Research Laboratory found it more than 60 years later. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  And we felt like say we told you so. 

TIBBLES:  Still, some are haunted knowing if their warning had been taken more seriously, history perhaps might have been written differently. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I‘m sure lives could have been saved. 

TIBBLES:  On this anniversary, five men from that ship have returned to pay their respects.  And receive some overdue respect of their own.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  That you have stood true, and in doing so, you showed the country what you were made of. 

TIBBLES:  Sluted by an audience that now recognizes they did their duty on that infamous day. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  Kevin Tibbles at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.  Great thanks. 

And from Pearl Harbor to the holocaust.  Certainly the strangest segue into our nightly round-up of celebrity and entertainment news “Keeping Tabs.”  Whatever else you think of him, Mel Gibson certainly does not sweat when it comes to possibility of controversy.  The holocaust will be the subject of his newest film.  Gibson‘s Con Artist productions developing a TV movie for ABC based on the true story about a Dutch Jew named Flori van Beek (ph) and her gentile boyfriend.  But some critics of Gibson have expressed concern.  They thought his blockbuster “Passion of the Christ” was anti-semitic.  Gibson has long denied that.  ABC‘s senior vice president in charge of TV movies, Quinn Taylor said, quote, “shut up and wait to see the movie and then judge.”  Always good ideas for executives to tell their TV audiences to shut up. 

The project has not been formerly greenlit.  Gibson is in Mexico working on his next feature film, “Appocolipto” (ph).

There will be no Gibson movies featuring topless photos of Jennifer Aniston, not in England anyway, as she has sought restraining orders stopping the dissemination of those shots by the papparrazo (ph) who took them claiming invasion of privacy.  A judge in the U.K. has stopped him from publishing those photos at least over there.

The judge issuing an injunction against Peter Brandt (ph), according to the Web site TMZ.com, prohibits him or anybody else for that matter from publishing those pictures there or else wise he would face contempt of court including possible fines and prison.  Brandt reportedly took the pictures of Aniston on the balcony of her own home.  He was not on the home or on the balcony, he was in a vacant lot.  That would essentially make him a peeping Tom.  It also provides the underpinning of Aniston‘s civil suit against Brandt (ph) in Los Angeles.

And another celebrity split.  This time it‘s Valerie Bertinelli and Eddie Van Halen.  They are divorcing after 24 years of marriage, though they have been separated for the last four of them.  According to the divorce petition, which also cites irreconcilable differences, Bertinelli spokeswoman says the break-up is amicable.  Four years after the separation?  Sounds like a clerical error of some sort. 

Ms. Bertinelli, best known for her stint on “One Day at a Time,” a TV sitcom which ran from 1975 to 1984.  Her 50-year-old husband Van Halen also made his mark in the 1970‘s as lead guitarist and being largely shirtless for the rock group bearing his name. 

Also tonight, Barney Cam 2005.  Oh, it looks like a cute little Christmas—or holiday—video.  But what hidden messages might lie beneath Mo Rocca, who is an expert in the subject of pets in the White House, joins us next. 

But first, time for COUNTDOWN‘S list of today three nominees for the coveted title of “Worst Person in the World.” 

Bronze winner, Derrick Ford of Port Jervis, New York under arrest after trying to win a $10 dollar bet.  The pal wagered that Derrick could not bite the head of a gecko.  Yes he could.  Mr. Ford evidently did not know that would consist of animal cruelty.  Apparently he also forgot he was on probation at the time. 

The runner up, a former employee at the Harbor Island Fuel Depot in Washington State suspected of doing what many ex employees in many lines of business have done: he left with a little of the merchandise, in this case gasoline, a million dollars worth of gasoline. 

But the winner is the Coca-Cola Company.  It is introducing a new Cola called the blak, B-L-A-K, blak, blak, first in France, later it will available here, which it describes as having the true essence of coffee, a rich, smooth texture that has a coffee-like froth when poured.  You got it, Coke is going to start selling carbonated cold coffee.  The Coca-cola company, today‘s “Worst Persons in the World.”

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  The annual White House Christmas video—called that while the White House Christmas greeting card is called the White House holiday greeting card.  The video was not merely released to the media or posted online today, in another dimension to this bizarre place in the middle of this bizarre—the liberals are trying to steal Christmas paranoia, the tape was also shown today by first lady Laura Bush to patients at the Children‘s National Medical Center in Washington.  Shown just before Mrs. Bush read the kids “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.”  Our number one story on COUNTDOWN, the video and the politics smothering it, analyzed for us by Mo Rocca, author of “All the President‘s Pets: The Story of One Reporter Who Refused to Roll Over.”  But first, a quick recap of the video plot.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Miss Beasley is terrific.  She‘s going to have a great holiday. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Miss Beasley is really impressive. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Barney who? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Miss Beasley. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  You‘re doing a great job, Miss Beasley. 

LAURA BUSH, FIRST LADY:  Who would have moved him?  Barney! 

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Perhaps this is a case of sibling rivalry. 

L. BUSH:  I‘m glad you‘re thankful for the holidays.  President Bush and I wish everyone a very happy holiday. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  As promised I‘m joined by television personality and presidential pet expert extraordinary Mo Rocca.  Good to see you again, Mo. 

MO ROCCA, COMEDIAN:  Good to see you, Keith.  I‘m just coming from the red carpet party.  Secretary of Interior Gail Norton is out of control.  She has become the Tara Reid of this administration.  She unstoppable.

OLBERMANN:  I don‘t want details.

Let‘s deconstruct this puppy, forgive the pun.  There‘s tension in the White House, sibling rivalry as the president called it so emphatically involving dogs admittedly.  But, you know, as with ever any kind of work of art could there be a motif?  Is there an attempt to slip passed all of us some sort of reflection on the current rifts among Mr. Cheney, Mr. Rove or the major figures? 

ROCCA:  Well, I think sibling rivalry clearly stands for the tension between Bush and Cheney here.  In a very pivotal scene, Lynne Cheney—and Dick Cheney by the way is conspicuously absent—but Mrs. Cheney addresses Barney who stands in for Bush here clearly.  And she boasts that his approval rating has never ever has been lower.  And this is right before Lynne Cheney stretches out her arm and scoops up the dog in her talons and sucks it into her giant maw. 

And it‘s an exciting scene, because Barney courageous boroughs himself out of her gullet.  It‘s worthy of Rin Tin Tin.  But I think it‘s very clear what this theme is alluding to. 

One of the things I have with the video is the persistent campaign of misinformation.  Miss Beasley is described as Barney‘s sister.  This is not true.  Actually Miss Beasley, and this is true, is the niece of Barney.  Now, the administration may say they were just given wrong, that they didn‘t know better, but I have my doubts. 

OLBERMANN:  Yes, it was the CIA that told them that. 

By the way, this is clarified for us, Dick Cheney was been moved to a secure, undisclosed dog house. 

The video is called “A Very Beasley Christmas,” all protagonists keep using the holiday term throughout all of this, the White House, as we keep mentioning, does not have a Christmas card this year, it has a holiday car.  But when Laura Bush played the tape for some hospitalized kids today, she followed it up by reading to them “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.” So I‘m confused, where does this administration stand in the Christmas versus holiday war?  Is it for, again or both? 

ROCCA:  Well, what‘s happened is that one of the fronts in the war on Christmas has moved right into the White House.  And it‘s terrifying actually.  What you have here is that Laura Bush is leading the insurgency, the antiChristmas insurgency.  It‘s a dangerous situation. 

What is interesting and ironic is that the one person that uses the word Christmas in this video is former Clinton adviser George Stephanopoulous, which can only mean one thing, Stephanopoulous is desperate for a sit-down with Bush, desperate. 

OLBERMANN:  Delving a little deeper here, let me play another piece of fine acting from this from the secretary of Treasure.

ROCCA:  Oh, I know, I love this.  This is a great scene.  Best supporting actor here. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Hey, Barney, I saw your sister on television this morning. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  I saw your sister...

ROCCA:  Yes, that scene cries out for an amber alert.  I mean, this is so menacing here.  He‘s sort of a demented lecherous Dick Van Patton here, it‘s a terrifying scene and it‘s very well acted. 

OLBERMANN:  Introduce us to your sister. 

Another nugget here from the Secretary of Agriculture about Mrs.

Beasley.  Here‘s the other clip quickly. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Look at that.  Miss Beasley, I‘ll tell you what, she‘s gorgeous. 

Yes, she looks great.  Boy, look at how bright-eyed she looks. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Again a mixed message some of degree, Senator Santorum had came out and famously warned about the dangers of inter-species love and then Scooter Libby wrote a book about it.  Now Mike Johanther (ph) sort of bordered on sexual harassment. 

ROCCA:  Well, he fetishizing Ms. Beasley here.  So that‘s sort of a bestiality thing.  And he also says in a different sound bite, he says to Barney when he walks in, he says, oh, doesn‘t she look great?  So, he‘s advocating incestuous bestiality.  So, he‘s really raising the stakes here.  It is a mixed message. 

OLBERMANN:  Did any of this come up at the—on the red carpet at the party tonight? 

ROCCA:  No, everyone was flocking around Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez whose comical turn is brilliant.  I mean, he‘s one part Cheech Marin, the other part Ken Tiphlas (ph).  He‘s amazing in this performance. 

OLBERMANN:  I was just thinking on Fontin Plas (ph) in “Around the World in 80 Days” and all of that.

Mo Rocca who is an expert on so many things and of course a television personality but tonight showing his fine form as presidential pet historian.  We‘ve been privileged to have you these last few nights, sir.

ROCCA:  Well, I appreciate it.  Thank you so much.

OLBERMANN: Our MSNBC coverage continues now with “RITA COSBY LIVE & DIRECT.”  Tonight, she‘s from Afghanistan.

So that is COUNTDOWN.  I‘m Keith Olbermann.  Keep your knees loose. 

Good night and good luck.

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

Copy: Content and programming copyright 2005 MSNBC.  ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.  Transcription Copyright 2005 Voxant, Inc. ALL RIGHTS  RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material other than for research. User may not reproduce or redistribute the material except for user‘s personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon MSNBC and Voxant, Inc.‘s copyright or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.

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